The Short Wings of Pai Lum
by Glenn C. Wilson
There are as many "favorite techniques" as there are martial arts styles and martial artists. The techniques become trademarks of your "way of execution". Techniques are varied depending on what the style may dictate as far as its philosophies as well as the individual artist's performance. The artist's performance will more than likely be determined by size, strength, speed, and total understanding of "fighting formulas".
The legendary late grandmaster of pai lum tao, Daniel Kane Pai, was renowned for his short-range combat and few could execute its techniques as smoothly and as affective. With his trademark "short wing" moves, he could drop an opponent with a blink of an eye or shatter a thousand pounds of ice while a sea of cameras flashed throughout the stadium. Yes, the short wings of pai lum tao have survived the test of time and have proven to be as effective an arsenal as any practiced today.
Where To Start
Students begin with the seven star training of arm conditioning. Together, two students will strike each other's forearms, biceps, triceps and hands to prepare them for the "initial contact" strike. Striking air may serve tot rain other areas of one's arsenal, but it does nothing to prepare the eager student for the contact that inevitably will occur in a confrontation.
The hands are extremities of the wing and for many practitioners, the most used. Striking open hands together "palm and back", they will slap firmly but not as hard as possible. This creates a format of rhythm and conditioning for the outer most part of the wing. This exercise will be done thousands of times until it becomes natural. Then from a disciplined stance, inside low and high wings (forearms) will strike, followed by outside techniques and finally linear and horizontal attacks.
Once the practitioner has made his box set proficient he will move to the next step - "armor training", where a partner allows light blows to the body's "non-vital areas" for conditioning of the receivers, as well as realistic targetry for the executor. This aspect of pai lum tao training has proven most beneficial for real-life understanding. In many cases, it's the difference between playing tackle football and engaging in a playful game of two-handed touch. Care must always be taken to work safely from the fingers to the elbow of the short wings.
Soaking the hands with traditional dragon dit da jow will prepare the students for contact. vigorous conditioning must become a part of one's regular routine; the artist who one day deals with real hard contact quickly discovers the head can be harder than the hand. This so many times has resulted in the unexpecting practitioner acquiring broken bones in the hands and arms, a shocking reality with which to deal.
A must are thousands of carefully executed strikes to the hard pad "makiwara", bean and stone bag as well as the traditional heavy bay. The student begins with a ritual of "placement punching." He punches to the target to allow the hand, arm and elbow to receive the return shock of the strike. When proficient he then begins to penetrate mentally and physically into the target area. This allows a mental confidence to build as the body conditions itself for the inevitable encounter.
The Mother of All Wings
The elbow of the short wing is considered the most lethal. From streetfighting to muay Thai boxing, when one is in really tight with his opponent the elbow becomes the shotgun of the short wings. It explodes with lightning speed and destroys everything in its path. The array of techniques begin with the horizontal - inward then outward; the vertical - rising and dropping; and then the corner sets of the four 45-degree angle strikes. This octagon pattern is the basis of pai lum tao's zone directions. Within two fee, it is virtually impossible to stop. Even if the opponent stops the short wing elbow it will surely damage the blocking area. That will eventually lead to a critical path to the target zone. Hence, the attacker is out.
Body range is truly the success or failure of one's assault. Knowing the depth factor involved at time of engagement will trigger the correct response by the trained practitioner. That will be the moment of truth - the time when the portion of the short wing that will be used to strike will be determined. The triceps, elbow, forearm, hand blade, palm or claw will become a utensil of destruction. Knowing the range of the assault, the transition "follow-up" desired, and the necessary outcome will instantaneously determine which utensil is called.
Understanding the tool to be used in the encounter is critical. If the circumstances dictate that one has the choice, it should be among poke, claw, cut or crush from the hand or a whip, snap or drive of the forearm/elbow. Understanding what the executioner wants as a result of the technique is critical. All these techniques are effective in their own right, yet used at the wrong time or place can very well limit their effectiveness. The variables include distance, depth of technique, body alignment, surrounding conditions, type of attack you are facing and your proficiency.
Reflexology becomes your guide - knowing what to throw, when to throw it and where it will land. Such combinations as covering, penetrating, transition, power, depth, rhythm, focus and alertness determine success or failure. Once fusing these combinations into a rhythmic pattern has been achieved, the pai lum tao practitioner is well on his way to understanding the true tao of pai lum dragon's movements.
To understand targetry, the pai lum tao student conditions himself from his early training to follow specific formulas. First he learns to visualize, focus, then execute; the best technique in the world is useless if it misses its target. Furthermore, before you get the luxury of the next technique the previous one must have been successful.
Moving targets provide a much greater challenge to the attacker. This is where rhythm and designated pattern work become essential. You must understand the natural flow of motion, whether it is yours or your opponent's.
Power From the Ground
To appreciate the benefits of pai lum's unique program, the formula of stance, posture and technique are endlessly drilled. In pai lum tao the deliverance is from the ground up. This maximizes power, flow and penetration.
With continuous training one develops the intuition of decision. The decision is one of instantaneous thought and reaction. A blinding response to an attacker's assault is the key to success - which may be the difference between victory or defeat, life or death. One must have full confidence in the teachings of his particular style.
Though we practice our arts for self-esteem, self-confidence, self-respect and most assuredly, self-defense, we must understand the key meaning of self. As practitioners we are the ones who are learning the ancient ways and bringing them ever so quickly into the 21st century.
An art proven through time will survive change, challenge and scrutiny. For it has been written, "No road is as long or filled with as many obstacles as the one traveled by Chinese boxers."
As we pass these lethal techniques and philosophies on to the next generation of boxers, keep in mind there are few techniques in the martial arsenal as deadly as the short wings of pai lum tao.