Lum sect is a branch of the Buddhist school known as Ch'an (the
equivalent in Japan is Zen; the Shaolin-descended school of
martial arts and philosophy in Japan is "Shorinji
Zen"). Unlike most monotheistic Occidental religions that
supplanted each other as Europe became "civilized,"
many Asian religions and philosophies resulted in amalgamations.
Hence, over time, the Ch'an sect became a complex mixture of
Buddhist and Taoist concepts. This first section reviews the
Ch'an philosophy-base as it existed from about 1860 until
recently. Below are additional sections about slightly
"purer" forms of root Taoism and Buddhism.
One further note
of importance: most Asian belief systems are represented by both
a religious and a non-religious form. Religious aspects are
those that adhere to belief in deities, supernatural
occurrences, and some distinct model for an after-life. In
contrast, the non-religious (we term these
"philosophical" for simplicity) aspects do not concern
themselves with deities, magic, or "unknowable"
knowledge. It is the latter aspect of both Buddhism and Taoism
that sets Ch'an apart as a distinct entity.
Perhaps most glaringly absent in the study of
Shaolin has been the philosophy of this unique sect of
non-secular Buddhism. Though Shaolin has become famous for the
gung fu styles and abilities of its monks, the foundation and
spirit of the Order are actually much more centered in the
Buddhist teachings of an Indian teacher named Bodhidharma, or,
to the Chinese, Tamo (440?-528 AD). Like most spiritual masters,
Tamo left few direct writings of his interpretation of the
Dharma (or principles) of Buddhism, but through written and oral
history, Shaolin have maintained his legacy. This is the first
lesson in the Shaolin interpretation of its spiritual roots and
principles that we shall present.
A translation of his major teachings has been
published (The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma) in which the author
wonders at why these basic teachings have not been more widely
circulated. We concur with this question, and suggest the
following possible reasons:
First, Tamo's message is simple: The mind is
the Buddha. Tamo rephrases the four noble truths and eightfold
path as the core reality to seekers of enlightenment--simple
enough concepts--but places the entirety of becoming (or rather recognizing
the state of being) enlightened on the individual. In a sweeping
gesture he urges self-motivation, self-awareness, and
self-recognition at the expense of hierarchical
"orders" of monks and token ceremonies. Cut the
extraneous, he goads, ignore illusions, and go for the core
which is already there. Certainly such a philosophy is anathema
to practices that perpetuate the illusion that someone else can
Second, Tamo left the disciple considerable
latitude in how to live, as did Shakyamuni himself. He did not
require monks to be celibate, to fast, or perform rites of
asceticism, nor was the "priesthood" limited to males.
Quite the contrary, he embraced the human condition as the
starting point from which all "higher" revelations
would spring. Shaolin remains unique in allowing its members
this degree of freedom (and thus being more like Methodist
ministers than Catholic priests). In Tamo's message of
simplicity (but not specifically denial), he limits the more
embellished aspects of sectarian religious practice and
Finally, I would suggest that Tamo's influence
has been largely circumvented by the plethora of Buddhist
scriptures, scholars, and sects. As with most original thinkers,
there is more commentary written about him than by
him, and the same can be said of interpretations and critiques
of his teachings.
That said, we now offer an annotated review of
Tamo's teachings as embraced by the Shaolin Order for during its
1500-year history. Tamo's words are in italics and the
editorial notes are in standard text. Enjoy and be free!
The Outline of
There are many roads that lead to the Way,
but these contain but two common features: recognition and
practice. By recognition is meant that meditation reveals the
truth that all living things share a common nature, a nature
concealed by the veils of illusion.
By "many roads," Tamo points out
that enlightenment is reached by different souls in different
ways; these may include the various seated and moving
meditations. Such practices are termed yogas, gung fu, and
sudden self-realization. However, all of the possible routes
share the common themes of recognition of self-awareness, and
practice of the Dharma--the Eightfold Path-- that allows
enlightenment (covered later in this document). Recognition of
the fact that all of life is connected spiritually is essential
to reaching self-awareness.
Those who shun illusion for reality, who
meditate on walls and the loss of self and other, on the unity
of mortal and sage, and are undeterred by written holy words are
in accord with the faculty of reason. Lacking motion and effort,
they embrace reason.
Reality and what appears as reality are
difficult to separate, especially if one looks to outside
sources (which may themselves be illusions). Wall meditation is
the inward focus of the mind on itself, done in peaceful
surroundings. Such a mind must cut through illusion and realize
that duality is also an illusion. We are mortal and sage; we are
self and all else. Once this reality is seen, we become reason
By practice it is meant the participation
and acceptance of the Four Noble Truths: suffering, adapting,
non-attachment, and practicing the Dharma. First comes
suffering. When followers of the Way suffer, they should recall
that in the countless previous incarnations they have been
deterred from the path, sometimes becoming trivial and angry
even without cause. The suffering in this life is a punishment,
but also an opportunity to exercise what I have learned from
past lives. Men and gods are equally unable to see where a seed
may bear fruit. I accept this suffering as a challenge and with
an open heart. In recognizing suffering, you enter onto the path
to the Way.
This is a lesson in karma1, that we
are ultimately responsible for our actions (also called the Law
of Cause and Effect). If we can learn from a punishment and
attain true rehabilitation, we rejoin the path and move ahead.
Because the First Noble Truth declares "there is suffering
in life," an adept is expected to know suffering as both a
condition of being alive and as a disease that can be treated.
Second, adapt to your conditions. Mortals
are ruled by their surroundings, not by themselves. All we
experience depends upon surroundings. If we reap a reward or
great boon, it is the fruit of a seed we planted long ago.
Eventually, it will end. Do not delight in these boons, for what
is the point? In a mind unmoved by reward and setback, the
journey on the path continues.
In essence, Tamo says that we shall all have
good days and bad days, the "goodness" and
"badness" depending on circumstances or viewpoint.
Accept what comes, knowing that both good and bad will pass, and
stay focused on the important points of the Dharma.
Third, seek no attachments. Mortals delude
themselves. They seek to possess things, always searching for
something. But enlightened ones wake up and choose reason over
habit. They focus on the Way and their bodies follow them
through each season. The world offers only emptiness, with
nothing worth desiring. Disaster and Prosperity constantly trade
places. To live in the three realms is to stay in a house on
fire. To have a body is to experience suffering. Does any body
have peace? Those who see past illusion are detached, and
neither imagine nor seek. The sutras2 teach that to
seek is to suffer, to seek not is to have bliss. In not seeking,
you follow the path.
Buddhism is notorious for its non-attachment3.
Suffering is the disease that binds us to rebirth, and
attachment--especially for life--is the tether that keeps us
suffering. We all experience ups and down, and these are
transitory. To attach to any feeling is to anchor in the
fleeting moment that quickly becomes the past. Accept what
comes, even enjoy (or loathe) it, then let it go. This is how to
Fourth, practice the Dharma, the reality
teaching all spirits are pure. All illusion is dropped. Duality
does not exist. Subject and object do not exist. The sacred
texts say the Dharma has no being because it is free from the
attachment to being; the Dharma has no self because it is free
from the attachment to self. Those who understand this truth
wisely practice the path. They know that the things that are
real do not include greed and envy, and give themselves with
their bodies, minds, and spirits. They share material things in
charity, with gladness, with no vanity or thought of giver or
taker of the gift. In this way they teach others without
becoming attached. This allows them to help others see and enjoy
the path to enlightenment.
This passage contains several important
concepts, and it would have been nice of Tamo to elaborate more
fully. The practice of Dharma refers to following Buddhism's
Eightfold Path to Enlightenment. The Path is central to all
sects of Buddhism, though there are varying interpretations of
its meanings. The central elements are: right views, right
thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right
devotion, right mindfulness, and right meditation. Volumes have
been written about these concepts, and so we shall not pursue
them further here at this time.
Buddhism appears in conflict with many other
philosophically based religions in denying the duality of the
universe. For example, many schools teach the dual nature of
reality as positive/negative, hot/cold, male/female, and so on.
Buddhism teaches that duality is an illusion. Reality may
manifest positive/negative/neutral, hot/warm/cool/cold, or
male/female/sexless (as in many microorganisms). Consider the
cliché "fight or flight." The implication is duality,
either run or attack. A third possibility is also readily
apparent: freeze and do nothing. Not all possibilities are dual
or triple in nature, so Buddhism seeks to free us from seeing
the world through the blinders of a philosophical model.
The teachings also include room for sharing,
mainly in efforts to help other souls see the possibility of
enlightenment. Actions taken to help such souls are seen as
highly important to followers of the path. Indeed, those who
become enlightened and later choose to undergo another rebirth
into this world are seen as "saints," forgoing Nirvana
to help others escape rebirth. Such noble souls are called
1 Karma is a very specific term in Asian
thought, and is a measure of debt or accumulation that impedes
the advancement of the spirit to a higher level. There is no
such thing as "good" karma in Asia; one either
acquires karma (not good) or eliminates it (the goal of
2 Sutra is an Indian word for sacred texts.
From the word meaning a string, it became the string of words of
3 There is a logical discordance in Buddhist
practice: the seeking to not-seek. More will be said about this
in later annotations, but for now consider Tamo's core point as
follows: seeking and non-seeking are both desires (and hence
causes of suffering). By neither seeking nor not-seeking, one
reaches a state of "mindless bliss, or the
What is a martial
The concept of a style is a
rather complicated one, and Chinese martial arts claim as many
as 1500 different styles. By "style" we mean a
particular school of martial practice, with its own training
methods, favored techniques, and emphasis on attack and defense.
While it is impossible to quantify differences between most
styles, it is easy to see the distinctions between such
disparate approaches to combat as practiced by Tiger, Crane, and
Monkey stylists. In choosing a style (a contemporary privilege;
traditionally, styles were assigned by the teachers), try to
find one that suits your physical attributes, interests, and
sense of utility. It does no good to study the graceful
single-leg and flying techniques of White Crane if you have the
flexibility and grace of a turtle! On the other hand, and gung
fu practice will enhance your physical skills, dexterity, and
alertness, and it is not uncommon for a beginner in one style to
change to a more "appropriate" style later. Whatever
else may be said of styles, the first year basics are almost
universal--punches, kicks, and stances show little variation at
the beginner's level.
What is Gung
In dealing with the recently
popularized concept of Gung Fu, one must begin the discussion by
explaining that Gung Fu is not a martial art unto itself, yet it
encompasses the most effective and devastating methods of
self-preservation known to man. The identity of Gung Fu is
diverse; over 1,000 styles are known or recognized. From Gung Fu
came Karate, Escrima, and most important, a way of thinking that
became a code of life.
Gung Fu requires of the
practitioner a strict code of physical and mental discipline,
unparalleled in Western pursuits. It is only as a whole concept
that Gung Fu can be discussed, and this entails more than
To be adept, one must follow the
Tao, the way, the essence of the philosophy and life of the
originators of the arts. One cannot pay to learn this art; it is
only acquired by the desire to learn, the will to discipline
one's self, and devotion to practice.
The standards to be met to attain
proficiency are so high that the Chinese refer to the master as
a disciple of the way of the tiger, the sign of the dragon.
The power of the Gung Fu
practitioner lay in his ability to defend himself against
impossible odds and situations. After years of the most diligent
practice, these monks became more than merely adept at the ways
of survival. But the initial acceptance to be one of the chosen
few was difficult.
As children, applicants for
priesthood were made to do the most menial and difficult work
related to the upkeep of the temple. Their sincerity and ability
to keep the secrets of the order were severely tested for years
before the finer aspects of the order were revealed to them.
But, upon being accepted by the elders of the temple, his or her
entry into Gung Fu was to open a whole new world. The student
would work long hours training mind and body to work together in
a coordinated effort. He would learn the principles of combat,
the way of the Tao, and together they would ensure his way to
One would be taught initially the
first basic fist sets, the prearranged forms which simulated
multiple attacks. These in turn became more complex as the
student advanced, while he would simultaneously be learning the
way of Taoism.
Upon completion of the student
stage, one became a disciple who would be taught the higher
secrets of the arts and philosophies. Weapons of all
descriptions would become familiar to him as weapons of attack
and defense. One would perfect his movements to coincide with
his breathing. One's mind would meld into the realm of
meditation known as mindlessness. And one would learn to harness
Ch'i is a concept of such
magnitude that we shall deal with it throughout this site in
many different lights. For now, suffice it to say that ch'i is
the power governing the universal power, so to speak. Only by
harnessing such energy can a person of mild stature learn to
break bricks with his bare hand, or learn to sense the movements
of an opponent in the darkness. The list of feats goes on and
on; we shall discuss some of these in other sections of this
Essential to movements in Gung Fu
are ch'i-controlled actions. Compare the movements of a Karateka
and a Gung Fu practitioner, and the differences are at once
obvious. The Karateka moves deliberately, forcefully, each move
unique and distinct from each other move. He punches linearly,
kicks in a straight line, and keeps his body as rigid as iron.
The Chinese boxer, on the other hand, is smooth and fluid in
motion, allowing several moves to meld imperceptibly into one
long, graceful action. In short, Gung Fu is fluid.
Ch'i properly coordinated allows
for fluidity. Consider a single drop of water. Alone, it is
harmless, gentle, and powerless. But what on earth can withstand
the force of a tsunami? The concept of ch'i is the same. By
tapping into the universal energies, one increases one's
abilities many times. How can one damage a Gung Fu practitioner,
when one is unable to strike and injure a body of water?
There can be little doubt, after
examining first hand the structure of Gung Fu, that mastery of
it is indeed mastery of a fine art form. It requires a
tremendous amount of background, information and disciplines,
which would shame our liberal-arts students. The priests of old
were adept in all of the following: medicine, music, art,
weapons-making, religions, animal husbandry, cartography,
languages, history, and of course, Gung Fu. The artist had to be
more than a fighting machine, he had to know how, where and why
to enter a fight, and even of greater importance, how to avoid
conflict. Only with "unbeatable" ability of the priest
was he secure enough not to need to fight.
There was a ranking system of
sorts used, beginner, disciple, and master. The beginner (novice
or student level), was the menial servant. Only very crude
rudiments of Gung Fu were in his domain. Disciples were in
effect almost priests, still having to master themselves, but of
the right mettle to carry the traditions and secrets of the
Shaolin. The pinnacle of master was reached by very few; it was
truly the achievement of a lifetime.
The primary obstacle that a
disciple had to pass to attain the priesthood was the test for
master rank. Actually a series of oral and practical exams, they
culminated in the test of the tunnel. The candidate was lead to
a corridor linked with the outside world. In the corridor were
booby-traps, all lethal, all unpredictable. The disciple had to
pass all of these, for there was no going back, no way out but
to succeed. Most never even began the journey; few finished it.
The adept who passed the traps faced one last obstacle; a
several hundred pound urn filled with burning iron filings. On
each side of the urn was an emblem, different for each temple,
usually of a dragon and a tiger. The urn had to be moved with
the bare forearms to unblock the exit. In so doing, the now
priest was forever branded as a Sil Lum monk.
Many priests just out of the
temple would wander about the country acting as doctors, roving
law givers, and guardians of the poor. Some would return to the
temple then it was their job to prepare the next generation of
priests. Entry was between ages five and seven. Graduation was
at the age of at least twenty-two. And every bit was part of a
long, hard life.
The stylistic variations within
the Chinese martial arts are due to various factors. First, some
priests were not content with one "truth", and
engineered improvements or variations on the old standards. Some
arts had their origin from Indian exercises, while others were
influenced by Greek wrestling, and equally unexpected pursuits.
Secondly, the priests were not
all content as priests. Some went civilian and taught parts of
the temple boxing, mixed with moves of their own. A man who
preferred the use of one style of attack, i.e. claws, would
build a whole discipline around gouging, claw-like attacks
(Eagle Claw system).
Thirdly, the civilians taught by
priests would adapt what they needed in their real lives. For
this reason, Southern Chinese preferred hand techniques with
stable stances, adaptable to boats, while the Northern Chinese
adapted almost bizarre foot techniques, flying kicks and wild
Arts: Hard vs. Soft, External vs. Internal
The concept of hard/soft and
external/internal martial arts is not one easily described. In
terms of styles which most people are familiar with, Karate
would be an example of a hard style and Aikido or T'ai Chi
examples of soft styles. A hard style is generally considered
one where force is used against force; a block is used to
deflect an incoming strike by meeting either head on, or at a 90
degree angle. A soft style does not use force against force, but
rather deflects the incoming blow away from its target. There
are uses for both hard and soft techniques. A practitioner may
wish to break the attacker's striking arm with the block. On the
other hand, a much smaller opponent would not be able to
accomplish this, so instead may wish to deflect the incoming
An external style is one which
relies primarily in strength and physical abilities to defeat an
opponent. In contrast, an internal style is one that depends
upon ch'i and timing rather than power. Aikido (at the master's
level) would be an internal style, while most karate styles are
However, the concepts of
hard/soft internal/external are finding fewer proponents among
senior martial artists. Both conceptual twins are impossible to
separate in reality, and masters will generally acknowledge that
any distinction is largely only a matter of subjective
interpretation. Arguments about the reality of the concepts are
often waged by novices and philosophical dilettantes, ignorant
of the inseparable nature of duality. They see yin and yang as
elements that can exist independently, while philosophical and
physical reasoning demonstrate that they cannot. Without their
union (=Tao), neither can exist. Ergo, a "hard"
technique such as a straight fist is guided by the soft power of
mind and the internal component of ch'i. Equally, the softest
projection of Aikido requires the "hard" element of
physical contact and movement, coupled with actively redirecting
the opponent. In short, preoccupation with distinguishing soft
from hard is a distraction from learning martial arts and moving
towards a unifying technique and mastery.
Gung Fu styles may generally be
divided into three classes: Shaolin Temple styles,
temple-derived non-temple styles, and family styles, or Pai.
Within the Temple styles are those arts generally and
consistently taught in the temples, with many having their
origins in pre-Shaolin history. There are two major divisions in
Shaolin Kung Fu. The southern temples are predominantly hand
technique oriented, while northern temples put more emphasis on
kicks and foot techniques.
The northern Shaolin styles
primarily consist of Northern Praying Mantis, Black Crane, and
The southern Shaolin styles
primarily consist of White Crane, Tiger, Dragon, Leopard,
Snake, and Southern Praying Mantis.
There were also styles that had
their roots in the Shaolin temples, such as Wing Chun and
Many of the movements were
representations of the behavior of animals. A system sometimes
comprised the maneuvers of one specific animal and no other. All
the blocks, attacks and stances were done in imitation of the
bird or beast. Each system had certain aspects peculiar to it
since each of the animals was designed differently by nature.
However, most styles were not so rigid and limited; northern
praying mantis, for example, uses mantis and tiger hand
techniques, and monkey and generic northern style footwork.
Between the Styles
In general terms, the styles
followed specific training objectives (but there are always
exceptions). The dragon movements were devised to develop
alertness and concentration. These movements were executed
without the application of strength, but with emphasis on
breathing in the lower abdomen along with the coordination of
mind, body and spirit. Movements are long, flowing and
continuous, and provided Shaolin practitioners with the
equivalent of t'ai chi or pakua.
The tiger movements were formed
to develop the bones, tendons and muscles. The execution of
these movements was the opposite of that of the dragon, since
emphasis was placed on strength and dynamic tension. Movements
are short, snappy and forceful.
The snake movements were used to
develop temperament and endurance. Breathing was done slowly,
deeply, softly and harmoniously. Movements are flowing and
rippling with emphasis on the fingers.
The crane movements were used to
develop control, character and spirit. Emphasis is placed on
light, rapid footwork and evasive attacking techniques.
Movements in the one-legged stance are performed with a
considerable amount of meditation.
The Shaolin systems were
developed from animal actions and were divided into low systems
and high systems. The list used below is from the temple from
the Honan province during the Ch'ing dynasty. The low systems of
the Shaolin were choy li fut, crane, cobra, and tiger. The high
systems of the order were snake, dragon, Wing Chun, and praying
mantis. The primary features that separate high from low are the
fantastic economy of movement and the differences in application
of ch'i in the high systems.
The low systems were so called
because they had their basis both in physical maneuvers and in
earthly creatures. Choy li fut was based on a posture called a
riding horse stance, so called because when adopted, one
appeared to be straddling a horse. The movements are very stiff
and hard, depending primarily on muscular power to perform
adequately. There are only three kicks in the original system,
although recently the style has adopted many techniques of the
Northern Shaolin system. According to legend, it was designed
for use on the house boats of the south where a stable stance
and powerful hand techniques were necessary. The certain portion
of its history is that the system was named for two Chinese
boxing masters, Choy and Li. Fut means Buddha, serving in this
instance to refer to the Shaolin temple's Buddhist influence.
The next system is crane, one of
the traditional Shaolin systems. A legend is also attached to
its birth. One day a monk stumbled on a battle between an ape
and a crane. It seemed as if the ape would rend the bird in two.
However, the bird continually stymied the ape, flapping its
wings and darting in and out with its beak; at last the animal
was driven away. The graceful movements of the bird were copied
as well as its one leg stance. The principle weapons of the
system are its long range kicks and a hand formation, the
The cobra system is a strange,
nearly dead system. Its basis is a stance that resembles a cobra
risen from the grass with spread hood. The maneuvers are
strictly defensive in nature, devastatingly effective and swift.
Cobra is designed for speed and tenacity for once the reptile
strikes, it hangs on and makes certain that its opponent will
die. Most of its techniques are hand maneuvers aimed at the eyes
and throat. It is primarily a dim mak style.
Tiger is another natural system,
this the opposite of crane. It is a vicious method of fighting
utilizing powerful kicks and grim clawing motions. Like the
tiger, its practitioner fights fiercely, rending, tearing and
breaking any open space of skin or limb that is left unguarded.
It is highly defensive in nature, waiting until being backed
into a corner, then unleashing an unstoppable assault. Its
principle hand weapon is the tiger claw, also useful for unarmed
defense against weapons. By clasping the weapon between the
hands or enmeshing it in the crushing grip of the hand, the
enemy's advantage is lost.
Snake is an interface between the
high systems and low systems. It is one of the easiest systems
to learn and also one of the most deadly. The reason that it is
a transition system is because it has the movements of a
spiritual system and the physical applications of a low system.
The spiritual movements are all flowing and continuous, akin to
the movements of a cloud. Physical applications of such
movements are seen by the stabbing hand motions to the face,
throat and genitals. Ch'i is present in the practitioner as his
body mimics a snake in its coiling, undulating motions; for only
through ch'i can the proper flow be achieved to allow the
technique to work. It is an earthly animal by nature, yet still
somewhat spiritual due to its mysterious character. The snake
has thus been appointed as the guardian of the dragons.
The basis of the dragon systems
is ch'i, the inner power of Taoism. The movements and
applications of the dragon systems are dependent on the use of
ch'i. The special flow that distinguishes it from the flow of
the crane system is due to ch'i. Also, the ch'i is substituted
for muscular strength. For example, a tiger stylist would break
a rock by sheer force and physical technique, while a dragon
stylist would shatter it by ch'i projection.
The praying mantis has as its
watchwords silence and determination. Although it is a physical
system in terms of its origin, it nonetheless is classified as a
high system. Praying mantis warrants its prominence because of
its extreme efficiency. Despite the fact that it is hand
oriented and lacks the fancy leg maneuvers of dragon, it is
versatile and overpowering. Characteristic of mantis, as well as
dragon and snake, is the virtual lack of blocks. Since blocks
are inefficient, the high systems follow the advice of the
ancient sages and yield in order to conquer. Also, it combines
ch'i and extreme awareness to be virtually invincible.
The systems of the Shaolin can be
arranged on the pyramid illustrated below. The best method for
this is to take the tiger family as a representative of the low
systems and the dragon family as a representative of the high
systems. The remaining Shaolin systems will be placed in the
appropriate tiers singly.
The lowest level of the pyramid
is composed entirely of basic techniques. These are common to
all martial arts and can be claimed exclusively by no one
system. The maneuvers are comprised of kicks, punches, stances
and blocks. Since they are universal to most martial arts, it is
very difficult to distinguish a student from a karate style as
opposed to a choy li fut pupil. All of this class of basics
belongs to the low systems and so are dependent on hard,
muscular movements in order to carry them through properly.
Next we progress to the low
systems. As stated earlier, this level has its basis in earthly
rather than ethereal beings. The subsystems of tiger are
numerous at this level. Tiger, eagle, leopard, hung gar, the
drunken system and the crab system all belong at this level.
Tiger, leopard and hung gar are very oriented toward physical
body strength and the destruction of an opponent by breaking his
body's structural system. Eagle is a vicious ripping system with
the bulk of its work directed against the eyes and throat. The
drunken system is a lurching, seemingly unstable system that
strikes with little power and thus tries to exhaust an opponent
with an arrhythmic, oddly placed series of blows to tender,
exposed areas. The crab system concentrated on closing off blood
vessels and pinching nerves, thereby immobilizing part or all of
an attacker's body.
In the category of the higher low
systems are found four different tiger subsystems: hong tiger,
s'hu tiger, imperial tiger and white tiger. They are placed
above the previous systems because ch'i and some concepts of
spiritual motion have been incorporated into them. Hong tiger
was a system which evolved from a mixture of tiger and white
dragon. It was used by palace guards especially against weapons.
S'hu tiger was the weapons training that went with the unarmed
system of hong tiger. Imperial tiger is a modern adaptation of
hong tiger. The techniques are sophisticated at this level. Also
contained in the band of high low systems is monkey, placed
there because of its liberal use of parries and advanced
striking techniques, taking it out of the realm of brute
strength. White tiger is a highly sophisticated, forbidden style
similar to snow tiger.
The main systems of the Shaolin
that are left are placed thus: choy li fut, white crane, and
tiger all low systems. Snake is a lower high system and may be
classified as a low or a high system. Dragon, praying mantis,
and Wing Chun are all classified as full high systems due to
their efficiency of movement and the use of ch'i to both
supplement and in some cases replace physical technique. These
systems were taught to some extent to all monks as part of their
training. The complete systems were reserved for the few, the
priests that would remain in the temple after being granted