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INTRODUCTION : A slice of history
One of the most famous styles of martial arts in China comes from the Buddhist Monastery built for the Indian Monk Batuo in 495 A.D.This style is ShaolinQuan (Shaolin boxing); it incorporates stretching, meditation, breath control, philosophy, strategy and self/defence. The Shaolin Temple (Shaolinzi) acted as a kind of a university that people came to from all over China not just for its Buddism but also for its martial arts. Sometimes they came to study, some to teach and some to give up all their worldly desires to become a monk or a nun.
The Government destroyed the Henan Shaolin Temple during the Qing Dynasty 1644-1912 A.D.The monks who survived fled for their lives, spreading their skills all over China; the triads started life as anti-Qing fighters. Some modern kung fu styles come form that turbulent time, such as Wing Chun and Hungga Kuen.
In China during the 1600's to 1900's guns were not easy to come by, so martial arts was the next best thing. Chen's family Tai Chi Chuan came from the 1600's, when the Ming Dynasty was ending and the Qing Dynasty was begining.
Martial Arts in the present day
Tai Chi Chuan is practised for health all over the world.
Peking Opera uses Wushu to tell a story with flamboyant moves.
Wushu is used in Chinese schools as part of their national curriculum.
Competiton Wushu incorporates martial arts with music and gymnastics, with points awarded for grace, speed, balance etc for display.
The Military and Police train their own modern versions to deal with things such as firearms and grenades.
Then there was Shaw Brothers of Hong Kong whose input into Kungfu films cannot be forgotten. Men from the Monastery, Shaolin Temple (not Jet Li's classic version, that was a different film company), Heroes Two, Marco Polo, Shaolin Martial Arts, Legendary Weapons of China (a classic); there is a very long list but i was really only interested in the stuff with Hung Ga (Hongjiaquan) in it.
What is a style?
Just as there are different hair styles created by different hairdressers, so there are different styles of martial arts; some stay in fashion, some do not! For a time there was a mad craze for everyone to learn Wing Chun, because the late Bruce Lee studied it. What a lot of people forgot was the amount of studying and training Bruce Lee did to get as good as he was. From what i read and heard, he studied not just oriental arts but any that he came across and he never stopped learning!
Some of the most common questions i have been asked are 'What style do you do?', 'What's that, is it like Karate?' and 'What is the most efficient fighting style?'. The first two i can answer, but the third, well that's a question men and women have been asking themselves since time in memorial with no clear answer; in my humble opinon.
Now to the question, ' What is a style?'. To me a style is the way that someone expresses their experiences, their knowledge etc in a way that is different to other people. No two people are the same so why should we all do the same style? What rubbish i hear you say, well ask yourself this, if you have short arms and short legs, but your opponent has long legs and long arms will you both be using the same techniques in the same way? If you went and fought 'long arms' with your 'short arms', you would get slapped silly, every step he takes, you have to take two.
To my understanding the most common views on what a style is as follows; it has a founder who was real or mythical with a good story of martial prowess, proven fighting techniques, a lineage (with different branches), specific exercises/drills to develope power/strength.
WARNING; PLEASE NOTE THIS STORY IS NOT
Lian (Lotus) was a young woman who worked on her father's farm and though loved by him, she was physically too small to learn the family style of Liushanquan (there may well be a style called that but this one is made up by me). Her six brothers were called the 'Six Mountains' and famous throughout the land for their skill. The brothers were called, Left, Right, Forward, Backward and the Twins were called Centre. Their mother naturally called them the Five Essences.
Her parents worried about her as all good parents worry about their children and considered their options. Her mother decided she would take certain steps and sent off for a very special chicken, her husband though puzzled asked no questions as he trusted her judgement in this manner.
Lian was sent out to catch the chicken for a special dinner, when she came back her mother asked her where was the chicken. Lian replied she had not being able to catch it. Her mother told her, 'no chicken, no dinner'.
The next day Lian went out to catch the chicken for dinner, when she came back her mother asked her where was the chicken. Lian replied she had not being able to catch it, so again her mother told her, 'no chicken, no dinner'. This happened for several months until one morning Lian dumped the chicken on the table all trusted up but alive. Her mother's mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water.
"I couldn't catch it until i realised how it was moving and gradually i worked out a plan that allowed me to catch it ", she told her mother. " What type of chicken is that?".
"A Mountain chicken", replied the mother a slow smile spreading across her face." Now let that chicken go and and i will prepare a special dinner, your father does not like mountain chicken nor do your brothers".
Her brothers came back and tried her out to see if she had made any progress. Though she was not able to over power them they were amazed at how quickly she could move. With the hand techniques of her brothers and her new 'mountain chicken' footwork she became a well respected fighter. She even proved a match for all six of them at the same time.
COPYRIGHT BY AUTHOR A.MCLEAN 2009
Now what do you call this, the Mountain Chicken style, the Lotus style, Six Mountains and Hill style or even Seven Mountains style and i haven't even used the family name. The students of Lian would follow a different path to those of the Six Brothers because of their respective knowledge and experience, that is if they even decided to have any students! A lot of old martial artists went to the grave without ever teaching, taking with them all the hard work they did and now their knowledge is lost!
Now you have the story and lineage you have the trademarks of the style; the Mountain Chicken steps for agility and Six Mountain fist boxing techniques. For specific drills; 'Chasing the Mountain Chicken', 'Catch the Mountain Chicken' and 'Lotus conquers the Six Mountains'. And yes i made this up as well!
Next story; Which came first, the chicken or the egg? or maybe Who came up with southern fried chicken? Is there a northern fried chicken?
Please note, a ' Mountain Chicken ' ain't no Chicken!.
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