Click here for various original articles pertaining to kung-fu, Tai Chi Chuan, the Northern Shaolin/Praying Mantis Kung-Fu System, the Association and related items.
Tan Tui ("Springing Legs"), a Northern form of kung-fu that is used to help establish the basics of Northern Shaolin training. Characterized by low and high kicking techniques with an emphasis on strong, yet mobile stances, Tan Tui aids in improving overall coordination while conditioning the lower body. Hand work is predominantly comprised of fist movements. Tan Tui also contains various basic Chin-Na techniques. Although not actually a stand-alone system itself, it is occasionally practiced as such in some schools.
Generally, there are 10 and 12-routine versions of Tan Tui, sometimes called the "10-Road Style" and the "12-Road Style", respectively. The Association teaches the 12-routine set and often colloquially refers to them as the "12 Combination Exercises". These effective exercises have also been adopted by other Northern-style systems in their basic training. The 12-routine set is usually practiced as one of the first forms of Chang Chuan (the Northern "Long Fist" style).
Chin-Na literally means "to capture, to seize/to hold". It is a Chinese term describing techniques used in Chinese martial arts that control or lock an opponent's extremities, joints, or muscles/tendons to either neutralize or immobilize an opponent's fighting ability.
Chin-Na includes both standing and ground-based seizing and grappling techniques.
Chin-Na is inherent in practically every Chinese martial art, some more than others. Some styles known for their emphasis of Chin-Na techniques include Northern Eagle Claw, Seven-Star and Tai Chi Praying Mantis, Tai Chi, Northern Shaolin, Shuai-Chiao and T'ien Shan Pai, among others. There are some esoteric kung-fu styles and schools dedicated to the practice of only Chin-Na techniques. Many of the Japanese or Budo arts such as Jujutsu and Aikido were likely inspired by basic Chin-Na.
From 1985: Michael (left) demonstrates a Chin-Na application from Wong style Tai Chi Chuan with Guy Horton.
Ling-Po: The Continuous-Stepping Form
Ling-Po ("Continuous-Step" or "Continuous-Stepping"), a.k.a. Northern Shaolin Ling-Po. a.k.a. Lien Bu Chuan, Lien Bo Kuen and Lin Bo Kuen. The form is also occasionally referred to as the "Continuous-Linking Form" or "Linking Form". Ling-Po is a traditional, basic kung-fu form that traces its beginnings back to the Northern Shaolin Monastery. It is said to contain remnants of a dragon hand form originally belonging to the Cha Fist style, one of the ancient Five Branches Of Shaolin (or "mother styles") once taught in the Northern Shaolin Monastery. The form also features Northern-style elements of the crane, snake and monkey.
Our Great-Great-Grandmaster Ku Yu Cheung instated Ling-Po as a standard basic hand form at the provincial National Martial Arts Schools during his tenure as one of their Chief Instructors. As a result, the form was widely used by the military troops of the Chinese Nationalist Party for basic empty hand combat training. Ku Yu Cheung also taught it as an introductory form in his own Northern Shaolin curriculum. Today, it is still implemented by the Taiwanese military and among various regional police forces in China.
Ling-Po is generally practiced as a beginner's form in the Northern Shaolin style and many other Northern-style schools, such as Chang Chuan. The form is designed to develop precision and hand-and-eye coordination, as well as strengthen the legs and stances, while instructing beginners in practical self-defense concepts. Ling-Po incorporates short- and long-range block-and-counterattack techniques, locks, and takedowns supported by continuous, linking footwork.
Ling-Po is taught as an introductory hand form in the Northern Shaolin/Praying Mantis Kung-Fu Association's curriculum. It is an important first form for students, as it helps to establish a strong foundation for Northern-style kung-fu.
(above) From circa 1985: Michael (left) demonstrates a counterattack technique from the Ling-Po kung-fu form with (right) Guy Horton.
From July 17, 2014: Michael performs
Law Horn 1: The Second Hand Form Taught In The Association's Curriculum
The 18 Law Horn ("Northern Shaolin Lohan" or "Shaolin Lohan") kung-fu style from the Northern Shaolin Monastery is said to contain many of the original exercises developed by Bodhidharma. It is very similar to Northern Shaolin and is known for its firm positioning and sweeping, long-range techniques. The forms also feature movements and patterns that are based on principles of leverage. Leaps and dynamic footwork are used to quickly cover long distances and close the gap between opponents. The 18 Law Horn is also occasionally referred to as Lohan Chuan ("Buddha Fist").
Syau Wan Kuen: The "Small Circular Fist" Form
The third hand form taught in the Association's curriculum, Syau Wan Kuen or Syau Wan Kune (Cantonese Romanizations), is a kung-fu style with traceable roots back to the Northern Shaolin Monastery. Consisting of only one known form (or kuen), it is commonly taught within the curriculum of many traditional Northern Shaolin schools.
A derivative version of this form known as Gung Lic Kuen (a.k.a. Gong Li Chuan, which means "Work - Strength Fist") was once taught as a standard hand form in the original Jing Mo Athletic Association. Gung Lic Kuen is also a form commonly seen in most traditional Chang Chuan ("Long Fist") schools. Our Great-Great-Grandmaster Ku Yu Cheung taught Small Circular Fist to our Great-Great-Grandmaster Yim Shan Wu, who added it to his curriculum when he first began teaching.
Small Circular Fist is a form containing techniques against one or multiple attackers. It is exemplified by its skillful, fluid footwork using both low and high, upright stances. Other features include swift and accurate kicks, as well as gyratory fist techniques. This form has the distinction of serving as a preparatory "bridge" to the core set of 10 Northern Shaolin hand forms.
From July 3, 2014: Michael performs Syau Wan Kuen at the (now old) New Orleans school. Although a relatively basic form, it remains as one of Michael's personal favorites.
Wong Style Tai Chi Chuan
The Wong style (occasionally referred to as Wang style) is a rare style of Tai Chi originally founded by (and named after) our Great-Great-Grandmaster Wong Tak Hing in the late-1800s, and later influenced by several renowned Internal masters. It was originally formed as a derivative of the Old Yang ("2nd-generation") style, blended with aspects of Pa-Kua Chang. The style has been occasionally colloquially referred to as the "Grinding Form", or
"Moon-Grinding Form", which refers to its inherent
Pa-Kua movements and concepts.
The Wong style is considered a Medium-Large Frame style of Tai Chi with very circular, rounded movements performed with firm, rooted stances. While it is practiced for the same health and therapeutic benefits attributed to other styles of Tai Chi, the Wong style retains the martial elements that have been de-emphasized or otherwise removed from more recently-created styles, or various traditional styles that have been over-simplified for mass accessibility and appeal. More than a just a composite style or synthesis of multiple styles, the Wong style has a rich, traceable and complex developmental history.
In essence, the Wong style incorporates the Old Yang style of Tai Chi as a base, while adopting many movements and breathing methods of the Sun style. It also adopts the "coiling", waist "turning", and some of the kicking techniques commonly found in Pa-Kua. As a Large Frame style of Tai Chi (it can be practiced as a Medium Frame style as well), it features comparatively extended movements. At times, the form may also be reminiscent of the Chen style. The footwork is exact, with wide and firm stances. Specific attention is paid to weight distribution and sensitivity for defensive leverage techniques. The Wong style is generally practiced faster than most contemporary Yang styles, but slower than the Chen style. Its tempo is generally slow and steady, but does accelerate at certain moments within the form.
In addition to its therapeutic components, the Wong style places a strong emphasis on combat applications and possesses a variety of practical techniques such as locks, throws, takedowns, open-hand and fist strikes, knee strikes and low kicks, soft deflection and re-directive blocks. The style also focuses on the application of Chin-Na techniques inherent in the form.
Other important aspects of the Wong style training regimen include Tui Sao (Pushing Hands) and Chi Kung exercises.
Circle Walking In Pa-Kua
A trademark in all styles of Pa-Kua Chang, the Circle Walk (a.k.a. "Turning The Circle") is linked to the ancient Taoist practice of Circle Walking and involves a combination of stance and movement training. Practitioners walk around the edge of the circle in various low and high stances, facing the center, and periodically change direction as they execute different (usually open-handed) movements. The Circle Walk forms the foundation of Pa-Kua training involving the development of fundamental physical skills, Chi cultivation skills, and
Fu and Sun style Pa-Kua Chang are a part of the Northern Shaolin/Praying Mantis Kung-Fu Association's curriculum. Pa-Kua Chang
("Eight-Trigram Palm"), a.k.a. Pa-Kua or Ba-Gua, is one of the three primary branches of nei-chia and is a Northern Internal style of kung-fu that derives much of its rationale from the I Ching (Book Of Changes). Pa-Kua was founded by Dong Hai Chuan, who was taught by the Taoist Monk Chung Yi-I in the Wudon Mountains of China during the Ching Dynasty, in the early part of 19th Century.
From July 15, 2014: Assuming a "Guarded Stance" posture while Pa-Kua Circle Walking.
Pa-Kua was developed from what is widely believed to be a synthesis of Tai Chi Chuan and Northern styles of kung-fu, combined with Taoist Circle Walking. Pa-Kua is perhaps the most esoteric in appearance when compared to the related Internal styles of Tai Chi Chuan and Hsing-I Chuan. However, Pa-Kua is a most effective combat system. It is comprised of various twisting and circling postures named after (and based on) animal movements, including the snake, crane (or stork, depending on the style), dragon, hawk, lion, monkey, and bear. Pa-Kua uses circular power that relies on a supple spine and hips, while emphasizing displacement of horizontal force. The majority of its hand techniques are executed open-handed.
In Pa-Kua, the practitioner is concerned with the relationship between his/her center and the opponent's center. He/she will want to "protect" his center while trying to place the opponent's center off-balance. In Pa-Kua self-defense, footwork is a primary component and Circle Walking aids in the development of Pa-Kua footwork. In a self-defense situation, the most important skill for the Pa-Kua practitioner is the ability to change directions rapidly and smoothly, while maintaining balance and stability ("rootedness in motion"). Pa-Kua is also often taught alongside Hsing-I.
While self-defense is considered a by-product of traditional kung-fu training, it is by no means ignored. The centerline is just one of the combat concepts studied in the Association's curriculum.
The centerline is a term used in martial arts, especially Chinese martial arts, that refers to the vertical axis from the top of a human's head to the groin. Some of the human body's prime striking targets are considered to be on or near this line, many of which are considered to be vital areas. They include the eyes, nose, bridge of nose, philtrum (middle area extending from the nose to the upper lip), chin, hinge of jaw throat, solar plexus, above and below the sternum, stomach, pelvis, groin, and other areas. Likewise, the centerline also represents a critical area for combatants to protect. The centerline should not be confused with center of gravity, which is concerned with stability, balance and body control.
While the centerline is an aspect of combat training explored in all classes, it is particularly emphasized in our Tuesday night Self-Defense class.
Another combat concept studied in the Association's curriculum includes the identification and targeting of vital areas on the body. In the context of Chinese martial arts (and many other martial arts), "vital areas" are specific regions on the human body that are taught to be vital striking points that, when struck by a trained individual, could create excruciating pain, incapacitate, cause unco.sciousness, or even death. Vital areas consist of various arterial points, pressure points (nerve points), and certain locations around on or around a joint, tendon, muscle, or particular bone. Certain vulnerable soft tissue areas (e.g. trachea, eyes, genitals, etc.) are also considered to be vital areas. While successfully striking a vital area requires a certain amount of technique and physical force, it does not necessarily require the additional support of Internal strength in order to be effective.
There are approximately 60 of these vital areas taught in the Northern Shaolin/Praying Mantis Kung-Fu System. It should be noted that while all pressure points are vital areas, not all vital areas consist of true pressure points. The accompanying illustration shows some basic examples of vital areas on the body. Vital areas are another aspect of combat training explored in all classes, with a particular focus on them in our Tuesday night Self-Defense class.
Flexibility training is a very important part of the Association's curriculum. Flexibility exercises are of two types: ballistic (or phasic) and static. Ballistic stretching typically involves bobbing or bouncing action, whereas static stretching involves gently stretching the muscle in question until a resistance is reached. Ballistic stretching may produce a quicker increase of flexibility in the beginning, but it also produces more discomfort, fatigue, and risk of muscle tear. Static stretching yields the same results with less discomfort, next-day soreness, risk, and effort to maintain the stretch. The Association advocates and teaches static stretching techniques. Some isometric exercises are included in the stretching routine as well, including abdominal conditioning exercises.
Stretching should always precede any kung-fu or aerobic-type of exercise, and should be always be done at least 2 hours before or after eating. Ideally, stretching should be done in a peaceful, relaxed atmosphere - free from disturbances and distractions. Always have a mat, carpet, or thick blanket upon which to stretch. Avoid stretching on a bare floor. Do not stretch outdoors under direct, harsh sunlight, or if the weather is particularly cold or drafty.
From 2011: Sitting in a manual stretching machine in a 180° side splits stretch.
If your body starts to tremor during a stretch, stop, slowly come out of the stretch, relax, and begin again. Never stretch until you feel pain or force yourself beyond your limitations. Always try to look forward (or in the direction you are stretching) to promote a better stretch and proper body alignment. Visualize stretching past your current limit. Expectant mothers should only do light stretching after the third month of pregnancy.