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Mike's Kung Fu Glossary.

by Michael Liem

Copyright February 2003 (All Rights Reserved)

Kung fu (gong FOO). 1. skill developed through time and effort; 2. (common usage:) Chinese martial arts in general.

Quan, or Ch'uan (chwan). 1. (literally) the fist; 2. a form, or set pattern of techniques and stances; 3. a system or style of combat, especially with the fists but not excluding the feet or other natural weapons.

Shaolin Quan (Show Lin Chwan). The style, actually various styles, of combat associated with the Buddhist monastery known as Shaolin (literal: "young forest") in Henan Province, China, which became famous for the development of systematized combat. It is said that all Asian martial arts are rooted in Shaolin Quan.

Ta Mo, also Bodhidharma. The Buddhist missionary from India who, in A.D. 520 during the Northern Dynasties period preceding the Tang Dynasty, arrived at the Shaolin temple in Henan Province, China, where he taught the Shaolin monks the exercises that led to the development of Shaolin Quan.

Wu Shu (woo shoo). 1. (literal:) Martial art. 2. (common usage:) The contemporary Chinese sport resembling kung fu, scheduled to become an Olympic event in Beijing 2008. It differs from "traditional" or "classical" kung fu in that it emphasizes flashy and acrobatic movements for showmanship and athleticism, while seeming to disregard utility for self-defense and combat.

Zhang (jong). 1. The palm of the hand; 2. a form, or set pattern of techniques and stances, that emphasize using the open palm; 3. a system or style of combat, especially one that emphasizes use of the open palm, such as Ba Gua Zhang (Eight Trigram Palm-Boxing).

Tui (tway). 1. The leg; 2. a form, or set pattern of techniques and stances, that emphasize using the legs, particularly for kicking, such as Tan Tui (Springing Legs); 3. a system or style of combat, especially one that emphasizes use of the legs, particularly for kicking, such as Tan Tui (Springing Legs). Note: Tan Tui is considered to be both a form and a complete combat system in itself.

External. (usage: external style). Emphasizing the use of muscle power and muscle-generated speed. Shaolin is generally considered to be an external art.

Internal. (usage: internal style). Emphasizing the use of qi, breathing, body positioning and sensitivity rather than muscle power or muscle-generated speed. Taiji Quan is considered to be an internal art.

Hard. (usage: hard style). Emphasizing the direct use of force for attack or defense, regardless of whether that force is to be used against opposing force of the adversary.

Soft. (usage: soft style). Emphasizing the use of deflection or evasion for defense and avoiding the use of force against an adversary's opposing force.

Taiji Quan, or T'ai Chi Ch'uan (Tie Jee Chwan). 1. (lit.:) Grand Ultimate Fist; 2. the most well-known and widely practiced soft-internal style of kung fu in the world, which is based on the traditional Chinese philosophy of Taoism.

Qi, or Ch'i (Chee.) 1. (lit.:) Air, breath; 2. According to traditional Chinese metaphysics, particularly Taoism, a ubiquitous, naturally-occurring energy or force that circulates through the body that, when combined with contentration of the mind and the spirit to command the body to use proper breathing, positioning, and timing, can be harnessed for combat or for healing.

Yin and Yang. 1. According to traditional Chinese metaphysics, particuarly Taoism, the principle that the universe is made up of a balance of opposite, yet complementary forces; 2. the application of the Taoist yin-and-yang concept toward martial arts for the purpose of achieving and maintaining balance during movement.

Northern Shaolin, or Bei Shao Lin Quan.
1. A class of kung fu systems associated with the teachings originating from the Shaolin temple in Henan Province in northern China prior to the establishment of the southern Shaolin temples later in history. Northern Shaolin styles are said to contrast from most Southern styles by emphasizing softness, full extension, and continuity of movement, and by including in its arsenal of techniques a variety of kicks, jumps, and movements encompassing wide terrain common to the northern regions of China. They are generally considered to be soft-external styles. Although Northern systems are considered "long fist" styles due to their emphasis on long range tactics, they include short-range tactics in their curricula. Examples of Northern Shaolin styles are long fist (chang quan) a/k/a Northern Shaolin, eagle claw, Northern mantis. Northern styles are typically taught in Mandarin Chinese and hence are known for using Mandarin terminology.
2. The system of kung fu also known as "long fist", originating in the early Song Dynasty as established by its first emperor based on teachings and techniques attributed to the original Shaolin Temple. As indicated by its name, the Northern Shaolin system exemplifies all the qualities of Northern Shaolin systems in general.

Southern Shaolin, or Nan Sil Lum Kuen. The kung fu systems associated with the teachings originating from the southern Shaolin temples that appeared after the original temple in Henan was already reputed as a center of martial arts learning. Most Southern styles reached prominence during the Ming Dynasty and thus are historically younger than theirs Northern counterparts. Southern Shaolin styles are said to contrast from most Northern styles by emphasizing low and wide stances, hand and arm techniques, hard-style blocks and attacks, the use of dynamic muscle tension combined with breathing techniques to develop ch'i (or more accurately "ki" in the Cantonese dialect), the use of verbal shouts and outbursts to add power to certain techniques, the use of animal imitation or channeling, focused individual movements as opposed to continuous movements, and a variety of fist, hand, and finger or "claw" techniques. Examples of Southern Shaolin styles are Hung Ga, Five Animals, White Crane, Choy Li Fut, Wing Chun, and Southern Mantis. There is great variety within the Southern classification, including both hard-external and soft-external styles as well as mixtures of both. Also, Southern styles are further divided between "short fist" systems such as Hung Gar and Wing Chun, and "long fist" systems such as White Crane and Choy Li Fut. Southern styles are typically taught in Cantonese Chinese and hence are known for using Cantonese terminology.

Wu Dang. 1. One of the holy Taoist mountains of China where the famous Taoist temple, Wu Dang Monastery, was located. 2. The classification of internal styles, which are said to have originated from the Wu Dang Monastery. Examples of styles said to be derived from the Wu Dang school are Taiji Quan (Tai Chi Ch'uan), Xingyi Quan (Hsing I Ch'uan), and Ba Gua Zhang (Pa Kua Chang). It is said that the Wu Dang school was particularly famous for expert use of the jian, the Chinese double-edged straight sword.

Shaolin "stance versus strike" rule. When executing a strike by one's hands, one's stance must be completed before executing the strike except when striking in a one-legged stance, in which case the strike and the one-legged stance are completed simultaneously. This is one of the basic rules of Northern Shaolin

Shaolin "footwork" rule. When moving from one stance to another, the foot that is closest to the direction of movement is the foot that moves before the other foot does, except in cases where following the general rule would result in the feet pointing in opposite directions at any time. This is another of the basic rules of Northern Shaolin.

Northern Shaolin stances and footwork (hand techniques or positions, kicks, sweeps, and jumps not included).

Horse Stance. Feet parallel and double-shoulder-width apart, knees bent and bowed outwards. Weight is balanced equally between both feet. Posture is straight and erect, as in generally all Shaolin stances. The spine extends straight up from the hips and pelvis.

Bow and Arrow Stance. From the Horse Stance, one foot turns on the heel at a right angle away from the other foot, and the weight shifts toward the turned foot so that the knee is above the toes and the leg of the unturned foot straightens. Then the yet-unmoved foot turns, pivoting on the heel, so that the toes point toward the direction of movement at 45 degrees. The straight leg is now the "rear" leg, and the bent side is the "front" leg. The spinal posture remains erect. Head height is the same as during the Horse Stance.

Empty Stance. From the Bow and Arrow Stance, the weight shifts to the rear so that the spine is over the rear foot. The front foot draws back to approximately shoulder-width's distance from the rear foot. The front heel is lifted off the floor so that only the toes touch the floor. The front foot is now "empty" of weight. As the rear foot is now bearing all the body's weight, the rear knee is bent to maintain the same head height as in the previous stances. Head, spine, hips, and waist all are vertically aligned with the rear foot, which is now the "weighted" or "supporting" foot. The rear kneecap and toes point forty-five degrees away from the front.

Inside Empty Stance. From the Empty Stance, the front "empty" foot draws further back so that it is beside the rear foot, and the front toes meet the floor at the midpoint of distance between the rear foot's toe and heel. The "empty" foot is now no longer in "front" but remains empty of weight. The rear leg remains unchanged, as does head height.

Side Empty Stance. From the Inside Empty, the "empty" foot shifts directly away from the weighted foot perpendicularly from the direction it was facing during the Bow and Arrow Stance, stopping shoulder's width away from the weighted foot. The empty foot remains empty and with toes meeting the floor. The knee of the empty foot continues to point in the direction it had been facing during the Bow and Arrow Stance. The rear leg remains unchanged, as does head height.

Taiji Stance. From the Side Empty, the "empty" toes describe a quarter-circle toward the position it had occupied during the Empty Stance, except that the heel is placed on the floor, toes pointing up. The leg is straight, although not hyperlocked. Head height remains unchanged.

Hook Step. From the Taiji Stance, the front toe lowers down so that the front foot is perpendicular to the front. This is the "hooking" move; the front foot has become the "hooking" foot. The weight shifts almost entirely over the front foot, and the rear foot raises heel off the floor. Head height is unchanged. This position is not considered a stance, but a transitional movement between stances for the purpose of shifting weight. It may also be applied as an attack.

Lotus Stance. From the hook step, the rear foot crosses forewards, passing behind the front "hooking" foot, stopping where the knee of the crossing foot is approximately two inches diagonally behind and to the side of the hooking leg. The head height lowers slightly so that the knee of the crossing leg hovers approximately one inch above the floor, while the knee of the hooking leg is further bent to a right angle, and the ball of the formerly "empty" foot rests so that the shin and the heel of the foot faces the "forward" direction, i.e., the direction the "front" leg was pointing while in the Bow and Arrow Stance. Now the hooking foot and the shin of the crossing leg form a right angle. The body's weight is now distributed evenly over the hooking foot and the knee of the crossing leg. However, since the knee of the crossing leg is not resting, this position requires great leg strength and endurance to maintain.

Low Lotus Stance. From the Lotus Stance, the foot that had previously crossed behind now shifts closer to the other foot, placing the knee to the outside (the side facing "forward") of the hooking leg's shin. Then the body shifts weight over the non-hooking foot. Next, the body lowers so that the heel of the non-hooking foot lifts and the body sits on it.The knee of the non-hooking leg remains off the floor.

Sitting Lotus Stance. From the Low Lotus, the heel of the non-hooking foot lowers to the floor, and the non-hooking foot lifts momentarily and then lies on the top of the foot, so that the head height lowers even further. The body rests its weight primarily over the top of the non-hooking foot.

High Lotus Stance. From the Sitting Lotus Stance, the body shifts back over the hooking foot, allowing the non-hooking foot to extend farther away from the hooking foot in the "forward" direction until it is double-shoulder-width distance from the hooking foot so that the crossed leg is straight, the heel extended (stretching the calf). Its heel remains off the floor. The head height rises until it is the same height as during the Horse and Bow & Arrow stances.

Rooster Stance. From the High Lotus Stance, the heel settles to the floor so that it is in line with the heel of the hooking foot toward the "forward" direction. The toes of the hooking foot turn in at a right angle, into a Bow and Arrow Stance facing the direction opposite to the previous Bow and Arrow Stance (facing "rearward"). The formerly hooking foot now becomes the "front" foot, and the other foot is the "back" foot. The back leg is straight. Then the weight shifts back toward, bending the back leg, so that all the weight stops directly over the back foot. The front foot rises off the floor and the knee bends and rises above the waist. The toes of the lifted foot are pointed downward at a slight angle to cover the groin and to point at the supporting foot. The supporting leg is straight, and the head height is slightly higher than the previous stance.

Crouching Rooster Stance. From the Rooster, lower the head height to the original height (as per Horse Stance) by bending the supporting leg.

Lazy Rooster Stance. From the Crouching Rooster, lower the lifted knee and hook the foot around the crook of the bent supporting knee, and point the raised knee to the side perpendicular to the line of direction. The legs now form a figure "4".

"Lotus-Crouching Rooster" (?) hybrid step (actual name unknown. From Lazy Rooster, the raised foot extends behind and up, stopping where the raised knee, which remains bent, is just behind the supporting knee.

"Lotus-Rooster" (?) hybrid step (actual name unknown). From the so-coined "Lotus-Crouching Rooster", the supporting leg straightens, lifting the head height to full Rooster height.

High Tiger Stance. From the "Lotus-Rooster", the raised foot settles next to the supporting foot so that the heels are touching and the toes of each foot are facing away at forty-five degree angles to the direction of movement. Then one foot (either one) advances forward to form another Bow and Arrow Stance (the foot that advanced is now the "front" foot, the other is the "rear" foot). Remember, the heels are in line along the line of direction. Next, the front foot turns inward at 45 degrees to the line of direction. Then, the rear foot turns out 45 degrees so that it is perpendicular to the line of direction. The weight shifts further over the "front" foot, which is now the "supporting" foot.

Tiger Stance From the High Tiger, the foot of the straight leg extends away from the supporting foot along the line of direction, so that the head height lowers and the supporting knee bends further, until the pelvis is as close to the floor as flexibility allows.

Unicorn Stance. From the Tiger, shift the weight toward the foot of the straightened leg by bending that leg's knee, and by straightening the supporting leg, and by turning the foor of the straightened leg out 90 degrees so that it faces the line of direction (the original "forward"). Then turn the toes of the supporting foot inward 45 degrees to assume another Bow and Arrow. Then bring the rear foot in toward the front foot, stopping where the rear knee is next to the front shin and under most of the body's weight. Drop the body weight and head height and raise the back heel, and then sit back over and on the back heel in a kind of genuflection.

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