It took me three months to just learn the beginning of this set, Chu Sifu needed it to be fast and precise and each day I saw the look of disappointment that I could not do it as fast or precise as he wanted.
Then one day it clicked and I learned the rest of the form in a day, I perfected it in a few weeks and this form became the basic pole set of the system.
After the opening which is a complicated block and counter, the form moves in four directions and attacks the four gates of the opponents body with thrusting and striking movements.
The basic training for this pole form.
Included bouncing the pole off the ground and retreating while it did a 180° flip re-catching the pole and sitting in cat stance. We also have strength exercises to help with finger and wrist strength and dynamic tension exercises against a wooden dummy.
An excellent form for any level to learn and get the benefits.
This weapon is one of the first to be learned, but it has two forms both bearing the same name one a little more difficult than the other.
The name comes from the hand configuration which is predominantly held at the chest height with open palm as a traditional Shaolin salute.
Both forms involve all the basic striking and blocking but as this weapon is a hacking type it has some spinning and jumping techniques to add power to strike.
Within the forms there are also kicking techniques coupled with twirling the Dao and also rolling and cutting low.
This weapon was mainly used against a long range weapon like a spear or pole but we also practiced close range techniques.
Control was one of the main training exercises you would twirl the Dao then attack a dummy and stop the Dao an inch from the dummy. Eventually you could control the weapon, as the idea was being able to change the angle quickly if your attack was blocked at full speed and power. I also learned the Chu Gar Dao, completely different from the two forms I learned in Sil Lum Hung Kuen. The training was also different with more emphasis on close range and manipulating the Dao at soft targets on the body, instead of hacking them and cutting and blocking at the same time.
These are some of my favourite weapons in the system and the forms are difficult in having jumping and rolling techniques. The knives themselves are much like the ones commonly seen in Wing Chun, but the guard is a rolled bar not square which makes it easier to reverse the knives.
There are two forms to be learned the first is relatively easy jumping and blocking in four direction performing the cutting as well. The second is more difficult in that it has rolling techniques as well has jumping techniques.
This is a very flexible weapon and because of the length can change height and direction quickly enabling the practitioner to defend against multiple opponents.
Within the system there is also a two man set involving the knives against the pole. Myself and John Farrell performed this many times, it is a very fast set and the pole is used double ended which is a real test of speed to defend and counter against.
We performed the set for Lama Yeshe Losal the Abbot of Samye Linge temple who told us he could see our energy in colours spiraling as we performed the moves it was a great experience.
The Baat Charm Dao can also be called mother and son knives and that is their traditional name within Hung Gar, but for us they were 8 Cutting Knives.
Within the system this is a formidable weapon, it is approximately 7 feet long and weighs between 30 and 40 pounds it was not a weapon I chose to learn but it was what Chu Sifu thought would be best for me as I was a big guy back then and I think he gave it me to develop the attributes of stable fast footwork with power.
I am so pleased he decided to teach me this weapon I grew to love it but it was as with everything in the system difficult and very hard work.
First I was taught the basic movements pressing, uplifting, sweeping, thrusting, twisting and striking with reverse of the Pa. This was done in a straight line involving horse stance, bow and arrow stance and twisted stance turning and repeating until Chu Sifu said enough. This was repeated daily and after about 6 months I felt the Pa was not heavy and I could control it without it controlling me.
Over the next five years I was taught two forms each about 12 moves long which eventually linked into one form. The moves were what I had been practicing but in a set of movements with some additional flourishes and designed so I could perform it when needed at events and Chinese New Year.
As well as the basic movements there are exercises designed to strengthen the grip and forearms.
Some of you might think that learning an archaic weapon such as this is not relevant to today’s world of Martial Arts, but to keep alive a tradition and also to develop the strength and skill this weapon bestows was well worth the effort.
It was always explained to me that in Sun Style the mind is the most important thing, 75% is intent in doing the movements and 25% physically performing them, I think this is a very difficult concept to understand unless you break it down in other ways for example, doing the Taiji with 25% effort but 75% concentration.
The most important movement according to teacher Lei Shi Tai is Pi Quan and this should be done slowly and softly but with 100% concentration on every movement. If you feel something different in the movement you should examine it with your mind, adjust it to what it should be and continue. Some days I just did Pi Quan for an hour nothing else! I maintained this routine, just teaching the form and other Xing Yi and so practicing it. The benefits from just doing Pi Quan on the rest of the Sun Style was amazing it improved everything.
This is really cutting down to a base movement no other movements needed just one fist to make all others.
It was thought by many people that this was lost and no longer taught within Sun Style. But teacher Lei Shi Tai has knowledge of this form and though I never learned the form, I was shown the movements by him and they resembled the energy used in the 5 element fists, but developed it to a higher degree. As the idea is to put the energy into the spear and so project it out of the body. I have done a lot of spear training previously with Master Chu so this concept was not new to me, but in the Sun style it is projected in a natural way not forced. So this is a very high level of training, as you need to be at the ‘An Jing’ level to be able to put the energy into the spear without injuring yourself or forcing the energy and you must use the mind with intent to get the correct result.
She Xing (Snake) This is a difficult form, coiling and twisting as well as stepping in a low stance blocking and unbalancing the opponent in one move.
Xong / Ying (Bear and Eagle) This combination form is very powerful with steady stepping and grabbing and is number 8 and 9 in the forms list, the Qi Na movement can break an opponents arm if done correctly.
Yau Xing (Sparrow Hawk) A very simple form with an effective strike to finish the opponent.
Loong Xing (Dragon) Pi Quan is essential in performing this form and it is designed to be an evasion but also give a springy leg attribute.
Huo Xing (Monkey) This form has jumping and striking in 5 directions and is very difficult to perform correctly.
Teacher Lei Shi Tai explained that the 12 animals give different attributes like evasion and footwork they don’t train power as that is done with the 5 elements. So to make the them work you need to practice the basics of San Ti and the 5 elements then when you have time perform the 12 animals. His advice was to practice San Ti and Pi Quan and Taiji everyday and if you have time the 5 Elements and 12 Animals, if you did not have a lot of time just the San Ti and Taiji or even just Pi Quan as he taught everything comes from this and it is in everything within the Sun Style and is as Important as San Ti.