A site honoring the teachings of Kuo Lien Ying and the magical time that we were able to learn from Si Fu

Portsmouth Square 1965-1985

Northern Shaolin by Robert Bergman aka "Spirit Boxer"

                                                    The Foundation of “classical” Northern Shao-Lin

                                                                     [the Tao of Training]

When Master Kuo Lien Ying arrived in San Francisco in the mid to late 60’s there were few, if any, Chinese martial arts masters teaching “real” traditional Chinese Gung fu in America . At that time, the words “Shao-Lin were still only recognized by native Chinese in America or the few martial artists who had been lucky enough to get any of the minimal information that was available about Chinese Gung fu. Sifu Kuo’s Chinatown studio was one of the first schools to offer classical instruction in Shao-Lin martial arts and the rare system of “Guang Ping Tai Chi”

Being originally from Inner Mongolia and later living in northern China, he traditionally learned the northern system of Shao-Lin Gung fu and was trained in the original “classical” traditions whose training methods were strict and uncompromising !

Emphasis was laid upon the stretching routines that were the “core” of  training and they were considered  vital to subsequent progress throughout our Gung fu training. True to the spirit of “classical” training , strict attention to detail  in relation to correct structure and proper breathing during the  relaxed execution of long & thorough stretching routines were the primary aspects of basic training and mandatory for the proper development of a solid foundation.  The importance of flexibility was stressed in the northern system due to the use of deep stances, high kicks and fully extended movements  and in terms of “energy”,  the theory that flexible and relaxed muscles allowed for the connected and unobstructed flow of “Chi” throughout the body was emphasized and was taught to be a direct result of the mental focus and  conscious effort invested into your daily stretching routines and  forms training.

Additionally, Master Kuo reformed my  understanding of what I previously understood as, “Force” and challenged  my intellect to look at my existing comprehension of  “strength” as compared to “Power”. What was so revelatory about the information that was being presented to me was that all of  the principles that were  being looked at ,were explained through my training and could be clearly demonstrated in the mechanics & proper execution of the movements in the forms. The ability to understand certain principles of  power were actually learned by practicing the application of  movements with another person so that the “energy” could be “felt” and therefore understood. It was very inspiring to be able to actually research theoretical questions thru my daily practice of Shao-Lin and this process was encouraged by Master Kuo.

As he had explained to me earlier [ but I did not understand it at that time ] Strength was the maximum capacity of force for each individual limb [or part of the body] but Power was the combined sum of all the parts, integrated into one coordinated movement . Through those physical mechanics, the theory of efficiency[Physics] could be demonstrated.  “The least amount of energy output for the greatest amount of results returned ”

It became clear that much of what I thought was “external” strength was the mechanics of “applied focus” and that many of ,what I thought were “empty” movements actually had  “internal” applications. Now I looked at the forms with a newly gained appreciation and reassessed the value for the strict guidelines that were stressed and realized that they were taught that way in order to gain the original results of internal benefit but through the training of  external movements of the body.

Here was the “Hidden Tao” of  Shao-Lin Gung fu that I would have missed if not taught by my master to look at the real “internal” benefits that were attainable through the “classical” training methods of the external exercise.

As I progressed in my practice, I began to understand the reasoning behind the methods that were being used to teach us. Each new set of exercises we learned was in preparation for the next form that we were going to be taught and there was a definite path of  progress that had been consciously worked out and formulated to introduce the particular principle and corresponding technique or movement that demonstrated it. With each new set that we were taught , our level of understanding and skill was being tested and gradually increased. As my Gung fu improved so did my ability to perceive the subtleties of  energy that were being expressed by the movements and which demonstrated the particular theory that was being illustrated.  It was at this point that I really was able to see the direction in which I was being taken. Through the gradual , step by step, introduction to higher levels of information, which demanded more sophisticated abilities of theoretical understanding, I was slowly being led down the “path of knowledge” and guided from the more physical and “external” aspects of training through to the meta-physical and more “internal” principles of the theories that were intrinsic to  the higher level Shao-Lin forms. Slowly we were solidifying our foundation, broadening our theoretical knowledge of  gung fu, and being directed to harness the more “Yin” aspects of  our Shao-Lin techniques .