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Unique Shao Lin Kung-Fu Luo Han Quan PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 06 June 2007
Unique Shao Lin Kung-Fu Luo Han Quan
    Luo Han Quan (Arhat Fisting) is one of the superior boxing skills in Shao Lin Kung-fu taken by Shao Lin Kung-fu monks as a unique fighting skill and a treasure of protecting the Shao Lin Temple. We call it unique since it is an unknown and unparalleled skill all over the world.
     In the past, few people knew how Luo Han Quan was handed down from generation to generation. The re-emergence of Shao Lin Luo Han Quan in the world was attributed to Master Shi Degen, one of the last Kung-fu instructors for teaching Shao Lin warrior monks in 1950s. He defied hardship and temptation imparting this treasure to me secretly in the rampant Cultural Revolution period. Had not for him, Luo Han Quan could never get the chance of reemergence.
     With time gone by, nowadays Wushu schools in the name of Shao Lin stand in great numbers with millions of Kung-fu amateurs. Unfortunately, we can no longer see in today's Kung-fu the features of primitive simplicity, bringing fighting and defense joined closely, making the inner and outer associated together as a whole, and joining Zen and boxing into unity. With its culture dying out, Shao Lin Kung-fu has become a kind of performance art to entertain the public. The fragmented so-called Shao Lin Kung-fu has really made me deplorable, worded and sorrowful. I fear that Shao Lin Kung-fu may lose its style one day. Without its individual characteristics, how can Shao Lin Kung-fu stand over the world?
     For the survival of Shao Lin Kung-fu and the promotion of traditional Chinese Kung-fu, I'd like to offer my personal understanding of Luo Han Quan and induce opinions from my fellow workers in the Kung-fu circle so that people can get the whole picture of Shao Lin Kung-fu.
     Shao Lin Luo Han Quan is of primitive simplicity with its unique style. Either for fighting or defense purpose, each movement is swift, fierce, flexible and changeable. It couples hardness with softness, fighting like a tiger and dodging like a mouse, just as a saying goes "as soft as cotton and as hard as iron." It combines flexibility with firmness, standing like a tack and going like a wind, just as a proverb goes "as light as a feather and as stable as Mount Tai." It fosters strength with breath as powerful as a rainstorm and enhances momentum with shouts as loud as a thunder.
     As the boxing book says, "Any movement to start depends on the tread of the back foot", Luo Han Quan emphasizes treads with a footstep to get started and focuses on integrity when putting forth strength.
     Luo Han Quan sets high requirements for body and feet movements. There is a saying "Three Together", asking one's eyes, hands and feet moving together, and "Three Coordination", asking one's tips of fists, feet and nose coordinating each other. The patterns, either in a proper or contrary order, change constantly with any parts of one's body in motion, that is to shake the body, swag the shoulders, twist the waist or sway the hips. Luo Han Quan brings the inner and outer into unity, exercises the muscle, bones and skin externally and fosters energy, intensity and spirit internally. If one practices Luo Han Quan regularly and step by step, the constant efforts will yield sure success, and then he can fight at his ease to reach the goal of "fighting with any part of the body" and "turning each part of the body into fists".
     Shao Lin Luo Han Quan is 18-routine boxing based on the movements of 18 arbats with different characters, habits and appearances. Of 18 arbats, some are aggressive and good at quick and strong assorts, so their movements are mainly for attack purpose. Some are gentle and skilled in overcoming hardness with softness, and each attacking the opponent is in a defensive way. Some are wily and clear at mingling the truth with the false, so their attacks are hard to be guarded or protected against. Some walk at quick and brisk pace with bare feet, their movements are neat and quick as they go like a wind and stand as firm as a crane. The appearances of 18 arbats are quite different, With some like Buddha's warrior attendant with threatening gestures, and some having a benignant look like a living Buddha. Silly, drunk, mad or crazy. All these arbats are so vivid that they seem to emerge in the world.
     Let me take Kai Shan (Breaking the Mountain) Quan, the first routine in the 18-routine Luo Han Quan as an example. The hot-tempered Arbat is good at quick and strong assorts. He starts by treading his footstep and clenching his fists, then snaps a kick and cuts with palms. All the movements are swift, consistent, vigorous, flexible and fierce being suitable for youngsters.
     The boxing patterns are quite simple and mainly named after the fighting skills and the parts they attack on. We can easily recognize these movements as soon as we hear the corresponding names, such as Cut With Palms Thrust a Hand, Wrench, Elbow upon the Heart, Elbow Backwards, Snap a Kick, Hit the Nose, Strike the Stomach, Kick the Crotch just to name a few. Of course, there are also some names derived from the appearance of the arbats, such as Arbat Gestures and Arbat Eyebrows. These patterns conceal the intensions to kill and will make opponents tremble with fear. To sum up, Shao Lin Luo Han Quan puts emphasis on skills with each movement either for fighting or defense. Its real purpose is for self-protection.
     However, when it comes to the advanced stage, there would be subtle interplay between intentions and feelings, and delicate interaction between breath and strength, so that one can fight at his/her own will in a way that brings hardness and softness, movement and standstill, the inner and outer, Zen and boxing into unity. That is the highest level we diligently strive after in the Kung-fu practice.
     In my opinion, Kung-fu is boundless like a sea; only through hard study, regular practice and readiness to learn can one reach the destination.

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