Filed under: General
@ 2:58 pm
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese exercise and a form of moving meditation. Although Tai Chi’s moves were founded in martial arts it was also devised for maintaining health and helping to treat disease. Many forms of Tai Chi exist today, and more than 100 million people worldwide practice it.
Perhaps the most popular is the Yang form, devised by Yang Lo-sim or Yang Lu-chan (1799-1872). His sons, Yang Chien-hou, and Yang Sou-hou, taught their father’s martial form. However, Sou-hou’s son, Yang Cheng-fu, saw a need for all people regardless of age and health to be able to gain the great health benefits that Tai Chi Chuan had to offer so he set about changing what he was originally taught by his father, so that all of the original leaping and fa-jing (explosive energy) moves were left out. When he had finished, he had invented what we now know as Yang Tai Chi Chuan, the slow moving form that most people practice. This form was easier to learn and so became more popular than the old Yang Sou-hou form.
Cheng-fu changed the old form only enough so that the essential healing essence of Tai Chi Chuan would be preserved. In one of Yang Cheng-fu’s books, written by Chen Wei-ming, he actually states that to change this form any further would bring disaster!
Others came along after Yang Cheng-fu and changed the form further leaving out all of the repeated and important movements. The most famous of these was Cheng Man Ching’s short form. He was one of the first people to introduce Tai Chi into the USA. However, other people invented or taught various short Tai Chi forms. However, unlike Cheng Man Ching, they didn’t try to preserve or didn’t know the principles of Tai Chi. What is left is many commercialized, modern dance forms – only shells of the original forms with almost no healing or martial benefits! These so-called ’short forms’ are even more popular than the Yang Chen-fu form.
Medical Effects According to Traditional Chinese Medicine
Yang Lu-chan was a genius. He saw a need for a martial system that not only contained the most deadly self-defense applications but also self-defense against disease and depletion of Qi and a Qi system that was out of balance. Therefore, he built into the whole form a way of activating the Qi flow through each acupuncture meridian, the way that it is activated naturally, by biorhythms, in a 24-hour period. During the performance of the old Yang form every organ in the body receives the proper Qi flow 3 times. Consequently, each posture affects certain organs. The postures can be taken out of the form and used to diagnose and treat diseases. The deadly strikes to the acupuncture points hidden in the form can be done gently to treat diseases.
Nearly everyone who learns a long Yang form rarely practices a short version again. Perhaps this a message from the body about the health benefits of the long form.
Health Benefits According To Western Medicine
The forms that have been studied are like the Cheng Man Ching short Yang form. They combine slow, controlled movement with regular, calm breathing. Anyone who can walk, regardless of age, can learn and do these slow forms. You don’t need special clothing or to practice in a particular place.
Slow Yang style Tai Chi is gentle, fun and easy to do. There are no jumps or aerobic-dance movements. Tai Chi movements consist of using the legs to shift and balance weight while raising and lowering the arms in various movements. The forms consist of a series of choreographed steps always done the same way. A series can be quite complex and take years to learn correctly.
Tai Chi explores the principles of balance, which includes posture and joint work at the ankle, knee and hip. This leads to a better sense of body awareness, balance, and motor control. This improves the ability to stand and walk - important as we age and lose some of our physical skills. Elder people who practice Tai chi have been shown to fall less and so are less susceptible to hip fractures, a major problem for seniors.
One goal of Tai Chi is to create a calm mind focused on the execution of the exercises, which is a great method of stress reduction.
One of the most unusual results of slow-moving Tai Chi is its aerobic benefit. Numerous studies, since 1975, show that 20 minutes of Tai Chi gives participants 80 percent of the same cardiovascular benefit as aerobics.
A 2001 study reported in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that Tai Chi could increase immunity, reduce stress, alleviate gastric problems, hypertension and other ailments.
These gentle movements, coupled with concentration and inner awareness are, according to Chinese medicine, one of the keys to natural health and immunity to degenerative diseases. In traditional Chinese medicine health is a result of well-balanced Chi (internal energy). The movements help balance your Chi. In fact, each movement influences certain internal organs and improves their function.
Besides helping us as we age, Tai Chi can help people recover from illness. In 1999, the British Medical Association’s Postgraduate Medical Journal found that it could help heart attack victims recover faster. The deliberate movements and controlled breathing lowered blood pressure and slowed some people’s heart rates. Some of the heart attack victims participated in aerobic exercises and others performed Tai Chi. Both forms of exercise reduced blood pressure, but only Tai Chi showed a significant reduction, according to the study.
Tai Chi for Arthritis - proven to be effective and safe
A recent study by Korean national university was presented at the America College of Rheumatology (ACR) annual scientific meeting (the biggest scientific meeting in this field with 8,000 rheumatology professionals attending each year) in November 2001. This study compare the “Tai Chi for Arthritis” program with a control group and came out with very positive results:
“Abstract Preview: 80146 from ACR
[20431 EFFECTS OF 12 WEEK TAI CHI EXERCISE ON PAIN, BALANCE,
MUSCLE STRENGTH, AND PHYSICAL FUNCTIONING IN OLDER PATIENTS
WITH OSTEOARTHRITIS: RANDOMIZED TRIAL.
Eun-Ok Lee, Rhayun Song, Sang-Cheol Bae Seoul and ChonAn, Republic of Korea
The Sun style Tai Chi exercise had been modified specifically for arthritis patients in order to reduce their symptoms and to improve physical fitness and functioning. This randomized study examined the changes in pain, balance, muscle strength and physical functioning in older osteoarthritis patients at the completion of 12 week Tai Chi exercise. The patients with osteoarthritis who signed the consent form were randomly assigned into two groups. 17 experimental subjects and 14 comparisons completed pretest and posttest measures at 12-week interval with 28% of dropout rate. Outcome measures were physical fitness and muscle strength, and physical functioning. Data were entered and analyzed by SPSSWIN 10.0 program. Independence t-test was utilized to examine group differences. The homogeneity test confirmed that there was no significant group difference in demographic data and pretest measures. The subjects were 64 years of age and have been diagnosed for 9.4 years in average. Most of them were still married (72%), and doing none (59%) or very seldom exercise (23%) previously. 30.2% of the subjects quit the job due to their illness. At the completion of 12 week Tai Chi exercise, the experimental group reported significantly less pain and fewer difficulties in activities of daily living. The Tai Chi exercise group showed significant improvement in physical functioning while the comparison group reported no change or even worse physical functioning after 12 weeks. In physical fitness test, there were significant improvements in abdominal muscle strength and balance for the Tai Chi group than the comparison group. No significant differences were found in flexibility, upper muscle or knee muscle strength. In conclusion, Sun style Tai Chi exercise was safely applied to the older Osteoarthritis patients for 12 weeks, and the effects on symptoms, balance, and physical functioning were supported by the results.
American Chiropractic Association Recommends Tai Chi for Osteoporosis
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA - The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recently recommended Tai Chi as a beneficial strength training exercise system for those suffering from osteoporosis. The ACA said that even those with severe osteoporosis who have suffered fractures would benefit from Tai Chi exercise.
“Osteoporosis is a chronic, progressive condition that steals bone from the body, leading to fractures of the hip, spine and wrist,’ said ACA national spokesperson, Dr. Jerome McAndrews. Older people can suffer disability and even death from osteoporosis- related fractures.” The ACA says that an estimated 20-millionAmerican women suffer from osteoporosis, and 80 % of them don’t even know it. According to the association, one in two women and one in eight men will suffer from an osteoporosis related fracture in his or her lifetime.
Tai Chi Study Very Positive For Elderly Practitioners
TAIWAN - Exercise physiologists in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at National Taiwan University Hospital and Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taipei studied the effects of a yang-style Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) program on the fitness of older individuals.
Previous studies have shown that Tai Chi can improve balance and coordination and decrease the frequency of falls in the elderly. This latest study, however, is among the first to demonstrate a significant increase in measured aerobic capacity in this population. Tai Chi, with its gentle and graded intensity, may be an ideal form of exercise for older persons. These results were published in the Medicine & Science in Sports& Exercise Journal as “12-Month Training in, the Elderly. Its Effect on Health Fitness’ and are summarized below.
The study was completed by 38 community-dwelling people ages 58 to 70. The Tai Chi group consisted of nine men and 11 women; the control group included nine men and nine women. The exercise group practiced Tai Chi three to five times a week for approximately a year. Each session included a 20-minute warm-up, 24 minutes of Tai Chi practice and a 10-minute cool-down. Each Tai Chi set included 108 postures.
The exercise intensity was 52 to 63% of heart rate maximum. Cardiorespiratory function (VO2 max), thoracic/lumbar flexibility, knee extensor and knee flexor strength, and percent body fat (%BF) were evaluated at the start and end of the study.
Among the men in the Tai Chi group, V02 max increased by 16.1% (p < .01). Among the women in the Tai Chi group, V02 max increased by 21.3% (p < .01). Changes in body fat percentages were not significant for either men or women in the Tai Chi group. Members of the control group showed no significant changes in any of the variables measured. The researchers concluded that a 12-month Tai Chi program provides fitness benefits for the elderly.
The report suggested that interested participants should learn directly from knowledgeable and credentialed Tai Chi instructors, rather than using only video or text instruction.
The following article might be a partial western explanation why Tai Chi helps heart failure.
Leg Exercises May Help Heart Failure Breathlessness
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Heart failure patients may be able to lessen their breathing problems with exercises that strengthen the leg muscles, preliminary research suggests.
The study of 25 men and women with heart failure found that those who trained their leg muscles with supervised, low-intensity exercises saw improvements in breathlessness–a common and physically limiting symptom of heart failure.
According to the study authors, their findings indicate the importance of skeletal muscle, as opposed to the heart and lungs, in the breathing symptoms of heart failure. Dr. Donna M. Mancini and her colleagues at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York report the findings in the November 6th issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Chronic heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer pump blood efficiently enough to meet the body’s needs, usually due to an underlying cardiac condition like coronary artery disease. Shortness of breath, fatigue and swelling around the feet and ankles are among the symptoms. Modest exercise, under a doctor’s supervision, is one of the ways heart failure is managed.
In this study, Mancini’s team tested the hypothesis that isolated leg exercises–using light weights and resistance bands–can improve breathing problems in heart failure patients. The researchers point out that such exercise may change muscle metabolism in a way that lessens patients’ feelings of breathlessness.
They found that after 3 months of regular, supervised training sessions, the 17 patients assigned to the exercise group boosted strength and endurance in their leg muscles. And both their perceived breathlessness and ratings of their quality of life improved.
According to Mancini and her colleagues, this suggests that therapies aimed at improving muscle function “may improve the quality of life and exercise performance” in heart failure patients.
SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2002;40:1602- 1608.
Since Tai Chi is an exercise it can also reduce the risk of heart disease by the effects described in the following article, which appeared January 2003.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Exercise can act like a drug on the blood vessels, reducing the risk of heart disease by literally getting the blood flowing, US researchers said on Thursday.
It works in a surprising way, reducing inflammation, which has recently joined high blood pressure and high cholesterol as a leading known cause of heart disease, the researchers said. The blood stresses the walls of blood vessels as it passes over them, reducing inflammation in a way similar to high doses of steroids, the researchers report in Friday’s issue of Circulation Research.
“Inflammation in blood vessels has been linked to atherosclerosis, a hardening of the arteries, and here we see how the physical force of blood flow can cause cells to produce their own anti-inflammatory response,” Scott Diamond of the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Medicine and Engineering, said in a statement. “Conceivably, exercise provides the localized benefits of glucocorticoid–just as potent as high doses of steroids, yet without all the systemic side effects of taking the drugs themselves,” added Diamond, who led the study. ”Perhaps this is a natural way in which exercise helps protect the vessels, by stimulating an anti-inflammatory program when the vessels are exposed to elevated blood flow.”
The findings could help explain why exercise works so well to reduce the risk of heart disease, Diamond said.
“We’re not talking about running a marathon here. We’re just talking about getting the blood moving at high arterial levels,” he said.
Studies in recent years have found that cells and chemicals linked with inflammation can be found in arterial clogs, and much research is now focusing on ways to reduce this inflammation. For instance, teams are investigating whether giving patients antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs lowers their risk of heart disease.
Diamond has worked using human arteries in the lab but wants to move into animals to confirm his hypothesis.
“Think of blood flow as a stream–whenever a stream branches off you get small areas of recirculation eddies or pools of stagnant water,” he said. “These same situations of disturbed flow irritate the endothelium
(the lining of the blood vessels). When blood vessels branch off, all the arterial flotsam–fats and activated blood cells–can clump and stick at these hot spots for atherosclerotic plaque formation,” he added. “Perhaps, elevated blood flow may alter these disease-prone regions to relieve some of the localized inflammation.”
Another study of the effects of Tai Chi on blood pressure and the heart appeared in the March 2002 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Tai Chi lowered high blood pressure. It was found that Yang style of Tai Chi significantly reduced high blood pressure in overweight, hypertensive individuals. The subjects in the research group were over 60 years old. They did Tai Chi for 30 to 45 minutes four to five times a week. The researchers found that, “Exercise intensity may be less important than other factors.” Because even though Yang style Tai Chi studied was low intensity, it reduced high blood pressure as well or better than the more strenuous aerobic exercise.
In another research study, 126 heart attack patients (acute myocardial infarction), average age of 56 years, were randomized into three groups: a Tai Chi group, an aerobic exercise group and a non-exercise support group. They exercised 2 times a week for 3 weeks and then once a week for 5 weeks. Only the patients practicing Tai Chi showed a decrease in diastolic blood pressure. There were significant reductions in systolic blood pressure in both exercise groups. This might indicate that Tai Chi has other effects than those due to western exercise.
Filed under: General
@ 2:49 pm
ME: How did you meet Bruce Lee?
GFM: Bruce was in New York visiting his father, who was an actor in The Chinese Theater. A mutual acquaintance of his father and me brought him to my Kwoon.
ME: When did this meeting occur and how old was Bruce?
GFM: It was in the 1950’s. Bruce seemed to be about 18.
ME: How did the person who brought Bruce know about your Kwoon? In those days the location of Kwoons were often kept secret. Visitors were forbidden. Usually, only members of the Chinese benevolent society sponsoring the Kung Fu master were taught.
GFM: Most Chinese at that time thought that foreigners could not understand the true philosophy and use of Kung Fu and so it was dangerous to teach them. I disagreed with this viewpoint. I believed that all people were the same and so I taught every decent human being.
ME: Was Bruce Lee interested in Praying Mantis?
GFM: No. At that time Praying Mantis was considered an inferior art in Hong Kong and there were no outstanding practitioners. Furthermore, Bruce thought that all the good masters were in Hong Kong.
ME: Then, why did Bruce come to your school?
GFM: Bruce was young and interested in fighting. The person who brought him told Bruce that I was a formidable fighter.
ME: How did he know that?
GFM: At that time I was a well-known Sifu in New York. Many people here and in China thought I was too young to be a Sifu. Consequently, I received many challenges and met them successfully. I wanted people to know my art, so I demonstrated at many Karate and martial arts competitions. My students competed in the first Karate versus Kung Fu contest in California. I was one of the first genuine Sifus to demonstrate openly in the United States.
ME: What did Karatekas think about your Kung Fu?
GFM: They had never seen anything like it. Their attitude was similar to that of Chuck Norris. He thought it was pretty, smooth and flowing, but not useful for combat because the techniques had no power. One of my students asked him if he would like to try my hands. He eagerly accepted and launched a powerful reverse punch. I immediately executed a light praying Mantis’ deflection of the punch followed by a flicking technique, snapping him on the eye and ending the demonstration. His eye swelled up. I said its a good thing I don’t have any power or else your eye would be lying on the floor.
ME: Was Bruce Lee impressed watching your students practice?
GFM: I don’t think so. Not many people have seen or understand this rare system. The power in the techniques is hidden. Bruce remarked on the similarity between Praying Mantis and Wing Chun. He wanted to have a match with one of my students, to which I readily agreed.
ME: What happened?
GFM: Neither Bruce nor my student could gain an advantage; it was a draw. Bruce asked me how long the student had studied. I replied about a year. Then, I demonstrated some advanced techniques and weapons. I asked him if he would like to try my hands. He declined, out of respect, and said he was interested in studying with me.
ME: What do you think impressed him?
GFM: My short power, especially in using weapons. Unlike many other systems, the weapons are used just like our empty hands techniques, without large, swinging motions. Most people don’t have short power, because they don’t practice short power enough. My instructors didn’t show me any weapon’s form for six years. Instead, I had to practice cutting bamboo, melons, potatoes, etc.
ME: What did you first teach Bruce Lee?
GFM: I changed his horse and footwork. The Praying Mantis horse is different than the Wing Chun horse. Bruce held his hands too close to his chest. I had him extend his hands out further, with his strongest hand leading, like a southpaw. I showed him how to use and generate short power.
ME: After studying awhile, what did Bruce Lee think of your system?
GFM: He became interested, because he noticed that it contained all of the Wing Chun techniques and ideas: economy, directness, control of the center, sticky hands, etc. He liked the way the techniques were executed- each technique flowed into the next turning the opponent’s strength against him.
ME: What did Bruce Lee think about Wing Chun?
GFM: He thought it was a very good system. However, it specialized in close in fighting. Its footwork was not varied enough and there were not enough kicks. He considered modifying Wing Chun to include these elements.
ME: Praying Mantis is a southern system. Does it have many kicks?
GFM: Praying Mantis has as many kicks as most northern systems or Taekwondo. The kicks fascinated Bruce. In fact, the sweeping front kick to the opponent’s lower leg appears in many of his movies.
ME: What else did Bruce Lee like about your system?
GFM: Most systems practice techniques in one way and use them in another. For example, in the first Wing Chun form the fists are held at the sides of the chest to execute straight punches. However, in fighting, these punches are executed differently, with the hands held in front of the chest. Praying Mantis was inveted for fighting. Every technique is practiced exactly the same way it is used Bruce liked the realistic way in which the forms and techniques were practiced. He learned the 3-step arrow formula.
ME: Did’t Bruce Lee think that practicing forms would turn you into a “classical mess” and ruin your fighting ability?
GFM: Yes. Many classical forms are pretty like flowers, but useless for fighting. Even practicing the Praying Mantis’ forms will not make you a good fighter.
ME: Then why didn’t you reject all forms like Bruce eventually did?
GFM: The form teaches you certain basics, flow, body shifting, combinations, etc. Some of the advanced forms are martial Chi Kung exercises, which buils inner power. I don’t think Bruce was aware of this aspect of internal systems. Of course all of these things couls be taught in drills. However, I wanted to preserve the system. Hence, I retained all the forms.
ME: What was your method of producing good fighters?
GFM: I devised two-men drills based on my fighting experience. Each formula had an associated two men version to show how the technique could be used in actual combat. Besides these longer two men drills, there were many shorter drills for training sight, feeling, and reflexes.
ME: What did Bruce Lee think about these drills?
GFM: He had never seen such practical drills in a classical system and thought that I had made an important contribution to Praying Mantis.
ME: Bruce Lee knew about the Wing Chun fighting sequence practiced with a dummy. Why were you two-men forms so different?
GFM: Dummies are dead. They can’t move or react. Real fighting is continuous. You attack; your opponent counters; you counter his counter and so on. The two-men forms teach timing, rhythm, distancing, control, using your opponent’s strength against him, etc. You can also practice with different sized opponents. The Wing Chun dummy is mostly for close quarters fighting. Besides close and middle range forms, my drills contain long range forms, which teach you how to bridge the gap. Chin Na requires a partner. It is not realistic to train by trying to unbalance or throw a dummy.
ME: Wouldn’t Bruce Lee still criticize your two-men forms, since they are just a fixed sequence of moves?
GFM: Even Jeet Kune Do has drills. The forms which are practiced depend on the practioner’s skill. When their skill increases, different drills are used. The drills must be practiced until they can be done without thinking. Ultimately, the system reduces to Yin and Yang. You must react spontaneously and instantly to an opponent’s attack. Without thinking, you can turn his force against him.
ME: Couldn’t you achieve the same results by just practicing free-style sparring?
GFM: Beginners tend to become tense and use force against force. This may be alright in a hard-style system but not in a soft-style system, in which you are trying to become soft like water. You must begin by practicing slowly and softly, learning to turn your opponent’s strength against him. It takes a great deal of practice to become soft. After reaching this stage, you can start free-style sparring, beginning slowly and later speeding up.
ME: Aren’t some of your two men forms similar to to Wing Chun sticky hands?
GFM: Yes. However, we practice softer, have more techniques and utilize small circular motions to turn the opponent’s power against him. Bruce studied western fencing and remarked that some of these forms resembled fencing with the hands. Wing Chun could be called “hard arm Kung Fu” while our style is “soft arm Kung Fu”.
ME: Bruce Lee believed that weight training, dummies and other special equipment were essential. Does your system have a similar view?
GFM: We had a lot of auxiliary equipment in our Kwoon when Bruce was a student. He was keen on using this equipment. I had many discussions about training devices that I had used in the temples with Bruce. Bruce wanted to become a good fighter and produce good fighters quickly. Therefore, he wanted to use weights and other equipment right away. I wasn’t in a hurry to produce good fighters. In a soft style system, you must become very soft before you start to use weights. If you start to use weights when you first start, it is difficult to become soft.
ME: How long did Bruce Lee train with you?
GFM: About a month. He learned much more than the average person could in that short time, because he was in good condition and had learned similar techniques in other systems that he had studied. Besides that, he was enthusiastic, practiced a lot and had an outstanding aptitude for Kung Fu. Bruce was really impressed by my philosophy of fighting.
ME: What do you mean by that?
GFM: He agreed with nearly everything I said when we discussed fighting theory. For example, as mentioned previously, the limitation of forms, becoming like water, reacting instinctively to an attack, etc. Any good fighting system, like Praying Mantis, should have the following attacking methods: attack by combination, drawing, hand immobilization, foot immobilization; progressive indirect attack, simple direct and singular attacks. These were denoted: ABC, ABD, HIA, FIA, PIA, SDA, and SAA, respectively, later in Jeet Kune Do. Bruce liked the variety of weapons used in our style and the weapon’s drills. The exercises involving an unarmed versus an armed person and two people using different weapons were his favorites.
ME: Why did Bruce Lee leave?
GFM: He was only visiting his father and had to return to California. He wanted me to come to California to instruct him and be a consultant for his films. However, Bruce was relatively unknown at that time and I didn’t think that he would be able to pay my salary. I had to support my family, so I decided to stay in New York.
ME: Which do you think influenced the development of Jeet Kune Do more, Praying Mantis or Wing Chun?
GFM: I think Jeet Kune Do’s philosophy is closer to Praying Mantis than to Wing Chun. Look at my free-style movements and compare them with those of a Wing Chun Sifu. Then, judge for yourself which resembles Jeet Kune Do more.
ME: What is your contribution to Jeet Kune Do?
GFM: Jeet Kune Do is not a branch of Praying Mantis. Bruce studied many other systems and modified and incorporated them into his system. However, when I see Bruce’s movies or hear about his formless form, I believe he understood my lessons about changing conditions in self-defense situations. Combat is alive and requires a constantly changing art and not a dead one.
Filed under: General
@ 2:43 pm
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.
Filed under: General
@ 2:37 pm
One aim of martial arts, art and medicine is to develop a better human being. The danger of just practicing the Yang part (self-defense) of Kung Fu, without a Yin part (art and medicine), could create an insensitive thug. Moreover, the martial and fine artists were subject to gentlemanly rules of conduct in Asian societies.
The following excerpts of advice for Chinese physicians illustrates that they must also practice self-cultivation: ” . . . Medicine is the art of humanity . . . only integrated with no false character, tranquil and serene, can a person discuss the subject of medicine . . . Those that enter my gate should know that the distress of others is also mine … Do not ask if a patient is noble or poor … Do not cultivate fame and money . . . Do not boast of your knowledge and ability.”
The purpose of this note is to provide more detail on the connection between Yin-Yang theory and these disciplines. Actually, any Yang activity, such as athletics, could be combined with any Yin activity (poetry, philosophy, medicine, etc.) and discussed in terms of Taoist philosophy. Here only the similarities of martial arts, art and medicine will be pointed out. Finally, it will be shown that the mastery of each of these disciplines can be broken into three stages.
First, the connection between Yin-Yang theory and art will be examined. Consider paintings of birds. Nature is shown as a balance of the yielding Yin (foliage) and the unyielding Yang (rocks, trees). There are dynamic (insects, birds) and the quiescent (trees). The sharply outlined, colorful birds and the blurred, duller flowers; the dark and the light; the solid and the gasseous sky. All things contain both Yin and Yang. The branches, for instance, appear both indistinct and yielding (Yin) and sharp and solid (Yang). The artist uses his skill to portray an ideal of balance and harmony on rice paper
In each person, as in every landscape, there are signs that, when balanced, define beauty or health. If the signs are out of balance, the person is ill or the painting is ugly. Hence, the Chinese doctor looks at a patient the way an artist looks at a landscape - as a particular arrangement of signs in which the essence of the whole can be seen. The physician, however, uses his perception to recognize disharmony and then applies his specialized skill to try and restore health by balancing Yin and Yang in his patient.
The usual comparison of art and martial arts emphasizes that art is a Yin activity while martial arts is a Yang activity. However, in Kwong Sai Jook Lum Praying Mantis combat is a mixture of Yin and Yang just like a painting or a description of a disease according to traditional Chinese medicine. For example, to throw a punch you must be relaxed (Yin) to make your punch speedy. Just as you are about to strike your opponent, you suddenly exert a lot of force and become Yang. If the opponent blocks your punch, instead of trying to exert more force (Yang versus Yang) to get by his parry, you become soft (Yin) and spin around his block in the directionof the exerted force, striking him and becoming Yang on contact.
A Praying Mantis practitioner develops short power, the ability to exert tremendous force from a short distance. Therefore, a punch need not be finalized until the instant before striking and you can also attack again without withdrawing the attacking arm. Blocking, kicking, grappling and using weapons also turn the opponent’s power against him, just like a wall reflects a thrown ball. Combat then becomes time varying mixture of Yin and Yang - an analog of a picture or diagnosis which cannot be captured in a still photograph. You must see Master Mark in person or on a videotape of his hands to appreciate this flow in combat developed through years of sensitivity training in a monastery.
It is interesting to speculate why so many classical martial artists were good painters and vice versa. The reason might be that both types of artists have the ability to see patterns and forms. This ability was especially important in classical training. The teacher did not explain anything and frequently only showed a technique once. The student then had to practice the technique thousands of times until he mastered it to the Master’s satisfaction. Many Masters, in private, have told me that many of their fellow classmates could not learn techniques correctly.
Yin and Yang energies circulate in the ventral and dorsal parts of the body, respectively, determining their nature. the toughest parts of the body, which are more resistant to blows, are the dorsal and exterior surfaces of the arms and legs and also the back. The inside surfaces of the arms, legs and body are more sensitive. In these parts the skin is softer and more easily bruised.
Life energy also plays an important role in Chinese painting. To transmit the quality of life to a painting, the brush itself must be infused with spirit. This is the first principle of the six canons of painting. Without the quality of Chi, without a sense of vitality, the painting will be lifeless, regardless of the correct technique.
The advanced martial artist must also learn to control his Chi flow. Short power involves an explosive flow of Chi from the Dantian to the striking surface. He or she must also be able to transmit Chi to others and to remove Chi from others. This process can be used to heal people and also for self-defense, where it is called “Dim Mak”. Dim Mak is the antithesis of acupuncture producing illness or death by disrupting the Chi flow. Chi can also be used in defensive manner, as a shield, so that the martial artist can resist blows, even with weapons, to vulnerable parts of the body. Just as Chi is transmitted to the artist’s brush, the martial artist also transmit Chi to weapons. For example, Chinese swords were inferior in construction to Japanese swords. The swordsman’s Chi was thought to strengthen the weapon.
Acupoints also have a Yin and Yang character. Striking the Ming Men can produce death. Sometimes moxibustion on this same point can rescusitate a dying person. A strike to Lung 5 can cause a KO; needling this point on the arm which has not been struck is the antidote.
The concept of “centering” is used loosely in the literature as an advanced trait of the martial artists or painters. The artist becomes so engrossed in what he or she is doing that most other stimuli are ignored, just like in one-pointed meditation. This state produces many beneficial effects to the body and mind. In olden times, martial artists had to repeat a technique thousands of times, a form of one-pointed meditation. The use of art for centering may be more important for modern day students who only practice each technique a few times and are always looking for new tricks or styles to learn.
Becoming centered, as described above is good for one’s health; it does not make one an expert martial artist. For example an artist may be so engrossed in a painting that he or she fails to respond to an attack. In contrast, a fly engrossed in eating, will instantly try to evade a swat.
Learning and mastering any subject, whether it is self-defense, medicine or art, can be broken into a series of stages. Only a few examples in each stage will be given. The reader will be able to supply his own examples and understand the stages better after he has spent some time studying Kung Fu.
The first stage is called “wang-o” or forgetting the self. The novice concentrates on simple techniques and learns the mechanical aspects through repetition. For example, in self-defense, the student might first learn a single punch. The budding artist first learns to hold the brush and draw a straight line. The apprentice physician might learn to tell if the pulse is Yin or Yang. Later the movemnets are combined and refined until they become like a dance. However, you are still aware of yourself and must concentrate to perform the techniques. Eventually, you don’t have to concentrate and can perform the movements automatically.
The next step is called “tse-jan”. At this stage the movements are very natural and you develop your own style.
The third stage is called “wu-wei”. You are beyond technique and live in the “now”. You react spontaneously and naturally to what is happening at the moment. Without any thought, a picture pop’s into the artist’s mind, he draws the masterpiece without thinking. The martial artist counters a surprise attack without thinking. The physician instantly knows what is wrong with the patient with no apparent examination.
Filed under: General
@ 2:28 pm
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.
Filed under: General
@ 2:20 pm
By profession, Dr. Eisen was a University Professor specializing in constructing mathematical models used for studying medical problems such as those in cancer chemotherapy and epilepsy. He has authored 10 books and numerous papers in advanced mathematics.
Dr. Eisen has studied Yoga, Judo, Shotokan Karate, Aikido and Tai Chi. He taught Judo in a community center in Toronto. Dr. Eisen was the founder and chief-instructor of the Shotokan Karate Clubs at Carnegie-Mellon and Dusquene Universities and the University of Pittsburgh.
He has taught Tai Chi at community centers in New Jersey, the Chinese Community School of South Jersey, Temple University, a Master’s Dance Class at Glassboro State College and Triton High School and also Qigong at some of these locations. He taught a Qigong course at Lehigh University. He helped teach Yoga at Graterford prison.
One of Master Mark’s students introduced him to Master Mark and Praying Mantis. He taught Praying Mantis at Master Mark’s School in Philadelphia and at Temple University. He became a Disciple of Master Mark and taught Praying Mantis, Qigong and Tai Chi at branches of Master Mark’s schools in South Jersey.
Master Mark fostered his interest in acupuncture, herbology, Chinese massage and Qigong. He took correspondence courses in Chinese herbology and studied other branches of Chinese medicine with a traditional Chinese medical doctor. He was also an EMT. Dr. Eisen was the Director of Education of the Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Institute in Upper Darby, P.A.
Dr. Eisen has written many articles on Kung Fu, Qigong, Eastern exercise and Chinese medicine and is a columnist for Yang-Sheng magazine. His latest Amazon hard copy and Kindle books are “Healthy Exercises for Seniors and Non-Athletes” http://www.amazon.com/Healthy-Exercise-Seniors-Non-Athletes-Martin/dp/1494421461
He was honored by the University of Pittsburgh in 2001, on the 35th anniversary of the introduction of Shotokan Karate, as the founder, for contributing to its growth, popularity, and also to students’ character development. He was selected as one of the coaches for a world competition of the U.S. Wu Shu team in 2001. Dr. Eisen received meritorious awards from Temple University National Youth Sports program in 1980 and from Camden County College for participation in a student sport program in 1979.
Filed under: General
@ 2:10 pm
Biography of Master Mark
Master Mark has been teaching Kung Fu for more than fifty years. In 1947 he began teaching in Chinatown, New York, when some trade associations requested that he instruct their young members. He has had Kwoons in New York, Philadelphia and Minneapolis. In Philadephia, he had classes in a Y.M.C.A. and at Temple University and also taught self-defense to the police. He is one of the few living people who were trained in monasteries when they were strongholds of Kung Fu.
The fifth Master,Gin Foon Mark, came from a family of four generations of Kung Fu experts. His Kung Fu studies began at the age of five under his uncles and grandfather. At the age of nine he was admitted to the Chun San Shaolin Temple and studied with the famous monk Ki Fut Sai. He received instruction in Si Lum, White Crane, Eagle Claw, Leopard and Tiger. He also studied Tiger Claw in the Hoi Jung Temple, Praying Mantis in the Jook Lum Monastery and Moo Gai, a martial form of Qigong similar to Tai Chi. In these monasteries, Master Mark was schooled in Ming Kung, self-defense and healing arts; Shin Kung, spirit Kung Fu; Chi Kung, the use of internal power for martial arts and health. This included Iron Shirt, Iron Palm, Cotton Palm and Dim Mak. He continued his studies of Praying Mantis in the United States under Lum Wing Fay for ten more years. When Master Lum retired, he designated Mark to be his successor in accordance with established tradition. Master Mark thought so highly of Praying Mantis that he decided to devote his life to only teaching this system even though he was an expert in other systems.
Master Mark was one of the first Masters to openly teach Kung Fu to occidentals. He was featured on Prism television and the subject of an educational film “Kung Fu Master”. Since he was famous, he was selected to appear on “You Asked for It”. This television program depicted the reunion of Master Mark and his teacher, Master Lum. Sifu Mark has also been featured on Prism television. Master Mark’s home state, Minnesota, considered him such a noteworthy figure that he was elected to their Living History Museum. In 1982, Master Mark was selected for the World Master’s Symposium at Temple University.
Bruce Lee was one of Master Mark’s students. He was so impressed with the effectiveness of Praying Mantis in combat, that he adopted many of its principles in creating Jeet Kune Do.
In 1979 Master Mark went back to China. During his stay he studied Six Sounds Qigong under a famous Tai Chi and Qigong Master, simply known as “Old Master”, in Beijing.
When Master Mark was a small boy in the monasteries he watched his teachers painting and also received lessons. Since drawing materials were hard to get and expensive, he practiced in the sand with bamboo for a brush, frequently in a horse stance held for a long time. He painted more and more as he grew older and is now an outstanding Chinese painter.
Filed under: General
@ 1:52 pm
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
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@ 1:24 pm
Discussion on Preliminaries Before Sparring Practice with an Opponent
Unlike in modern classes certain steps must be mastered before practicing with an opponent.
The forelegs of the Praying Mantis appear to be made of rubber. This flexibility enables the Mantis to turn to turn the opponent’s strength against him. Since this system imitates the movements of the Mantis, flexibility must be obtained in all of the joints of the hands, arms, and shoulders. This allows the arms to be held in the proper position with the elbows in to protect the body. Next, sensitivity exercises must be practiced to turn the opponent’s strength against him.
Blocks punches and kicks must also be studied. If you cannot do these techniques alone, how can you do them with an opponent?
The following steps must be mastered.
2. Informal and formal bow
3. Arm stretches (bent wrist lock, Japanese wrist lock, right angle wrist lock, right angle forearm twist vertical and horizontal, figure four arm lock, and finger lock). These are practiced by yourself every day. Later, you can practice with an opponent.
4. One hand wrist turning in the right and left front horse (4 exercises).
5. Both hands wrist turning in the side horse synchronized (4 exercises) and unsynchronized One up one down, 4 exercises).
6. Flexibility exercises for folding the body along the centerline as if trying to touch the shoulders together. This allows you to keep your body concave to protect the internal organs and to fold up to absorb the power of a punch.
7. Rotation exercises for shoulder and elbow flexibility, enabling you to block properly (2 exercises in the side horse and 14 exercises in the front horse).
8. Walking the horse.
9. Straight punch standing still and stepping.
10. Wrist rotation sensitivity exercises with a partner.
11. The ten hooks (This is a simple form containing the straight punch, flick, and some blocks.). The ten hooks are taken apart and the techniques are combined as in 12 and 13.
12. Simultaneous block and strike with the same hand. You cannot see the transition from the block to the strike. It is appears effortless, soft and whip-like and takes a long time to master. You will be allowed to practice with an opponent before you truly master it.
13. Simultaneous block with one hand and strike with the other hand.
14. Combination of punch, wrist turn, flowed by a palm strike.
15. Sensitivity exercise based on 14 in which your opponent blocks your punch and you go with the force and do a palm strike.
16. Shifting the horse.
17. Perform 12 while shifting the horse.
18. Perform 13 while shifting the horse.
After learning the preceding 18 steps you will be allowed to practice with an opponent. He will attack you with a punch and you will counter. There are similar flexibility exercises for kicks.
Before proceeding to the more advanced sparring techniques, there are still more flexibility and sensitivity exercises, such as: four-directional rotation about the elbow joint for flexibility and gowshu punches, sensitivity exercises with an opponent based on the preceding gowshu exercises and the ten elbow form. Force is never used against force and so a 60-year-old frail, 90-pound, woman can practice with a 250-pound youngster.
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@ 1:13 pm
The Praying Mantis system is about 180 years old. It was created by Sam Dart, a monk of the Jook Lum (Bamboo Forest) Buddhist monastery. Sam Dart taught his system to Lee Siem, a fellow monk. Chung Yu Chang was one of the first laymen to learn the system from Abbot Lee Siem. Lum Wing Fay, the fourth Master, was a student of Chung Yu Chang.
The fifth Master, Gin Foon Mark, began his study of Tong Long Pai in the Jook Lum Temple in Kwong Sai. He continued his studies of Praying Mantis in the United States under Lum Wing Fay for ten more years. When Master Lum retired, he designated Mark to be his successor in accordance with established tradition. The retirement of Master Lum and the inauguration of Master Mark was witnessed by over 200 prominent members of Chinese Associations at a huge banquet held at the Atlantic Ocean restaurant in New York. To commemorate this event a photo of the 5 disciples was taken (see the photo gallery). Sifu Mark received Master Lum’s Spri (altar) with its cups, bowls, fans, stamps, and other artifacts.
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@ 1:00 pm
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.