The method of attaining long life, a healthy, vibrant
body and a mind prepared for spiritual practice are the
goals of Luohan Gung. The intense physical training of
Luohan Gung also develops the body to withstand blows
and the strength to apply martial art techniques.
The term 'stealing a horse,' mostly unknown in the west,
is a descriptive phrase used both in Luohan Gung and
Shaolin techniques of attack. The Chinese word 'pian
ma' can be defined as 'stealing a
horse' or to 'mount a horse from a running start.' Since
ancient times Northern China has been the breeding
ground of war horses, so it is not unusual to find terms
relating to horses within martial arts.
The 11th road of Luohan Gung is called
'Stealing a Horse Left and Right.' The poetic verse
exhorts us to train hard and persevere through the pain
of lifting 1000 catties (roughly 600 pounds or 500kg).
The move is performed by holding the leg out in front of
the body and squatting to the floor without letting the
foot touch the ground as seen performed by April above.
Left and Right Mounting a Horse
1. Hands in front of your chest straighten your waist
2. With a suspended leg rise and descend three times.
3. Supporting oneself on a single leg is as if lifting
4. The pine tree and crane live 10,000 years yet
maintain eternal youth.
5. Help raise the spleen and earth to cultivate the root
6. Once you get the essential key point how can you let
7. Lower your waist with your leg extended close to the
8. To ride a cart’s wheel like this is truly amazing.
9. Then and only then can you call your success
10. The strength of nine oxen and two tigers is not
Hold the leg out suspended in mid-air, rise and descend
three times without letting your leg touch the ground.
Even if you can do this you haven't made an achievement.
You must do this while balanced atop the wheel of a
horse drawn carriage! Here is shown the war chariot used
during the Ming Dynasty to give you an idea of what type
of wheel you should balance yourself on (two sides of
the chariot are
covered for protection from arrows). But, I can't help
wondering if there once was a time when talented
individuals could balance themselves on a wheel that was
standing free, not attached to a chariot or cart, and
not only balance themselves without tipping over, but
perform this squatting exercise of Luohan Gung.
Fond Memories of Taiwan
While training in Taiwan my Shifu, Shi Zhengzhong, would
save this exercise for the end of class. He would hold
out his hands while we were still gasping for breath and
say, 'left and right ten times each.' Few could
accomplish it, but everyone struggled trying. Before
getting to the tenth repetition, our legs would sag on
the ground and sounds of grunting cattle, us, could be
heard along with chirping insects. We always trained
outside, rain or shine, if you stopped to rest too long
some of those biting bugs would come to feast on our
The Spleen and Earth
In Chinese medicine spleen is categorized within the
five phases as belonging to earth and plays an essential role in
transforming food into qi and blood. The spleen rules
muscles and flesh. Healthy and strong
muscle tone and well developed limbs are generally
considered a result of proper function of the spleen.
Hence, the author of Luohan Gung writes, 'Help raise
the spleen and earth to cultivate the root and
foundation. Once you get the essential key point how can you let
Left and Right Mounting a Horse
1. From the bottom of a well pick a flower completely
raise your qi.
2. From a single leg squat (pu tui) use all your
strength to raise your body.
3. The action must continue three times.
4. Suspend your leg in mid-air using 1000 catties of
5. Hold it for the length of a breath of qi.
6. Not even fearing the running of carts or the stamping
7. Though the qi may be weakened and the strength
emptied yet your tendons and bones will be strengthened.
8. It only takes 100 days of practice to succeed in the
9. Our only fear is a change of will and determination.
10. How is stretching your tendons and summoning your
strength worthwhile if you can’t stick to it?
When squatting down on a single leg how low should one
go? As if reaching into the bottom of a well to pick out
a flower! Before one can push themselves up you must
'completely raise your qi' so you can summon all
Monk Steals a Horse
The martial 'stealing of a horse' is somewhat
different. The leg swings around in face hanging kick,
'gua mian jiao,' and lands in the deng pu position
as shown above.
Below, the defender ducks out of the way.
Face Hanging Kick Strikes the Calf
This kick can be used as an entry for a
takedown. In this training method, you kick and the
opponent ducks. Using your momentum of a swinging leg
you strike their calf inside the knee. later, in
training the applications, you often grab their arm
before applying the takedown. But in the beginning,
there is no arm or wrist grab, just a shoulder pat. This
is a good way of teaching the student how to control
their swinging momentum without using the body of the
opponent as a handle.
All 'leaning strikes', kao da, begin with forearm
strike low and high.
April pushes Phil's arm down and swings her leg toward
his head, he ducks.
April pats his shoulder and maneuvers to swing into the
inside of his knee.
April Kicks out his foot. From here Phil retreats so the
drill can be repeated on the other leg.
Later, this method is also used to train rolls. When
Phil's leg is kicked out he rolls across the ground and
stands up and does the other side.
Life on Horseback
Since ancient times the Northern Chinese have lived life
from tents and horses. A lifestyle vastly different from
our modern one of luxury and convenience. By looking at
the hardships and lifestyles of past generations of
masters we can get an idea of the work we need to put
forth to place us on a level with masters of old