ME: What was Kung Fu training like in the monasteries?
GFM: You had to have patience. In the beginning martial arts were never mentioned. First we trained all the senses. Long periods of meditation preceded and followed each training session. We were blindfolded for all the sensory exercises. We had to distinguish herbs, incense, animals and other material by smell.
ME: I suppose the martial art application was to detect an enemy by smell. Were there any other applications?
GFM: Monks could tell some of the ingredients in a herbal mixture by smelling it. There were no devices for telling time in many chambers in the temple. Different smelling incense sticks were lit each hour to tell the time.
ME: What were some of the hearing exercises?
GFM: We were blindfolded and sat in the center of a circle of monks. When a monk made a noise, we had to tell which direction it came from. A similar exercise was to tell the direction of an object from the noise it made when it dropped. We had to try and hear a grain of rice thrown in the air. A stick or sword was struck and we had to tell whether it was hit at the top, middle or bottom.
ME: The obvious martial art application of these last exercises is to detect a surprise or rear attack by hearing. Could you mention some other applications?
GFM: You can tell which part of the foe’s sword you contact by the sound. The hearing exercises were helpful for avoiding bullets and shells while fighting in the Sino-Japanese War. Enemies could be detected in the dark.
ME: Although smelling and hearing training are useful, I don’t think they account for your outstanding hand techniques. Did you practice any sort of yielding or sensitivity exercises?
GFM: Yes. We began by sitting in a chair opposite our partner. We were blindfolded. A simple beginning exercise was to hold your hand, palm up, in front of your body. Your partner would gently push down on your palm. You would try to move your hand in the direction of the force and turn it over, so that your palm was face down. You would try to remain in contact with your opponent’s hand, as if they were glued together. Your opponent would now push up and you would try to move your hand upward and rotate it so that your palm faced up.
ME: I suppose that this exercise was designed to teach you to relax, offer no resistance and move in the direction of the opponent’s as if your hands were pasted together?
GFM: Correct. After becoming proficient in the one-hand exercise both hands were used. Your partner could push either hand or both simultaneously. When both hands were pushed, each hand could be pushed in a different direction. After a while the hands could be pushed in any direction, not just vertically. Similar exercises were done for the legs. Later, other parts of the body were pushed.
ME: Were these exercises only practiced sitting down?
GFM: No. They were practiced sitting down initially so that you could relax more and not become tense because of a poor stance. After you became proficient in the sitting exercises they were practiced standing still. Later, they were practiced moving and other exercises were added. For example, we would bump into each other and practice neutralizing and using the oponent’s force against him. Our feet were tied together and we had to move in unison in various ways using only feeling, since we were still blindfolded.
ME: Were practical applications of these sensitivity exercises discussed in this stage of your training?
GFM: Applications were not discussed until you became proficient in the sensory exercises. In general nothing was explained. Explanations are the American way or modern way in China. You were shown an exercise and told to practice it thousands of times. You would not be shown another technique until you mastered the previous one. You might finally understand a technique through your practice. Verbal explanations were not given.
ME: Did you practice self-defense after mastering the sensory exercises?
GFM: Even after passing through the sensitivity part of your training , you didn’t learn to punch, kick or block. You had to practice exercises designed to loosen and relax every part of your body. You had to practice footwork and stances for a long time. Many hours were devoted to qigong and meditation exercises. You had to develop a great deal of power in single techniques before you were allowed to practice combination techniques.
ME: Did you study weapons?
GFM: Yes, we studied all the classical weapons, but only after mastering all the unarmed techniques. Nowadays, students learn weapons right away. How can someone with no power, a poor stance and footwork, use a weapon? Even many instructors look like they’re performing a juggling act during a weapon’s demonstration. They swing their weapons in large arcs; they don’t have short power.
ME: Your system of Praying Mantis is famous for short power. How did you develop short power with weapons?
GFM: The only secret is patience and constant practice. I had to be very skilled and strong in unarmed techniques before I was allowed to practice weapons. My instructors made me practice single techniques, as cutting potatoes, melons, etc., for six years before learning any forms.
ME: I can see why your techniques are so powerful. Nowadays many students come to train once a week. In six years or in many situations much sooners, they think they are Masters and open their own clubs. People don’t seem to use common sense when thinking about martial arts. No one would think that a PH.D in Physics, for example, could be obtained by attending a university once a week of an hour or two for six years.
GFM: I think that most of the old Masters were more skillful than most modern Masters. It is not because secret techniques were lost. Modern times are not conducive to learning Kung Fu. Many people have a lot of responsibilities such as their jobs, families etc., and there are many different forms of amusement to distract people. When I was a boy, there were no radios, televisions, movies or books in our village. People did not have a lot of responsibilities or a demanding job. Consequently, I could practice nearly the whole day. Besides, training was one of the few forms of amusement.
ME: Did you only study self-defense in the monasteries?
GFM: No. The monks realized that it could be dangerous to only practice the yang part of Kung Fu (self-defense), without practicing the remaining yin part (meditation, Chinese medicine, art, etc.). They wanted to produce a well-rounded human being, not a killing machine. Since the monasteries were isolated, it was important to know medicine to treat sick people as well injuries occurring during Kung Fu practice.
ME: I can attest to the fact that constant yang type training often leads to a hard mind.
GFM: The students in monasteries were better than most students in modern, commercial Kung Fu schools. Monastic students had to have good character and aptitude to be admitted to the monastery. They couldn’t pay to learn techniques and only learned new techniques when they had mastered the previous techniques to the satisfaction of the Master. They had to have a lot of patience and perserverance and were forced to train hard. Students were instilled with the love of learning. They realized that Kung Fu was a lifetime pursuit, since they saw that the Masters were still studying. They were not given a false sense of pride in their accomplishments, since there were no rankings, in the modern sense.
ME: You mean that there were no colored belts or sashes. Was there one Master for a system?
GFM: The students were classified as Student or Disciple. You didn’t need a belt to know if you could do a technique. Wrestlers don’t get belts. There was only one known Master. The other people trained because they liked it. When the Master retired he appointed a succesor. The existence of another Master was kept secret. No one ever saw him train. He never taught any students. The reason for this secrecy was that if the known Master was killed, then the system would not perish, since the other Master could take over.
ME: Did you study more than one style in the monastery?
GFM: No. In fact the style of Kung Fu was never mentioned. Learning one style takes a lifetime. Nowadays you often see commercial schools run by a teacher in his twenties purporting to teach a half a dozen styles. Many modern students want to learn a lot of styles. They remind me of the boy who wanted to fatten his cow. He took the cow up one mountain which had green pastures. No sooner had he got there, he noticed what seemed to be a greener pasture on another mountain. So he dragged the cow up the other mountain. After remaining there for a short time, he spotted what looked like a more lush pasture on another mountain. He dragged the cow to this new pasture. After repeating this process for awhile, he noticed that his cow had become skinnier.
ME: Do you think some styles might have some techniques not contained in other styles and so it might be advantageous to study them?
GFM: In the old days most styles were oriented to self-defense. The end result of their training was the same. The good fighters looked very similar when they fought. If modern students who are interested in self-defense could have seen these old Masters, they might change their mind about learning different styles.
ME: How did the old Masters train their students to fight?
GFM: Real fighting is continuous. You attack, your opponent counters, you counter his counter and so on. The advanced students were taught realistic, two-men fighting formulas emphasizing the continuity of real fighting. Thus, students could practice and learn timing, distancing, feeling, using the opponent’s strength against him, etc. These types of training exercises can no longer be found in most modern versions of these old systems. I have devised such two-person formulas for each one-person formula in my system.
ME: Where did you study the sensitivity exercises you describe.
GFM: In the Hoi Jung Temple in Macao.
ME: Did you study Praying mantis there?
GFM: No, I studied a version of Tiger Claw. It doesn’t resemble most modern versions of Tiger Claw that I have seen. I applied these ideas to Praying Mantis. That is why my hand movements are softer than my instructors.
ME: Why doesn’t modern Tiger Claw resemble the system you were taught?
GFM: Perhaps this system was lost. Modern masters are not soley motivated by practicality in fighting. They like to pose and flex their muscles. Many of them have really not studied the animals they are trying to imitate. The monks kept many animals in the monastery.
ME: Did they keep the animals to learn to imitate their actions?
GFM: There were other reasons. Some were kept as pets. Others were trained to do useful tasks. Bears were trained to fetch water. We also fought the bears. This was good practice. The students became stronger from this training, but even the strongest student was not stronger than the bear. Thus, you had to learn proper timing and the correct angle of deflection to deflect the bear’s cuff.
ME: What led to the decline of Kung Fu in China?
GFM: When the Communists came into power they tried to suppress Kung Fu, since it could be used against them. They persecuted Masters, especially those that were good fighters. For example, my uncle was a famous Kung Fu expert. When the Red soldiers came to his village, they tried to force my uncle to kneel. This was humiliating and insulting, since only criminals knelt in China. The villagers begged him to kneel. However, he refused saying that every one must die sometimes. My uncle had great inner power. The soldiers shot him more than twenty times before he died. The Masters who were not killed or imprisoned fled to Taiwan or went into hiding. The Communists thought that any form of religion was superstitious. Monks were also persecuted and monasteries were closed.
ME: In recent years the Chinese government has been encouraging the development of Wu-shu. Do you think that this will revitalize Kung Fu in China?
GFM: Wu-shu is designed to please spectators and judges. It consists of many large, exaggerated and acrobatic movements. The formulas are supposed to be based on classical formulas. However, the competitors are marked on originality and choreography. Thus, the old formulas are not preserved. Besides, I have never met any old Masters of any classical system who knew the whole system on my trips to China. Therefore, instead of preserving Kung Fu, encouranging the development of Wu-shu will further weaken classical Kung Fu.
ME: Have you me a lot of people who were good fighters on your trips?
GFM: Some of the wu-shu people, especially the younger, athletic ones, thought they could fight. However, they were mediocre in comparison to the old, classically trained fighters. The practical application of Kung Fu is still discouraged in China.
ME: Did you see any monasteries that were functioning as in olden times?
GFM: No. The government has reopened some monasteries as tourist attractions. They are filled with actors, not priests.
ME: Do you think that there are any Masters, in the classical sense, left anywhere in the world? By this I mean a person who knows his complete system and was appointed the sole successor of the system by the previous Master.
GFM: Very few. Even when I was a boy many of the older systems were incomplete. The Masters had died before passing on the whole system. Although some had retained the forms, the practical applications were often lost. Fortunately, there have only been four previous Masters in our system and none had died before passing on the complete system.
ME: Do you think it possible to bring Kung Fu to the level it was at when you were a small boy in China?
GFM: It would be very difficult. There are very few Masters alive today that know a complete system of Kung Fu. Students are not discriminating and don’t seek out these people.
ME: Yes, it is very strange but parents don’t investigate martial arts schools. However, if they were going to attend a university they would investigate the schools thoroughly.
GFM: Times and attitudes ase also different. As I mentioned previously, people don’t have as much time for practicing. In the old days more people understood the virtues of hard work, respect of the ancient Masters, humility, loyality and respect of the teacher and his guidance.
ME: Similar difficulties are encountered in the educational system in the United States. Many students don’t respect their teachers, want instant enlightenment and rarely do their homework. What do you think about tournaments?
GFM: Generally, they are detrimental to Kung Fu. Many judges are not expert in the style they are judging. Competitors don’t do a classical form but a choreographed, shortened version. They are frequently judged on how flashy their form looks and how well they can act and not how closely their form resembles the original or on practicality or power.
ME: What about other aspects of Kung Fu which were taught in the monasteries?
GFM: There are very few teachers who have studied the treatment of injuries or Qigong for health. In the old days, the monasteries were isolated and medical help was not readily available. Thus, it was necessary to keep yourself healthy and be able to treat illnesses.
ME: Today many students think that western medicine is sufficient. They regard Chinese medicine and Qigong as unscientific and so they don’t want to devote time to study these arts. There is a lot of empirical evidence that these methods work and there are already many scientific investigations explaining some aspects of Chinese medicine.
GFM: Some of the ancient Masters could perform amazing feats when they were aged. My Six Healing Sounds teacher was known as “Old Man” in China. At age ninety-eight, he looked half his age. Until his death, at about one hundred and five, he was very active and in excellent physical condition. He continued working for the government and travelled from province to province teaching Qigong. Lee Siem, the second Master of our system, was practicing Kung Fu and running around China building temples when he was over one hundred years old.
ME: Today most commercial don’t teach Chinese painting or Lion dancing.
GFM: In spite of the limited time of many students, I still try to teach these subjects and other arts taught in the monasteries.
ME: We are fortunate to have a complete, classical system today. All that is necessary to preserve it are dedicated students who are willing to spend a lifetime studying and improving the system.
GFM: Yes. However, one can learn to improve and preserve one’s health in about six months by studying the Six Healing Sounds. Learning how to defend yourself adequately might take a few years. The time required would be shorter than in most systems because the techniques are used exactly the way they are practiced in this system.
Gin Foon Mark is the fifth generation master of the Kwong Sai Jook Lum Praying Mantis system. Master Mark was born in Toyson, a village near Canton, China in 1927. He comes from a family of four generations of high ranking, Kung Fu experts. His instruction in Kung Fu began at the age of five, under the supervision of his uncles and grandfather. He is one of the few people alive today who has directly experienced Kung Fu as it was taught in the monasteries when they were still fountains of knowledge. At the age of nine he was admitted to the Shaolin Temple at Chun San and studied with the monk Moot Ki Fut Sai as well as other outstanding Masters. He received instruction in Si Lum, White Crane, Eagle, Leopard, Tiger and various internal Kung Fu systems.
His uncle, a White Crane expert, was gigantic, over seven feet tall and close to 300 pounds. Master Mark realized that there might always be someone larger and stronger than him. It was senseless to rely on muscular strength! Therefore, he asked his father to petition, on his behalf, for admittance to the Hoi Jung Temple in Macao. Mark was accepted into this temple which was renowned for its internal Kung Fu. There he studied an ancient form of Tiger Claw, which relied on sensitivity and turning the opponent’s strength against him. Master Mark also studied Praying Mantis in the Jook Lum Temple in Kwong Sai. He applied the sensitivity exercises to this style, creating a much softer system.
In these temples, Master Mark studied:
1. Ming Kung: Self defense techniques and the healing arts of herbology, acupuncture and Chinese Massage.
2. Shin Kung: Spirit Kung Fu which included charms for controlling spirits using the Ba Kua in relation to the zodiacal signs, healing the sick, begging for rain, expelling evil spirits, judging the success or failure of a project and designing structures (Feng Shui).
3. Chi Kung: Use of internal power (Chi) both for health and the Martial Arts (Dim Mak, iron palm and body).
During World War 11 Master Mark was a bodyguard for his uncle, who was a general in the Chinese army. He was already a Kung Fu expert; no one would suspect that a 15 year old had such devastating skills.
Sifu Mark’s teaching career began in 1947 when the trade associations of Chinatown, New York, sent for him to instruct their younger members. In New York, Master Mark met Sifu Lum Wing Fai, the fourth generation Master of Kwong Sai Jook Lum Praying Mantis. Master Mark continued his study of Praying Mantis with Lum for nearly 10 years.
Why did Master Mark give up the other forms of Kung Fu to concentrate on Praying Mantis? He thought that it contained most of the techniques of other styles; one could theoretically improve forever, since this style was not based on muscular strength and fast reflexes. Moreover, it was one of the deadliest forms of self defense that Master Mark had run across. Incidently, this is why Bruce Lee was attracted to this system. One reason for its effectiveness was that it was invented for fighting by a puny monk to defend himself against a bullying, gigantic Kung Fu expert, as the following brief history indicates.
This Praying Mantis (Tang Lang Pai) system is about one hundred and eighty years old. it was created by Sam Dart, a monk of the Jook Lum (Bamboo Forest) Buddhist Monastery in the province of Kwong Sai, China. Sam Dart was so small and frail-looking that the monks didn’t allow him to practice Kung Fu. He was given all of the dirty tasks. One of his chief duties was to carry water from the river to the monastery. If he became tired and rested, the abbot’s chief assistant hollered at him and frequently beat and kicked him. Sam Dart endured this abuse because his tormenter was a huge, powerful white eyebrow style Kung Fu expert.
One day Sam Dart was sitting outside the monastery. He saw a praying mantis battling a huge bird at least ten times its size. The bird retreated and finally flew away. Sam thought that if the small insect could vanquish the large bird, perhaps he could defeat his gigantic tormenter. He captured some praying mantises and studied their fighting methods. Sam copied the insect’s fighting techniques and combined them with the inner power training methods he had learned from his former teacher. This Sifu was a hermit called Hai Shem, who lived on Wor Meh Mountain. Hai Shem was a very deep and mysterious person with great internal power. It is not known whether he knew any Kung Fu.
After Sam had been studying for about four years, the abbot left to visit another monastery. When he returned he saw that his assistant was bandaged and limping. He asked the White Eyebrow what had happened. The White Eyebrow explained that he had an accident. The other monks feared the White Eyebrow and didn’t contradict him. Finally, Sam Dart said that he would tell the truth. He had fought and trounced the White Eyebrow. He was very sorry for what he had done but he couldn’t restrain himself - a beaten dog eventually turns on his tormenter. The abbot commanded, “Don’t do it again,” and struck Sam lightly on the head three times. He repeated the warning and once again lightly tapped Sam’s head three times.
Sam reasoned that since the blows were so light that they were not meant as a punishment, but as a code. Perhaps the abbot wanted to meet him outside the monastery at 3 A.M.. That night Sam went outside the monastery’s walls at 3 A.M.. The abbot was already there. The abbot thought that Sam Dart was clever not only because he figured out the code, but also invented an outstanding system. He decided to help Sam. The abbot saw some weaknesses in the system and pointed them out. They continued to meet and further develop the system.
Today it might seem strange that many monks who lived and worked in monasteries practiced some form of martial art (Kung Fu). There were two reasons for this tradition. Long hours of meditation and religious practices weakened the body and exhausted the mind. The monks realized that Kung Fu is a good discipline for both the body and the mind, being conducive to good health and relaxation. Moreover, Kung Fu provided an excellent defence against robbers who occasionally tried to plunder monasteries.
Each major monastery had its own style of Kung Fu. Naturally, rivalries developed among the many styles, so exhibitions and tournaments were held periodically. A council composed of the elders of the various monasteries presided over these gatherings. It was not unusual that a contestant suffered fatal injuries. Under such stiff competition the less effective systems were gradually eliminated; the better ones survived and propagated.
At that point in history, most of the major classical Kung Fu systems were well-developed. The abbot instructed Sam Dart in many practical techniques from other systems. That is why the Praying Mantis system contains many techniques from other systems. Sam was interested in creating an extremely effective and deadly fighting system to use in tournaments between monasteries.
Sam Dart taught his system to Lee Siem, a fellow monk of unusual intelligence and physical stamina. Under Sam Dart’s skillful instruction, Lee mastered the intricate and subtle techniques of the system. Lee Siem won the King Fu championship in 1850. After that he never participated in a fight to the death and became a high priest.
For centuries martial arts were taught mainly within the monasteries. Near the end of the Ching dynasty many changes in customs occurred. Chung Yu Chang was one of the first laymen to learn the Praying Mantis system from Abbot Lee Siem at the Jook Lum Temple. Master Chang passed the system on to Lum Wing Fay, Master Mark’s teacher. Since none of the teachers died before passing on the whole system, this is one of the few systems that has survived intact.
This system is alive today largely through the efforts of Master Mark alone. None of the other disciples of Master Lum taught Praying Mantis openly. In fact, in the 1940’s Kung Fu was reserved for the Chinese. Master Mark believed that all people were the same and taught all interested students of good character. He was one of the first Chinese Kung Fu teachers to open his Kwoon to the general public. He also gave many demonstrations in Madison Square Gardens during Karate tournaments. His students participated in the first Karate versus Kung Fu competitions held in California.
Promoting Praying Mantis in those days was not easy. Master Mark was challenged many times by Chinese Kung Fu practitioners. They thought he was too young to be a Sifu. Many Karateka’s also challenged him because they had never seen Kung Fu and doubted its effectiveness. Master Mark soon gained the reputation of a formidable fighter in the 1950s. At that time Bruce Lee was visiting his father, who was an actor and appearing in a Chinese theater in New York. An acquaintance of the actor brought Bruce Lee to Master Mark’s school to study there. Bruce Lee was so impressed with Master Mark’s skill and knowledge that he wanted Master Mark to move to California in order to continue his studies and use Master Mark as a technical adviser for his films. However, Master Mark could not leave New York at that time because of family obligations.
In 1968, Master Lum Wing Fay closed his hands (retired). He encouraged his five disciples to carry on the traditions of the system and appointed Mark to be the fifth generation Master. To honor and formalize this event, a huge banquet was held at the Atlantic Ocean restaurant in New York. The retirement of Master Lum and the inauguration of Master Mark was witnessed by over 200 prominent members of Chinese Associations. To commemorate this event a photo of the 5 disciples was taken with Master Lum. Sifu Mark received Grandmaster Lum’s Spri (altar) with its cups, bowls, fans, stamps and other artifacts from the Temple. Shortly after his retirement, Master Lum moved to Taipai, Taiwan.
During the next 23 years, Master Mark and Grandmaster Lum actively corresponded. Lum continually encouraged Mark and revealed new facets of the system. During this same time, according to tradition, Master Mark and the four other inner disciples helped to support their Sifu with monthly donations.
Since Master Mark was one of best known Kung Fu teachers in those days, he was selected to appear on the popular television program “You Asked For It”. The producers provided Master Mark and his family with an all expenses paid trip to Taiwan for a surprise visit with Grandmaster Lum. After more than 12 years of separation, the reunion in the temple between Mark and his old Sifu was very emotional. The producers filmed and televised these Masters practicing their art together once again.
In 1970, Master Mark was invited to visit Minneapolis, Minnesota by a number of martial artists. He liked the area so much that he settled there in 1971 and opened a Kung Fu school. However, just as before, Sifu Mark’s primary source of income came from the restaurant business, since he is also a master chef. Minnesota considered him to be a noteworthy historical figure and elected him to the Living History Museum. In 1979 a biographical film was produced and archived.
Master Mark was selected by the Physical Education Department at Temple University to appear in their World Masters’ Symposium, held in Philadelphia in 1982.
Sifu Lum taught Master Mark the following formulas of the system: 3-step arrows, Um Han, Um Moy Fat, the 18, 36, 72 and 108 point formulas. He also taught Mark classical Chinese weapons, such as the butterfly knives, the staff, the 3-section staffs, the kwando, the trident and swords. However, most importantly he transmitted the secret fighting strategies and inner power (Chi Kung) exercises to him. Mark also learned Lum’s methods of treating injuries along with the secret herbal formulas. Some of these formulas will increase the flow of Chi to certain areas of the body and strengthen these parts, for example, the bones. Thus, it is not necessary to toughen the hands by hitting hard objects like in external styles. In addition to the healing aspects of the art, Master Lum taught Mark the deadly art of striking acupuncture points, Dim Mak, and gave him the chart of the secret acupoints.
Master Mark learned that a theoretical knowledge of Dim Mak is not enough to apply it successfully in actual combat. The fighting system must have certain characteristics imposed by the requirements that the acupuncture point must be struck accurately and with sufficient force. The difficulty is that the target is small, moving, not rigid and often protected. For example, suppose the acupuncture point is located on the arm. If you lunge at the arm from a long distance, the arm will have moved slightly. Even if you hit the target, the arm will be moved by the force of the punch and so the strike’s power will be reduced.
Insight into an effective technique for the application of Dim Mak can be obtained by considering the analogy of pushing an elevator button. Most people keep their hand close to the button and push it with one finger, instead of their whole hand. Thus, for accuracy, the ability to strike forcefully from a short distance (short power) must be developed. Furthermore, the striking surface must be small, like the second joint of the index finger of a phoenix-eye fist used in Praying Mantis. To compensate for the loss of external power of a blow, due to the give in the target, the ability to inject Chi must be developed. Finally, since the opponent is trying to block your punch, you must be able to spin around his block and perhaps attack another acupuncture point. This ability depends on feeling rather than eyesight. All of these abilities are found in the Praying Mantis System, since it was especially developed for Dim Mak.
All of the formulas that Master Mark learned from Lum and in the Jook Lum Temple were one-person formulas. From seeing many famous Masters fight and from his own fighting experience, Sifu Mark realized that the formulas alone were not sufficient for self defense. Real fighting is continuous, you attack, your opponent counters, you counter his counter and so on. You must not only learn distancing and timing, but feeling as well so that you can turn your opponent’s strength and aggression against him. You must also learn how to handle different sized opponents, varied attacks, etc. Thus, in order to clearly understand how to use the techniques in a formula, Master Mark devised realistic and practical two-person fighting versions of each formula. In addition, he invented many new two-person formulas depending on the level of skill of the students, like loose hands. He also designed many new sticky hands formulas like Toyshu, Saishu Patterns, 5-Star, etc. These are outstanding contributions to the evolution and fighting prowess of Jook Lum Praying Mantis.
The Praying Mantis System is very subtle. Powerfull and practical techniques are hidden in the relaxed, circular movements of a practitioners hands and feet. It is difficult to explain these techniques until they are practiced and experienced. However, the following features of the system distinguish it from other systems.
1. Praying Mantis is an internal system. It concentrates on developing internal power rather than external muscle strength.
2. The Praying Mantis system has more techniques than many other systems and includes sticky’ hands and feet.
3. The Praying Mantis uses his opponent’s strength against him.
4. Many Praying mantis techniques rely only on feeling. The hands react as if they had eyes and without thinking. The hands are alive and not dead. Praying Mantis is a “Soft Arm” Kung Fu system.
5. Each formula has a two or more person breakdown.
6. The Praying Mantis learns to use each limb independently of any other limb.
7. Praying Mantis fighting is relaxed, continuous and flowing.
8. The techniques are practiced exactly the way they are used; there is no show.
9. The Praying Mantis System is a shortcut system.
10. Praying Mantis has more than one power.
11. Although the Praying Mantis practices high kicks, it favors low kicks for combat.
12. The Praying Mantis uses Dim Mak, the art of striking acupuncture points to produce injury or death.
13. The system is based on Taoist philosophy. Ultimately it reduces to Yin and Yang. The practitioner requires no conscious thought to react.
The world headquarters for Kwong Sai Jook Lum Praying Mantis Kung Fu is in Maplewood Minnesota, a suburb of St. Paul. Here Master Mark teaches the self defense part of the system, which includes all possible types of armed and unarmed attacks. Since Praying Mantis is not a sport all possible ranges of fighting are taught, for example, close quarters and Chin Na. All classical Chinese weapons are taught. Chinese painting and lion dancing are also taught. In addition Sifu Mark emphasizes the health aspects of the system and has special classes oriented solely to health, for example, the Six Healing Sounds’ class. Master Mark’s Six Healing Sounds teacher was simply known as “Old Master” in China. Even when around 100 years old, he was in good physical condition and appeared half his age. He had a government job and travelled from province to province teaching Chi Kung until his death at around 105. He cured many diseased people with Chi Kung. Master Mark also teaches an internal version of the Iron Palm, called the Cotton Palm, which he learned in the Hoi Jung Temple. This version is much safer to learn than the regular Iron Palm, which can have many adverse effects on a practitioner’s health.
Master Mark’s training partner, Ho Dun, died in September, 1991. Grandmaster Lum died in November, 1991. Documents recording the funeral of Grandmaster Lum indicate that only the living disciples, Lee Boa, Chuck Chin, Eng Shew and Gin Foon Mark contributed towards the burial of their Sifu.
This leaves only 5th generation Master Mark as the ultimate authority on the Jook Lum System. Fortunately, in this modern age there is still a complete system and a living Master. To preserve this system requires dedicated students who realize that Kung Fu is a lifetime study and are willing to search for genuine teachers.
Unfortunately, it is not easy for neophytes to find genuine teachers. History shows that in some martial arts, after the Master had died, students who were not inner disciples, and did not learn the whole system, claim to be Masters. The same thing is happening in Kwong Sai Jook lum Praying Mantis. People, who were not inner disciples of Master Lum or even his student but taught by Master Mark or his students, claim to be Masters. They hoodwink the public by forming benevolent societies or with flowery dedications to Master Lum. Some offer a picture taken with Master Lum as proof. Any experienced martial artist can see that some of the so-called self defense photos are unrealistic and are just poses and clowning for the camera. There are also Sifus and their students who didn’t have the patience to learn the whole system or even to correctly learn the small part of the system that they pretend to teach. These pretenders expose themselves by their ludicrous movements which do not resemble the movementsof Masters Mark or Lum. Fortunately, a prospective student can draw his own conclusions by seeing Master Mark in person, videotapes of Masters Mark and Lum, or Master Mark’s web site.
Adequate self-defense skills can be learned in a few years, much easier than in many other systems. The reason is that in this style of Praying Mantis the techniques are applied exactly the way they are practiced. One can learn how to improve one’s health in about 6 months by learning the rudiments of the Six Healing Sounds.
At 87, fifth generation Master Mark’s inner power is still very effective in warding off the attacks of any sized opponent.
1. “Master Gin Foon Mark and the Evolution of Jook Lum Praying Mantis”, Kung Fu Qigong, July/August 2002.
2. “Are There Dangerous Qigong teachers?”, Combat and Healing, December 2000.
3. “Bruce Lee and the Master Mark connection”, Qigong and Wu Shu Kung Fu, March 1999.
4. “Brief History of Qigong”, Qi. J. of Traditional Eastern Health and Fitness, Autumn, 1997.
5. “Yin-yang martial arts and medicine”, Combat and Healing, March 1996.
6. .“Chinese medicine, art, and Kung Fu”, Qi. J. of Traditional Eastern Health and Fitness, Winter 1995.
7. “Hand training in Kwong Sai Jook Lum”, Official Karate, January 1994.
8. “Classical versus modern Kung Fu”, J. of Asian Martial Arts, Vol. 2, 1, 1993.
9. “Martial Qigong of Kwong Sai Jook Lum”, T’ai Chi Combat and Healing, March 1992.
10. “The internal elements of Praying Mantis Kung Fu”, Black Belt, December 1992.
11. “Meditation and T’ai Chi”, T’ai Chi, J., October 1991
12. “Ways of practicing and utilizing a T’ai Chi form”,Qi J. of Traditional Eastern Health and Fitness, Winter 1991.
13. “This is T’ai Chi”, CSC Reports, Spring/Summer 1991.
14. “Soft style chin na”, Tai Chi J. April 1991.
15. “How do you know it works? Part II”, T’ai Chi Combat and Healing, April 1991.
16. “How do you know it works? Part I”, T’ai Chi Combat and Healing, December 1990.
17. “How to develop power, flexibility, flow and chi”, T’ai Chi. J., February 1991.
18. “External vs. internal hand conditioning methods II”, T’ai Chi J., October 1990.
19. “External vs. internal hand conditioning methods I”, T’ai Chi J., August 1990.
20. “What is classical Kung Fu?”, T’ai Chi J., April 1990.
21. “Do tournaments threaten Tai Chi?, T’ai Chi, August 1989.
22. “Training in the Hoi Jung Temple in Macao”, Inside Kung Fu, July 1989.
23. “Chi Kung and the six healing sounds”, Visions, August 1988.
24. “Effortless exercise”, CSC Reports, Spring/Summer 1988.
Qigong Articles in Qi Dao (A Free Yahoo Group Magazine)
1. Eisen, M. Bigu and Its Uses in Health. Qi Dao, May/June, 2007.
2. Eisen, M. Mechanisms of Qigong and a Modern Blood Lowering Application. Qi Dao, July/Aug., 2007.
3. Eisen, M. Eight Palms (Bagua) Qigong. Qi Dao, Sept./Oct., 2007.
4. Eisen, M. Qigong and Taiji Application in Stress Management. Part 1: Background of Stress. Qi Dao, Nov./Dec., 2007.
5. Eisen, M. Qigong and Taiji Application in Stress Management. Part 2: Tai Chi for Stress. Qi Dao, Jan./Feb., 2008.
6. Eisen, M. Qigong and Taiji Application in Stress Management. Part 3: Tai Chi for Stress. Qi Dao, March/April, 2008.
7. Eisen, M. and Kevin, C. Scientific Exploration of Qi: Part 1. Qi in Chinese Medicine. Qi Dao, May/June., 2008.
8. Eisen, M. Scientific Exploration of Qi: Part 2. Qi in Chinese Medicine. Qi Dao, July/Aug., 2008.
9. Eisen, M. Scientific Exploration of Qi: Part 3. Earth Energy. Qi Dao, Sept./Oct., 2008.
10. Eisen, M. Scientific Exploration of Qi: Part 4. Heaven Energy of the Sun and Moon. Qi Dao, Nov./Dec., 2008.
11. Eisen, M. Scientific Exploration of Qi: Part 5a. Heaven Energy of the Stars. Qi Dao, Jan./Feb., 2009.
12. Eisen, M. Scientific Exploration of Qi: Part 5b. Heaven Energy of the Stars. Qi Dao, March/April., 2009.
13. Eisen, M. Scientific Exploration of Qi: Part 6. Some Modern Scientific Theories of Qi. Qi Dao, May/June., 2009.
14. Eisen, M. Scientific Exploration of Qi: Part 7. Effects of Qigong Practice on the Body. Qi Dao, July/Aug., 2009.
15. Eisen, M. Scientific Exploration of Qi: Part 8. Internal and External Fields and Qigong. Qi Dao, Sept./Oct., 2009.
Other articles can be found at
Characteristics of the System
1. Internal system.
2. More techniques than many other systems.
3. Opponent’s strength is used against him.
4. Many techniques rely on feeling. The hands and feet react as if they had eyes and without thinking.
5. Each form has a 2 or more person breakdown, allowing students to learn the meaning and practical application of moves.
6. Learn to use each limb independently of others – e.g. simultaneous block, punch, kick.
7. Fighting is relaxed, continuous, and flowing. It is like having a machine gun instead of a pistol. Sparring exercises are continuous like real fighting – you punch, the opponent counters, you counter the counter and so on.
8. Praying Mantis has more than one power. (3-power strike, short, sticking, sticking, absorbing, shock, etc.)
9. Although Praying Mantis practices high kicks, it favors low kicks for combat.
10. Hands are hardened by internal exercises and use of a secret linament discovered in the monastary. Hitting hard objects destroys hand sensitivity.
Are There Dangerous Qigong Teachers?
Unscrupulous Qigong teachers can be dangerous to your wealth, health, intellect and spirit.
Two examples of people donating large sums of money to organizations will be given. There are many other examples. The danger of these con men is their charm. They pretend to be your best friend, care about your welfare and “feel your pain”. Many victims, even after they know that they have been taken, still adore these con artists.
One well-known guru was driven around in a Rolls Royce. His followers donated money to him, while they lived in poverty in an ashram in Oregon. He did not impose a moral code on his followers and beatings were documented at the ashram. He died in prison.
Another famous story involves a prisoner who practiced breath control. Without being detected he could cause pages of a book to move by blowing. He pretended to be a born again Christian and converted many inmates by causing the pages of a bible to move and attributing this to the Holy Spirit. After being released, he opened a Kung Fu school and had a large following because of his mystical powers. He became famous and was even invited to Egypt to treat Anwar Sadat. One wealthy man had donated large sums of money to this charlatan and began to spend hours meditating in his room. His sister became suspicious and hired Randi the magician to investigate this martial artist. One of his tricks was to cause a dollar bill under a fish tank to move by blowing in a small space between the tank and the table. Randi distracted him and turned the tank so there was no longer any space between the tank and the table. The Kung Fu artist could not make the dollar bill move. Randi made it move by blowing in the crack, which now faced him. The martial artist thought Randi was a Master and wanted to study with him. This con artist also persuaded some of his students to get guns for him. He was arrested and jailed on a weapons charge. He escaped from jail and still at large. This story appeared in a popular Kung Fu magazine. Even though this con artist had been exposed, it was hinted that some of his powers were real.
Both sleep paralysis and narcolepsy can induce vivid hallucinations since the sufferer is “awake” in a REM sleep state. Some of these people can vividly describe being kidnapped by aliens and having operations performed on them. There are even marks where the instruments used in the procedures were inserted. One explanation of these marks is that these people are in a hypnotic state due to sleep paralysis or narcolepsy. The mind influences the body, which causes the marks to appear. Not many people believe these stories. However, millions of people believe Qigong Masters when they describe their travels in other dimensions, new forms of Qigong, extraordinary powers, etc. Two masters can have entirely different methods and interpretations of reality. Both claim millions of followers. Can they both be right, each have part of the truth or are they delusional? Do you believe that any Qigong system has millions of followers? Any Qigong teacher or long time practitioner will know that many students quit after a few lessons or don’t practice regularly. Are such students followers?
The danger of belonging to such a cult is that it dulls the intellect. Some people become mindless robots and accept everything at face value instead of using logic, science or proper statistical methods. For example, a common claim is that a Master can cure any disease. This fact has never been verified.
In spiritual Qigong most Masters warn their students not to use any esoteric powers that they gain - for example, don’t spend time treating sick people. Some reasons given are that one can be injured by the evil that is causing the disease or that you really can’t cure a sick person because it’s his karma to be sick. Such advice will keep a disciple on the spiritual path, but is not conducive to the development of science.
There are many examples of Qigong masters in China and elsewhere who used fake photos, chemically treated paper which catches fire and other carnival tricks to impress their followers. Other phenomena can be explained using Physics or Physiology. For instance, to convince a student that he was injecting Qi, the Master would push hard on the student’s eyeballs. This would cause flashes of light, which were interpreted as Qi flow. Sometimes it was the students who used trickery to impress non-believers in the powers of their Master.
Improper and excessive practice of Qigong and meditation can cause psychoses. Such cases have been documented in a book on the Kundalini experience. Now there is even the medical term “Qigong psychotic reaction” listed in the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association. The dangers of excessive practice are also known in China. Dr. Zhang Tongling of Beijing Medical University found in a study of 145 people that fanatical Qigong practice could bring out latent psychiatric problems and cause hallucinations. She runs a clinic for obsessive Qigong practitioners.
Preoccupation with Qigong can also cause ardent practitioners to become dysfunctional and neglect necessary daily tasks or dull ambition so that one does not reach his full potential
Seizures can also result from improper or excessive practice of Qigong or meditation. These seizures become easier to induce with practice. Some Masters regard seizures as a form of religious ecstasy. This behavior should be investigated scientifically. It is more common in Indian meditation, since many teachers don’t emphasize putting the tongue on the roof of the mouth to connect the Du and Ren channels so that excess energy does not get stuck in the head.
Improper practice or the wrong kind of Qigong can cause many physical problems such as hair loss, dizziness, headaches, nausea, difficult breathing, etc. Concentrating on acupoints can lead to Qi stagnation and other problems. Improper breathing can raise or lower the blood pressure. Strenuous Qigong and low postures are contraindicated in pregnancy or during menstruation. People with arthritis or injured joints should not practice certain postures. Gentle movements are better than static movements for certain conditions such as hemorrhoids. Qigong that creates heat is not suitable for people who suffer from a hot, Yang condition such as inflammation. Improper posture can cause chronic pain in any part of the body.
The proper practice of Qigong can also cause problems for certain students. The teacher should warn the students of these problems and not prescribe that type of Qigong if the student doesn’t have the will power to resist temptations. For example certain forms of Qigong can increase one’s appetite for food and/ or sex.
Energetic problems, such as: deranged flow of Qi and blood, stagnation of Qi and blood. Leaking of genuine Qi and unchecked flow of pathogenic Qi can occur. A teacher should be able to recognize and treat such problems and any others which occur.
Claims of being able to treat diseases or producing spiritual enlightenment by projecting Qi or teaching people how to do this in a few lessons should be carefully investigated, especially if a large sum of money is demanded. Why don’t all the Master’s family or disciples have this power? Why aren’t they all in perfect health and enlightened. Another telltale sign of a charlatan is that they claim to treat every imaginable disease. Most legitimate Qigong practitioners would agree that acute diseases or emergencies should not be treated by Qigong. For example, beware of anyone who claims to treat dislocations or poisoning by Qigong.
Being treated by someone who just intuits your problem without physical contact can be dangerous. Patients with digestive problems, slipped disks etc. who were misdiagnosed by a local Qigong “Master” and not cured have come to our clinic for treatment. Some studies in China on this type of diagnosis have shown that it not reliable.
During lectures by Qigong Masters, there are people who exhibit spontaneous movements; others don’t. Some people claim to have been cured of diseases. Similar phenomena occur with Christian and Russian faith healers. Are they using Qi? Why doesn’t everyone move or be cured if the Master is so powerful? Studies in China have shown that there is no correlation between the movements of the patient and the Master. This seems logical because different people have different blockages to their Qi flow. The injected Qi breaking through these blockages probably causes the movement.
A large component of a legitimate healing at such an event may be belief. The mind can control the body. There are people with split personalities having one personality well while another has diabetes. An interesting experiment would be to publicize a non-healer as a Master and see how many people he could heal. These results could be compared to those obtained by a healer who is unknown to the audience.
Not all studies of treating animals and humans successfully by Qigong should be accepted. Some of these have been designed or analyzed inappropriately - for example the sample size is too small. People familiar with biological experiments know that some have been fudged. Even the results that seem legitimate need to be duplicated before they are accepted. The well-known biofeedback experiment in which rats learned to control the blood flow to their ears may negate the argument that animals can’t be brainwashed and Qigong is not a matter of belief for animal experiments.
Most authorities estimate that it can take years to teach someone to project Qi for healing purposes. Dr. Y. Omura devised a new method and taught some children to project healing Qi in less than a week. This method was not tried on adults, so it is not certain if it is faster than conventional training. According to the Taoist’s theory of aging, children should be able to learn Qi projection faster than adults. However, some of the children suffered side effects and he is no longer teaching this method. Dr. Omura also detected abnormalities in the meridians of practitioners of certain forms of Qigong. It is not known if these abnormalities are permanent or harmful in the long run. He also devised methods to avoid certain side effects of Qigong practice. However, some people think that some side effects are a way for the body to cure itself and should not be stopped. For example, the body may be discharging toxins. They eventually stop on their own with practice. The interested reader can find further details in Dr. Omura’s J. of Electro-acupuncture.
Neither my teacher Gin Foon Mark, nor I have ever met anyone that could push people without physical contact. Their technique works on their own students or others with a similar mind set who are suggestible or believe in such things. Most such Masters admit that they can’t push some people because they are not open to absorbing Qi properly and will only become ill. Masters of empty force estimate that they can push from 3 to 6 out of 10 people without contact. Some students of such teachers said that they don’t have to move but they just jump to show respect to their Master or because they feel his Qi and jump to rid themselves of this unpleasant sensation. The danger with this type of training is that some students believe that such techniques are good for self-defense. Even if such techniques worked on 9 out of 10 people you could be killed in a random encounter.
What is an empty force Master doing? If he is actually exerting a force, then he should be able to push a chair. So far no empty force Master has been able to do this. Another more plausible explanation is that his Qi contains some information, which influences some control system in the body, which in turn causes the movement. This is how a minute current can cause a crane to lift tremendous loads.
To test this last hypothesis is not simple. You must find subjects who are not familiar with Qi. They should have no idea what the experiment involves and should be placed behind a large screen so that they cannot see what the empty force Master is doing and when he is going to exert the force. The empty force Master should be instructed to push the subject in a randomly chosen direction, say North, West or East, by using a random number generator. Then, his successes and failures should be recorded in a few thousand trials and the results analyzed by a statistician.
Some teachers say you can learn Qigong from a video and it is safe, provided that you listen to your body and remember the motto “pain no gain”. The Qi will know where to go; so don’t force it. This is probably true for videos designed for general health maintenance. A person may even get good results from a bad video or book because he believes the person is an expert or because it is a mild form of exercise. The only danger is that the student may believe that he knows something when he doesn’t. For example, there are books on Qigong massage written by people who are ignorant of one or both of these topics. After reading such a book you will know hardly anything about either subject.
However, in some forms of Qigong, such as standing on the stake, unpleasant sensations and pain are quite common. You must have guidance on how to overcome these sensations. Man is distinguished from other animals by his intelligence. Thus, the ultimate authority should be your brain and not your feelings.
Some Masters claim to project external qigong during their lectures. One such lecture in the Shanghai Auditorium, which can hold more than 18,000 people, occurred on March 7, 1990. It is described in the Xinmin Evening Paper. During the six hour lecture many in the audience began to shout, laugh, cry and move about A young worker, Pan Jiangang, experienced heart palpitations, a flushed face, and sweated profusely. Eventually, he ran out frightened for his life. Guo Daiwu, an officer in the Industrial and Commercial Bureau, danced for joy in the stands. He began to spit white foam and died. Some people claimed to be cured of diseases.
Psychologists studied people who reacted strongly during the lecture. The results indicated that these people were childish, immature, and have hypochondriac and hysteric tendencies. It would seem that the reaction of the audience caused by listening to a Qigong Lecture is mainly due to psychological suggestions.
Meng Jikong, a leader of the Hengyang Acrobatic Troupe in Hunan province was not a Qigong expert. He wanted to expose these fraudulent Qigong lectures. He billed himself as a super-Qigong expert and widely advertised that he was going to hold a Qigong Lecture using super Qigong to heal diseases. Over one thousand believers attended the meeting. Forty percent of the audience could not sit still and had all sorts of strange reactions. This is about the same proportion of the audience that exhibit reactions during a Qigong lecture by a so-called Master. After the lecture, Meng confessed that he did not study Qigong and could not project external Qi, but caused the people to move by suggestion.
What is Classical Kung Fu?
This article is addressed to beginning students and to those interested in enlarging their knowledge of Kung Fu.
The series of questions hopefully will stimulate students to carefully investigate the schools they intend to join, define classical Kung Fu and help differentiate between external and internal systems. Some of the concepts are difficult to explain since they are physical as well mental and must be experienced.
What is Kung Fu?
The literal meaning of Kung Fu is “hard task”. In ancient times the monasteries in China were the repositories of knowledge. The hard task was to masterself-defense, Chinese medicine, philosophy, music, painting and calligraphy. Today most commercial clubs only emphasize self-defense or sporting competitions.
In this modern world of specialization it seems unbelievable that one person can master so many diverse disciplines. However, the ancient Chinese philosophers were generalists rather than specialists. They discovered that these apparently diverse disciplines have a common basis, Taoist philosophy. Nevertheless, Kung Fu was considered a lifetime study.
What is a Master?
A Master is a hereditary title designating a person who knows a whole system. Although a Master is a highly skilled martial artist, a highly skilled martial is not necessarily a Master. Each classical system has only one Master (sometimes called a Grandmaster). When he retires, he appoints a new Master.
There are very few Masters alive today. Some of the systems are very old and many of the techniques and forms have been lost because the Master died before passing them on.
Sometimes a Master died before designating a successor and many students claimed to be the Master and they alone knew the “true system”. Even if a Master was appointed, other students claimed to be the Master since their teacher was not alive to dispute their claims.
How can you tell who is the true Master?
This is difficult especially for a beginning student. These fakes are highly skilled con artists who prey on students’ ignorance and psychological weaknesses. Their tools are extreme friendliness, excessive praise and flattery, pretending to care for their students and feeling their pain. They use meaningless Chinese phrases to make weak, useless techniques seem powerful and exotic. The following criteria can help distinguish a Master from a phoney.
In classical Kung Fu the student must imitate the teacher and learn certain forms. Therefore, two “Masters” cannot have very few forms or techniques in common and move differently.
Sometimes they are movies or videos of the former Master. If a Master’s hands do not resemble the former Master hands, for example it looks like he is doing a hard style when the system is soft, then he must be a fake.
The Master appoints a successor who is a highly skilled martial artist. A student with knowledge of any martial art would be able to tell if the “Master” had a strong stance etc. A person who looks like a beginner cannot be a Master.
Another trick of “Masters” is to pull out photos of them with their teacher. These photos were obtained by paying hundreds of dollars to the teacher, pretending that they were a friend of a friend of the teacher or having a friend shoot a picture at a demonstration or seminar. Many of these photographs do not show the “Master” practicing with his teacher but friendly horseplay. Such photographs are then passed off as serious self defense moves.
Who can teach a particular system of Kung Fu?
Only a student who has the permission of the Master of that system. His school is usually a branch of Master’s school.
How many different styles of Kung Fu are there?
There are about 300 styles. The styles are based on mammals, birds, insects, mythical creatures, colors, spirits, philosophies, and combinations of these categories. There are also family Kung Fu systems which are passed on to the descendants.
Is there a grading system in classical Kung Fu?
Not usually; however, in some classical schools the students are divided into categories, such as student and disciple.
Many commercial schools make up their own ranking system and award different colored belts or sashes. There are some organizations in China who make up their own forms, based on classical forms, and have a belt-ranking system.
How can you tell if a Kung Fu system is legitimate?
The teacher should be able to trace the Masters back to the founder.
Contact the Master of the system to find out if the student has his permission to teach. Sometimes it is difficult to determine if the head of the organization, even if it is large, is a Master.
Some systems have their forms recorded in books or videos. For example, the Chen Tai Chi form has been recorded. If a teacher’s movements don’t resemble the recorded form, he is not a Master.
Learn the difference between an external and internal system so you can tell if the teacher is teaching according to the correct principles.
If a number of different styles are taught as a single system, be on your guard. This usually indicates that the teacher has never learned a single system thoroughly.
Any good system has techniques for dealing with all possible types of attack(short to long range; armed and unarmed). Many times the systems taught are incompatible (e.g. Shaolin and Tai Chi). They are based on opposing philosophies and muscle action.
Be suspicious if free (uncontrolled) fighting is introduced in a relatively short time. If you have not mastered any techniques of the system, what are you doing?
Promotions after a fixed time period are fraudulent. Each person’s ability is different.
Weapons should not be taught to beginners. Beginning students do not have a strong stance, cannot maintain the proper distance from an opponent and cannot transmit a great deal of power to their hands. All of these skills are required to use a weapon properly. The student is taught a new technique only when the Master thinks he is ready and may be required to practice the same technique for years.
Some non-classical systems have rejected classical forms and have combined techniques from several systems. The rationale is that free fighting is not patterned. By combining the best techniques from several systems it is thought that a superior system is obtained. However, a good classical system already has most of these techniques. If not, the Master can add these, but never eliminates previous forms and techniques which characterize the system.
What are the difference between a hard (external) and a soft (internal) system?
Some of the differences are summarized below. Some external styles may possess some of the characteristics of an internal system.
Relatively little time is devoted to developing a strong stance as compared to an internal style which emphasizes relaxation.
Straight line force is used in blocking. Sometimes large circular blocks which require a great deal of force are used.
Not much attention is paid to developing feeling for interpreting force. Attack and defense depend on fast reflexes, so practioners reach their peak when they are young.
Force is opposed by force.
Practice sparring, which is not free style, usually consists of a few moves.
Techniques rely mainly on external strength. However, inernal power may be emphasized later.
Muscles are used inefficiently. Many techniques only use the legs or arms. Frequently, extraneous muscles are used. A rigid type of force is produced.
Balance and a strong stance are developed through relaxation and proper body alignment.
Small, subtle, circular, efficient movements are used.
Sensitivity and relaxation are emphasized. Thus, one’s skill can be continually improved, even when one is older.
The opponent’s force is used against him.
Longer two-men sparring forms are practiced. The shorter forms are cyclic and illustrate that fighting is continuous consisting of countering an attack and countering the counter.
Development of internal power is the chief goal.
Only necessary muscles are tensed. Power from the body is transferred to the arms and legs in a synergistic manner. Relaxation is emphasized. A flowing, smooth force, like a whip, is produced.
Qigong is practiced not only for martial applications, but also for health.
The above description is an attempt to help beginners distinguish between internal and external systems. Internal systems are not just Bagua, Hsingyi and Tai Chi.
In fact, some of the so-called practioners of internal systems violate the stated principles and are harder than many hard-stylists. Internal systems are not just characterized by claims of chi development, since this is also a part of some external systems.
Which is easier to master: an external system or an internal system?
Both are difficult to master. It requires more patience to become proficient in an internal system.
One must “invest in loss” - that is, be willing to lose contests rather than violate the principles of the internal system.
The cardinal principle is relaxation. It requires years of practice, frequently in slow motion, to become soft (Yin). The body must be changed from concrete to rubber. Often, the student begins to move too rapidly too soon in applications in order to generate force (Yang) and make a poorly executed technique work. The result is that the forms and techniques are performed in a hard-style manner.
The constant training training necessaryto master an internal system is illustrated in the following story. A Tai Chi student was determined to defeat his Master at push hands. He practised six hours a day for a long time. He met his teacher and engaged in a push hands’ contest.
The student was easily defeated and complained, “I practised six hours a day!” His Master responded, “I practice 24 hours a day.”
The Master’s cryptic comment means that he used the principle of his art in performing his daily tasks. He tried to interact with people in a way which produced as little tension as possible.
The body and mind are intertwined. Any stress in the mind is reflected in muscular tension and vice versa. This muscular hardness not only leads to defeat, but is also detrimental to your health.
Can one master an internal and external system simultaneously?
Not generally, since the muscles are used differently in each system. It isnot the sequences of movements alone that characterize asytem, but also the way in which they are done. The result of studying both tyoes of systems is usually that neither is performed correctly.
In order to punch or kick powerfully must one study soft-style if one is a hard-stylist and conversely?
Tremendous power can be generated through proper training in either style.
Do soft-stylists always block softly?
Some soft-stylists generally block softly using redirection; others use both hard and soft blocks. However, the power for a hard block is not generated in a hard style manner.
Which style is more suitable for older people?
The soft style is more suitable for older people. Some soft-stylists reach their peak when they are well over 60. Theoretically, one could improve forever.
A soft-stylist mainly depends on relaxation, sensitivity and the ability to turn his opponent’s strength against him and not on muscular strength or fast reflexes.
The hard style is hard on the body. Hard-stylists usually retire young, like gymnasts, or modify their techniques to resemble a soft style.