Chieh Chuan Tie: Shaolin Cutting Punches and Kicks


Shaolin chuan fa's cutting punch and kick series finally is receiving universal recognition as an effective, fluid fighting system.

by Glenn Wilson

Many fighting theories have evolved throughout the diverse and expansive martial arts history of China. The legacy of fighting techniques and styles has been compiled by generations of skilled warriors who drew from personal combat experiences. The theories and formulas generated by such activity were employed in combat by the warrior, who believed that his technique and style would be superior on the battlefield. The warrior would train diligently and thoroughly to master each technique. The warrior could not afford failure; the price for failure was usually death. The warrior's training would form the basis for a unique fighting style, the worth of which would ultimately be proven on the field of combat.

One of the byproducts of this constant development was the Shaolin chun fa system and its highly effective series of cutting punches and kicks. The cutting series strikes to a target using vertical, horizontal, and circular motions. Distinguishing the cutting series from other theories and formulas are its unique composition of linear and circular striking, which are utilized within the execution of one move.

Although the technique is endowed with power and explosiveness, it is the penetration of the cutting punch or kick that highlights its significance. The technique is thrown into the target, but does not stop at it; instead, it cuts through the target. Such devastating penetration makes these techniques among the most effective and deadly in the martial arts repertoire.

Cutting punches developed from an evolution of fighting styles. Borrowing from the strengths of both Northern and Southern kungfu, the cutting punch emerged as a powerful combination of motion-generated power and explosive short-range combat.

The Northern style is known for its mobile stances and long-range striking. The Southern style enveloped a belief in short-range explosiveness into a target. The Northern style developed sinew strength and power through movement. The Southern style practiced powerful explosion into the target. From a blending of motion and explosion, the cutting punch emulated admirable qualities of both styles.

The cutting punches employ both gong (hard) and yuen (soft) hand styles. They use either a basic shoulder whipping motion or a figure-eight pattern in which are made a continuous series of punches. The cutting punches and kicks are delivered quickly, often many times a second, to overwhelm an opponent.

The momentum of the cutting punch finds its basis in strong, solid stancework: from the toe, the energy moves into the calf, travels up the thigh, is reinforced by the hip, surges through the waist, shoots up the back, travels into the shoulder, elbow and wrist, and culminates in the fist. The hand technique strikes into and through the target. During the movement, the air should travel from the body via the mouth, directly matching the physical motion of the technique.

As the cutting series is executed, the body should be relaxed, yet firm: tight muscles or joints should be avoided, as this restricts energy flow, and interferes with sinew and/or muscle movement vital to the proper execution of this technique. Relaxation is necessary to allow the body to express the whipping motion required to guide the path of the punch or kick. Stiff, tense motion contradicts the fluidity and adaptability this technique demands.

The cutting series of punches utilizes linear and circular motions combined into one continuous, fluid movement. Different parts of the hand may be used to transform this energy into unique and effective strikes. Pin chuan (flat punch, as in a ram's head punch) cuts with the foreknuckles, driving directly into and then ripping through the target. Basically, the punch penetrates a few inches into the target with a linear motion and then cuts through with a continued circular motion, which results in the hand either being chambered at the body or continuing in the opposite direction (as in a series of cutting punches).

Other hand positions include:

  • Lu chuan - (vertical fist, as in sunfist);
  • Fan sou chuan - (reverse hand strike);
  • Bon chuan - (backfist);
  • Pie chuan - (palm slap);
  • Wye hen sou - (elbow/forearm);
  • Sou den - (elbow strike); and
  • Hen chie - (chopping wing).

The system of cutting techniques also includes a number of cutting kicks. These can be further distinguished into a subcategory of jumping cutting kicks. The theory of relaxed, fluid motion concentrating on penetration also applies to the kicks. Among the kicks are:

  • Ti two - (front toe);
  • Teng twe - (heel strike);
  • Shin ding - (knee strike);
  • Wye bie - (sweeping/crescent);
  • Nei bei - (sweeping/crescent); and
  • Tse tie - (side).

The two major jumping kicks are tiao teng twe, which strikes with the heel, and tiao hou teng twe, a read/jumping spin kick.

Some of these techniques may be recognizable by name as being practiced elsewhere in the martial arts: the distinction is that these techniques are executed in a unique manner. The cutting punches and cutting kicks penetrate and cut through the target as a single execution.

The Shaolin chuan fa cutting techniques, there is no adjustment of the hand or body in reaction to the target. There is a designated target, but should that target move, the technique is designed to smash and destroy whatever lies in its path.

Serious conditioning of the body and training of the mind is required before these techniques can be properly mastered. Solid stancework and chi kung breathing methods also must already be firmly established before beginning the complete range of cutting technique training.

Before the first true technique is taught, the student must concentrate on learning proper breathing and acquiring an understanding of the techniques. The techniques are then practiced against the heavy bag, where penetration and cutting through the target are established. Finally, the techniques are worked in two-man sets, with body padding serving to absorb the impact of the punch. These two-man sets polish the cutting technique, and teach the student how to properly take the cutting punch or kick. This training is supervised by qualified instructors to assure that injuries are kept to a minimum.

Iron-palm training works in conjunction with cutting punch training. Iron palm serves to make the hands tough and conditioned, necessary for the appropriate application of the cutting punch. The iron-palm training centers on working a variety of set punches into a bag or iron pellets or stones. This repeated, intense work builds and conditions the hands so more power and penetration might be derived from each technique. Dit da jow is employed to prevent injury to the iron-palm practitioner while training in this strenuous exercise.

Despite the extreme lethality of these techniques, training is available throughout the United States from accredited Shaolin chuan fa instructors. Although once practiced only behind closed doors, Shaolin chua fa's cutting punch and cutting kick series is finally receiving public recognition as an effective and fluid fighting system, worthy of any serious martial artist.

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