Whereas the dragon represents the spirit, the snake represents the Qi (氣), the breath, and circulation of energy within the human body. Sometimes referred to as a “little dragon,” the snake likewise speaks to the covert, and the unseen.
The snake techniques are generally considered to be a bare-hand extrapolation of ancient spear technique, and as such exemplify the principle of, “defend with a circle; counter with a straight line.” The Hung Kyun maxim states, “hard counters the soft; soft controls the hard.” Thus, the snake’s hard bridging is manifest with rooted stance and iron force, heavy as a python’s coils, while it’s elusive twining, soft bridging action is unfelt until striking the vital points, venomous as a cobra’s touch.
The snake form’s supple reactivity is epitomized in Sun Tzu’s Art of War: “The skillful tactician may be likened to the snake…strike at the head, and you will be attacked by its tail; strike at its tail, and you will be attacked by its head; strike at its middle, and you will be attacked by head and tail.”
In the Lam Family Hung Kyun curriculum, snake techniques are introduced early, in the “Arrow Palm Set” (Jin Jeung Kyun 箭掌拳), and “Gung 工 Character Tiger Subduing Set (Gung Ji Fuk Fu Kyun 工字伏虎拳). Although stories are popular, point striking is not acupuncture, but conditioned finger strikes to the normal, vital points of the human anatomy, such as the eyes, temples, throat, trachea, and (with increased finger strength) even the large arteries, and solid thoracic organs. Here, a regimen of conditioning is indicated, including fingertip pushups, and stabbing the sand (Chaap Sa 插沙). Grandmaster Lam Cho advised that “incorrect or excessive hard conditioning can lead to nerve damage and arthritis in old age.” He also stated, “It’s quite easy to spot those (men) who do not condition, as their fingers will be as slender and pointed as a girl’s.” Thus, to advise a sensible, balanced, and sustainable practice regimen.
An elusive, yet powerful spiraling force is generated by the initial Kei Leun footwork (麒麟步), crowding in from angles and unbalancing with double Bik Kiu (逼橋), then forming wings (Chi 翅) to ride and control the opponent’s bridge, with a snapping instep kick to the groin (Liu Yam Geuk 撩陰脚), immediately followed by double spear hands (Biu Chyun Sau 標串手). This entire, initial action is known as “Winged Snake Emerges from the Hole” (Tang Se Cheut Yut 騰蛇出穴).
Next, hang stance with double covering palms (Diu Ma Kam Jeung 吊馬冚掌) effectively swallows the opponent’s attack, immediately spitting forth “Continuous Spear Hand Thrusts” (Lin Waan Biu Chyun 連環標串) to the opponent’s eyes and throat, after the manner of Saam Jin Hung Kyun. If “covered,” then “cover the cover” with a “Covering Hand” (Kam Bong Sau 冚膀手), simultaneously executing a double finger strike to the eyes, known as “Two Dragons Fighting for Pearls” (Yi Lung Cheung Jyu 二龍搶珠).
“The Cobra Raises its Head” (Faan Chi Tau Hei 飯匙頭起) is a snake-head blocking action, typical of Hakka systems.
“The Black Dragon Swings its Tail” (Wu Lung Baai Mei 烏龍擺尾) is a heavy whipping punch to the opponent’s middle and lower gates, executed with a running step (Jau Ma 走馬), followed by a vertical jump, to negate an attack to the legs.
Upon touching ground, the hang-casting punch (Gwa Paau Cheui 掛拋搥), is a scissoring, long bridge action known as “Snake Crosses the River” (Se Faan Gong 蛇翻江), more commonly referred to as “Water-Casting Punch” (Seui Long Paau Cheui 水浪拋搥), adapted from the Hap Ga/Lama arts. The casting punch is a floating action, thus raising, and driving the opponent back, in tandem with the “Upper Cramming Hand” (Gung Bik Sau 攻逼手), then followed with a side palm to the flank (Jak Jeung 側掌), in a heavy, sinking action.
Finally, five techniques are executed from a stationary, training horse stance position: cover (Fuk 伏), bar (Laan 攔), slash (Seuk 削), cut (Got 割), and casting palm (Paau Jeung 拋掌), from the Fuk Fu Kyun techniques (伏虎拳之法). Each of these hands has a variety of changes, to be developed and extrapolated upon, under a qualified instructor’s guidance.
“The Five Animal, Five Element Boxing Set” of Hung Kyun Master Lam Sai Wing Article & Video Series
- Dragon Form
- Snake Form
- Tiger Form
- Leopard Form
- Crane Form
- Gold Element
- Wood Element
- Water Element
- Fire Element
- Earth Element
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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