A discussion on the G+ martial artist forums turned towards Eagle Claw kung fu. One master contributed his insight into the classical set “50 Sequences of Eagle Claw” and we had a brief discussion about military versus temple systems of kung fu:
Don Serna: The hidden movements is the signature of the Master to show respect to the Grand Master.
Me: Could you explain which “hidden movements” you’re referring to, +Don Serna ? I know that the application of the Eagle Claws are often “hidden,” but I’ve not trained Eagle Claw kung fu myself and I certainly may be missing some things. Since Eagle Claw kung fu is a “military style,” I wasn’t looking for respectful salutes that are more common in, say styles that are influenced by the Northern Shaolin temple (e.g. Lohanquan) or Southern Shaolin (e.g. the famous “fist and palm salute” of Hoong Ka/Hung Gar).
Don Serna: Mr. Chu I must commend you on your fine forensic analysis. Your acute knowledge of the historical record, and lineage understanding is self evident. It is quite clear you are a studied and accomplished Martial Artist, and Scholar. Most honorable.
The hidden movements I speak of are just that. Shaolin “Moh” systems or military style systems as you stated were designed to hide the real technique with in the movements so the enemy could not distinguish between the combative and or the conditioning sets or for that matter the basic training. All the military systems trained in this way during that time in history. This was needed to deal with internal spies and agents that often would spend years under cover, in attempts to learn the hidden movements. When one of these movements were discovered or revealed it could then be used in battle that would serve the enemy. The secrete movements were so secrete that a great price would be paid if anyone revealed them. I know this sounds silly, I find myself tempered in my answer and considerate in my response. I would hope out of respect, but I digress.
For example I see a softened version of the “Helmet Crusher” that was a very effective technique for the foot soldier. Are you familiar with the Helmet Crusher?
Me: Thank you for your kind words, +Don Serna ! I have been very lucky to have trained under knowledgeable and generous masters.
I will be honest, I Have very little experience with military systems of kung fu. The majority of the styles of which I have knowledge were practiced as family arts (e.g. Chen Taijiquan), temple arts (e.g. Tantui), or by some other small and insular group (e.g. Baguazhang). Eagle Claw and Xingyiquan are the only military systems I know about that survive to the present day. I don’t find anything silly in you mentioning internal spies and the levels of secrecy used by martial arts masters; my masters have all been very generous, but I know there are certain “close door secrets” that I am not privy to.
I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the “Helmet Crusher” technique. Is that a principle (e.g. “organ seeking kick”) or a specific pattern name (like “Yellow Oriole Drinks Water,” which incorporates an organ seeking kick)? I am all ears if you are willing to share your insight into this matter. I only have two possibly relevant experiences: a pattern from my Baguazhang set named “General Removes Helmet” (generally used to dislodge a grip or lock on the head or neck) and a “Helmet Slanting” movement from a Japanese sword system I once practiced (striking the back or side of someone’s helmet to collapse it over their eyes and to expose the back and sides of their neck for a subsequent sword strike).
Unfortunately, the conversation stopped there and it seems we both moved on to other things.