The Shaolin Log Cabin
Hung Gar is an offspring of the of the kung fu system of the Shaolin Temple. It's founder, Hung Hei Gune, was the chief revolutionary fighter during the Ching dynasty. Hung learned his art from the Shaolin Monk named Gee Shimn Sien See, who was a expert in the tiger fist system (Fu Jow). The most famous Hung Gar master is Wong Fei Hung, who was accredited for developing and spreading the system.
Hung Gar is known for its strong stances and powerful hand techniques. The training consists of prolonged stance training and many isometric breathing exercises which are incorporated into the sets. Hung Gar practitioners also practice many two-men sets and dummy training. These kinds of training will build up the Hung Gar student's bridge hands and self-defense knowledge.
Hung Gar Forms (Kuen Toh)
Hung Gar Weapons (Bing Hay)
No matter what style of martial art you study, one very important aspect is having a strong, powerful fist. Most new students do not have a fist strong enough to punch even foam bags and need guidance to strengthen their fist without injury.
Hung Gar Kung Fu teaches students to proper way to strengthen their fists into powerful weapons, and that training starts with the students' very first lesson.
After reading the school rules, the very first thing a new student is taught, is the proper way to hold a tight fist. With the palm facing up, the fingers are curled and tucked into the palm with the thumb tight against the fingers, then the student is taught to hold their tight fists to their hips with the elbows pointing straight back. From that point on the student will hear the command "tight fists" shouted by his sifu a hundred times a class!
While the student learns the movements to first form, he is taught the one-finger "iron bridge hand" exercise. This iron bridge hand is a breathing/isometric exercise that teaches the student to focus his power to the forearms and the hands. This technique is repeated many times in the Hung Gar fist sets! Next the student is introduced to fish bowl training where wide mouth, round glass fish bowls are used. The student places his hands into tiger-claw, the grabs the edges of he fish bowl with his finger tips, holding the bowls at shoulder level. This exercise is used in conjunction with stance training and is repeated for 10-15 minutes. As the fingers, hands, and arms strengthen you may increase the weight of the fish bowls by adding water, rocks, or sand. Small sand bags are also used by the students for strengthening their grip. Again, this exercise is practiced in conjunction with stances. The student stands in horse stance holding a sand bag with the arm stretched out in front of his body. The student drops the sand bag and reaches out with the opposite hand in tiger-claw and grabs the bag. He then moves the hand with the sandbag up and repeats the exercise for 10-15 minutes. Another exercise with the bag starts in forward stance with the hand holding the bag outstretched to the side and then drops the bag, the opposing hand comes over the head and down to grab the bag while turning the body to face the opposite direction forward stance. The weight and size of the sand bag can vary as your skill increases.
The students are also encouraged to do tiger-claw pushups. These pushups are done by holding the hands in the Tiger Claw and only touching the floor with the finger-tips. As this training is progressing, the student starts striking objects starting with soft and graduating to hard. Foam punching bags are used first, followed by sand bags, ending with the Hung Gar Mook Jung (wooden-dummy). The student is encouraged to start soft when beginning to strike objects and to increase the strength and endurance slowly. Trying to hit the wooden-dummy or even a sand bag too hard before the fist is properly conditioned could cause serious damage to the hands.
When the student finishes first form (2-3 months) the hands are beginning to strengthen and another dimension is added to the fist training: iron rings. The iron rings, weighing from 2-4 lbs., are worn on the arms when form training. The force of the student's strike causes the rings to slide down the arms smashing into the back of the hands, reminding the students to hold a "tight fist." Besides the traditional fist described earlier, Hung Gar also uses several animal "fist."
The Tiger-Claw, which utilizes strong fingers for scratching and grabbing and a powerful palm for striking.
The Leopard Paw relies on strength in the knuckles and the bottom half of the fingers.
The Snake Fist requires the fingers to be straight when striking and again, powerful palms for blocking.
The Crane's Beak, as the snake, utilizes the fingertip power, while the fingers are pressed together to form a small striking surface, also the back of the hand is used for both striking and blocking!
The human body is capable of being hard as iron, as noted in the names: Iron body Kung Fu; Iron Bridge Hand Training; Iron Fist Training; and Iron Palm Training. But to reach that goal, the student first and foremost must learn patience. The practice must be slow, continuous, and disciplined. And to avoid serious injury you should train under a qualified Sifu who knows the use of herbal remedies, such as Dit Da Jow, is a required part of the training.
Free-fighting seems to be an easy thing for everyone, however if you take a closer look, you will find that it contains the techniques of self-defense and attack. Obviously technique cannot be known by everyone. In order to get the best results a long time should be devoted to mastering the technique.
Still, the student must practice every step in order, and must go through a lot of hard work. For instance, practicing fighting exercises between two, three, or more people in order to improve the keenness of the eyes and ears and the quickness of the limbs and body movements. Simultaneously, the student must make use of what he has learned from Kung Fu in the fighting exercises, such as the use of fist and palms and the correct way to defend and attack.
From this, you can see that is is very difficult for a beginner to do these things. In fact, free-fighting is not at all good for a beginner. He knows nothing about the Martial Arts, and he has no experience of such experience of such exercises. If the beginner is stubborn and practices free-fighting in the first few lessons all he gets is black eyes, a broken nose, or broken ribs! Besides, when the student gets involved in free-fighting he always wants to win, but he does not want to hurt the opponent. To be able to do both, the student has to develop the Martial Arts and the techniques of self-defense and attack. The only way to solve this problem is for the student to understand himself fully. For instance, he should consider how long he has been learning Kung Fu, how much time has been practicing it, how quick his limbs are, and how fast his body moves. Only after this kind of self-examination can the student attempt the free-fighting exercise.
Finally, the student must keep in mind that internal strength must be developed through free- fighting. Every action must be useful to the student himself. A Chinese proverb says that "even when a lion fights against a rabbit, he still tries his best to win." By the same token the intention of Martial Arts can be achieved though concentration and perseverance.
--- Cheung Shu Pui
Hung Gar Kung Fu Academy of Mooresville
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