Archive for August, 2010

Some of last week’s thoughts

Posted in General Posts on August 10, 2010 by policetac

Today, I’d like to include a couple of demonstration video’s I find interesting.

The first one is:

Students of Sifu Andrew Chung playing blind folded practice. Mr. Joe Shaffer & Mr. Mike Petrone. 1989

And then this one:
Which I like for a couple of reasons. First of all, because of how he has inserted a true and valuable lesson on “Application Training.” And I agree with him that all too often sparring is done a little too softly. And as he pointed out, the results can be permanent bad habits you’re not even aware of.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting “application level” combat training with beginner students, and even the intermediates should do so only under direct instructor supervision, but an advanced student should be able to deliver a correct form, full distance strike, with enough control to not inflict injury. Accidental or otherwise. One such example is to have the striking hand somewhat loose of the fully clenched fist, but instead of visualizing 3 inches past, visualize 1/2 an inch and pull the punch only slightly while closing the fist on contact to act as a shock absorber. (Done with experience, precision, and control, both yourself and the opponent feel the strike as intended, but you should be able to sense the contact with the finger “backs” immediately, allowing plenty of time to adjust any miscalculations of strength or distance accordingly. We even use this technique during slow motion training examples to all points of contact. Even the face. Why?, well all to often you will see an instructor demonstrate say a block, pivot, strike to the side of the head. But stops three inches away assuming the student realizes (Ok, it’s to the side of the face) Problem? Exactly where to the head? How do I know what it feels like when my punch lands with the most effectiveness? Easy, simply follow the demonstration through to COMPLETION, while slowly closing the fist, (This time it’s not as loose though) until it reaches the EXACT location being demonstrated, and ending in PERFECT form. Thus demonstrating THE ENTIRE series of movements.

And the second reason is similar to the first. Notice the emphasis on how a “real” blade slices and wood is just wood? Well, it’s supposed to represent a BLADE! When I train it is with that specificness of technique because (One), it’s proper, and (Two), because my sword, not a firearm, is my primary home defense weapon. And on the few occasions when it has been called into duty, it has done so with success, and with honor. (It’s not a scare tactic.)

And last for now:

Tell me there isn’t a martial art for K-9’s:

Although this is not one of my sessions in the video above, I do occasional K-9 Tactical training as part of Policetac’s Tactical Martial Arts Instruction Program.

Which brings us to:
This last one of my partner King “James,” during his current assignment. (Although he’s officially retired:)

Good Boy!

That’s it for now.
Have a great day!


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What about all the new warriors?

Posted in General Posts on August 10, 2010 by policetac

Sun Tzu

Country of origin aside.

Do many think about some of the people around our ranks right now that may have had interests in the Arts, but who, if not for the war, may not have given it much more real thought?

Has anyone noticed?

Are there a greater number of practitioners than the last “Say, ten years?”

If so, is there a higher number of prior or current servicemen or women?
I’m not meaning the regular amounts of law enforcement, military, and security personnel found in the arts, but rather those who found themselves in the war, that may not have normally sought out formal training prior to their enlistments and subsequent deployments.

I guess my questions go something like this.
(And please, Social, not Political right now.)

1. With the simple numbers involved, as a world, in every society, there are a growing number of trained, skilled, experienced, individuals who have lived as warriors.
And, what will “Modern Times” make different here?

Traditionally, warriors trained for years to “One day do battle.”

Now, there are many, bringing knowledge of “Sun Tzu” home with them.

Group of unknown soldiers.

Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.

He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.

For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.

“The Art of War”

Sun Tzu

Seeking enlightenment

Posted in Spirituality, Religion, Peace of Mind on August 10, 2010 by policetac

The ultimate goal of this blog site is to show how the Martial Arts, when practiced and applied correctly, will have an effect within virtually every aspect of the practitioners life.

I challenge you to place religion aside for a moment, and attempt to grasp the concepts of a “spiritual” journey and what it might mean to you.

For me, the two are completely different paths in life that parallel each other in many ways, but are completely distinct from each other in others. And it is a result of these differences that actually allow them to enhance each other rather than separate them.

Unfortunately, I believe most people have a difficult time seeing this in the two, and believe that the use of the word “Spirituality” is used to describe a kind of “Liberal” or “Lazy Man’s” religion without true faith, responsibility, or consequences to the non believer or sinner.

Now, this topic can and probably will be debated to death here over time, so I won’t talk much more about it right now other than to say that I believe that one is a path walked while blindfolded, and the other is in bright Summer skies. When one can actually “see” the wonder around him, I believe it in fact helps to support that area of religion where faith in the unseen can often be so difficult.

Please, take time to relax and watch the whole video. It’s only about 5 minutes but explains much. (By the way, this version was originally a puppet show, that was illustrated over the film and set to the music.)

Daoist Journey
– Watch more Music Videos at Vodpod.

Some beginners questions

Posted in General Posts on August 10, 2010 by policetac

The reason for this page is to outline how a simple question could be the most important one a martial artist could ever be asked. Especially since it would most likely come from a potential student, or referral person, such as a parent asking in relationship of a child.

Here it is.

What type of Martial Arts instruction is the one I should pick?”

Sounds simple right? I mean, most of us have heard it at least once.

Ok then, how would you answer it?

(But they say to never answer a question with another question Sifu Rick!) LOL

Well thankfully, one positive trait that I believe we as Martial Artists have as a whole, is the ability, and the natural desire, to answer this question as honestly as we can. Which means, most of us also realize right away there’s a need for more information.

I figure they’ll be starting out with this,

Shotokan Karate Institute

To this,

Shaolin Kung Fu show at Tivoli in Copenhagen.

To this,

Bruce Lee (All rights reserved)

Or this,

aikido guillemin poznan seminar

Or even this.

West Coast Taikai

The point is,

We don’t know. All we can do is tell them what we know, listen to them very carefully, expect a bit of what seems like fascination with one style, while seeming contempt of another. If so, maybe try and determine where they got those opinions from if they don’t know much about the arts.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this. At a different Martial Arts site, there was a beginner who posted the exact same question. And got what I thought were good, honest, straightforward answers. Yet by the end of the conversation I couldn’t help feeling as if the person asking the question didn’t get the answer they were looking for. Which is too bad because he seemed to only want help finding an art form that would fit around an average schedule, be interesting, and something he could try and enjoy with his daughter. (I bet most of you will come up with the same answers we did.)

So what did I learn?

That when dealing with an absolute beginner, a lot of patience, understanding, varied and accurate information about many different arts and at least a working knowledge of their basic principals or the location to find it, good communication skills, active listening skills, motivational concepts, and most of all, the ability to give an honest answer.

For all I know, they might just become the next great (Enter favorite here).






Rest in Peace Master Bruce.



















Here’s a long article I wrote as a response to a question that was asked by a member of my favorite Martial Arts forum at:

The question:

Hi guyz im back, how you all been? 🙂 I just needed some martial arts advice gain. Well ive been on a long holiday to my home country and since i lived in the village i got bit by a snake during a powercut. I took a very strong antipoison which led to side effects and me not training in martial arts for a few months.

However i have recently started Wing Chun, and quite enjoy it because the quality of teaching is obviously much better than that of GKR. There is a slight problem though.
I dont think my sifu like me due to the fact that ive done Karate (GKR) before and gets really annoyed when i make mistakes as i find it hard to relax after all those years i have been taught to be strong and tense. He would say things like ‘This isnt karate‘ or “if you want to be like that go back to doing karate“. I dont know why hes saying this as lots of people change from one style to another and he simply isnlt liking the fact that ive done GKR before. I was thinking of changing clubs, what do you guyz recommend?

My response:

First of all, you’ll notice that I take a slightly different
approach when trying to answer questions such as yours. And
the reason for this is because rarely does a question such as
yours involve an easy or “one fits all” answer. The reason
for this is because in a “student/instructor” relationship,
there are actually many different dynamics at play that need
to be addressed.
The first one I notice right away is probably one of the
most common, causes the most frustration, is probably the
number one reason most students quit, yet can be one of the
easiest to overcome as long as it’s noticed and addressed.
And that is “COMMUNICATION”.
Take your situation for instance.
Your Sifu is attempting to communicate that “rigidness is
counterproductive in Wing Chun” by saying “it isn’t like
And you seem to be attempting to say “I understand that but
I’m having difficulty maintaining that flexibility when I’m
so used to the rigid structures I learned in Karate”.
This seems like it should be simple right? Unfortunately
though, humans use more than just words to convey thought. We
use “filters” that often alter our intended meaning. Such as,
culture, experience, stereotypes, or perhaps simply a dislike
of hard styles like Karate.
Certain attitudes can also make communication difficult. Such as frustration, self confidence, impatience, etc. Thus actually stopping the transfer of the information both parties are struggling so hard to convey.
Here’s an example.
Your Sifu gives and instruction, say, Bil sao, or thrusting
arm block. He probably gives a simple demonstration, then
asks the class to perform it. You say to yourself, “Ok, this
is just like a straight punch, but it’s used as a block”. So
you try it. Ooops! Arm went instinctively to first position
(thus dropping your guard) and your hand stayed closed (like
a punch) during execution. Right away you realise what
happened, hoping Sifu didn’t see it, which of course he did,
and before you even have a chance to do it again correctly
real quick, he comes over, corrects your start position,
opens your hand and tries to guide your arm, wrist, and hand
while simultaneously using his leg to make sure you are in
the proper stance. (Even though your stance was correct)
At the same time, you more than likely suffer an attempt to
let him know that you know how you screwed up as he’s
thinking to himself, “If you know what you did wrong then why
did you do it”? “Darned Karate practitioners! This guy’s
gonna be a problem.”
So, you try it again, but being human, you focus so hard to
get it right that you appear rigid, forced, and Ooops! You
started out with a closed fist again. POW! You are both
immediately on the defensive.
The stage is now set for continued animosity.
Sifu- Because you’ve got prior experience and should grasp
this easily.
You- Because your prior experience does tell you your
mistake, while also telling you you “should” know better.
Frustration then settles in with both of you, thus halting
productive communication until one of you either quits or
realizes what the problem is and takes steps to address the
real issue.
So, what is the real issue?
Communication aside, in this case, it’s “Muscle memory”.
Think about it. You are coming from a discipline where
linear movement, force, power, and rigidity were the focus, to
learning an art that is circular and flowing. One that utilizes
finesse and manipulation of “anothers” energy against themselves.
You drilled these principles, movements, and applications to
the point where “muscle memory” was developed. (This actually
means you probably learned your lessons well:)
Lets start with a definition.
“Muscle memory”, also known as motor learning, is a form of
procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific
motor task into memory through repetition. When a movement is
repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for
that task; eventually allowing it to be performed without
conscious effort.
Examples of muscle memory are found in many everyday
activities that become automatic and improve with practice,
such as riding a bicycle, typing on a keyboard, or learning a
martial art.
This is why it is so difficult to perform these movements.
Your consious brain sees and understands what you’re trying
to do, but your unconsious mind repeatedly interferes.
Resulting in those momentary “slips” that are frustrating to
control, and easy to spot by your Sifu.
So how do you overcome something that has been developed to
such a level? Something that has literally become subconsious
and instinctual? The same way you learned it to begin with.
With deliberate, repetitive, consious, and specific practice.
Hint: Your Sifu knows this, but will forget often because
his mind is conditioned to observe the mistakes his students
make in order to correct them. And although he may be aware
of the difficulty you face, he will not necessarily notice
your improvements as easily as he will continue to notice
your mistakes. He will most likely tell himself that you are
simply not practicing enough and are not taking his class
Are there any tips or tricks to help with this?
Yes. I believe so.
Practice your “Mook Joing” or “Wooden Dummy Techniques”.
There’s a good reason why these devices have been used for
more than 300 years – they’re excellent training devices.
In addition to toughening your limbs and learning combat
techniques, the wing chun dummy will enhance your timing,
speed, flow, power, accuracy, mobility, visual and contact
reflexes, correct body positioning, arm and leg coordination
and the accuracy of blocks. And it doesn’t make any
difference what style you practice. These are qualities from
which everyone can benefit.
Speed is never as important as form and structure. The
dummy’s drills are about your body and how it relates to the
blocks and strikes
And I have one more advice. I realise that understanding of
the movements are probably not the issue, but sometimes
allowing your mind to see a bigger picture will help to guide
it in allowing retraining. Since the brain must compensate
for all of the variables associated with similar moves, (You
pick up a coffe cup using “muscle memory” but rarely is it
the same cup, at exactly the same angles, speeds, etc.)
showing your brain a situation where it must reevaluate it’s
approach can sometimes initiate a desire to experiment with
some of the variables it sees.
Here’s an excercise that will hopefully illistrate my point.
(Preferred techniques aside)
Start with a friend willing to loan you his arm and his time
for a minute. (A horizontal pole at upper chest level will
also work)
Center neutral, perform Right Bil sao, or thrusting arm
block to the “OUTSIDE” of a slow or stationary Right straight
punch. At contact, Tan sao, or begging hand at the wrist.
(Rear guard (Left) is maintained with Bon sao.)
Centerline is maintained at all times by simultaneous
rotation to Right neutral. Cycle from Tan sao to grabbing arm
block (lop sao).
At this time, do not continue lop sao downward. Instead,
maintain begging hand, (YES I KNOW YHIS IS IMPROPER!) while
rotating back center, and stepping through with Right foot.
Keep going. (Notice how the punch goes right past?)
Return to original position, repeat excercise to Lop sao
conclusion. Hold position at 45deg Right, with opponant’s
wrist downward to about solar plexis level.
Now examine your options of attack. Note opponant’s balance,
and defensive options. (None) Lightly experiment with
follow-through options, target opportunities, etc. Experiment
with slight variations, primarily Left arm attacks. (Punches,
pushes, joint attacks, followthroughs, Dim mak options, Qinna
options, etc. (Note how little movement is actually used)
Repeat for Left block/attack.
important for form, but the focus should help counter
the body’s desire to utilize those old techniques.
Ok. you have now shown your brain an easy to comprehend
example of circular movement. Practice variations of this in
such a way as to illistrate how your body works within the
tight constraints of very limited movement. Hopefully you
will have an “Ahha!” moment where you are able to see a
broader view of how correct Wing Chun movements are applied
to completion.
Then, practice it all the right way. I’ve seen excellent
results with this excercise in helping to transition from
hard to soft style arts.
So, in conclusion. Learn and practice “effective”
communication, Mook Joing techniques, required lessons, and
position disciplines. Don’t give up!
(Personal advice. Learn and practice your Chi sao blind. My
8 year old daughter is exceptional at this. And take up Hacky
Sack. (Actually a student requirement of mine.)
Hope this helps.








I got wisdom for Christmas, now what?

Posted in Spirituality, Religion, Peace of Mind on August 10, 2010 by policetac

Read, comment, and discuss areas where your views, morals, beliefs, and experiences all seem to fit.

Wisdom is nothing more than common sense that took you a lifetime to figure out

The History of Kung Fu

Posted in General Posts on August 10, 2010 by policetac

What is a martial arts style?

The concept of a style is a rather complicated one, and Chinese martial arts claim as many as 1500 different styles. By “style” we mean a particular school of martial practice, with its own training methods, favored techniques, and emphasis on attack and defense. While it is impossible to quantify differences between most styles, it is easy to see the distinctions between such disparate approaches to combat as practiced by Tiger, Crane, and Monkey stylists. In choosing a style (a contemporary privilege; traditionally, styles were assigned by the teachers), try to find one that suits your physical attributes, interests, and sense of utility. It does no good to study the graceful single-leg and flying techniques of White Crane if you have the flexibility and grace of a turtle! On the other hand, and kung fu practice will enhance your physical skills, dexterity, and alertness, and it is not uncommon for a beginner in one style to change to a more “appropriate” style later. Whatever else may be said of styles, the first year basics are almost universal–punches, kicks, and stances show little variation at the beginner’s level.

What is Kung Fu?

In dealing with the recently popularized concept of kung fu, one must begin the discussion by explaining that kung fu is not a martial art unto itself, yet it encompasses the most effective and devastating methods of self-preservation known to man. The identity of kung fu is diverse; over 1,000 styles are known or recognized. From kung fu came Karate, Escrima, and most important, a way of thinking that became a code of life.

Kung Fu requires of the practitioner a strict code of physical and mental discipline, unparalleled in Western pursuits. It is only as a whole concept that kung fu can be discussed, and this entails more than fighting.

To be adept, one must follow the Tao, the way, the essence of the philosophy and life of the originators of the arts. One cannot pay to learn this art; it is only acquired by the desire to learn, the will to discipline one’s self, and devotion to practice.

The standards to be met to attain proficiency are so high that the Chinese refer to the master as a disciple of the way of the tiger, the sign of the dragon.

The Martial Aspects

The power of the kung fu practitioner lay in his ability to defend himself against impossible odds and situations. After years of the most diligent practice, these monks became more than merely adept at the ways of survival. But the initial acceptance to be one of the chosen few was difficult.

As children, applicants for priesthood were made to do the most menial and difficult work related to the upkeep of the temple. Their sincerity and ability to keep the secrets of the order were severely tested for years before the finer aspects of the order were revealed to them. But, upon being accepted by the elders of the temple, his or her entry into kung fu was to open a whole new world. The student would work long hours training mind and body to work together in a coordinated effort. He would learn the principles of combat, the way of the Tao, and together they would ensure his way to peace.

One would be taught initially the first basic fist sets, the prearranged forms which simulated multiple attacks. These in turn became more complex as the student advanced, while he would simultaneously be learning the way of Taoism.

Upon completion of the student stage, one became a disciple who would be taught the higher secrets of the arts and philosophies. Weapons of all descriptions would become familiar to him as weapons of attack and defense. One would perfect his movements to coincide with his breathing. One’s mind would meld into the realm of meditation known as mindlessness. And one would learn to harness ch’i.

Ch’i is a concept of such magnitude that we shall deal with it throughout this site in many different lights. For now, suffice it to say that ch’i is the power governing the universal power, so to speak. Only by harnessing such energy can a person of mild stature learn to break bricks with his bare hand, or learn to sense the movements of an opponent in the darkness. The list of feats goes on and on; we shall discuss some of these in other sections of this site.

Essential to movements in kung fu are ch’i-controlled actions. Compare the movements of a Karateka and a kung fu practitioner, and the differences are at once obvious. The Karateka moves deliberately, forcefully, each move unique and distinct from each other move. He punches linearly, kicks in a straight line, and keeps his body as rigid as iron. The Chinese boxer, on the other hand, is smooth and fluid in motion, allowing several moves to meld imperceptibly into one long, graceful action. In short, kung fu is fluid.

Ch’i properly coordinated allows for fluidity. Consider a single drop of water. Alone, it is harmless, gentle, and powerless. But what on earth can withstand the force of a tsunami? The concept of ch’i is the same. By tapping into the universal energies, one increases one’s abilities many times. How can one damage a kung fu practitioner, when one is unable to strike and injure a body of water?

Artistic Aspects

There can be little doubt, after examining first hand the structure of kung fu, that mastery of it is indeed mastery of a fine art form. It requires a tremendous amount of background, information and disciplines, which would shame our liberal-arts students. The priests of old were adept in all of the following: medicine, music, art, weapons-making, religions, animal husbandry, cartography, languages, history, and of course, kung fu. The artist had to be more than a fighting machine, he had to know how, where and why to enter a fight, and even of greater importance, how to avoid conflict. Only with “unbeatable” ability of the priest was he secure enough not to need to fight.

There was a ranking system of sorts used, beginner, disciple, and master. The beginner (novice or student level), was the menial servant. Only very crude rudiments of kung fu were in his domain. Disciples were in effect almost priests, still having to master themselves, but of the right mettle to carry the traditions and secrets of the Shaolin. The pinnacle of master was reached by very few; it was truly the achievement of a lifetime.

The primary obstacle that a disciple had to pass to attain the priesthood was the test for master rank. Actually a series of oral and practical exams, they culminated in the test of the tunnel. The candidate was lead to a corridor linked with the outside world. In the corridor were booby-traps, all lethal, all unpredictable. The disciple had to pass all of these, for there was no going back, no way out but to succeed. Most never even began the journey; few finished it. The adept who passed the traps faced one last obstacle; a several hundred pound urn filled with burning iron filings. On each side of the urn was an emblem, different for each temple, usually of a dragon and a tiger. The urn had to be moved with the bare forearms to unblock the exit. In so doing, the now priest was forever branded as a Sil Lum monk.

Many priests just out of the temple would wander about the country acting as doctors, roving law givers, and guardians of the poor. Some would return to the temple then it was their job to prepare the next generation of priests. Entry was between ages five and seven. Graduation was at the age of at least twenty-two. And every bit was part of a long, hard life.

The stylistic variations within the Chinese martial arts are due to various factors. First, some priests were not content with one “truth”, and engineered improvements or variations on the old standards. Some arts had their origin from Indian exercises, while others were influenced by Greek wrestling, and equally unexpected pursuits.

Secondly, the priests were not all content as priests. Some went civilian and taught parts of the temple boxing, mixed with moves of their own. A man who preferred the use of one style of attack, i.e. claws, would build a whole discipline around gouging, claw-like attacks (Eagle Claw system).

Thirdly, the civilians taught by priests would adapt what they needed in their real lives. For this reason, Southern Chinese preferred hand techniques with stable stances, adaptable to boats, while the Northern Chinese adapted almost bizarre foot techniques, flying kicks and wild sweeps.

Martial Arts: Hard vs. Soft, External vs. Internal

The concept of hard/soft and external/internal martial arts is not one easily described. In terms of styles which most people are familiar with, Karate would be an example of a hard style and Aikido or T’ai Chi examples of soft styles. A hard style is generally considered one where force is used against force; a block is used to deflect an incoming strike by meeting either head on, or at a 90 degree angle. A soft style does not use force against force, but rather deflects the incoming blow away from its target. There are uses for both hard and soft techniques. A practitioner may wish to break the attacker’s striking arm with the block. On the other hand, a much smaller opponent would not be able to accomplish this, so instead may wish to deflect the incoming attack.

An external style is one which relies primarily in strength and physical abilities to defeat an opponent. In contrast, an internal style is one that depends upon ch’i and timing rather than power. Aikido (at the master’s level) would be an internal style, while most karate styles are external.

However, the concepts of hard/soft internal/external are finding fewer proponents among senior martial artists. Both conceptual twins are impossible to separate in reality, and masters will generally acknowledge that any distinction is largely only a matter of subjective interpretation. Arguments about the reality of the concepts are often waged by novices and philosophical dilettantes, ignorant of the inseparable nature of duality. They see yin and yang as elements that can exist independently, while philosophical and physical reasoning demonstrate that they cannot. Without their union (=Tao), neither can exist. Ergo, a “hard” technique such as a straight fist is guided by the soft power of mind and the internal component of ch’i. Equally, the softest projection of Aikido requires the “hard” element of physical contact and movement, coupled with actively redirecting the opponent. In short, preoccupation with distinguishing soft from hard is a distraction from learning martial arts and moving towards a unifying technique and mastery.

Kung Fu Styles

Kung Fu styles may generally be divided into three classes: Shaolin Temple styles, temple-derived non-temple styles, and family styles, or Pai. Within the Temple styles are those arts generally and consistently taught in the temples, with many having their origins in pre-Shaolin history. There are two major divisions in Shaolin kung fu. The southern temples are predominantly hand technique oriented, while northern temples put more emphasis on kicks and foot techniques.

The northern Shaolin styles primarily consist of Northern Praying Mantis, Black Crane, and Black Tiger.

The southern Shaolin styles primarily consist of White Crane, Tiger, Dragon, Leopard, Snake, and Southern Praying Mantis.

There were also styles that had their roots in the Shaolin temples, such as Wing Chun and Hung Gar.

Many of the movements were representations of the behavior of animals. A system sometimes comprised the maneuvers of one specific animal and no other. All the blocks, attacks and stances were done in imitation of the bird or beast. Each system had certain aspects peculiar to it since each of the animals was designed differently by nature. However, most styles were not so rigid and limited; northern praying mantis, for example, uses mantis and tiger hand techniques, and monkey and generic northern style footwork.

Differences Between the Styles

In general terms, the styles followed specific training objectives (but there are always exceptions). The dragon movements were devised to develop alertness and concentration. These movements were executed without the application of strength, but with emphasis on breathing in the lower abdomen along with the coordination of mind, body and spirit. Movements are long, flowing and continuous, and provided Shaolin practitioners with the equivalent of t’ai chi or pakua.

The tiger movements were formed to develop the bones, tendons and muscles. The execution of these movements was the opposite of that of the dragon, since emphasis was placed on strength and dynamic tension. Movements are short, snappy and forceful.

The snake movements were used to develop temperament and endurance. Breathing was done slowly, deeply, softly and harmoniously. Movements are flowing and rippling with emphasis on the fingers.

The crane movements were used to develop control, character and spirit. Emphasis is placed on light, rapid footwork and evasive attacking techniques. Movements in the one-legged stance are performed with a considerable amount of meditation.

The Shaolin systems were developed from animal actions and were divided into low systems and high systems. The list used below is from the temple from the Honan province during the Ch’ing dynasty. The low systems of the Shaolin were choy li fut, crane, cobra, and tiger. The high systems of the order were snake, dragon, Wing Chun, and praying mantis. The primary features that separate high from low are the fantastic economy of movement and the differences in application of ch’i in the high systems.

The low systems were so called because they had their basis both in physical maneuvers and in earthly creatures. Choy li fut was based on a posture called a riding horse stance, so called because when adopted, one appeared to be straddling a horse. The movements are very stiff and hard, depending primarily on muscular power to perform adequately. There are only three kicks in the original system, although recently the style has adopted many techniques of the Northern Shaolin system. According to legend, it was designed for use on the house boats of the south where a stable stance and powerful hand techniques were necessary. The certain portion of its history is that the system was named for two Chinese boxing masters, Choy and Li. Fut means Buddha, serving in this instance to refer to the Shaolin temple’s Buddhist influence.

The next system is crane, one of the traditional Shaolin systems. A legend is also attached to its birth. One day a monk stumbled on a battle between an ape and a crane. It seemed as if the ape would rend the bird in two. However, the bird continually stymied the ape, flapping its wings and darting in and out with its beak; at last the animal was driven away. The graceful movements of the bird were copied as well as its one leg stance. The principle weapons of the system are its long range kicks and a hand formation, the crane’s beak.

The cobra system is a strange, nearly dead system. Its basis is a stance that resembles a cobra risen from the grass with spread hood. The maneuvers are strictly defensive in nature, devastatingly effective and swift. Cobra is designed for speed and tenacity for once the reptile strikes, it hangs on and makes certain that its opponent will die. Most of its techniques are hand maneuvers aimed at the eyes and throat. It is primarily a dim mak style.

Tiger is another natural system, this the opposite of crane. It is a vicious method of fighting utilizing powerful kicks and grim clawing motions. Like the tiger, its practitioner fights fiercely, rending, tearing and breaking any open space of skin or limb that is left unguarded. It is highly defensive in nature, waiting until being backed into a corner, then unleashing an unstoppable assault. Its principle hand weapon is the tiger claw, also useful for unarmed defense against weapons. By clasping the weapon between the hands or enmeshing it in the crushing grip of the hand, the enemy’s advantage is lost.

Snake is an interface between the high systems and low systems. It is one of the easiest systems to learn and also one of the most deadly. The reason that it is a transition system is because it has the movements of a spiritual system and the physical applications of a low system. The spiritual movements are all flowing and continuous, akin to the movements of a cloud. Physical applications of such movements are seen by the stabbing hand motions to the face, throat and genitals. Ch’i is present in the practitioner as his body mimics a snake in its coiling, undulating motions; for only through ch’i can the proper flow be achieved to allow the technique to work. It is an earthly animal by nature, yet still somewhat spiritual due to its mysterious character. The snake has thus been appointed as the guardian of the dragons.

The basis of the dragon systems is ch’i, the inner power of Taoism. The movements and applications of the dragon systems are dependent on the use of ch’i. The special flow that distinguishes it from the flow of the crane system is due to ch’i. Also, the ch’i is substituted for muscular strength. For example, a tiger stylist would break a rock by sheer force and physical technique, while a dragon stylist would shatter it by ch’i projection.

The praying mantis has as its watchwords silence and determination. Although it is a physical system in terms of its origin, it nonetheless is classified as a high system. Praying mantis warrants its prominence because of its extreme efficiency. Despite the fact that it is hand oriented and lacks the fancy leg maneuvers of dragon, it is versatile and overpowering. Characteristic of mantis, as well as dragon and snake, is the virtual lack of blocks. Since blocks are inefficient, the high systems follow the advice of the ancient sages and yield in order to conquer. Also, it combines ch’i and extreme awareness to be virtually invincible.

The systems of the Shaolin can be arranged on the pyramid illustrated below. The best method for this is to take the tiger family as a representative of the low systems and the dragon family as a representative of the high systems. The remaining Shaolin systems will be placed in the appropriate tiers singly.

The lowest level of the pyramid is composed entirely of basic techniques. These are common to all martial arts and can be claimed exclusively by no one system. The maneuvers are comprised of kicks, punches, stances and blocks. Since they are universal to most martial arts, it is very difficult to distinguish a student from a karate style as opposed to a choy li fut pupil. All of this class of basics belongs to the low systems and so are dependent on hard, muscular movements in order to carry them through properly.

Next we progress to the low systems. As stated earlier, this level has its basis in earthly rather than ethereal beings. The subsystems of tiger are numerous at this level. Tiger, eagle, leopard, hung gar, the drunken system and the crab system all belong at this level. Tiger, leopard and hung gar are very oriented toward physical body strength and the destruction of an opponent by breaking his body’s structural system. Eagle is a vicious ripping system with the bulk of its work directed against the eyes and throat. The drunken system is a lurching, seemingly unstable system that strikes with little power and thus tries to exhaust an opponent with an arrhythmic, oddly placed series of blows to tender, exposed areas. The crab system concentrated on closing off blood vessels and pinching nerves, thereby immobilizing part or all of an attacker’s body.

In the category of the higher low systems are found four different tiger subsystems: hong tiger, s’hu tiger, imperial tiger and white tiger. They are placed above the previous systems because ch’i and some concepts of spiritual motion have been incorporated into them. Hong tiger was a system which evolved from a mixture of tiger and white dragon. It was used by palace guards especially against weapons. S’hu tiger was the weapons training that went with the unarmed system of hong tiger. Imperial tiger is a modern adaptation of hong tiger. The techniques are sophisticated at this level. Also contained in the band of high low systems is monkey, placed there because of its liberal use of parries and advanced striking techniques, taking it out of the realm of brute strength. White tiger is a highly sophisticated, forbidden style similar to snow tiger.

The main systems of the Shaolin that are left are placed thus: choy li fut, white crane, and tiger all low systems. Snake is a lower high system and may be classified as a low or a high system. Dragon, praying mantis, and Wing Chun are all classified as full high systems due to their efficiency of movement and the use of ch’i to both supplement and in some cases replace physical technique. These systems were taught to some extent to all monks as part of their training. The complete systems were reserved for the few, the priests that would remain in the temple after being granted their priesthood.

A tribute to Bruce

Posted in Form, Style, or Art on August 10, 2010 by policetac