FLYING GOOSE PALMS
performance and text by Huang Hanxun [Wong Honfan]
[published in Hong Kong within 新武俠 New Martial Hero (issues #37–39), autumn, 1971]
[translation by Paul Brennan, Jan, 2022]
I am an ordinary martial artist and not a highly literate person, and so to write books on the subject is surely rather presumptuous of me. I started making these books simply for fellow students to use as reference material and to refresh their memories when they forget the next movement, then later I realized how convenient these little books are for people far away who are seeking this material, and so I began getting them distributed through a number of bookstores. This project has not been for profit, and any money that it has generated each year went right back into publishing new books.
The first of these books was published twenty-five years ago [Secrets of the Mantis Boxing Art (1946)] and thereafter a collection of them slowly grew to twenty-eight volumes. Even that much represents only about a third of the boxing and weapons sets in the Mantis system, the rest contained in still-unpublished manuscripts and photographs. Recently my books have been getting reprinted, putting their inferiority on display once more. I was merely an unknown boxing arts instructor, but due to the undeserved kindness of booksellers, I unexpectedly ended up known as a vigorous promoter of these arts.
Boxing arts have been in decline ever since the Boxer Rebellion. Enthusiasts find this situation to be unendurable. There are some signs of hope these days, with practitioners of every style writing books about their art’s history and boxing theory, and with booksellers distributing those volumes, the common cause being to revive lost martial arts. At the request of Xu Kairu (pen name “The Buddhist Hermit”), I now present Flying Goose Palms, photographed more than ten years ago. I have decided to retire at the end of this year, and so I am now publishing some more material to test whether or not there is still a market for it. I hope readers can bring themselves to examine this trifling thing and then offer me corrections to any errors they may find.
- written by Huang Hanxun, July 15, 1971
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE FLYING GOOSE PALMS BOXING SET
STANDING WITH YOUR BACK TURNED, BOTH HANDS STORING POWER
You will travel from east to west, the same as in the beginning of the Charging Punches boxing set and also Plum Blossom Fists. See photo 1:
KNEELING STANCE, SWATTING WINGS
The same as in the first technique of Plum Blossom Fists, your right foot advances, your left foot following, and you go down into a kneeling stance as your hands go from your waist with an action of deflecting away, your right hand at long range, left hand at short range. See photo 2:
LIFTING LEG, PALM STRIKE TO THE FACE
Your right leg lifts to make a one-legged stance as your right hand deflects upward, the palm positioned sideways, and your left palm goes out straight ahead, also with the palm sideways. See photo 3:
MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT BACKHANDED STRIKE
Your right foot comes down to the rear and your left foot scoots back farther behind it, your feet changing position with a small hop, as your left hand seals downward with the palm sideways and your right hand covers downward in front with the back of the hand. See photo 4:
RETREAT, THREAD & THRUST
Remaining in a right mountain-climbing stance, your rear foot darts backward a half step and your front foot follows it back (a type of footwork that is frequently used in Mantis Boxing) as your left sideways palm threads out forward, your right palm withdrawing, and then your right hand goes out as a thrust punch, your left palm going next to your right shoulder. See photo 5:
RETREAT, SEAL & THRUST
Repeat the footwork of the previous posture as your left hand goes out, seals downward, and withdraws, and your right fist withdraws and then goes out with another thrust punch. See photo 6:
HOPPING STEP, CARRYING HIGH
First your left foot advances, then your right foot, your feet advancing with a small hop, finishing in a right big-dipper stance, as your right fist lowers and then carries upward with your left palm slapping against your right forearm on the way. See photo 7:
BIG-DIPPER STANCE, RIGHT FILLING PUNCH
With your stance not changing, your right fist withdraws and then strikes out with a filling punch. See photo 8:
DRAWING THE NEEDLE, RIGHT SLICING THROUGH THE WAIST
Your hands each go forward with a sealing action, right hand then left, as your feet hop forward, right foot then left, finishing in a left big-dipper stance, then your right hand flings out with an action of slicing through the opponent’s waist. See photo 9:
DRAWING THE NEEDLE, LEFT SLICING THROUGH THE WAIST
Your right hand goes forward with a sealing action, then your left, as your right foot goes forward to make right big-dipper stance, then your left palm cuts away with the action of slicing the waist. It is the same technique as in the previous posture, only on the other side. See photo 10:
MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT SWINGING PUNCH
Your right foot steps forward to make a right mountain-climbing stance as your right fist swings across forward and to the left, stopped in the centerline by your left hand meeting your right forearm. See photo 11:
MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, RIGHT SUBDUING PUNCH
Maintaining a right mountain-climbing stance, your feet dart forward a halt step as your left hand seals off downward and your right fist thrusts out upward from below. See photo 12:
KNEELING STANCE, RIGHT SLICING THROUGH THE WAIST
Your left foot advances and your right foot pulls in to make a kneeling stance as your left fist threads out forward and upward, your right fist pulling back, becoming a palm, and flinging out forward with a slicing action, the palm positioned sideways. See photo 13:
(In Postures 1–13, you have been traveling from east to west. In the next posture, you will begin traveling from west to east.)
KNEELING STANCE, RIGHT ROLLING HANDS
Your body turns around to the right to make a right kneeling stance as your hands arc across, deflecting away with your right hand at long range, left hand at short range. It is the same technique as in Posture 1, also the same as in Posture 49 of Mantis Leaves the Cave. See photo 14:
KNEELING STANCE, RIGHT SLIPPING HANDS
Your feet scoot forward, still making a kneeling stance, as your hands draw a counterclockwise circle back to where they were. This posture finishes in the same position as the previous posture, but whereas that technique deflects outward from inside, this technique slaps inward from outside. It is the same technique as in Posture 49 of Mantis Leaves the Cave. See photo 15:
KICK BEHIND, DOUBLE DEFLECTING HANDS
Your left foot comes down fully and your right foot kicks out behind as your hands deflect across to the rear. It is the same techniques as Posture 9 of the Avalanche Steps boxing set. See photo 16:
HORSE-RIDING STANCE, DOUBLE SEALING HANDS
It is the same technique as in Posture 10 of Avalanche Steps, your right foot retreating to make a horse-riding stance, your hands grabbing and pulling across to the right. Although you are looking to the west, you are still traveling from west to east. See photo 17:
CURVING INTO PLACE, RIGHT BRACING PALM
Your head turning again to the right, your right foot lifts as your right hand stretches upward. See photo 18a:
Your right hand arcs away to the right, draws a small circle inward, and then braces out forward as your right foot comes back down into a horse-riding stance. See photo 18b:
CURVING INTO PLACE, LEFT BRACING PALM
Your left foot lifts forward to make a one-legged stance as your left hand threads out. See photo 19a:
Your left hand arcs away to the left, draws a small circle inward, and then braces out forward as your left foot comes down into a horse-riding stance. See photo 19b:
SITTING-TIGER STANCE, PALM & HOOK
Your right foot steps behind you to almost make a mountain-climbing stance, your body turning around to the right, as your left hand goes upward and your right hand withdraws below your left ribs. See photo 20a:
Then your left foot pulls back to make a left sitting-tiger stance as your hands cross, left hand on top, and then spread apart with a flourish, your right going over your head with the palm sideways, your left hand hooking away behind. This technique is the same as the closing posture of the two-person set Steal & Catch. See photo 20b:
KNEELING STANCE, DOUBLE BRACING PALMS
(With this posture, you beginning traveling again from east to west.) Your body darts forward and squats down to make a left kneeling stance as your hands withdraw to your chest and then push out straight ahead. See photo 21:
MOUNTAIN-CLIMBING STANCE, LEFT CHARGING PALM
Your right foot stomps and your left foot advances to make a left mountain-climbing stance as your right fist withdraws to your waist and your left palm charges forward. See photo 22:
SITTING-TIGER STANCE, THREAD & CARRY
Your right foot advances to make a right sitting-tiger stance as your right fist becomes a palm and carries upward from below, your left hand withdrawing to your right shoulder. See photo 23:
HORSE-RIDING STANCE, RIGHT BRACING PALM
Your right foot darts forward to make a horse-riding stance as your right hand braces out with the palm sideways, your left hand remaining at your right shoulder. See photo 24:
SITTING-TIGER STANCE, THREAD & CARRY
Your left foot steps forward to make a left sitting-tiger stance as your left fist carries upward from below, your right hand withdrawing to your left shoulder. See photo 25:
HORSE-RIDING STANCE, LEFT BRACING PALM
Your right foot darts forward to make a horse-riding stance as your left hand braces out with the palm sideways. See photo 26:
SITTING-TIGER STANCE, THREAD & CARRY
Same as in Posture 23, your right foot steps forward to make a right sitting-tiger stance as your right hand carries upward. See photo 27:
HORSE-RIDING STANCE, RIGHT BRACING PALM
Same as in Posture 24, your right foot darts forward to make a horse-riding stance as your right hand braces out. See photo 28:
RIGHT SWATTING WINGS, KICK
Your palms first pull back to the rear, then strike out in unison with your right foot, your right hand at long range, left hand at short range. See photo 29:
SITTING-TIGER STANCE, RIGHT CARRYING PALMS
Your right foot comes down to the left rear with a small hop, your left foot scooting back, and your right foot pulls in to make a right sitting-tiger stance as your hands rise up with a carrying action. See photo 30:
CURVING INTO PLACE, LEFT BRACING PALM
(With this posture, you beginning traveling again from west to east.) Your right foot comes down and your left foot lifts to make a one-legged stance as you turn around to the left and your left palm stretches upward and forward. See photo 31a:
Your left foot comes down darting forward into a horse-riding stance as your left hand braces out. It is the same technique as in Posture 19. See photo 31b:
CURVING INTO PLACE, RIGHT BRACING PALM
Your right foot lifts forward as your right hand threads out. See photo 32a:
Your right foot comes down darting forward into a horse-riding stance as your right hand braces out. It is the same technique as in Posture 18. See photo 32b:
WITHDRAWING STEP, DOUBLE HIDDEN CLAWS
With your feet maintaining their position, retreat into a right mountain-climbing stance as your hands both form hooking hands and spilt apart to the front and rear, your right hand using its hook to pull back to the right, your left hand shooting out forward with a wrist strike. It is the same technique as in Posture 55 of 1st Set of Picked Essentials. See photo 33:
ADVANCE, RIGHT FLINGING PALM
Maintaining a right mountain-climbing stance, your feet dart forward a half step as your right hand flings out forward with the palm sideways, colliding into your left hand with an audible crack on the way. See photo 34:
ADVANCE, SLIPPING & CUTTING
Your feet again dart forward, still maintaining a right mountain-climbing stance, as your right palm turns over, making a small circle at the wrist, and cuts across to the right, your left palm not moving. See photo 35:
LIFTING LEG, OVERTURNED-SKY STAMP
Your right foot lifts up to make a one-legged stance as your right palm turns over. See photo 36a:
With your stance not changing, your right hand withdraws to your waist and your left palm takes its place by going out with a covering action. See photo 36b:
Your right foot comes down to make a horse-riding stance as your right palm goes out again and your left hand goes over your head with the palm positioned sideways. It is the same technique as in Posture 30 of Mantis Leaves the Cave. See photo 36c:
SITTING-TIGER STANCE, LEFT CARRYING PALMS
Your body turns around to the west and your left foot pulls in to make a left sitting-tiger stance as your hands both carry upward in the manner of the concluding posture of the 1st Set of Picked Essentials. This posture likewise concludes this set. See photo 37:
– – –
[As a bonus, included below are three chapters from Huang’s Notes on the Mantis Boxing Art (1951).]
ON THE VALUE OF HIDDEN WEAPONS
During the previous century, China was under the despotic rule of emperors and the military. They were concerned only with consolidating their position rather than giving any attention to building anything. As a result of this, all variety of undertakings were the complete opposite of the bold enterprise of Europe and America. Even among the scientific boom of the twentieth century, we were still using our ancient weapons. Pathetic.
A hundred years ago, our domestic freight industry was very outdated, all goods still being pulled along by animals. Added to that, the government did nothing to prevent the woods from being filled with bandits. Robberies occurred daily and petitions to officials both high and low went ignored. Corruption was rampant. Transporters of valuable goods thus took to employing bodyguards.
Selecting these bodyguards was not easy. They were sought from among the wandering performers, but they also had to have genuine martial skill in order to convince everyone of their superiority, otherwise they would carry no clout anywhere they were sent. Therefore beyond the flashing saber blades and spear tips, a few hidden weapons also needed to be trained, such as the sleeve dart, short arrow, flying weight, and rope claw, practicing until one was able to hit the target every time. Each of these weapons needed close to ten years to master on its own, never mind mastering many of them.
In those days, if one had a special ability, he would not lack for clothing and food. Itinerant performers were thus able to get away with declaring themselves heroes. Today however, firearms have become so common that those old heroes have no place anymore. Under the law as it is now, people carrying sharp blades are considered to be committing a crime, and the same goes for guns as well, and yet if one is intent on harming another, a hundred bucks will get you a powerful weapon that you can use with ease. Therefore there seems to be very little point in learning to use a weapon that requires a decade of hard training. Consequently, people who are proficient with hidden weapons nowadays can be considered to be rare talents indeed.
LEARNING MARTIAL ARTS INVOLVES A PSYCHOLOGICAL TRANSFORMATION
Martial arts fiction describes people with extraordinary abilities, which is why it is so fascinating to read. Ordinary people consequently look upon martial artists as being somewhat mystical. Many martial arts teachers deliberately exploit this mystique, patterning themselves after the types of people who appear in such books. Because those who have never practiced martial arts imagine that martial artists will be like those exaggerated characters, any resemblance to such fantasy in real life makes them want to learn.
When beginning to learn how to use your fists and feet, it is necessary to be endlessly looking forward to what you will learn and enthusiastic about what you are learning. However, watching the impressive performance of advanced students will make you wish to learn that level of material right away. With such inspiration, you will quickly forget about all your other duties and you will exert much spirit and strength in order achieve, which will then put yet more ideas into your head.
You have to be able to get through this beginning phase calmly in order to smoothly progress to the next stage. Otherwise you will encounter setbacks that you will not be able to recover from, spoiling the whole project of learning the art in the first place. For instance, you may get distracted by other parts of the training, lose your focus, and try to learn too much, ending up lost in a mess of confusion. Or you may start to feel after just a short while that you have already mastered the art and that nobody in the world can defeat you, which is utterly deluded.
After three or four years, due to the tedium of practicing every morning and evening, as well as the loneliness, you will undergo a psychological transformation, ridding yourself of the common failing of ordinary people, that of loving things that are new and hating things that have become old. During this time, you may became very fidgety, because not only will you not be seeing any progress, you will even feel that you are gradually regressing. You will wonder after all your days and nights of hard work: “Is a new kind of mentality all I have to show for it?”
But keep at it, and then within six or seven years, you will have gradually made a great achievement, and you will be well on your way to attaining mastery. By making good use of that early time in which your enthusiasm is strongest, passing through many ordeals and absorbing the influence of better men, you will eventually be able to reach the highest level. At such a level, you will be able to calmly endure whatever difficulties come your way, and people will falsely assume that means you are a coward.
ON THE BENEFITS & HARMS OF THE TRAINING
“Is there any potential harm in the training?” Yes: if you do not know what you are doing, you will waste your strength; and if you just want to show off, you will scatter your energy. There is a saying [from Zuo’s Commentary to the Spring & Autumn Annals, year 15 of Duke Zhao]: “Do what you can with what you’ve got.” [originally: “If I can advance, I’ll advance. If I can’t, I’ll retreat. I will act according to my ability.”] This is true in all tasks, even more so when you are doing something that involves hard work.
While I was doing iron palm training, my teacher warned me over and over again to avoid alcohol and sex. “If you persevere for three solid months, your energy will not get scattered. If you persevere for three years, you will be able to attain some small achievement. If you want to complete the training, it will take at least six years.” In the beginning of this training, there were more than thirty of us, full of enthusiasm and ambition. After three months, our numbers shrank to barely ten, and then by the end of one year, there were only three of us left. Due to excessive alcohol and sex, the quitters had damaged their skin and weakened their muscles. Suffering so much, they of course could not endure the training.
Most practitioners these days are keen on using devices to enhance their physical prowess, such as chest expanders, wrist strengtheners, and so on. These types of clever tools help to inspire the weak and timid. Although they are all excellent methods, these kinds of devices have been shipped to us by the West, indicating that when it comes to unleashing the body’s inherent physical potential, we seem to be far behind foreigners.
If you spend some time strengthening yourself, this will bring great benefits in the future. However, if you treat your precious body as a lab rat for experimentation or you rashly sacrifice yourself in the name of improving yourself, then there is no point in doing all that exercise in the first place. Better to progress gradually. Success may be slow, but you are more likely to get there in the end. There is a saying [from Lun Yu, 13.17]: “If you want to get there fast, you will not get there at all.” These are truly not empty words. Behaving in that way, not only would you not reach your goal, you are bound to hurt yourself on the way. I hope you will embrace the advice to do what you can with what you’ve got. Equipped with a mentality of gradual progress, you will ultimately succeed. I will light some incense and say a prayer for you.