A five-animal Chinese style
martial art created in America in the 1960's by Grandmaster Fu Xi-Wen,
dedicated to the goals of not only building self defense skills, but
developing each person as a whole. In Shen Lung Kung Fu, the focus of
training is not solely on martial techniques, but on building positive
values in their students.
The ultimate goal of Shen
Lung, however, is not the mastery of sparring or forms; but the improvement
of a person along three levels; the mind, the body, and the spirit. A Shen
Lung practitioner will work for a many years attempting to attain the body
of a warrior, the mind of a scholar, and the spirit of a monk.
History of The School
Of Shen Lung Kung Fu
Shen Lung Kung Fu is technically an American (Chinese-based) martial art. In
1948, just a year before the communists took over China, Fu Xi-Wen fled to
seek new freedom in America. Fu Xi-Wen had devoted his youth to the study of
T'ien Lung (Heavenly Dragon) Gung Fu.
While living in the U.S. in the 1960s, Fu Xi-Wen created a new martial art
that did not carry a strictly Taoist spiritual requirement. While the school
of Shen Lung Kung Fu still studies the Tao, all that is required is belief
in something greater than oneself. Fu Xi-Wen tailored this art so it would
appeal to people in his new environment. He also replaced some of the
defense systems among a different , and created a class and that would
bridge Chinese traditions and instruction groups with American
sensibilities. Fu Xi-Wen became Sijo (founder) and named his new art Shen
Lung (Spiritual or Invisible Dragon) Kung Fu.
Shen Lung Kung Fu -- born in America, and the product of Grandmaster Fu
Xi-Wen -- owes many of its traditions to T'ien Lung Gung Fu and beyond.
However, the lineage of Shen Lung Kung Fu starts with Sijo Fu Xi-Wen.
The Five Animal
*Tiger is the first
animal style learned in Shen Lung, introduced at the Guest level. Powerful,
deep-rooted, and linear, Tiger emphasizes close-range strikes, throws, and a
willingness to stay in the danger zone long enough to set up a single
fight-ending blow. Tiger commits fully to every motion, and maximizes power
at the expense of mobility. Tiger is low, hard-style, and works with single
*Mantis is the
second style taught in Shen Lung Kung Fu, begun at the Novice level. Using
an upright stance and highly mobile footwork. Mantis operates in sequences
and combinations baffling opponents with multiple simultaneous attacks and
blocks, all executed at high speed. Mantis is a quick, high, linear, hard
style that attacks by rapidly executed combinations.
*Snake style is
started at the rank of Student of the Spiritual Forms. It is upright,
compact and mobile. Snake is a soft style using an opponent's energy against
them rather than resisting it. Snakes absorb, control and redirect rather
than block an attack. Snake stylists are known for circular and whip-like
motions flowing around opponents, climbing over their defenses and striking
repeatedly in rapid succession. Snake is high, circular, soft and extremely
fast, favoring progressive direct attacks that overwhelm a defense.
*Crane study begins
when one has become a Student of the Mental Forms. Crane is very upright,
attacking with carefully aimed strikes at long range and defending with
redirection and retreat rather than resistance. Working from outside an
opponent's effective range, Crane demands extreme technical proficiency and
smooth footwork, as well as careful timing and judgment. Crane is high,
circular, soft, and distant, working chiefly with progressive indirect
*Monkey is the last standard animal introduced in Shen Lung Kung Fu. Monkey
style prefers to go to the ground. Monkey style training integrates throws,
locks, grappling and ground-fighting. Monkey attacks an opponent's weak
points using both hard and soft energy as needed. Monkey is very low, both
hard and soft, close-range and favors full body contact.
*Spiritual or Invisible
While the Dragon is not a formally taught style in Shen Lung it instead
represents what emerges when a practitioner can draw freely from all five
animals as the situation demands. One who can use the power of Tiger, the
mechanics of Mantis, the speed of Snake, the movements of Crane, and the
cunning of Monkey.
Chinese, the Imperial Dragon or Lung, is considered to be the primary of
four benevolent spiritual animals, the other three being the phoenix, the
unicorn and the tortoise. Having unrivaled wizdom and power the dragon
symbolized the Emperors of China themselves, who were actually called
dragons. Hsi, China's first emperor, was said to have a dragon's tail. Shen
Nung, his successor was supposed to have been fathered by a dragon. The
Chinese Emperor sat on a dragon throne, rode in a dragon boat and slept in a
dragon bed. To distinguish the chinese imperial dragon from all other
dragons, only the Imprial Dragon bore five claws.
The Four Types of
In China dragons are
know as Lung. There are four main kinds of Lung.
The Celestial Dragon (Tien-lung)
The Celestial Dragon protects the places of the Gods
The Spiritual Dragon (Shen-Lung)
The Spiritual Dragon controls the wind and the rain
The Earth Dragon (Ti-Lung)
The Earth Dragon controls rivers, and water on the Earth
The Underworld Dragon (Fut's-Lung)
The Underworld Dragon guards precious metals and gems.
The School of Shen Lung Kung Fu currently has active Kwoons (schools) in
Tuscaloosa and Nashville, Tennessee. Sifu Robert Britton operated a Shen
Lung Kwoon in Taichung, Taiwan during his years teaching there but it has
since closed with his return to the United States.
There are three parts to every person: Body, Mind and Spirit.
These three parts exist on separate planes: Physical, Mental and Spiritual.
Three archetypes exemplify the perfection of each level :
*The Body of a Warrior
*The Mind of a Scholar
*The Spirit of a Priest, or Monk
The goal of Shen Lung Kung Fu is to unite the three archetypes in harmony
within a person.
A major emphasis of the art is conflict resolution.
The school teaches one to resolve conflict by raising it to a higher plane -
moving from violence at the physical level, to rational argument at the
mental level, to unity and understanding at the spiritual level.
One reason Shen Lung is taught in groups (called Circles) is because the
skills needed for conflict resolution are better taught in groups.
There are several fundamental principles, or maxims associated with the
School of Shen Lung Kung Fu:
The Understanding of
There are no dangerous
weapons, only dangerous people.
The Understanding of Discipline:
Discipline is the training which makes punishment unnecessary.
The Honor Code:
A Student of Shen Lung Kung Fu will not lie, cheat, or steal.
Those who do participate in such behavior will be asked to leave the school.
Shen Lung Kung Fu has
no specific doctrinal or religious requirements; the School only insists
that there be something you believe in that is greater than yourself.
They also ask that:
One be tolerant of the beliefs of others.
One respects their seniors in the art.
One is to be respectful of martial arts other than Shen Lung Kung Fu.
If accepted as a Student a person will be asked to be bound by an honor
code: "A Student of Shen Lung Kung Fu will not lie, cheat, or steal." Those
who violate this code will be asked to leave the School.
The three main texts
involved are The Tao Te Ching, The Analects of Confucius, and The Art of
War. Bookwork begins once one has joined a Circle. However, there are also
classes on logic/rhetoric and occasional seminars from guest instructors
from other arts that are open to all within the School.
There are five
different classes of people in Shen Lung. Guests, Novices, Students,
Disciples and Instructors. The Guests are just that -- honored guests
treated with respect and courtesy. The School encourages interested people
to come for a while as a guest before making a decision or commitment to
continue. Guests are invited and encouraged to participate in a variety of
drills and exercises but all activities are voluntary.
Guests who show a proficiency in the basic techniques, and who display a
respect for the traditions and culture of the school, can request to test
for the rank of Novice. The Novice, with a white sash, immediately becomes a
fundamental building block of the school -- helping host new guests and
reinforcing those fundamental techniques through repeated practice and
The rank of Novice in Shen Lung Kung Fu is well-earned and those with white
sashes may have been studying for a year or more.
Novices who join a Circle and perform their service as hosts to guests are
eventually eligible to test for Student rank.
Members of a Circle train, work, progress and test together. Students are
expected to display a greater sense of responsibility and duty to
themselves, their Circle, Novices and their Sifu.
Students may be proposed by their Circle for participation in a ceremony in
which they promise to undertake the preservation of the art by becoming a
teacher. The student, if accepted, takes the title of Disciple works under
the direction and close supervision of an Instructor. At the end of this
period and at the discretion of the Instructor responsible the title of full
Instructor may be awarded.
Whereas many martial arts, such as Karate and Tae Kwon Do, use colored belts
to show rank Shen Lung Kung Fu uses wide colored sashes. The sash is tied
around the waist with the knot at the point of the left hip.
Color: Rank: Title:
*No Sash: Guest
*White Sash: Novice
*Orange Sash: Student of the Spiritual Forms
*Yellow Sash: Student of the Mental Forms
*Green Sash: Student of the Physical Forms
*Blue Sash: Disciple (Sihing)
*Black Sash: Instructor of the Physical Forms (Sifu)
*Silver Sash: Instructor of the Mental Forms (Master)
*Gold Sash: Instructor of the Spiritual Forms (Grandmaster)
Award (Red) Sashes
Most people in the
School do not earn Red Sashes, and they are outside the normal rank
structure. The Award (Red) Sash is just that, an award, and not an earned
rank. However, a Red Sash is normally esteemed as at least a Black Sash in
terms of accomplishment.
The Salute: A
Gesture of Respect
Martial artists commonly salute when they greet each other. This is a custom
that is an intrinsic part of traditional Chinese Kung Fu. It is a mutual
show of respect for each other's skill, knowledge and abilities. In
addition, the salute has a practical application. Martial artists were
always very cautious in the old days; handshakes were considered either too
threatening or an invitation for an attack. Warriors would try to avoid
contact with unscrupulous people, leery of surprise attacks. Many Chin Na
(joint breaking) techniques begin from a handshake.
The Shen Lung salute is a distinctly Chinese-style movement. Take one step
forward with the left foot. The right hand is clenched in a fist. The left
thumb is bent and the four fingers are stacked and straight. The palm of the
left hand is placed over the fist. Both fist and palm are about 4 to 6
inches from the chest, with both elbows bent and the arms forming a circle.
The hands are held at chest height. The posture is erect and the eyes are
focused on the person who is being saluted. The head is held upright and a
slight bow is made from the shoulders as the hands are slightly extended,
still pressed together. When your salute is acknowledged, you should move
your hands back to your sides as you step back with your left foot and stand
There are many common explanations of the meaning or symbolism of the
salute. One is that the fist shows martial ability and the open hand covers
the fist to show civility. The left hand thumb is bent out of humility.
Chinese people will point to themselves with their thumb instead of their
index finger, as westerners do. A straightened thumb (like a thumbs-up)
means "I'm number one!" to the Chinese. Therefore, the bent thumb means that
you do not claim superiority. Proper martial arts etiquette would expect for
you to be humble, even if you are a champion. The four fingers symbolize
uniting Kung Fu across the four seas (or compass points).
Perhaps the oldest explanation is the Hung Gar story of the rebellion
against the Ching Dynasty, in which the salute was a symbol of the secret
society that formed the rebellion. The fist was the earth and the open hand
the crescent moon, both of which were objects on the flag of the rebellion.
The most common explanation is the Yin / Yang symbolism of the fist being
the hard way and the open hand representing the soft way.
*One is to salute when they greet and take leave of their Sifu. This shows
their respect for his or her teachings. They salute their instructors for
the same reason. They are expected to salute when they enter and exit the
Kwoon to show respect for the sacrifices that their teachers made for the
art. Also, they should salute their equals to show that you will work
together to hone each other's skills. One should always salute their teacher
before he or she salutes them.