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
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.
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.
step with a falling chop and move your lower palm.
his heart apply the plucking strike.
the eagle capture the
rabbit forcefully open the bow.
Keep the hands and feet
Oblique means stepping with the left
while striking with the right or vice versa.
falling chop by my right hand is blocked by
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
high and low. The falling chop is high while the elbow itself
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
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
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.
on the left, and Andy face off in closing hands.
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.
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.
Steve is grabbing Andy's left hand his left foot moves forward to
lean (kao) against Andy's leg.
slams his elbow into Andy's solar plexus or floating rib depending
on the situation.
The Following Luan Elbow
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
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.
attack by traveling to the opponent's left side.
on the left, and Steve face off in closing hands (bi shou).
right hand hand grasps Andy's.
Andy can react Steve pulls Andy's hand close to his body while
sending his palm to Andy's face.
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
left foot steps behind his right foot in the stealing step (tou bu).
We catch him here just before he applies the elbow.
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
Many 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
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
Researching in Tainan City
During 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.
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
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
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
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