Wudang Kungfu

Wudang Kungfu


On the same basis I am interested to know what you consider are the Fundamental Skills of Shaolin and Wudang Kung Fu.

— Sifu Barry Smale, UK


The full name of Wudang Kungfu was Wudang Shaolin Kungfu, i.e. the Shaolin Kungfu taught on the Wudang Mountain. The Shaolin Kungfu taught at the Shaolin Monastery on Songshan (Song Mountain) in Henan Province was called Henan Shaolin Kungfu, and sometimes Songshan Shaolin Kungfu.

Later, when Shaolin Kungfu was taught in Fujian Province, on Ermei Mountain in Sichuan Province, and in Guangdong Province, it was respectively called Fujian Shaolin Kungfu, Ermei Shaolin Kungfu, and Guangdong Shaolin Kungfu.

There were actually two main types of Wudang Kungfu, one taught by Zhang San Feng in the 13th century, and the other taught by Foong Tou Tuck in the 19th century. The Wudang Kungfu of Zhang San Feng later evolved into what we now call Taijiquan. The Wudang Kungfu of Foong Tou Tuck was not as popular, and was relatively hard like Fujian Shaolin Kungfu.

To me the fundamental skills of both Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu (of Zhang San Feng as well as of Foong Tou Tuck) are stance training, internal force, combat application, good health and spiritual cultivation. In fact, these five aspects are not only the fundamental skills of Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu, but also of all styles of great kungfu.

Depending on their approaches to and results of realising these five fundamental skills, great kungfu styles are known by different names like Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu. In other words, it is not the difference of fundamental skills that differentiate them as Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu, but it is the difference in the approaches and results of these skills that constitutes the difference. For example, the internal force and combat application of Shaolin Kungfu are relative "hard", whereas those of Wudang Kungfu are relatively "soft".

Stance training is the fundamental skills of all kungfu. Stances are also typical of kungfu. One can differentiate kungfu from other martial arts because of the kungfu stances. All kungfu classics mention that the stances are the foundation of kungfu. When a kungfu practitioner can perform his stances well, he can learn kungfu techniques easily. When his stances are established, he just adds the appropriate hand movements to form patterns. In other words, whether he performs "Black Tiger Steals Heart" in Southern Shaolin, "Jade Girl Threads Shuttle" in Taijiquan, or "Ascend Mountain Elbow Strike" in Northern Praying Mantis, it is the same Bow-Arrow Stance. This, in fact, is a main reason why our students are so cost-effective in learning kungfu.

Internal force is the hallmark of great kungfu. It is also unique to kungfu. No other martial arts train internal force as a coherent system, though some of the masters of these arts have internal force due to their long years of dedicated training but usually without their own awareness.

It is also a common misconception, even amongst many kungfu practitioners, that internal force is only available in internal arts like Taijiquan, Baguazhang and Xingyiquan. Most kungfu practitioners, including some masters, regard Shaolin Kungfu as external and therefore devoid of internal force. But, of course, there is a lot of Shaolin internal force training, and many Shaolin masters as well as masters of styles derived from Shaolin Kungfu, like Hoong Ka, Wing Choon, Choy-Li-Fatt, Tantui, Eagle Claw and Praying Mantis, have a lot of internal force, though some of them may not be conscious of it. Internal force not only enhances kungfu performance but also enriches daily life.

Another fundamental skill of Shaolin Kungfu, Wudang Kungfu and all other styles of kungfu is combat application. Indeed, without this skill, no art can be called kungfu, which is Chinese martial art. Isn't it ridiculous to call any art a martial art when its practitioners cannot employ it for combat? Yet, shocking it may be, most kungfu practitioners today cannot use kungfu for combat. They only perform kungfu forms for demonstration or employ other martial techniques for combat or fight randomly. Combat application is a skill, or a collection of skills. These skills need to be learned and practiced diligently.

Good health is a fundamental skill of good kungfu. In other words, when a person practices good kungfu, he should be healthy. However, some kungfu practitioners who imitate free sparring from other martial arts where they freely exchange blows are not healthy.

Having good health is a skill, or a collection of skills. When practitioners perform kungfu forms daily, they would be healthy. Those who develop internal force in their kungfu training would enhance their health and also have vitality and longevity.

Spiritual cultivation is another fundamental skill, or a collection of skills, of good kungfu. Spiritual cultivation is cultivation of the spirit, which is different from religious cultivation. If by practicing kungfu, practitioners become peaceful, happy and confident, they have cultivated their spirit, irrespective of their religion or a lack of it. High-level spiritual cultivation, like returning to Zen or Tao, is found in great kungfu like Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu.

The fundamental skills of Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu are stance training, internal force, combat application, good health and spiritual cultivation. In other words, when a practitioner, any practitioner, trains genuine Shaolin Kungfu or Wudang Kungfu, he will learn skills to perform stances, to develop internal force, to apply his kungfu for combat, to have good health, and to cultivate spiritually. As these are fundamental skills, he will learn all these skills, provided that the Shaolin Kungfu or Wudang Kungfu he practices is genuine.

When he is at a beginners' level, his skills are, understandably, not well developed. His stances may be awkward, his internal force is little, he may not be able to fight well, but he should be healthy though at times he may be anxious or agitated. But he will learn all these fundamental skills if he practices genuine Shaolin Kungfu or Wudang Kungfu. As he progresses in his training, his skills develop. At an advanced level, he will have good stances, have some internal force that not only enhances his kungfu performance but also his daily life, be able to apply his kungfu for combat though he may still lose to a better fighter, have good health, and be peaceful, happy and confident.

Genuine Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu are rare. Nowadays, many practitioners of Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Kungfu probably have good stances, but have no internal force, are unable to apply their Shaolin Kungfu or Wudang Kungfu for combat, are often injured and nervous if they are engaged in sparring, and are tensed, stressful and anxious in spirit. They may insist that the Shaolin Kungfu or Wudang Kungfu they practice is genuine, but they do not have most of the fundamental skills of genuine Shaolin Kungfu or Wudang Kungfu.

The above is taken from Question 8 July 2016 Part 3 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.


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