A pattern from Southern Shaolin Kungfu, “One-Finger Stabilize Empire”
Martial art has been classified into two groups, internal and external and northern and southern. Actually they came from the same source. Since the Venerable Da Mo, or the Venerable Bodhidharma, arrived and invented Eighteen Lohan Hands, the Wudang patriarch, Thong Yun Real Man, Zhang San Feng, after receiving the true transmission of Shaolin, invented internal school, henceforth martial art was divided two branches of Shaolin and Wudang.
External school of martial art derived from Shaolin, regulated breathing, trained hundred bones, be agile in moving forward and backward, and focused on being hard and soft. Internal art derived from Wudang, strengthened tendons and bones, developed circulation of energy, maintained silence to subdue movement, and focused on being quiescence.
The Shaolin Monastery in Fujian Province succeeded from the Shaolin Monastery in Henan Province, but its martial art developed as its own system, its mastery deep, its changes marvelous, and its Shaolin disciples achieved the level of what people hoped but could not attain. After the monastery was burnt to the ground, martial art of Shaolin monks in the temple flowed like wind and dispersed like snow, flowed into the public.
Having gained the advantage of geography, in a few years Guangdong Province became a place for heroes and prosperity. There were “Ten Tigers of Guangdong”, who were Iron Bridge Three, Wong Thung Ho, Tham Chai Wen, Lai Yein Chiew, Beggar Su, Iron Finger Chan, Chow Thai, Wong Yein Lam, Black Tiger Su, and Wong Kai Yin. There were extraordinary and beyond the public.
Before the Ten Tigers were known in the world, the one who had the wind of righteousness and bones of chivalry, and greatly respected by the public was Luk Ah Choy.
Luk Ah Choy was a Manchurian, but had lived in Guangdong for a long time. When he was small, both his parents died, and he was looked after by an uncle. But his uncle was unkind to him, not feeding him enough to fill his stomach, and not clothing him enough to warm him, and he was often hit as punishment.
Luk Ah Choy could not stand the inhumanity, and ran away. At that time he was only twelve years old. When wind blew gently and the moon was cold (i.e. when the weather was chilly), he would sit alone in a shed which stored wood, and thought to himself that had his parents were alive, he would not suffer such bitterness, and his tears from his eyes and mucus from his nose would flow down.
Since he was small, Luk Ah Choy had developed a solitary character, everyday he was not happy, silent and rarely spoke, and whenever he was off from work, he liked to wander about alone in the city so as to erase his suffering and eliminate his loneliness.
One day there was a stage showing drama to thanks gods in heaven. Luk Ah Choy went there alone to watch. All around the stage was crowded with people, layers and layers of humanity, not less than thousands of citizens. His body is short and small, even when he was on his toes, he could not see the stage. So he crawled beneath people’s legs to find a space where he could view.
There was a monk in front of the stage watching the play. Luk Ah Choy stood behind the monk, but the monk was huge and Luk Ah Choy could not see anything on stage. So he moved to stand in front of the monk.
After a short while, before a song sung by an actor was completed, Luk Ah Choy found a hand grasping him. He looked back and found the monk placing him underneath the monk’s armpit. The monk walked away, and although Luk Ah Choy tried to struggle free, he remained grasped by the powerful monk.
They went quite far into a country-side where no inhabitants lived. After traveling for a long time, they entered a small, old temple. Placing Luk Ah Choy on the floor, the monk sat on a mat and started to meditate.
It was like a dream. Luk Ah Choy looked around and found the temple isolated. He did not hear any sounds of drums or bells, or wooden fish (which were used to keep rhythm when chanting sutras). There were no other monks. Outside the small temple were wild grass and fallen leaves.
The monk was meditating, the sound from his nose was like thunder. Luh Ah Choy was furious. He ran towards the monk and hit him with random fists.
The monk opened his eyes and asked, “What are you doing?”
“I don’t have any grudges with you. Why do you bring me here?”
The monk smilingly replied, “You have hands and feet. I didn’t tie you with ropes. If you want to go, go!”
Luk Ah Choy started to cry. “You have brought me to this steep cliff. How can I go? You must carry me down the hill.”
“Do you think that when you have descended the hill, you can return to your home? Let me tell you. Your home is very far away, and you don’t recognize the route. You just feed tigers and wolves as their meals.”
Luk Ah Choy could only cry. The monk then said, “Start thinking. Why do I carry you here?”
“You want me to be your servant?” Luk Ah Choy replied. The monk shook his head.
“You want me to be a monk so that you can have some company?”
The monk held his stomach and laughed loudly. “You don’t have pure and quiet bones, how can you enter the Buddhist faith?”
Luk Ah Choy thought for a long time. Then he said, “Right, I have thought out the answer. You must want to accept me as your student.”
The monk rubbed his palms and said, “Goodness, goodness! Since you can realize my thought, from now onwards you are my student.”
As Luk Ah Choy lost his parents when small, and he was alone and had no other intention, he knelt down and accepted the monk as his sifu, or kungfu master.
“Sifu,” Luk Ah Choy asked, “May I know your spiritual name?”
“My name is not important. What is important is that you must learn kungfu seriously.”
Henceforth, the two persons addressed each other as sifu and student. Day and night, they trained kungfu in the small temple and around it. Every morning the monk led Luk Ah Choy downhill to fetch water from a stream. They did not use a beam carried on their shoulders.
The water containers were made of iron and had a pointed bottom., so they could not put down the containers to rest. They had to grip the water containers with their two hands and ran up a hilly road up to the temple.
At first Luk Ah Choy found it very difficult, but gradually he was accustomed to it. After some time, he could run up and down the hill a few times without much effort.
One day, teacher and pupil returned to the temple after fetching water. The teacher asked his pupil, “Do you know the intention of me asking you to fetch water everyday?”
“Pupil does not know.”
“There is some secret art in asking you to fetch water. Because the bottom of the water container is pointed, you cannot rest on the way, otherwise the water will spill off. The route you take is narrow and hilly, so that you have to focus on your route, and you cannot merely walk. I let you to undergo such training so that your bridges (i.e. your arms) and foundation (i.e. your stability and agility of footwork) without your knowing gradually become powerful.
Lu Ah Choy quickly knelt down to thank his sifu.
Henceforth, Luk Ah Choy further increased his subduing bitterness and sustaining endurance, added to his diligence in kungfu training, even the monk was surprised at his progress. Within a few years, Luk Ah Choy learned the martial art “emerging from spirit and entering neutralization” (i.e. extremely well).
One day, the monk said to Luk Ah Choy, “Ah Choy, do you know how many years you have been here?”
“Student does not know.”
“Soon we have to separate. I have to tell you that you have remained in the temple for seven years. During this time, I have silently observed you. Although I dare not say that your kungfu is excellent, you have attained what ordinary people cannot attain. This is the result of your ‘subduing bitterness and sustaining endurance’. My heart is therefore peaceful. Today we have to separate.”
Luk Ah Choy immediately knelt before his sifu, and cried, “Student has received deep blessings and credit. I am willing to serve sifu for life.”
The monk replied, “The meeting and separating of people is determined beforehand. Close like father and son, husband and wife, it is inevitable to separate. I have entered the ‘empty gate’ (i.e. the Buddhist order), like lone clouds and solitary cranes, there is no need for any company. You can honor the master and respect the Way, we can still have the opportunity to meet one day.”
Sorrow arose in Luk Ah Choy, and his tears continuously flowed.
“Today we part. I have a few words to tell you. Please listen carefully. Although learning kungfu is only a small Way, but small it can strengthen our tendons and nourish our energy, build our spirit and harmonize ourselves, and have the benefits of longevity and mental clarity. Big, it can help the weak and support the strong, flourish the neighborhood, and stabilize the country. When you have descended the mountain (i.e. completed your kungfu training), you must uphold morality, and clear in your chest (i.e. be clear in your consciousness) and be pure and white in your coming and going (i.e. clean in your behavour).
“Remember the insult of the Shaolin Monastery being raised to the ground. One may move the eastern sea, but this hatred cannot be erased. Although you are in the noise and dust (i.e. in the everyday world), you must ‘build your essence and practice your bones’ (i.e. continue to practice your kungfu) so that you will not ‘forsake my heart and blood’ (i.e. neglect my intention and effort).”
Luk Ah Choy furthered prostrated and said, “Student will always remember.”
Every morning at the Shaolin Monastery, the Venerable Chee Seen would wait up Li Chooi Peng for kungfu training. Chee Seen has practiced kungfu for decades, and when he taught his students he had a systematic way of teaching. For every movement, he would explain it clearly. He was also very strict. Every pattern was performed by his students correctly with picture-perfect form.
They trained everyday. After a year, Li Chooi Peng’s basic force training was remarkable. Chee Seen knew that basic force training was very important. It was the foundation from which all future kungfu development depended. Li Chooi Peng was young. She did not have any irrelevant thought, and just focused on her training. After two years, her kungfu progress even surpassed Chee Seen’s expectation.
Chee Seen was very happy. He started to teach her chin-na (which was a special way of gripping) using Eagle Claw.
For a start, Chee Seen placed two jars on the ground, and asked Li Chooi Peng to grip them with her thumb, middle finger and fourth finger, and walk about. Li Chooi Peng could just walk a few steps, her fingers became weak, and her wrists became numb. But because Chee Seen was watching, she dared not let the jars down.
After a month, she noticed that her fingers and wrists had become strong. She could lift the jars without much effort. After another month, not only she was not tired, it was like holding two clumps of hay which she did not take any notice at all.
Chee Seen then added some stones into the jars. Gradually the jars were full of stones. After a while, Li Chooi Peng could carry the jars easily and ran about freely in the garden of the monastery.
Chee Seen was very glad seeing that Li Chooi Peng could endure the bitter training. Without saying anything, he changed the jars with stone-chestnuts and asked Li Chooi Peng to continue training. The stone-chestnuts were made from big pebbles and each was more than 10 katis heavy. (Each katy was about 500 grams.) There was nothing to hold the hands on. Everywhere the stone-chestnuts were smooth. As soon as any ordinary person tries to hold one, it would slip away.
It was more difficult to hold stone-chestnuts than jars filled with stones. But Li Chooi Peng persisted, and soon she could hold them quite easily. Her teacher then changed heavier stone-chestnuts, each weighing about 40 katies. After some time she could lift the heavy stone-chestnuts with her hands, and could run many steps without the stone-chestnuts slipping out.
One day Chee Seen said, “Very good. It is difficult now to find anyone to have the power of your fingers.” Now I’ll teach you how to use your finger power. The art of finger kungfu is to use an opponent’s force miraculously. When in combat, it is often not based on valour and strength to beat an opponent. When an opponent is very strong, even if it is possible to use strength to beat him, it is demanding and undesirable. It is better to beat him in miraculous ways.
“By miraculous ways, I mean to use the opponent’s strength to beat him. This is what people say four taels to counter a thousand katies.
(In the past, 1 katy was divided into 16 taels, but in China today, following the metric system, 1 katy is divided into 10 taels.)
“When you look at a weighing balance, the weight is only a small portion that balances what is to be weighed. This is what is meant by four taels to counter a thousand katies. What you are learning now about chin-na using Eagle Claw, is this type of miraculous kungfu. Using just three fingers you can cause your opponent to fall, as if hit by a staff. This is the reason why I ask you to carry jars and stone-chestnuts.
“You just think. Using your three fingers to grasp jars and stone-chestnuts, it is to focus your force at the fingers. There are rings at the tops of jars, so you can make use of the rings when using your force. But there are no rings at the stone-chestnuts. Yet you can lift them up. It is not feasible to calculate how forceful are your fingers. When they are used on a person, it won’t be light.
“I shall now explain to you the power of your fingers. Every person has many tens of katies of strength. Just take 100 katies as an example. There are many people with 100 katies of strength. But those with 100 katies of strength at their arms are fewer. Those with 100 katies at their fists are fewer still. Those with 100 katies of strength at their fingers are very few indeed.
The philosophy of receiving the power is similar. Those who receive 100 katies from an opponent will retreat. Those who receive 100 katies of strength from an opponent’s arm will fall. Those who receive 100 katies of strength from an opponent’s fist will be injured. Those who receive 100 katies of strength from an opponent’s finger will die or be paralyzed. Hence, this is the reason I told you to train finger power all this time.”
After a pause, the Venerable Chee Seen continued. “Now you have power at your fingers. Tomorrow I’ll teach you more training methods, and then I’ll teach you the techniques to use your finger power.”