Eight principal Forms of Choy Li Fut

Gm Doc-Fai Wong
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After Chan Heung founded Choy Li Fut in 1836, he also actively participated in the anti-Manchurian government revolution. He spent a lot of effort training a group of students to get involved with the activities of the revolution. In 1848 Chan Heung set up 18 schools branched out all over the Guangdong and Guangxi provinces of Southern China. At that time, Hong Xiu Quan started the Taiping Rebellion and was the leader. He wanted to establish a new dynasty called the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. Because the Taiping Rebellion started, Chan Heung used eight Chinese characters to created eight major Choy Li Fut hand forms. Those were: Tai, Ping, Tian, Guo, Chang, An, Wan, Nian , which means “long live the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom.” Chan Heung taught these eight forms to his students and encouraged them to participate in the revolutionary activities. In 1851 the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom was established. Fourteen years later in 1864, this new kingdom was perished by the Manchus. The Manchurian government wanted to clean up all the political criminals. At that time, all the people involved with the revolution wanted to avoid the Manchu’s execution by hiding. The names of these eight hand forms have been changed because of this reason. Nowadays, these eight principal choy li fut hand forms' original names have gradually been forgotten in the system and most people thought these forms were lost.

Tai, which means Grand or Supreme, represented the name of the hand form Taijo Kuen (Supreme Ancestor Hand Form) which was mainly to commemorate the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuan Zhang. Because it was asscoiated with the revolution, later on Chan Heung changed the form's name to Tai Hui (Tai Xu) Kuen or the Supreme Emptiness Hand Form. This form consisted of the Yin and Yang principal. That is hard carrying soft energy and soft carrying hard energy. Later on in Xinhui, there was a kung fu system that came from northern China called Tai Hoi Kuen. The Choy Li Fut founder's family didn't want the future generations to believe that our hand form had something to do with that kung fu system. Therefore the name was changed to Mo Gik (Wuji) Kuen or the Ultimate Less Hand Form. Nowadays, not many people know of this hand form anymore. They might think it’s the Tai Jee Kuen (The Character of Tai Hand Form) which some Choy Li Fut schools recently teach.

Ping, the meanings are Level, Flat, to pacify or to settle. The original name of this form was called Ping Moon Kuen. It means to pacify the Manchurian government and restore the dynasty back to the Han Chinese. Gradually the name was shortened to Ping Kuen (Level Form). The real name of this form has slowly become unknown. There is another hand form in the Choy Li Fut system called the Ping Jang Kuen (Conflict Settlement Form). Many people thought this is the same form as Ping Kuen. Actually, there is a big difference of techniques and movements between these two forms. The Ping Jang Kuen is another hand form of the system.

Tian (Cantonese Tin), means Sky or Heaven. The original name of this form was called Tin Dei Sup Fang Kuen, which means The Ten Directions of Heaven and Earth Form. Because the name was too long, it was shortened to Tin Dei Kuen or the Heaven and Earth Form. There was a revolutionary society named “Heaven and Earth” for anti-Qing Dynasty government. Therefore the name of this form was changed to Sup Jee Kuen or the Cross Pattern Hand Form, same as Sup Jee Kau Da Kuen. When the Siu Sup Jee Kuen or the Small Cross Pattern Form was added to the system, the original form’s name was then changed to Dai Sup Jee Kuen or Large Cross Pattern Form.

Guo (Cantonese Gwok), means the State or Country. The real name of this form was Gwok Fa Kuen or the National Flower Hand Form. For thousands of years in China, the peony is the national flower. However during the revolution of anti-Manchurian, the national flower was changed to be the plum flower. That meant the comrades of the revolutionary must have the spirit of the plum blossom because the Chinese are tough, hard working and also able to take pain just like the plum blossom growing in the snow and ice. Therefore the Gwok Fa Kuen was changed to Mui Fa Kuen or Plum Blossom Hand Form. Fa Kuen or Blossom Form is the short name for this form. Later the Siu Mui Fa Kuen or the Small Plum Blossom Hand Form was added to the system. The name of the original form was changed to Dai Mui Fa Kuen or the Large Plum Blossom Hand Form. It also is called Mui Fa Bot Gwa Kuen or Plum Blossom Bagua Hand Form. Some people heard about this form and thought it's the Gwok Jee Kuen or the Gwok Character Hand Form and because they have never learned this form, they created their own form called Gwok Jee Kuen. It was based on the look of the Gwok character's squared shape and made the form's footwork moving around in a square format.

Chang (Cantonese Cheong) means long. Most people called it Cheong Kuen, or in Mandarin, Chang Quan. This is not the Northern system of “Taizu Changquan.” There is no relationship with the Taizu Changquan” at all. The original name of this form was called Cheong Gong Dai Long Kuen or the Big Waves of Yangtze River Hand Form. This name symbolized the ambition of the Chinese people like the Yangtze River's strong waves over throwing the anti Manchurian government. The name of the form was too long and later changed to Cheong Kuen or Long Fist Form, also known as Tit Jin Kuen or Iron Arrow Hand Form. Some people combined the names together and called it Tit Jin Cheong Kuen or Iron Arrow Long Fist Form.

An (Cantonese On), means Security. This hand form's original name was On Bang Kuen or To Secure the Nation Hand Form. It means that China should be settled down after the revolution. Later, it was changed to Hung Yen Kuen or the Hung's People Hand Form. The Hung Yen was the same as the Chinese Freemasons who were practicing Choy Li Fut for the revolutionary purpose. Because the name had the anti-government meaning, the Chinese character was later changed but has the same Cantonese sound which means “strong or masculine”. It is also called Hung Yen Bagua Hand Form.

Wan (Cantonese Man), normally means 10,000. The formal name was Man Jeong Kuen or the 10,000 Shapes hand form. The phrase Man Jeong Gang Sun means everything in the universe will become new. At that time, the Chinese hoped that when the revolution is successful, China will change to a new scene and a new lifestyle of living. Man Jeong also means 10,000 elephants. Because of this meaning, some school have a hand form called the Ten Thousand Elephants Hand Form. The Chan family saw this funny name and therefore changed its name to Bot Gwa Kuen or the Bagua Hand Form, which all things in the universe are within the five elements of bagua philosophy. Later on there was a Siu Bot Gwa Kuen or the Small Bagua Hand Form. The original hand form changed to call the Dai Bot Gwa Kuen or the Large Bagua Hand Form. Some Choy Li Fut schools have a hand form called Man Jee Kuen (the Man Character's Hand form) which was also originally from this character that meant 10,000.

Nian (Cantonese Nin), means Years. Many people misunderstood this hand form which was named Nin Jee Kuen or the Nin Character Hand Form. Actually this form's name was called the Nin Zhang Kuen or the Elderly Hand Form. When a person became a senior citizen or elderly, their hair should turn grey or white. Therefore this form was later renamed Bak Mo Kuen or the White Hair Hand Form. The Chinese wished for the revolution to be successful and to overthrow the Manchurian government so that all citizens can live peacefully until all their hair turned white with longevity.

In addition, Choy Li Fut has many hand forms. The above mentioned eight principal hand forms were the most widely taught in the old days. The order of teaching sequence did not go by the order of these eight Chinese characters. All the above information that I received was from my teacher Great-Grandmaster Hu Yuen Chou. Hu did the interviews from his teachers Chan Ngau Sing, Chan Yiu Chi and other Choy Li Fut seniors when he was young. The new generations don't know much about this information anymore. Therefore, I am educating the public by writing this to pass down for the future generations as historical information.

Eight Principal Forms
Choy Li Fut Forms List