Northern Shaolin (martial art)

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For a general overview of Shaolin martial arts, both Northern and Southern, see Shaolin Kung Fu. For the temple, see Shaolin Monastery.

In its broadest sense, Northern Shaolin (Chinese: 北少林; pinyin: Běishàolín; Cantonese Yale: Bak-siu-làhm) refers to the external (as opposed to internal) martial arts of Northern China referring to those styles from the Northern Shaolin Monastery in Henan. At its most specific, Northern Shaolin refers to a style called Northern Shaolin Boxing School (Chinese: 北少林拳門; Cantonese Yale: Bak-siu-làhm Kyun-mun [1]), disseminated by Gu Yu-jeung (1894–1952; also known as Ku Yu-cheung or, in Pinyin, Gu Ruzhang).

Characteristics[edit]

The Northern Shaolin style of kung fu is one of the most prominent traditional northern styles of Chinese martial arts. The northern styles of kung-fu generally emphasize long range techniques, quick advances and retreats, wide stances, kicking and leaping techniques, whirling circular blocks, quickness, agility, and aggressive attacks.

The system teaches empty-hand techniques and weaponry through predetermined combinations, known as forms, routines, or movement of sets. The students learn the basics by practicing the routines until the movements in the routines can be executed naturally based on instinct. Then, two or multiple man sets are practiced to train responses and applications of techniques learned from the sets. The practice sets/routines are not only practical in applications but are also graceful and artistic in nature. The fluidness of the movements combined with acrobatic techniques are trademarks of the Northern Shaolin sets.

The Northern Shaolin style was made famous by the late Gu Yu-jeung. Many legends tell of Gu's feats; according to tales related by his close students, Gu's father was an accomplished exponent of the Tan Tui ("springing leg") form. When he was young, Gu traveled throughout Northern China to learn all the northern kung fu systems. He was renowned for his Iron Palm techniques and the application of the long spear. He organized all his learnings into what is today's Northern Shaolin style.[2]

History[edit]

The monastery in Henan is the original Shaolin Monastery. The monks began to practice military weapons sometime around the Tang Dynasty and became famous for aiding the future Emperor Li Shimin in struggles against rebellious forces. The monks were primarily known for their spear and staff techniques until the Ming-Qing transition when they began to specialize in unarmed combat. As the reputation of the Shaolin martial arts grew during the following centuries, its name became synonymous with martial arts, regardless of whether an individual art traced its origins to the Shaolin Monastery in Henan or not.[3] As a result, the "Shaolin" moniker was applied to other Buddhist temples with strong reputations for martial arts. The characteristics of the martial arts taught at each temple were so different from each other that they became identified with their place of origin.

The Northern Shaolin(北少林denotes Henan河南崇山少林寺 temple) style associated with Gu Ruzhang was first taught to a lay disciple, the celebrated 18th century master Gan Fengchi of Jiangsu Province, by a Shaolin monk named Zhao Yuan, born Zhu Fu, a member of the Ming royal family who joined the sangha after the Ming was overthrown by the Qing in 1644. (Gan is also remembered for founding the martial art Huāquán 花拳, literally "flower fist", about which he wrote the book Introduction to Huāquán.) Gan in turn taught Wan Bangcai, who taught Yan Degong, who taught Yan Sansen, who taught Yan Jiwen, who taught his nephew Gu Ruzhang.

Generation 1-7

  1. 朝元 和尚 (Monk Zhāo Yuán)
  2. 甘鳳池 (Gān Fèngchí)
  3. 萬邦才 (Wàn Bāngcái)
  4. 嚴徳功 (Yán Dégōng)
  5. 嚴三省 (Yán Sānxǐng)
  6. 嚴機(繼)溫 (Yán Jīwēn)
  7. 顧汝章 (Gù Rǔzhāng)

Yan Jiwen also taught Gu the skills of Iron Body and Iron Palm. On a famous occasion in 1931, Gu is said to have demonstrated the latter on a horse.

Among the martial artists who gathered at the Central National Martial Arts Institute in Nanjing in 1928, Gu placed in the top fifteen and was included—alongside Fu Zhensong, Li Xianwu, Wan Laimin, Wan Laisheng, and Wong Shao Chou (on other accounts, Wan Laiping)—in the Five Southbound Tigers (五虎下江南, Pinyin Wǔhǔ Xià Jiāngnán; literally, "five tigers heading south of the great river"), five masters of the Northern Chinese martial arts sent to Guangzhou (Canton) to organize another National Martial Arts Institute. In Guangzhou, the name "Shaolin"南少林寺福建省(refer to South Shaolin temple in Fukian province--being sub temple from the Northern one) was already associated with Hung Gar and other styles, so Gu's style came to be known by the name Northern Shaolin.

The Northern Shaolin curriculum of Gu Ru Zhang (Ku Yu Cheung)[edit]

Translated Name Chinese Mandarin Pinyin Cantonese Yale Comments
Open the Door 開門 Kāimén Hoi-mun Essential entry/basic skills.
Lead the Way 領路 Lǐnglù Ling-lou Lead the opponent around to his defeat.
Mount the Horse 坐馬 Zuòmǎ Jo-ma Counter-attacks.
Pierce the Heart 穿心 Chuānxīn Chyun-sam Attacks up the solar plexus.
Martial Skill 武藝 Wǔyì Mo-ngai Combat techniques.
Close Combat 短打 Duǎndǎ Dyun-da Close-encounter combinations.
Plum Blossom 梅花 Méihuā Mui-fa Breaking an ambush.
Uprooting Step 拔歩 Bábù Bat-bou Open-space fighting combinations.
Chain of Rings 連環 Liánhuán Lin-waan Chained multiple strikes.
Standard Form/Method of the System 式法 Shìfǎ Sik-faat The essence of the style.

Note that some heirs to Zhang's tradition teach these routines in a different order, particularly those under [[Chan Kwok Wai]陳國偉].

Uses[edit]

Northern Shaolin is the basis for Firebending in the Avatar Series.

External Links[edit]

- Shaolin Jingang Bashi - A system considered to be a 'Northern Shaolin' style, though not related to the lineage of Ku Yu Cheung.


References[edit]

  1. ^ "Academia Sino-Brasileira de Kung Fu". Retrieved 2010-04-15. 
  2. ^ Content provided by Sifu Kenneth Hui of the Northern Shaolim Kung Fu Association
  3. ^ Shahar, Meir. The Shaolin Monastery: History, Religion, and the Chinese Martial Arts. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008 (ISBN 0824831101)