Monkey Kung Fu
|Also known as||Hou Quan, Da Sheng Men, Monkey Boxing, Monkey Fist, Tai Shing Pek Kwar|
|Country of origin||China|
|Creator||Kou Si (Kou Sze), (Kau Sei) 寇四|
|Famous practitioners||Geng De Hai (Gan Dak Hoi), Chan Sau Chung, Xiao Yingpeng, Paulie Zink, Michael Matsuda.|
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|Chinese martial arts|
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There are a number of independently developed systems of monkey kung fu. Examples includes Xingzhemen (行者門) named after the protagonist Sun Wukong of the popular Ming dynasty novel Journey to the West, Nanhouquan (南猴拳) or Southern Monkey Fist originating from the Southern Shaolin Temple as well as the better-known Da Sheng Pi Gua Men 大聖劈掛門 style of Hong Kong.
The Hou Quan style from the Emei region, taught by the famous "Monkey King" Xiao Yingpeng and others, was also used as the basis for the modern wushu variant of monkey style (and monkey staff) that is often seen in demonstrations and competitions today. Each independent style has its own unique approach to the expression of how to incorporate a monkey's movements into fighting.
Da Sheng Men
Da Sheng Men, or "Great Sage" Kung Fu, was developed near the end of the Qing dynasty (1911) by a fighter named Kou Si (Kau Sei) from a small village in Northern China. Legend states that while serving a sentence in prison, he observed a group of monkeys from his cell. As he studied their movements and mannerisms, he found that they combined well with his own Di Tang style. While exact circumstances of Kou Si's inspiration remain legend, upon his release he developed his new style of fighting and dubbed it 'Da Sheng Men' (Great Sage Style) in honor of the Monkey King Sun Wukong in the Buddhist tale Journey to the West.
Da Sheng Pi Gua
Da Sheng Pi Gua Kung Fu 大聖劈掛門 was developed by Kou Si's student Geng De Hai who started learning Pi Gua kung fu from his father Kan Wing Kwai from as early as 8 years of age. Gan Wing Gwai was a master of Pi Gua kung fu and after his death, Kou Si decided to train Geng De Hai in Da Sheng Kung Fu. After mastering Da Sheng Kung Fu and combining it with Pi Gua Kung Fu, out of respect for Kou Si's friendship, in naming the new technique Geng De Hai placed Da Sheng at the beginning followed by Pi Gua hence the name Da Sheng Pi Gua Kung Fu.
Traditional hou quan as taught in Mainland China includes running on all fours (i.e. the hands and feet), various difficult acrobatic movements such as flipping sideways in the air, front flips, back flips, back handsprings, hand stands, walking on the hands, forward lunges/dives, backward lunges, spinning on the butt, spinning on the back and many kicks and strikes. Most of the attacks are aimed at the knees, groin area, throat or eyes of the opponent and hand strikes are normally either open handed slaps or clawing with a semi-closed fist called the monkey claw. A wide array of facial monkey expressions are also practiced, inclusive of happiness, anger, fear, fright, confusion and bewilderment etc. Except for very brief periods, most movements inclusive of running are executed from either a squatting or semi-squatting position and are normally accompanied by very swift and 'jerky' head movements as the practitioner nervously looks around. The monkey staff, or hou gun (猴棍), is one of this style's specialty weapons. Monkey boxing is an imitative technique and so execution of the movements and facial expressions must be so convincing that it looks exactly like a monkey and not simply like a human imitating a monkey hence the very high degree of difficulty associated with this technique.
There are five variations of monkey kung fu developed as part of the Tai Shing system:
- Drunken Monkey uses a lot of throat, eye and groin strikes as well as tumbling and falling techniques. It incorporates a lot of false steps to give the appearance it is defenseless and uses a lot of off balance strikes. The practitioner waddles, takes very faltering steps and sometimes fall to the ground and lies prone while waiting for the opponent to approach at which time a devastating attack is launched at the knees or groin areas of the opponent. In drunken monkey you use more internal energy than any other. It is one of the more difficult of the monkey styles to master and also extremely effective against a standard, attack-oriented enemy. Countering this style involves shifting your body around often to ensure that the Drunken Monkey user impacts more solid, tougher areas of your body.
- Stone Monkey is a "physical" style. The practitioner trains up his body to exchange blows with the opponent - Stone Monkey uses a kind of iron body method. It will leave an area exposed on its body for an opponent to attack, so it can attack a more vital spot on the body. It is important not to attack reflexively at open spots, and try to hammer away at their weak spots until they give in.
- Lost Monkey feigns a lot. Practitioners of Lost Monkey give the appearance of being lost and confused to deceive the opponent into underestimating his abilities, and he retaliates when it is least expected. The hands and footwork change and flow from each other at will. All monkeys are sociable animals and so they live in troupes or family groups. They are also very territorial by nature and so when they wander into the territory of another troupe there is normally a fight possibly resulting in death to the trespassers. This technique incorporates the fear, nervousness and mischief of a monkey who has wandered into a neighboring territory, in that it attempts to pick and eat as many fruits and insects as quickly as is possible while nervously looking around before scurrying back to its own home range.
- Standing Monkey or Tall Monkey is a relatively conventional monkey that likes to keep an upright position and avoid tumbling around. This style is more suited for tall people. Tall monkey likes to climb body limbs to make attacks at pressure points. It is a long range style.
- Wooden Monkey mimics a serious, angry monkey that attacks and defends with ferocity. The attitude of this monkey is more serious, and its movements are noticeably less light than the other monkeys. Wood monkey likes to grapple and bring its opponent to the ground.
The favorite weapon for Monkey Boxing is the staff or stick and standing beside it, the upper end of the staff is normally eye height for the practitioner. There are also other weapons favored by Monkey Boxers (e.g. the broadsword, straight sword, spear, and the iron ring). Monkey forms are not normally performed fast paced from start to finish as in other techniques, instead the practitioner will execute a very swift series of movements then stop to 'play' (which means to fidget or scratch and it usually involves nervously looking around, picking imaginary fruits or insects from off the legs, arms, ears or head and even the groin area then very quickly eating them or scooping water from an imaginary pond or stream then drinking it). In the lost monkey technique, there is a lot of running, nervously looking around, rolling, kicking and punching to the groin area of the opponent. Running is done in a semi-squatting position and a clenched fist is not used; instead the fingers are loosely held in a semi-closed fist sometimes referred to as the monkey claw. With the exception of the Tall Monkey technique, all monkey forms tend to be executed from the squatting and stooping positions. When well executed, monkey forms are comical and entertaining, so tend to attract the most attention at martial arts tournaments.
Movies and Television Programs
The following films showcase Monkey Kung Fu either throughout the movie or in television programs or in major scenes:
- Hou quan kou si, English title Monkey's Fist, (1974) features real-life Monkey Kung Fu specialist Chan Sau Chung.
- Tie ma liu, English title Iron Monkey, (1977) starring Chen Kuan Tai.
- In the movie Knockabout, (1979) the lead protagonist Yipao used monkey-fist technique (which he learned from a cop pretending to be a beggar) against The Fox, which happens to be his former master and the one who killed his friend Taipao.
- Feng hou, English title Mad Monkey Kung-Fu, (1979), although the technique displayed in this movie is really the 'monkey' variation of the Lau Family Hung Gar system and not genuine Da Sheng Pi Gua Kung Fu.
- Chu long ma liu, English title Monkey's Fist Floating Snake, (1979)
- Zui hou nu, English title Lady Iron Monkey, (1979) starring Fung Ling Kam.
- Liu he qian shou, English title Return of the Scorpion, (1979) features 7 Kung Fu masters, one (i.e. Chan Sau Chung) is a practitioner of Monkey Kung Fu. In the first fight scene, Chan Sau Chung does a few movements of the Drunken Monkey technique in that he take a few faltering steps (i.e. Monkey Staggering Steps) then he lies prone and waits for his opponent to approach at which time he does a massive wheel kick and immediately launches an attack at his opponents groin (i.e. angry monkey steals the peaches).
- Jackie Chan's Drunken Master II (1994) (AKA Legend of Drunken Master (2000) (U.S.)) features drunken monkey-type styles in one fight scene. Wong Fei Hung takes a form he calls "monkey drinks master's wine" which bears resemblances and has a similar name to the Drunken Monkey forms "The Monkey King Stealing Wine", "The Monkey King Drinking Wine" and "The Monkey King Becoming Drunk." Although it should be noted that the Chinese-language version does NOT make a monkey reference - the original language references the Immortal, Hsiang Chung Li, one of the 8 Drunken Gods holding his giant wine pot. Other references to monkey in the English version "Monkey kicking" and so forth was changed simply for Western audiences as the original reference again is to one of the famous 8 Immortals, Li Tie Kuai, the crippled beggar known for his devastating kicks in the Shao-Lin Kung-Fu forms.
- Chui ma lau, English title Drunken Monkey, uses the Monkey fist variant Drunken Monkey, (2002) although the technique displayed in this movie is really the 'monkey' variation of the Lau Family Hung Gar system and not genuine Tai Shing Pak Kwar Kung Fu.
- In the film "Extreme Fighter," Monkey Kung Fu master Michael Matsuda co-stars in the role of the "monkey man."
- In the film Bloodsport a Monkey Kung Fu user participates in an underground fighting tournament.
- In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Ray Park can be seen using an adapted form of Monkey Kung Fu as Sith Lord Darth Maul.
- Eileen from Video Game Virtua Fighter Series uses Kou-Ken known as Monkey Kung Fu.
- In Kung Fu Panda there was a monkey master that attacked obviously with the monkey style of kung fu. He was voiced by Jackie Chan
- In The Forbidden Kingdom Jackie Chan used the Drunken Monkey style since he had to drink wine all the time to be immortal, but of course he would still be drunk.
- In the Disney cartoon Kim Possible, Kim's sidekick, Ron Stoppable, is embued with the abilities of Monkey Kung Fu master by four ancient statues. Also on the show, Montgomery Fiske (a.k.a. Monkey Fist), a villain with surgically altered hands and feet, is a master of Da Sheng Pi Gua.
- In the movie The Quest, the representative from China uses an obvious monkey style for his second match.
- "KUNG FU PANDA: Big Bear Cat was "PO-fect"". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2009-12-27.