History & Basic Tenets

History & Basic Tenets

The common usage of the term ‘kung fu’ in martial arts circles is a form of Chinese slang which denotes the Chinese martial arts. The term kung fu is literally translated as taking time and effort in order to be masterful in some particular art or endeavor. The common usage of the term kung fu has evolved to such a degree that it is widely the norm, as such, in describing these arts. Other terms which denote these arts are: wu shu, wu kung, jia shu, chuan fah, kuo shu, Chung kuo-chuan, or simply a particular ‘chuan’ (style/fist). The complete name of this type (style) of kung fu is Li Jia Tao Chan Kung Fu. Additional names for Li Jia Tao Chan Kung Fu are Li Jia Chuan, e.g., Li Family Fist, Li Jia Tao Chan Chuan, or Ming Chuan (Bright Fist). The shortened common name(s) for the style are Li Chan Kung Fu or Li Chan Chuan. Ming Chia/Tao Chan (or simply ‘Chan’) is the traditional philosophical way-of-life of the Li family. An old name for the art which has been used by some Li family practitioners is Ming Chuan, Ming Shu, or Ming Chia, e.g., translated respectfully as “Bright Fist,” “Bright Art,” and the “Bright Beautiful School of Thought” (whose primary thesis is that “the world would be a much better/different place if more and more people are raised to take True Responsibility for their own health and well being,” or in short, “True Health through True Responsibility”).


Within this broad art, we also have Li Family Tai Chi Chuan and Li Family Chi Kung. The former is coined as either Li Tai Chi Chuan or Li Jia Tai Chi Chuan and the latter is coined as Li Chi Kung or Li Jia Chi Kung. The tai chi chuan which we practice fits under the umbrella of kung fu, e.g., it is a derivative of certain aspects of kung fu, going way back historically. The kung fu within the Li Chan stylism is a bit more ‘wei-kung’ (muscle-oriented) than that of the mostly ‘nei-kung’ tai chi chuan. But comparatively, Li Family Kung Fu is ‘softer’ or more nei-kung than what is most common in associated arts. In this tradition, various facets of our chi kung are coined as ‘remedial’ or ’medical chi kung,’ ‘stretching chi kung,‘ ’therapeutic chi kung,’ ‘martial chi kung,’ or ’warm-up chi kung.’


Li Chan Kung Fu is a ‘medium-width’ (size) style: within the whole makeup of the Li Family arts there are approximately three dozen sets/sequences/routines (‘chuan tao’ and ‘twe tan‘) and (lesser) subsets. Within those sets, are our general kung fu sets, and tai chi chuan sets: the broadsword and staff can  be categorized as either general kung fu or tai chi chuan, depending on the demeanor in performing the sets; with the broadsword, the set can be performed with a tai chi saber; the Nei Kung Tao (the ‘108’) set is most traditionally categorized as a general kung fu set, but can be categorized as a tai chi chuan set. Additionally, we have two major chi kung sets. Among Li Jia full routines, we have weapons, e.g., broadsword/saber/baton (club), straight sword, & staff. Li Chan Kung Fu has one major empty-hand ‘two-person set’ (though, traditionally it is a common practice that after a certain fashion, dedicated students can develop other two-person sets – both empty-hand and weapon routines). As with other Chinese martial arts, Li family sets have various versions (beginning with the first-taught ‘teaching version’ of each routine), e.g., generally referring to (multifarious) levels of difficulty relative to the particular level of expertise of specific students. Within the context of both the kung fu and tai chi chuan, we have ’Way of Hands’ (an exercise similar to tai chi ’push hands’), which is a quite highly-evolved and (when on a highly skilled level) meditative means by which to gather skill in close-in self-defense/chin na/dim mak applications.


According to information handed down, the Li family arts originally came into being in Fuchow, Fukien province, China. The originator of the art/style, Grandmaster Li Shih-Kaik, a Shaolin monk, taught the style to his adopted or biological family members in Fuchow beginning in 1674 (after the Shaolin Temple in Fukien was destroyed by government troops). Traditionally, it is said that he was one of only five monks that escaped the destruction, e.g., one of the ’Five Ancestors.’ Li (Lee) was his surname and is the family lineage that brought the art into the present. As stated earlier herein, Ming Chia (the Bright Beautiful School of Thought), a derivative of Tao-Chan (similar to Zen in Nipponese), is the philosophical way-of-life of the Li family, hence the name, Li Jia Tao Chan Kung Fu (with Li Jia Tai Chi Chuan /Li Jia Chi Kung loosely falling under that umbrella). Most specifically, Ming Chia is the Tao Chan-rooted emotional, physical, and spiritual health/wellness philosophy and practice held to and passed on in these arts. It, and the arts as a whole, have been lovingly fine-tuned over hundreds of years.


The style is a combination of both ‘long,’ ‘medium,’ and ‘short-arm,’ and/or ‘northern’ and ‘southern’ tenets of kung fu. The postures, movements, and miens of eight animals are often represented and exhibited within the style, e.g., the original ‘five animals’ – tiger (hu), crane (ho), dragon (lung), leopard/panther (pao), and snake (she), along with (those that were added later) the eagle (ying) and praying mantis (tang lang). The latter are much less represented, but part of the art.  An eighth animal, the monkey (hou) is a significant part of the art. It is said that as practitioners we are acting out the role of the monkey who is playing the role of the other seven animals. The art’s grade level system signifies conjunction with the Buddhist Eightfold Healthful Path and the Four Noble Truths. It is said that it takes 20 years of dedicated intense study and practice to learn and enjoy a significant level of mastery of the art, inclusive of self-defense, dim mak, exercise, probity, chi kung, and a vast amount of associated philosophy, spirituality, meditation, and wellness theory/practices. The 20-year point is traditionally/generally considered to be that of full graduation. Albeit, it is also said that nothing in life is ever truly mastered and there is always room for deeper insight and further improvement (traditionally viewed as being one of the greatest gifts of all, e.g., by way of True Effort and True Appreciation). Practitioners who work toward attaining their fourth or fifth degree black belts are traditionally required to become doctors of the traditional Chinese health arts.


Beginning at the seventh degree black belt (e.g., sixth level shifu), practitioners are named True Masters and also (non-religious/health and wellness philosophical way-of-life) Priests (a difficult and little-understood concept in Western cultures). Contemporary practitioners are never labeled ‘Grandmasters’ in the Li Jia arts: The ONLY accepted Grandmaster as such is the originator of the art, Li Shih-Kaik. When a practitioner is initiated into the first degree black belt level of the Li Jia arts, tradition states that thenceforth the spirits of deceased Li Jia practitioners can manifest within the practitioner when the practitioner is performing the art. It is said, also traditionally, that the spirits of deceased ancestors exist within the entity of Guang Kung, the kung fu god of China. Albeit, in contrast it is additionally true that the tenets of Li Jia/Ming Chia philosophy is viewed as a non-religious philosophical way-of-life: gods are not worshipped, though may be respected. Traditionally it is viewed that the rights of others to practice religious legalistic traditions are admired and appreciated, and we respect the faiths and beliefs of all others (as long as they are not harmful or prejudicial to others). Even so, it is believed that religious legalistic traditions were not part of the original purpose of Buddhist or Ming Chia philosophy. More explicitly, Ming Chia philosophy relates that Buddhism was not initially meant to be a religion, even though it has developed as such in most cases. To Li Jia/Ming Chia practitioners, it is a loving, altruistic, and healthful philosophical way-of-life – a path to ongoing betterment of individuals and thus, the world at-large.


The primary goal of the Li Jia arts is the health and well-being of students,  through utilization of all aspects of the art, inclusive of the Five Virtues, e.g., HEALTHFUL RESPECT, HEALTHFUL LOYALTY, HEALTHFUL HUMILITY, TRUE HONOR, and TRUE INTEGRITY. The Ming Chia concept of the True Responsibility of Health Interaction (of “dignity, decency, goodness, and grace in interaction with others”), is among the many aspects of the benevolent philosophy, along with the notion of True Health through True Responsibility (as set forth in Glen’s book, e.g., A Glimpse of Heaven: The Philosophy of True Health).

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Mason City Tai Chi~Chi Kung~Kung Fu & Wellness Center LLC

11 East State St.
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Mason City Tai Chi~Chi Kung~Kung Fu & Wellness Center LLC