LUO-HAN GONG, The Monk’s Strength
Note: the Chinese terms in this article are in expressed in Cantonese.
Seven Star Praying Mantis kung fu has, as a part of its syllabus, health enhancing breathing exercises called(in Cantonese) Law Hon Gong which, when translated, means "The Monk’s Strength". Acquired from thefabled Shaolin Temple, these chi gong-styled breathing exercises have meditative, health enhancing,strength building, and martial training aspects to them.The Law Hon Gong movements and postures combine to a total of eighteen. They are believed to be thechi gong movements the Shaolin temple monks used to increase the strength of their martial arts.Although at present there is no written history as to which of the Seven Star Praying Mantis teacherbrought the Law Hon Gong into the system it is thought to be fifth generation Fan Yuk Tung. He was knownas "Giant Fan" as he weighted about three hundred pounds.Nicknamed "the giant" and "the broadsword", he gained notoriety for an incident involving a pair of bulls.As Fan was crossing a farmer's field he was confronted by two angry bulls. As the bulls charged, Fan kickedthe first one and palm struck the second one. Both bulls died and the farmer, although not happy with thedeath of his livestock, accepted the explanation. Word of this incident soon spread and generated somenotoriety for Fan. He also gained even more of a reputation when he traveled to Russia where he won achallenge match.Fan made several trips to the Shaolin temple and spent time there researching with the monks. He alsotook some of his top students including Lo Kwang Yuk, (whom Fan sent to teach at the Shanghai Ching MoAssociation in 1919) on these Shaolin temple research trips.From these trips to the Shaolin temple, as well as his other work with the Seven Star Praying Mantis system,he wrote five volumes titled "The Shaolin Authentic". These handwritten manuals contained concepts onfighting skills, medical information and historical aspects of kung fu. Contained in one of these five volumesis the eighteen exercises of the Law Hon Gong complete with replicas of the original drawings of theShaolin monks demonstrating the postures of each exercise. Because Fan was visiting the Shaolin templefor research around the time he wrote the five Shaolin Authentic volumes, which included the Law HonGong, it is generally accepted that Fan adopted these health and strength building exercises into the SevenStar Praying Mantis kung fu system.Breathing properly is considered to be a high level of kung fu ability and the Law Hon Gong exercises offerimportant insights into these skills. To be able to control the breath during kung fu technique is difficultand takes considerable practice. It is the inclusion of the Law Hon Gong in one’s kung fu that helps increasethe practitioner’s understanding of breath control.In the execution of the Law Hon Gong exercises the practitioner maintains the following breathingprotocols: the tongue is held against the roof of the mouth, the teeth are kept together but not clenched,and the jaw is relaxed. The breath is drawn in through the nose at a steady pace deep into the lungs. As theair is pulled into the lungs the diaphragm contracts to allow the lungs to expand and fill with air. Theinward breath fills the lungs right to the bottom. The abdominal area expands as the intake of air fills upthe lungs completely. This is sometimes referred to as Buddhist-style breathing.In the Law Hon Gong exercises the completion of the breath inward continues until the lungs cannot takeany additional air. At that point the practitioner continues to gently force air in even for a couple of seconds though no more can be accommodated. This has the appearance of the practitioner holding hisbreath. However, it is simply a continued intake of breath.