Fist of Luohan
practitioners of Praying Mantis Boxing have heard of
Luohan Gung, the method of developing your body,
physically, mentally and spiritually that has been
handed down for generations. But few have heard of the
fighting form called Luohan Fist passed down by the Hao
family's branch of Plum Flower Praying Mantis.
But, What is A Luohan?
you are one who has dedicated your life to cultivating
mind and spirit then you are travelling the path of a
Luohan. Traditionally, in Buddhism, Luohan are entrusted
with protecting the spiritual doctrine of their faith,
The training of Luohan Gung develops your mind, body and
spirit for your spiritual practice. This cultivation
process requires a lifetime of discipline and
As testimony to this unceasing hard work we have the following
Eight Line Song of Training Gung
and night follow each other without end
Eliminate desires of smoking, drinking or affairs of
Striking light and hitting hard are divided
into before and after
no interruption of training the days become months
is how the ancients became Luohan
takes a generation of study to become a marvel
those 1000 days of discipline and 10,000 days of
cultivation 'a few' is especially detested
can we begrudge the training of 100 days.
There are four points emphasized in this sonnet.
- Training without end; 'Day and night follow
each other without end,' infers that the mind
must focus on the training throughout the day and
night. This is accomplished through the transmission
of specific mental exercises.
- A pointed mind; The intent behind the line,
'Eliminating desires...' is that one should
focus singularly on the task at hand without being
sidetracked by temporary pleasures which will slow
down your progress. This idea of controlling your
passions has been called 'Luohan Taming the Tiger'
and is the name of the 18th Luohan (statue at
- Striking the body; 'Striking light and
hitting hard,' refers to the gradual increase in
the intensity of body conditioning strikes you must
withstand in this training.
- Lifelong dedication; the author wants to inspire
us with dedication for 100 days of training but
hints that it is a lifelong pursuit, 'It takes a
generation of study to become a marvel.'
Three Transmissions of the Luohan
One of the oldest known manuals of Praying Mantis Boxing
appears at least as far back as the late 1700's is
called Luohan Short Strikes in some versions and
True Transmission of Shaolin in others. This
manual to makes a connection between the following;
- The training of a Luohan
- The Shaolin monastery and the ascetic lifestyle
of a monk
- Praying Mantis Boxing
It contains the three essential elements of training to become a
Luohan and a protector of the faith which it
calls the 'three transmissions.'
Transmissions for the Method of Gung
The first gung is to accumulate strength.
Cultivate the qi and perfect the spirit. This is the
Luohan's accomplishment on the path of achievement.
Accomplishment can be attained after one hundred
days of practice.
The second is pushing and sending the sandbag
drilling the fists and palms.
The third is to practice all of the family hand
methods. To the extant of separating the tendons and
stopping the pulse. Moving from the general
profoundness to the subtle details learning the
nature of the way of heaven.
The three elements 'transmitted' from master to
- The development of qi, strength and spirit
- Bag training
- The application of fighting techniques
This third transmission is where a collection of
techniques such as Luohan Fist fits in.
The Tiger Taming Luohan
Fist contains the
Luohan posture reminiscent of 'Luohan Taming the Tiger.'
The story goes that Pindola, a monk in India, fed
vegetarian food to a tiger in order to tame him and
prevent him from eating the locals. The people revered
Pindola for his work and called him the Tiger Taming
Luohan. In fact, the tiger represents our passions and
desires which we learn to control in our training. The
'Tiger Taming Luohan' is a powerful image that can
remind us of that.
The Turn that Topples
The form Luohan Fist contains the clever
attack and defense characteristic of Praying Mantis
Boxing used to strike and topple the opponent. An
excellent example are the techniques
- Stick in the fist
- Turn the body and strike with the
These two moves are a combination which can be
used to knock over the opponent.
||Stick in the fist
||Turn the body and strike with the
Anna strikes April with her
April dodges to the side and
deflects Anna's punch
Within that same moment April
pushes Anna's fist down and strikes with her
Anna blocks with her left
|April 'steals' Anna's left palm by securely
grabbing her wrist.
The idea of 'Turning' in
the technique April is about to apply 'Turn the body and strike with the
inner forearm' means that April pulls Anna's arm to
April's left and steps to the left (next).
|April advances by locking Anna's lead foot
and pulling her arm down. Anna will have a hard
time defending herself from April's forearm
Fist and Gung
In Kung Fu we develop our body to be strong enough to withstand the beating
of sticks and clubs. We move our body with postures and
maneuvers passed down from past dynasties. We alternate
attack and defense with our training partners for
countless repetitions. In the end, this training and
perseverance serves one purpose; the refining of our own
consciousness. To train mind, body, and spirit in this
way is to travel path of a Luohan
thanks to the collaboration with Niki Deistler
and his shifu Zhou Zhendong. This summer I will
fly to Shandong to met up with Niki and Shifu