About Kung Fu

What is Kung Fu?

Kung Fu is a Chinese term.  It has a variety of definitions which together make a clear meaning.  Briefly:-
  • Kung Fu means time and effort.  Together, these two words imply skill due to the time and effort put into study.  In this manner the term 'kung fu' can apply to any endeavour.  For example, a top chef could be said to possess good cooking kung fu - i.e. he is a good cook.
  • In another vein, Kung Fu can mean stop the fight.  This refers to self-defence (saving of yourself) and the saving of others.  An exponent of kung fu should not fight, in the same way that a fireman should not cause fires.
When considering the martial arts, the term Kung Fu is a generic name which covers over 300 different self-defence styles and sub-styles.  Some are recent creations and others have existed for hundreds of years in their current form and some are considered more like sports whilst others are meditative in approach.

What is Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu?

Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu is one of a small set of similar self-defence arts including, for example, Dragon Style Kung Fu, White Eyebrow Kung Fu and White Lotus Kung Fu.  To a slightly lesser extent, it is also related to Wing Chun Kung Fu.

Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu is rare and consequently little-known outside martial-arts circles despite having a formidable reputation amongst knowledgeable martial-artists.  Chow Gar is one of four major branches of Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu extant today, the others being Chu Gar and Jook Lum (meaning "Bamboo Forest") and Iron Ox.

Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu should not be confused with better known Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu systems such as Seven Star Praying Mantis Kung Fu.

What is Chow Gar?

Chow Gar gets it's name from the man who is attributed with the development of the style, one Chow Ah Naam.  Chow Ah Naam was an immigrant from the North of China living in the South.  (Immigrants such as he were known as Hakka or "Northern Guests").

Early this century, it's chief exponent moved to Hong Kong where the first non-Hakka student was taken on.  This student was Cantonese and he is now the Grandmaster of the Chow Gar style and still lives in Hong Kong.

Chow Gar is currently being taught both publicly and privately all around the world.  It is one of the few unadulterated, traditional Chinese martial arts available to prospective students today.

First and foremost, Chow Gar Southern Praying Mantis kung fu is a highly efficient self-defence martial art.

The training methods are entirely applicable in self-defence situations because the form and function of this style are the same. Strikes (including blocks) are executed in the most economical manner possible. Most individual techniques have more than one application and often these applications are used simultaneously. An example could be a blocking technique that both attacks the assailant and deflects his attack at the same time.

Further, each technique is designed to cause maximum injury through knowledge of the body's vital points. The basic weapon (i.e. "fist" or "hand") used in the style is known as the phoenix-eye fist which features a single extended knuckle. The phoenix-eye fist is a multi-purpose weapon but it's first function is to strike the body's sensitive vital points using the protruding knuckle. By focussing the power of the strike into a small point, the energy in the strike can penetrate deep into the attacker's body, causing serious internal injury.

Other economical features of this art include avoiding the use of high kicks, leaps and other aerobatics. Much time is saved because strikes emanate from the current position of the hand concerned (rather than first being "chambered" or "cocked"). Man-made weapons are used without modifying the empty-hand techniques.

Chow Gar Southern Praying Mantis kung fu is considered a "high" system.

It emphasizes the cultivation of Chi as a fundamental aspect of the art. Chi power is an integral component of the style, being both required for the development and execution of effective techniques. Simultaneously with improving martial technique, chi work brings with it the benefits of increased long-term health and well-being. These features contribute to an extended active life with a lesser degree of general deterioration (e.g. brittleness in bones or loss of sensory function).

At advanced levels of practise, training incorporates meditation which plays an ever more important role in martial development and development of the practitioner as a whole person.

What it isn't

Chow Gar Southern Praying Mantis kung fu is not a sport.

This system was developed under the auspices of Chinese monastic tradition. At that time, their world was a dangerous and turbulent one. Martial arts were trained in earnest by people who may have expected to rely on them at some point. Nowadays, the world is very different and many old martial systems have been adapted to competition and new styles have been developed specifically for sport. Southern praying mantis kung fu isn't one of those styles. By an act of historical accident, Southern praying mantis kung fu is not suitable for inclusion in sport. The subtle vital point techniques which differentiate it from most arts, coupled with the 100% force of application make it too dangerous to allow in a competition. Making the Southern mantis practitioner wear padded gloves etc. simply detracts too much from the essence of the style. Perhaps for these reasons, the tradition of Southern praying mantis kung fu continued.

The Chow Gar system requires a high level of sensitivity in all parts of the body. This heightened awareness to touch and pressure is effectively an extra perception-sensor (!), allowing the hands and bridges (i.e. hands, feet, arms and legs) to act and react of their own volition, sticking to, thwarting and overwhelming the attacker's offensive potential.  This is not just an instinctive situation-awareness, but something more. To obtain this martial sensitivity, one of the methods used is two-man attacker/defender sets where pre-ordained sequences of attack and counter-attack are practised. Like a post supporting a young tree, these sets allow the students to refine and internalise the techniques and principles. At the right time, the support is removed and the student finds himself (or herself) able to cope with, and act appropriately in, self-defence situations.
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