This page will be a chronicle of my history with this awesome, unusual style. This style holds a special place in me for three reasons; I love its simplicity and obscurity, it is the fighting form for Iron Hand and I was afforded the great honor of learning the three forms and five exercises directly from Master Chin in Taiwan during our visit for the Tang Shou Tao tournament in 1988. I and brother student Eric Shanke who also fought in the tournament were privileged to train daily for several weeks with Master Chin while Sifu was training with Master Chiao.
In the early years of my training, grand-students did not learn from their grand-teachers directly but only through instruction from the grand teachers’ student or the grand students’ teacher; however you look at it, it was very rare for a student to learn from the grand teacher. You guys today that began training directly under Master McNeil do not know how lucky you are that this tradition changed over the years and your students and students’ students are able to take advantage of training directly with Lao Tzu. It was not always this way.
Tzu Men Chuan is a unique Shaolin soft style of Kung fu that utilizes quick darting movements using mainly the finger tips and jumping lunges to strike vulnerable points. It is the fighting style that goes with Advanced Iron Hand and the so-called Death Touch system known simply as the “Special Points” in Tzu Men Chuan and would possibly be lost today were it not for the efforts of Lao Tzu McNeil. This style is deceptive because the forms are short but when done properly, with lunges, it becomes a very effective endurance workout.
The footwork in the lunges fits very well with the Splashing Hands shuffles and of course the similarities are there in the open hand techniques. The finger jabbing in Tzu Men Chuan is the same as the rolling punch theory in Splashing Hands. Any Splashing Hands guy or gal worth their salt know that this theory can be used with any hand form, including the finger tips if they are properly trained with Iron Hand; I usually do my Tzu Men Chuan forms with my Iron Hand- after the first set of thrusting and hitting the Iron Hand bag but before whatever external exercises that I am doing for that session, then I do the second set of strikes into the beans.
I would love to some day further my knowledge of striking points by formally learning the Special Points. I like the way Master Chin presented these teachings to Lao Tzu; he taught them as points not to hit because they could cause great damage or death. I believe this is in the spirit of martial arts, to avoid killing if at all possible. I do believe that my brother and I stumbled upon one of them one day while we were training together at the school in Orange, California one evening years ago. We were actually practicing Five Elements strikes but since it deals with what was probably a Special Point judging from Lao Tzu’s reaction when we excitedly told him of our experimentation, I will tell the story here.
When we first started in 1980 Lao Tzu had one class a day but soon added an evening class. It wasn’t long before he allowed us to attend both classes; since he couldn’t get rid of us he figured he might as well teach us. It also became our habit to come before the first class and stay after the second class to practice what we were learning and to sneak in some extra attention from the big guy. Then after we got our basic black belt he honored us with keys to the school and sometimes we would substitute for him when necessary.
One evening before the start of the second class from 7:30 to 9 pm my brother and I were practicing Hsing-I and we began training the Five Elements strikes. We had gone through Metal and Water, using sparring chest protectors, thick ones, doubling them up for extra padding and hitting each other with the chosen technique; full power shots focused on being relaxed and perfecting the timing between the hands and feet. Some were timed better than others, of course, we were learning and having a blast doing it. Even with two body protectors on you could still feel it penetrate when properly timed. Without the gear it would have been serious injury even with Shih Shui, braced and ready…no thanks.
We started working on Wood and I will never forget, Gary got the first one…the spot. I couldn’t describe where it is other than in vague generalities, I would have to show you. Regardless suffice to say it is low on the torso above and offset from the penis. We were doing full stepping close stance Wood punches and he had done probably two or three then the next one landed and I explosion of hot gas shot out of my ass! It was of a dry burning quality, not defecation but something else.
My brother could tell from my face that something was up. “Whoa, what the fuck was that! I exclaimed, excited and a little scared. I indicated where I thought the point was that he hit and told him to try it again and I made sure I was fully braced and sucked up for the impact; result, another fiery ass blast. I was hopping around like an excited school boy and after a third time of successful experimentation I demanded my turn as the puncher. My brother was also eager to experience the fire fart because he is a little crazy too.
I knew right where it was, nothing like feeling it a few times to lock in on it. I pulled the trigger and got it first try as my brother doubled over, mainly from giggling with glee. There was just something about it that appealed to the dirty little boy in us. I hit it again and we could no longer contain ourselves and we ran into to Lao Tzu’s office, like eager puppies ready to impress their sire, where he sat preparing for the next class and we were bubbling over with what we had discovered.
The look on his face was sobering as his head snapped to the clock on the wall beside him. He looked back at us and he wasn’t happy. “What are you idiots doing, who told you to do that ?” In our defense it was a training drill that he had introduced us to but as usual we took it to the next level. “You are very lucky that it was not the right time of day or you would be dead.” We were concerned that he was concerned but the first thing we asked was what was the “right” time of day. He didn’t shared that information of course and admonished us that the power of Hsing-I is not something to trifle with. Stand by for more.