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Forms, Sets and Weapons


Classical Kung-Fu Weapons:


An interesting feature of Shaolin Kung Fu, from where Hung Gar claims it’s roots, is it’s weaponry. No other Martial Art in the world can boast of a range of weapons as wide or as varied as those from Shaolin Kung Fu .In most Martial Arts today, Students learn mainly unarmed combat, with some techniques for use against armed opponents. In Shaolin Kung Fu there are complete weapon sets which are as important as unarmed sets in the standard curriculum.


In the past weapon sets were more important than unarmed sets. This was natural at the time as who would not use a weapon to fight if it could be carried freely. However, carrying a weapon is now illegal in most countries. Why then, you may ask, learn to fight with weapons if you are not likely to use them in real combat?


There are many good reasons why Classical weapons are still being taught today, though many people who practise them may not know them! If you ask a Kung Fu Instructor why, he or she may say they are part of the tradition and Kung Fu is incomplete without them, or they are a way to attract Students, who are enticed by the prospect of learning to use these beautiful and strange weapons, and also that practising with them gives a Class a distinct Kung Fu flavour, as there are no such elaborate or impressive weapons in other Martial Art systems.

These are all valid, though there are reasons more relevant to real Self Defence. Nowadays, you do not lash a sword onto your back, or grab a spear in your hands and walk around the streets, as many Kung Fu exponents did in the past (or at least I hope you don’t!).But in a fight, even under ordinary circumstances, you can often find a piece of wood, or a stake, or bar,  that can be used, if even clumsily, as a rod or a spear. Moreover, if your opponent uses improvised weapons against you, you will be better qualified to handle this situation competently, if you have learned the principles and properties of their Classical counterparts in Weapon Sets. Many improvised weapons act like classical ones, for instance a broken bottle like a dagger, a bicycle chain like a soft whip, an ordinary chair like a Kung Fu bench.


If you carry weights while practising your unarmed sets, you will not only find it more tiring, you will also increase your stamina and power. Practising Weapon Sets is similar to this, and you will probably prefer to hold novel weapons than boring dumb-bells. Some special skills are often required for, or achieved through, the use of certain weapons, and these skills can also be useful in unarmed combat. For example, when practising weapon sets with heavy weapons like the Trident or the Guan knife, you will need stable stances to prevent swinging yourself off the ground. These stable stances, consolidated by training in Weapon Sets, are transferable to and useful in unarmed combat, enabling you to swing an opponent off the ground.


There are opportunities in martial arts training to learn to use various martial arts weapons. Many martial arts schools, especially those that teach Japanese karate and Chinese kung fu styles have weaponry as part of their overall curriculum. Chinese kung fu styles have broadsword, 3 section staff, kwan do, whip chain, butterfly knives as well as their own versions of staff. Of course, there are many other types of weapons in martial arts but the above are the more common ones taught. Some of the more exotic weapons include the fan, rope dart and the hook swords.

Martial arts weapons can be divided into short and long range. An example of a short range weapon would be a pair of Butterfly Knives. The Chinese Sword would be a long range weapon because of the longer reach. Weapons can also be divided into bladed and non-bladed. Swords of course would be bladed weapons where Staffs  would be non-bladed. In most training situations with bladed weapons, the blades are not live. That is, the blades of swords are blunt rather than sharp. This adds to the safety aspect of martial arts weapons training. Weapons can also come in different weights from heavy traditional models down to ultra light weight versions for forms competition.


Martial arts weapons are considered as extensions of a martial artist’s own body. For example, strikes with a weapon are really extended hand strikes. Blocks with weapons are modelled after traditional martial art blocking techniques. Therefore, it is important for martial arts students to be relatively proficient with martial arts techniques using their own bodies first before learning to use any martial arts weapon. This will help the students understand the applications behind each weapons technique much better.


There are many benefits in training with martial arts weapons. Because most weapons have some weight to them, their use will help develop muscle tone and strength. Performing forms with weapons will also develop coordination. In today’s world, martial arts weapons may not be as practical as the days of the past when it was acceptable to carry weapons wherever one travelled. However, with some understanding of weapons techniques, a martial artist today can turn almost any household item such as an umbrella, cane or even a set of keys into weapons of self defence if required. Another important point that shouldn’t be ignored is that most practitioners will claim that training with martial arts weapons is a lot of fun.


Weapons training can open up a whole new dimension to overall martial arts training. Even advanced tai chi practitioners use swords in some of their forms. It doesn’t matter if sometimes the swords are made entirely of wood either since the actual weapons techniques will still be used in the forms. For many martial arts competitors, weapons forms are their favourite divisions to compete in. From a spectator point of view, weapons forms can be very exciting to watch especially when weapons such as Knives or Swords are used since their presentations are so dynamic and even somewhat dangerous to the user. Such weapons have caused injuries to users when certain techniques were sloppy or mistimed. But like other aspects of martial arts, proficiency with a martial art weapon after much hard training can bring a high sense of satisfaction to a martial artist.



The Four Pillars of Hung Gar are the four base sets that comprise the essence of the system. In most cases they are taught in the order in which they are listed here; Gung Ji Fook Fu Kuen, Fu Hok Seung Ying Kuen, Ng Ying Ng Hung, Tit Sin Kuen. The first three have the quintessential Hung Gar beginning with deep breathing and chi cultivation prior to explosive and animal emulation aspects of the rest of the set. The fourth form is said to be an internal form for the cultivation of chi and health as well as higher martial concepts.


Gung Ji Fook Fu Kuen(Taming the Tiger) or I-Form is said to be the oldest set in Hung Gar Kuen which traces it's origins to Hung Hei Gwoon and the Shaolin Temple. In Hung practice it is usually the first of the four pillar sets that a student will learn. It emphasizes stance conditioning, chi development, solid bridge work, and has a depth of applications waiting for the student to uncover. The name translates to "cross tiger fist", "subduing the tiger", or "taming the tiger".


Fu Hok Seung Ying Kuen(Tiger and Crane Double Pattern Set) is said to be the signature form of Hung Gar, this set is so closely identified with the system that many times Hung Gar is simply referred to as Tiger Crane style. The set is said to have been choreographed by Wong Fei Hong and later popularized by Lam Sai Wing. In this set we are introduced to the ferocity and strength of the tiger coupled with it's compliment of the grace and speed of the crane.


The Ng Ying Ng Hung(Five Animal, Five Element) introduces the student to the five animals and five elements of Hung Gar. The animals are; dragon, snake, tiger, leopard, crane. The elements are; metal, wood, water, earth, fire. This form is also said to have been choreographed by Wong Fei Hong and nearly a martial system in it self. The beginning is nearly identical to the start of Tit Sin Kuen so this form is starting to introduce the higher concepts of internal cultivation.In Clonmel Hung Gar Kung Fu Club the variant we teach is called Wo Heng Kuen or Five Element Boxing.


The Tit Sin Kuen(Iron Wire ) set is said to be the highest form in Hung Gar and to take the student from the external to the realm of the internal. It was introduced to the system from the Tit Kiu Sam lineage by way of Wong Fei Hong. The form is comprised solely on the movements of the dragon and includes varied vocal intonations with precisely controlled breathing and postures to cultivate, circulate, and extend internal energy.


The Ten Killing Hands(Sap Jue Sau)are individual techniques within the Hung Gar curriculum that encompass some of the most effective martial applications.

Wong Fei Hung is credited with identifying and popularizing these techniques. And, as a vehicle to carry these techniques, he is credited with the choreography of Fu Hok Seung Ying Kuen (the Tiger Crane double pattern set). All of the ten killing hands can be found in the set and many are re-emphasized in subtle variations throughout the set. The effectiveness and popularity of the set is such that often Hung Gar Kuen is interchangeably called the Tiger Crane system.

To have a single application for any given movement is to only read the surface level of Hung training. When the conditioning methods are used to strengthen the arms and hands, the situational awareness of conflict is added to the intimate anatomical knowledge of the opponent, then the multitude of applications opens up to the Hung practitioner.

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