History of Kung Fu and Our Style
Kung Fu is often misunderstood and assumed to be a style of martial art. However, it is/was in truth an explanation of hard work being put in by a practitioner in which ‘kung’ = energy and ‘fu’ = time. No different than when a person going to the gym says they are going to “work out” without telling you their intentions of lifting weights vs. taking a spin class. So, as a new student, it is important to experience the style of martial arts you are interested in and decide what type of “kung-fu” works best for you.
Origin of Kung-Fu
The man many credit with introducing martial arts to China is said to be an Indian monk known as Bodhidarma (who is also known as Dá Mó (MOH) or Buddha, 506–556 AD).
Bodhidarma had devised a set of ’18 movement exercises’, which are also known as the ’18 hands exercises’; he taught these to his disciples in the Buddhist Temple at the base of Mt. Sil Lum (Shaolin) believing that the development of a strong body would prevent the disciples from falling asleep during meditation. The ’18 movement exercises’ had their origin in techniques formed and developed in the Himalayas; they were designed in such a way that daily practice of these techniques would strengthen and improve the health of the disciples. Over time within the Temple the techniques were later further developed, and the innovation of these basic techniques as well as additional knowledge integrated from passing warriors became known as Chan (which was also known as Zen Bhuddism) and Shaolin Wushu (which is also known as Shaolin Chuan Fa or Sil Lum Wushu or Sil Lum Kung Fu). It is the development 800 years after Bodhidarma’s death, during the Yuan Dynasy (1260 – 1368), which founded modern kung fu as we see it today. In which a monk named Chuan Yuan (nee Yen) and two famous boxers from the Shansi province, Li Cheug and Pai Yu Feng created a new system of kung fu, believing the original one to be unfinished. They divided the martial art into five styles, based upon animals; Dragon, Tiger, Crane, Leopard and Snake. This was known as Ng Ying Ga, or Five Animal Style – each animal complimented the others, and yet still maintained its own unique characteristics.
The kung fu animals that make up our techniques and concepts are:
Dragon: Exercises to cultivate spirit, flexibility, and graceful movements. The dragon is a mythical animal associated with courage and energy. Dragon exercises stress this animal’s flowing spirit. This is the usage of all animals in concert and control of the hard and soft aspects of our style.
Tiger: Exercises to strengthen the bones. Beginners are taught these foundation techniques because they can easily be put into use right away. (the foundation of the style and animal all other forms build from)
Crane: Exercises to strengthen the sinews and promote vitality. The crane style stresses balance and fast foot movements. Consistent training of these techniques will improve balance, control, dexterity, and provide increased mobility as you age.
Leopard: Exercises for developing strength, power and speed. Leopard kung fu uses movements similar to Tiger and yet shares footwork closer to the Crane. Movements are quick which aid in the students dexterity.
Snake: Exercises to cultivate Chi, correct breathing to strengthen internal power and to strike an opponent’s vulnerable areas. Often overlooked this is considered the most important part of long term training. Breathing is fundamental to having good kung fu.
The union of these five animal concepts is shown in mastery of both hard and soft movements, of both internal and external, and the use of them in concert with one another as a truly well rounded martial artist.
Over time monks were forced to flee to regions of China, nevertheless they continued to teach, revise and modify the forms and techniques of their own system of martial arts. Our Grandmaster was fortunate enough to learn from such a Master of Sil Lum Kung Fu and through his grace we pass on the knowledge he has provided us.
How that relates to our styles of Moh Pai Kung Fu (aka MOH Kempo) and Pai Hu Shih Kung Fu:
MOH PAI KUNG FU (also referred to as MOH Kempo at some schools), or Temple style Kempo, is our Grand Master’s contribution & innovation of the art of kung fu. Incorporating the aspects and techniques of all five animals it provides a new practitioner with quickly applicable self-defense as well as the necessary foundation and strength development to move to PAI HU SHIH (White Tiger Style). PAI HU SHIH, the kung fu techniques originally taught to our Grand Master, builds upon the foundation learned in MOH PAI KUNG FU and teaches the student continued concepts, strikes, kicks, and forms while also teaching to use all five animals in concert flowing between the hard and soft aspects of our style.