The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Thursday, November 09, 2017

Shaolin 13 Hammers


Today we have a guest post by our frequent contributor, Jonathan Bluestein. Below Jonathan reviews the instructional video by Joshua Viney on the Shaolin 13 Hammers Form.

 
Thirteen Hammers of Shaolin – A Review

I was recently provided a copy of a new instructional video, titled ‘The 13 Hammers of Shaolin’, for the purpose of reviewing it. A trailer for this fine instructional and a link for purchasing it, are found here below:




This instructional video has been produced by shifu Joshua Viney. I have been following shifu Viney’s work for some time now. Shaolin Kung Fu has been a common ‘brand name’ throughout the world for nearly half a century now, and this is the first time, in a long time, that I have seen someone working it out to be new, novel and fresh.

Shifu Viney has spent over a decade in the vicinity of the Shaolin Temple on Song mountain, collecting knowledge and skills from authentic folk teachers. The temple has been commercialized to an obscene degree in recent decades, full of controversies and financial schemes. Yet surrounding it are still maintained many of the original traditions, some centuries old, and these are the ones to which shifu Viney had access. That is very fortunate, as through his sincere efforts and diligent training we can learn from and witness serious gongfu which is still seldom taught outside of China.

This instructional video, coming at a sizable bite of just over two hours, concerns itself with traditional, folk Shaolin gongfu. Specifically, a short form called ’13 Hammers’, which shifu Viney takes great care to break down and expertly explain from many angles, positions, tactics, strategies and possible scenarios. Half the video is dedicated to form learning, and the other half to its many possible combative applications. In between there is a short section explaining some of the proper shen fa (body method) of the style, which is very important and seldom explain well in martial arts instructionals.

Let me tell you, that I cannot remember the last time I sat through an entire martial arts instructional video without skipping at least a few of the sections. Generally, I tend to not be a fan of the genre, and find I have little patience for much of the chatter in such videos. This one though, I watched eagerly and continuously, and was glad I did.  My formal and primary engagement with the internal arts did not at all interfere with my enjoyment of this presentation of a rather external approach, for any authentic demonstration of Chinese fighting traditions by a skilled practitioner can be a beauty to behold and study from, and this one certainly is such a case.

The 13 Hammers form, as shifu Viney correctly explains, is technique-driven. Meaning, that specific techniques shape the form, rather than the form attempting to convey more general movement principles which could be interpreted in countless ways. This simpler approach is very newbie-friendly, and eases the overall understanding of the presentation. For me as a teacher, it is obvious that shifu Viney is well-aware of his broad audience, and this is apparent for instance in his choice of plain, short clothing for the actual teaching (rather than the traditional Chinese clothing for the demonstrations), which helps the viewer see what he is doing with his body.

The techniques taught in this instructional, I found to be quite practical and full of common sense. A few of them I even teach myself, with slightly different movements, in my own classes at my academy. Shifu Viney has a mature, honest outlook of real fighting situation and their requirements, with his practice and teaching stressing reality-based combat. Striking, locking, grappling and throwing are all found in his 13 Hammers form, and addressed appropriately.           
The way the form itself approaches fighting is by using a lot of evasive movement and smart angles, much like the general strategy of Western Boxing, but this is done in very different and original ways. Shifu Viney is keen on showing the viewer how to remain erect and stable even when positioning the body at strange angles, and explains well the importance of this habit. He also brilliantly extrapolates much of the traditional lore and cultural meanings behind many of the movements, which is key for understanding their usage.

It is difficult to put into words the visual editing style and choice of colours by shifu Viney (who was also the director and editor), but his video productions are always an eye-candy in the best possible way. I could only wish all martial arts instructionals had such awesome production value. There is a very dynamic, flexible and young vibe about shifu Viney’s videos, and that is a lovely thing.

Although it is usually impossible to study the actual practice of martial arts from a video, the form featured in this production can in fact be learned to a degree by someone with a little bit of experience in the martial arts. The video narration appears to assume some familiarity of Chinese martial arts on part of the viewer, and I gather that this is reasonable. Those who are practitioners of traditional Chinese martial arts will benefit from watching this video, and those who specifically have studied in depth traditional Shaolin gongfu for at least a number of years, are likely to be able to even pick up a basic practice of this form and add it to their martial arsenal. It would not be wise, however, to leave that as it is, and anyone who began the study of these skills and methods from the video should at one point seek a qualified instructor such as shifu Viney to deepen his practice and understanding. Otherwise, it would be a waste. In any case, it ought be noted that this is a form intended for beginners, and not seasoned practitioners, albeit the teacher presenting it showcasing the movement at a higher level himself.         


For those who are not practitioners of the traditional Chinese arts, although they cannot truly ‘study’ anything from this video, they can learn much from it as well. Firstly, as this is an exceptionally good documentary of real Shaolin martial arts. Secondly, as by viewing this instructional it is possible to deduce many ideas for training methods and applications for one’s own art, regardless of style.

I would therefore highly recommend those who have been positively impressed by the ‘trailer’, to check out this wonderful production in full. This would certainly be a worthy addition to your martial arts video collection.


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The author of this article, Jonathan Bluestein, can be contacted directly at:  jonathan.bluestein@gmail.com . Shifu Bluestein is a practitioner and teacher of Xing Yi Quan, Pigua Zhang and Jook Lum Southern Mantis. These arts are taught by him at his academy in Israel, and also in seminars abroad. Shifu Bluestein is also a best-selling author on the martial arts. Be sure to check out his popular books:  Research of Martial Arts and The Martial Arts Teacher



You may also subscribe to shifu Bluestein's youtube channel, which is regularly update with rare and fascinating martial arts videos




All rights of this article are and the pictures within it are reserved to Jonathan Bluestein ©. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission, in writing, from Jonathan Bluestein. Jonathan may be contacted directly via email:  jonathan.bluestein@gmail.com

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