Essence of Shaolin

Single Leg Flying Crane in the 36-Pattern Tiger-Crane Set

Epilogue to Question 1

Many people, including masters, regard some kungfu sets as secrets. I remember that in our Discussion Forum a grandmaster mentioned that some Taijiquan sets were not taught to the public because they were secrets. Douglas once told me that Maro, a kungfu practitioner of another school, went to China every year to learn from his sifu because he was afraid that his sifu might not teach him some secret sets.

Some masters purposely distort their sets when they demonstrate publicly so as to hide the secrets. I believe the pattern “Single Leg Flying Crane” went through this process. When I learned this pattern in the 36-pattern and the 108 pattern Tiger-Crane Set, I stood on one leg with both hands at the sides like the wings of a crane. It was only when I learned the 72-pattern Tiger-Crane Set that I realized its hidden secret.

This is also the reason why secrets are hidden in the open. In other words, the secrets incorporated in kungfu patterns are performed openly, but only those who know the secrets can see them. Others will see the patterns but miss the secrets. The Three-Harmony Set, which I taught recently in Toronto, is an example of hiding a lot of secrets in the open.

Another secret hidden in the open is the hook-spring leg technique, found in the pattern, “Hook-Spring Chop Sword”, in Essence of Shaolin. This hook-spring technique was one of the secrets of no-shadow kicks of Wong Fei Hoong, and is found in the 108-pattern Tiger-Crane Set. I learned the secret when I learned from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam.

Once I had this concept of secret kungfu sets. But as I progressed in my kungfu development, my concepts of kungfu changed. While there are secrets hidden in the open, I now regard the secrets not in the sets but in their application and force training. Essence of Shaolin will give many examples how ordinary-looking techniques are used in marvelous ways.

This was the reason why Essence of Shaolin, which is still regarded by many masters as a secretive set, is openly posted on my website. People can learn the set from the video, but its marvelous combat applications have to be learned at the course.

Our training also makes us generous. This is the reason why we share a lot of secrets with others, including strangers – secrets which many masters would regard as top secrets.

We also have many secrets to share. If a master has only 10 secrets, he will be generous to share 5 or 6 of these secrets. If we have 100 secrets, it does not take a lot of generosity to share 30 or 40.

Many of these “secrets” are actually established principles known to genuine kungfu practitioners in the past. An obvious example is “safety first”. In kungfu, we always ensure our own safety whenever we attack our opponents. But the standard of kungfu has been so debased today that martial artists generously exchange blows with a shocking disregard of their own safety.

Essence of Shaolin

Single Leg Flying Crane in 72-Pattern Tiger-Crane Set

This question and answer are reproduced from the thread 10 Questions on Essence of Shaolin in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.