Learning some Kung Fu in a Chinese farming village
While travelling China, I met up with Anna and Ilya who took me to their favourite place in the country, at a peaceful farming village just outside of Haiyang. Here I got to learn a little bit about the history and importance of Kung Fu. Many people in villages in this area learned Kung Fu to protect themselves during times of war. One of the most prominent masters of the region was Lin Tangfang who recently passed on, and I got to meet up with his son Lin Runzhu. First, we had a little chat about how different his dialect is from Mandarin. We say to “ha” beer in local dialect. You don’t have to learn about it because it is the same meaning as drink (“he”) in Mandarin. It’s pronounced differently because there are so many dialects in China. “Cheers” has the same pronunciation in local dialect and Mandarin. What about eating? We use verb “Chi” in Mandarin for eating, while in local dialect it’s “Za Dei” and “Dei Guolai”. We seldom use “Cheng” for general usage which is impolite to people. It expresses the idea that someone’s eating behavior is annoying. With “Cheng”, the idea of eating and annoying is mixed together. If I feel uncomfortable for your eating too much, I could say that you “Cheng” too much. “Cheng” is impolite word to express annoyance, so you could say that you “Cheng” all the food up. To eat is pronounced as “Chi” in Mandarin while “Dei” in local dialect. You can say I had “Dei” the food and got full. In China, we can greet one another by saying “Have you eaten yet?” and you reply with “I have eaten”. If someone greets you with “Have you ‘Dei’ yet?”, you better reply with “I have ‘Dei’, and have you ‘Dei’ yet yourself?” That’s the way language is used in the daily life. Four months. Four months. Less than four months. You are quite smart! Not really, but thanks! Yes, of course. He was impressed with my Chinese, but I think I balanced that out by showing him how poorly I could learn just a tiny bit of Kung Fu. Still, he very patiently showed me some moves. Let me show you how to do it. Keep looking in one direction parallel to your arm and shoulder, and hold your head up. OK, I think I remember… Hold your head up. The action is to redraw your hands slowly OK Yes, this is right. Get your hands down like this. Step forward like this, and then form a position like a mantis. One fist draws a circle, and then the other draws another circle. Stretch your fist forward. Just like this. It would hit your opponent like this. You haven’t learnt it so well because you simply haven’t had the basic training yet, such as basic fist moves. Learning these would make it easier. Let me try last time. Like this. Redraw. The other way. I tried my best, but of course he reminded me that lots of patience and long training would be required, since I was doing most of it wrong. He compared it to the importance of strokes as building blocks to writing Chinese. Just like writing Chinese characters, you should learn the basic strokes. If you can’t write strikes, you can’t write Chinese Characters. If you can write your strokes precisely, you will write the characters precisely. My Kong Fu “plum mantis” style was taught to me by my father. His teacher was a fifth generation plum mantis master. So he belongs to the sixth generation, and I belong to the seventh. I started to learn Kong Fu after the Chinese Cultural Revolution at the age of seventeen. Before that, I watched my father’s Kong Fu, but didn’t actually learn before 17. I first studied foot moves and some Kong Fu theory. The essence of Kong Fu could be summarized in twelve Chinese words: [Kung Fu terminology] Those sentences mean to use your elbow when the opponent is close and use your palm and fist to strike when opponent is at a distance. This is called a fist. But this is called hammer. What we have learnt is the fist. You should remember that your thumb should be pointing toward the center of the palm. You don’t put your thumb out like this, and this is a basic requirement. We use the bottom of the palm to strike hard. Because another hand just assists the strike. It protects the palm from opponent strikes. It moves along with the opponent’s force just like this. It takes advantage of the opponent’s force. We focus on the force rather than the action. This is call the “Fumo” Kong Fu. I trained for “Bengbu” Kong Fu originally. But those two Kong Fus are basically the same. He is smart and has learnt some Kong Fu in Beijing. Once you have mastered one Kong Fu, it would be easier to learn others. For example, if you have learnt Mantis from me, you will grasp another Kong Fu style in short time. The basic idea is that all of them are connected. But it would be very hard to learn when you haven’t received basic training. And finally, he showed me how it’s really done!