The survival of authentic kung fu

Venerable Hai Deng, who was famous for his One Finger Zen skill, was the last abbot of the Shaolin temple who advocated traditional kung fu training. After he left the Shaolin temple in the 1960's, the focus of the Shaolin temple gradually shifted towards demonstration wushu rather than martial arts. Image reproduced from www.shaolin.org

Venerable Hai Deng, who was famous for his One Finger Zen skill, was the last abbot of the Shaolin temple who advocated traditional kung fu training. After he resigned in the 1960’s, the focus of the Shaolin temple gradually shifted towards demonstration wushu rather than traditional kung fu. Image reproduced from http://www.shaolin.org

Many kung fu practitioners have heard of the Cultural Revolution in China which led to the death or exile of many practitioners of traditional arts, including kung fu. In fact, many people have the mistaken belief that no authentic kung fu exists anymore!

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Cross training and sparring methodology

Free sparring is used to test, not train, fighting skills in Shaolin Wahnam. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

Free sparring is used to test, not train, fighting skills in Shaolin Wahnam. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

Back in mid-May of 2013, I posed a question to the G+ Martial Artist community regarding cross-training and sparring methodologies used in their schools. After a few responses, someone asked my opinion on their situations. Here’s what I replied with:

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Northern or Southern, Internal or External?

Baguazhang, demonstrated here by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit, is often considered an internal style of kung fu. Image taken from www.shaolin.org

Baguazhang, demonstrated here by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit, is often considered an internal style of kung fu. Image taken from http://www.shaolin.org

Someone asked the very good question of what kung fu system would be best for them. Naturally, this is informed by many factors such as what you want to get out of kung fu, what you are willing to put up with, if a master is willing and able to teach you, etc. Here is what I replied with:

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Handedness in kung fu

Master Adam Hsu demonstrates "Sun Emerges From Clouds," the opening and closing pattern of Tantui. This pattern is only performed on one side in the classical set. Image taken from www.adamhsu.com

Master Adam Hsu demonstrates “Sun Emerges From Clouds,” the opening and closing pattern of Tantui’s solo sequences. This pattern is only performed on one side in the classical set. Image taken from http://www.adamhsu.com

In many kung fu sets, one hand is emphasized in attacking an opponent (the “emperor hand”) while the other is emphasized in defending or taming an opponent (the “minister” hand). ¬†There are several reasons for why the majority of kung fu sets are not ambidextrous.

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Is Wushu the same as Kung Fu?

Wushu literally means, in Mandarin, “martial art.” But many practitioners of traditional kung fu do not believe that wushu artists are martial artists. What gives? What do wushu people do that is different from kung fu people? Is there a difference? Keep reading to find out!

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The External Training of Shaolin Kung Fu

Some of the most visually spectacular arts of kung fu involve people breaking things that seem pretty sturdy like bricks or poles. “Surely there’s some secret magical training involved!” I used to think, before I learnt better. The training principles are actually quite easy, it’s a matter of dedicating oneself to the correct training for years under a competent¬†master (yes, I said years, and yes, I said you needed a competent master).

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