Shen Lung Kung Fu

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Shen Lung Kung Fu (Chinese: 神龍 功夫) is a five-animal Chinese martial art created in America in the 1960s by Grandmaster Fu Xi-Wen dedicated to the goals of not only building self defense skills, but developing each person as a whole. In Shen Lung Kung Fu, the focus of training is not solely on martial techniques, but on building positive values in their students.

The ultimate goal of Shen Lung, however, is not the mastery of sparring or forms; but the improvement of a person along three levels; the mind, the body, and the spirit. A Shen Lung practitioner will work for a many years attempting to attain the body of a warrior, the mind of a scholar, and the spirit of a priest.

Shen Lung Kung Fu is technically an American (Chinese-based) martial art. In 1948, just before the communist took rule in China, Fu Xi-Wen fled to seek new freedom in America. Fu Xi-Wen had devoted his youth to the study of T’ien Lung (Heavenly Dragon) Gung Fu.

Early History: While living in the U.S. in the 1960s, Fu Xi-Wen created a new martial art that did not carry a strictly Taoist spiritual requirement.

Shen Lung Kung Fu Symbol

While the school of Shen Lung Kung Fu still studies the Tao, all that is required is belief in something greater than oneself. Fu Xi-Wen tailored this art so it would appeal to people in his new environment.

He also replaced some of the defense systems among a different set of animals, and created a class and rank structure that would bridge Chinese traditions and instruction groups with American sensibilities.

Fu Xi-Wen became Sijo (founder) and named his new art Shen Lung (Spiritual or Invisible Dragon) Kung Fu. Shen Lung Kung Fu — born in America, and the product of Grandmaster Fu Xi-Wen — owes many of its traditions to T’ien Lung Gung Fu and beyond. However the lineage of Shen Lung Kung Fu starts with Sijo Fu Xi-Wen.

Current Schools: The School of Shen Lung Kung Fu currently has active Kwoons (Schools) in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Dothan, Alabama and in Nashville, Tennessee. Sifu Robert Britton operated a Shen Lung Kwoon in Taichung, Taiwan during his years teaching there but it has since closed with his return to the United States.

Philosophy: There are three parts to every person: Body, Mind and Spirit. These three parts exist on separate planes: Physical, Mental and Spiritual. Three archetypes exemplify the perfection of each level :

  • The Body of a Warrior
  • The Mind of a Scholar
  • The Spirit of a Priest, or Monk

The goal of Shen Lung Kung Fu is to unite the three archetypes in harmony within a person. A major emphasis of the art is conflict resolution. The School teaches one to seek to resolve conflict by raising it to a higher plane – moving from violence at the physical level, to rational argument at the mental level, to unity and understanding at the spiritual level.

One reason Shen Lung is taught in groups (called Circles) is because the skills needed for conflict resolution are better taught in groups. There are several fundamental principles, or maxims associated with The School of Shen Lung Kung Fu:

  1. The Understanding of Weapons:
    • There are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous people.
  2. The Understanding of Discipline:
    • Discipline is the training which makes punishment unnecessary.
  3. The Honor Code:
    • A student of Shen Lung Kung Fu will not lie, cheat, or steal.
      • Those who do participate in such behavior will be asked to leave the school.

Expectations and Requirements: Shen Lung Kung Fu has no specific doctrinal or religious requirements; the School only insists that there be something you believe in that is greater than yourself. They also ask that:

  • One be tolerant of the beliefs of others.
  • One respects their seniors in the art.
  • One is to be respectful of martial arts other than Shen Lung Kung Fu.

If accepted as a student a person will be asked to be bound by an honor code: “A Student of Shen Lung Kung Fu will not lie, cheat, or steal.” Those who violate this code will be asked to leave the School.

Bookwork: The three main texts involved are The Tao Te Ching, The Analects of Confucius, and The Art of War. Bookwork begins once one has joined a Circle. However, there are also classes on logic/rhetoric and occasional seminars from guest instructors from other arts that are open to all within the School.

Rank Structure: There are five different classes of people in Shen Lung. Guests, Novices, Students, Disciples and Instructors. The Guests are just that — honored guests treated with respect and courtesy. The School encourages interested people to come for a while as a guest before making a decision or commitment to continue. Guests are invited and encouraged to participate in a variety of drills and exercises but all activities are voluntary.

Guests who show a proficiency in the basic techniques, and who display a respect for the traditions and culture of the school, can request to test for the rank of Novice. The Novice, with a white sash, immediately becomes a fundamental building block of the school — helping host new guests and reinforcing those fundamental techniques through repeated practice and instruction.

Shen Lung Kung Fu Monk

The rank of Novice in Shen Lung Kung Fu is well-earned and those with white sashes may have been studying for a year or more. Novices who join a Circle and perform their service as hosts to guests are eventually eligible to test for Student rank. Members of a Circle train, work, progress and test together. Students are expected to display a greater sense of responsibility and duty to themselves, their Circle, Novices and their Sifu.

Students may be proposed by their Circle for participation in a ceremony in which they promise to undertake the preservation of the art by becoming a teacher. The student, if accepted, takes the title of Disciple works under the direction and close supervision of an Instructor. At the end of this period and at the discretion of the Instructor responsible the title of full Instructor may be awarded.

Whereas many martial arts, such as Karate and Tae Kwon Do, use colored belts to show rank Shen Lung Kung Fu uses wide colored sashes. The sash is tied around the waist with the knot at the point of the left hip.

Color: Rank: Title:

  • No Sash: Guest
  • White Sash: Novice
  • Orange Sash: Student of the Spiritual Forms
  • Yellow Sash: Student of the Mental Forms
  • Green Sash: Student of the Physical Forms
  • Blue Sash: Disciple (Sihing)
  • Black Sash: Instructor of the Physical Forms (Sifu)
  • Silver Sash: Instructor of the Mental Forms (Master)
  • Gold Sash: Instructor of the Spiritual Forms (Grandmaster)

Award (Red) Sashes: Most people in the School do not earn Red Sashes, and they are outside the normal rank structure. The Award (Red) Sash is just that, an award, and not an earned rank. However, a Red Sash is normally esteemed as at least a Black Sash in terms of accomplishment.

The Five Animal Forms:

Tiger: Tiger is the first animal style learned in Shen Lung, introduced at the Guest level. Powerful, deep-rooted, and linear, Tiger emphasizes close-range strikes, throws, and a willingness to stay in the danger zone long enough to set up a single fight-ending blow. Tiger commits fully to every motion, and maximizes power at the expense of mobility. Tiger is low, hard-style, and works with single direct attacks.

Mantis: Mantis is the second style taught in Shen Lung Kung Fu, begun at the Novice level. Using an upright stance and highly mobile footwork. Mantis operates in sequences and combinations baffling opponents with multiple simultaneous attacks and blocks, all executed at high speed. Mantis is a quick, high, linear, hard style that attacks by rapidly executed combinations.

Snake: Snake style is started at the rank of Student of the Spiritual Forms. It is upright, compact and mobile. Snake is a soft style using an opponent’s energy against them rather than resisting it. Snakes absorb, control and redirect rather than block an attack. Snake stylists are known for circular and whip-like motions flowing around opponents, climbing over their defenses and striking repeatedly in rapid succession. Snake is high, circular, soft and extremely fast, favoring progressive direct attacks that overwhelm a defense.

Crane: Crane study begins when one has become a Student of the Mental Forms. Crane is very upright, attacking with carefully aimed strikes at long range and defending with redirection and retreat rather than resistance. Working from outside an opponent’s effective range, Crane demands extreme technical proficiency and smooth footwork, as well as careful timing and judgment. Crane is high, circular, soft, and distant, working chiefly with progressive indirect attacks.

Monkey: Monkey is the last standard animal introduced in Shen Lung Kung Fu. Monkey style prefers to go to the ground. Monkey style training integrates throws, locks, grappling and ground-fighting. Monkey attacks an opponent’s weak points using both hard and soft energy as needed. Monkey is very low, both hard and soft, close-range and favors full body contact.

This leads to the Shen Lung (Spiritual or Invisible Dragon): While the Dragon is not a formally taught style in Shen Lung it instead represents what emerges when a practitioner can draw freely from all five animals as the situation demands. One who can use the power of Tiger, the mechanics of Mantis, the speed of Snake, the movements of Crane, and the cunning of Monkey.

The Salute: A Gesture of Respect: Martial artists commonly salute when they greet each other. This is a custom that is an intrinsic part of traditional Chinese Kung Fu. It is a mutual show of respect for each other’s skill, knowledge and abilities. In addition, the salute has a practical application. Martial artists were always very cautious in the old days; handshakes were considered either too threatening or an invitation for an attack. Warriors would try to avoid contact with unscrupulous people, leery of surprise attacks. Many Chin Na (joint breaking) techniques begin from a handshake.

The Shen Lung salute is a distinctly Chinese-style movement. Take one step forward with the left foot. The right hand is clenched in a fist. The left thumb is bent and the four fingers are stacked and straight. The palm of the left hand is placed over the fist. Both fist and palm are about 4 to 6 inches from the chest, with both elbows bent and the arms forming a circle. The hands are held at chest height. The posture is erect and the eyes are focused on the person who is being saluted. The head is held upright and a slight bow is made from the shoulders as the hands are slightly extended, still pressed together. When your salute is acknowledged, you should move your hands back to your sides as you step back with your left foot and stand up straight.

There are many common explanations of the meaning or symbolism of the salute. One is that the fist shows martial ability and the open hand covers the fist to show civility. The left hand thumb is bent out of humility. Chinese people will point to themselves with their thumb instead of their index finger, as westerners do. A straightened thumb (like a thumbs-up) means “I’m number one!” to the Chinese. Therefore, the bent thumb means that you do not claim superiority. Proper martial arts etiquette would expect for you to be humble, even if you are a champion. The four fingers symbolize uniting Kung Fu across the four seas (or compass points).

Perhaps the oldest explanation is the Hung Gar story of the rebellion against the Ching Dynasty, in which the salute was a symbol of the secret society that formed the rebellion. The fist was the earth and the open hand the crescent moon, both of which were objects on the flag of the rebellion. The most common explanation is the Yin / Yang symbolism of the fist being the hard way and the open hand representing the soft way.

One is to salute when they greet and take leave of their Sifu. This shows their respect for his or her teachings. They salute their instructors for the same reason. They are expected to salute when they enter and exit the Kwoon to show respect for the sacrifices that their teachers made for the art. Also, they should salute their equals to show that you will work together to hone each other’s skills. One should always salute their teacher before he or she salutes them.