Archive for January, 2012

History of Sil Lum Hung Gar

Posted in Form, Style, or Art on January 25, 2012 by policetac

The legend of Shaolin temple (Sil Lum Jee) boxing has spread to all corners of the earth. Two of the most famous of all Chinese boxers having helped to popularize the Sil Lum Martial Arts are the late Wing Chun Grand Master Yip Man and his student of a couple of years the late Bruce Lee. Lee Jun Fan as his name is pronounced in Cantonese is well respected world wide as the founder of “Jeet Kune Do” or “the way of the intercepting fist” as well as the earlier taught, less eclectic and more traditional “Jun Fan Gung Fu”.

Wong Fei Hung, China’s Celebrated Martial Arts Hero

However, no Chinese martial arts master has been more celebrated then the highly acclaimed Hung Kuen Grand Master Wong Fei Hung. The life of the great southern fist master has been depicted in more then a hundred films and has been portrayed by the very popular Jet Li and Jackie Chan, as well as many other Asian action film stars. The genius of Wong Fei Hung has been encapsulated in his signature creation of the “Fu Hok Suerng Ying Kuen” or “tiger crane double shadow fist” and is preserved in the hand form as it is taught today. One of Wong Fei Hung’s top students, Lam Sai Wing, is renowned in the martial arts world for his demonstrations of the Tiger-Crane form, and for writing the definitive textbooks on Tiger-Crane Gung-fu. Hence, his nickname “Fu Hok Sing Sang” or Mister Tiger Crane.

Hung Gar is a Traditional Martial Arts System

Hung Gar is a traditional Chinese Gung-fu system,and is one of the most practiced of the five primary southern Shaolin systems. Hung Gar’s origin came from the “fighting monks” of the Shaolin (Siu Lum) Temple in Henan province and was practiced along with Ch’an Buddhism, a hybrid of Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism. As early as 500 AD, Da Mo, a Buddhist patriach from India, taught breathing exercises (Chi Gung) to the monks. This helped them improve their physical bodies so they could endure longer periods of meditation. The breathing exercises evolved into a fluid self defense system that included techniques mimicking five animals – dragon, snake, tiger, leopard, crane. These were developed, in an effort to protect the Henan temple from bandits and invaders.

Jee Shim the Abbot of Shaolin is credited with the origins of Hung Gar

During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Shaolin monks reached the height of their fighting skills, warding off intruders and assisting the ruling sovereignty or the neighboring villages against attackers. This was the last native Chinese empire, and the most fertile period for all the arts. It was also during this time when the majority of fighting styles were developed, including Hung Gar. Jee Shim, an abbot originally from the Henan Shaolin Temple, is given credit for planting the seed of Hung Gar, as well as other traditional systems.

Abbot Jee Shim Opens System and Temple to Outsiders

During the Ching Dynasty (1644-1912), in the mid 17th century, Ming family and former officials took refuge in the temple, masquerading as monks. The abbot opened the Shaolin system to these outsiders, in hopes of gaining support to overthrow the Manchurians. Of these followers, Hung Hei Gwan stood out. His talent caught the attention of Jee Shim, who wanted to train him personally. The Shaolin monks, who were supported by the Ming government, were thought to be a threat to the new government. After many attacks to the temple, the Ching regime was successful in burning down the monastery. Most of the Shaolin monks died, defending their temple. Several of the surviving monks, including the abbot, fled to the southern temple located in Fukien province. There, Jee Shim felt the urgency to systematize the training, facilitating mastery of the system in a shorter time span.

Hung Hei Gwan Selected by Jee Shim to Open School in Kwangtung

Hung Hei Gwan was a tea merchant from Fukien, but couldn’t prosper in Kwangtung (Guangdong) under the tyranny of the Ching government. Hung Hei Gwan’s grandfather was an official of the Ming Dynasty, and he, a supporter. Out of loyalty to the deposed government, he changed his family name from Jyu to Hung, in honor of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Jyu Hung Mo. Under the directive of the abbot, Hung Hei Gwan return to Kwangtung province to open a school and spread the knowledge. The system was taught as the Hung Gar (Hung Family) system so it would not be associated with its source. He married Fong Wing Chun who learned the White Crane system from its founder, Ng Mui, a surviving abbess from the Honan Shaolin Temple. (Fong Wing Chun should not be confused with Yim Wing Chun, for whom the abbess named her short-range system known as Wing Chun Kuen, or everlasting springtime fist.)

Hung Hei Gwan incorporated the Crane with the Shaolin Five Animals

Hung Hei Gwan became famous for his martial arts and gained the namesake of “The Southern Fist”. Hung Gar evolved as he incorporated the Shaolin Five Animals style with his wife’s White Crane system. The reputation of the school, and its master, became widespread in southern China. By this time, Jee Shim had more followers. He sent his best students to Hung Hei Gwan for further training. Luk Ah Choi who later became known as the forefather of several traditional Chinese systems, was among the students sent. After his training, Luk Ah Choi was sent to Kwangtung to spread the knowledge.

Wong Fei Hung (1847 – 1924) Learns the Secret Iron Wire Form

In Kwangtung, Wong Tai became a student of Luk Ah Choi. He taught his son, Wong Kei Ying. In search of more knowledge, Wong Kei Ying studied with Luk Ah Choi and other disciples of Hung Hei Gwan. He passed all this knowledge to his son, Wong Fei Hung. During a street performance, Wong Kei Ying and his son, saved a martial artist in trouble for accidentally hurting a bystander. The performer was Lam Fook Sing who was a student of Tit Kiu Sam, whose real name was Leung Kwan, a disciple from the Shaolin Temple. Lam Fook Sing was so grateful that he passed on the knowledge of the “secret form” to the father and son.This form, Iron Wire Fist ( Tit Siu Kuen) is the most advanced form in the Hung Gar system. The Tiger Crane (Fu Hok) form became the signature of Wong Fei Hung. Reputed as one of the “Ten Tigers of Kwangtung”, today, he is immortalized to folk hero status, with many movies and publications portraying his life. Despite his legendary status, Wong Fei Hung’s life was also filled with tragedies; several of his wives died prematurely. A son he trained, died in an ambush, and thereafter, he thought that he could protect his other sons by not teaching them. He later married Mok Gwai Lan, another descendent of one of the five southern systems, Mok Gar.

Lam Sai Wing (1860 – 1943), Wong Fei Hung’s best Student

One of Wong Fei Hung’s best students was Lam Sai Wing, a pork butcher from Kwangtung. He was a disciple for fifteen years before he was entitled to advanced training. From his personal experience, he felt it took too long to gain advanced knowledge. Therefore, he taught openly, including the army of the Republic. Credit goes to Lam Sai Wing for perpetuating the system that we know today and setting precedence for future masters in the Hung Gar system. This system remains closest to its original Shaolin style and has maintained the integrity of the system.

Kung Ji Fook Fu Kuen (Taming the Tiger Form)

The foundation of all other Hung Gar forms. The transliteration of Kung in this specific instance refers to the Chinese character I and is therefore sometimes interpreted as the “I Shaped Subduing the Tiger Form “. There are many other translations: “Cross Tiger Fist Form” and “Taming the Tiger Form”.

This is the oldest form in Hung Gar Kung Fu believed to have been developed by Hung Hei Gwan after his intense training with his Sifu Abbot Jee Shim. This form teaches the practitioner the basic stances and builds his foundation through emphasis on the horse stance as well as developing and enhancing one’s breathing capacity.

This is the longest form in Hung Gar and is one of the hardest. It is while the student is learning this form that his character, persistence and determination to learn the system are assessed. His patience is also put to the test time and time again with this form.

Fu Hok Suerng Ying Kuen (Tiger Crane Form)

This is the most famous and popular of the Hung Gar forms and is said to have been developed by Wong Fei Hung. The Tiger/Crane form combines the black tiger and the white crane with the 1000 pound horse stance, iron bridge techniques, five elements theory and the shadow-less kick (mo ying guerk).The form stresses the cultivation of the Tiger(hard) and Crane(soft) as well as a balance(yin/yang theory) between the two complementing each other in the form. While the Tiger is utilized for teaching one to refine his physical entity (power), dynamic tension breathing skills and courage. The Crane develops whipping power, evasive tactics, waist movement, and calmness of the spirit and balance.

The Tiger form of training provides the hard or external methods of Hung Gar while the Crane form provides the soft or internal balance between the two.

Sup Ying Kuen (Ten Form Fist)

This is an advanced form featuring the five traditional animals of the Shaolin Temple, the Dragon, Snake, Tiger, Leopard, and Crane. It also contains the five elements (wood, water, metal, earth & fire) found in Chinese philosophy each of the animals teaches the practitioner an important lesson.

The Dragon (Lung) teaches internal training in Hung Gar. It is the first animal represented in the form. The Dragon is a spiritual and supernatural creature and transcends from the easily understood real world. The power of the Dragons strength can appear and disappear at will. Its domain is therefore internal power and spirit.

The Snake (Say) trains the fingers and is for striking the vital points on an opponent’s body. It is utilized in the training and manipulation of Chi (Vital Energy). It teaches pinpoint hitting of vital areas. The Practitioner focuses his Chi all the way up to his fingertips in order to deliver and generate power correctly.

The Tiger (Fu) is designed to strengthen the constitution and has a fierce spirit. This animal emits ferocity, courage and strength since it is the strongest of the animals. Dynamic tension, vigorous and strong hand techniques in the form of Tiger claws is what characterizes this animal.

The Leopard (Pow) is the embodiment of speed and power. It has swift penetrating attacks. The Leopard fist strikes always involve more than one strike and always at extremely quick speeds.

The Crane (Hok) stresses balance, quick foot movements, pecking, hooking and deflecting movements. It is a lively animal whose essence can be seen in its beak attacks and pecking motion.

The Metal or Gold element (Gum) involves a strong slow stretching power. The entire arm is used as a solid unit. The elbows are always bent slightly in this movement, as there is less susceptibility to the arms being broken.

The Wood element (Mok) is a simultaneous block and strike and is the shortest arm movements in Hung Gar. This element teaches long and short arm sequences.

The Water element (Soy) are strikes which are of a constant nature. A series of battering blows similar to the pounding of ocean waves upon the shores. It is the swinging motion of the practitioner’s arms which are the source of the Water element’s power.

The Fire element (For) is characterized by a straight punch. Its more common name is the Sun Punch because the fist forms the character Sun in Chinese characters. The sun is a fiery mass.

The Earth element (Tow) is the last of the elements and closes the form. It develops a strong foundation. (Boxing is rooted in the feet, developed in the legs, directed by the waist and is expressed through the hands). Since the practitioner’s foundation is so strong, he is capable of delivering some very destructive blows.The Dragon, Snake, Tiger, Leopard, and Crane are said to give the practitioner five ways to manipulate and use his strength while the Wood, Fire, Gold, Water and Earth elements are said to give him five ways to generate and transform the power in each of these forms.

Tit Sin Kuen (Iron Wire Form)

This form was created by Tit Kiu Sam whose real name Wat Luin Kwan, who was known as one of the best martial artists in the history ofChina. He was one of the famous Ten Tigers of Kwangtung. Through the years he passed his knowledge of the set down to one of his students, Lam Fook Sing, who passed this knowledge to Wong Fei Hung.

This form is the highest set taught in the Hung Gar system. It takes the practitionerinto the realm of internal Kung Fu training, which is the ultimate goal in Chinesemartial arts.Tid Sin’s limited footwork is based solely upon the movements and spirit of the Dragon coupled with vibrating sounds and various intonations of breath controlwith twisting movements which stimulate the internal organs.

Each emotion (Happiness, Anger, Sadness, Sorrow and Fear) is said to be translated into a breathing tone producing different vibrations, which affect different organs. From the breathing sounds comes a strong type of power, which is emitted from within the practitioner.

There are twelve types of training methods (sup yee kiu sau) contained in this form. They are:

Hard(Gong), Soft(Yau), Crowding(Bik), Linear(Jik), Dividing(Fan), Steady(Ding), Inch(Chyun), Lift(Tai), Reserve(Lau), Send(Wan), Control(Jai), and Finalize(Deng). These twelve types of training are designed to control and improve the internal functions of the organs. It is a dynamic tension exercise used to increase the flow of Chi throughout the body. It is an efficient means of body building and stamina development.

The combined pugilism of the Tiger and Crane styles, otherwise known as Hung Gar Kung Fu, is a southern Shaolin system designed to strengthen the physical constitution (the bones of the body) as well as the sinews, breathing, and spirit. It is a most respected system whose training concepts are steeped in morality, rigidly traditional and uncompromising in preserving the original standards of Shaolin Kung Fu.

Grandmaster Chiu Chi Ling 2001
Learn more about Grandmaster Chiu
Impromptu Demo by Grandmaster Chiu Chi Ling and Sifu Lopez
Grandmaster Chiu Chi Ling with Students at his home near San Francisco