Sunday, October 28, 2012

Signature fist of Choy Lay Fut

Some of the techniques of the Choy Lay Fut system are based in these five animal concepts that were passed down from the southern Shaolin temple. Among the five animal techniques, the Choy Lay Fut practitioner is known for one animal technique in particular, the Chop Choi or panther fist. Unlike the tiger which relies on its strength, the panther relies on its speed and accuracy. Utilizing the Chop Choi first requires a firm understanding of the structure, fighting concepts and training methods that all serve to make this technique one of the most devastating strikes in the Choy Lay Fut arsenal
Panther Fist
The panther is a fast agile animal; in the martial arts the panther represents speed. The Chop Choi is a quick darting punch, similar to the jab from western boxing. The Chop Choi is aimed at specific points such as the ribs, solar plexus, throat and temple. The Choy Lay Fut practitioner makes up for the Chop Choi’s lack of blunt force by quickly and ferociously attacking these weak points on the human anatomy.

The Chop Choi is made by curling the fingers at the second knuckle and placing the thumb against the index finger for support. Correct placement of the thumb is crucial to the formation of the Chop Choi. Correctly done the thumb serves to unify the rest of the digits on the hand into one striking surface. Incorrect formation of the Chop Choi will reduce the amount of force the fore knuckles can support and will not only weaken the strike but can also result in broken fingers. Awkward and unnatural at first, once properly learned the Chop Choi has an advantage over the conventional fist. Using the fore knuckles as the striking surface the Choy lay Fut practitioner reduces the area of impact and concentrates the force of this piercing strike into a smaller target area. In essence, using the fist is used like a spear as opposed to a battering ram. By using the fore knuckles the Choy Lay Fut practitioner will also gain a few inches of extra reach which may seem insignificant, but can make an enormous difference in real life and death combat.

Here I am demonstraiting the a Chop Choi at the front gate of the Original Shaolin Temple in Henan, China

There are many variations of the technique but the most commonly used are Yerng (yang) chop and Yum (yin) chop. The Yerng chop travels at an upward diagonal direction from the waist into the opponent’s torso. Yum chop travels downward from the ear using a twisting motion to further drill the fist into the target. These techniques are usually used in combination to attack the same target area or “gate“. The Gate theory is the division of the body into sections for offense or defense. In Choy lay Fut the body is divided into 12 gates consisting of left/right gates, upper/middle/lower gates, and interior/exterior gates. Opening a gate refers to drawing the opponent’s attention to a certain gate and then attacking it’s opposite gate. Destroying a gate refers to continuously attacking (Lin Wan Kuen) a specific gate until the opponent can no longer defend it. Continuous attack (Lin Wan Kuen) with the Chop Choi is often employed to destroy a gate but can also be used to open it. The slight angle of each the yerng/yum Chop Choi combination can be used to precisely attack around the opponents guard opening the gate.
Students at NFMA practicing the Yerng Chop/Yum chop combination
Both of these techniques are commonly used from the Horse stance (Mabu) position. The horse stance is used by the Choy lay Fut practitioner in combat from a sideways position. From the front the horse stance has limited strength and exposes many vital targets. However using the side horse stance limits the amount of exposure to attack. Using the correct structure from the side horse stance directs the force of the entire body pushing from the ground directly into the strike while simultaneously transferring the rebounding force of the strike through the body directly into the ground. There is a simple test used by the Choy Lay Fut practitioner to test the structure of both the stance and Chop Choi. Assuming the horse stance position execute a yerng chop and allow a partner to push your fist. The key to this structure is maintaining a straight line from your fist to the rear shoulder, keeping the back straight and the stance sunken. When correctly done the Choy Lay Fut practitioner should only feel the force in the rear leg.
Conditioning the Hand
In order to properly use the Chop Choi at full power the Choy lay Fut practitioner needs to undergo special training. There are several training methods traditionally used to gradually reinforce, strengthen and condition the Chop Choi. Until the Chop Choi has been sufficiently conditioned the beginning student can substitute a regular fist while using the fighting concepts previously mentioned.

The first step to attaining a properly conditioned Chop Choi is to reinforce the fist by training the stabilizing muscles in the wrist and hand. Since the striking surface is smaller when using the fore knuckles extra attention should be paid to the stabilizing muscles. This is done by performing pushups while maintaining the Chop Choi fist formation. Most beginners begin this exercise on a thin pad since the hard floor can be painful. In addition if the beginner cannot perform pushups in this position they can also hold the position at varying heights to begin strengthening the fist before performing full pushups.

There are several different methods of training the striking surface of the chop Choi. The two most common are the wall bag and the “iron palm” bag. These bags are can be filled with a variety of substances. In the early stages of training the bags can be filled with rice or dried beans. In the later stages they can be filled with sand, gravel or even steel shot. The iron palm bag is used by sitting in a horse stance and continuously striking the bag with increasing force. This can be done for either a certain number of repetitions or for a predetermined length of time. The wall bag is used by first standing in a natural position and lightly striking the bag. After a sufficient amount of strength has been built, the bag can be struck at full force with the yerng/yum chop combination. Similar to the
iron palm bag the wall bag can be struck for a certain number of repetitions or a predetermined amount of time.

In addition to these strengthening methods, other methods of finger and hand strengthening should be used. Examples include fingertip pushups, grip training, weight training including finger lifts, wrist curls and the wrist roller.
Example of "iron palm" training in Choy Lay Fut

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