Sunday, February 14, 2010

2010: Year of the Metal Tiger

4708: A Year of Changes, Flexibility, and Adaptations

Traditionally, Tiger years are years filled with change – sometimes for the worse, sometimes for the better. It can make or break you. But more importantly, it defines you.
It’s a year to be calm during the storm and composed under enormous pressure.

Sounds a lot like training in martial arts: to face the most difficult of life’s challenges with a focused mind, determined spirit, and refined clarity.

But for this moment, let’s focus on the more positive characteristics of the tiger that are so revered by martial artists:

In Chinese culture, the tiger is a symbol of strength and ferocity. It is believed that the strength of an animal is derived from its bones – the stronger the animal, the stronger its bones must be. This includes the muscles, tendons and ligaments that are affiliated with the bones. As a result, the tiger is associated with bone strengthening according to the Shaolin tradition pertaining to the Five Animals, or Five Shaolin Shapes. Since the marrow of the bones sustains and supports the body’s essential functions, which in turn defines physical power, the best animal to emulate was the tiger. It is in this manner that the tiger came to become one of the Five Shaolin Shapes.
With regard to status, the title of a tiger is typically bestowed upon famous warriors or champion fighters. Guangdong Sahp Fu (廣東十虎; Guangdong or Canton’s Ten Tigers), Dunggong Maahng Fu (東江猛虎; Dunggong’s Fierce Tiger), and Dunggong Saam Fu (東江三虎; Dunggong’s Three Tigers) are just a few examples of the prestigious tiger designation. A famous Chinese proverb states that a mountain cannot have two tigers on it – making reference to the tiger’s territoriality, dominance and aggression. These characteristics are the tiger’s primary qualities that are traditionally emphasized in Pak Mei Kung Fu.
Fu bui (虎背) or tiger back refers to the strength that is needed to appropriately command this body part. As one of the essential components of luk ging (六勁) – the 6 sectors of integrated force production, the back needs to be firm yet flexible to assist in the execution of the refined force known as ging (勁). The practitioner’s back needs to embody the likeness of a tiger in a predatory position – ready to pounce on its prey.
As one of nature’s most fearsome mammals, the tiger is well-known for its stalking and hunting abilities. There is the ubiquitous fu jaau (虎爪) in Southern Chinese martial arts, made famous most by the patterns performed by Lau Gaa Fai (劉家輝), or Gordon Liu – aka The Master Killer, Chi Kuan Chun / Chik Gun Gwan (戚冠軍), and Alexander Fu Sheng (傅聲) of Shaw Brothers fame. In Pak Mei Kung Fu, the fu bouh (虎步), or tiger stepping, imitates the mammal’s advancing movements and retreating patterns – regulating the range and controlling the rate of attack. This form of footwork facilitates the smooth transition of movements without compromising the integrity of the practitioner’s stance or balance in the same mannerisms and cadences of a stalking tiger in nature.

It’s no wonder that there’s an entire year dedicated to this amazing animal.

So here’s to 4708 – a year of strength, fortitude, and inspiration.

Train hard. Practice wisely.

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