In the Wong Fei Hung curriculum, three famous sets, the “Gung 工 Character Tiger Subduing Set” (Gung Ji Fuk Fu Kyun 工字伏虎拳), the ““Tiger and Crane Twin Pattern Set”” (Fu Hok Seung Ying Kyun 虎鶴雙形拳), and the “Iron Thread Set” (Tit Sin Kyun 鐵線拳 ), are collectively known as “The Hung Kyun Three Treasures.” However, the “Ten Patterns Boxing Set” (Sap Ying Kyun 十形拳) was originally established by Lam Sai Wing, to revise and consolidate key portions of the curriculum as he had learned it from Wong Fei Hung.
On the vanguard of development in the new Hung Kyun, Wong Fei Hung had established the ““Tiger and Crane Twin Pattern Set””, by combining the aggressive, straight forward fighting styles of old Hung Kyun “Three Extensions” (Saam Jin Kyun 三展拳), and tiger systems, with the elusive style of the Fukien white crane, and the Hap Kyun long bridge hands (which he had also learned, directly from the founder). Not content to stop there, Wong Fei Hung had also established the “Five Animals Set” (Ng Ying Kyun 五形拳), including dragon, snake, leopard, tiger and crane techniques, then teaching this in his characteristic manner.
In those days, to train with the master, first, you would learn the set, and over time, more techniques would be added to your set. Today’s “Gung 工 Character Tiger Subduing Set” is comprised of numerous smaller, older sets and techniques, combined and blended as the master saw fit. In similar fashion, the “Tiger and Crane Twin Pattern Set” actually became the “”Five Animals Set””, simply by adding techniques. A “dragon” section made from three extensions and iron thread boxing systems, a “snake” section including old Hung Kyun “Three Extensions”, Hakkanese snake boxing, and select other techniques, and a “leopard” section, including the ginger-fist stab (with both direct attack, and a stealing/leaking usage), the hang punch, the incurve punch, and the gate-bolting punch. Thus, we see the “”Five Animals Set”” is really not at all superfluous to the initial “Hung KyunThree Treasures” concept, as the “”Five Animals Set”” is simply a development upon the original, “Tiger and Crane Twin Pattern Set”.
Lam Sai Wing learned these from his master, Wong Fei Hung, and more, in the form of individual techniques (Saan Sik 散式 ), not yet included in the sets, but nonetheless essential. Techniques such as the plate-polishing ginger fists, were added to his already existing leopard boxing basis. Long bridge gold-splitting, wing flap technique, plum blossom footwork and more, enhanced and expanded his repertoire. Still, whenever shown, or taught out to students, the set format should be sequential, and efficient. Therefore, in a major revision, Lam Sai Wing cut most redundant portions the “”Five Animals Set”” shared in common with the original “Tiger and Crane Twin Pattern Set”. Expanding upon each animal, and introducing the so-named “Five Elements,” Lam Sai Wing thus established the “Five Animal, Five Element, Ten Patterns Boxing Set” (Ng Ying Ng Hang Sap Ying Kyun 五形五行十形拳), in brief referred to as the “Ten Patterns Set” (Sap Ying Kyun), which then became known as his signature. Now, including not only the five animals, but also gold, wood, water, fire, and earth boxing techniques. In fact today, with all techniques of the “Five Animals Set” represented between the “Tiger and Crane Twin Pattern Set” and the “Ten Patterns Set”, that initial choreography may even be considered as obsolete, other than as a historical reference.
The Dragon Section of Sap Ying Kyun
In Chinese cosmology, the dragon represents the spirit, the internal, and the unseen, and in a traditional pairing since ancient times, the yin compliment to the tiger’s yang characteristics. In traditional Chinese medicine, the tiger represented blood, while the dragon embodied Qi. In Feng Shui, signifying harmony and dynamic balance, the dragon’s place is always to the left, with the tiger to the right. This undoubtedly gave rise to the Siu Lam temple legend, where to graduate, after passing a series of daunting tests, the initiate would at last be required to lift a large, smoldering metal urn which was blocking the temple exit, branding his forearms with the tiger and dragon seal. The dragon and tiger model also gives rise to a series of Gung Fu parables and maxims, perhaps so famous as, “crouching tiger, hidden dragon,” which advises us to use tact, in the face of inevitable “unknown unknowns.”
In the Lam Family Hung Kyun training methodology, the dragon section is comprised of slow, concentrated generative sequences, interspersed with measured, abrupt release motions. With an underlying foundation of three extensions bridge hands, and the “float, sink, swallow, spit” breathing formula (Fau Cham Tan Tou 浮沉吞吐), it is combined with select techniques and tonal Noi Gung adapted from the “Iron Thread” system.” The opening sections of the Sap Ying Kyun are known as the “Head of the Sap Ying” or Sap Ying Tau (十形頭), and to learn this represents a secondary stage, or layering, of Hung Kyun internal training. As such, the Sap Ying Tau is learned almost immediately following the completion of the “Gung 工 Character Tiger Subduing Set” and the “Tiger and Crane Twin Pattern Set”, although it may be a year or longer, before a student is taught the remainder of the full, “Five Animals, Five Elements” Sap Ying Kyun.
Thus, the dragon section, or Sap Ying Tau is taught to maximize and build upon the internal benefits gained through previous training. If a minimum of three repetitions per day is followed, energetic and power results should be almost immediate, with substantial success, in the form of increased energy and a strong, heavy bridge, being realized in the time span of one year. While initial emphasis of Hung Kyun techniques is predominately on structure and energy, it is a common mistake to imagine the dragon form is without application. Rather, the set method itself is in abstract form (as are the three extensions, iron thread, and similar, boxing sets), and requires some extrapolation. In fact, most techniques in this section may already be found in ready-to-use fashion, in the “Gung 工 Character Tiger Subduing Set”, the “Tiger and Crane Twin Pattern Set”, and the various trained pairing drills (Deui Lin 對練). For combat usage, the dragon section’s narrow, stable stances, and short, sunken-elbow bridge-hands are used to control and finish at close range. This in itself is useful, or to augment and reinforce one’s existing practical repertoire.
About the Author: Sifu Michael Goodwin is founding director of the San Francisco Hung Gar Kung Fu Association, in San Francisco, California, with branches in Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, and Brazil. He is a senior disciple of Grandmaster Lam Chun Sing, and has been a practitioner of Lam Family Hung Kyun since 1976.
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