Kung Fu

Mizong Luohan Kung Fu Hero

Lost Track Kung Fu 1: Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30pm

Our recommended class for new kung fu students, this conditioning-based class improves flexibility, strength, cardiovascular endurance, and coordination while developing power, proper alignment, and reaction time through forms and partner drills. Material covers stances, kicks, punches, combinations, and applications for forms and techniques. Students learn three Lost Track (My Jhong Law Horn) style forms over the course of 6-to- 12 months. A year spent regularly attending this class will prepare practitioners for the Lost Track Level 2 class, and also provides a high-quality skillset that will serve you well in nearly any style of martial arts.

Lost Track Kung Fu 2: Mondays and Wednesdays at 7:30pm

A techniques-based class that builds upon the skills learned in Kung Fu 1, proceeding at a higher intensity and introducing more challenging techniques and combinations specific to the Lost Track style. Students continue learning empty hand forms, and learn a saber form and a staff form. Sparring may occur in drill, single-point, or continuous format. All students in Kung Fu 2 should be at least orange belt unless otherwise approved by the instructor.

Northern Shaolin Kung Fu: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm

An all levels class specializing in the orthodox Bak Sil Lum (BSL) style of Kung Fu and taught by Sifu Kisu Stars, legendary martial arts consultant for Avatar: The Last Airbender. Northern Shaolin and Lost Track are closely related styles of Kung Fu that complement one another.

Sparring Practice: Saturdays at 10am

While partner drills and sparring occur within the normal course of kung fu classes, some students prefer more in-depth practice and instruction on this element of training. The class is especially effective at helping students who experience anxiety related to sparring, and provides them with the knowledge, strategies, and confidence to genuinely enjoy the practice.

Open Kung Fu: Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon, and Saturdays at 11:30am

An all-levels, open-training- hall class. A great way to get individual help from more experienced practitioners in a casual, stress-free environment.

Program Overview

Our adult kung fu program emphasizes the Lost Track (Mandarin: mizong; Cantonese: my jhong) tradition, part of the “northern long fist” family of martial arts that draws its name from both geography (Northern China) and a common set of movement principles shared among the many styles that it encompasses. Northern long fist is perhaps best known as the foundation for the standardized martial arts curriculum established by the Jing Wu Athletic Association of Shanghai (f. 1910). Jing Wu’s honorary founder, Huo Yuanjia, was a mizong master who rose to fame by defeating foreign fighters in competitive matches. The Jing Wu curriculum forms the basis of our beginning and intermediate level kung fu classes, though we teach it with a distinct mizong flavor, focusing on waistline power generation, open shoulders, and swift, deceptive footwork that are the defining characteristics of the mizong school. We’ve also updated the pedagogical model according to modern advances in physical education and learning theory. You won’t just stand in the back and follow along at West Gate. You’ll know what you’re doing, how it should feel, how it works, and why it matters. Over time, we’ll help you build a skill-set from the ground up that makes you strong, fast, light on your feet, highly coordinated, and able to decode classical martial arts movements into effective and practical applications. As students progress, we introduce them to material from the mizong luohan style (Cantonese: my jhong law horn), a rare and challenging branch of the mizong school characterized, as Grandmaster C.H. Marr puts it:
…by the peculiar versatility of the hand movements and foot work involved. With markedly fleeting movements and nimble jumps, a typical My Jhong Law Horn form metamorphoses from a side-blow to a flying kick in mid-air, or to a sweeping stroke beneath the legs. In the face of such unpredictable moves, now upwards, now downwards, the opponent is often left at his wits’ end. To top it all, every maneuver is so minutely devised that it transcends prediction. With the hands, eyes, body and feet in one coordinated motion of agility and swiftness, the practitioner can deal far-reaching blows. Designed to strike from a wide range, the form has a flexible and extensive stretch. Beneath the ostensibly fragile stance lurks a tremendous force from which the very potency and strength characteristic of this style generates.
While the mizong school originated in Northern China’s Hebei Province (then called Zhili Province), the Mizong Luohan branch migrated south to Hong Kong in the early 20 th Century, where Grandmaster Yip Yu Ting would establish the style as part of the unique Hong Kong martial arts community that blended and shared insights among a rich collection of masters from many different regions and traditions. Mizong Luohan thus retained the distinctive movement signatures and strategies of Hebei Province, but also engaged with a variety of other approaches and adapted to a cosmopolitan martial arts culture. Such experiences produced some of the world’s most famous kung fu styles, such as Yip Man’s evolution of the Wing Chun style and the Hung Gar and Choy Lay Fut schools. Undoubtedly, the sharing and openness of that environment encouraged all styles involved to adapt, improve, and expand.

History and Legend

A Disclaimer on the Complex Politics of Martial Arts History: Martial arts systems nearly always have colorful, legendary origin stories known to popular culture through books and film. These stories, such as those involving the famed Shaolin Temple, are highly embellished from their historical realities and sometimes entirely fabricated. Prior to the 21 st Century, academic historians and cultural scholars took little interest in the martial arts. That is changing now, to everyone’s benefit. Indeed, the real history of kung fu that these scholars have unearthed traces a cultural art form largely developed in the 17th Century and beyond through many iterations and diverse interpretations, and recognizes kung fu as an active respondent to China’s political history from the decline and fall of the Qing dynasty to the civil wars of the early 20 th Century, the Republican Period, and the Cultural Revolution. Far from being an artifact of ancient or medieval China, kung fu is a diverse, dynamic, and at times overtly political activity that has both influenced and been influenced by the world around it. In fact, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recently recognized some martial arts traditions such as Wing Chun and our own Fu Style Baguazhang as part of the “intangible cultural heritage” (ICH) of Hong Kong. Nevertheless, part of cultural martial arts traditions is their adherence to legendary origin stories. We have tried to give such stories their appropriate place and context here, while also providing guidance as to more recent and reliable scholarship in an emerging field of inquiry. The mizong school dates at least to the early 1700s, when it was popularized by Sun Tong, a historical person originally of Shandong Province. Sun would eventually settle in Cangzhou, where mizong is still popular today. Mizong’s legendary origins are revealed by its alternative name of Yanqingquan, after a legendary figure named Yan Qing from the famous historical fiction novel Outlaws of the Marsh, also called the Water Margin. According to the Water Margin, mizong dates way back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE), though this is likely apocryphal. Yan Qing, the legend says, evaded the imperial guard on a snowy, moonlit night by kicking up the snow behind him so as to cover his footsteps, hence the phrase mizong, or “lost track.” The Water Margin itself had many authors and revisions between the late 14th and early 17th Centuries, and so is an unreliable marker for the historical existence of the style to a particular date. The mizong luohan branch of mizong, which is a more recent iteration, appends the term luohan to the style. Luohan is the Mandarin word for the Arhat (a Sanskrit term), an enlightened being that plays various roles in differing schools of Buddhism, from fully liberated, non-corporeal entities in the Theravada tradition to saint-like figures in the East Asian variants of the Mahayana tradition. Mizong luohan emerged in the regions surrounding Cangzhou as various families practicing mizong developed their own interpretations and merged it with other long fist styles, and possibly with the Buddhist Shaolin temple movement styles of neighboring Henan province, which were often generically called luohanquan. It would continue to evolve as it moved south to Hong Kong in the 1930s and interacted with a rich diversity of other styles and practitioners. Aesthetically, mizong luohan is more forceful and extended than mizong, has its own set of forms, and contains longer stances and great sprinting leaps that are largely absent from the parent style. Current practitioners of the mizong luohan branch of mizong trace their lineage to the Yip clan of Chuong Hsien, a town near Cangzhou in Zhili province (now Hebei province). Grandmaster Yip Yu Ting rose to prominence as a caravan guard and military martial arts instructor in the 1920s, during the early Chinese civil wars. A fuller account of his life, written by the eloquent Grandmaster C.H. Marr, is available here. In 1931, Grandmaster Yip left military life to teach by invitation at the Central Jing Wu Athletic Association in Shanghai, and later moved to Hong Kong to head the Jing Wu martial arts program at the South China Athletic Association, where he would teach for the bulk of his career and produce some of the world’s finest kung fu practitioners: Grandmasters C.H. Marr, Johnny Kwong Ming Lee, and Raymond Wong, to name a few. Those teachers and their students would spread the style to the West and produce yet another generation. One hundred years; three generations enchanted with mizong luohan. Won’t you be part of the next?

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