Sunday, 19 June 2011

Interview with Shaolin Master Shi Xing Long

Shi Xing Long, aka Master Wang is a 32nd generation Shaolin master who teaches traditional shaolin kung fu and Sanda. He has a very deep knowledge of traditional shaolin and modern sanda. He has come number one in several national Chinese sanda tournaments, as well as China-Korean martial arts tournament, but he gave this up after suffering a serious back injury. He has mostly recovered now, which he puts down to Shaolin Qigong training. During his injured period, rather than wasting time, he dedicated his time to reading and researching Shaolin manuscripts given to him by his master. I first met him about two years ago when I first came to Kunyu Shan academy to learn Mantis. My first encounter with him was when he taught a Buddhism class every Friday evening. Often I was the only student who turned up, so we would discuss Zen and its connection to martial arts, as well as his own personal experience about life at Shaolin Temple.  

He views kung fu as a way of improving people’s lives, to make them a better person, to be tougher, more confident, more polite etc. It extends to every aspect of life, not just fighting. I have seen many people change after spending some time training with him.

Master Wang was born in Shanxi province, into a very poor family. His grandfather was involved in kung fu and encouraged him to enter the temple for training at a young age. In the beginning, he was very naughty and had no interest in learning. His master would often beat him or make him spend 2 hours standing facing the wall. After his second year, he became much more focussed, beginning to mature and understand the training better.

His master was Shi De Qian, who has passed away now. He was one of the most knowledgeable masters of Shaolin in the modern times. I managed to talk to Master Wang about his experience at Shaolin temple: learning kung fu, training with his master, and some lessons in life he learnt there….

Shifu, please could you tell us about your master, Shi De Qian:

Learning kung fu was very bitter. You had to have perseverance. Our master would test each student; he would watch them carefully during class. He wanted to find the ones with the most potential. Those students he liked, he would take his free time to give extra training and theory to. He was very traditional, and made sure we understood the theory and applications of all the forms. You have to really think about this, to do a form is easy, but you must take your own time to contemplate the features of different forms, to understand them.

Our master was like a father, he would teach us about all aspects of life. He said we have to be men, At that time we knew how to respect our master, to help him teach new students, give him more free time. Because respecting the master is also a kind of kung fu.
Master said, as a man, you must be able to face all kinds of difficulties. Now we are older, and live in society, we slowly realise what he was teaching us. Things in life are really like our master told us, and we must be able to face these challenges.

What was it like learning kung fu in the temple:

When we learnt kung fu it wasn’t like how people learn it now. We learnt from monks, but we had to rely on ourselves to study. We all started from basics. After mastering the basics we spent a lot of time on forms. Our master made sure we understood the theory behind the forms too.

As there were many students, we all had to prove ourselves worthy of learning the higher knowledge. We were all from very poor families; we had no choice but to succeed. Also, as life was in the temple, there were no distractions from the outside world, before I was 18, I have never seen an MP3 player, and I didn’t even know what kind of clothes I would wear if I went out, as we wore our training uniforms all the time. We had to dedicate all our time to kung fu, we didn’t think about going out to play or whatever, we just cared about training hard.

You must have a lot of insights from life there, could you share some with us:

Well, training kung fu is not just about fighting. It’s about being a better person. It’s about learning to master yourself. For example, when we hold stances, it’s really tough, you want to give up. But you can see everyone else is doing it, and maybe the master will hit you if you stop. This doesn’t just give you strong legs; it gives you a strong mind. You can’t just go through life giving up at the first sign of discomfort, where will that get you?

All kinds of training are like that, when we train, we train our minds, and our spirits. Training is tough and painful, but as kung fu practitioners, we must be tough, be able to go through this difficulty, then we will be able to take on any challenge life can throw at us.

For more interviews like this, visit

Friday, 17 June 2011

Principles of Taiji Meihua Mantis


When you practice forms
Footwork can be clear or hidden
The hands complement each other like yin and yang
Limbs move up and down, constantly whirling
Arms draw half circles
This is the characteristics of Taiji
Limbs move up and down, constantly whirling
Attack the opponent from all sides and surround him
Combinations should flow together
The movements’ don’t just have one purpose
The hands movements represent plum flowers
Emitting power you should "open like a bow"
When the movement finishes it "contracts like a ball"
Simultaneously these hold the development of the mantis movements


During training kung fu, you must express intent and show spirit,
Body movements must have a solid foundation.
When attacking, the hands must be in harmony with the feet,
Steps should be fast like sprinting.
Strike in all directions: coiling left, right, up and down.
Step in to hit directly, locking with left hand and coiling with right hand.
Strike continuously with the cooperation of the elbows.
Every movement must have fighting intent.

for more translations like this, visit 

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Song of Mantis Fist

Song of Mantis Fist


"Tip your head, raise your neck
Hui yin point tucked in, qi in dantian
Shoulders relaxed, elbows sunken
Wrist sitting, fingers raised
Chest hollow, spine stretched
The posture's like a cat poised to catch a mouse."

This is a "song" explaining the correct body posture in mantis. Traditionally once a student mastered the basics of mantis, they were expected to memorise songs like this, to help them remember the internal principles of body posture and movement.

Tipping your head refers to tucking your chin in very slightly, this offers slight protection to your throat and helps you to focus your eyesight directly ahead. Raising your neck means to have a slight stretching feeling in the muscles in the back of your neck, also, you can imagine a string from the top of your head (bai hui point) pulling your spine straight (spine stretched).

The hui yin point is an acupoint just in front of your anus. The meaning of tucking this point in is to allow your hips to drop and tuck slightly forward. The feeling being your tailbone is curved slightly and your lower back is straight, rather than arched in. You should feel like you are perched on the edge of a chair, sitting into your stance, but only slightly, dont stick your groin forward, or it will be an easy target.

Relaxing the shoulders and sinking the elbows creates more power in the arms, while avoiding stiffness. “The elbows never leave the ribs” is another phrase often heard. This provides protection to the core of the body from attack, as the elbows are kept close to the body, following a pathway in line with the ribs as they move back and forth. “Wrists sitting and fingers raised” describes a guard position, a slight tweak of tension in the wrists, keeping them in position and developing potential energy at this point. The wrists shouldn’t be kept totally limp, but should have life, a small amount of tension holding them in place.

Hollowing the chest is a feeling of relaxing the chest. It shouldn’t be stuck out, but at the same time, hollowing means to relax, not to force it in. This allows your Qi to sink to your dantian (mentioned in the beginning), which means to allow your breathing to become deeper using your abdomen. This increases your power, by using this to point to breathe out sharply as you emit power.

Understanding and applying these points to your posture, as well as understanding the correct use of tension and relaxation, will allow you to use your body to its maximum potential in combat, allowing you to use a greater percentage of your bodies natural power and speed. Also, you will feel more powerful, and so will be more confident.

For more translations like this, visit

Saturday, 11 June 2011

One night in Yantai

Before coming to Yantai, I expected to find mantis schools everywhere, it being the hometown of the kung fu style and all. This not being the case, I at least expected the university Im studying at to have a kung fu culture, but after looking around, I just found some modern Wushu and old people doing taiji.

Through the introduction of a friend, I finally found a little pocket of the kung fu atmosphere I was expecting to find here. Walking down a little back alley at dusk we came to a small courtyard with some little kids stretching their legs on a wall. There was a very old man sitting on a tiny stool smoking, who got up to greet me. This was Grandmaster Qu Zi Jun. He didn’t have the powerful, overbearing master attitude I often see in China, instead he was welcoming and humble. He invited me in to an apartment on the side of the courtyard, he said he didn’t live there, it seemed to just be full of swords, trophies and calligraphy, with boxes laying around everywhere. We sat down and I handed him a small gift of some tea and a box of milk, which is customary in China when meeting a master or person of respect. In return, he gave me a T-shirt with a mantis logo and Chinese characters on it.

After chatting for a bit, we went outside and I sat and watched the class. It was mostly kids, with 2 adults; my Chinese friend and another older guy who was helping teach. Master Qu would sit and watch quietly, chatting to me and occasionally telling the kids to stop talking and giving some corrections. I didn’t want to ask too many questions on the first meeting, I was quite happy to watch and soak up the atmosphere. From watching the better kids and the adults, I could see that even as our lineages are the same: Taiji Plum Blossom Mantis, there were obvious differences in the forms and body mechanics. They seem to be more obviously “mantis-like” in their movements, and I found it a bit more appealing to the eye.

They asked me to perform Luan Jie, which I was a bit reluctant about, I rarely review old forms, but I felt surprisingly powerful and clear in my movements and they seemed to like it. At first, the older student thought I did Seven Star mantis, but I explained it was the same lineage, just from Zhang Bing Dou of Qingdao (my master’s master). I was hoping to see some applications and more partner training, but it was mostly a kids class, I guess that’s kept for the older students, who need to prove themselves.

I guess I need to get out more and get looking for these kinds of experiences; the masters won’t come looking for me. My master is my master, but I want to gain a larger insight into mantis, and with my masters blessing, take a look at what others are doing and get more involved in the kung fu community here. Master Qu welcomed me to come back and visit again, although as he knows I already have a master, I’m not too sure what that means.