Kung Fu Instruction from Shaolin
Kung Fu instruction is sometimes difficult for the beginner. The Martial Arts training leaves him feeling like he can’t walk correctly, let alone make any of the esoteric and beautiful movements of Kung Fu. Yet with practice even the beginner will be able to weave a cocoon of Motion and Energy about himself. Enough good kung fu instruction and he will finally burst forth and ‘Spread his wings,’ and the result is beautiful to behold. Nowhere is this more true than in the Shaolin Kung Fu based on Art of the Butterfly.
There are several Concepts to consider in this Art.
One is in the footwork. All Kung Fu forms are based on two triangles connected by a simple bar. These are the ‘Wings’ of the Butterfly. All forms are short, four to five movements repeated endlessly and on each side across the basic foot pattern. Doing the footwork in this fashion teaches one how to ‘Flit’ to the side with a variety of technique. This weaving movement is a hallmark of good Kung Fu instruction.
Another is in the Basic Butterfly Palm Block itself. The natural thing to do, if somebody is in danger of getting struck, is to slap the attack to the side with an instinctive hand motion. This instinctive movement, which protects both the face and the groin, is taken full circle to a block with the bottom edge of the ‘Palm bone,’ which is the Butterfly Palm Block.
From the basic Butterfly Kung Fu Palm Block there are a range of six potential martial arts concepts from which to choose. Following is a short description of each one and how they work.
Performed as discussed above, the Butterfly Palm instinctively protects the face and the groin and enables the practitioneer to set up a fighting distance which is best for him.
A simultaneous Block and Punch, this application is drawn directly from the Art of Wing Chun. One can execute the Wing Chun move directly from the palm or, once the attack has been commenced, can roll the Punch over or under on a straight line to literally ‘Buzz saw’ the opponent.
Kung Fu instruction in this application enables one to hook and cling so as to maintain and control distance and set up trapping and grappling motions. This technique is executed from the basic Palm Movement with a hook in place of the Butterfly block.
This kung fu application is also entered through the basic Palm Circle movement, but whereas the Mantis hooks, the crane goes to one leg, hooks with one hand and continues the circle of the rear hand to a beak (upward backwrist block). This technique sets up kicking techniques.
CHOY & LI
Named after two monks, this application reverses the motion of the Butterfly block, circling the hands from the Butterfly to a simultaneous High Block and Uppercut. This is for when an opponent has managed to match the motion of the Butterfly Kung Fu movement and defend himself against the basic motions, or when the opponent is tending to try overwhelming, smashing techniques.
The Dragon technique is sometimes called the Snake technique, and resembles the ‘White snake’ movement from Pa Kua Chang. This movement circles the same way as the basic block, but ends up with a rear hand parry and a front hand palm up ‘Inserting’ type of middle block. While this technique can be used for mid level blocking and parrying, it is actually designed for latching onto the arm and throwing the opponent.
Thus, the six concepts are:
Butterfly Setting up a distance
Wing Chun Attacking on the Centerline
Mantis Clinging to trap or grapple
Choy & Li Reversing hand motion against force
Dragon Arm throws
These martial art instructions, of course, are not locked in rigidly, but merely a way to enter the technique, once the concept is understood it can be varied and used however the practitioneer wishes. Initial instruction is done on a Y pattern so that student learns how to weave and thus avoid and misdirect the opponent.
As the student absorbs his king fu lessons the six principles are expanded upon through six short forms, and when the student has a good idea of all the tricks available for each concept instruction should take two specific directions.
One direction for this kung fu instruction is a ‘Formless Form,’ much the same as the Pa Kua Chang notion of weaving the basic eight palms into unending and creative form, and thus building Internal Power. The student weaves the various concepts through the six steps in a free form pattern, never doing two steps from the same form twice.
Another direction, directly applicable to combat, is the combining of the six concepts into 36 combinations. A list of the first six techniques would be:
2) Butterfly/Wing Chun
5) Butterfly/Choy & Li
For the next six techniques the Wing Chun Technique would become the base technique from which to begin. For the six after that the Mantis would become the base technique, and so on. Thus the student would learn how to mix the techniques realistically. As with the basics, these combinations are done on a Y pattern.
First, all movements are begun with a ‘Waving’ of the body which culminates in the technique being performed. Thus, whether the technique being performed can be straight or circular, the end result is a focusing of Energy within the body. To describe this process more fully imagine a pipe half filled with sand. Now take the pipe and, no matter which way you move it, make sure that when you stop the pipe suddenly all the sand in the inside hits the wall (or end) of the pipe in a single mass.
There are a couple of simple training methods utilized to train the Butterfly student further in this concept of Internal Energy. Interestingly, they are simple board breaking and candle snuffing techniques similar to Karate, but taken a few steps further.
When candle snuffing one should practice for no less than an hour, alternating hands, and concentrating on relaxing body and mind between technique and using as little power as possible, until the Intention of the student enables the student to put out the candle with less and less effort.
Board breaking should also be done for an hour at a time, though not in the beginning, as the student doesn’t want to risk overusing and damaging any body parts. When board breaking the student should place his fingers on the board and, without drawing the hand away from the board, snap the palm (as in a Butterfly Palm Block) so as to break the board.
This Kung Fu instruction method is easily practiced if one purchases a rebreakable plastic board. With a rebreakable board it is also cheaper.
After Kung Fu instruction in these martial arts methods for just a few months, the Butterfly practitioneer will be able to execute blocks and strikes that, though they travel mere inches, will have the effect of breaking bones, or jarring the entire body of the attacker.
The history of the Buttefly system is short. It was designed by myself. While many people will scream ‘Eclectic,’ if they take the time to examine the way the concepts are woven together, and the method by which the martial arts material is taught, they may find a logic that will surprise them.
Consider that virtually all martial arts systems taught were once eclectic, and consider that with the wealth of material coming out of China there is a serious glut of information, and many students are simply swamped by the massive volume of material, and workability can thus be compromised. In putting together the Butterfly kung fu system I heavily utilized concepts from the Fut Ga Shaolin kung fu system, which was shown to me by Richard Armington. I was also influenced by the desire to create a concept of footwork and strategy similar to Pa Kua Chang yet more true to Shaolin concepts, and to create a ‘Bridging’ for the development of Internal Energy from the Shaolin concept to the ‘Tai Chi Chuan’ type of concept. Lastly, I wanted to develop a method which would utilize the major Chinese Martial Arts concepts as a logical and comprehensive whole.
But whether anybody objects to the creation of my Martial Arts is really not a point with me. What is important is whether it is workable, and thus far my students have assured me that they are more than happy with it. Beyond that I will merely wait to see if it survives a few hundred years. That will be the true test as to whether this martial arts style pf kung fu instruction works.
If you agree with the instruction in this martial arts article, you should examine the Shaolin Butterfly. Remember, when it comes to kung fu instruction, to read is to know about, to do is to put the kung fu into your bones.
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