training for Life
Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong
May 2008 Issue

The Advanced Forms of Choy Li Fut

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In 1836, Chan Heung founded choy li fut kung fu in the King Mui Village of Southern China. The style is now over 170 years old. Many advanced hand and weapon forms have been lost due to Chinafs political revolutions. Others were lost because choy li fut past masters chose not to teach certain forms to their students. However, the manuscripts handed down through the generations from the founder to the present masters still exist. Most of the important forms are still with us.

Choy li fut kung fu sprung from the roots of Shaolin and our most important form came from the Southern Shaolin temple. The Five Animal Hand Form (Ng Ying Kuen) was taught to Chan Heung by his last kung fu teacher Choy Fook, a Buddhist priest who had returned to secular life from the Shaolin temple. The original five animals were the Dragon, Snake, Tiger, Leopard and Crane. Since the time of that original five animal form five new animals have been brought in to the system; the Lion, Elephant, Horse, Monkey and the Tiger Cub. These new five and the original five were put together to create the Ten Animal Form of the choy li fut system. Besides the five and ten animal forms, choy li fut also has a two animal form - the Dragon and Tiger form (Lung Fu Kuen). Each of the ten animals has an individual form such as the Tiger form, Monkey form and the Elephant form and so on. There are ten of these single animal forms in the choy li fut system. There are two person animal fighting hand forms as well such as: Leopard vs Tiger, Snake vs Crane, Dragon vs Tiger, Horse vs Elephant, Monkey vs Tiger Cub, Five Animals vs Five Animals.

Choy li fut's five animal form is also called the Ng Ying Dai Bot Gwa Kuen (The Five Animal Great Bagua Hand Form). This form has 66 sections or parts and a total of 264 steps or movements. From this mother form, the next generation past-masters, by teaching shortened versions of this very long form, created several Small Five Animal forms. Some past-masters created their small five animal form by cutting out the repeatable parts of the original form. Nowadays, there are five animal forms taught in many different choy li fut lineages, but most of these forms come from the small five animal forms.

From the founder's family, there are the Ten Animal Form and the Small Ten Animal Form. The script for the Ten Animal Form or the Large Ten Animal Form has 70 sections and 350 movements and the?mall Ten Animal Form has 182 steps.

According to my Si-Suks (kung fu brothers of my teacher) who have read or seen the scripts of those advanced forms from the Chan family, the Shaolin Animal Forms were gradually developed into choy li fut's Taiji (tai chi) hand form. The Taiji form (Tai Gik Kuen in Cantonese) mainly uses the two basic Shaolin animals, which are the Tiger and Snake. Taiji translated into English means the Grand Ultimate. Within the grand ultimate, there are Yin and Yang. The Snake represents the Yin and to represent the Yang the Tiger was chosen. Snake is a soft animal with great internal strength and the tiger is the hard animal with strong external power. One of my Si-Suks who has read the choy li fut's Taiji form script told me that this form has 61 moves. This is not a very long form if performing it quickly, but practiced slowly it will take 10 to15 minutes to complete.

Since there was a Taiji hand form, eventually the past masters developed this into another level of training. They created another advanced form called the Wuji hand form. Wuji means the Ultimate-less. This is the highest form in the choy li fut system, which could be translated as the Form without Form. According to the Chinese philosophy, Wuji produced Taiji; Taiji produced the Yin and Yang. Therefore, Wuji is the mother of Taiji and Yin and Yang are the children of Taiji. According to my Si-Suk, this Wuji hand form (Mo Gik Kuen in Cantonese) received its essence mainly from the Five Animal Form. The Wuji hand form has 24 sections and 108 movements and when practiced slowly takes 15 to 20 minutes to perform. Choy li fut's Wuji hand form is used specifically to develop the student's internal energy. In this way a martial artist can defeat an opponent's hard external force with soft internal power.

During my years of research and studying from my Sifus and my Si-Suks I want to share the above with all the people who are interested in the system of choy li fut so that this knowledge will not be lost for future generations.

Doc-Fai Wong writes a bi-monthly column for Inside Kung-Fu.

March 2008 Inside Kung-Fu