Natural Traditional Chinese Martial Arts articles by Sal Canzonieri

This was my fourth column in Han Wei Wushu, it is about putting it together with forms.

Han Wei Wushu Newsletter
Han Wei Wushu Newsletter
(July 1995 issue #15)
Article #4

Traditional Chinese Martial Arts Essentials...

Puting It All Together with Forms: Chung I Chuan A One Form Style Complete In Its Simplicity

By Salvatore Canzonieri

In Traditional Chinese Martial Arts, Forms are the purposeful choreographing and execution of movements and techniques into a specified sequence. As such, Forms are an essential element of Traditional Chinese Martial Arts in that they serve as a means of juxtaposing and consolidating a style's techniques into a usable form of expression. Taken together, all the Forms for a given style create an encyclopedia of the style's theories. Forms are a short hand version of a style's 'language', so to speak.

It is the Forms that make a style distinct and unique from another. Many styles say the same thing, but execute their techniques differently. The best fighting Forms are those that are practical, economical in movement, and truly teach a lesson in self defense. The constant repetition of Forms has been shown to actually physically change the neural pathways of the body to create 'muscle memory'. Thus, the practioner is changed by the Forms and becomes almost a different person over time. In this way, the founder of a style's Forms is still around as a teacher, his/her ideas being direct transmissions through time to the present day practioner.

Every style has a different number of Forms that they practice, ranging from many to few. Styles such as Choy Li Fut and Shaolin Chuan are composed of 100s of Forms, because these styles are composite styles that synthesize the essenses of many other styles. Many older styles such as the Wah, Pao, Hua, Cha, and Chang Chuan, which were created in Northern China before the 17th century, contain about 10 forms. In contrast, may newer styles such as Wing Chun, Pak Mei, Southern Mantis, which were created in Southern China after the 17th century, contain about 3 forms. Northern styles were developed when people had more time to learn them, Southern style generally were created after the Manchu takeover of China and were meant to be learned quickly for use by Chinese rebel patriots.

Then, there are styles that are used by the military that have one form only and are meant to be short, but complete systems that cause their practioners to use their body correctly with maximum effeciency and effectiveness with little time spent on theory. These one form systems are to the point and devasting in their swiftness, practicality, economy of movement, and generation of power. They represent the best in what modern Traditional Chinese Martial Arts have to offer if one wishes to learn a complete system in little time. They are ideal for today's busy person that is always on-the-go but still wishes to develop his/her martial arts abilities. These styles are meant to be fully used for self defense while also conditioning and developing the practioner's body. The movements are well thought out as to which internal and external bodily movements will give the maximum gain to the practioner. Such styles are represented by Gung Li Chuan, Lian Bo, Chuan Shu Er Shi Fah, Tuan Da, Dachen Chuan, and Chung I Chuan.

One form styles are a very good way to either augment one's studies with supplemental or new ideas, bolster one's style in areas it might be defecient in, or add complementary or contrasting techniques to one's arsenal. Also, they can be the starting point for beginners interested in the martial arts but wary of commiting themselves to years of study yet. Or, they can be a means for someone with little free time to still learn and use a complete yet compact martial art.

A very good example of one such style and form can be seen in a video available from T.C Media (it can be purchased for only $39.95 by by calling 1-800-824-2433 or writing to T.C. Media, PO Box 657, Santa Clarita, CA 95056). The video is well produced and organized so that any martial arts practioner can learn from this tape very easily, which is a rarity in instructional martial arts videos. The techniques for this 37 move form (36 plus the closing) are layed out in both regular and slow motion. The narrator gives a clear explanation and description of what to exactly do and how to execute the moves with suffecient speed and power. The demonstrators of the form do a great job of showing how to move the body correctly and show much skill in the generation of internal and external energy. Each movement is done with a sharp snap that does well to show the effeciency and effectiveness of the Chung I Chuan's techniques.

Chung I Chuan (which means "Heavy Intellectual or Thinking Fist") is a style that is one of the simplest and most practical Chinese Wushu styles that is modern and still keeps true to Traditional Chinese Martial Arts concepts. It was developed in the 20th century by combining the best techniques from various Northern and Southern styles. Techniques taken from Chang Chuan, LoHan Chuan, Southern Shaolin, Choy Li Fut, and others can be seen. Chung I Chuan has been officially adopted by the Taiwan military training program for many years. Also, Chung I Chuan combines traditional martial arts with modern execrcise philosophy and the most modern ideas in sports medicine to create a style whose one form is excellant for both maintaining one's physical health and for use in self defense.

Chung I Chuan uses the three basic stances: the horse, the Bow & Arrow, and the Empty (or cat) stance (which are done in the style of Northern Wushu, characterized by linear stepping). From the Empty stance, one can shift into any combination of the three and then into two moving stances: the Cross-Step and the Lock-Step (which are done in the style of Southern Wushu, charecterized by semi- circular hooking stepping). These steps, as one steps forward, use the knee to break an opponent's balance; the difference between the steps being only the angle that one enters from (outside or inside the opponentþs knee).

There are two basic punches or fists used in this one form style: the standing fist, which turns 90 degrees from the waist to strike with the fist eye up; and the Flat Fist, which turns 180 degrees from the waist to strike exactly like the typical reverse punch. The name of the style ("Chung" - heavy) comes from the way the punches are slammed into the opponent with a powerful waist generated force, making the fists feel very heavy as the centrifugal force gives them much enertia.

The other hand technique in this style's form is the palm, of which there are four: the cutting, chopping, lifting, and pushing palms. The cutting and chopping palms involve evading a strike and counter-striking with the side of the palm. The lifting palm uses the Northern method of guiding the oncoming attack away in a deflecting manner to redirect an opponent's oncoming attacking force. Simultaneously, a fist strike is made by turning the waist and perssing the back heel into the ground to transfer power out of the way and into the fist, as the attacker goes by. The pushing palm is exactly as the name implies, an opening is made in the opponentþs defenses and the palms take advantage of the situation by pushing the opponent off balance. The methods is like that of Tai Ji Quan's, with internally generated power coming from the opening movements of the body's joints.

Kicks are few also, being only two: the Northern snap kick and the Southern heel kick. Both are done very low and involve heavy thrusting power. The opponent is pulled towards you as a snap-kick is delivered or the heel of the foot is stamped into the opponent as one advances forwards aggressively. The kicks are not show kicks but used to destroy the opponent's advances or retreats.

The Chung I Chuan style proceeds in a linear fashion, bearing down on the opponent and then shifts into a sudden turnaround, led by the turning of the waist. It is an aggressive form that uses Northern long range fighting techniques to quickly close the gap on the opponent and once in close fighing range, uses Southern fighting techniques to switftly and powerfully takedown the opponent with waist generated force, allowing the opponent no room to withdraw his/her position.

Each of the form's 37 moves have a practical purpose. The form wastes no time with flowery salutes, it immediately sets out to devastate the opponent. One can see why the military adopted this style as one of their hand to hand fighting tactics. The video shows each of the form's techniques in meticulous detail, allowing one to see how power is delivered and energy transferred in the execution of the movements.

What makes the one form style even more effective and efficient is its use of proper body mechanics to open and close the hip joints (the kua area) so that fa jing power is emitted with each devastating strike. Also, there are surprise moves that involve stepping back and crossing the legs for leverage so that the opponent is looked over one's shoulder and, once the waist makes its turn, immediately is flung up into the air! This is done as one closes the gap and steps from far into close range.

In Chung I Chuan much is made of waist generated power. The form shifts from horse to bow, or from empty to other stances, with a great shift in weight and pivoting of the waist in a forward momentum that bears down on the opponent like a locomotive, with much mertial force behind it, hence the name again, Chung or heavy. By pivoting with the waist as one turns and shifts, the back leg presses against the ground so that power is pushed down and back up from the unyielding ground and is then transferred up and out the striking fists - like a springing coil. Each strike is ensured to have a snapping whip-like quality that goes right through a target.

The video's demonstrators of the form show the applications of the movements to be of equal efficiency and effectiveness in its deadly practicality. Many of the moves pull the opponent off balance with one hand and strike with great momentum with the other hand (often to the jaw or collarbone). The attacker is often pushed and pulled in two different directions and then either kicked or punched to finish. Much of Tai Ji Quan's fighting principles can be seen to have been incorporated into the style.

Though a short 37 move form, Chung I Chuan is also a complete style. It exhibits all the attributes of a Traditional Chinese Martial Art: swift evasion, closing of the gap, waist-generated striking power, fajing energy, efficient and effective movements and counters, internal power from opening/ closing of the kua area, and use of the joints as well as the muscles to augment and transmit energy. All in all, such a one form systems as these allow you to practice a traditional style Chinese martial art while still catering to the hectic and often dangerous needs of the modern age.


That's it for this issue! Click here to read article #5

Sal Canzonieri -

(c) 1995 / 2007 BGT ENT / Sal Canzonieri