Self-Study: The New Form

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu - Forms Practice

Brea Shaolin Kung Fu – Forms Practice

As you train, new forms are taught to advance the number of techniques you know and develop your physical abilities.  These forms are an essential part of the art and each movement contains many techniques for fighting.  As mentioned in a prior post, it is not enough to know the form.  You must really know the form.   So much so that there must be no chance to get it wrong.  That is when you truly “own” it and are able to utilize the techniques inherent in it.  This may take hundreds – even thousands – of repetitions and many evolutions of the form for it to become ingrained in your body.

Besides attending class every day, a simple way to develop mastery of your form is to practice your newest form(s) at least once or twice every day.  As there is usually a good space of time between learning new forms, you will have the opportunity to practice this form (or perhaps the last few forms) at least dozens of times.  Maybe it’s when you wake up, before you leave for work/school, after dinner or sometime before bed.  Practice it slowly – on count – at first and then do it again at full speed.  Make a habit of it and your forms and your martial skill will improve faster and you will test for your next rank with much more confidence.  Don’t forget – this does not take the place of attending class regularly!  Take as many classes as you can to maximize your progress in the art!

The Way of the Mantis (part 3)

After five long years of solitude, Dushu reappeared before the Shaolin Temple gates.  He once again asked the monk on watch for an audience with the great Master Chang.  He was once again told that Master Chang had no business with him.  And so he waited.   At the end of three days, the temple gate opened and a young monk bade Dushu to follow him.  They came to the inner courtyard and there once again was Master Chang.

Dushu bowed saying, “I humbly thank you for your audience Master Chang.”

Master Change returned the bow and asked, “What is it I can do for you young man?”

“I still wish to become a student of the temple,” Dushu replied.

“You must still prove to me your power of discipline, and last time you could not even beat my lowest student,” said Master Chang.

“I have learned much since then,” replied Dushu.

“Very well then, I shall summon my lowest student once more.”

“I humbly beg that I many contest you myself master,” said Dushu.

Master Chang slowly studied Dushu saying, “You have at least learned humility and thus I shall grant you a challenge.  But after your first, it will be through, and you will never be allowed to challenge here again.”

Dushu nodded in acknowledgement.

They bowed to each other and to Master Chang’s small surprise, Dushu did not ragefully attack him.  So the two began to slowly circle each other.  Suddenly and with great skill, Master Chang struck out and was quickly blocked.  He struck again and again and each time, even though his blows were strong and well aimed, Dushu managed to block or parry them.  The bout went on for several hours until Dushu almost managed to throw Master Chang.  Then totally to the surprise of Dushu and the astonishment of the watching students, the great Master broke his stance and, putting his opened left hand over his fisted right hand, he gave Dushu the sign of repect.

“I do not know where or from whom you have learned this, but you have learned well.”

Dushu respectfully replied, “It is the way of the mantis, and I have learned it from nature.”

The Master accepted Dushu as a student.  Some years later he also became a great master, and the knowledge of the mantis became a part of the Way of the Shaolin Temple.

The End

The Eight Stances – #8 Rooster

The eighth of the eight stances is the Rooster:

  • 100% weight on back leg
  • Front leg knee is parallel to ground, at minimum.  Knee is slightly turned inward to cover groin.  Foot hangs loosely.
  • Shoulders at 45 degree angle to target.  Front arm is parallel to ground and extended in punch with slight bend at elbow.
  • Rear arm is bent at elbow and fist is near elbow pocket of front arm.
  • Body is relaxed – almost sinking.
  • Focus on point above fist to maintain balance.

Rooster - FrontRooster - SideRooster - Back

The Way of the Mantis (part 2)

Continued….

After Dushu’s failure at being accepted into the temple he felt so ashamed at having failed to achieve his ambition that he decided never to go home again.  So he went into a great forest and built himself a small cottage.  There he stayed for five long years, and in those years nature would teach him many things.  He learned patience, humility, tranquility, and the way of the mantis.

It happened on day when he was taking a long walk through the forest.  He grew tired and decided to sit and rest near a large bush.  As he sat there he noticed a praying mantis on one of the branches of the bush.  The mantis was slowly and purposefully stalking its prey.  Dushu grew more interested and got closer to better observe the ways of the strange creature.  Dushu was fascinated by the graceful yet lethal movements of the mantis as he captured his prey.

Suddenly a small bird lighted upon the same branch as the mantis.  Dushu was a little saddened as he thought his new found fascination was about to be eaten.  But to Dushu’s surprise, the mantis stood his ground and began even stranger movements than Dushu had yet seen.  The mantis’s two long, powerful arms slowly rotated around the front of its body.  Then the bird, which was four times the size of the mantis, tried to catch the mantis in its beak, but the smaller mantis thrust up on his rear legs and pushed the bird’s beak to the side.  Then the bird spread its wings and jumped at the mantis with its talons but the mantis jumped to the next branch.  The bird followed but the mantis jumped again.

Each time the bird would jump at the mantis the mantis would get away at the last instant.  Then the mantis jumped on the back of the birds head.  The bird began to flutter its wings and hopped around madly, but the mantis held on with one of its powerful arms and began to saw frantically at the back of the bird’s neck with the other.  And soon the bird began to bleed from the wound.  Then the mantis jumped away and the bird followed, but the bird was so tired and hurt that when he tried to spear the mantis with his beak, he was easily fended off by the mantis’s large and powerful front legs.  Finally, the bird, too tired and weak to fight any longer, flew away.

Dushu sat there fascinated and dumbfounded.  He reached up to the branch that the mantis was on and captured him.  Then he took him back to his small cottage and studied the mantis and its movements.  Five years passed and Dushu learned much.  By imitating the quick and powerful movements of the mantis, he had created his art.

To Be Continued…

The Eight Stances – #7 Reverse Bow

The seventh of the eight stance is Reverse Bow:

  • Legs and feet are like that of the forward bow stance (#2)
  • Waist and head turn to look in the direction of the back leg
  • Front arm is extended up in a blocking position.  Elbow is mostly pointed down and palm is facing out.
  • Rear arm is guarding arm pit/ribs area and palm is also pointing out
  • Back is perpendicular to ground
  • Front thigh is parallel to ground in low stance

Reverse Bow - FrontReverse Bow - SideReverse Bow - Back

The Way of the Mantis (part 1)

Three hundred years ago in the Chinese province of Canton, there lived a young man by the name of Dushu.  Dushu was the son of a very wealthy merchant, but he did not wish to carry on his father’s line of work.  His greatest ambition was to enter a Shaolin temple, and the only way anyone entered a Shaolin temple was that they must become a monk.  And as all the Chinese people knew, this was no easy task.

At the age of twenty, Dushu set off for the province of Shantung, where there was a Shaolin temple under the great Shaolin Master Change.  When he arrived at the temple gates he asked the monk that was on watch if he, Dushu, the wealthy son of a Canton merchant, could have attendance with the great Master Chang?  The monk did not reply, but disappeared for a brief time.  When he reappeared he told Dushu that Master Chang had no business with him.  Dushu replied in a loud and desperate voice that he had come a long way to see Master Chang and, besides, this was no way to treat a rich merchant’s son.  The monk made no reply nor did he make any further replies for three more days, in which Dushu just sat at the bottom of the gate – waiting.  Dushu had been warned it would not be easy to gain entrance in the Shaolin temple, but nevertheless he was determined.  And so he waited.

On the fourth day the great temple gate opened and a monk came out and bade Dushu to follow him.  Dushu, feeling a half sense of success, quickly did so.  The came to the inner courtyard of the temple and there stood a small middle-aged man.  This was Master Chang.

“An what is it you wished to see ma about young man?” asked Chang

“Master, I have traveled a long way at great expense to come to the temple so that you might take me in as a monk” replied Dushu.

“Ah, so you wish to become a Shaolin monk?  Well have you ever had any Kung Fu training?  For in order for you to become a monk at your age, you must first prove to me that your body and mind have been well disciplined” said Chang.

Dushu knew this well and in his younger years he had studied many fighting arts, but all his teachers had told him there was nothing as good as the Shaolin Kung Fu.  But nevertheless Dushu was quite determined and replied in a rather assuring tone that his body and mind were quite well disciplined and besides, he had a considerable fortune that he got from his father, and that surely would be more than enough to pay for the disciplines he had not yet learned.  Master Chang game a half smile saying,

“You have much to learn of the Shaolin ways, but nevertheless since you seem to be so determined, I will allow you a chance at showing me your great discipline.  I shall grant you’re a bout against my least skilled student.”

Dushu was about to protest having to fight the lowest student but something inside him stilled his thought.  Inside a few minutes, there was a young bald-headed monk half Dushu’s size standing before him.  Dushu inwardly reassured himself that this would not be such a hard task afterall.

Master Chang clapped his hands and the student and Dushu bowed.  Just as the student was re-erecting from the bow, Dushu jumped at him with a kick and found himself on the ground.  He quickly got up and started swinging as fast as he could.  But to Dushu’s amazement, all of his blows were stopped and he was once again easily thrown to the ground.  He got up once more and in a fit of rage began to strike out a fast as he could, but again he was easily blocked.  Then the student struck three very fast blows to the center of Dushu’s body and he was on the ground once again.  Only this time he could not get up.

The master clapped his hands, and the young monk left.  Then Master Chang said,

“When you are able, you may leave.”

To be continued….

The Eight Stances – #6 50-50 Stance

The sixth stance of the eight is the 50-50:

  • Front Leg – 50% – Much like the front leg of the Forward Bow stance (#2)
  • Back Leg – 50% – Much like the back leg of the Horse Stance (#1)
  • Be sure to keep back perpendicular to the ground and head erect
  • Sit in the stance
  • The front fist is face level and palm up.  The rear fist is underneath the elbow of the front arm and palm down.
  • Eyes are in the direction of the front fist

50-50 - Front50-50 - Side50-50 - Back