Advice from Our Past Grandmasters

Jing Mo Association H.K., 1922

Chinese Proverb:

"A well tempered sword never gets rusty.'"


Today, historians have an insight on the teachings that were held within the wall of the Shao lin Monastery. Some monks wrote down some martial ideas and principles with the hope that they would be passed down through the generations. Their thoughts are interesting and can be applied to today's martial arts.



Philosophy on Chinese Martial Arts


From the 1500's:

On force, Monk Chueh Yueh states, "Improvement of kung fu techniques can be obtained through programmed training. A practitioner should learn step by step, always refrain from making haste. Besides, he should not indulge in applying brute force in his practice. Brute force is nothing better than without force, for it will never last long. It is only applied by rough natives living in the mountains. An aptly applied force is one like that of running water, it is sustaining and long lasting. A practitioner knowing how to apply a force will never hurt himself."

Monk Shien Hsu takes the same concept further and states, "A practitioner should not over emphasize the application of force only. He should pay attention to keeping a calm mind. For an over exerted force is always out of control of the mind, while a calm mind can always keep one's movements under control so that they may become effective. A practitioner who over stresses brute force is always hot tempered so he seldom concentrates on what he aims at and so his attacks will not be effective. A practitioner who is calm can always concentrate his thoughts so that his movements are always effective. A force is like fire. It will be a servant to man when applied correctly. It will bring fatal calamity to a user when it is not suitably used."

On the subject of behavior, Monk Tung Sham states," A pre-requisite for a practitioner is to refrain from being proud of his own attainment. Proud ness leads to failure. A man who is proud of his wealth fails because of his wealth. One who is proud of his position fails because of his position. One who is proud of his wisdom fails because of his wisdom. One who is proud of his physical power fails because of his physical power. Why? Because since there is something for him to be proud of, he is always impudent, careless, and risking, so all the time he's endangering himself."

Monk I Kuan adds, "A good craftsman always conceals his skills. A learned gentleman looks as if he is foolish. A competent kung fu practitioner, similarly should be humble, polite and respectful towards others, no matter how skillful he is. This is the correct way to become self-cultured and to keep oneself safe."



 Sun Yu Fung’s Philosophy (Late 1920's)


"If you learned the boxing arts but do not known the boxing rules or have learned fencing but not the fencing rules, then you could learn for years without fully understanding what you are doing. Against an enemy, you must be extremely fast. Your actions are all reflexes and you cannot think in battle; just act. If you slow for an instant, your chance for victory will be poor."


 To his son, Sun Wen Yung, Sun Yu Fung stated, "To learn anything, you must learn from those with experience. You must always be thinking of situations of attack and being attacked, of direct attacks and of sneak attacks."



Wan Li Sheng’s Philosophy (1930's)


"In my observations and thoughts, the most useful are boxing and the sword arts. Boxing can strengthen the body and can be used in self defense. Among all the weapons, the sword is the most elegant. Gentlemen of my country associate the flute and the sword to be companions of the scholars who chant poems and songs. It can be seen as both elegant and good exercise for the people. When I practice the sword at night with a bright moon and a gentle breeze, it is a happy feeling for me. It is alright to use a stick or a branch in place of a sword to practice. The most refined and sharpest of all weapons is given the name, Precious Sword."


    "Whoever practices boxing or weapons, no matter how one moves his feet, or jumps, he has to be calm. If you are excited, you are like a nervous swan. If you are calm, you are like a mountain. In practicing the sword, one must especially be calm. When you are opposing an enemy, you must be even more in control and not be flustered. Only then will the movements be easier. You can advance and retreat at will."


Shui Hon Sang’s Philosophy (1970's)


“To what purpose is to learn kung fu? If mastery is not used for fighting what good is it? True martial arts are more than ordinary fighting skills. Kung fu virtues and finesse must prevail. If there is only kung fu but no moral refinement in a practitioner then the person is no better than a savage bull. Kung fu should be used whereas other mediating means fail and when danger is imminent. There is no satisfaction to fight someone needlessly just because one is skillful in kung fu.”


“Kung fu not only contributes to good health, but it also offers techniques in self defense and offensive actions. Water does not only keep the boat afloat but it also sinks boats. Similarly, evil and good is a gee of choice for an individual. For thousands of years kung fu has been taught with secondary importance while virtuous principles are the primary importance. Most practitioners today ignore this and will set back their kung fu attainments. Kung fu is to be respected and not feared.”


Tai Chien's (A.K.A. Sik Kuen) Philosophy (1970's)


 “Two things which impeded kung fu are the instructors themselves. Many follow blindly to the way they were taught. Some are not open minded enough to accept other styles as their equal and overcome the superiority syndrome. We must bear in mind that in every style there is benefits for everyone to gain.”


"The position of Sifu is not for the purpose of the Sifu to show off but to cultivate new students and to help persevere the Chinese martial arts.”


“The knowledge of martial arts is not just reading a few ancient novels of martial arts. It is important to the martial art cultivation of a person. One can never make great achievements if one confines the learning to one style and pay no respect to the strong points of other styles. Therefore a martial artist must have a broad knowledge and he must be modest technically, not contenting himself with one style of his own and negating other styles. In short, one must have a rich knowledge of martial arts.”


Yim Shan Wu’s Philosophy (1960's)


 "To teach kung fu is to teach kung fu".


Wong Chia Man’s Philosophy (1970's)


"A good defense is a strong offense. Be aggressive in attacking, whether it is a feint or a direct attack. Keep in mind, a good fighter defeats his opponent in three (3) to five (5) moves. If this condition is not met, then the opponent's abilities are either equal or better than yours. Whenever possible, counterattack at angles by side stepping towards the opponent's weak side. The three (3) components of combat are 1) Speed, 2) Guts and 3) Techniques. All three (3) components must go hand in hand. One component cannot survive without the others." (WJM - June 14, 1974)


"The mind is the quickest and it must transmit its intent to the Ch'i. When the mind is clear of its intent (not confused), then the Ch'i has direction on where to flow. Without direction, the Ch'i will flow to anywhere it wants. When the Ch'i is focused in one direction, then one's strength emerges."


Staff Arts

There is an old saying for Staff Techniques:

“A staff that has been struck out is difficult to take back

An unattached staff is a difficult to move

Entangling a staff is liable to make on forget the enemy

Moving the staff in a disorderly matter will show signs of weakness

Bring both ends of the staff into combination

The wrist must be flexible

The action of the body, waist and legs must be quick”

Ching Chung Do (1500's):

"Lots of people trained in the Shao Lin Staff. But what they have learned is very different from each other. Is it because their masters have learned the staff techniques from different sources? No, the Shao Lin staff techniques were derived from one source only. It is only because during the course of history that different masters had a personal liking of combining together favorite and different pole techniques. This led to various forms and names." We can conclude that the different staff sets were the results of different masters developing their favorite staff techniques and then passing them on to their disciples."

 Saber Arts

"A saber is like a Tiger.


It sees RED the moment it strikes.


When the saber is drawn from its scabbard,

The struggle has come to a life and death situation.


The sound of the saber ringing

startle even the toughest opponents.


When the saber ceases to ring,

The opponents head is already on the ground."



Sword Arts

Li Ching Lin (1920's):

"When practicing the Wu Tang Sword, one must never have evil thoughts. When fighting, one must not have thoughts of killing or harming one's opponent. This is true with all swordplay, including throwing and spitting swords. The Wu Tang Sword appears plain because it stresses the Form, Will and the Spirit." The other two families, Shao lin and Omei, are more flowery in their techniques and rely on external power."

Secrets Of The Sword Arts

"The body has to flow like fluid

Never having any stalling moves

After a long time of practice, the body and the sword becomes one

The mind and the sword become one

Where ever you are, you become the sword

If you know this, you are almost at the top knowing what the sword art is about

Whatever you want the sword to do, it will react

When there is no sword, there are swords everywhere

You can pick up any object and use it as a sword

Everything after this is my teaching to you."


Tsung Wei I (1890's):

'When he (opponent) moves a little, I move fast. From fast to change, from change to bulls eye'. This demonstrates how to evade and attack."


Spear Arts


"Spears hitting but the spears never met

They start like the wind and retreat like nails.

When the spears meet, they stick.

One does not see the other.

It goes like the wind when you start to move."

Wong Chia Man (1970's):

"The spear is the King of all the weapons. It must attack in like a thread line and go out and disappear like a ghost. "



Kuo Yu Chang’s Skills


Yim Shan Wu : "During the demonstrations, Kuo Yu Chang would jump up into the air and kick five (5) consecutive times before landing onto the ground.


Chen Mon Hsin: "The seed that Kuo Yu Chang had planted in the south, has grown into a giant tree."


Wan Li Sheng’s Skills


Many of the defeated masters acknowledged Wan Li Sheng's skills and described his abilities:

" Wan Li Sheng's hands moved like ropes and his fingers were like iron hooks. He rushes forward like a hurricane and backed away like torrential water."


He was approached by a general and some young men who challenged him to a contest. Wan Li Sheng responded, "If I fight with these youngsters, and fail to win, then I would lose face. And even if I win, it would not be a glorious feat. So why should I participate against them? Therefore, I have made up my mind not to perform in any martial art contest."


Grandmaster Sun Lu Tang
Great Grandmaster Ma Ching Fung and Grandmaster Wong Jack Man
Great Grandmaster Wan Li Sheng: Art of Lightness, cir 1925
GGM Wan Li Sheng:Three Rings Harness the Moon, cir 1925
Great grandmasters Yim Shan Wu and Lung Tzu Hsiang
Grandmaster Wong with his Triple Staff, cir. 1973
Great Grandmaster Wan Li Sheng:Lui Ho Saber, cir. 1925