Shaolin Wahnam sparring methodolgy

If you think kungfu cannot be used for combat, have a look at these videos

Asking whether kungfu can be used for combat almost sounds silly! "Kungfu" means "martial art", and if it cannot be used for combat then it is not a martial art. Hence, questioning whether a particular style of kungfu can be used for combat is questioning whether it is genuine kungfu.

Nevertheless, to say that kungfu is capable of combat is not the same as saying a kungfu exponent is necessarily a formidable fighter. He may or may not be as effective a fighter than a martial artist of any other style.

More significantly, to say that kungfu is capable of combat is not to deny its other benefits, such as promoting good health and spiritual cultivation, which may be more desirable than mere combat efficiency.

Combat application was an important objective of the regional Shaolin Kungfu course organized by Sifu Marcus Santer at the University of Kent, Canterbury, England in July 2005. This course was fully booked even before it commenced.

Although many of the participants were beginning students, by the end of the five-day course they were able to use kungfu for combat. The video clips below, taken impromptu by Sifu Marcus Santer and Hubert Razack, and released here without editing, show their training and sparring. A worthy point of note is that none of the course participants sustained any injury at all in their sparring. Instead they had much fun and fraternization.

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Keeping a Boxer Away

Against Boxers

Many fighters today, regardless of the style of martial art they practice, use Boxing techniques in sparring and fighting. An important reason for this situation is that Boxing is perhaps the closest to fighting instinctively. A kungfu exponent if he wishes to be effective in combat, must therefore be able to handle a Boxer's attacks. The strength of a Boxer lies in his speed. A good way to minimize this advantage of the opponent is to keep him at bay using a stretched arm at a Bow-Arrow Stance in a Shaolin pattern called “Fierce Dragon Across Stream”. Please note that the main objective of this training session is keeping the Boxer away. How to counter-attack him is learnt in other sessions.

Felling an Opponent using “Uprooting Tree with Roots”

felling technique

Grandmaster Wong demonstrates how to throw an opponent using the Shaolin pattern “Uprooting Tree with Roots”. He purposely chooses a huge opponent, Innes Maran, for demonstration, “When you can throw a big opponent”, he says, “not only you can throw smaller opponents more easily, you will have the confidence to throw them.” Do not attempt this technique if your training partner does not know how to fall correctly. Notice that the last part of Innes' body to reach the ground is his palm, and he is not hurt at all in the fall. If a falling person attempts to stop the fall with his hand, he may dislocate his wrist or facture his arm.

Practicing How to Fell an Opponent

Felling Techniques

This video clip shows students practicing how to throw opponents using the Shaolin pattern “Uprooting Tree with Roots”. Some of the students are beginning students. Hence you may notice that their movements may not be skilful — yet. But their techniques are excellent. The attackers have good stance, and unbalance the opponents before felling them — two conditions necessary for effective felling. Their partners also have good techniques in their falling, which enable them to be unhurt. Notice especially that they hit the ground with their palm last. Had they tried to stop the fall with their palm first, they might be injured.

Kicking Attack using “Happy Bird Hops up a Branch”

kicking technique

Here is a kicking technique, using the Shaolin pattern “Happy Bird Hops up a Branch”. Some people may be surprised that there are many kicking techniques in Shaolin Kungfu, but they are purposely used inconspicuously. An exponent purposesly lets an opponent to attack, then he surprises the attacker with a kick. This tactic is known as “tempting the opponent to attack in futile, then strike him unexpectedly”.

Gripping Attack using “Angry Leopard Charges at Rock”

kicking technique

Gripping an opponent by surprise with one hand and simultaneously striking him with the other, is a formidable attack. Here is such an attack, using the Shaolin pattern “Angry Leopard Charges at Rock”. Attacks may come in countless ways but they are grouped into four major categories, namely striking, kicking, felling and “qin-na” or gripping. Although this is an elementary course, it is complete, and all the four categories of attacks and their defences are taught. Learning these defences, however, are not captured in these videos, which were taken without pre-arrangement, but the students can be seen using them in free sparring shown later on.

Various Counters against Shoots

counters against shoots

The technique known as the “shoot”, where the attacker rushes in to grab the opponent's legs to take him down, is commonly used in wrestling and free-style fighting. In kungfu this technique is discouraged because it places the attacker in a vulnerable position while attacking. These deadly counter techniques which could kill or maim the attacker are normally disallowed by safety rules, but in kungfu one is trained to fight without any rules. Even if we leave aside these drastic techniques, there are still many safe and effective techniques in kungfu to counter the “shoot”. Some examples are shown.

Counters against Shoots (Part 1)

counters against shoots

Students practice counters against “shoots” where an opponent has just commenced his attack and has not succeeded in grasping an exponent's legs. One can cause serious injury to the opponent by striking his head. A more compassionate yet effective counter is to stop him by intercepting the opponent's forward movement at his shoulder or collar bone. Students need to be careful in their training to avoid injuring their training partner while countering.

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Counters against Shoots (Part 2)

counters against shoots

What would you do if an opponent succeeds in grasping your legs and is about to take you down. A good counter is to sink deep into your low Horse-Riding Stance and press the opponent onto the ground, using the pattern “Black Bear Sinks Hips”. Another effective counter is to squat down to a Half-Kneel Stance using the pattern “Fierce Tiger Crouches on Ground”.

Counters against Shoots (Part 3)

counters against shoots

Students use a variety of counters against the “shoot”, depending on how far the opponent has executed his attack. It is interesting to note that in one of the encounters, having the attacker under control, Jamie plucks his groin from behind without the attacker knowing. This isn't so surprising if we know that Jamie's teacher is Sifu Darryl who specializes in the Shaolin Monkey Set, where such insidious techniques are characteristic.

Free Sparring (Part 1)

free sparring

Although some of the students here are beginners, they can use typical kungfu patterns in their free sparring after only a few days of intensive training. All the categories of attacks — striking, kicking, felling and gripping — are represented here. The two students at the end of the video clip are beginners. It is a credit to them that they apply throws, which are relatively difficult techniques, and counter effectively, which is one reason why some viewers may not realize that throwing attacks have been attempted.

Free Sparring (Part 2)

free sparring

This video clip shows a beginners' class attempting free sparring. For some of them it is their first time, yet they can use kungfu patterns in their free sparring, though their skills, understandably, still need much training to be effective. It is worthy of note that even among beginners, free sparring in Shaolin Wahnam is fun and free of injury. You can also hear Sifu Marcus Santer's voice behind the video camera telling the participants to give their sparring partners a chance if their partners are too slow to respond correctly.

Free Sparring (Part 3)

free sparring

The students here are more advanced than those shown in the previous video clip (Free Sparring Part 2). Some of them are assistant instructors. Although the techniques used are the same, the skills shown here are more advanced. Regardless of whether they are beginners or advanced students, free sparring in Shaolin Wahnam is always fun and free from injury.

Using Kicks and their Counters in Sparring

free sparring

This video clips shows students training how to use kicks and their counters in sparring. Sifu Darryl is obviously having a nice time.

Chi Flow after Sparring

free sparring

In Shaolin Wahnam both Shaolin Kungfu and Wahnam Taijiquan are always practiced as chi kung. In other words, in our Shaolin Kungfu or Wahnam Taijiquan training, it is not necessary to practice separate chi kung exercises because chi kung is already an integral part of the training. Free sparring is no exception. After a vigorous session of free sparring, students go into chi flow. Amongst other benefits, chi flow cleanses away injuries unwitting sustained during sparring, and build internal force.

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