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Stealing a Horse

April Brazier Stealing a Horse

The method of attaining long life, a healthy, vibrant body and a mind prepared for spiritual practice are the goals of Luohan Gung. The intense physical training of Luohan Gung also develops the body to withstand blows and the strength to apply martial art techniques.


The term 'stealing a horse,' mostly unknown in the west, is a descriptive phrase used both in Luohan Gung and Shaolin techniques of attack. The Chinese word 'pian ma' can be defined as 'stealing a horse' or to 'mount a horse from a running start.' Since ancient times Northern China has been the breeding ground of war horses, so it is not unusual to find terms relating to horses within martial arts. 

The 11th road of Luohan Gung is called 'Stealing a Horse Left and Right.' The poetic verse exhorts us to train hard and persevere through the pain of lifting 1000 catties (roughly 600 pounds or 500kg). The move is performed by holding the leg out in front of the body and squatting to the floor without letting the foot touch the ground as seen performed by April above.

Eleventh Road

 Left and Right Mounting a Horse

1st Round



1. Hands in front of your chest straighten your waist and spine.
2. With a suspended leg rise and descend three times.
3. Supporting oneself on a single leg is as if lifting 1000 catties.
4. The pine tree and crane live 10,000 years yet maintain eternal youth.
5. Help raise the spleen and earth to cultivate the root and foundation.
6. Once you get the essential key point how can you let it go?
7. Lower your waist with your leg extended close to the ground.
8. To ride a cart’s wheel like this is truly amazing.
9. Then and only then can you call your success outstanding,
10. The strength of nine oxen and two tigers is not mild.



Hold the leg out suspended in mid-air, rise and descend three times without letting your leg touch the ground. Even if you can do this you haven't made an achievement. You must do this while balanced atop the wheel of a horse drawn carriage! Here is shown the war chariot used during the Ming Dynasty to give you an idea of what type of wheel you should balance yourself on (two sides of the chariot are covered for protection from arrows). But, I can't help wondering if there once was a time when talented individuals could balance themselves on a wheel that was standing free, not attached to a chariot or cart, and not only balance themselves without tipping over, but perform this squatting exercise of Luohan Gung.



Fond Memories of Taiwan

While training in Taiwan my Shifu, Shi Zhengzhong, would save this exercise for the end of class. He would hold out his hands while we were still gasping for breath and say, 'left and right ten times each.' Few could accomplish it, but everyone struggled trying. Before getting to the tenth repetition, our legs would sag on the ground and sounds of grunting cattle, us, could be heard along with chirping insects. We always trained outside, rain or shine, if you stopped to rest too long some of those biting bugs would come to feast on our blood.


The Spleen and Earth

In Chinese medicine spleen is categorized within the five phases as belonging to earth and plays an essential role in transforming food into qi and blood. The spleen rules muscles and flesh. Healthy and strong muscle tone and well developed limbs are generally considered a result of proper function of the spleen. Hence, the author of Luohan Gung writes, 'Help raise the spleen and earth to cultivate the root and foundation. Once you get the essential key point how can you let it go?'


Eleventh Road

 Left and Right Mounting a Horse

2nd Round


1. From the bottom of a well pick a flower completely raise your qi.
2. From a single leg squat (pu tui) use all your strength to raise your body.
3. The action must continue three times.
4. Suspend your leg in mid-air using 1000 catties of strength.
5. Hold it for the length of a breath of qi.
6. Not even fearing the running of carts or the stamping of horses.
7. Though the qi may be weakened and the strength emptied yet your tendons and bones will be strengthened.
8. It only takes 100 days of practice to succeed in the gung.
9. Our only fear is a change of will and determination.
10. How is stretching your tendons and summoning your strength worthwhile if you can’t stick to it?


When squatting down on a single leg how low should one go? As if reaching into the bottom of a well to pick out a flower! Before one can push themselves up you must 'completely raise your qi' so you can summon all your strength.


Monk Steals a Horse

The martial 'stealing of a horse' is somewhat different. The leg swings around in face hanging kick, 'gua mian jiao,' and lands in the deng pu position as shown above.

Below, the defender ducks out of the way.

Face Hanging Kick Strikes the Calf

This kick can be used as an entry for a takedown. In this training method, you kick and the opponent ducks. Using your momentum of a swinging leg you strike their calf inside the knee. later, in training the applications, you often grab their arm before applying the takedown. But in the beginning, there is no arm or wrist grab, just a shoulder pat. This is a good way of teaching the student how to control their swinging momentum without using the body of the opponent as a handle.

All 'leaning strikes', kao da, begin with forearm strike low and high.

April pushes Phil's arm down and swings her leg toward his head, he ducks.







April pats his shoulder and maneuvers to swing into the inside of his knee.









April Kicks out his foot. From here Phil retreats so the drill can be repeated on the other leg.

Training Rolls

Later, this method is also used to train rolls. When Phil's leg is kicked out he rolls across the ground and stands up and does the other side.






Life on Horseback

Since ancient times the Northern Chinese have lived life from tents and horses. A lifestyle vastly different from our modern one of luxury and convenience. By looking at the hardships and lifestyles of past generations of masters we can get an idea of the work we need to put forth to place us on a level with masters of old

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