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Tyrant Pulls the Bow

The army of Chu the Tyrant became famous for direct attacks of over whelming force against the enemy. The force of his army was the epitome of 'hard.' To defeat Chu the Tyrant one would have to answer the question; 'How can a soft force over came a hard force?'

The 18th century manual of empty hand fighting, True Transmission of Shaolin, explains the theory of soft overcoming hard with a reference to Chu the Tyrant and his biggest enemy; King Han.


The idea of soft is simple. don't meet a hard unyielding force head on, but instead work your way around it until you can enter an undefended opening. This applies not only to defeating large and powerful troop formations such as the army of Chu the Tyrant but of a single opponent in hand to hand combat!


 The Soft Explained in True Transmission of Shaolin

When encountering hard evade and enter where undefended. It is as natural as the drifting clouds and flowing water; swift and smooth like a spring silkworm spitting silk or like the spark of striking flint; strong like the wind against a ship's mast or a formation of cavalry.


Yet, even though a man has the strength to uproot mountains his strength is useless when no one is near. Though an army can deploy a million troops yet the army can't attack when the enemy is nowhere to be seen.


Therefore it is said that although soft can overcome hard, yet soft can not be devoid of hard and only the proper use of hard can easily break through soft.


Out of 100 battles Chu the Tyrant won 100 victories. but with a single defeat lost all under heaven. This is not the proper use of hard.


Out of 100 battles King Han suffered 100 defeats, but with a single victory attained all under heaven.

True Transmission of Shaolin recalls the epic confrontation between Xiang Yu - Chu the Tyrant(232 BC 202 BC) and Liu Bang- King Han(247 BC to 195 BC), figures well known to most Chinese of imperial China. Xiang Yu favored reckless violence while Liu Bang used careful planning.


When Xiang Yu broke through the defenses of a city he would often take out his anger on the inhabitants by slaughtering everyone. Once an army of 200,000 soldiers surrendered to Xiang Yu. That night his troops attacked and killed them in their sleep.


Liu Bang, on the other, hand besides losing city after city to Xiang Yu, almost lost his life from an arrow shot by Xiang Yu's own hand as the two traded insults over the walls of Liu Bang's fortified city. Yet, even though Liu Bang had the smaller force, in the end he became Emperor Gaodi while Xiang Yu chose suicide over surrender.


Soft Vs Hard on a Grand Scale

Two Armies Race to the Capitol


During the last year of the Qin Dynasty (206 BC) both Xiang Yu and Liu Bang worked together under King Huai. King Huai promised that whichever army captured the Qin Dynasty's last remaining city would get to keep the productive region as his own personal fief!


Xiang Yu battled his way through fiercely defended territory from the east without regard for the lives of his men or the civilians of the cities they passed through.


Liu Bang came the long way around from the west and had forbidden plunder and massacre. He worked hard to reassure the people of the capitol that they would be humanely treated. For this he quickly made his way across the Western passes and entered the city unopposed. This can be considered his 'soft' approach toward gaining the city.


But, when Xiang Yu finally arrived he still commanded a force of 400,000 to Liu Bang's 100,000. There was an unpleasant stand-off which lasted for several days. In the end Liu Bang had no choice but to withdraw and allow Xiang Yu to take the prize rightfully owed to Liu Bang. His peaceful withdrawal is another example of a 'soft' approach.


Xiang Yu then attempted to have Liu Bang killed at a dinner party. An assassin performed a sword dance with the intention of stabbing Liu Bang. Owing to the help of his driver, Liu Bang narrowly escaped with his life (that is another story). In anger at missing his chance to kill his rival, Xiang Yu slaughtered and looted then destroyed the Qin capitol in a fire that is said to have burned for three months!


Music Defeats an Army


In the final battle between Xiang Yu and Liu Bang, Liu Bang used the sound of singing to defeat Xiang Yu. How can music defeat an army? Xiang Yu's troops were from Southern China but Liu Bang's troops were from the west. At some point in the past Liu Bang had seen to it that all his troops secretly learned the songs of the southern people of China. During the night after a very vicious battle Liu Bang's army began to sing the southern songs beloved by Xiang Yu's troops. It was a sound that chilled Xiang Yu to the bone! He immediately jumped to the conclusion that his troops were deserting his army for the armies of Liu Bang.


Without regard for his remaining soldiers Xiang Yu personally mounted his horse Dapple and took his 800 most trusted men to break through the enemy lines and attempt an escape to the Yangtze river. He was pursued by 5000 soldiers and in the end chose suicide over surrender.


What could be more soft than Liu Bang's plan of using singing to defeat an army?


Xiang Yu was decapitated and his head was taken to his remaining supporters to prove his death and to force a new allegiance to Liu Bang. Xiang Yu, one of the most powerful generals of Chinese history ended up with nothing while Liu Bang became the first Han Emperor of China (ruled 206-195 BC).


The Tyrant's Pose in Mantis Boxing


The Tyrant as a pose first appears in one of the earliest forms listed in Mantis Boxing called Connected Fist. This form is one the earliest roots of Mantis Boxing (other kung fu schools have a form of the same or similar name). Under Connected Fist's section called 'The Method and Essential Key for 'Piercing Ear' - 16 Gates of the Right' we find the technique:

Beating hand leaking hand fold the pair of elbows

Tyrant pulls the bow and the single hand enters.

Although this version of Connected Fist is no longer trained, this combination appears in a form practiced at least since Liang Xuexiang's time (circa mid 1800's) in a form called Divide the Body into Eight Elbows (Fen Shen Ba Zhou). This well known form contains the sequence:

Right strikes with the street walking lifting elbow (not pictured).

Interconnected double bashful elbows.

The tyrant sits to the rear and pulls hard the bow.


Interconnected double bashful elbows. Probably so named because of the similarity to a bashful expression. This elbow can also be called the protruding elbow.


The tyrant sits to the rear and pulls hard the bow. Here you can clearly see the similarity to the pulling of a bow. In the picture at the top of the article you can see the soldier in a horse riding stance (riding a horse) pulling the bow.


The Tyrant's Technique Applied


Cui Shoushan, grand student of Liang Xuexiang, also writes the application for the techniques:

Right strikes with the street walking lifting elbow (not pictured).

Interconnected double bashful elbows.

The tyrant sits to the rear and pulls hard the bow.

He attacks with the right.

I lift with my right hand followed by my left outer hanging block and strike with my right inner forearm to his left ear as my left foot fish hooks (his right foot).


My right hand grasps his and my left coiled elbow strikes his ribs then grasps and my right coiled elbow strikes his ribs.


My right palm collides to his face, I take the horse riding posture and my left strikes his belly cavity.

Mantis Boxing first uses a series of soft methods against the opponent such as 'beating,' 'grasping,' and 'colliding' before finishing with the hand strike 'tyrant pulls the bow,' the hard at the end of the soft


Information on Xiang Yu and Liu Bang from Warlords of China 700BC to AD1662 by Chris Peers. A fascinating historical read on the battles of China.


Illustrations of bowman from Wui Bei Zhi (1621)

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