Tempering Your Kung Fu, pt IV (Punch from a Cat Stance)

28 05 2016

Forms are encyclopedias for the system.


In an earlier article, I mention that the last stage of a Kung Fu man’s journey will end with “Kung Fu with an Accent” or a whole new style. When you get a chance, take a look at the article here. I would like to explain a little more about that in today’s article. Today, we will discuss ways that you can strengthen and explore your art. What you discover, and what you bring to the system after discovering, is what we call your “accent” on your chosen system of martial arts.

Aside from more practice and gaining more knowledge sitting at the feet of experience, there are many things martial artists can do to make their current arsenal and knowledge base stronger. Very often, martial artists reach outside their systems to add more arts and techniques to their curriculum. More, however, does not always mean better. Much of what can be used to strengthen your Kung Fu ability can come from rearranging the techniques in the system rather than crowding your curriculum with a million ways to throw a punch. The answer isn’t always “punch stronger, punch faster, punch more accurately”. The answer could be in “punch from a Cat Stance”.


Punching from a cat stance does sound strange, especially since few forms would actually have that combination. Let me ask you, does your style have a Cat Stance? Does your style have a punch? Then punching from a Cat Stance shouldn’t be that strange to you. I’ll explain in a second. For our Kung Fu to be more relevant, we should make it applicable to today’s self-defense student. Not many Kung Fu forms contain self-defense scenarios the way a generic self-defense class today would be organized. We might have defenses from a single punch, from a grab, from a Roundhouse kick, maybe even from a bear hug. What aren’t found in many forms would be defense from a knife attack, a gun pointed at our heads, an attack while we were sitting down, an attack in an elevator… But I am pretty positive that every person reading this article can find relatable techniques in their systems, if you just rearranged the moves and the applications.

In Jow Ga, we have a set of techniques called “Mo Ying Gerk”, the Shadowless Kick. Take a look below at one of the most common type in our forms.

It is a simple concept. Throw the hands into the opponent’s face to distract him, kick him while he reacts to the hands. But this technique could be applied to other situations:

  1. A lapel grab (single or double)
  2. An attempted lapel grab
  3. Pushing an opponent who is too close to you and attacking him preemptively
  4. Throwing something in the opponent’s face and then kicking him
  5. Distracting the opponent and knocking him down with a footsweep
  6. Blocking a punch with one hand, grabbing his head or other hand and kneeing him
  7. Grabbing the opponent’s guard and pulling him into a kick

There are a few others…

So, while one Jow Ga practitioner may only practice the Mo Ying Ger as an attack, we’ve just listed seven more ways to practice it (including five defensive techniques). How boring would Jow Ga be if I only practiced the techniques the way they are presented in the form? How many more uses could I be missing out on, if I never found other ways to apply these techniques? I’m willing to bet there are some who may have stepped out from Jow Ga to import techniques to be used in the above 7 situations, where they would have had an answer right here in at least eight forms that most practitioners already train with! Like I said, why add styles when one could simply rearrange and rethink what we already have?

And then we have layers to this Kung Fu. On one hand, one could practice techniques just as they are in forms–never find alternative applications, or never find better or other ways to use them. On the other, there are the questions I don’t think many stagnant practitioners are asking that Sifu Dean Chin asked:

  • In what ways can I hit my opponent harder?
  • In what ways can I hit my opponent without him seeing it?
  • In what ways can I hit my opponent faster?
  • In what ways can I hit my opponent unanswered?

I was in my teens and running from Si Hing to Si Hing, trying to learn more moves from a new form I was learning. In those days, we had a different Si Hing teaching every night, and my Sifu taught randomly during the week and on Sundays. I met with him daily after school, but those days were usually me practicing while he talked, and Sundays I had to share his attention with whatever students were there. Sifu sat me down one day and gave me a speech about “tempering” my Kung Fu knowledge. He explained how glass was made:  Sand was burned until it melted and was able to be shaped. Once it was shaped, it was polished and made ready to give to the customer. Usually, it was. But a craftsman who really had something valuable, would take that polished piece, and put it back in the oven to be heated again until it was about to melt, then removed and cooled. Then it was placed back, heated, removed, cooled, and then heated again. Each time a glass piece went through this process, it was taken to the point that it was about to be destroyed, where it was taken back to its near-original state, then removed, then back to the oven again. In the end, the glass piece looked as polished as any other fine-crafted piece. But this one was different; was sent back to the first place in the craftsman’s shop–the oven. It was sent back to the beginning stages although it looked finished, over and over. In the end, it was stronger and nearly unbreakable. So while it looked like everything else, it had been through the process over and over and over, unlike the others. The Kung Fu practitioner who has been sent back to the beginning stages and made to practice the foundation over and over until his body was about to break–is going through the same process. He knows the Sei Ping Ma, but continues to practice holding it. He knows the Single Punch, but continues to throw it as a beginner does–but for thousands and thousands of repetitions. In the end, he may know the same number of forms as his peers–but he has been tempered and his foundations has been strengthened just like that glass piece. He is unlike the others, who may have ten glass pieces–but his one is stronger than all ten put together.

The story was summarized in a notebook I kept on the same page with the above four questions. After my Sifu died, I continued rereading every page of that notebook and can recall nearly every word I’ve written. In everything I’ve done with the martial arts–Eskrima, Kuntaw, Boxing, Tae Kwon Do–the questions have been in the back of my mind while training. And I have never studied Kung Fu after I had learned the last form in our lineage’s Jow Ga curriculum. I have taken my Jow Ga and attempted to temper it by answering for myself the four questions. Rather than adding forms to my base, after I reached the end of our curriculum I stopped learning new forms and retrained all of them. From 1987 to the present, I have never added a new Kung Fu form to my base, until 2009, when I visited my Si Hing Rahim Muhammad. What I have done is to reheat my knowledge and break them down and my work still isn’t done. The tempering process for martial arts knowledge involves several steps, and I consider this to be one of the most important.

Back to the Mo Ying Ger, if you use it in sparring you will find it to be a very helpful, very effective technique. In most Jow Ga forms, the Shadowless kick is followed by a full step forward into a Sei Ping Ma, downward block and Horse Side Punch or Charp Choy. However, in sparring, not all opponents will move back giving you the room for a full step forward. The strongest fighters (or most aggressive) will attack you a split second after you throw the kick, and this will crowd your attempt to land with a horse side punch. After many failures with the MYG, I’ve come up with three more ways to use it:

  1. Land your foot at an angle outside and continue punching, or
  2. Land in a Cat Stance and either punch the opponent to tie up his hands, or
  3. Land in a Cat Stance and push him away and continue blasting forward

And there you have it. Punch from a Cat Stance. Land in a Cat Stance after throwing the Mo Ying Ger. Look at your Kung Fu, and find other ways to use it. How can your techniques be used to hit harder? How can your opponent counter you? How can you counter that counter? Can any of your techniques be used to stop a knife or a club? Can any of your techniques be used to stop a throw or grab or takedown? Can your techniques be used against fighting two opponents? Can your techniques be used while getting in or out of a car? In a hallway? On stairs? Against a bigger man? Against someone you don’t want to hurt (like an angry or drunk relative)? How would you teach a child to use these techniques against another child (without risking serious injury)? This is how you can put a personal stamp on your Kung Fu–and give your system an “accent” that only you can give, as only you will have these experiences.

I wish I could share with you all our innovations, but some things should be saved for our students. We will, however, share a lot with you in upcoming articles and videos. Please check back with us regularly, and please subscribe and share! By the way, the video above is Instructor Sharif Talib from Washington, DC. Make sure you subscribe to his channel, and make sure you also subscribe to mine. There will be plenty of new videos coming up with ways that some in our lineage train our Jow Ga, and we hope you find them useful.

Thank you for visiting the Dean Chins Jow Ga Federation.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: