The Hong Quan style of the Kung Fu we study has been explained in depth in Master Chen’s book, Key to Hong Quan, translated by Si Gung Marco and available through the CMAHC centres.
This article is a brief insight into the origins, forms and technique of the Hong Quan system for those of you who have not bought the book. Certain portions of information have been used out of the “Key to Hong Quan” book, other sources of information come from Si Gung Marco, Si Fu Paul and Si Xiong Arthur (Taipei).
History of our Lineage:
There are two different systems that are both known as Hong Quan: One originated in northern China, the other in the south of China. The southern Hong Quan is also called Hong Jia Quan (Hung Gar in Cantonese) and is considered first in the list of the famous Five Quan’s and Thirteen Famous Schools of Canton. This school has two principal origin stories: The first says it came from the teachings of the Shaolin Temple and reached Canton from Henan and Fujian at a time when the failing Ming dynasty was being replaced by the Qing dynasty (mid 17th century).
The second story says it is a school of martial arts created by Hong Xi Guan, a Fujian tea merchant. Both of these legends involve the Shaolin Temple closely.
Another common story is that it was the school of martial arts taught in secret, underground, to rebel forces fighting against the Manchurian Qing government, whom Chinese peasants deemed foreign invaders. Thus, Hong Quan did not originate from a single person, nor was it limited to a single school of teaching.
The most prevalent legend says that Hong Quan came from the folk hero Hong Xi Guan himself. Of course, we do not object to such an origin myth for Hong Quan. However, in the several hundred years leading to its wide acceptance, numerous masters arose, making many individual changes, according to varying needs, to make it more concise and effective. It is like the development of a language, not all the changes of phrases can ever be completed solely by a single person at a single moment.
The Southern Shaolin five animals style was well known in Taiwan, Fujian and Guangdong province from the late Qing dynasty (清朝) 1644-1912 into the early Republican period 1912-1949. These provinces held a large concentration of martial arts experts from many styles because of a long history of rebel activities, secret martial societies, civil war and foreign invasion. One such expert was master Lin Jia Kun (林家坤), a veteran soldier and martial arts drillmaster in the Chinese Nationalist Army. Master Zhang Ke Zhi (張克治) was a member of the Nationalist Army and was fortunate enough to meet and learn from master Lin Jia Kun.
In Taiwan, Master Zhang became one of the most well known Hung Gar masters and trained many of the top Hung Gar teachers in Taiwan. Our Master Chen first became interested in Hong Quan under the tutelage of an old master, known only as Mr Ho, who had fled communist China to Taiwan – Mr Ho was about seventy years old when Sifu Chen was in his early teens. Following this Master Chen trained under Master Zhang Ke Zhi.
The Technique of Hong Quan:
There are two different aspects entrenched in martial arts of this style. The first utilizes wide steps and long-reaching strikes, using more distinct and obvious movements. The second concentrates on shorter-ranged strikes and smaller stances and specializes in close combat.
The following points are the basic principles of Hong Quan:
- upright stances,
- stable Qi,
- sinking Qiao (bridge, meaning shoulders and elbows),
- swallowing waist,
- withdrawing body,
- and concentrating mind.
Many of Hong Quan’s forms imitate the form and spirit of animals, the student must utilize these in training with the goal of learning the forms, awareness of the different spirits and to reach a true understanding.
Because there are many differing characteristics of Hong Quan, some theories change according to the specific animal form involved. For example, the Tiger and the Leopard are more gang aligned, or hard force oriented. Therefore, their practice will focus on the fierceness and exertion of strength, with the body staying upright, the stances being more regular, and the Qi flow more abrupt and forceful. These all contribute to the training of one’s sinews and bones and help deliver force. The Snake form is more rou aligned, or soft flow oriented. The Qi should be sinking and smooth, and the movements and utilization of internal forces should be continuous, in accordance with the flows of Qi. The Crane form is concerned more with skill and its movements are mostly precise, agile manoeuvres. The Qi is drawn higher with a clear mind, and the hand techniques utilize subtle differences in the palm and some angles formed by joints.
The basics of the forms include the Twelve Qiao Shou (Bridge Hands – the arm symbolizes a bridge, as it is meant to make contact with the enemy) and the Twelve Qiao Ma (literally Bridge Horse, referring to stances).
Weapons include the major weapons of dao (or broadsword, a falchion-like single-edged weapon), straight sword, staff and spear. The more exotic weapons include double forks, folded fan, umbrella, bars with side handles and shafted blades.
The following summarizes the intention behind the animals in the 5 Animals and 5 Forms/shapes sets:
- Tiger is forceful and trains the strength of the bone;
- Crane is light and skilful, which trains the understanding of combat angles of both offense and defence and also trains precision.
- Snake is gliding, winds around the enemy and trains the sinking and continuity of Qi.
- Leopard trains strength and power.
- Monkey is accurate and sharp-eyed, and encourages swiftness and agility.
- Dragon plays out the spirit and the mind fully, so it transforms and controls gang (hard) and rou (soft) completely.
The Hong Quan Forms:
Among the forms of Hong Quan there are two sets of forms each simulating five animals. Both of these sets are considered mid-level forms in Hong Quan, and all are considered application-oriented forms. In addition to these 2 sets there is the 10 forms/shapes set. These 3 sets are outlined as follows:
五形wǔ xíng (five forms/shapes)
Long, hǔ, shé, hé, bào
Dragon, tiger, snake, crane, leopard
五禽 wǔ qín (five animals)
Hǔ, hè, lóng, shé,hóu
Tiger, crane, dragon, snake, monkey
十形 shí xíng (ten forms/shapes)
Hǔ, he, lóng, shé, hóu, yīng, xióng, shī, mǎ, bào
Tiger, crane, dragon, snake, monkey, eagle, bear, lion, horse, leopard
Below is an introduction to the core of the Hong Quan system. These three forms are known as the 3 treasures of Hong Quan:
Gong Zi Fu Hu Quan – ‘I’ Shape Tiger Taming Fist:
According to legend, Gong Zi Fu Hu Quan was created by Hong Xi Guan who modified the Shaolin Form of Eighteen Lohan Tames the Tiger. The layout of the form is H-shaped, and the Chinese character Gong looks like the letter H turned 90 degrees while Zi means written character in Chinese. Together these denote the layout of the form. It is the most iconic form of Hong Quan, and is mainly used to train Qiao Shou (bridge hand), Qiao Ma (bridge horse – refers to stances)and to develop Qi and internal force. It is known for its imposing moves and forceful strikes. The required standards for this form include: sink the shoulder blades; spread out the back; send the forces deep into the bone marrow – use the body to moderate Qi flow, use Qi to guide and drive out force. In order for such spirit to be felt: when one exhales the shout shakes the mountains and the rivers; when one steps the wind swirls the clouds up in the sky.
Gong Zi Fu Hu Quan is a form that concentrates on the basics; it offers sound training for stable hands and proper stances, and develops internal force. This form is the basis for all further Hong Quan forms, so most people consider it the mother form of Hong Quan as well as its most iconic form.
Hu He Shuang Xing Quan (Tiger-Crane Fist):
According to legend this is a form that was created by Hong Xi Guan after he met up with Fang Yong Chun, a legendary female martial artist. It mainly adopts the forcefulness and power of the Tiger and the lightness, precision and agility of the Crane and merges them into one. From this union came a famous saying, “When you combine Tiger and Crane, there’s no equal match found in all the world”. This form is most notable for its numerous variations in hand techniques, steps and intricate uses of the torso. Combined with the characteristics of both Tiger and Crane, this makes it an application-oriented and multi-faceted high-level form.Hu He Shuang Shing is the form most oriented towards performance and application.
Tie Xian Quan (Iron Wire Fist):
This is the form used most extensively to train internal force. It is a secret form that Hong Xi Guan obtained from the Shaolin Temple. The movements are wide and the stances low and spread apart. Its main characteristic is to use the body to moderate Qi flow, using the Qi to guide and drive out force. With the opening and closing of bodily movements, alongside the twelve Qiao Shou guides, the interaction between gang and rou, coupled with using Qi to train the internal organs is the embodiment of the saying, “Internally, develop the Chi”. There is also another legend which states that Tie Xian Quan came from Tie Qiao San, a folk hero who is one of the famous Ten Tigers of Canton. It is a close-combat form that specializes in the focus on the blend of gang and rou, training the fundamental ability to remain stable yet supple.
Tie Xian Quan mainly trains the manipulation and strength of internal force and is the best manifestation of the saying, “Externally, train the sinews, bones and skin; internally, train the Qi”. For this reason, Tie Xian Quan is called the highest treasure of Hong Chuan.
As a guide for the student, below is the list of the first 10 Hong Quan barehand forms as they are taught in our system.
- Gōng Zì Fú Hǔ Quán (“I” shape tiger taming fist) – 2nd year of Yellow Shirt
- Hè Quan (Lone crane facing branch / Basic Crane fist ) – 1st year of Blue Shirt
- Shé Xíng Quan (Clever snake leaves hole / Basic snake fist ) – 2nd year of Blue Shirt
- Wǔ Qín Hǔ (Five Animals tiger) – 1st year of Red shirt
- Lúo Hàn Shí Bā Zhǎng (Eighteen Luo Han palm ) – 1st year of Purple Shirt
- Shí Xíng Bao (Ten shape leopard fist) – 6th year of Purple Shirt
- Wǔ Qín Lóng (Five Animals dragon fist) – 6th year of Purple Shirt
- Wu Xíng Hè (Five Forms/Shapes crane fist) – 8th year of Purple Shirt
- Wu Xíng Shé (Five Forms/Shapes snake fist) – 8th year of Purple Shirt
- Tie Xian Quan (Iron Wire Fist) – approx. 10th year of Purple Shirt
** The first crane and snake forms that are learnt in Blue shirt level are basic forms and they don’t form part of the 5 or 10 sets listed above. Master Chen rates them both very highly as they carry all the fundamental principles.