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Fist of Luohan

April Brazier Luohan Posture

Most practitioners of Praying Mantis Boxing have heard of Luohan Gung, the method of developing your body, physically, mentally and spiritually that has been handed down for generations. But few have heard of the fighting form called Luohan Fist passed down by the Hao family's branch of Plum Flower Praying Mantis.


But, What is A Luohan?


Luohan written by April BrazierIf you are one who has dedicated your life to cultivating mind and spirit then you are travelling the path of a Luohan. Traditionally, in Buddhism, Luohan are entrusted with protecting the spiritual doctrine of their faith, The training of Luohan Gung develops your mind, body and spirit for your spiritual practice. This cultivation process requires a lifetime of discipline and dedication. As testimony to this unceasing hard work we have the following sonnet;

Eight Line Song of Training Gung


Day and night follow each other without end

Eliminate desires of smoking, drinking or affairs of the bedroom

Striking light and hitting hard  are divided into before and after

With no interruption of training the days become months

This is how the ancients became Luohan

It takes a generation of study to become a marvel

For those 1000 days of discipline and 10,000 days of cultivation 'a few' is especially detested

So how can we begrudge the training of 100 days.

There are four points emphasized in this sonnet.

  1. Training without end; 'Day and night follow each other without end,' infers that the mind must focus on the training throughout the day and night. This is accomplished through the transmission of specific mental exercises.
  2. A pointed mind; The intent behind the line, 'Eliminating desires...' is that one should focus singularly on the task at hand without being sidetracked by temporary pleasures which will slow down your progress. This idea of controlling your passions has been called 'Luohan Taming the Tiger' and is the name of the 18th Luohan (statue at right).
  3. Striking the body; 'Striking light and hitting hard,' refers to the gradual increase in the intensity of body conditioning strikes you must withstand in this training.
  4. Lifelong dedication; the author wants to inspire us with dedication for 100 days of training but hints that it is a lifelong pursuit, 'It takes a generation of study to become a marvel.'

Three Transmissions of the Luohan

One of the oldest known manuals of Praying Mantis Boxing appears at least as far back as the late 1700's is called Luohan Short Strikes in some versions and True Transmission of Shaolin in others. This manual to makes a connection between the following;

  1. The training of a Luohan
  2. The Shaolin monastery and the ascetic lifestyle of a monk
  3. Praying Mantis Boxing

It contains the three essential elements of training to become a Luohan and a protector of the faith which it calls the 'three transmissions.'

Three Transmissions for the Method of Gung

The first gung is to accumulate strength. Cultivate the qi and perfect the spirit. This is the Luohan's accomplishment on the path of achievement. Accomplishment can be attained after one hundred days of practice.

The second is pushing and sending the sandbag drilling the fists and palms.

The third is to practice all of the family hand methods. To the extant of separating the tendons and stopping the pulse. Moving from the general profoundness to the subtle details learning the nature of the way of heaven.

The three elements 'transmitted' from master to disciple being:

  1. The development of qi, strength and spirit
  2. Bag training
  3. The application of fighting techniques

This third transmission is where a collection of techniques such as Luohan Fist fits in.

The Tiger Taming Luohan

Luohan Fist contains the Luohan posture reminiscent of 'Luohan Taming the Tiger.' The story goes that Pindola, a monk in India, fed vegetarian food to a tiger in order to tame him and prevent him from eating the locals. The people revered Pindola for his work and called him the Tiger Taming Luohan. In fact, the tiger represents our passions and desires which we learn to control in our training. The 'Tiger Taming Luohan' is a powerful image that can remind us of that.

The Turn that Topples

The form Luohan Fist contains the clever attack and defense characteristic of Praying Mantis Boxing used to strike and topple the opponent. An excellent example are the techniques

  1. Stick in the fist
  2. Turn the body and strike with the inner forearm

These two moves are a combination which can be used to knock over the opponent.

Stick in the fist


Turn the body and strike with the inner forearm


Anna strikes April with her right fist


April dodges to the side and deflects Anna's punch


Within that same moment April pushes Anna's fist down and strikes with her right.

Anna blocks with her left palm.


April 'steals' Anna's left palm by securely grabbing her wrist.

The idea of 'Turning' in the technique April is about to apply 'Turn the body and strike with the inner forearm' means that April pulls Anna's arm to April's left and steps to the left (next).


April advances by locking Anna's lead foot and pulling her arm down. Anna will have a hard time defending herself from April's forearm strike.

Fist and Gung

In Kung Fu we develop our body to be strong enough to withstand the beating of sticks and clubs. We move our body with postures and maneuvers passed down from past dynasties. We alternate attack and defense with our training partners for countless repetitions. In the end, this training and perseverance serves one purpose; the refining of our own consciousness. To train mind, body, and spirit in this way is to travel path of a Luohan

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Many thanks to the collaboration with Niki Deistler and his shifu Zhou Zhendong. This summer I will fly to Shandong to met up with Niki and Shifu Zhou.


I welcome your comments, please visit my feedback page

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