Northern Shaolin ‘Longfist’ Kung Fu Forms: Yi Lu Mai Fu, Shaw Fu Ien and Shih Tzu Tan

‘Longfist’ Kung Fu

‘An inch longer; an inch stronger!’ runs the key maxim of Shaolin Longfist (Chang Chuan) Kung Fu. This long-range Kung Fu comes from the ancient battlefields of Northern China and is part of the Changquan family of styles. The battlefield notions of striking, stabbing, sweeping and cutting etc at long-range were extensively systemised and codified at Bei Shaolin Si, the Northern or ‘Grandfather’ Shaolin Temple and were first made public at the start of the Tang Dynasty. This article considers some of the stylistic features present in three of its Middle Level forms and sequences regularly practised in contemporary Kung Fu and Wu Shu.

Imperial Connexions

The Northern Shaolin Temple’s martial support of talented, able and far-sighted Emperor-to-be Li Shi-Min (later, Emperor Taizhong) was vital to the successful establishment of the Tang Dynasty, considered the apogee of Chinese culture to date. These events mark the beginning of Nothern Shaolin Kung Fu’s enduring fame and popularity as Emperor Taizhong acknowledged this instrumental assistance from the Temple and its fighting Monks in many ways (”The Shaolin Temple’, 1982, starring Jet Li, is a fine summary of events.

General Zhao Kuang-Yin, who established the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 CE) drew extensively on his Northern Shaolin Kung Fu training in the furtherance of his own Imperial ambitions. Eventually reigning as Emperor Song Taizu, his own systemised interpretations of this became popular and well-known. The powerful, long-range and direct features of his legacy caused him to be acknowledged as the Founder of ‘Longfist’ Kung Fu.

‘Longfist’ also encourages long-range and strategic thinking in its adherents congruent with its outgoing and expansive stylistic features.

Level 2 (Intermediate Level) Forms

Yi Lu Mai Fu/First Way Of Ambush

A demanding form requiring a greater degree of athleticism than Gung Li Chuan, its many applications embody numerous surprises or ‘tricks’ designed to outwit and ‘ambush’ unwary opponents and more advanced kicks such as ‘Shain Feng Tui’ the Tornado or Whirlwind Kick. Yi Lu Mei Fu represents the start of Level 2 Forms Training and reflected in the subtle ways its applications may trap unwary opponents including the sudden reverses and counters built into footwork patterns like Xing Bu (Animal Steps). At nearly 130 moves long Yi Lu Mei Fu contains a number of vital sub-routines which are the key to acquiring proficiency..

Shaw Fu Ien/ Roaring Tiger Fist

Albeit with an opening sequence evocative of Yi Lu Mai Fu, some of the concepts of Northern Praying Mantis (or ‘Tang Lang’) are outlined in this form and combined with ‘longfist’ principles this can s. Low, deep stances add power to some of the form’s jumping techniques and the ‘iron-broom’ or floor-sweep is also introduced. In general, Shaw Fu Ien helps students develop strength and speed and enhances their timing.

Shih Tzu Tan/’At The Crossroads’

Although the form’s opening sequence is identical to that of Yi Lu Mei Fu its subsequent developments are in different directions altogether. A concealed knife-attack features in its applications plus, jumping-kick attacks to the lower limbs and footwork designed to evade and encircle opponents. Many techniques exploring aspects of Yin/Yang Theory testify to the form’s more advanced status including double, ‘U’ or Ox – Horn Punching, stepping backwards whilst attacking forwards, leaping high to kick low’ and blocking to the front and then attacking tom the rear.

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