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The Luan Elbow of Shaolin Luohan

A powerful strike to the neck or solar plexus of your opponent can quickly end a fight and when it comes to delivering maximum force nothing is more powerful than the luan elbow.


This elbow travels horizontally like a hook punch and gets its power from a strong twisting of the torso.


The luan elbow is first mentioned by General Qi Jiguang.


In the latter quarter of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) General Qi Jiguang wrote New Book on Effective Training Methods. Within it was the Canon of Boxing, a chapter containing his 32 postures of Song's Longfist. Within his manuscript he describes the luan elbow.


Oblique luan elbow.

Initiate the step with a falling chop and move your  lower palm.

To his heart apply the plucking strike.

Grasp the eagle capture the rabbit forcefully open the bow.

Keep the hands and feet synchronized.


Oblique means stepping with the left while striking with the right or vice versa.

The falling chop by my right hand is blocked by his left.

To move my lower palm means to use my left palm to grab his left block. This locks up his left hand so that I can apply the elbow strike to his heart.

The grasp the eagle and capture the rabbit is a  metaphor referring to high and low. The falling chop is high while the elbow itself is low.


The move Forcefully open the bow from Cai Longyun's book. This move both precedes and follows oblique luan elbow in the form Shaolin Luohan's Eighteen Hands. More on that form below.



A Strange Bird


Luan is a bird similar to the phoenix. Why name a potentially deadly elbow strike after a bird not known for fierceness?

I believe it has to do with the way one holds his hands when performing this posture.


Luan is an epithet of rooster or cock. Phoenix is the symbol of the empress and it would be impolite and inappropriate to mention phoenix in a military text so luan is used instead.


A bent elbow looks like the folded wings of the rooster and they are used more or less in the manner of the rooster in cock fights.

In China cock fights have been very popular since ancient times.

This is why the rooster's claws, beak, wings and their movements are often used to describe attributes of a martial arts techniques.

The Oblique Luan Elbow in Mantis Boxing


Within Mantis Boxing this type of elbow is called left step coiling elbow (zuo bu pan zhou). Here I show the application according to the method of Mantis Boxing. Notice how closely it matches Qi Jiguang's description.



Steve, on the left, and Andy face off in closing hands.






Steve' left hand seals (feng) Andy's right hand.

Steve's right hand applies a back fist (beng chuei) which Andy quickly blocks.


Getting to the position shown in this photo happens in an instant.



Steve applies left stealing open (tou zhan).

To do this move his right hand must be firmly 'stuck' to Andy's left block. Steve's left hand can then slide from underneath to firmly grab Andy's hand.



As Steve is grabbing Andy's left hand his left foot moves forward to lean (kao) against Andy's leg.






He slams his elbow into Andy's solar plexus or floating rib depending on the situation.






The Following Luan Elbow


The counterpart to oblique luan elbow is following luan elbow. Within the posture the main difference is that the right foot and right elbow are both forward.


The following luan elbow.

Leaning against his body the block and strike roll quickly.

He finds it difficult to shelter or shield himself.

Again wrap outwards  and brush back and fasten.

Attach to his belly for the fall.

If you can do this who dares contend with you?



Pan Zhou in Little Fanche


This attack appears in the Mantis form Xiao Fanche. Notice the difference between this and the oblique luan elbow. Here we attack by traveling to the opponent's left side.



Andy, on the left, and Steve face off in closing hands (bi shou).






Steve's right hand hand grasps Andy's.





Before Andy can react Steve pulls Andy's hand close to his body while sending his palm to Andy's face.





Andy blocks it easily.  Steve grabs Andy's blocking hand.

From here he could apply the oblique luan elbow, but instead he decides to travel in a different direction.




His left foot steps behind his right foot in the stealing step (tou bu). We catch him here just before he applies the elbow.







Steve slams his elbow into Andy's ribs. This is purely an elbow strike. With a slight variation he can lock up Andy's leg for a takedown. But even without the leg lock, a solid strike at this point will make a takedown easier for the next move.



Shifu Teaches Us the Luan Elbow


Luo Han Shi Ba ShouMany years ago my shifu began instructing us in a form called Shaolin Luohan Eighteen Hands. This is a twenty-four movement form of eighteen techniques comprised of kicks, punches, locks and takedowns as well as the move of this article called the oblique luan elbow.


The applications of this form are strung together in a logical sequence allowing for the form to be done for two people applying and countering each of the eighteen moves.


All the moves of Eighteen Hands of Luohan can be found within Mantis Boxing making it an ideal introduction to Mantis Boxing as well as a fast moving visually appealing performance set.


Researching in Tainan City


uramachi.JPGDuring my research throughout the many old book stores of Tainan City I came across the above book by Qi Jiguang as well as many others. One of those was Shaolin Luohan Shi Ba Shou or the Eighteen Hands of Shaolin Luohan.


This book was written by the famous Cai Longyun some years ago. It was when reading through his manuscript that I noticed he used the same move and name, oblique luan elbow, for this move in his book.

Here is a picture from his book of oblique luan elbow as well as the application he gives in the two man form.





This book is a fascinating modern manual of martial arts. It has the solo form with detailed performance notes as well as one move applications and the two man form.


The importance of this elbow strike can no doubt be due to the fact of its simplicity of use as well as power.


No wonder it was said by General Qi Jiguang about the luan elbow, "If you can do this who dares contend with you?"


For more on the coiling elbow read this article

Pan Zhou-The Coiled Elbow


The translation of the manuscript by Qi Jiguang as well as valuable information on customs of ancient China could not have been accomplished without the help of Robert Hui. www.mantisunlimited.com[

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