Introducing the Hong Kong Shaolin Wushu Cultural Advance Learning Centre – a 3,000 Square foot Kung Fu school in Lai Chi Kok, complete with Shaolin monks and ancient Chinese weapons.
Spa Monkeys talks to Kung Fu Master Chen about the art of Shaolin, the different forms of Kung Fu, types of ancient weapons and the school itself.
So tell us about Shaolin Kung Fu in Hong Kong. Is it different from Shaolin Kung Fu in China?
All Kung Fu originates from Shaolin. The form we teach at this school is a Hong Kong sect of the Shaolin form, so it differs slightly from the Mainland. However, its main construction is the same – as with all other types of Kung Fu variations, each form and movement has its own ideology behind it. The roots of all Kung Fu are from the Shaolin form, originating from thousands of years of practice and development.
Here in Hong Kong, I would say we differ in our use of bladed weaponry. The original Shaolin form begins and focuses on hand-to-hand combat. It was in later years that weapons were incorporated and here in our school, we do specifically train in these weapons. There are short, medium and long-range weapons, some dual wield, others single. Some of our weapons are uncommon in mainstream martial arts, for example, we teach the Moon Blades here. It is an ancient short range, dual wield bladed weapon designed to defend against longer blades as well as to attack in short ranges.
Weapons are only for intermediate and advanced students. To fully master the weapon of choice, one must excel and understand the basic root form of Shaolin first. Once a student has proven him/ herself and is ready to progress, he or she may pick a weapon of choice for further training. Usually we start with mastering hand-to-hand, aerials (jumping, flying kicks), short-range weapons and then the long blades last, as they are the most difficult. It also depends on the student’s capabilities as they usually discover over time which weapon or movements they are most powerful with.
Each Kung Fu school teaches slightly different forms; some might teach more aerial forms of movement, whereas here our hand-to-hand combat movements are more grounded.
There are also different speeds of Shaolin movements. Some may prefer slow paced movements, which are great for the perfection of form, like Tai Chi. Others may prefer a more fast paced form: everyone is different. Here we teach all speed forms.
What are the benefits of learning Shaolin Kung Fu?
There are a lot of health benefits, mentally and physically. Shaolin monks dedicate their entire lives to training, but of course no one is expected to do so unless they truly want to.
Shaolin training focuses on several key areas:
- Chi Gong (the practice of using internal energy)
- Muscle Memory
The idea is to train the body into a physical and psychological state of excellence: strong immune system, optimal balance, perfect physiology, retaining of youth and of course, impeccable mental strength. It is why Shaolin monks are sometimes able to withstand immense pain or break through extreme materials such as cement.
Our bodies are so much stronger than we often realize. Western philosophies tend to treat ailments once they appear externally. The Eastern one begins from within, internally. Therefore, the art of Shaolin begins from the inside.
When did you start learning Kung Fu?
I am from the Ganshu Province in China. I have been practicing for over 20 years, with the last 8 years here in Hong Kong.
I myself am not a Shaolin monk. The other two teachers here are actual monks from a Shaolin temple. This is not common in Hong Kong. I know of only a few Shaolin monks living in Hong Kong and we are one of the few schools to have them.
Besides Shaolin, I also specialize in Wu- Dang (also known as Wu Tang) Kung Fu, a form of Kung Fu that uses the focused mind to control waist movements similar to Tai Chi (thus often incorporated in weapons training), whereas the two other Masters are pure Shaolin teachers.
I teach all the types of weapons we have at this school. My main Chi Gong specialization is Yi-jin-jing “changing tendon” Chi Gong. There are different types of Chi Gong; the Changing Tendon form comes from Da Mo, one of the earlier philosophical founders of Buddhism. Yi-Jin-Jing is specific to Shaolin training and has often been spoken of as the reason for why Shaolin monks have a ‘steel-like’ constitution.
I speak conversational English and am happy to introduce our culture to others who want to learn about it.
What else would you recommend from your school?
I recommend the Female Self Defense Classes. These classes were developed specifically to combat larger and stronger opponents. It is a very fast paced form of Kung Fu, designed for maximum effectiveness.
Using the key areas of Shaolin training, smaller combatants can train themselves into peak physical states that would benefit them if the case ever arises that they are faced with an aggressive, stronger opponent.
For example, muscle memory is a main area of focus in this class; should a student feel cornered, their immediate reaction is to swiftly defend – so that during an attack, even an unexpected one, the body naturally responds efficiently to protect itself.
Technique is vital for self-defense. One must learn how to use their own strength to amplify its abilities. Unfortunately, in many cases where females are attacked, it is by an opponent that assumes their vulnerability. This is why kung fu developed for women has a special focus on using fast-paced techniques to maximize impact during combat.