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Monkey-Style Shaolin Kung Fu: Its Principles and Practice!

This article considers the Monkey’s place in Chinese History, Martial Arts and Qigong. Western views of this frequently relied upon outdated, ethnocentric, inaccurate 19th Century perceptions of China still (wrongly) considered authoritative at the present time.

Serious martial artists wishing to learn the agile anthropoid’s training, combat and health-preserving skills must discard such preconceptions. Inevitably, informed sources of Chinese Martial wisdom, rather than 19th Century Eurocentric ignorance, provide the key insights required.

I am indebted to Si Gung Rex Jones and Grandmaster Yap Leong, my two Most Esteemed Teachers in over 40 years of Martial Arts study, for inspiration, help and encouragement in this field. Grandmaster Yap’s knowledge of Chinese Martial Arts, Culture, History and their inter-relation is truly encyclopaedic and both were taught by contemporary world-famous Malaysian Grandmasters (1).

Tang, Sung and Ming

The popular Western myth of a huge, powerful, unstoppable monkey (King Kong) is rooted in early Tang Dynasty Shaolin Temple activities. The Temple helped re-shape China’s future and introduced China and the world to Shaolin Mahayana Buddhism and Kung Fu.

This included the incredible achievements of Monk (and Monkey King/ Kung Fu expert) Xuanzhang (596-664 CE) described in 14th Century Ming Dynasty novel ‘The Journey West’ by Wu Cheng En. This, the world’s most popular book, describes Xuanzhang’s adventures during his epic journeyings to Nepal and beyond in lively, humourous, fashion contrasting with the dispassionate formality of Tang Dynasty official historical records of the same events.

During Ming (1368-1644 CE) times Monkey Kung Fu (Huoquan) was extremely popular and Shaolin-trained General Zhao Kuang Yin (later Emperor Taizu) earlier Sung Dynasty founder also practised Huoquan alongside his formidable Changquan (‘Longfist’) Kung Fu. Taizu is Tai Jo (Supreme Founder) of Changquan and 5 Ancestor Fist (Wu Tzu Quan). Both styles have Sung Dynasty origins and incorporate key elements of the older (Monkey) style, originating from pre-Han Dynasty times.

5 Key Precepts

High-order Monkey-style Kung Fu power and skills sometimes lead to ‘Monkey King’ status according to 5 key principles:

Resemblance; practitioners could look, posture, use limbs, and adopt expressions like Monkeys when performing techniques;

Spirit; realising more than ‘lookalike’ status was required, they saw threats and advantages from Monkey perspectives enabling them to apply techniques successfully for attack and defence;

Concentration; like Monkeys they could attack continuously, using closely associated tactics in 3-4-technique series, in concentrated bursts.

Footwork; light, fast and noiseless they could dodge, side-step and wrong foot opponents in numerous ways with coördinated body movements;

Nimbleness; they possessed the speed, bodily dexterity and agility of movement essential for Monkey technique.

Overall

In 1982 Honourable Grandmaster Xiao Yingpeng was Monkey King of the Chinese People’s Republic. At the age of 66 (and beyond) he continued to win Kung Fu competitions and accolades for his Houquan performances (1). This emphasises how Monkey Kung Fu and Qigong, springing from acute observation of the behaviour of Man’s most venerable ancestor, can also make valuable contributions to anti-aging and longevity practice.

Notes

(1) ‘Martial Arts Ezine: Red Dragon No.74 November 2012′ contains more about these and their ‘Monkey business’!

(2) Xi Yuan-tai and Li Xiao-gong (1982) ‘Chinese Kung Fu Series 1: Monkey Style’ Hai Feng (Publishers), Hong Kong

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