I will first of all state that it is an honor to correspond with you. I have been practicing Kung Fu of several styles both for performance and application sparring for a little over 14 years now.
— Hoffman, USA
Thank you for your kind words.
I am glad that you practice combat application in your kungfu training. Without combat application, kungfu ceases to be kungfu. It becomes gymnastics or a demonstrative sport, which has its benefits too, but it ceases to be a martial art. Unfortunately the majority of kungfu practitioners today, including masters, are incompetent in kungfu combat application, but they lack the honesty and courage to admit it.
Many resort to borrowing techniques and methods from other martial arts, like Taekwondo and Kick-Boxing, to rectify their lack of kungfu combat application. Some may have become formidable fighters using these borrowed techniques, but they still cannot use kungfu for combat. Some even go to the ridiculous extent of saying that kungfu forms cannot be used in combat, and that using Kick-Boxing is kungfu.
Though you have not stated it, I suspect that you are one of those who use other martial art techniques, probably Kick-Boxing, instead of kungfu in your sparring. Your attempt to rectify the inadequacy of kungfu combat application is admirable but your action is mis-directed. You should attempt to use kungfu forms for sparring instead. You have spent 14 years practicing kungfu forms. It is worth to spend one whole year to learn and practice genuine kungfu combat application, so that what you have learnt all these years will not go to waste.
I have posted a lot of videos on my website , not only showing but also explaining secrets that masters in the past kept only for their top students. By following and practicing the examples shown in the videos, you can attain a reasonable level of kungfu combat application.
I would like to share a very important point that kungfu practitioners who attempt free sparring may not know. They think that by attempting free sparring, they can defend themselves. They don’t. They may be able to hit others, but they still cannot defend themselves.
And many have the perverted view that one must be willing to take some hits and kicks to learn a martial art. It is certainly not true. In fact a main reason why any person learns a martial art is not to be hit at all. The big irony is that not only many martial artists cannot defend themselves despite their training, they become more unhealthy due to sustained injuries in free sparring.
The above is taken from Question 1 of January 2008 Part 3 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.
Tom applying what he has just learnt in the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in June 2007 against a Boxer posed by Chris in free sparring
Is it really possible to teach the combat applications of Shaolin and Taiji in an intensive course? I know many people have asked the same question on the Qigong (Chi Kung) course, and you have replied that “Its purpose is to equip you with fundamental skills and techniques so that you can competently practice on your own after the course. You need to practice for at least a few months before you can have lasting good results”.
— Kaiwan, Singapore
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
Yes, it is really possible, and it has been amply confirmed by practical experience of those who have attended my course. In the first place if I myself have doubt whether the course participants will get the benefits as promised in the course objectives, I would not offer the course.
For example, many people have requested me to offer an intensive course on the “Small Universe”, but as I am still unsure whether I could help the course participants to acquire the benefits of the “Small Universe” — not just the techniques — within the time frame of an intensive course, I have refrained from offering it. I am making progress in the methodology of teaching the “Small Universe”, and when I am sure of the result, I may offer the course in the future.
( Editorial Note: This was written in April 2004.)
What I have said about the Intensive Chi Kung Course concerning fundamental skills and practicing on their own, also applies to the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course and the Intensive Taijiquan Course. If course participants practice on their own for a few months what they have learnt in the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course and the Intensive Taijiquan Course, they can apply their techniques and skills effectively in combat. Even when they spar with their friends or students immediately after their return from the course, the latter will be amazed at their rapid improvement within such a short time. After a year, the latter would have no match at all.
There is nothing mysterious or mythical about it. It all boils down to vision, direction and systematic training . Both my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course and my Intensive Taijiquan Course focus on internal force training and combat application. A course participant has about 6 hours of systematic sparring a day, which means he has about 30 hours of systematic combat training from the course.
Most kungfu students do not have any systematic combat training at all. Many may have engaged in free sparring, but free sparring is not systematic combat training. In fact, the way they approach free sparring is counter-productive. Not only they sustain a lot of internal injuries, they condition themselves to fight in a way where they never apply their kungfu techniques and skills effectively. In principle, it is like training in football but playing hockey instead.
Let us take a scenario. Suppose you are trained in a way of a typical kungfu school today. To learn fighting, you and a partner practice free sparring. You stand in a typical kungfu stance using a typical kungfu pattern. Your partner charges at you and rains blows on you. You start to think to yourself: “Now what kungfu pattern should I use to defend against these blows?” Before you could even finish running your thought in your mind, a few blows have landed on your face and body.
After some time (which can be a few seconds, days or weeks later) you become smarter. As your sparring partner charges at you, you start to move back to avoid his blows. But because you stand at a deep kungfu stance, your retreat is slow, and your partner still rains blows on your face and body.
After some time, you discover that if you abandon your kungfu stances and bounce about, you can move faster, but your partner also charges in fast and rains blows on you. Soon you discover that you have no time to think of which kungfu techniques to use, so you just block his blows instinctively. You also discover that you can also rain blows on him.
Your sparring partner has become smarter too. He discovers that he can kick you or grab you or throw you onto the ground. He also learns that he may use some tricks. For example, he may pretend to strike you with a blow, but as you block or dodge the feign move, he kicks at you. Such free sparring may go on for years.
If you are tough like a buffalo and didn’t chicken out even after receiving a few broken jaws and broken bones from the blows and kicks, over the years of free sparring you may discover some special ways of counter-attacking. For example, when your partner strikes you with a blow, instead of blocking or bouncing away, you may move to his side and strike his ribs before he has time to pull back his attacking hand. You may also discover that if you are skilful enough, you can apply this counter-attack even if his initial blow is a feign.
An invaluable photograph showing two combatants in an annual grand free sparring competition of Grandmaster Ho Fatt Nam about 40 years ago, following the tradition of the southern Shaolin Temple. Notice that they used typical Shaolin kungfu patterns, which were the same as what our Shaolin Wahnam kungfu students use today, and which were also the same as those used by Shaolin disciples in real fighting a few hundred years ago, as revealed in written records and illustrations.
In a year of free sparring, there may be many occasions when you can use this counter-attack. But these occasions occur so fast that you are usually unprepared for them. Hence, in practical terms you may actually use such a counter-attack a few times in a year of free sparring, and you may be successful only once or twice. Most of the time you would only say to yourself, “Oh, I could use that special counter-attack”, but your hands and legs are too slow for your intent.
Why are you too slow? And why can’t you use the kungfu techniques that you perform in solo forms? The reason is that your free sparring has been haphazard and unmethodical.After 10 years of free sparring you may not be more efficient than when you were in your first year!
Now, take another scenario. You stand at a typical kungfu stance using a typical kungfu pattern. Your training partner rushes at you to rain blows. But he couldn’t. As soon as he makes his first move, irrespective of whether it is real or feign, you intercept it with a tiger-claw, using a tactic called “one closes two”, in such a way that he cannot continue his other hand attack without making an adjustment. But before he can make the adjustment, you drive a palm strike with your other hand into his ribs to fracture them, had you wanted to, using a Shaolin pattern called “Dark Dragon Draws Water”. But of course you stop just short of target with your trained control.
Will this scenario happen? It never will, if your “training” is haphazard. It surely will, if your training is methodological and systematic.
At first your partner does not rush at you. He moves in at a comfortable speed for you to execute your counter-attack. How did you discover this counter-attack? You didn’t. It was evolved from centuries of actual fighting, and is taught to you by your master who has inherited this technique. You and your partner would have to practice just this sequence of attack and counter-attack 50 times a day. In three months, you and your partner would have practiced it a few thousand times, compared to only a few times in 10 years had you been doing haphazard free sparring.
Students enjoying using Shaolin Kungfu for sparring at the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Sabah in March 2007
By practicing systematically a few thousand times, you partner will be able to attack you with more force and speed, and you will be able to counter-attack more efficiently than others who perform similar attacks and counter-attacks haphazardly a few times in 10 years. In other words, although you have trained for only three months, if someone rushes at you to rain blows at you, you will be able to handle this combat situation more efficiently than a kungfu student who has done haphazard free sparring for 10 years.
What would you do if your partner makes an adjustment successfully and executes a side kick at you as you attempt to counter-attack with a palm strike? Spontaneously you withdraw your front leg to avoid his kicking attack, and simultaneously strike his kicking leg with your arm, using a Shaolin pattern called “Lohan Strikes a Drum”.
You can do this effectively because your master has the vision to foresee that as you counter-attack with a palm strike, your opponent may respond in a number of preferred moves. He also has the direction to train you systematically to respond to these moves. Had you been performing haphazard free sparring, you would have to respond on the spur of the moment, which is another way of saying your respond will be artless and impromptu.
Of course your opponent may attack you in other ways besides charging at you with blows. Your master has the vision to predict the numerous ways an opponent would attack, and provides the direction of your systematic training.
A combat application from the Triple Stretch kungfu set
With the help of Sam Tuck, Luk Ah Choy, Fong Sai Yuk and Wu Wei Thien from Guangzhou, Hoong Hei Khoon set up a kungfu school at Foshan, which was a big city some distance from the province capital at Guangzhou. Hoong Hei Khoon named his school “Siu Lam Hoong Koon” or “Shaolin Hoong Kungfu School”.
Soon it was New Year day. Many kungfu schools celebrated the New Year festive session with lion dance. Amongst the famous lion dance teams were from Chan Kungfu School, Leong Kungfu School, Li Kungfu School and Lu Kungfu School.
A wealthy shop, called Toi Woh Hong, hung up a “green” (i.e. vegetable with a red packet containing money) tens of feet in the sky for the lions to gather. Attached to the “green” was a banner clearly stating that gathering the “green” depended on the personal kungfu skill of the head and the tail lion dancers, and other people were not permitted to help.
The first lion team that saw the “green” was from Lu Kungfu School. The master and students of the Lu Kungfu School found the “green” too high, so they just passed it. Then came the lion teams from Leong Kungfu School and Li Kungfu School. The kungfu masters and students had a look at the “green”, and then walked away.
The lion team from Chan Kungfu School soon followed. The kungfu master and his students discussed how they could gather the “green”. Some students suggested using human formation, called Lohan formation, which was forming different tiers of people one on top of the other. Their sifu mentioned that this was not permitted as stated in the banner. As they could not find a good solution, they also passed the “green” without gathering it.
The last to arrive was the lion team from Hoong Kungfu School. Some students reported to Hoong Hei Khoon that the “green” was very high, but human formation, which was a usual way to gather high “green”, was not allowed. They also suggested that the lion would by pass the “green”.
Hoong Hei Khoon exclaimed, “We should not by pass the ‘green’, which would show that we lack ability.”
“But how would we gather the green if human formations are not allowed?” declared some students.
“I’ll show you,” Hoong Hei Khoon answered. He took over the lion head, and a senior student took the tail. The lion dance music, which comprised a gigantic drum, a massive gong and some pairs of copper cymbals, sounded majestically.
The lion danced magnificently beneath the “green”, with the lion music creating a joyful din. After some time, Hoong Hei Khoon opened the mouth of the lion and sent out a flying dart, which neatly cut the thread tying the “green”, causing it fall into the lion mouth. All those present applauded loudly and noisily.
The news soon reached lion dancers of the Chan Kungfu School. They became jealous, and came back to scold the lion dancers of the Hoong Kungfu School that they had no manners. This caused members of both lion dance teams shouted at each other and some of them exchanged blows.
Hoong Hei Khoon shouted at his students to stop, and then asked lion dancers of the Chan Kungfu School in a polite way, “In what ways we have no manners?”
The master of the Chan Kungfu School was called Chan Tiet Ngow. He was good at kungfu and had much strength, but was arrogant and irrational.
He pointed at Hoong Hei Khoon and shouted, “How dare you ask in what way you have no manners! In your eyes, do you see our Chan Kungfu School? There were reasons why we did not gather the ‘green’ from Toi Woh Hong. The owner thinks that because he is rich, he can buy us. It is not because we lack the skill to gather the ‘green’. As you are also martial artists, you should know even though it is not explicitly explained.”
Hoong Hei Khoon replied, “That’s wrong. Gathering ‘green’ is a form of entertainment. Everyone can gather the ‘green’. If you do not want to gather it, others may want. Without any purpose, you open your mouth and use angry words to hurt others. “
Chan Tiet Ngow did not answer. He went forward and thrust a punch at Hoong Hei Khoon.
Hoong Hei Khoon retreated a small step to avoid the punch. He did not counter. He did not want to change this small matter into a big matter.
But Chan Tiet Ngow did not appreciate it. He moved forward again and hung a buffalo-horn fist at Hoong Hei Khoon’s temple. Hoong Hei Khoon gently brushed off this attack with a thread-hand, using a pattern called “Golden Dragon Plays with Water”. The two masters then exchanged a number of movements.
Chan Tiet Ngow employed a sideway low horse-riding stance and executed a right thrust punch at Hoong Hei Khoon’s abdomen. Hoong Hei Khoon withdrew his front leg into a left lift-leg stance and employed the pattern “Lohan Plays with Tiger”, thrusting his left fist into Chan Tiet Ngow’s ribs, while his left punching arm brushed away Chan Tiet Ngow’s thrust punch. Chan Tiet Ngow could not avoid, and was hit on the ribs.
Instantly, Hoong Hei Khoon pushed away Chan Tiet Ngow’s right hand, and simultaneously hung a left fist on the opponent’s face, and kicked at the opponent’s groin with his right foot, in a pattern called “Rising Dragon Galloping Tiger”. But out of compassion, Hoong Hei Khoon kicked at the opponent’s abdomen instead of the groin. This combat sequence was from the kungfu set called Triple Stretch, which was a specialty of Hoong Hei Khoon.
Hoong Hei Khoon could have broken Chan Tiet Ngow’s bones, smashed his groin, and caused the opponent serious injury or even death. But he did not want to enlarge what to him was a small matter. He just wanted to put Chan Tiet Ngow out of action for some time. Chan Tiet Ngow’s students ran forward and carried their sifu away.
After this incident Hoong Hei Khoon became famous in Foshan. He was also known to be kindhearted. Later he was regarded as the First Patriarch of Southern Shaolin Kungfu, often called Hoong Family Kungfu, in the world.
When Hoong Hei Khoon reached Guangzhou, he went to meet his siheng, the Venerable Sam Tuck, the abbot of West Zen Monastery. At that time, his sidai, Luk Ah Choy, was there.
(“Siheng” referred to a senior kungfu brother, and “sidai” referred to a junior kungfu brother.)
While Sam Tuck, Hoong Hei Khoon and Luk Ah Choy were talking about the good old days, a monk ran in and told Sam Tuck that a group of people were chopping down trees in front of the temple.
The Venerable Sam Tuck told his two sidai, “In front of West Zen Temple, there is a forest of birch trees. They were planted by our ancestors. It looks that today I have to move my limbs (i.e. take action).“
They saw that between twenty and thirty people were chopping down huge birch trees. A few trees were then falling down with a loud noice.
“Anyone who dares to chop trees in my temple must stop!” Sam Tuck shouted. Otherwise, don’t say that monks are not compassionate!”
Those chopping trees stopped their action. They saw that Sam Tuck was the abbot of the temple, and his hand was holding a staff. Behind him stood two persons who were empty handed.
The leader of the group of people chopping trees was called Li Kang. He thought that the monk should get more people if he wanted to stop them felling trees. There were only three of them, with the monk holding a staff. There were more than twenty people chopping trees, and all were holding axes. Wasn’t it moths charging at fire (i.e. were the monk and his two companions committing suicide)?
Not only he did not run away, he went forward a few steps, and said, “These trees grew up naturally. There are no owners. Everyone can chop them down. You say that these trees belong to West Zen Temple. But around here for tens of miles, there are no less than a million birch trees. You can point out each tree to me, telling me what year, what month and what day it was planted. If you can do so, we shall move away. If you cannot do so, we shall continue our chopping.”
The other people laughed out loudly.
“You have forcefully used words to abuse reason. This shows that you all are not good persons. Right, you can chop the trees, but you must ask my companion.”
Li Kang thought that his companions were the two persons, Hoong Hei Khoon and Luk Ah Choy, behind Sam Tuck. So he said, “You ask them yourself. We just watch.”
Sam Tuck held up his staff and exclaimed, “My companion is here. You all can ask it.”
Li Kang was furious. He waved his axe, and asserted, “This monk has no manners. Today let us show him our terror!”
Saying this, he led the group with axes in their hands to attack Sam Tuck.
Sam Tuck just smiled. He told Hoong Hei Khoon and Luk Ah Choy, “This group of robbers’ hair. I alone will be sufficient to handle them. Please just watch and do not help me.
Thus with staff in hand, Sam Tuck rushed into the crowd. Left strikes and right hits, like a tiger entering into a herd of sheep. He knew very well that to catch the thieves, he must first catch the chief. So, without more words, he struck a hard hit onto the shoulder of Li Kang.
Li Kang sustained a hard hit. He cried loudly and ran. Others seeing Li Kang running away, dropped their axes and ran like mice.
Sam Tuck smiled and commented, “A group of crows!” Then he spoke to Hoong Hei Khoon and Luk Ah Choy, “A person who has left his family (i.e. a monk), moves his hands and moves his legs (i.e. performs unnecessary action), has gone against pure rules (i.e. temple rules). This will cause much laughter.”
Hoong Hei Khoon and Luk Ah Choy quickly replied, “We dare not laugh!”
The legendary dim-mark was taught at the Dragon-Strength Course in Penang in December 2014
In Fa Yun, or Flower District, of Guangdong Province there was a kungfu master called Sung Chan. He had a kungfu school and treated “thiet ta” patients, or patients suffering from falls and being hit. He was well known in the area.
(“Falls and being hit” is “thiet ta” in Cantonese, or “die da” in Mandarin pronunciation. Please note that “d” in Mandarin written in Romanized Chinese, is pronounced like “t” in English. “Thiet ta” is a special branch of Chinese medicine, and is best translated as “traumatology”. It was usually treated by kungfu masters, not by doctors.)
Sung Chan had a son called Sung Cheong, who was known as Black Bone Cheong. Indeed, his real name was seldom known.
Black Bone Cheong learned kungfu from his father since he was small, and had a lot of muscular strength. But he was hot tempered, so his father sent him away as an apprentice in a wine shop.
There was established another kungfu school in the district city by Mok Lou Luk, or Old Mok Six. Black Bone Cheong felt exasperated when hearing about this new kungfu school. Because of his arrogance, he did not believe there were other capable persons. He wanted to kick the foundation of this school (i.e. defeat the master of this school, resulting in the school to close).
So one day he visited this kungfu school, and was surprised to find Old Mok Six in his advanced age, thin with a hump on his back, and his face was yellowish. Old Mok Six did not look at all like a kungfu master.
Black Bone Cheong told Old Mok Six that he was the son of Sung Chan, had heard of the fame of Old Mok Six, and so he came to seek teaching.
Old Mok Six said, “I have started teaching here for less than a month, and young master said that you had heard of my fame. I don’t know from where have you heard this. But your father is a well known kungfu master. His fame is already well established. Why do you sacrifice near and look for far?”
“I’ve heard of your name, so I’ve come to learn.”
“Glorious people do not speak hidden words. Please tell me straight (i.e. honestly). How would you come to learn?” asked Old Mok Six.
Black Bone Cheong stood up and answered, “I want to exchange some moves with elderly master.”
Old Mok Six was an old stream and lake (i.e. experienced person). He knew that Black Bone Cheong’s intention was to kick his foundation. With a greeting, he answered, “Please!”
Black Bone Cheong moved forward with a punch, which Old Mok Six deflected. Then Black Bone Cheong struck out his two palms. Again Old Mok Six warded off the attack and gave the opponent a kick. The two persons exchanged a number of moves.
Eventually, Black Bone Cheong gripped Old Mok Six’ pigtail, and pulled hard, causing Old Mok Six to tilt his head.
“Ha, ha,” laughed Black Bone Cheong, “Elderly master Mok, even when you are skillful, what techniques would you use to escape from this predicament?”
“You better let go of your hand,” the old master warned, “or else you will regret.”
Black Bone Cheong thought that the old master wanted face (i.e. too proud to concede defeat). He said, “In combat, don’t you use your best techniques?”
Old Mok Six turned around and used his index and middle fingers to dot on the opponent’s energy point at the ribs. This art was called “dim mark”, or dotting energy points. Black Bone Cheong was unprepared. He felt his body numb, and he involuntarily let go of his grip.
“Seng yeong, seng yeong (i.e. thank you for allowing me to make my moves). Young master’s art is definitely not shallow.”
The elderly master’s words were meant for Black Bone Cheong to apologize in front of the master’s students. Then he would release the blockage of energy at the energy point.
But Black Bone Cheong was too proud. He did not want to lower his head (i.e. to be humble) in front of other people. Without saying another word, he ran out of the kungfu school.
When he returned home, he told the happening to his father. Sung Chan was both angry and apprehensive. He was angry that his son was useless, and could not do big things. He was apprehensive because he did not know how to release energy blockage at energy points, and thus was unable to overcome his son’s injury. To beg Old Mok Six to release the energy blockage might damage his reputation.
He could only prescribed some medicated powder to clear blood blockage and generate blood flow for his son, but it could not clear energy blockage. After a few days, not only his son was not cured, his injury became more serious.
Luk Ah Choy and Ma Hoi Sing went to the same open space near the door. Luk Ah Choy adopted the poise stance he used earlier to defeat Cheah Pak, “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave”, with his right tiger-claw in front in a right lift-leg stance. Ma Hoi Sing adopted the same poise stance in his left bow-arrow stance with two hands in front.
Ma Hoi Sing moved forward with a left bow-arrow stance and struck Luk Ah Choy with his left palm. Luk Ah Choy moved back his front leg and thread away the attack, then gripped Ma Hoi Sing’s left wrist with his left tiger-claw. Immediately Ma Hoi Sing struck forward his right palm. Luk Ah Choy retreated his body slightly to avoid the palm attack, and again gripped the attacking wrist with his right tiger-claw.
Now both of Ma Hoi Sing’s hands were held by Luk Ah Choy’s tiger claws. If Luk Ah Choy were to grip hard on the energy points at Ma Hoi Sing’s wrists, Luk Ah Choy would have numbed the hands of Ma Hoi Sing, making Ma Hoi Sing unable to fight further.
But Luk Ah Choy merely held the hands. He wanted to show Ma Hoi Sing that he could use the same technique to defeat Ma Hoi Sing, despite the saying that northern kungfu styles were known for kicks, and southern kungfu styles were known for fists.
Luk Ah Choy lifted Ma Hoi Sing’s both hands upward, still holding them, thus blocking Ma Hoi Sing’s sight. Simultaneously he executed a thrust kick at Ma Hoi Sings chest using a pattern called “White Horse Presents Hoof”. But Luk Ah Choy did not kick his opponent; he merely touched the chest. Then he lowered Ma Hoi Sing’s hands, covered them well with his own left hand, and pierced two fingers of his right hand into Ma Hoi Sing’s eyes, using a pattern called “Two Dragons Fight for Pearl”. Again he did not really pierce the opponent’s eyes. He stopped an inch from target. Then he gently push Ma Hoi Sing away, out of the fighting arena.
“Seng Yeong,” Luk Ah Choy said.
(“Seng Yeong” was in Cantonese pronunciation. The phrase meant “allowing me to make my moves”, and was often used by a winner in kungfu combat because of courtesy.)
“Thank you for not hurting me,” came the reply.
Ma Hoi Sing was dejected. He went towards the table to collect his double sabres.
“Actually my specialty is these double sabres,” he said.
“I can also fight you with weapons if you like.”
“What weapons would you use?” Ma Hoi Sing asked.
Luk Ah Choy looked around. Then he answered, “I’ll use a wooden bench.”
“A wooden bench? It’s meant for people to sit on, not for fighting.”
“A skillful exponent can use anything to fight,” Luk Ah Choy replied.
“It’s not fair. My sabres can cut you, but you can only hit me.”
“In the hands of an expert, a hit by a wooden bench can be more deadly than a cut by a sabre. If you can cut me, it shows that your kungfu is superior, in which case I have nothing to say. But I can assure you that you cannot even touch me,” commented Luk Ah Choy.
The two combatants assumed their poise stances. Ma Hoi Sing rushed forward with a right downward slash. Luk Ah Choy deflected the slash with his wooden bench. Instantly the left sabre came down with another downward slash. Again Luk Ah Choy deflected the slash with his wooden bench.
For the next attack, Ma Hoi Sing changed techniques. Instead of a downward slash, he attacked with a reverse slash of his right sabre, i.e. the slash moved from downward to upward, and aimed at Luk Ah Choy’s groin followed up to his body.
Luk Ah Choy let the reverse slash pass his body by retreating slightly, and at just the right moment he followed the upward movement of the slash with the legs of the bench facing skyward, and by turning the legs downward again, he locked Ma Hoi Sing’s right arm, causing him to drop the sabre.
Ma Hoi Sing used his other sabre to pierce at Luk Ah Choy. Luk Ah Choy moved adroitly to his right side to avoid the pierce, then lowered the wooden bench at Ma Hoi Sing’s left arm, with the legs of the bench facing downward, slamming the bench onto the floor. Immediately, Luk Ah Choy thrust the bench at Ma Hoi Sing, causing him to drop the sabre to jump back. Now both sabres were disarmed.
Again, Luk Ah Choy said, “Seng Yeong”.
“Warrior is very fast and skillful. May I know your name, and what style of kungfu you practice?”
“As you have said, I don’t change my name while sitting or traveling. My name is Luk Ah Choy, and I practice Shaolin Kungfu.”
“Shaolin Kungfu? It is the best martial art in the world!” exclaimed Ma Hoi Sing. He then left the shop with his gang members. Henceforth, Luk Ah Choy’s name became very well known.
Luk Ah Choy went to examine Cheah Pak.
“Luckily, you are not serious injured,” Luk Ah Choy said.
Chan Chun Fook, the old owner of the shop, added, “If warrior does not mind, to ensure Cheah Pak’s recovery, you can stay in my shop for a few days. There is a room upstairs.”
Luk Ah Choy earlier sold off all his medicated pills. So he wrote a herbal concoction for Cheah Pak specially effective for overcoming injury.
Luk Ah Choy, the old man who was the owner of the shop, and Cheah Pak were drinking wine, enjoying delicious dishes and conversing like old friends. They talked about heaven and earth (i.e. talked about causal things) until late at night, until most of other people were asleep.
Luk Ah Choy learned that the old owner was called Chan Chun Fook.
“That’s a lovely pipe, Uncle Fook” Luk Ah Choy commented, pointing to the pipe the old owner was smoking with.
“Every night after work, I would spend an hour or so smoking my pipe,” Chan Chun Fook said. “Cheah Pak is different,” the old owner referring to his cook. “He’s young. Every night he practices his kungfu.”
“I practice my kungfu diligently,” Cheah Pak added, “but I am no where compared to our warrior here.”
They were dining inside the shop, but suddenly a group of about ten persons in black dresses and all wearing masks appeared. They jumped in from open windows and were carrying weapons, like sabres and staffs.
“We’re here to take your money,” the leader who was holding a pair of sabres in his hands, said loudly to the dinners in the shop. “Quickly place on the table all you have, or else we shall chop you into pieces.” His voice was like thunder. A few remaining customers who were still having their meals were terrified.
Luk Ah Choy reached for his iron drakes and ducks, secret weapons he carried in a small bag on his body. In an instant, he sent the flying iron pills at the robbers. He had learned the secret weapons from a master, so his aim was very accurate. He hit the hands of the robbers holding their weapons. Their weapons dropped on the floor, and they were holding their hands in pain. Some of them were groaning on the ground.
But the leader used his two sabres to deflect the flying iron pills. He was shocked to see all his remaining gang members wounded. For a few seconds he did not know what to say.
Cheah Pak stood up and addressed the leader. “Since you have come, you may not like to leave empty-handed. I’ll give you a gift. I’ll test your kungfu so that the next time you will know not just walk into a shop to rob. But I don’t have any weapons with me, and you are holding double sabres.”
The leader replied, “Who are you? What’s your name?”
“I’m a cook here, and my name is Cheah Pak. What is yours?”
The gang leader took off his mask, and replied, “I do not change my name while sitting, or change my name while traveling. (This was a common saying in Chinese to emphasize that one never changed his name.) I am called Ma Hoi Sing.”
Seeing that Cheah Pak did not have any weapon, Ma Hoi Sing placed his two sabres on a table, and said, “I can fight you unarmed.”
Cheah Pak and Ma Hoi Sing chose a space near the door with no tables around. They each adopted a poise pattern. Cheah Pak stood at a lift-stance with his arms apart, in a pattern called “Beggar Asking for Food.” It looked open and inviting, but a skillful martial artist could respond effectively when an opponent attacked.
Ma Hoi Sing stood in a left bow-arrow stance with his left hand in front of his right hand, guarding his body. This was a common pattern used by northern style martial artists. True enough as northern kungfu styles were known for their agility, Ma Hoi Sing moved in swiftly with a right punch in a right bow-arrow stance.
Cheah Pak retreated his front right leg, warded off the thrust punch with his left hand, moved his left leg forward in a bow-arrow stance and struck out his right fist, in a pattern known as “Black Tiger Steals Heart”. His punch was full of power.
Ma Hoi Sing pulled back his right bow-arrow stance into a right lift-leg stance, still with his right leg in front but avoided the full force of Cheah Pak’s punch. Simultaneously he changed his right punch into a hook-hand by holding his five fingers together like a crane-beak, and hooked away the punch. Immediately be moved forward his right leg into a bow-arrow stance, and struck the opponent’s face with his left palm.
The two combatants exchanged many encounters. For a time it was uncertain who would be the winner.
From a side by observing Ma Hoi Sing’s movements, Luk Ah Choy was quite certain that he was a northern kungfu exponent, especially when he used a pair of sabres. A southern kungfu exponent would only use one sabre.
(Kungfu was generally divided into northern styles and southern styles. Northern styles were centred around the Shaolin Monastery at Henan in the north, and included kungfu styles like Chaquan, Huaquan, Hongquan, Tantui, Eagle Claw, and Praying Mantis. Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Baguazhang were also considered as northern styles. Southern styles were centred around the Shaolin Monastery in Fujian in the south, and included the five family styles of Hoong, Lau, Choy, Li and Mok, as well as Wing Choon and Choy-Li-Fatt.)
After many exchanges, Ma Hoi Sing used his left palm to strike at Cheah Pak’s face. Cheah Pak warded off with his left hand. Immediately Ma Hoi Sing struck the opponent’s face with his right palm. Cheah Pak warded off the attack with his right hand. But the two palm strikes were feign moves to distract the opponent. Instantly Ma Hoi Sing opened Cheah Pak’s defending hands, and kicked up his right leg at Cheah Pak’s chest, so fast that Cheah Pak could not avoid, and fell back a few feet. He hit an empty chair, then fell to the floor.
Ma Hoi Sing attained his intention that he forgot his appearance (i.e. he was glad he attained his intention of defeating Cheah Pak that his conduct and appearance became bizarre). He turned round to look at Luk Ah Choy.
“Just now your secret weapons disarmed by brothers, though I could deflect them. Using secret weapons is not honorable,” he said.
“Coming in with masks and in black dresses to rob is also not honorable,” Luk Ah Choy replied.
For a short while, words failed him. Then he asked, “Would you like to exchange a few moves with me?”
“As you have asked, I shall oblige,” answered Luk Ah Choy.
Application of Shaolin Five-Animal Set between Dimitri and Sifu Leo
The evening sun was sinking in the west on a cold day. The sky was spread with colorful clouds. Luk Ah Choy faced wind and dust on a government road. He was concerned that when night descended, he had no inn to stay in.
Suddenly he noticed amidst some trees a small shed. He also observed on a wall an advertisement that read “Welcome businessmen and other passers-byes along this passage way.”
Luk Ah Choy hurried along and saw a few sheds, with their back facing a village. He was attracted that all the furniture was made of bamboo — bamboo doors, bamboo curtains, bamboo tables, bamboo chairs — which gave him a special sense of romance.
Besides the sheds there were some ancient birch trees, with their roots floating above the soil. The evening shade was thick like a cover, and when gentle breeze blew, saplings dropping from branches drifted amiably in the air. Seeing this lovely scene, Luk Ah Choy felt pleasant in his heart.
Luh Ah Choy entered an eating-house. A young boy in his teen came smiling forward. Luk Ah Choy ordered chicken and wine.
After some time, an old man placed a plate of fried chicken and a pot of wine on a table. Luk Ah Choy was hungry. He enjoyed the chicken and wine.
When some wine had gone into his stomach, Luk Ah Choy exhibited his warrior’s spirit. He went outside, rabbit rose and sparrow descended, and practiced a Shaolin set. When he had completed his set, he heard some people praising from behind. He turned back and found the old man and his workers.
Luk Ah Choy said, “This low person here did not know the presence of various dignified persons. If I have made mistakes, I beg your pardon.”
The old man smilingly said, “Warrior does not have to be courteous. Just now you allow us, wild people in the hills, to open our eyes. I just wonder what kungfu set you performed just now.”
“I performed Shaolin Five-Animal Set. It is a secret of Shaolin. This low person had the teaching of a high monk. Unfortunately my heart is dull and my techniques foolish, burdensome to enter the eyes of the initiated.”
A man from amongst the workers stepped forward, greeting in hands, and said, “I am very fortunate to have a chance to see a secret teaching of Shaolin. But I still don’t understand what warrior just mentioned. What are the techniques of the Shaolin five animals, and what are the differences. I hope warrior can enlighten me.”
The person who spoke was Cheah Pak. His chest and shoulders were wide, his waist narrow and legs long. At one glance, one would know he had practiced martial art.
Luk Ah Choy answered, “As elder brother has asked, how dare I not follow? The Shaolin five animals are dragon, snake, tiger, leopard and crane.
“Dragon form trains spirit. Martial artists have their chi (or vital energy) accumulated at their dan tian (or energy fields). Extending their limbs or bending their body, their heart and their hands and legs mutually co-ordinate, like a spiritual dragon traveling in clouds, changing and modifying beyond expectation.
“Snake form trains energy. Its application needs to be soft and harmonious. Firstly, use the technique of ‘Stabilizing Golden Bridge’ (performed at the Horse-Riding Stance with both outstretched arms with the index finger of each hand pointing skyward, and the other fingers bent at the second joints) to lead energy to flow to the finger tips, making the ten fingers like iron like steel.
“Tiger form trains bones (i.e. internal force). Waist and body as well as stances and footwork movement are both firm and agile, like tiger claws charging, catching, pressing and waiting. Short hands (i.e. close techniques) defend the body. Its force is at the waist, stance and footwork, and bridges (i.e. forearms).
“Leopard form trains strength. The moving forward and backward, jumping and avoiding must be alive and agile. Striking with fists depends on shooting, piercing, charging, pressing, testing and other techniques.
“Crane form trains essence. Attainment depends on one word, ‘quiescence’. Being quiescent applies to anchoring, sideways, striking, slanting, and taking. When moving forward, one is like flying to strike water. When moving back, one is like spirit realizing and intention deceiving. It employs quiescence to secure victory.”
Cheah Pak did not move, but said, “These words are very attractive for hearing. But the height or shortness of kungfu cannot be verified by words. Although I do not have any skill, I am willing to exchange a few techniques with warrior, and seek teaching for a few sets of martial techniques.”
Luk Ah Choy replied, “You want to verify the application of Shaolin Five-Animal Set. But I am just a guest passing this way. If one out of a million, in hands and legs (i.e. kungfu), if I lose my hand (i.e. make a mistake), everyone will not be comfortable.”
Before the sound of the sentence ended, Cheah Pak moved forward and thrust out his punch. Luk Ah Choy “leaned” his arm against Cheak Pak’s arm, wanting to find out the strength of Cheah Pak.
(This was known as “asking bridge” in our school.)
Cheah Pak felt his arm being pressed on. He slipped away and attacked Luk Ah Choy’s face with a pattern called “White Tiger Presents Palm”. Luk Ah Choy knew that one who could slip away and counter, instead of stubbornly matched strength, was good at kungfu.
Luk Ah Choy warded off the top attack, and struck the front leg of Cheah Pak. Cheah Pak retreated his front leg, turned his body around and slapped on Luk Ah Choy’s face with a pattern known as “Devil King Waves Fan”.
Luk Ah Choy squatted down to avoid the top attack, and simultaneously swept at Cheah Pak’s legs using a pattern called “Iron Leg Sweeps Hall”.
Cheah Pak jumped away to avoid the sweeping leg. Luk Ah Choy stood up and adopted a poise pattern, with his right tiger-claw forward, his left hand kept at the waist in a fist, and stood at a right lift-leg stance.
(This pattern was called “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” in our school.)
This was exactly a pattern from the Shaolin Five-Animal Set. Luk Ah Choy employed the tiger form. Amongst the many techniques in the tiger-form was the single tiger-claw. A marvelous use of the single tiger-claw was to tempt an opponent to attack.
Cheah Pak rushed forward with another right punch. When the punch was near, Luk Ah Choy gripped the punching arm with his right tiger-claw, and with his left hand gave the opponent a gently push. Cheak Pak fell back a few feet.
Luk Ah Choy ran forward and helped Cheah Pak up, saying, “My friend, my hand is a bit heavy. I hope you haven’t hurt any tendons or bones.”
Cheah Pak jumped up, brushed off the dust from his body, and replied, “The gate of Shaolin does not have any false warriors. Today I have received the teaching. Thank you very much for letting mercy flow from your hands. I have increased my seeing and knowledge.
“I don’t have anything to thank you. Tonight, I shall enter the kitchen and make a few tasty dishes. We shall really celebrate. What do you think of that?”
The old man, who had been watching the happening all the while, came forward and said, “Warrior, please take a seat. Wine and dishes will soon arrive.”
Luk Ah Choy said, “I’m afraid I don’t deserve this.”
The old man waved his hand and said, “A happy day is better than a thousand years. You and me should not differentiate as host or guest. We open our cavities and drink heartily (i.e. we drink wine without any care). Once we are drunk, we can forget all worries.”
As Sifu Lee Wei Joo thrusts a right punch, Grandmaster Wong responds with a Butterfly Palm strike.
Luk Ah Choy thought to himself that if he returned to the Shaolin Monastery now and told the Venerable Chee Seen that he could not find Lai Fu, Chee Seen would be suspicious. So he decided to stay outside for some time before returning.
When he left the monastery, he brought along 5 taels of silver. After about half a month searching for Lai Fu, he found that he had about 1 or 2 taels left. Thinking for some time, he came out with a plan. He had learned some thiet-da, i.e. kungfu medicine for injuries due to falling or being hit. So he decided to sell some thiet-da medicine, like medicated pills and medicated plasters, to support his livelihood while staying outside the monastery.
He went to a medical shop to buy some medicine, and prepared some medicated pills and medicated plasters. He also bought a gong. Then we went to town to sell his medicine.
Luk Ah Choy had not been in streams and lakes before (i.e. in society), so he did not know society rules. Whenever an artist came to a new area, he had to pay respect to a big brother (or leader of the gang controlling the area), otherwise the artist could never be able to stand on his feet (i.e. to survive in his trade as he would be beaten by the gang). While Luk Ah Choy was demonstrating his kungfu before selling his medicine, a group of gangsters came forward to destroy his sales apparatus.
“Stop!” Luk Ah Choy shouted at the gangsters. “What are you doing?”
A person who appeared to be a leader of the gang shouted back, “How dare you start selling medicine without first paying respect to our big brother?”
“Who’s your big brother?”
“He’s called Iron Hand Four, because his hands are hard like iron, and he is the fourth in his family. Everyone is scared of him.”
But before he completed the sentence, he and his gang started damaging the sales apparatus. Luk Ah Choy went forward, gripped the gang leader’s band and bent it backward, causing him much pain.
“Let go of my hand, let go of my hand,” he screamed. Luk Ah Choy gave him a gentle push and he fell many feet away, groaning on the floor. The other gang members were stunned, and dared not move.
Just then, the crowd separated into two sides, and a tough man came forward. He was huge and dark, and his hands were big and rough.
“I’m Iron Hand Four,” he howled. As he spoke, he rushed forward with his right hand coming at Luk Ah Choy’s head.
Luk Ah Choy retreated a small step to avoid his chop. “This is the first time I let you attack,” Luk Ah Choy said.
Iron Hand Four moved forward to execute another chop with his left hand. Luk Ah Choy dodged to his right side to avoid the second chop, saying “This is the second time I let you attack.”
Iron Hand Four was furious. This time he threw his body forward and executed a right punch. Luk Ah Choy adroitly moved to his back. Smilingly he said, “This is the third time I let you attack. If you attack again, I shall strike back.”
Iron Hand Four was enraged. He turned around and executed a right punch again. As the punch was approaching, Luk Ah Choy moved forward with a butterfly palm strike, his arm brushing away the coming punch and hitting the opponent on the chest. This was a high-level move, using the tactic of no-defence-direct-counter, and employing the principle of “when there is a bridge, go along the bridge”.
Iron Hand Four was thrown many feet backward, landing on the ground. In a second or two, he vomited blood.
Luk Ah Choy threw a few medicated pills at him, saying “Take a pill with warm rice wine everyday for the first three days, then take a pill after three days.” His gang members picked up the medicated pills on the ground, and carried him away.
A lot of people rushed forward to buy the medicated pills. Luk Ah Choy sold all his medicated pills that night and made a lot of profit.
The monk, Cheong Mong, laughed aloud. “If you have such an ambition, how can I not teach you?
“Secret weapons are meant to supplement the inadequacy of ones kungfu. When one is engaged in combat with an opponent, it is not always that he will win. Thus, there is no harm to learn another skill to protect himself, just like natural breathing.
“Using secret weapons,” Cheong Mong continued, “is based on the understanding that ‘clear spear can be handled, but secret arrow is difficult to avoid’ (i.e. it is easy to handle open weapons, but difficult to handle secret weapons’). Superficially, it is mean and cruel to use secret weapons. They are not used by gentlemen who prefer clear and open combat. But when secret weapons are used properly, they are convenient in moving forward or backward, attacking or defending. Secret weapons are like open sabres and swords. They depend on the user, whether he uses the weapons properly.”
Luk Ah Choy asked, “What are the different types of secret weapons, and how are they used?”
Cheng Mong gently slapped on Luk Ah Choy’s shoulders. “You need not hurry. Listen to what I’ll tell you.
“There are many types of secret weapons. It is difficult to describe them one by one. But those frequently used are flying darts, little arrows in sleeves, flying stones, flying knives, iron grasshoppers, comet round hammers, and iron drakes and ducks.
“Flying darts are the most common. In martial circles, there is hardly anyone who does not know flying darts. The difference is whether his art is deep or shallow.
“There are three sharp points in flying darts. The length of a flying dart is about four inches, and weighs about four taels.”
(A Chinese inch was longer than a British inch. A tael was about 40 grams or more than 1 British onze.)
“Those who use flying darts,” Cheong Mong continued, “usually tie their tails with some red cloth, called dart dress, to cut through the air. When darts are sent out, they surely hit opponents within a hundred steps. Some exponents use yin-hand to fly out their darts, some use yang-hand. It often depends on the situation.”
(In kungfu, the back of the palm is referred to as yin-hand, and the open palm as yang-hand. Interestingly, yin and yang are reverse in Chinese medical terminology. In Chinese medicine, the back of the palm is referred to as yang, and the open palm as yin.)
Cheong Mong continued to say, “Little arrows in sleeves are often used by people who travel at night. They are more deadly than flying darts because they are shot out by a machine. Their force is tremendous, and their use convenient.
“The shooting machine is a cylinder made from iron, with a diameter of less than an inch. In front there is a small opening, used for storing arrows. At the tip is installed something resembling the wings of a butterfly. A spring, the length similar to that of the cylinder, is placed inside the tube. The cylinder with arrows inside is hidden in sleeves. By moving his arm in a certain way, an arrow can be shot out.
“Flying stones are the cheapest. There is no need to spend money buying them. There is also no need for extra work. Ideally, the stones are pointed in front and bigger at the back. The length is about three inches and each weighs about four to six liangs (or taels, and each tael was about 40 grams). Its use is similar to that of flying darts. The targets are an opponent’s mid-point between the eye brows, the temples and the eyes.
“Flying knives are small knives the shape of willow leaves. The length of a flying knife including its handle is about seven inches. Where the handle and the blade meet, there are a few rounds of lines. Its weight is about six liangs (or taels). The knives are covered with a sheath made of shark skin. When using, the exponent holds the handle of the knife, and send it flying out aiming at an opponent’s body. Those who are expert in throwing flying knives, can hit their target within fifty steps.”
The more Cheong Mong spoke, the more involved he became. He then explained the special points and uses of iron grasshoppers and comet round hammers.
Then he handled his iron drakes and ducks, and said, “These iron drakes and ducks are the most subtle amongst secret weapons. They are simple to be made, easy to be carried about, and their application is smooth-handed (i.e. straight-forward). Basically they are a pair of iron pills, one bigger than the other, and both iron pills weigh less than half a katy.”
(One katy was 500 grams. In the past, one katy was divided into 16 liangs or taels, but in China today, one katy is divided into 10 taels.)
Cheong Mong continued, “When using the iron drakes and ducks, it is usual to use the yin-hand, so that an opponent may not notice it. When used against a formidable opponent, although the iron drakes and ducks would not take his life, they would prevent him from pressing in further.
“I’ve explained a lot about secret weapons. When one is in martial circles, it is not necessary to train all of them. Otherwise, it is not only inconvenient to carry so many different types of secret weapons, he may not have the time and energy to train them.
“Thus, kungfu disciples must know about secret weapons, but they should not spend too much time on them. If a person chooses one or two secret weapons that are concurrent with his character, it is enough to be used for life.
“Now in the martial circles, the most frequently used secret weapons are flying darts, flying stones and little arrows in sleeves. Flying knives and comet round hammers may be met sometimes. Iron grasshoppers are like unicorn’s horn and phoenix’ feather (i.e. very rare). Hence amongst those who wander about in lakes and streams (i.e. martial artists), if they can train in more than three types of secret weapons, and are capable of hundred hits without a single miss, they are regarded as experts.
“Speaking there and speaking here (i.e. of all that I have spoken), there is only one phrase. Using secret weapons focuses on essence, and not on many. If there are many, but no essence, his kungfu is zero.”
Luk Ah Choy heard until his heart feel itchy (i.e. he became curious and interested). He asked, “How can one attains the level of essence?”
Cheong Mong answered, “There are many doors (i.e. many methods). It is not telling just one or two (i.e. briefly) and explain clearly. But there is actually no secret. The focus is on smart practice, so that force can be developed at the elbow and wrist. Accumulated over a long time, practice generates the marvelous, and the marvelous generates spirit. Left and right meet the source (everything will work well as planned), there will be nothing that the techniques do not arrive according to intention. I have practiced this way for more than twenty years.
“Although I may not have attained its true essence, today you have seen my secrets, and this is due to good karma (i.e. cause and effect). Henceforth, we shall train and study together.”
Luk Ah Choy could not have thought Cheong Mong was such comfortable and fast (i.e. quick and ready). He was happy beyond expectation. Quickly he knelt down to thank Cheong Mong. Henceforth, everyday he followed Cheong Mong and learned iron drakes and ducks. Because he had practiced kungfu for ten and more years, his nature of comprehension was very high, and after a few months his kungfu had gone beyond people’s intention and progress.