FIVE-ANIMAL SET OF SHAOLIN
The evening sun was sinking in the west on a cold day. The sky was spread with colorful clouds. Luk Ah Choy faced wind and dust on a government road. He was concerned that when night descended, he had no inn to stay in.
Suddenly he noticed amidst some trees a small shed. He also observed on a wall an advertisement that read “Welcome businessmen and other passers-byes along this passage way.”
Luk Ah Choy hurried along and saw a few sheds, with their back facing a village. He was attracted that all the furniture was made of bamboo -- bamboo doors, bamboo curtains, bamboo tables, bamboo chairs -- which gave him a special sense of romance.
Besides the sheds there were some ancient birch trees, with their roots floating above the soil. The evening shade was thick like a cover, and when gentle breeze blew, saplings dropping from branches drifted amiably in the air. Seeing this lovely scene, Luk Ah Choy felt pleasant in his heart.
Luh Ah Choy entered an eating-house. A young boy in his teen came smiling forward. Luk Ah Choy ordered chicken and wine.
After some time, an old man placed a plate of fried chicken and a pot of wine on a table. Luk Ah Choy was hungry. He enjoyed the chicken and wine.
When some wine had gone into his stomach, Luk Ah Choy exhibited his warrior’s spirit. He went outside, rabbit rose and sparrow descended, and practiced a Shaolin set. When he had completed his set, he heard some people praising from behind. He turned back and found the old man and his workers.
Luk Ah Choy said, “This low person here did not know the presence of various dignified persons. If I have made mistakes, I beg your pardon.”
The old man smilingly said, “Warrior does not have to be courteous. Just now you allow us, wild people in the hills, to open our eyes. I just wonder what kungfu set you performed just now.”
“I performed Shaolin Five-Animal Set. It is a secret of Shaolin. This low person had the teaching of a high monk. Unfortunately my heart is dull and my techniques foolish, burdensome to enter the eyes of the initiated.”
A man from amongst the workers stepped forward, greeting in hands, and said, “I am very fortunate to have a chance to see a secret teaching of Shaolin. But I still don’t understand what warrior just mentioned. What are the techniques of the Shaolin five animals, and what are the differences. I hope warrior can enlighten me.”
The person who spoke was Cheah Pak. His chest and shoulders were wide, his waist narrow and legs long. At one glance, one would know he had practiced martial art.
Luk Ah Choy answered, “As elder brother has asked, how dare I not follow? The Shaolin five animals are dragon, snake, tiger, leopard and crane.
“Dragon form trains spirit. Martial artists have their chi (or vital energy) accumulated at their dan tian (or energy fields). Extending their limbs or bending their body, their heart and their hands and legs mutually co-ordinate, like a spiritual dragon traveling in clouds, changing and modifying beyond expectation.
“Snake form trains energy. Its application needs to be soft and harmonious. Firstly, use the technique of ‘Stabilizing Golden Bridge’ (performed at the Horse-Riding Stance with both outstretched arms with the index finger of each hand pointing skyward, and the other fingers bent at the second joints) to lead energy to flow to the finger tips, making the ten fingers like iron like steel.
“Tiger form trains bones (i.e. internal force). Waist and body as well as stances and footwork movement are both firm and agile, like tiger claws charging, catching, pressing and waiting. Short hands (i.e. close techniques) defend the body. Its force is at the waist, stance and footwork, and bridges (i.e. forearms).
“Leopard form trains strength. The moving forward and backward, jumping and avoiding must be alive and agile. Striking with fists depends on shooting, piercing, charging, pressing, testing and other techniques.
“Crane form trains essence. Attainment depends on one word, ‘quiescence’. Being quiescent applies to anchoring, sideways, striking, slanting, and taking. When moving forward, one is like flying to strike water. When moving back, one is like spirit realizing and intention deceiving. It employs quiescence to secure victory.”
Cheah Pak did not move, but said, “These words are very attractive for hearing. But the height or shortness of kungfu cannot be verified by words. Although I do not have any skill, I am willing to exchange a few techniques with warrior, and seek teaching for a few sets of martial techniques.”
Luk Ah Choy replied, “You want to verify the application of Shaolin Five-Animal Set. But I am just a guest passing this way. If one out of a million, in hands and legs (i.e. kungfu), if I lose my hand (i.e. make a mistake), everyone will not be comfortable.”
Before the sound of the sentence ended, Cheah Pak moved forward and thrust out his punch. Luk Ah Choy “leaned” his arm against Cheak Pak’s arm, wanting to find out the strength of Cheah Pak.
(This was known as “asking bridge” in our school.)
Cheah Pak felt his arm being pressed on. He slipped away and attacked Luk Ah Choy’s face with a pattern called “White Tiger Presents Palm”. Luk Ah Choy knew that one who could slip away and counter, instead of stubbornly matched strength, was good at kungfu.
Luk Ah Choy warded off the top attack, and struck the front leg of Cheah Pak. Cheah Pak retreated his front leg, turned his body around and slapped on Luk Ah Choy’s face with a pattern known as “Devil King Waves Fan”.
Luk Ah Choy squatted down to avoid the top attack, and simultaneously swept at Cheah Pak’s legs using a pattern called “Iron Leg Sweeps Hall”.
Cheah Pak jumped away to avoid the sweeping leg. Luk Ah Choy stood up and adopted a poise pattern, with his right tiger-claw forward, his left hand kept at the waist in a fist, and stood at a right lift-leg stance.
(This pattern was called “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” in our school.)
This was exactly a pattern from the Shaolin Five-Animal Set. Luk Ah Choy employed the tiger form. Amongst the many techniques in the tiger-form was the single tiger-claw. A marvelous use of the single tiger-claw was to tempt an opponent to attack.
Cheah Pak rushed forward with another right punch. When the punch was near, Luk Ah Choy gripped the punching arm with his right tiger-claw, and with his left hand gave the opponent a gently push. Cheak Pak fell back a few feet.
Luk Ah Choy ran forward and helped Cheah Pak up, saying, “My friend, my hand is a bit heavy. I hope you haven’t hurt any tendons or bones.”
Cheah Pak jumped up, brushed off the dust from his body, and replied, “The gate of Shaolin does not have any false warriors. Today I have received the teaching. Thank you very much for letting mercy flow from your hands. I have increased my seeing and knowledge.
“I don’t have anything to thank you. Tonight, I shall enter the kitchen and make a few tasty dishes. We shall really celebrate. What do you think of that?”
The old man, who had been watching the happening all the while, came forward and said, “Warrior, please take a seat. Wine and dishes will soon arrive.”
Luk Ah Choy said, “I’m afraid I don’t deserve this.”
The old man waved his hand and said, “A happy day is better than a thousand years. You and me should not differentiate as host or guest. We open our cavities and drink heartily (i.e. we drink wine without any care). Once we are drunk, we can forget all worries.”
Wong Kiew Kit
15th January 2018, Sungai Petani