Hung Gar Kung fu is one of the most popular fighting systems to emerge out of the southern regions of China. Dating back some 300 years, it was developed, nourished, and flourished as one of the most widely practiced art forms. When describing this particular fighting system, it is said to be power personified with devestating no-nonsense fighting techniques.
When Hung Gar is mentioned among the Chinese martial arts, one picture immediately comes to mind and that is a practitioner who delivers heavy crushing blows like that of a tidal wave and the blocking and parrying techniques as forcefull as a landslide. Yet, the concept of these practitioners are to yield with the softness of cotton, but be as hard as steel. In so many words, blend with your opponent's force, soaking up his energy, but, maintain the stableness of an immovable object while spontaneously unleashing imminent power.
The reasons why these practitioners can deliver such punishing blows is due to the demanding and vigorous training of stances and footwork. In the begining stages, stances are taught first, 7 in all (Horse Riding, Forward Bow & Arrow, Reverse Bow & Arrow, Cat, Kneeling, Twist, Crane or Hanging Stance). Then the mechanics and purpose of each stance is taught. The next level is the most vigorous because it requires being able to sit in each stance for a certain length of time somewhere from 3 to 5 minutes to as long as a half hour.
In time, strength and power are developed in the legs. The student then learns to move from one stance to another like the transition of moving pistons runing a powerful engine, smooth, precise and with no hesitation. The footwork then becomes stable and sturdy, but not stagnate, no matter which direction or angle he or she decides to move. Under normal circumstances, this can be achieved within 4 to 6 months with constant practice. The Chinese feel that from a scientific viewpoint real fighting begins from the ground-up meaning that true power is rooted in the feet first, then developed in the legs, stored in the waist and then transmitted out through the hands. This theory is used in most southern schools of thought, but it is synonymous with this particular style. All of this is developed through the correlation of what they call the 3 external power (Hand & Feet, Shoulder & Waist, Elbows and Knees).
The next important phase is training the upper part of the body meaning the shoulder, chest and arms through isometirc hand techniques that will manifest the strength in these extremities and by cultivating ones breath which is called Qigong (Breath Control). The practice of Qigong plays a very important role in the Chinese martial arts in that you learn to conserve your energy and strength, and have the ability to conjure up when necessary, maximum power to any parts of the body at will. So to speak, you can say Hung-Gar is considered an Internal and External art form (Qigong and Qiyinggong). The basic training procedures vary from school to school, but the results of such practice comes out about the same if one has patience and can contain what has been bestowed upon them by the master instructor.
Hung Gar is also considered a long and short range fighting style with its long and short range punches, allowing a multitude of variations accompanied by variations of clawing, pecking, slapping, pushing and pulling. There are also a variety of joint breaking and locking techniques (Chin Na). It is one of the most complete and unadulterated fighting styles of the Chinese martial arts with little change since its development years long past. The kicking techniques are sually delivered low, basically from the mid-section down since theoretically balance can cause a problem when aiming the kicks higher. To avoid over extending a kick, they are only executed at close range with lighting fast speed so that it will be hard for the opponent to gain some distance to counter. This gives the Hung Gar practitioner a better sense of mobile control and sure footing once the foot touches the ground, for kicking acts as a bridge, crossing over to the other side to get close to your opponent to finish the attack, immobilizing him. There is a saying: When you can knock your opponent down without him seeing what he was struck with, consider yourself a true martial artist.
Although the Hung Gar style is known for its power punches, the main characteristics of the style are the vicious fighting maneuvers of the Tiger and Crane, which is what this style is sometimes called Fu Hok Pai. There are also different types of sounds accompanied with the training in this system, animal sounds and sounds for different types of punches. It is highly vauable to the Hung Gar practitioner and mysterious to other martial artists as to the attributes of such sounds. The Chinese poetically call this the Thunder Roar which originated from the Shaolin Temple. Monks used this for the purpose to increase the vitality of the internal organs, thus warding off certain basic illnesses. This belief must hold some truth, for all Hung Gar schools still maintain this practice. These sounds have to be properly taught and understood for it could become more detrimental than beneficial for your health when seriously training. Improper training could cause an imbalance in the energy flow over a period of time. Every fighting system has its own context of fighting techniques which makes that style unique, but the great Hung Gar masters of the past have all contributed something to enhance the training, be it for self-defense or to promote ones health, which has made it a well rounded martial art style. What makes it so compelte are the open hand techniques which were patterned after the movements of the Tiger, Crane, Snake, Leopard and Dragon. The Shaolin Temple was also the seeding ground for most of the popular styles of wushu kungfu that exists today. The first techniques were based on cosmology and patterned after the so-called 5 major elements, which correlate with each other, they are Earth, Water, Gold, Wood, and Fire. Whether its the crushing fist technqiues of the five elements or the vicious striking and locking techniques of the 5 animals, this style has escalated through years of refinement to stand out among one of the finest fighting systems of the Chinese Martial Arts. So, if you ever have the pleasure of witnessing a display of the ancient oriental fighting arts, listen for the þRoar of the Tiger and the Shrill of the Crane for this is indeed Hung Gar Kung Fu Wushu.
by Joe Calvin, Hanwei Wushu Newsletter, issue #8