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Origins of Shaolin Long Fist and White Crane Kung Fu

Shaolin Long Fist

The information which follows has been condensed and summarized by Mr. Alex Kiesel of YMAA Andover, MA from the book Shaolin Long Fist Kung Fu by Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming (Unique Publications, 1981)

History of Shaolin Long Fist:

Our Lineage

The term 'Shaolin' refers to the Shaolin Temple in China which traditionally is considered one of the main training places of the Chinese Martial Arts. According to Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming in his book Shaolin Long Fist Kung Fu, the Indian Buddhist monk Da Mo (Boddhidharma) came to the temple in 527 A.D. for religious preaching. Upon seeing the poor physical condition and illness of the monks, he locked himself away for many years of meditation to determine how to strengthen them. When he emerged, he wrote his results down in two classics which became the foundation of cultivation of the Buddhist spirit and of the physical body at the Temple. The monks expanded Da Mo's exercises for internal power and external strength, developing from them self-defense techniques for protection from bandits in their travels.

Due to misuse of these skills by rogue monks, the Emperor ordered the Shaolin Temple closed, but it reopened again around 600 A.D. For the next thousand years the Martial Arts flourished behind the walls of ten Shaolin Temples, combined with a strict moral and behavioral code based on Buddhist precepts. Martial and moral instruction went hand-in-hand, and the monks gained the reputation of being upholders of virtue and justice.

After the Manchurian warriors conquered China in the 1600's they burned many of the Shaolin temples to the ground and the Shaolin monks dispersed around China, teaching their martial arts to help the people defend against the invaders. As each monk ultimately specialized in a different aspect of Kung Fu, and as the Shaolin Temple monks had also collected knowledge from styles arising outside the temple, the systems taught by the different monks around China took on differing characteristics leading to the diversity of styles that exist today.

Many weapons are trained in the Long Fist system including Staff, Sword, Saber, and Spear and others. Characteristics of the Long Fist System In Chinese Martial Arts there is a saying, 'Northern leg, Southern fist' which refers to the belief that the martial artists of the North specialized in kicking due to their longer and stronger legs. The people of the South, being smaller and stockier, specialized in the use of hand techniques.

Long Fist, being a Northern style, emphasizes the use of the legs. The style contains a wide variety of stationary, moving, spinning and jumping kicks. Not all of these are for practical use, but practice of the full range develops tremendous strength, flexibility and agility. Long range punches are employed, but the hands are used primarily for blocking and parrying. In YMAA training, techniques of Shaolin Chin Na and the White Crane style are trained for close-range fighting.

Stances in Long Fist are wide and low, allowing for a long range of movement and great stability and strength. The Long Fist fighter likes to keep the opponent at middle-to-long range distance to facilitate the use of kicks, and since kicks are of such importance, speed is crucial since it takes longer to execute a kick from long range.

The Manchus were finally routed from power in 1911 but seventeen years of civil war followed as the government tried to rid the country of the numerous warlords who stood in the way of a united China. It was during this time that the final burning of the Shaolin Temple took place.

During the early part of the 20th century when the Shaolin Temple was still active, two great martial organizations arose, encompassing many of the great styles that developed from the Shaolin and other systems.

One was the Jing Wu Association, and the other was the Central Guoshu Institute (the term Guoshu' means 'country technique'). The Guoshu Institute drew from the knowledge of a large number of respected Masters, including Jing Wu members, overcoming Martial Arts politics and age-old prejudices to discuss and explore the best techniques from among the many divisions. From this synthesis arose the style commonly known as Long Fist.

Master Han Ching-Tang (1903 - 1976) studied Long Fist as a second-generation pupil of the Central Guoshu Institute. He, in turn, taught Master Li Mao-Ching, who also studied Northern Praying Mantis, Chinese Wrestling and Sun Bin Chuan. Master Li passed on his knowledge to a number of pupils including Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, who still visits with and hosts Master Li on a regular basis.

Shaolin White Crane Kung Fu

The information which follows has been condensed and summarized by Mr. Alex Kiesel of YMAA Andover, MA from the book Shaolin White Crane (1996) by Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, YMAA Publications.

History of the Southern White Crane Style

It is believed that White Crane was one of the five original 'animal' systems practiced at the Shaolin Temple and that it may already have existed by the time the monk Da Mo arrived from India in the 6th century. Later, during the 17th century, a woman named Fang Qi-Niang combined her White Crane heritage, passed down from her father, with movements she witnessed while observing the behavior of cranes in the river near her home. This was the beginning of the Southern White Crane system, which now includes four major divisions: Ancestral Crane, Eating Crane, Shouting Crane and Flying Crane. It is Ancestral Crane that Master Yang-Jwing Ming learned as a youth from his Master, Cheng Gin-Zao.

Characteristics of the Southern White Crane Style White Crane is one of the hundreds of Chinese martial arts styles, and White Crane itself can be divided into numerous schools, each with its own special characteristics and emphasis in training. However, the root of all White Crane styles remains the same. The White Crane learned and taught by Master Yang, Zong He Chuan, is considered the original Southern White Crane system.

Zong He Chuan translates as 'Ancestral Crane Fist.' The system is also known as ' Trembling Crane', 'Sleeping Crane' or 'Jumping Crane'. Each of these names describes a characteristic of the style. The Jin or martial power of Zong He Chuan derives from a shaking or trembling of the body that imitates the shaking off of water by a bird or animal. The legs are firmly rooted and the power is generated from the waist. 'Sleeping' may refer to the idea that the Crane practitioner is motionless until the opponent moves, at which time s/he physically explodes into defense while maintaining mental and spiritual calm. 'Jumping' refers to the jumping movements used in strategic footwork and escape.

White Crane is primarily a defensive system that specializes in the short range. Kicks are low and hands are used extensively in techniques that derive from the shape and movements of the Crane's wings or beak. The Crane is known for its dignity and calm appearance but also for the viciousness with which it defends itself.

White Crane practitioners also train in the use of weapons, including staff, double sticks, sai, saber, double dagger, spear and numerous other long and short weapons. Training in White Crane demands a conditioned body in order to withstand the great power that can be generated by the shaking Jin and the specialized whipping and arcing motions of the chest and spine. Without proper and progressive conditioning it is easy to damage the joints and internal organs in practice. Also, in order to reach the higher levels, the pupil must study and practice White Crane Qigong (cultivation of internal energy). For these reasons, only the most elementary of White Crane techniques and forms are taught in the first few years of YMAA training.

White Crane is a very deep and specialized style, and it is not possible to do it justice in a short summary. If you are interested in the theory, philosophy, history and methods of White Crane training, please reference the book Shaolin White Crane by Dr. Yang Jwing Ming for more information.

Ving Tsun (Wing Chun) Kung Fu

Ving Tsun was originally passed down from teacher to student orally rather than through written documentation, making it difficult to confirm or clarify the differing accounts of its creation. Some have sought to apply the methods of higher criticism to the oral histories of Ving Tsun and other Chinese martial arts. Others have attempted to discern the origins of Ving Tsun by determining the specific purpose of its techniques. Mentions of the art start to appear in independent third-party documentation during the era of the Ving Tsun master Leung Jan, making its subsequent history and divergence into various branches more amenable to documentary verification.

The common legend as told by Ip Man involves the young woman Yim Wing Chun (Wing Chun literally means forever springtime or praising spring) at the time after the destruction of the Southern Shaolin and its associated temples by the Qing government. After Wing Chun rebuffs the local warlord's marriage offer, he says he'll rescind his proposal if she can beat him in a martial art match. She asks a Buddhist nun- Ng Mui, who was one of the Shaolin Sect survivors, to teach her boxing; this still nameless style enables Yim Wing Chun to defeat the warlord. She thereafter marries Leung Bac-Chou and teaches him the style, which he names after her.

Since the system was developed during the Shaolin and Ming resistance to the Qing Dynasty many legends about the creator of Wing Chun were spread to confuse the enemy, including the story of Yim Wing Chun. This perhaps explains why no one has been able to accurately determine the creator or creators of Wing Chun.

Yip Man was well respected by other martial arts instructors in Foshan and Hong Kong. He was the first person to teach Wing Chun to a wider public. The style he taught was renamed Ving Tsun based on the sound in Chinese. After his death, many of his students formed separate schools.

Yip Man was well-known for having a very quick wit and an acid tongue. His teaching style, along with the very direct nature of the art and its despising of superfluous talk, infuses the art with a certain edginess. This is probably why Ving Tsun is well-known for being split into many factions.

A notable student of Yip Man was Leung Ting. Leung Ting formed the IWTA or International Wing Tsun Association and taught an American student named Jeff Webb. Sifu Jeff Webb earned the rank of 5th degree level Master under Leung Ting and was the Head Instructor for IWTA North America for many years. Master Sifu Jeff Webb left the IWTA to formulate his own theories and innovations on the style and started the NVTO National Ving Tsun Organization which has had great success. This is our branch of Ving Tsun Kung Fu. We are the NVTO Amesbury Ving Tsun branch.

Submission Wrestling

Submission Wrestling came to international prominence in the martial arts community in the early 1990s, when Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Royce Gracie won the first, second and fourth Ultimate Fighting Championships, which at the time were single elimination martial arts tournaments. Royce fought against often much larger opponents who were practicing other styles, including boxing, shoot-fighting, muay thai, karate, wrestling, judo and tae kwon do. It has since become a staple art for many MMA fighters and is largely credited for bringing widespread attention to the importance of ground fighting. Sport Grappling tournaments continue to grow in popularity worldwide and have given rise to no-gi submission grappling tournaments, such as the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship.

Submission wrestling (also known as submission fighting, submission grappling, sport grappling, or simply as no-gi is a general term for martial arts and combat sports that focus on clinch and ground fighting with the aim of obtaining a submission through the use of submission holds. The term "submission wrestling" usually refers only to the form of competition and training that does not use a gi, or "combat kimono", of the sort often worn with belts that establish rank by color, though some may use the loose trousers of such a uniform, without the jacket.

The sport of submission wrestling brings together techniques from folk wrestling (Catch wrestling a.k.a. catch-as-catch-can), Judo, Greco-Roman wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, jujutsu (of the traditional form),Shuai Jiao, and Sambo.

Submission fighting as an element of a larger sport setting is very common in mixed martial arts, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, catch wrestling, and others. They are also known for using submission techniques normally banned in other arts or competitions such as heel hooks, toe holds, wrist and finger locks.

Submission Wrestling promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage and proper technique, taking the fight to the ground – most notably by applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the other person.

Modern Arnis

Remy Presas studied his family's system from an early age. He went on to study the Japanese systems of Shotokan Karate and Judo, achieving high rank in each; but he simultaneously studied a variety of other Filipino systems, most notably Venancio Bacon's Balintawak . Beginning with a small gymnasium in Bacolod in the 1950s, he attempted to spread the art to the local youth as both a cultural legacy and a form of physical development or sport. He taught the art at the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos. His desire to reinvigorate interest in his country's traditional martial art grew over time, and he began making modifications and improvements to what he had learned. In 1969 he moved to Manila at the request of a government official, and formed the Modern Arnis Federation of the Philippines. He was assisted by individuals such as those who now are on the Modern Arnis Senior Masters Council: Rodel Dagooc, Jerry dela Cruz, Roland Dantes, Vicente Sanchez, Rene Tongson and Cristino Vasquez. He continued to develop and spread his art, including via books, until political considerations forced him to relocate to North America.

There he met Wally Jay, George Dillman, and other artists who influenced his development of the art of Modern Arnis. In particular, many locks from Small Circle Jujitsu were added to Modern Arnis. The art continued to grow and change, in technique and in emphasis, though it always retained a focus on the single stick and on general self-defense. Those who trained with Remy Presas in the United States in the 1970s and early 1980s experienced the art differently from those who began training in the late 1990s. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he traveled extensively for seminars – the principal form of instruction in the system was through weekend training camps held around the world but especially in the U.S. – and produced books and videos. During the 1990s Wally Jay, Remy Presas (Modern Arnis), and Jack Hogan (Kyusho Jitsu) traveled together throughout the United States and worldwide promulgating small-circle jujitsu. At that time many elements of Small Circle JuJitsu were well integrated into Modern Arnis.