Shaolin Staff

A basic combat application of the Flowing Water Staff

Simple in Demonstration, Profound in Application

Practicing with weapons is an important part of traditional kungfu training. In the past when carrying a weapon was permissible by law, weapon training was more important than unarmed training.

Weapon training still serves useful purposes today. Its benefits include developing specific weapon skills that are also useful for unarmed combat as well as for daily living, understanding combat principles that enable you to use improvised weapons as well as to defend against weapon attacks, and to preserve an important legacy of kungfu.

Shaolin Kungfu is very rich in weapons. The most representative of Shaolin weapons is the staff. Without sharp edges or points, the staff is compassionate. Its performance is simple, yet its application is profound.

Participants at the Special Shaolin Kungfu Course of September 2005 were taught the “Ho Family Flowing Water Staff”, which is one of the four most prestigious staff sets in kungfu, the other three being “Fifth Brother Eight Trigram Staff”, “Six-and-Half-Point Staff” and “Left-Hand Fisherman Staff”. Considering that most of the participants did not have weapon training before, learning this staff set and its application within a few days is truly commendable.

This “Ho Family Flowing Water Staff” is a legacy of Grandmaster Ho Fatt Nam. Earlier, this staff set was kept as top secret within the Ho Family. Grandmaster Ho was the first one to teach it to some inner-chamber disciples outside the Ho Family, and Grandmaster Wong was one of the few lucky persons to learn it.

It is called “Flowing Water Staff” after the kungfu principle, “Yow kiew kiew seong kor, Mo kiew soon shui lau”, which means “If there is a bridge, go along the bridge; If there is no bridge, flow with the water”, and which summarizes the combat philosophy of the set.

Some of the combat applications of this staff are so simple, but extremely effective and deadly.

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Learning a Weapon Set in a few Hours

Shaolin Flowing Water Staff

A special feature in Shaolin Wahnam is that students learn a kungfu set very fast, in a matter of days, sometimes in a matter of hours. Yet they can perform the patterns of the set well. This is because they have good training in basics. This video shows participants to the Special Shaolin Kungfu Course of September 2005 practicing the Flowing Water Set on their own and helping one another, after having learnt it from Grandmaster Wong in a few hours.

Performing the Flowing Water Staff Pattern by Pattern

Shaolin Flowing Water Staff

Here the Flowing Water Staff is performed pattern by pattern. Grandmaster Wong calls the pattern and the participants perform it. This is the first part of the set. The second part is found in the video clip below.

Flowery in Appearance Deadly in Application

Shaolin Flowing Water Staff

This is the second part of the Flowing Water Staff Set performed pattern by pattern. The first part is found in the video clip above. Some patterns, like “Poisonous Snake Basking in Mist” and “High Mountain Flow Water”, may look flowery but are actually very deadly.

The Flow, Power and Speed of the Flowing Water Staff

Shaolin Flowing Water Staff

The complete staff set is now performed. The video clip here focuses on Simon, an assistant instructor of Shaolin Wahnam England. Simon has just learned the staff set in three days, yet his performance is flowing and powerful. Notice that he is not panting for breath after the set performance. This video clip is taken without Simon being aware of him being filmed, and Simon has been practicing vigorously for a few hours prior to this.

Performing the Staff Set in Chi Flow

Shaolin Flowing Water Staff

This video clip is an immediate follow-up of the one above. The participants practice their staff set over and over. Their movements are smooth, fast and powerful, and they are not tired or panting for breath. One important reason for this attainment is that they perform the staff set in chi flow. Some continue their spontaneous chi flow after the set. One participant, Hendrick of Shaolin Wahnam Germany, goes onto the ground in his spontaneous chi movements.

Basic Counter against the Middle Thrust

Shaolin Flowing Water Staff

Many of the staff techniques are derived from the spear. The most representative as well as deadly spear technique is the spear thrust, expressed here in the staff technique as the pattern “Yellow Dragon Emerges from Cave”. In friendly sparring, the staff stops a few inches in front of the chest, but in a real fight it may pierce through. A basic counter against the thrust is the pattern shown here called “General Waves Flag”.

Spacing, Timing and Footwork in Combat Application of the Staff

Shaolin Flowing Water Staff

Course participants practice the two basic staff techniques — a middle thrust using “Yellow Dragon Emerges from Cave” and a “covering” technique using “General Waves Flag”. More important than the techniques are the skills. Three fundamental skills are emphasized here — spacing, timing and footwork.

Shark-Monk Flicks Spear

Shaolin Flowing Water Staff

Another fundamental defence technique against the thrust of a staff or a spear is the “flick”. In this video clip, this “flicking” technique is expressed in the pattern “Shark-Monk Flicks Spear”. “Shark-Monk” (“Sar Chng”) was a general in heaven, but had to reincarnate as a shark because of a grave mistake in breaking the “wisdom-lamp” of the Heavenly Mother. He became a monk and escorted Xuan Zhang (Tripitaka) from China to India in search of Buddhist sutras.

Covering and Flicking against the Thrust

Shaolin Flowing Water Staff

Course participants practice the “flick” technique against the staff thrust. The patterns used are “Shark-Monk Flicks Spear” and “Yellow Dragon Emerges from Cave”. Hence, against the middle thrust, there are two fundamental counters — the “cover” and the “flick”.

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Lessons from the Special Shaolin Kungfu Course of September 2005

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