The style embodies the essence of Chinese Buddhist and Taoist fighting arts. Since the style originated by the Founder, 'Monk Pak Mei' around 1647 (during the reign of Emperor Kang Xi, Qing Dynasty) at the Shaolin Temple, Song Shan, Henan Province.
History and folk stories tells us, that during this time of political tension between the Imperial armies; the Ming revolutionaries that had taken refuge in the Shaolin temple. Monk Pak Mei, was one of the legendary '5 Elders of Shaolin - the remaining four were, Fung Doe Duk, Gee Shim Sim See, Mew Hing and Buddhist nun Ng Mui. These five people were said to be the last survivors and escaped during the 2nd destruction of the Shaolin temple when the Qing army razed it to the ground by fire under the reigning Emperor's decree to slaughter all monks that were associated with the old Ming cause.
An Overview about the System:
Traditional Pak Mei, teaches the method of correct breathing (t'un, t'olh, fao, chum - inhalation, exhalation, rise and sink), to help motivate each movement while combining the 6 powers. By this combination, you gradually learn to produce fearsome power both internally and externally.
In line with tradition and the lethal nature of the systems techniques, Pak Mei Kung Fu has been taught and passed down unchanged for sporting activities, such as competition, free sparring and tournament fighting. However, within the system, there is plenty of traditional body conditioning exercises, set sparring, partnered application work where the student can learn to 'apply' the essence of the movements in a controlled and safe environment.
Concepts and Principles:
When the student develops a good understanding of the body shape, foundation, footwork and the above concepts they then begin the develop the ‘five fundamental principles’ that a Pak Mei practitioner must understand when applying the techniques, combinations and forms which are: Speed, Power, Stability, Accuracy and Ferociousness.
Improvise, Modify, Adapt and Overcome:
So as the student progresses deeper into the system, he/she will begin to learn to improvise, modify, adapt and overcome the situations at hand. It’s fundamental for the student to practice the techniques that they favour most of all. More importantly is for the students to be able to drill those techniques at all speeds, power, angles, not to mention short / middle and long range distances of attack as well as against different training partners, so as to not become used to applying the technique on ‘familiar’ territory.
This way the student doesn’t become fixed to being able to ‘use’ the technique for one type of situation but they can adapt to the situation by instantly modifying the technique to suit many varied situations.
Whether the original movement has been changed from say a ‘tiger claw’ to a ‘palm or fist’ technique, as long as the technique is applied with the principle of Pak Mei (6 powers, 4 dynamics), then the practitioner is still performing Pak Mei.
Live Power verses Dead Strength:
Pak Mei kung fu is a living art, therefore all the solo techniques, combinations and forms are performed with zeal and imagination – by this I mean ‘suddenness and urgency’ as if the practitioner was actually fighting an imaginary opponent – just the same as a boxer would train, practicing shadow boxing.
There is a constant interchange between softness and hardness combined with stopping points; where for instance as you punch, at the moment of impact everything tightens up (the 6 powers – teeth, neck, shoulders, waist, arms and legs) and ‘stops’ to help push out the power into a single focal point.
Once the power has been released the practitioner immediately returns back to a state of softness, in readiness for the next technique / combination.
It is from this interchange of softness and hardness that the techniques become ‘alive’ and the power becomes deeper and more penetrating. Instantly able to change and/or modify from one technique into another and adapt to the situation by being able to ‘sense’ through the arms, body where the opponent is and anticipate their next move. Instead of using dead strength where the practitioner performs the move and applies only external strength from the larger muscle groups and only causing superficial injury.
Differences in & Types of Combat:
Traditional weapons training, is beneficial to the modern martial artist because it improves eye-to-hand co-ordination and develops the strength of the tendons and flexibility of the wrists and shoulders.
Furthermore, some traditional weapons techniques are readily adaptable to the modern scenario, such as:
Cheung Gwan – Long Pole techniques can be utilised using an everyday item such as a broom handle.
Duelling in China (as recently as the mid 20th Century) often meant serious injury or death to the loser. ‘No rules, no referee to say when to start and when to stop, no gloves, no spectators, no prize money, no ring, no courteous distance between the fighters...’ Duelling is not self-defence (even less so is tournament sparring), it is two people choosing to try and beat each other up.
Many martial arts schools equate sparring (watered-down duelling) with self-defence. This would certainly mislead the student with regard to the realities of self-defence, especially if the instructor does not clearly distinguish between the two.
Self-defence is as much about awareness, attitude and tactics as it is about technique. Indeed, the effectiveness of one system versus another in a self-defence situation; is better measured by its tactics than simply by its techniques.
If one has skill in sparring, it does not necessarily follow that one can defend oneself effectively. The tactics of sparring and self-defence are fundamentally different.
Comprehensive martial arts are not restricted by their "system". A true martial art; teaches the student certain principles of fighting within which the student should stay (for example, the principle of not putting so much brute force into a strike that you throw yourself off balance). Thus a true martial art encourages the student to do whatever it takes to prevail against an assailant, while remaining safe.
This concept was not invented in the 20th century, although it is one that many traditional martial arts instructors seem to have forgotten.
Many people question the effectiveness of blocking in a self-defence situation. Their reasoning is that most attacks are launched from a close distance, leaving the defender no time to raise their arm and swing it towards the incoming attack. In White Eyebrow Kung Fu, however, blocks require a much smaller movement and are launched from wherever the hand happens to be, without any preparatory "wind-up".
There is also the argument that using blocks puts you in a "defensive" and therefore passive, "losing" frame of mind. Pretty much all the blocks in Pak Mei (White Eyebrow), are designed to either destroy the attacking limb, throw the attacker completely off balance or at the very least control the opponent (often all three). In other words, the block stops the attacker, not just the attack. Blocks are reactive, but also pro-active and counter-offensive. Blocking in Pak Mei (White Eyebrow) is very much about ‘actively seizing control of the fight’. I contend that those who believe that blocking has absolutely no place in the real world of self-defence simply haven't learned to block properly.
Having said that, pre-emptive strikes are often advisable when you are in a highly threatening situation. It is legally justifiable to strike first as long as you believe yourself to be in imminent danger. Why block when you can prevent the attack by striking first? However, if the attack has already been launched, you'd better be good at blocking, neutralising and evasion!
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