The (nearly) Lost Art of LHBF
Shing Yi, Liu He Ba Fa, Huya Yu Taci Chi Chuan
By Ben Bar
For many years very little information and less then handful of practitioners of LHBF were available in the west. I have been studying the Hwa-Yu Shing -I Liu He Ba Fa system, for some 20 Years. I was first introduced to LHBF in the mid 80’s in London UK - studying with a remarkable western teacher who was a student of Chung Li. Master Chung Li (immigrated to USA in late 60’s) was a Hong Kong based martial artist who learned southern martial styles, Wu and Yang styles of Tai Chi and Yi-quan. Later in his life he learnt LHBF from Chen-Yi-Ren
I started looking for the origin/roots of the system when I moved to live in Hong Kong in the mid90’s. In 2000 I was introduced to Sifu Kam Tang, one of the few practitioners/Masters that can perform and understand the art and not just “talk” the art
Sifu Kam Tang spent many years with Chen- Yi- Ren who thought him LHBF. He is now teaching in Hong Kong, well respected with many years of experience in martial arts in general and is dedicated to LHBF, supporting research and promoting reestablishment of the art. His in-depth and intimate knowledge of Liu He Ba Fa Theory, Practice and Applications is unique
The art drives most if not all of its theoretical, practical, external, internal and esoterically knowledge from Taoism.
In Taoism there are 2 main streams: fire and water. The fire will be the more external shell of Tao and the water body of knowledge will be the internal part. This is a very generalized statement as within the fire water ”lives” and within the water the fire expresses itself.
LHBF is immerging from the ’water’ internal body of knowledge of the Tao.
This is why LHBF relates to the most internal aspect of martial arts and is one of (some claim the most) the 4 known internal classics arts - Tai-Chi, Xing-I and Ba-gua
In terms of practicing the moving art and amongst the many levels of the art, 2 aspects should be mentioned here:
1) The external movements are fluid and ever changing with seemingly endless combinations and applications. That’s the easy part.
2) The internal movements based on the specifics and so far the unique system of LHBF. This relates not to any mysteries Chi movements but to the way of operating all the joints and tendons while moving or standing. Almost impossible to explain without a demo. This is part of the core teaching of the art and allows 3 dimensional spiral (Dragon) movements at multiply directions.Relaying first on the bone structure then ligament and only then muscular power - creates powerful expressions. Chi is thought when the student is cable of applying the above principles.
It takes some investment to be able to operate at level 2.
Performing the main external form of LHBF will may look good, but it is only the surface of the Art.
The Lost Art
15-20 years ago, LHBF was more popular in China and Hong Kong. Today it starts to immerge again but still very difficult to find a teacher who can perform it properly and teach the various aspects and applications of it.
The art is like an iceberg and because of the above nearly lost.
Sifu Kam Tang who learnt the art since childhood and practice it constantly, was asked during the late 90` to start teaching after it became clear to him and other elderly “kung fu” brothers of the late famous Grand Sifu Chen-Yi-Ren, that most of it is lost and can not be found without proper teaching.
This is indeed a difficult issue. When one ignores the historical contradictions and focus-on and evaluate the body of knowledge of the system and its sources (as mentioned above and below) it becomes easier to believe that the system can be traced back to early sages and wisdom.
I am not an historian but the following needs to be considered:
a) Sifu Kam Tang maintains that the lineage goes way back.
b) Wu Ying Hua, the son of the great grant Sifu Yik Fan Wu still leaves in Xian province. Yik Fan Wu was a well-known Master (this is well documented) who had many students.
His outstanding student and lineage holder is the famous Chen Yi Ren who thought many students but in his tree he is mentioning about 10 –20 students.
It is interesting (and somehow sad) that some of them are claiming that they are the only ones and are showing in their lineage-tree their name as the only of-springs of the teacher.
Sifu Kam Tang and some of his students have visited Mr. Wu Ying Hua (son of the late Yik Fan Wu) and other elderly students in Xian and Shanghai and know them well. They can verbally confirm that the lineage and the system goes back more then couple of hundreds years and are holding the tradition that the roots are going back to the sages.
c) When one investigates the core principles of the systems then it becomes clear that it stands separately from Xing-I, Ba-Gua or Tai Chi. This is a common confusion by those who are not profession in the art. Because of the challenges of learning the art and lack of teachers; many who came across the system:
Observe the circular movements and the direct movements etc and explain it as a combination from Xing-I or Ba-Gua or even Tai-Chi.
Could not farther their knowledge and therefore continued practicing with other internal arts.Categorically it is not a mix of the other 3 arts.
Documentations / manus
LHBF has some important documents like the Five Word Song and some other books of which we are now in a process of translating. The only place that I found it (The Five word Song is available from other sources but not the other materials) is with Sifu Kam Tang. And more importantly, he can translate and understand the old s.
There are (again we have to remember the Tao inclination) a number of books referring to the theories of various levels of the knowledge of practicing an internal art.
It is a complete system of what can be described as a complete ‘Resources Management and Development’ system. ‘Reassures’ are referring to our physical and energetic faculties (including mental, emotional and spiritual aspects).
LHBF is considered to be highly academic and as an encyclopedic of martial art applications.
Main syllabus contains:
- 66 chapters (divided to 2 parts, the 2nd part is more expressive) including altogether some 400 to 700 movements and applications.
- 12 animal forms there might be terminology differences…
- Dragon form
- Liu-Hong Ba Sa – Eight linking palms fighting form
- Chinese elements exercises and other Chi-Kung.
- Pushing hands, walking exercises.
- The Six Harmonies, Eight Methods theory.
- 9 joints & 5 hearts
By Ben Bar
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Liu He Ba Fa - 6 Harmonies 8 Combinations