Pittsburgh Kung Fu Center

What is Kung Fu?

  What is Kung Fu?

  History of Eagle Claw

  How Kung Fu is Taught

  Kung Fu vs. Other Arts

  Benefits of Kung Fu

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The term Kung Fu refers to the martial arts of China. Kung Fu originated in a place called the Shaolin Temple, where monks practiced Kung Fu for health and self-defense during their quest for enlightenment.

The first Shaolin temple was a Buddhist monastery built in 377 A.D. in the Henan province of China. In 527 A.D. a Buddhist prince, Bodhidharma, or Da Mo in Chinese, traveled to the temple for religious teaching, but found the monks weak and in poor health. To find a way to give the monks strength and vitality, Da Mo locked himself in a room for nine years of meditation. His resulting work, Yi Jin Jing, a series of exercises which developed strength, vitality, and internal energy, is considered the original Shaolin martial art.

Historically, Kung Fu in China was an integral part in the education of scholars and the leaders of government. The Chinese people placed great value in the practice of Kung Fu because they felt it taught respect, patience, humility, and morality.

Many Americans believe that Kung Fu is a term which describes a single martial art, much like Taekwondo, Judo, or Aikido. In reality, Kung Fu is a general term which includes hundreds of styles of Chinese martial arts. Some examples of Kung Fu styles are Long Fist, Eagle Claw, and Taiji Quan.

Another misconception is that Kung Fu is a "soft" style compared with Karate or other "hard" styles. This is not so: each Kung Fu style contains both hard and soft techniques. Also, many people believe that Kung Fu is an external style and Taiji Quan is an internal style. While most Kung Fu styles emphasize external development, all styles of Kung Fu contain both internal and external components.

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History of the Eagle Claw Style

The Eagle Claw Style of Kung Fu, Ying Jow Pai in Chinese, is one of the oldest, most complete and complex systems of the surviving Shaolin styles, and is known for its powerful joint-locking, throws, and pressure point strikes. Eagle Claw started in 1130, at a time of Mongolian incursions into northern China, when General Yue Fei learned fighting techniques from a Shaolin monk. Yue Fei adapted the techniques for his army, which went on to many battlefield victories. The resulting fighting system was passed down through the ages from selected Shaolin monks to their disciples at the Shaolin Temple.

In the 1800s, the Eagle Claw system was learned by the Lau family. In the 1920s, two of the most famous members of the Lau family, Lau Fat Man and Chen Zi Zheng, became associated with the Jing Wu Gymnasium, and taught Eagle Claw Kung Fu to hundreds of students all over China. Chen Zi Zheng became notorious in Southern China for his ability to defeat any opponent in only three moves.

Chen Zi Zheng's top student was Ng Wai Nung, who taught the Eagle Claw System at the Hong Kong Eagle Claw Association until the 1980s. Ng Wai Nung's top student was Shum Leung, who also taught at the Hong Kong Eagle Claw Association from the 1950s until 1972, when he came to the United States.

All of General Yue Fei's techniques survive today, and have come to America through the teachings of Grand Master Shum Leung, who is one of the few instructors in the world qualified to teach the entire Eagle Claw system.

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How Kung Fu is Taught

In your first class, you will be faced with a great deal of new information. In addition to exercises for stretching, muscle power, and vital energy, there are the actual movements of Long Fist. Each movement contains many physical components: movements of the feet, legs, trunk, arms, hands, eyes, and breath. There is also an underlying mental component of each movement. Every movement has a specific purpose, and it is up to the teacher to develop each student's understanding of that purpose, so the student can extract maximum benefit from practice.

Some who teach martial arts are not aware of the underlying purpose of each movement, and simply expect students to follow them through a series of unfamiliar and meaningless movements. Other teachers expect that students fight or work with advanced students on the first lesson. Learning Kung Fu at our school is different.

In your first class, you will begin learning how to condition your body. After your first month, you will feel a difference in the strength of your arms and legs, an increased ability to concentrate, and an improvement in your overall health.

After your first six months, your increased strength and concentration will enable you to perform a set of basic Kung Fu movements, and you will feel energy such as you have never known. Progress without unnecessary frustration or injury is possible because, as teachers of Chinese martial arts, we understand the underlying nature of the movements, their true purpose, and how to teach them systematically to beginner students.

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Difference between Kung Fu and Other Martial Arts

Kung Fu Puts Philosophy into Practice

The philosophy of Chinese martial arts originated not with warlords whose aim was to kill, but with Buddhist masters whose aim was to prolong life. This philosophy and history has lead to a difference in the practice and the attitude of students of Chinese martial arts.

Unbelievable violence and hostility are found in some martial arts systems. Such behavior is not found in Kung Fu training, because the nature of the training is such that a calm disposition and a feeling for one's training partners are developed intrinsically, and harboring selfish, aggressive attitudes would work against the practitioners themselves.

Kung Fu is a Comprehensive System

Martial arts techniques are divided into four areas: striking, kicking, grappling and throwing, and seizing and locking the joints. Every type of Chinese Kung Fu contains techniques from each of these four areas. This is important because each category of techniques is effective against one or more of the other categories. A Chinese martial artist, therefore, can deal with every type of attack and defend himself effectively.

Other martial arts, like Karate, Judo, Jujitsu, and Taekwondo, specialize in only one or two of the four categories of techniques. Because of the nature of these martial arts, their practitioners often have difficulty if opponents use attacks that fall outside the categories in which their respective arts specialize.

One way to prepare yourself to handle any fighting situation is to learn all these different martial arts. A better alternative is to learn a Chinese martial art like Long Fist. It not only saves time and effort, it also gives advantages not found in other martial arts.

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The Benefits of Chinese Martial Arts

Health and Fitness

By health, we mean not only being free from illness, but the ability to sleep soundly, to work energetically, to think clearly, and to be calm yet alert. By fitness, we mean not just physical strength, but the ability to react quickly, to endure hard work, and to concentrate without mental fatigue.

Kung Fu is better than other forms of exercise for promoting health and fitness. In swimming, jogging, and karate, for example, the fitness acquired diminishes as one grows old, but in Kung Fu it is enhanced. This is because Kung Fu is more than physical exercise; it develops the inner faculties of vital energy and the mind. A Kung Fu practitioner will exhibit more zest and vitality in both work and play than an ordinary person, and have calmness of mind and clarity of thought even under demanding situations.

Character Training

Kung Fu teaching emphasizes moral development as well as physical training, stressing values like respect, courage, tolerance, and reverence for life. The very nature of Kung Fu training is a long process of character building. Wholesome qualities like endurance, perseverance, discipline, loyalty, and a calm disposition are prerequisites for progress, especially at higher levels. All these qualities, acquired through Kung Fu training, are transferable to daily life.


Self-defense is the essence of Chinese martial arts. True Kung Fu teaching always instructs students to be tolerant and avoid fighting, but the ability to defend oneself is a valuable asset. It is only when we know that we can defend ourselves effectively that we gain self-confidence. In this way self-defense can be applied to non-combative situations, such as job interviews or school exams. In modern society, this need for psychological self-defense is perhaps more important than the need to actually fight.

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