Wudang Kung Fu is an ancient Chinese system which aims to develop three basic areas; health, martial skills and character. It comes from an area in China known as Wudang Shan, where martial knowledge is traditionally passed down from master to disciple. The Wudang system is an internal style of martial art. This means it uses qi or energy to power its movements rather than muscular strength. At the Wudang San Feng school in China where Lucia learnt the Wudang style, emphasis is on practising basic skills, as one has to be well-acquainted with the bottom in order to reach the top. At the school in London, we focus on basic skills, and explore the Wudang system through Taiji (Tai Chi) and Qi Gong (Chi Kung).
Taiji (Tai Chi) is an art which is famous for its slow and graceful movements; moving slowly helps the practitioner to build internal strength, which is also called cultivating qi. According to the Wudang system, cultivating qi helps to ward off illness, and promote a peaceful state of mind. At the heart of Taiji are eight main ways of manipulating internal energy known as the Eight Taiji Powers. In the school we practise two Taiji forms to help students understand these powers; 13-step Wudang Taiji and 36-step Wudang Taiji. Through repetition of basic exercises students learn to first feel, and then direct their own qi for health, and eventually, martial use. Although Taiji is practised slowly, when used in self-defence movements are quick and instinctual – it is in fact one of the most powerful martial arts around, but the road to effective martial usage is long.
Qi Gong (Chi Kung) is an ancient art that, like Tai Chi, promotes health by nourishing internal energy known as qi. Unlike Tai Chi, Qi Gong focusses solely on health and well-being, and does not include self-defence elements. Many hospitals now use Qi Gong in their cancer recovery programmes; it can just as well be used to protect against the common cold. A Qi Gong exercise known as standing stake lies at the heart of Wudang Kung Fu, these static postures teach the body to ‘coagulate’ together, and move as a harmonised, powerful unit. At the school we also practise Five Element Qi Gong; the five animals of Turtle, Snake, Crane, Tiger and Dragon each correspond to a vital organ, and the forms for each of these animals can be practised on their own for students who have particular health issues.
The Wudang basic skill set draws from across the board of Taiji, Qi Gong, Bagua, Xingyi, and includes the foundation exercises which are common to all these arts. Regular favourites include standing stake Qi Gong (teaches body to be straight, improves balance, opens hips and shoulders) ‘mud-walking’ technique (improves balance, opens hips, teaches precise footwork), ‘fishes in eight’ (introduces how to use power of waist and back) and a variety of exercises aimed at teaching students to feel and use internal power.
Lucia Ring-Watkins is a 16th Generation Disciple of the Wudang Xuan Wu Clan, her Shifu (master/teacher) is 15th Generation Descendant Yuan Li Min. She has practised Tai Chi since 2002, starting out with Yang Style in London. Lucia has spent long periods of time in full-time study in Wudang San Feng school in China, where after a trial period of several years she was accepted as disciple in 2010. She now has the pleasure of helping her teacher spread Wudang Kung Fu around Europe. She has been chosen by Grand Master You Xuan De and Master Yuan Li Min to represent Wudang Pai in the UK and is greatly enjoying establishing the London school. In general, Lucia is active in promoting Wudang Pai in Europe; including judging an international competition in Spain, teaching in France and performing at the World Expo in Italy. For full details of her Wudang story, see the article in Martial Arts Illustrated.
Wudang Xuan Wu Clan is one of two prominent Kung Fu clans still active in Wudang Mountains today. The living head of the clan in Wudang is Grand Master You Xuan De, who is a 14th Generation Descendant of Zhang San Feng, the founder of Tai Chi (see philosophy section). Grand Master You has thousands of disciples in countries all over the world, among which are several highly skilled practitoners who have dedicated their lives to promoting Wudang Kung Fu. One such practitioner is Lucia’s teacher, Yuan Li Min. He, along with his wife, 15th Generation Descendant Tian Li Fang, set up Wudang San Feng School in Wudang Mountains, and have helped their disciples set up schools in Shenzhen, Germany, France and Spain and the UK.
Yuan Li Min visits London to give workshops once or twice a year, to be kept informed of future events please contact Lucia.