Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gung Hay Fat Choy! And a Happy Gung Gee Fuk Fu to You!

Hung Gar Kung Fu master Lam Sai Wing, a direct disciple of the great Chinese hero, Wong Fei Hung, demonstrating the Hung Gar salute.

After a rough 2009, which included knee pain, chronic stomach issues, a couple of upper respiratory infections and a sprained back, I'm counting on 2010 to be the year I come back!

The year hasn't been a total loss. I did get published in three martial arts magazines: FIGHT! Mixed Martial Arts Life; TKD Times; and the original, BLACK BELT. During my down time, I did spend a lot of time writing. I estimate I'm halfway through writing a teen/young adult novel entitled, "Taming the Tiger." The title is a very rough translation of one of the four pillars of Hung Gar Kung Fu, the Gung Gee Fuk Fu Kuen.

Though I'm a little late for New Year's Day, or a little early for the Chinese New Year Celebration of the Year of the Tiger, I do want to wish everyone Happy New Year, or in Cantonese, Gung Hay Fat Choy!

It's probably because of my work on that novel that my friend and sifu, Don, decided that this should be the year we focus on Gung Gee Fuk Fu Kuen. It is the first of Hung Gar's four pillars. Arguably, it is the core set of that art along with the Tit Sin Kuen (Iron Thread Fist). Some sources I've read indicated that the other pillars, the Fu Hok Sheung Kuen (Tiger and Crane Two Powers Fist) and the 10 Powers Set were created and added to the art by Hung Wong Fei.*

Don resolved that no matter what other sets, techniques or weapons we practice in 2010, we will always start with Gung Gee Fuk Fu Kuen.

A version of the Gung Gee Fuk Fu Kuen

I've taken that and decided to focus on Hung Gar's signature empty hand set, and Hung Gar's signature weapon, the Dai Pa, aka Tiger Fork aka Trident.

Both sets demand a lot of strength, good stances and good concentration. In addition, the Dai Pa will develop a good deal of flow in your movements. It is easily one of the three heaviest weapons I've ever learned, along with the Luk Dim Bun Guan (Nine-foot pole) and the Kwan Dao. If you don't have good flow with the Dai Pa, you will make yourself very, very tired very, very quickly having to muscle your way with such a heavy weapon.

The Dai Pa, or Tiger Fork of Hung Gar. In ancient times, hunters would use these for killing tigers.

For the Gung Gee, I do several runs of that form, which is easily the second-longest I've ever learned. I have to mix it up. There are some moves in the form which must be performed with dynamic tension. However, I'll usually do one run in a slow, relaxed manner. It helps to catch my errors and develop my focus.

But no matter whether I do it slow or fast, with dynamic tension or relaxed and focused, I am paying extra attention to the stances. Without the stances, nothing else in Hung Gar works.

Today, I did five runs of that set, along with a full-body stretch. Tomorrow, I'll probably do one or two, mixed in with three to five runs of the Dai Pa.

By next week, I'll be adding some more exercises to the mix, including bean bag catches, sets with the iron rings, sets with a weight vest, as well as body weight exercises.

Stay tuned. And have a great Year of the Tiger!

*Hung Wong Fei is a renowned hero to the Chinese people for his role in helping to bring down the Ch'ing Dynasty at the start of the 20th Century. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, move movies have been made about Hung Wong Fei or including the character of Hung Wong Fei than any other literary or historical figure. As of this writing, more than 600 movies include Hung Wong Fei. Both Jacky Chan and Jet Li have played Hung.

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