Salutation's in the Chinese Martial Arts

Salutation's in the Chinese Martial Arts

A salutation in the Martial Arts is the equivalent to an Armies salute, and sometimes a trademark signature that the practitioner expresses out of respect to the inventor, or teacher, who devised such a format for learning purposes. 

If one stylist met another they would normally exchange salutations before any conversation, or even combat, took place. Due to the multiplicity of Martial Arts styles in China alone, a standard salutation was not common place, unlike the Japanese Martial Arts where almost all practitioners meet with a bow of the head, and a specific word of respect. There is however, in Chinese Wu-Shu, a salutation of a palm and fist pressed together, and as this is widely taught it is generally accepted as a Martial Artists salutation to ones classmates or teacher. However, the folklore surrounding this salutation suggests that it could have been adopted from the mysterious revolutionaries of China's explosive Anti-Ch'ing History to identify which group they were fighting for. The shaded history of the Chinese Martial Arts has always caused controversy among students from different styles, but it is generally accepted that we are all born from the same time, a time before the establishment of Religion or Monasteries. A time before style itself. A time of War and Revolution.

Within the Wing Chun style we see today there are three recognised forms: Siu Lim Tao, Chum Kiu and Bil Jii, all of which contain the same ceremonial opening salutations. A palm and fist together has become ritual, but there are two distinct movements which are commonly known as the crossed ‘cultivating hands’ and the two to five consecutive ‘centre-line punches’ which are executed before any of the forms begin. These can be looked upon as genuine ‘signature’ salutations of previous Masters and Founders. They are not to be confused with the ‘beginning’, or actual starting point of any of the forms. However, if we look at Grandmaster Lee Shing's students when they perform a form they include an extra 'third' set at the very beginning, and it is these movements which may help us all understand the significance of his own input into the Wing Chun style.

As the original two salutations are still presented, it suggests that he added his own theory alongside his predecessors, like a stamp of originality so as people could distinguish his style from his teachers’. These key movements he called 'Charp Jeurng, Gwar Kuen' basically translated as piercing palm and back fist. These are also the 2 main 'ingredients' of the famous Lap Sau drill. It must also be noted that he only developed and taught these movements after the death of Grandmaster Ip Man. Master Joseph Man, Lee Shings 7th Student and 'Kung Fu Son' also introduced his own ‘Jun Mo’ salutation when he began teaching in 1978 and again in 1994. This was similar to Lee Shing's, but concentrated on 'open hand' defensive applications. He was also the first person to openly suggest the fact that his teacher Lee Shing maybe the only other person to influence the forms of this family style to this day. The cross arms may have originated before Leung Jan, and the consecutive fists are rumored to be from Yim Wing Chun herself, according to folklore.

Let us also not forget that each Wing Chun fist set has its own theory and practice behind it. If you look at your own forms then you may finally see if this great Master has already influenced your Wing Chun training. If you’re not a Wing Chun practitioner you may still recognize certain postures or movements which tend to be universal in their own way. These sets may only take a few seconds to perform one after the other in their simplest way, but their in-depth study could last a lifetime, not to mention the training and study involved in the actual demonstration of the forms themselves!

Although the forms and sticky hand concepts of the Wing Chun style have been seen and promoted all over the World and throughout Europe, where better to start your study of the Lee Shing Family than at the very beginning?

About the Author:
Photo by Christian Plach
Spencer Devine started his Martial Arts training at 9 years old. Growing up in North London he has always enjoyed old school Kung Fu movies and when he was 19 he met his first, and only Wing Chun Sifu who took him on as a formal ‘Tou Dai’ Disciple in 1995. He has no formal students of his own and built his personal training space in his back garden which he later named ‘Flystudio – Wing Chun Tong’.
While learning to teach with his Sifu and kung fu family, Spencer often wrote and published articles on behalf of the ‘Jun Mo Gwoon’ and when he settled down and started his own family he continued to coach and train a small Wing Chun Troupe with his kung fu Brother, taking on the name The Yum Yeurng Academy. He has a traditional approach to training Martial Arts, covering more wider cultural practises and is known for his performance abilities and detailed understanding of the Lee Shing family and Wing Chun system.
He is a regular Facebooker, and has recently started to promote his approach to training Wing Chun through his Video Blog.

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