Tiger Liver-Gall Bladder
Monkey Heart-Small Intestine
Crane Lung-Large Intestine
I was introduced to these movements in my youth - as a foundation to learning 'Old' (Yang) Taijiquan! In those days traditional training from a Chinese teacher was never questioned. The onus was on 'secrecy' - as if no one else possessed the knowledge just shared (today, the emphasis in China is upon an open sharing). I was told that the outer bodily positions-structures guided the qi energy with greater force into (and through) the five sets of corresponding inner organs thus strengthening and purifying them.
These exercises are established upon the theory of the 'Five Phases' (五行 - Wu Xing) - first found in the 'Classic of History' (書經 - Shu Jing) - probably linked to the five planets visible to the naked-eye of the ancient civilisations:
Tiger Liver-Gall Bladder
Monkey Heart-Small Intestine
Crane Lung-Large Intestine
As the 'Bear' is the central animal influence of our gongfu family style - this practice was seen as establishing (and enhancing) the rooted and central stability (and strength) this animal represents (the 'spirit' of the bear involves the practitioner suddenly standing-up and appearing much bigger and over-powering). According to the English language Wiki-page - this 'Five Animal Interplay' exercise is linked to the development of Hung Gar and Fujian White Crane (Bak Hok)!
The way I was taught this exercise involved 'morning' practice (yin moving to yang) and 'evening' practice (yang moving to yin) - with the movements staying the same. Unlike the 'connected' flow shown in the above video (a different style or method) - I was taught 'single' structure exercises that started with feet shoulder-width apart and hands by my sides. After assuming and holding the required position - the structure was completely dropped away back to the 'ready' (neutral) position - in preparation for assuming the next (different) position. I was taught that all these five movements exist implicitly in the Taijiquan Form - and so eventually I was no longer required to practice them separately.
I was told (a long time ago) that our Hakka family Style of Longfist may well have a 'Chaquan' component within it. Certainly, the movements contained in the clip below are similar - or identical in application - but I think our Longfist is older than the arrival of Arabs in China and it is more likely that these Merchants 'borrowed' from our Style rather than the other way around. It is a matter of working-out the logical 'chain of evidence':
This is a Norhern Style historically associated with the 'Hui' Muslims living in China - the descendants of Arab (Turkic) Merchants who stayed in China and married Chinese women around a thousand years ago. I suspect these men (and their descendants) constructed this Style using common Longfist techniques. This variant is termed 'Yanzhou' - which I assume is a geographical location in Shandong. The name may mean 'Investigate' or 'Learned Fist' (perhaps in the context of 'Knowledgeable Boxing') - depending upon how '查' (cha2) is pronounced. When written as '楂' (cha2) - it refers to a 'wooden raft' - perhaps used in 'travelling' and 'trading'! Finally, although I have no evidence of this myself, I was told that 'Cha' might be a Chinese language transliteration of the (Turkic-Mongolian) term 'Khan'.
The footage and graphics contained in the following (Chinese language) video are very interesting when it is understood that the bones are aligned, the bodyweight is dropping into the ground (rooting) and a rebounding force is rising. The mind is calm and expansive whilst the joints, limbs (and sections of the torso) are 'rounded' (concave and convex). When the joints are 'rounded' the ligaments and tendons are relaxed and extended (like a drawn bow-string). Although the muscle are relaxed and released from any unnecessary tension - there is a natural 'torque' (twisting tension) - again, similar to a bow-string that is drawn with just the right amount of tension - and no more.
This is important as most people are far too 'tense' and 'rigid' as a habit. Once the awareness penetrates the centre of the bones and all this is achieved - this advanced understanding spreads all over the body and is held in place by an expanded awareness. It can then be reproduced in any and all Form movements and in any self-defence situations. The bodyweight drops down through the centre of the bones (stimulating the bone marrow) and 'rebounds' up from the ground - also through the centre of the bones - and can be emitted through any part of the body. This power production can then be augmented by the localised speed of a limb or position (angle) of the attacking body-part. A perfectly timed blow can be massively magnified in power by catching an opponent 'running in' onto a punch or kick, etc. Here, in this beautiful Shaolin (Europe) video we can see how the bow is correctly 'drawn':
All this is achieved through holding the '站桩' (Zhan Zhuang) - or 'Standing like a Stake' - ('Holding the Ball') position. Although I focus upon the 'rounded' structure of this exercise - its name traditionally derives from a foundational 'stake' or 'pile' (shaped like a 'rounded' Western telegraph pole) that was driven deep into the ground (or sea-bed) which served as an anchoring (and firm) support for a building. There is 'rootedness' (dropped bodyweight) and there is expanding 'stabilisation' (rebounding and rising) power! This is an analogy worthy of further consideration - as it is this psychological and physical 'roundedness' that makes all this ability possible!
Our Hakka family gongfu style is primarily 'Northern' in structure and was brought into the New Territories of Hong Kong by Chinese people migrating from around the Henan area (during the 1600s as the Ming Dynasty collapsed) - but sometimes much further North (my partner's family migrated to the Shenzhen area from Shandong). Our 'Northern Snake Fist' (北蛇拳 - Bei Shi Quan) is comprised of sixty-four movements - which mirror the sixty-four hexagrams (卦 - Gua) of the 'Yijing' (易經) - known as the 'Change Classic' or 'Book of Change' (I Ching) in the West. This text must be studied over many years supplemented by hours of seated meditation and the perfection of 'movement' and 'stillness' when this 'Form' (形 - Xing) is deployed. This is an integrated Form requiring the mastering of the 'external' (外 - Wai) and the 'internal' (内 - Nei) - or 'Zagong' (雜功).
All traditional 'Forms' begin with the practitioner facing 'South' - the area of warmth, good farming land, trade, plenty and controllable borders within ancient China. By comparison, the 'North' can be cold, overly 'hot', suffer from a scarcity of food and peopled by barbarian hordes all seeking to attack, destroy and steal! The 'Snake Form' unfolds on overlapping 'cross' formations - starting toward the 'East', West', 'North' and then 'South' repeating the same techniques - which then adjust into a new set of techniques. The 'cross' alters into 'Southwest', 'Northeast', 'Southeast' and 'Northwest', etc. There are a number of unique movements (such as 'Gorilla Punches the Ground') - but generally speaking the 'cross' (both 'cardinal' and 'ordinal') formation holds true. This section appears to the 'Southwest' and is the first repetition of 'three' performed in this direction. The structure builds-up just as a hexagram does in the 'Yijing':
1) Foundation (first two lines of a hexagram - representing the Broad Earth) - Free Stance - Bodyweight is primarily channelled down through the back leg 'bent' at the knee and into the ground 'rooting' the structure. A 'rebounding' force emanates from the ground and up the supporting leg - spreading through the torso, upper limbs, and non-supporting front leg. This arrangement generates a 'floating' orientation in the front-leg whereby the foot feels as if it wants to 'raise' automatically - and the practitioner must exert 'intention' to keep the toes of the free-foot gently 'touching' the ground. This is in preparation for the 'groin kick' which has its origination in this 'Form'. the foot swiftly travels upwards with the toes turned 'down' and the groin of the enemy is impacted with considerable force. Due to the expert position of the back-leg and pelvic girdle - the front-leg can continuously 'pivot' around the created leverage with very little effort and in a continuous manner - generating huge amounts of force with very little effort. The groin area of the enemy may be struck repeatedly without stopping. Although all this is present and taught as an application to the 'Snake Fist' Form - within the Form itself - the front-foot never leaves the ground. Stance work is generally quite 'high' in orientation - with foot-work premised on 'light', 'short' but 'precise' heel-to-toe steps (involving bodyweight being expertly 'shift' from side to side).
2) Torso (lines three and four of a hexagram - representing Humanity). The torso 'slides' and 'shifts' from side-to-side and 'forward' into newly acquired or 'opened' space. The torso retains a forty-five degree angle as its continuously 'shifts' one side forward and then the other (sixty-one movements in this 'Form' continuously move 'forward' with only three movements taking a step backward). The torso also 'tilts' left and right from the centre-line as movements are executed - creating a moving target that is difficult to hit as it advances. Gaps are created through the intimidation of asserted movement - space which the Snake Form practitioner then occupies by 'stepping' into - thus depriving the opponent of options. This works because the 'Snake' is limited to the lethal 'eye-strike' which must be defended against at all costs! The torso 'slithers' and 'slides' into the space generated through the intimidation of the opponent! Despite moving forward the onus is upon preventing the opponent from generating or landing any powerful or significant blows! The torso shifts left and right - and forward into front-left and front-right! The expert use of footwork establishes and maintains this momentum.
3) Upper Limbs (lines five and six of the hexagram - representing the Divine Sky). In this section the reverse hand is deflecting the opponent's attacking limb down and to the side of the torso. This involves an open-hand with slightly spread finger aligned with an empowered fore-arm and 'pointed' elbow. The alignment and rebounding bodyweight renders this arm as strong and as heavy as a block of concrete and yet as light and manoeuvrable as silk blowing in the wind! The footwork and torso can 'move' around this 'blocking' arm so that direct conflict is avoided and the opponent's natural strength is bypassed by a superior (and deadly) technique. Simultaneously, the lead-hand strikes with the middle (longest) finger to one of the enemy's eyes. The severity of this attack can be varied from 'gouging' to a light 'tap' and every level of vision-disruption inbetween. The Four-fingers can be separated to create a 'double' strike which hits both the enemy's eyes simultaneously with one-hand. The fingers then collapse palm 'inward' (toward the chest) so that a powerful 'back-hand' strike is delivered to the eye and nose area of the opponent. This is followed by the hand suddenly 'closing' and delivering a power short-range punch to to side of the nose or eye structures of the opponent. During training, these blows must be practiced both 'slowly' and very 'fast'!
Advanced martial arts practice is ethereal even though it involves the movement of the body. In fact, moving the body is basic gongfu training, a mastery of which should be gained in one’s youth if possible. When the body ‘ages’ - a practitioner does not want the problem of mastering martial technique whilst coming to terms with how ‘ageing’ changes the mind and body. Knowing how to stand, fall, get-up, moving, kick, punch, block and evade, etc, are foundational issues that must be thoroughly absorbed into the deepest levels of the mind and body well before middle-age is reached. Of course, this is not always the case, as some people take-up the practice of traditional Chinese martial arts late in life – but with regards the more robust and rugged ‘external’ techniques – youthful practice is preferred. This is why many older people (with no previous experience) start their martial arts training through one of the ‘internal’ arts – which are a product of an ‘advanced’ and ‘mature’ mind-set.
On the other hand, if an individual is able to build 20-30 years of training prior to hitting 40-50 years of age – then the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons and inner organs have all had time to experience a ‘hardening’ process over-time - and are far more ‘robust’ whilst the individual traverses into older age. Probably the greater reason for early martial arts practice is that the ability to produce massive (internal and external) impact power (with minimum) effort must be mastered before the body transitions into older age. This observation does not mean that older people cannot achieve this ability later in their life – but to already possess this devastating power is one less burden – particularly as we may also have far more responsibilities as mature people than the average young person. However, with the right type of instruction from a genuine Master, anyone of any age can ‘master’ gongfu regardless of circumstances. Motivation is the key to it all.
The mind must be ‘still’ and ‘expansive’. Its psychic fabric must be simultaneously ‘empty’ and yet ‘envelop’ all things without exception! Although there is much experimentation in the West with the physical techniques of the many (and varied) gongfu styles – very few practitioners are interested in the spiritual or higher psychological aspects of traditional Chinese martial arts. This is because gongfu has been taught the wrong way around in the West to suit the cultural bias of the fee-paying audience. Whereas in China kicking is learned before punching – in the West punching is taught before kicking (because of the influence of Western Boxing). Whereas in China a gongfu practitioner learns to stand still and to stand ‘solid’ whilst defending the ten directions – in the West students are taught to move around before being taught how to ‘stand still’ (this is because Western students do not understand the important of achieving inner and outer ‘stillness’). Whereas in China gongfu student learn to ‘relax’ before assuming postures – in the West students are taught to ‘stretch’ using yoga-like techniques (mostly unknown in China). Whereas students in China learn to ‘strike’ various wooden objects to condition the bones of the hands and feet – in the West, students are encouraged to hit ‘soft’ pads that give a false impression of what it is like to hit a ‘real’ body! In the West, the mind is ‘entertained’ as a means to secure continued fee-paying through class attendance – whilst in China the Master continuously looks for new ways of ‘testing’ the virtue of the student and for any reason to ‘expel’ them from the training hall!
All this ‘inversion’ must be remedied if the highest levels of spiritual and physical mastery are to be achieved. This has nothing to do with rolling around on a padded floor wearing padded-gloves – and everything to do with ‘looking within’ to refine the flow of internal energy. The awareness of the mind must permeate every cell of the physical body whilst the practitioner sits correctly in the meditation posture. What else is there? When advanced practitioners ascend to a certain age of maturity, reality has nothing to do with the ego pursuit of ‘winning’ or ‘losing’ in petty disputes that ultimately mean nothing. Most of the combat sports of the moment are fleeting and exist merely to make money – and they are ineffective on the modern battlefield and not practiced by the military! The final lesson is to ‘leave the body’ with the minimum of fuss when the time presents itself. In a very real sense, a genuine Master of martial arts has ‘already’ transcended the boundaries of material limitation whilst still living. This sense of ‘completion’ and ‘transcendence’ is what draws the already perceptive into his or her presence to receive instruction...
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.