White Dragon Kung Fu
The art of moving with the speed, grace, accuracy and power of the Crane and the Dragon; the capacity to combine mind and body; the ability to think - and move - in four dimensions. As well, trying without trying, and the capacity to take the optimal action without thought.
Pai Lum, or White Dragon Kung Fu arose when Pai Po Fong combined White Crane and Dragon styles. Dragon is a long range style, which utilises high and jumping or flying kicks. While there are Northern (long range) Crane styles, much White Crane is Southern - close range. There are certainly elements of Southern White Crane in Pai Lum, though long range Northern movements such as jumping evasions and long range strikes are also prominent.
The precision and balance which lend Crane moves their grace are well complemented by the soaring power of the Dragon. Precise strikes to small target areas, evasion as blocks combines with strikes are integrated with jumping spinning techniques, powerful simultaneous blocks and punches, and full length strikes.
Emphasis is placed on the traditional forms (set series of moves against multiple imaginary opponents), which teach technique, balance, and the capacity to deal with complex situations. A variety of animal sequences are also used to teach students different ways of moving, including Dragon and Crane of course, but also Snake, Leopard and Tiger, and Praying Mantis and Monkey. From the Crane, the student can learn balance, grace, precision, and the power that comes from long movements. The Dragon teaches us, like the human spirit, to ride the winds.
The beginning student will learn basic techniques and the first forms, and as an understanding of these is achieved, will progress to applications, combinations, and more advanced techniques. Patience is an integral element of learning, but as progress is achieved, more is revealed. Most students have to learn not only how to stand and move, but also how to breathe. These lessons can be applied to the student's entire life.
With competence in basic techniques, comes opportunity to learn more advanced ones. Flying kicks, twisting techniques, double leg sweeps and traps are all taught to those ready to learn them, but the student should remember that while these techniques can look impressive, sometimes the simpler, more basic technique is the optimal one. So, the subtleties of tactics, and the strategies to make them successful, are also taught.
Students who have passed their white sash grading are taught free sparring, under controlled conditions. The interaction with other students is a great help in making progress, and is looked forward to by all. In sparring, the student can begin to understand the application or critical elements of Pai Lum Kung Fu - evasion, speed, power, relaxation, and range. Entry in multiple style tournaments will be possible for interested students, but students are reminded that first and foremost, they are students of the Way. Competition is a reflection of the Way, and can be a useful tool for training, but should not be over-emphasised.
Chin Na or Chinese grappling techniques, are taught to students who have achieved White Sash. These techniques for control can be looked upon as 'merciful' - as they will often avoid the necessity for damaging strikes - but they are far from painless. As with all techniques, however, being able to use them effectively requires much practice.
More advanced students are taught some weapons techniques, although understanding of "open hand" techniques is necessary first. Defences against weapons are also part of the curriculum.
Another aspect of Pai Lum training is the use of Pong hila strikes against ch'i and nerve points. This is one side of a two sided blade, the other part of which is healing. Students will learn both.
Kung Fu, like all traditions, evolves, as Instructors rediscover techniques which have been "forgotten" or which have lost currency. While Pai Lum is based on the Dragon and Crane, the Tiger for example, is a very strong element within the style, and is present in numerous forms, moves and techniques. Pai Lum has adopted and adapted techniques from many other styles. But curiously, when the student looks closely, he/she will find most techniques and approaches in the traditions and forms of Pai Lum.
At the heart of the White Dragon is that ability to adapt, to change, with the individual practitioner, and for the individual situation. Dragons, after all, breathe fire and fly, but can - and do - change!
Pai Lum is a teaching style: we consciously teach students how to teach. This not only makes us stronger, by fostering the family nature of our style, but also helps emphasise correct technique, for to teach anything well requires a thorough understanding of it. It is thus important for the student of Pai Lum to understand all techniques, rather than just those she or he is naturally good at; this way, all can be passed on. And in any case, if a large student learns only techniques suitable against a smaller opponent, he or she will be unable to deal with an even larger opponent! The importance of teaching is recognised in the ranking system, which includes a special rank, lesser only than that of Instructor: the rank of Student Instructor, or Wasu.
The student of the White Dragon should remember that while he or she is training and learning the Art, she and he are also learning the Way of the White Dragon.