training for Life
Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong
January 2010 Issue

Choy Li Fut's Ax Forms

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The ax has enjoyed a long and storied history as an effective weapon in Chinese martial arts. Horse soldiers used a single ax with a long handle. The most popular weapon is the double ax, which is a pair of axes with short handles. Since both single and double axes are heavy weapons, they are perfect for kung-fu students who want to develop arm strength.

During the Tang dynasty, a famous general named Cheng Yao Jin (593-665), a native Shandong province, was known for his prowess in the single long handle broad ax. Cheng Yao Jin was famous for three ax techniques. When he was using the broad ax, his power was incredibly strong. He was not a fine martial artist, but he was a lucky soldier. All the enemies he defeated were not very good in fighting. He was only good at three powerful techniques. The first was a vertical chop downward; the second a horizontal sideway chop across; and the third a diagonal downward chop. He killed most of his opponents by just using these three techniques. The other famous ax wielder was Li Kuei. He was one of the 108 heroes in the famous Chinese novel, Water Margin, written by She Naian. Li Kuei lived during the Song dynasty (960-1279). In the Water Margin, he was the 22nd listed hero. According to the novel, Li Kuei was an honest and loyal person whose double axes fighting skill was invincible.

Many kung-fu systems have a double ax training form. Choy Li Fut is no different. One important double ax form is called, "tornado double ax form," because Li Kuei's nickname was "Black Tornado." The choy li fut double ax form was named after the legendary double ax fighter, Li Kuei.

There are 77 fighting steps in the tornado ax form. The basic techniques are pek – vertical chop down; wang-sow – inward horizontal cut; lau-jong – uppercut; dan-lan – outward horizontal cut; jit – outward lower cut; tsop – thrust straight out; poon – coiling block; kum – front slanting cut down; and tong – press cut to the face. There are also double-handed techniques in the choy li fut system. They are: fun-jit – double downward cut; fun-lan – double outward horizontal cut; seung-yum-wat – double reversed hand outward cut; seung-chum – double vertical front and back downward chop; and seung-chiu-tin-wan – front double circling blocking. There are also kicking and jumping movements in the form. The footwork and stances have a sei-ping-ma (square horse); ding-ji-ma (bow stance); duk-lup-ma (crane stance); quai-ma (crossing forward stance); nau-ma (twist stance); tau-ma (retreating cross stance); sieh-ma (front slanting leg stance); and diu-ma (cat stance).

The single long-handle broad ax is called "Cheng Gung Fu" or General Cheng's Ax form. The weapon was named after the famous Tang general, Cheng Yao Jin. Cheng was the surname of the general. Gung means grandma, which is a respectful term in the Chinese language for elders or seniors. Fu is another Chinese word for ax and hatchet.

General Cheng's ax form techniques are similar to some choy li fut long weapnn forms. Besides chopping and cutting with the blade, the butt end can be used for striking, while the midsection of the handle is perfect for blocking. The techniques contained in this form are simple and practical. Performed with power and speed, this form becomes one of the most graceful in the Chinese martial arts arsenal.

Doc-Fai Wong is a contributing editor and writes a bi-monthly column for Inside Kung-Fu.

January 2010 Inside Kung-Fu