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24/12/2019 - 07:23

Hau quyen dao (Monkey Kung Fu) in Ancient Capital

Among the traditional martial arts in Hue, in spite of its late birth, Hầu quyền đạo (Monkey Kung Fu, abbreviated to MKF) has many unique features as well as the mysterious origin that could not be as yet answered by anybody, whether the Master, Deputy Master or Head of the martial sect.

Learning MKF is to strengthen body

According to sensei Nguyen Van Anh, Deputy Master of MKF in Hue, the founder of MKF Hong sect (MFK) was sensei Hoang Thanh of Hue descent, who currently lives and works in Dong Nai. Mr. Thanh has started to propagate MKF since 1977, and this martial art flourished in the 1980s.

MKF martial lesson and MKF

In Vietnamese traditional martial arts, there are 10 animals that are used as mascot images to develop the martial lessons: dragon, tiger, leopard, snake, crane, lion, elephant, horse, monkey and hawk. Corresponding to these animals are the martial lessons such as Ô Long quyền (Black dragon martial lesson), Bạch Hổ quyền (White tiger martial lesson), Xà quyền (Snake martial lesson), Ưng (Điêu) quyền (Hawk martial lesson), Hầu quyền (Monkey martial lesson)...

Almost every sect has MKF lesson such as Bình Định MKF, Vovinam MKF. Aside from Hầu quyền (Monkey martial lesson), there is Hầu túy quyền (Drunken monkey martial lesson). Overall, Hầu quyền or Hầu túy quyền imitates the movements of the monkey to develop the martial postures.

Before 1975, in Hong Kong, there was a martial sect that specialized in MKF – that is, Đại thánh bát quái môn (Eight Trigram Monkey King Sect). The sect had a branch in Cholon (Saigon) run by late sensei Tran Lam as a successor, and then he passed it on to his son, sensei Tran Cau, who was born deaf and dumb and is still living in Ho Chi Minh City...

It can be said that when MKF appeared for the first time in Vietnam, it was common knowledge that it was related to the legendary character Sun Wukong in “The Journey to the West” famous novel series written by Wu Cheng’en...

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, in the late 1970s of the last century, the traditional kung fu of Vietnamese MKF Hồng phái (Red sect) came into being in Hue.

According to sensei Nguyen Van Anh, “If the martial lessons of other traditional martial arts only use the shape and movements of the monkey to develop the martial postures, then MKF develops its martial lessons in the spirit of the monkey – that is, flexibility, lightness, smoothness, dexterity ... MKF does not use force, but only uses tendons, ligaments, joints of hand, leg and looseness to develop the martial postures. In particular, all the MKF martial lessons focus on training the god eyes: the eyes must be very fast and sharp like the monkey’s eyes..."

The spirit of MKF

In MKF, there are 4 stages of practice. The beginning stage is the practice of firmness - that is, practice of strength, muscle of bodily parts, including 103 basic postures such as hand technique, the kick technique, movement technique, standing technique, eye technique and body technique...

The next stage is Cương Nhu quyền (firmness-flexibility martial lesson), also known as Hồng quyền (Red martial lesson). In Cương Nhu quyền, there are 7 stages called Hồng thất quyền (Seven Red martial lessons) for the flexibility and smoothness of joints, especially spinal column, hands and legs. Here, the joints must be practiced according to the amplitude of contraction and stretching, twisting and pressing... The breath must be natural – that is, even if one is repeatedly beaten, his breath still ensures the factors: depth, length, regularity, slowness to supply the body with sufficient oxygen and nourishment.

The next is Nhu quyền (Flexibility martial lesson). This is the stage of developing martial postures in the spirit of the monkey, which is intrinsically a wise and agile animal, including movements: swinging, grasping, jumping, somersaulting... The Nhu quyền lessons are all developed in the spirit of “using flexibility to conquer firmness".

The highest stage of MKF sect is extreme flexibility – using will, not force; the body relaxes and moves due to the control of sense accompanied by breath, movement, etc. This is also the time when Will, Vigor and Force of the kung fu practitioners combine like Tai Chi Chuan kung fu...

It is possible to mention the exercises of MKF: Tứ vương hầu (Four monkey kings), Hầu vương quyền (Monkey king ), Hầu khỉ công (Monkey internal force), Bát quái di ảnh hầu (Monkey Figure Movement in Eight Trigrams), Thập nhị ma vương hầu (Twelve Monkey King Demons) and the highest Hầu hoa quyền (Flower monkey martial lesson).

Explaining these martial lessons, sensei Nguyen Ngoc Anh said: “These are MKF’s exercises from low to high, from easy to difficult level. The exercises such as Bát quái di ảnh hầu (Monkey Figure Movement in Eight Trigrams), Thập nhị ma vương hầu (Twelve Monkey King Demons) are metamorphous, capable of controlling body and will and deceiving the opponent into the labyrinth. In particular, Hầu hoa quyền (Flower monkey martial lesson) is the highest-level exercise of MKF. It is a colorful and excellent qi gong exercise, playing a great role in nourishment..."

MKF uses the principle of the monkey to apply it to the martial postures of people. Practicing MKF requires elaborateness because the martial postures must obey the principle: bending knees, bending arms, jumping on the ball of the foot. Another characteristic of MKF is that the attack postures frequently target the opponent’s dangerous spots. MKF applies the principle of "using flexibility to conquer firmness" frequently combining flexible dodge with dangerous attack.

The fighting technique in MKF usually targets dangerous spots of the opponent such as Mi Tâm  (Mei Xin), Thái Dương (Tai Yang), Đan Điền ( Dantian) , Tâm hoa (Xinhua) ... , making MKF one of the most vicious martial arts. Therefore, the supreme principle that any MKF practitioner must memorize is "Learning kung fu to strengthen body, not to harm other people's bodies."

According to sensei Nguyen Van Anh, Deputy Master of MKF in Hue the reason why MKF was less developed than other traditional martial arts is that Master Hoang Thanh discouraged the promotion of this martial sect. This is also reasonable because MKF is a traditional martial art sect combining kung fu, qi gong and nourishment. Currently in Hue, the number of people attending the MKF course is less than hundred...

Story and photos: PHI TAN