The Martial Art Styles of Ngo Cho Kun

The Ancestor Styles

Ngo Cho Kun is a Southern Chinese martial arts style that has been derived from the principles and techniques of five father kung fu styles:

  • the breathing methods and iron body style of Bodhidharma;
  • the posture and dynamic power of the Luohan;
  • the precision and movement efficiency of Tai Cho (Taizu);
  • the hand techniques and complementary softness and hardness of the Fujian White Crane;
  • and the agility and footwork of the Monkey.

Each of these forefathers have played a significant role in the construction of the traditional Ngo Cho Kun style that continues to be practised to this day.

The Five Kung Fu Ancestors

1. Bodhidharma – iron body and breathing

Da mo (1)
Bodhidharma (or Da Mo) is believed to have introduced intense conditioning training to the Shaolin Temple

Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who travelled to China in the 5th or 6th century. He is known as the first Chinese patriarch of Chan (Zen) Buddhism. Chinese legend believes that he introduced conditioned physical training to the monks of the Shaolin Monastery.

There are many sources that claim Bodhidharma came from the Western Regions, or Central Asia, and he is believed by some to be the “third son of a great Indian King.”

He is credited with developing the Iron body style which conditions the muscles and bones within the body to be able to withstand significant blows.

Hard body conditioning

This style of martial art exercise is intended to protect the human body from impacts in a fight. This method follows the belief that a correctly trained body can withstand more damage than an untrained body. The practice involves hardening the body tissue by subjecting the body to physical force. The purpose is to harden a human’s outer shell and is applied to the legs, torso, hands, arms, and head.

Iron Legs conditions the legs to endure starting from the strikes from hard bamboo sticks and on to more solid and hard items. Iron Shirt conditions the torso to endure being hit in the chest during a battle. Iron Palm trains the hands to strike an opponent with strength and durability. Iron Head conditions the head to be able to endure any blows to the head. Makes head more resilient.

Breathing

Bodhidharma focused on regulated deep breathing and meditation which regulates the heart rate and blood pressure.

 

Precaution: The training is extremely dangerous and can do serious damage to a person. It should only be attempted only by sincere students of martial arts and under the strict supervision of a qualified teacher.

 2. Luohan – posture and power (Body-Mind-Energy System)

lohanShaolin1
The original roots of Luohan (or Lohan) are said to date back to the early times of the Shaolin Temple.

As a whole, Luohan Gong is a method that concentrates on internal exercises in order to cultivate the energies of Qi (vital), Jing (essence) and Shen (spirit). The idea is to strengthen internal organs by keeping good mental and physical health.

There are four forms in the Luohan System:

Sub Bak Luohan Sau – The hands of the 18 Luohan

As the first form in the system, this form focuses on the strengthening the body, muscles and tendons through the elimination of stress and mental tension. The primary purpose of this system is to increase energy and its circulation within the body. This form uses body motion to circulate energy etc…

Siu Luohan – Little Luohan

This is the second form in the system. With circular and soft movements, this form uses breathing to increase the flow Qi and blood. The principle of Siu Luohan is to have a deep emotional and energetic connection, and to become one with the message and essence. This form embodies the belief that “movement is born from stillness and stillness is activated by movement”.

Tai Luohan – Big Luohan

Where the previous two Luohan forms are based on meditation and movement, the objective of Tai Luohan is to stretch and strengthen the body which will result in training the mind, the breath and the body to reach “Self Realization”. The purpose of this form is to reach a higher consciousness of the mind.

Practising Tai Luohan is done in a seated position with little to no body movement and is composed of a series of a meditative postures. Energy is moved through the body through various breathing patterns, hand positions and especially through visualisation.

Wu Chi

The movement of Wu Chi is circular with elements of straight movements that maintain a fluid and relaxed posture.

With a self-defence application, this form works on the positions of the hip and shoulders and horse stances.

However, the practitioner of Wu Chi doesn’t focus or concentrate on the positioning of the body, but instead, the whole purpose of this form is to experience pure enjoyment and a sense of serene power that comes from deep within. This should be reflected in the eyes of the practitioner and manifest in every cell of the body. This form seems to have a concept of “all is one, and one is all”, bringing together nature’s most basic rhythm and the understanding of Yin and Yang.

 3. Tai Cho – precision and efficient movement

Ming Tai Zu

Tai Cho was introduced by a Chinese emperor who ended the Mongol rule of China. He developed a military based style which used primarily close combat fighting. This style was developed for easy manoeuvring around opponents on a battlefield. Using powerful and explosive fighting techniques, the style was designed to be able to make an opponent fall quicker. To withstand, absorb and deflect hits.

This system of kung fu was respected for its practicality and effectiveness. The system used explosive bursting techniques, training in hitting and striking conditioning, and training to toughen the body. This fighting style was deliberate.

After the Ming dynasty fell and the Qing dynasty took its place, many opposed the new takeover and studied the style in secret in various Buddhist temples, the most well-known of these is the Shoalin Temple. Those who studied kung fu in secret had hopes to restore the Ming dynasty to its former glory and expel the invaders from China.

Read all about the history of Ngo Cho Kun here.

4. Fujian White Crane – hand techniques and complementary softness/hardness

White CraneL
The Fujian White Crane style was created by a female monk refined in the skills of martial arts.

Originating in the Fujian province, the style was developed by Fang Qiniang, a female martial artist

The style includes traditional fighting techniques that includes long range, but incorporates more close-quarter combat. The name was given because of the way the fighter imitates a bird’s pecking or flapping of wings.

Essentially, this is a type of Shaolin Boxing that mimicks the Taiwanese Crane and was created by closely observing the crane’s movements and methods of attack and spirit.

5. Monkey – agility and footwork

monkey kung fu
There are many systems developed in the Monkey style of kung fu, but it is believed to originate in the Southern Shaolin Temple.

Using ape or monkey-like movements, this style incorporates several different techniques that mimic the spirit of a monkey. Some forms of the monkey style apply flips, handsprings and other acrobatic techniques for quick execution of movements.

This style of kung fu is also believed to have originated from the Southern Shaolin Temple. There are two primary techniques involved in this style:

The Hou Quan

The Hou Quan technique uses various difficult acrobatic moves including running on all fours and will include attacks aimed at the knees, groin, throat and even eyes. The idea of this technique is to confuse the opponent and make them convinced that the practitioner looks exactly like a monkey instead of looking like a human imitating a monkey.

The Tai Shing

The Tai Shing technique has five variations of monkey kung fu as part of its system:

  • Drunken Monkey will use throat, eye and groin strikes along with tumbling and falling techniques. The idea is to appear as defenseless and uses a lot of off balance strikes. This variation uses more internal energy and is effective against standard attacks.
  • Stone Monkey uses more of a physical style and is similar to the Iron Body method. This method involves exposing a part of the body in order to attack a more vital spot on the opponent’s body.
  • Lost Monkey is intended to appear as if being lost and confused to deceive the opponent into underestimating the practitioner’s abilities who will then launch attack when. Practitioners will incorporate fear, nervousness and mischief to trick the opponent.
  • Standing Monkey is a style that maintains an upright position and is ideal for tall people. This form will target pressure points and uses a long range style.
  • Wooden Monkey will mimic an angry monkey that uses serious movements in order to bring the opponent to the ground.

Altar of Ngo Cho Kun

Ngo Cho altar

In the past, Ngo Cho Kun used to be defined by five historical figures of dynasty China. However, it was later redefined to acknowledge the martial arts styles used to create Ngo Cho Kun. These five kung fu styles together create the embodiment of today’s Ngo Cho Kun style.

In order to honour the past kung fu styles that founded Ngo Cho Kun, the dedicated students of the practice have set up an altar to show their respect.

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