Hung Kyun’s „Ten Lethal Bare Hand Techniques“ (Sap Duk Sau)

Hung Kyun’s „Ten Lethal Bare Hands Techniques“ (Sap Duk Sau)Grand Master Wong Fei Hung, founder of „Modern Hung Kyun“, was one of the most famous Masters of Southern Chinese boxing.

Among his special skills belonged long pole fighting, Fei Tou (weight attached to the rope) and so called „Ten Lethal Bare Hand Techniques“ (Sap Duk Sau), ten unique and secret combat techniques thanks to whom he was never defeated.

“Ten Lethal Bare Hand Techniques” or “Ten Killing Hands“ is in Chinese Sap Duk Sau or Sap Jyut Sau. Character Duk means literally „poisonous“, killing“, „lethal“; however, different character with same pronounciation (Duk) means „unique“, „special“. Same goes for two different characters pronounce as Jyut.

Correct version of the original name is „Ten Special Techniques“ – however, „killing“ or „lethal“ sounds more combative, so it is the reason why it is used today more often than the original form.

Mysterious “Ten Killing Hands” of Hung Ga

During my study of Hung Kyun I have encountered Sap Duk Sau on many ocassions. I have asked many Grand Masters and Masters, however none of them was able to give me a satisfying, definitive answer and a clear, practical (!) list of all Ten techniques. Some of the lists I got were relitatively reliabe, some less, most of them were pure fantasy.

Leung Daat - Hung Kyun’s „Ten Lethal Bare Hands Techniques“ (Sap Duk Sau)

Unfortunatelly most commonly presented and generally accepted version (see the picture above) comes from a book of Cantonese writter Leung Daat, author of modern versions of so clled „Lam Sai Wing’s“ manuals. We can say with 100% certainity that it is a modern fabrication.

Leung Daat is not even a Hung Kyun practitoner and all senior Hung Kyun Masters and Grand Masters I have met in Hong Kong, Fat Saan and Gwong Jau have just laughed about his fictional and fantasy-like writtings.

Uppercut to the tail bone, seriously? Whatever is your list is, this one is mostly bullshit, sorry.

Sap Duk Sau Game Plan: Injure, Maim, Kill!

Leung Daat also gives following list of brutal effect of the Sap Duk Sau techniques:

  • „Gouge the Eyes“ (Waat Ngaan)
  • „Seal the Throat“ (Fung Hau)
  • „Break the Skull (Baau Lou)
  • „Deafen the Ears“ (Gwang Yi)
  • „Destroy the Groin“ (Po Dong)
  • „Tear the Sinews“ (Faan Gan)
  • „Break the Fingers“ (Jaau Ji)
  • „Dislocate the Bones“ (Se Gwat)
  • „Break the Arms“ (Dyun Bei)
  • „Press the Veins and Arteries“ (Dim Mak)

Authentic or not? Probably not, but it describes one of the core features of Sap Duk Sau – injure, maim or kill.

Wong Fei Hung’s Sap Duk Sau

Seaching of the original Wong Fei Hung’s „Ten Special Bare Hand Techniques“ took more than ten years. The one who gave me the best answer was Late Grand Master Lam Jou (1910-2012). No suprise.

In 2004, I have conducted an extensive interview with Grand Master, and among many other things, I have asked about Wong Fei Hung’s Sap Duk Sau. Grand Master has confirmed that „Ten Special Bare Hand Techniques” really existed and said:

Sap Duk Sau were Wong Fei Hung’s  ten favourite techniques. The specific list does not matter – every technique can be lethal. It depends on surprise, setup, power, speed, timing and intent.  You should make your own list of techniques that you will be able spontaneously, instantly, fast and without hesitation use when needed.”

Wong Fei Hung's Ten Killing HandsAfter many years of searching for the original Sap Duk Sau I finally managed to get a complete list of the „Ten“ from an old martial arts magazine article, written by renowend southern Chinese martial arts resarcher with a pen name Nim Fat Saan Yan.

Nim Fat Saan Yan was a close friend of Lam Sai Wing and many other famous Grand Masters of the pre-world war 2 era, which makes him very reliable source of information. Moreover, his list of Sap Duk Sau is virtually the same as selected techniques mentioned by Grand Master Lam Jou in the interview above (and the sample techniques from a video below).

Are we 100% sure it is THE list, true Wong Fei Hung’s Sap Duk Sau? Because of the secrecy of the previous generations we do not know for sure, but – it is by far the most reliable list we have. At at least 2/3 of it are confirmed by oral testimonials, the choice of the techniques is logical and profound, in one word – it makes sense.

Characteristics of Hung Kyun’s „Ten Lethal Bare-Handed Techniques“

Let us analyse Sap Duk Sau techniqes and dispell many of the common misconceptions and myths:

  • Sap Duk Sau are combinations of techniques – not single techniques, not a set.
  • Sap Duk Sau contain not only „hand techniques“, but kicks and wrestling techniques as well. Sau means literally „hand“, but it means „bare-hands (ie. without weapons) techniques“ in this context.
  • Sap Duk Sau are attacking techniques of pro-active „self-defence“.
  • Sap Duk Sau are aimed at vulnerable spots of human body (eyes, throat, groin… ).
  • Some of the core principles of Sap Duk Sau are correct setup, feint (Ying Sau), „high-low“ (Seung Ha), flow (Lin Waan). They are deceitful, and mean – dirty tricks, dirty fighting.
  • The aim of the Sap Duk Sau is injure, maim or kill the opponent.
  • Sap Duk Sau techniques are complimentary and easy to combine.

Wong Fei Hung’s Sap Duk Sau number  1, 8 a 10 (in our list number 1, 7 a 10) performed by  Yun Wing Gwai Sifu, disciple of Grand Master Lam Sai Wing, in an old Wong Fei Hung movie from 1949

Sap Duk Sau in our Practical Hung Kyun Curriculum

Selected Sap Duk Sau drills belong in our Practical Hung Kyun curriculum to the first techniques that the beginner students learn and during following months they eventually learn and master the complete Ten. Btw., the first and most important of all Sap Duk Sau is covered in great detail in our PHK Intro Kit 

„Secret“ of Sap Duk Sau is not in the list, but in the setup, flow, mindset and intent – no movie Gung Fu, no dancing and eye-pleasing choreography,, but brutaly effective „pro-active“  and mean „self-defence“ (self-offence?), coming from the times when their usage was a matter of life and death.

Practical Hung Kyun Summer Camp 2013The succesfull application of Sap Duk Sau (or any other techniques) in the real fight is the training methodology – something we at Practical Hung Kyun are proud of and what makes the crucial difference about our stystem of training and other martial arts school. We do not believe in “secrets” – we believe in smart and hard training.

In Practical Hung Kyun, we teach „Ten Lethal Bare Hand Techniques“ not only as „shadow boxing“ drills, but also with focus mitts, on sandbags and kicking poles, in various application drills, „self“defence“ situational drills and scenarios, sparring and free fighting. Reality-based self-protection, no ballet in pyjamas.

You are probably asking: “Will you please post the list of Sap Duk Sau?”

Yes, we will publish more detailed info on selected Sap Duk Sau in the near future, including videos, related poems etc.; we also plan a special seminar on Sap Duk Sau as well.

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