Introducing the Form
Taming the Tiger (Gung Gee Fook Fu Kuen), is an ancient Hung Gar kung fu form that came into my life just after high school. It was taught to me by Sihing Daniel Howard in the gymnasium of Clatsop Community College. While Daniel was my instructor, he was not a master. Hung Gar traditionally does not have a belt system, so titles like sihing is a traditional formality that means older brother. Sihing taught me one of the oldest forms in Hung Gar that originated from the Southern Shaolin temple, which was destroyed by the Ching dynasty in the 17th century. Legend says there were the Five Elders of Shaolin that survived the famed monastery before it was burnt down.
Jee Sin was the Chan Buddhist master of the temple who had five pupils that became the Five Family Elders. One of the five is Hung Hei-gun, who later founded Hung Ga or Hung Gar. The other four also became founders of their own systems. Taming the Tiger is the first of the four pillars of Hung Gar and is thought to have originated from Jee Sin who passed it down to Hung Hei-gun. It took me two years to get to the first pillar of Hung Gar, which would be the last form that I learned from Sihing before I transferred to the U of O. Not too long after I left Astoria, Sihing Dan also parted ways by moving to San Francisco.
The Five Elders of Shaolin:
The Five Family Elders:
- Hung Hei-gun, the founder of Hung Gar
- Lau Saam Ngan, the founder of Lau Gar
- Choi Gau Yi, the founder of Choi Gar
- Lei Yau Saan, the founder of Lei Gar
- Mok Ching Giu, founder of Mok Gar
The Four Pillars of Hung Gar:
- Taming the Tiger
- Tiger Crane
- Five Animal / Five Elements
- Iron Wire
Redefining the Form
Two years later, I reconnected with Sihing Daniel by joining him under Sifu YC Wong for a summer in Chinatown. It was a great opportunity to learn from a well known master. His students really impressed me with their skill level. The first day at the school, Sifu asked to see my last form. After I struggled to remember Taming the Tiger, Sifu offered to re-teach me the form. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t progress into a new form. It wasn’t until a decade later that I began to appreciate what relearning Taming the Tiger did for me. It gave me a strong foundation that helps me with other styles. Taming the Tiger is a long rigorous routine meant to strengthen the practitioner. Because the form is so long, I had to learned it one piece at a time from start to finish for many months. Taming this form was a name very well earned. While I did not know it for many years later, the tiger was not just the form, but through the discipline of practice it became other things like subduing my pride and being patient with myself.
Over the years since training in YC Wong’s school, my interest in Hung Gar tapered off as I continued to relocate myself. I took a long vacation from martial arts by enjoying the giant playground of Colorado with hiking and sport-climbing. Now that I live back in the Pacific Northwest, I find myself training in Jeet Kune Do again, under Sifu Octavio Quintero for which I am rather grateful for the opportunity. I am also taking an internal version of Wing Chun (Lightning Hand Academy of Wing Chun Kung Fu) with my spouse that we continue to enjoy together.
Given the age of MMA and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, there is a lot of hype on ground game (wrestling). I know that Hung Gar favors low solid stances to avoid going down to the ground on the battlefield. I know that Chinese wresting, or Shuai jiao, is over 6,000 years old (4,000 BCE), which would predate the Southern Shaolin temple. While most tend to focus on the striking tools from Hung Gar’s Taming the Tiger, I know that this form contains techniques to subdue wrestlers. In my research I am able to find a few examples. The following videos clips are sections in Taming the Tiger where I am able to interpret moves that can defend takedowns. Are you able to see them? I plan to training these techniques and would like to share once I am able to pressure test them. Given my other current influences of JKD and internal Wing Chun, I am looking at Hung Gar in a more modern approach. I am looking at JKD principals to incorporate the strong stances of Hung Gar to avoid going to the ground. I am working on the softness of Wing Chun to help find the internal side of Taming the Tiger.