One Man, One Art
It seems that in China there was more than one temple named ‘Shaolin’.
In the history of China there was much lawlessness. Bandits and villains were widespread. Temples were vulnerable to attack, as were monks who traveled the country teaching the ways of Buddhism. So as to protect themselves, the monks developed a system of fighting based on the exercises taught by the founder master – Tat Moh.
Buddhist monks are very gentle and good natured. Their fighting system was developed only to defend themselves against harm. This system was called the ‘Lohon’ style after the monks in the temple (Lohons) who developed it. The Lohon style is a very basic form of Kung Fu which emphasizes low stances and strong body posture. It proved very successful.
The monks of the Shaolin temple practiced diligently to increase their martial arts skills and were constantly striving to improve their art. A great step forward came with the evolution of the third Shaolin style, called the Tiger style – Tai Chor in Chinese. This was developed by a Chinese emperor, who had relinquished his royal position to adopt the austere ways of Buddhism. He finally settled at the Shaolin temple where he studied deeply in the martial arts, eventually developing the Tai Chor style. For this reason, Tai Chor is sometimes also known as the emperor’s style. Tai Chor uses the strong but mobile stance which we use in the Tiger-Crane combination, and which we call the ‘walking stance’. It also emphasizes a very strong twisting punch. In fact, the straight punch which ends with a twist of the fist has become a hallmark of Shaolin Kung Fu. The Tai Chor style develops great power and was, therefore, able to defeat the Lohon style which it superseded.
No style is unbeatable. Every move has a counter. Inevitably, another style was later developed which could counter the Tiger style. This was the monkey style, known in Chinese as Tai Sheng. Monkey is a very fast, deceptive style. The monkey tends to close in on his opponent, strike and retreat all in one rapid sequence. Hence, the powerful Tiger may be unable to hit his tricky, constantly moving opponent. If the monkey misses with a strike, he will still move away from his opponent so as not to allow them the chance to counter him. The monkey’s strikes are accurate, more than powerful and are delivered with fingers or the open palm. Grabbing is also a favorite monkey technique. The monkey likes to crouch and often attacks the lower body. He especially favours targeting the groin. For male opponents this can result in serious loss!
Because the monkey style consists of much crouching and rolling, it is best suited to people who are short. It is often considered one of the most entertaining styles to watch.
How can the techniques of the monkey possibly be countered? The answer is by the techniques of the white crane! The white crane style was the last and most technically advanced style to be developed in the Fukien Shaolin Temple. Even to this day, the crane style is regarded with great respect and is shrouded in secrecy by its masters. Hence it has been one of the last Kung Fu styles which the Chinese have ‘let go’ to westerners.
What is this devastating secret possessed by the white crane? The crane sticks. As soon as the crane is attacked it establishes touch contact. If its opponent tries to land the attack, the crane deflects it: if the opponent withdraws, the crane follows; never releasing its touch until it finds a certain opportunity to strike – which it does with no mercy. What use are the tricky techniques of the monkey? As he tries to dart away the crane will follow, sticking to him until the chance presents itself to strike. The white crane style represents the pinnacle of the Shaolin martial arts.
Even though the true origins of Ju-Jitsu are impossible to trace, elements of the art can be traced back over 2500 years. Mythical stories of Kajima and Kadori two legendary gods tell of how the inhabitants of an eastern providence were punished for their lawlessness using Ju-Jitsu techniques.
Chikura Kurabe, a wrestling sport that appeared in Japan in 230BC had many techniques that were incorporated into Ju-Jitsu training. During the Heian Period (784 AD), Ju-Jitsu was incorporated into the Samurai Warrior’s training so that he could defend himself against an armed attacker in the event he lost his sword. In 880 AD the first Ju-Jitsu Ryu was formed by Prince Teijun.
One of the first Ryu that used Ju-Jitsu as a primary art was founded in 1532 by Takenouche Hisamori. Legend has it that while on a pilgrimage, Takenouche collapsed from exhaustion after training and meditating for several days. In his delirium he received a vision from a phantom warrior. The warrior taught him five techniques of immobilization, and the advantages of using short weapons over long ones.
Prior to the foundation of the Takenouche-Ryu, open-handed combat techniques existed solely as a subordinate art to a major weapons system. Most modern Ju-Jitsu Ryu can trace their lineage directly back to Takenouche. In the early 16th century, Hideyoshi Toyotomi introduced the Chinese Art of Ch-an Fa (punching and nerve striking) to Japan and it was adopted by Ju-Jitsu.
Jiu-Jitsu, which means gentle art is the oldest form of martial art. It originated in India more than 2000 years before Christ. It was created by monks who could not use any type of weapons to defend their lives against barbarian attacks. It spread through China, and eventually took root and was elaborated on in Japan becoming the first martial art style. The samurai clans in Japan adopted Jiu-Jitsu as their own traditional style to defeat an opponent regardless if the situation was striking, throwing or grappling. With the passing years, they split the techniques and developed other martial arts styles, such as judo, akido, karate, etc.
In 1914, Japanese Jiu-Jitsu champion Esai Maeda migrated to Brazil, where he was instrumental in establishing a Japanese immigrant community. His efforts were aided by Gastão Gracie, a Brazilian scholar and politician of Scottish descent. As an expression of his gratitude for Gracie’s assistance, Maeda taught the Brazilian’s oldest son Carlos the essential secrets of the ancient martial arts technique. Carlos taught Maeda’s techniques to his four brothers, and in 1925 they opened the first Jiu-Jitsu academy in Brazil. For the Gracie brothers, teaching the art was more than an occupation. It was their passion.
Imi Sde’s father Samuel spent 20 years with the circus and specialised in Boxing, wrestling and feats of strength. Samuel eventually left the circus and joined the Police where later he became Chief of Police.
During his time with the Police Samuel became famous as the man who captured the most violent criminals and murderers. Samuel taught various arrest techniques to his fellow Police officers and emphasised high moral standards in his Policemen. While serving Samuel taught a range of techniques that today seem mild and not overly effective, but which would have been in keeping with expectations and needs of the time.
Under his fathers watchfull eye Imi learned Boxing, Wrestling, Gymnastics and Swimming. Imis’ excelled in wrestling where in 1928 he went on to win the Slovakian National Youth Wrestling Championship. In 1929 Imi went on to win the Slovakian Wrestling Championship as an adult at Welter weight. In that same year Imi also won the Slovakian National Boxing championship and an International gymnastics Championship. Imi became a mainstay of the Slovakian national Wrestling scene as a trainer and competitor and dominated the welter weight wrestling scene in Slovakia and Europe for a decade.
Krav Maga was developed in Hungary and Czechoslovakia in the 1930s by Imi Lichtenfeld, also known as Imi Sde-Or. (Sde-Or – “Light Field” – is a calque of his surname into Hebrew.) He first taught his fighting system in Bratislava in order to help protect the Jewish community from Nazi militias. These conflicts were intense and dangerous leading to many deaths on either side. This type of violence was the proving ground for Imi learning the stark difference between the Boxing and Wrestling matches of his youth and the life or death nature of antisemitic violence. Imi later refined these experiences to form the concepts used in the development of Krav Maga.
Upon arriving in the British Mandate of Palestine prior to the establishment of the Jewish state, Imi began teaching hand-to-hand combat to the Haganah, the Jewish underground army. With the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Imi became the Chief Instructor of Physical Fitness and Krav Maga at the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) School of Combat Fitness. He served in the IDF for about 20 years, during which time he continued to develop and refine his hand-to-hand combat method. He died in January 1998 in Netanya, Israel.
Jeet Kune Do
Bruce Lee – The Man, The Myth, The Legend
I could write a 2500 page thesis on just such a man, who even after 37 years sparks inspiration and intrigue about his concepts of self improvement. I make reference to the powerful positive life changing effect Bruce Lee had on many people both in and out of the martial arts.
Over the years Bruce had inspired a distinct change within the martial arts mainly around the need to introduce realism and dynamism with the ultimate goal of exciting an audience with spectacular realistic martial arts feats.East Asian martial arts movies have always demonstrated seemingly impossible tasks such as running up walls and flipping over to the extremes of actually flying through the air which at that time was definitely deemed too magical and not realistic.
Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan (both avid admirers of Bruce Lee’s concepts) to me were the complete forerunners with the introduction of acrobatic martials arts and to all intents and purposes created the martial arts version of free running.
Many martial artists may throw their hands in the air and state other forms of martial arts demonstrated this form of acrobatics way before Sammo and Jackie, but I must stress that it is undeniable that Both Sammo and Jackie were the first to introduce it to the world at large rather than hidden away in secret society.
So in honour of Sammo Hung and Jackie Chan, thanks for the thrills and spills and setting the light of ‘possibility’ for so many martial artists.
There is a lot more to be said about the enigma that is Bruce Lee, but for now, long may his spirit run wild and free like the wolves.