YMAA Kung Fu & Tai Chi Ireland

Shaolin Kung Fu

_MG_6544About Shaolin Kung Fu

Kung Fu literally translated means energy (Kung) and time (Fu). Although Kung Fu is commonly used to refer to the Chinese Martial arts in actuality it is used to refer to any skill or talent that requires time and effort to develop. The actual chinese word for martial arts is “Wu Su”; Martial technique.

Kung Fu has developed for over 3000 years and has many different disciplines and styles. One of the greatest in terms of training methods and technique developed in the Buddist Temple at Shaolin by an Indian Monk known as Da Mo. When he came to the Shaolin temple in 527 A.D he saw that alot of the monks were sick and weak. It is said that Da Mo meditated for 9 years and as a result produced two books to help the cultivation of the Buddhist spirit and to strengthen the physical body. The development of the Internal and External power lead the monks to further study and practice so they could use it for Self defence against robbers and thieves. It was necessary for the monks to have the ability to protect themselves on their travels while preaching and also to protect the monasteries valuable asset.

Thirty years after Da Mo’s death many immoral monks left the temple and roamed the countryside robbing and killing resulting in the closure of the temple by the Emperor (Chou dynasty). When the Sui dynasty came to power the Shaolin temple was allowed to resume it’s activities (600 A.D). Strict guidelines where then put in place to prevent any further unscrupulous behaviour, this is why Martial Morality and Martial technique go hand in hand in the education of students today.

From 600 A.D – 1600 A.D. the monks developed their martial arts, meditation and healing skills. Although the monks were educated in a common system various different styles of Kung Fu developed and were practiced right up to modern times using barehand techniques and weaponry.

About The YMAA Styles (External): – The skills of the Shaolin Monks have been acquired throughout the history of China and today it is renowned throughout the world. The styles trained at YMAA developed from the Shaolin systems and the Masters integration into society.

During the Song Dynasty (980 A.D. – 1278 A.D.) the Shaolin Monks continued to gather more martial skills from outside the temple. During this time one of the most famous Shaolin Monks, Jueyuan travelled around the country to learn and absorb skills into the Shaolin teachings. He met with a number of famous martial artists and returned with them to the Shaolin temple. As a result of these masters studying together the book “The Essence of the Five Fist” was created. The book included the training methods and techniques of the Dragon, Tiger, Snake, Panther and Crane.

In 1928 the Chinese government setup the Nanking Central Kuo Su institute to help revitalise the Martial Arts. This institute invited many of the top Kung Fu Masters together under one formal organisation with Chang Chih-Chiang as its director. Five famous Masters known as the “Five northern Tigers” were invited to teach at the institute, they specialised in the Northern Kung Fu styles. Also invited were the Chin Woo masters. These masters greatly influenced the teachings at the institute and side by side developed the best techniques for each martial range (striking, wrestling, locking and throwing!). As a result, the diverse styles developed at the institute are popularly known as Longfist Kung Fu.

Longfist Kung Fu (Chang Quan)

The first emphasis in Chinese Martial Arts is on defence. Attack is only taught once the concepts of blocking, dodging, escaping and withdrawal are developed. This priority contrasts with other Eastern martial styles which mainly stress attack. It is believed that once a student has the grasp of defence the offensive aspects of fighting come easily. Overall the emphasis on dodging, withdrawal and escaping is to avoid being hit while creating a more advantageous position for the defender.

The first strategic concept in Chinese fighting styles is the idea of distance. In Chinese fighting theory distance can be classified into 3 ranges, Short, middle and long range.

Short range, this occurs when people are standing face to face and can touch each other with any amount of arm or leg extension. In this range the fighter can be hit with low kicks, short knees, hands, elbows even the head! Wrestling techniques can also be incorporated at this range. Styles such as Tiger and Whitecrane specialise in this range

Middle range, this is where the fighters are just slightly out of punching and kicking range. A short hop or step will bring the fighter back into the short range. Kicking is easier to execute at this range but hands and legs are of equal range importance in middle range fighting.

Long range, this range requires that a fighter takes two or more steps to be in short range. The long range is relatively safe because most attacks can be avoided due to the distance that must be crossed.

The Northern style fighters specialise in middle and long ranges. Longfist Kung Fu is one of the Nothern styles and therefore their expertise lie in the use of kicking techniques of which there are many to master.

White Crane Kung Fu (Bai He Quan)

There are many different styles of White Crane Kung Fu most of them originating in Southern China.
To understand the history of Whitecrane Kung Fu it is necessary to understand the geography of China;  To the west of the country lie the Himalayan mountain range, flowing from these mountains to the east of the country is the Yellow and Yangtse rivers, along with many other rivers as a result of the melting snow.

Generally Chinese Martial arts can be divided from those north and south of the Yellow river.  To the north the land is dry and flat and to the south there are a lot of rivers and lakes.

As a result the northern plains were used to plant crops like wheat as a food source and in the South the water was used to grow rice as the main food source.  As a result of the geography the diets of the northern and southern people differ greatly.  According to recent reports the more wheat you eat the taller you may grow, also those who eat rice tend to be shorter.

If you are taller and have long legs you can take advantage of this and use this attribute in a fight.  Therefore to the north the long range Kicking and punching styles developed. One such style is Shaolin Longfist.

In the south the fighting styles emphasising short range hand techniques developed. The distance between the two fighters determine the best tools to use in a fight.

A common saying is “Nan Quan” is southern fist and “Bei Tui” is Northern Leg.

As the Whitecrane is used for close range fighting you can see that hand strikes, wrestling and joint locking are all important aspects.  In this range it is important not to fall so a fighter must have good stability and rooting.  One of the keys to this rooting is to keep the waist area soft so is to help adapt to pressures during the fighting rather than tensing up. This also allows for the generation of martial power (Jin).

Also worth noting is the location of the Shaolin temple, this is between the two rivers mentioned above and as a result both northern and southern styles developed here.

Some people say White Crane began 300 years ago but this is not true. Its origins can be traced back more than 1,000 years to the time of Jueyuan and Bai, Yu-feng, who produced the Essence of the Five animal fist at the Shaolin Temple.

White Crane was later passed to Tibet by a Monk called Xinglong.  He was sent to Tibet to study Buddhism by the Shaolin Monks.  He was an expert in White Crane and passed on the white crane style to Tibet.  Tibet has a northern White Crane style commonly called La Ma, a long range fighting style.  Southern White Crane is especially from the Qing Dynasty which came from Manchuria who conquered China about 400 years ago by crossing the great wall and destroying the Shaolin Temples.  The Shaolin Monks left the temples and went south hiding themselves in society and continued to rebel against the Qing Dynasty.   When the monks moved South slowly the styles that were created in the Shaolin Temples were modified.  For example White Crane when it moved to the South was modified and became Southern White Crane.  Today after 300-400 years there are probably four well known white crane styles.  The first one is Pecking style which uses the beak of the crane to attack which is a special characteristic of this style which gives it is name (Eating Crane).  The second style is called Ancestor crane with ‘sleeping’ being the major characteristic sleeping means using defence as the offence. Another of the styles is Jumping or Flying crane and finally the most internal of the white crane styles is the Shouting crane.  Although there are four major styles, it does not mean they are divided clearly, there are elements of each of the styles in all the Whitecrane styles, this means Ancestor crane also uses pecking, but also has jumping and uses shouting, essentially they all share the same techniques.  At YMAA the style of Whitecrane trained is Ancestoral white crane.