What is Shou' Shu'?
A martial art. A true system of pure self defense. It is an extremely efficient fighting system used for the purpose of self defense.
Briefly, Shou' shu' can be explained by it's literal translation, "Beast Knowledge". It utilizes the fighting motions of Seven fighting animals. While this may seem odd or unimportant to someone who has never studied this wondrous art, it is extremely effective. Each of the seven animals specializes in a specific type of motion. Each utilizes the laws of physics to create immense power but in completely different ways.
Shou' Shu' is the combination of these animal motions. This is one of it's trademarks. Each animal in itself constitutes a complete martial art. However, individually they are not Shou' Shu'. They would be known by their individual beast names. Although each fighting system is extremely fast and efficient, it is guided by a strict set of principles. Abiding by a strict set of principles is limiting. For this reason the beasts are seamlessly combined. A Shou' Shu' fighter never really fights within the constraints of one animal. He does not choose which one he will use as is popularized in the Kung Fu movies. He is trained from the beginning to utilize the strengths of all.
Each beast has it's strengths. Of course the corollary to this is that each beast has it's weakness. When the beasts are combined the principles overlap and each beast covers the weakness of the other's. Because the Shou' Shu' fighter transitions so seamlessly between the beasts, it is never really even apparent which one he is using. Principles of multiple animals can be used at once creating wholly new motions that none of the animals could do. Transitions between animals also create new principles which could not be utilized in a single beast system.
So in short, Shou' Shu' is the combination of these Seven animal systems. Each animal is learned independently of the others but only used in combination.
Our Da' Shifu, Al Moore Sr. Created the system of teaching Shou' Shu'. Although it is the same system that has been taught for thousands of years, he had to create a system of teaching it that would work for the modern day practitioner.
He had been taught using the old teaching methods. These methods, although extremely effective, were geared towards teaching someone who had already truly devoted themselves to learning the art. Essentially the students had already proven they were worthy of training in the art. They had to show extreme discipline to be admitted into the quan for training.
In those days, once a student found a master, he became devoted to the teachings of that master. This sped up the teaching process because the master did not have to continually prove the art to the student. Training was fast paced because the student did not question, he just learned. Usually the student could not see the big picture of what was being taught to him. But this did not matter because he trusted his teacher would guide him in the right way. It was a highly efficient teaching system. Unfortunately it doesn't work in modern culture.
Originally each animal was learned individually. Only after all seven were mastered would the actual mixed beast system be taught. This was an extreme endeavor to get to this level. Early on, the emphasis was not on progressive motion but on individual motions. Much time was spent on learning these individual motions before learning how to flow through them and apply them. Application was not the focus. This was a highly disciplined approach and the student had very little knowledge of where the training was going. An extreme trust in the master was imperative.
When he tried to teach in the same way he had been taught, he found that he could not keep a student. Modern students did not start out with the extreme discipline and trust that had been instilled in the students from his time. They wanted to see the "good stuff" without going through the process. He struggled for over ten years trying to pass the art along in this way. Details on this can be found in our Shou' Shu' History section.
This approach was just not effective in todays world. At least not in our culture. Students do not have the ability to devote their lives to learning the art. Nor do modern day students have the patience to wait to understand what it is that they are truly learning, even thought this might be the best way. Our "instant gratification" culture demands just that. So a system was created which was the best of both world's.
Da' Shifu began teaching the art through technique. The techniques became a medium by which the art was taught. A series of individual motions were put together into a fighting technique, much like is done in kempo schools. While these techniques were not the end goal of the art, and Shou' shu' is certainly not a technique art, they provided a more modern approach to learning the system.
What Shou' Shu' Kung Fu is Not
In today's world there are so many preconcieved notions of what martial arts are, that describing what Shou' Shu' is not may be helpful. When hearing the term martial art, different people will have many different ideas of what is meant by that. Commonly these ideas are formed from what they see in the movies, on television, in video games, or from knowing someone who has trained in the martial arts. Ussually these ideas are far different from reality.
Before calling a system a martial art, one should define the term properly. Shou' Shu' is best experienced. It is difficult to convey in words what it truly is. However some help is provided in describing what it is not. This is not an attempt to belittle any other art. Only an attempt to dispel many of the preconceived notions.
Shou' shu' is a martial art. However, that term has been over used and diluted. It is loosely used to describe systems which are no longer martial in nature. Even the meaning of the term martial art has evolved. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Martial art as
Martial Art: any of several arts of combat and self-defense (as karate and judo) that are widely practiced as sport.
This is a bit disturbing since the word sport should hardly be in any definition of a term pertaining to war. This definition is truly a testament to how meanings change over time because of popular useage.
Looking at the words individually gives us a more accurate meaning.
- of, relating to, or suited for war or a warrior
- relating to an army or to military life
- experienced in or inclined to war
- skill acquired by experience, study, or observation
So together they should mean
"Skill in things pertaining to war"
Now of course the term was used in a day when war was individuals fighting hand to hand on a battlefield. So with all of this in mind when we define the term martial art, we are really talking about being highly skilled at hand to hand combat.
To many this is overstating the obvious. Unfortunately this is necessary because for so long the term has been used to mean things other than being highly skilled at hand to hand combat.
A Martial Art is Not a Sport.
But the common perception is closer to being a sport than what it truly is. It's more common than not for "martial arts" schools to have a self defense program which is separate from their regular program. The competition end has overshadowed the true martial art in most "martial art" schools.
Why is this? Well there are many reasons actually, but the first, and probably most common reason, has to do with our culture and it's fascination with competition. Before they were Americanized, the arts were not about sport and competition. They were about winning on the battlefield. Winning on the battlefield naturally led to the concept of high levels of self discipline leading to self improvement at it's finest. Pretty simple, if you weren't better than your competitor you didn't make it to the next match (i.e. You died). Self improvement was the ideal simply for survivals sake. Anything that did not contribute to self improvement only got in the way. So in this atmosphere, trophies and the egos they boosted were just a hindrance.
Along comes the Americanization of the arts. They were transformed by many into sports. Sparring, which had earlier been only a very small part of the learning process and really not a necessity, became it's mainstay. Rules were introduced to make it a nice sport. Rules changed everything. In the art of winning at war, rules had no place.There were no referees on the battlefield to call foul. Whoever came home, won. Pretty simple.
With the rules in place, it became a game of who could best work the rules. Eventually competitors worked more and more at learning how to manipulate the rules to win rather than what would truly be effective on the battlefield. The martial art lost it's martial aspect. No matter how few the rules, they will still influence the outcome. The fighter who has best learned to work the rules will most likely come out the victor.
This was the fate of the majority of the Martial Arts when they were introduced into American culture. Americans demanded that it be changed into something familiar, a sport.
A Martial Art is a Discipline not a sport.
This is important in understanding the concept of training in martial arts.
Although in the early years Shou' Shu' practitioners became involved in sport karate. In the early years the rules were designed to attempt to simulate the reality of a real fight situation. Although this could not truly be attained, the intent to do so was there, and with proper intent, it was somewhat realistic. As the years went by the rules were slowly mutated and it became more and more a sport. As this happened, playing by the new rules became a practice that deteriorated the true functionality of the art as a fighting art. A separation had to be made to preserve the art. Shou' Shu' as a system was once again removed from the mainstream.
Martial Arts Training is Not Necessarily Militaristic.
Another typical notion of martial arts is that the training is militaristic in nature. This may be true of some systems but is not necessarily the case. Many of the popular systems that were brought to The USA were brought by military men. These American soldiers had learned the art while overseas. Since these were taught in a military environment the art naturally became entangled with this military environment. When the arts were passed on to the next generation, they were taught with the same military methodology. So the idea that martial arts are militaristic in nature was formed. This is not to say that none are, just not all. Shou' Shu' is not militaristic in nature.
Military Based Arts
Because training in a particular martial art is militaristic in nature, this does not mean the art is a military based art. Being taught in a military environment and being a military based art are two separate things. There is a big difference in the training involved in a military based martial art versus a non-military based system.
To understand the difference, one must look at the objectives of the two different types of systems. They are different. In a military based system, the goal is to give the soldiers enough of an advantage in a short training period. The objective is not that all of the soldiers will survive but that a reasonable amount of them will. In a non-militaristic martial art, survival of the individual is the paramount goal. Because these goals are so different, the training curriculum will be very different also.
Training in a military based martial art will be comprised of simplified techniques. The reason for this is that the training period is short compared to the training period of a non-military based martial art. Armies have to get their soldiers ready fast and get them on the battlefield. By utilizing simplified techniques and leaving out the finer principles, this allows the soldiers to be trained in the most likely of situations and to spend more time practicing these on each other. This is advantageous for the army as a whole but not necessarily to the individual. When the sophistication is left out then the technique must rely more on brute strength rather than principle. Since most soldiers are strong this works and will give them an advantage on the battlefield. However, if they come up against a stronger opponent, the technique is less likely to work.
These military based martial arts have become very popular in the last few years. The obvious reason for this is that American culture is drawn to the instant fix. These systems advertise the simplicity of the system and how easy it is to learn. This is true but what is not obvious is that this simplicity leaves holes in the training. These systems were not designed as personal self defense systems. They were designed to produce an army fast. The reason for the popularity of these systems is obvious. American culture loves the instant fix. These appear to give it.
Shou' Shu' Kung Fu is a Personal Defense Art.
Training in a non-military based martial art is much different. Since the goal is protection of the individual and the individual is not necessarily a big strong soldier, the art must be designed to work for everyone. To make an art work for everyone it must use more sophisticated principles and the teacher must take more time in making sure that the student understands and can execute them.
Shou' Shu' Kung Fu works for all people. It's principles do not rely on size or strength. A small woman can learn to generate more power than a man of great strength who does have Shou' Shu' training. Obviously size and strength are part of the equation but skill can make up for large differences in size and strength.
From the very first day, the student of Shou' Shu' Kung Fu is taught how to use body alignment and energy to produce power. It almost seems magical to the new student. It is an amazing art. We have yet to find anything like it.
Give us a call and find out for yourself.