The Power of Choy Li Fut

By Marian K. Castinado

The Chinese principle of yin and yang emphasizes the strength in opposites. San Francisco choy li fut practitioner Tat-Mau wong would certainly agree. His style, which combines straight and circular, hard and soft, northern and southern, proves that Chinese martial arts can be dynamic, varied, and yes-powerful.

Continuous combat Combinations
"Many styles emphasize straight techniques, short hand techniques, or long hand techniques," explains Wong, who has hundreds of students in two Bay Area schools. "Though the choy li fut system uses the circular techniques, it also uses straight techniques and sideways techniques,"

In fact, part of choy lit fut's philosophy is to attack with a barrage of techniques, rather than just one move. "Like a car, you want to run the person over," explains Wong, adding (perhaps unnecessarily after that analogy) that "choy li fut is really aggressive style."

Wong comments that "of course the best situation would be to defeat the attacker with a technique before he could reach you, but that can't always be. With continuous techniques, we don't give the opponent a chance to counterattack.."

Another aspect of choy li fut's power techniques is countering a straight attach with a circular technique, and a circular attack with a straight technique.

"It's not a set rule," says Wong, "but most of the time, yes, we do counter straight with circular techniques, and vice versa." Though choy li fut originated in southern China, it combines northern style and southern style kung fu, creating a solid foundation: strong punches, kicking and jumping. "We don't emphasize only one area, "says Wong. "What makes choy li fut different is that we do everything."

"Everything" extends to external and internal work as well. The beginning choy li fut stylist emphasizes the external techniques, such as kicking and punching. Later on, though, the practitioner does a lot of internal work, such as breathing exercises.

"That's why you cannot say that choy li fut is a more combat-oriented style," notes Wong. "Older people cannot perform the art as aggressively as younger people, but the can do more internal work. People think that a martial artist of 60 or 80 would have to go into rai chi, but that's not true, because choy li fut has all different applications. The choy li fut style is really good for fighting - practitioners in Hong Kong or Asia use choy li fut when they complete with contact. However, choy li fut is also valuable when competing in forms, because the circular moves are really pretty,"

One way that choy li fut demonstrates power is through its spectacular - and efficient - sweeping techniques. Though the sweep is not a major part of the style, there are "quite a lot of sweeping techniques," according to Wong. "Usually we apply the technique first, then we sweep the person," he says. "You sweep when you see the chance."

Asked if the choy lit fut sweeps are different from other style', Wong comments that "of course, certain techniques are similar, but we have our unique sweeps as well. Judo practitioners, for example, usually go in with a grappling technique, intending to bring opponent down. The choy li fut practitioner will generally do another kind of technique first, then combine a sweep with a throwing technique."

"There are two ways to look at the sweeping," says Wong. "In choy li fut, usually it's a very close fight. If you don't want to apply all striking techniques, then yes, you might take the person down with a sweeping technique. If an opponent comes in with a straight punch, and choy li fut practitioner first blocks and counters. Then, when the space closes up, there might be the chance to sweep.

"However, if you're a little farther away from your opponent, you might notice that he is not paying attention to his front leg, for example. The chou li fut practitioner can then use a circular sweep to take the opponent down at this distance."

Biujong Technique
One move that choy li fut stylists employ is an arm sweep called the biujong tecnique. It is generally applied to the opponent's face, the hand held in a fist. At the same time, the choy li fut stylist's leg hits the back of the opponent's legs, forming a scissors-like attack that flips the opponent onto his back. "This biujong technique is really powerful, "Wong comments. "From the lower position or the upper position you can use it for sweeping or striking techniques. With this foot position, I can easily take the person down."

The biujong technique is usually combined with a circular strike. When the person is still standing after a stride, that is the perfect time to sweep him with the biujong trechnique.

180-Degree Sweep
With the 180-degree sweeping technique, the choy li fut practitioner's back leg usually comes around to hit the opponent's front leg. The sweep is so-named because your foot follows a half-circle pattern. You can attack with your body virtually straight, or you can crouch down low as you attack. The best target is right to the calf. The 180-degree sweep is much like a round kick, and you can initiate the attack in a similar manner. If the opponent is stepping with too much weight on the front leg, it's the time to sweep. Your back leg moves really fast. You can easily come in and sweep because there isn't much distance to cover.

360-Degree Sweep
The 360-degree sweeping technique is similar to the spinning hook kick, and is much more difficult than other sweeps. Executed from a low position, it "tricks" the opponent, "Usually you are in a fighting position, but when you see that the opponent isn't paying attention to the lower part of his body, that's the time to drop into a crouched position, put both hands on the ground, then use the leg to make the entire sweep, " Wong says. "It's not so much a particular position that they are in. As long as the opponent is not paying attention, then you have plenty of time for the 360-degree sweep."

Front Forward Sweep
The front forward sweep is relatively easy. It is executed with either the hand alone, or with the hand and the leg simultaneously. As the choy li fut practitioner's leg hits the front of the opponent's leg, the hand comes into action to stride the face or the body, pushing the person down. "That way you can double the force," explains Wong.

The Back Sweep
The back sweep usually attacks with the leg by itself, coming from behind the opponent. "That is a trickier sweep, because the person cannot catch you," says Wong.

"What to use, and how to use it, just depends on what you are presented with," he explains. "Choy li fut is approximately half circular and half straight techniques. If an attacker comes in with a strick forward technique, I try to redirect the energy to the side, for example. Diversity gives you power."

Knowledge is Power
His desire to increase public knowledge about Chinese martial arts' power made Wong move to the United States from Hong Kong ten years ago. "Because Chinese martial arts back in the '70s emphasized a lot of forms, some people thought that they were beautiful, but not practical," he notes. "Other thought that Chinese martial artists were all gangsters."

To counteract these inaccuracies, Wong sponsored his own tournaments. "This year we had 1300 competitors from all over the world," he says.. "A lot of people-even karate and tae kwon do practitioners - came to see Chinese martial arts. In most open tournaments you never see Chinese martial arts in the sparring competition. That is why people think that Chinese-style martial artists cannot fight. In my tournament in San Francisco, we have all kind of forms and weapons, but the main competition is sparring."

Wong is quick to point out, however, that more must be learned. "My goal is to develop all aspects of Chinese martial arts, not just fighting, "he says. "Chinese martial arts have been around for so many years. I want to teach people how to apply the Chinese martial arts philosophy.

"People have started to see Chinese martial arts in a positive way." Comments Wong. "Before, a lot of people learned martial arts because they wanted to fight. Now, parents want their children in martial arts for the discipline."

Indeed, there are all kinds of power. Choy li fut has physical power, but that's only the beginning. "To learn how to fight is easy." Wong says. "Learning how not to fight is the hard thing."

Click here for Feature Articles from this issue and others published in 1994 .

Written by Marian K. Castinado for KUNGFUMAGAZINE.COM

Print Friendly VersionPrint Friendly Version of This Article