Sifu Shum performing the Wu Style Fast Form in Mainland China in 1984

Tai chi training

An account of Ying Jow Pai would be incomplete without mention of tai chi. Sifu Shum believes that both systems complement each other. Eagle Claw trains the student in stamina and enables him to strengthen his muscles. Tai chi benefits the internal organs and ch'i (the vital breath) which in turn supports muscles and sharpens concentration and reflexes. In Sifu Shum's book Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan - Gah Gee, he states that daily practice of tai chi improves not only respiration and blood circulation but also general metabolism, the body's immune function and longevity. Sifu Shum therefore requires his senior students in Eagle Claw to learn tai chi as well and to be competent in both systems. This is the reason why Wu style tai chi has been taught alongside Eagle Claw ever since the opening of the first school on 28th Street.

   Wu style tai chi includes the so-called "Slow Form" (Gah Gee), the "Fast Form" (Goon Chuen), two-man forms, tai chi saber and tai chi sword, push-hands, walking push-hands, Tai Lui Po push-hands and self-defense push-hands. According to Sifu Shum, there are different kinds of ch'i or breath power: short breath, slow breath, and long breath. Short breath can be improved by practicing Eagle Claw. As for slow breath, it will come naturally from the correct practice of slow and fast forms. Long breath can be improved by endurance training such as running and swimming.

Tai Chi Chuan instructor Charles Edgerton

 The same principles governing proper execution of Eagle Claw forms, such as clarity, definition and fluidity of movements, also apply to tai chi. According to Sifu Shum, tai chi is "hard like steel, soft like cotton, slow and steady like chasing after an ant." Unlike Eagle Claw however, there is no use of overt force and the forms are done in an unhurried rhythm. The goal of the tai chi practitioner is to achieve perfect form and concentration. His moves express a harmony of mind and body that is crucial to spiritual and physical health. Fighting ability is a byproduct of this expertise.
   The tai chi form is beneficial to the body and strengthens internal organs. Each move of the form benefits a specific part of the body. Repetitive moves such as Cloudy Hands, Single Whip and Grasping the Bird's Tail are included in the form for a reason: they ensure that ch'i and blood flow to specific parts of the body and nourish them. Some people do not understand this and cut out the repetitions. They teach an abbreviated form of tai chi to accommodate students who do not have the patience to devote to it. However, if one part of the form is missing, im-balances are created in the body because ch'i and blood do not reach all the organs as they should.

 Sifu Mark Shan demonstrating Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan

 No tai chi student from Ying Jow Pai has opened a tai chi school because most of them train for personal health reasons and self-development, and therefore do not feel the need to pass on their knowledge. Sifu Shum hopes that those students who have trained at least ten years and who teach Eagle Claw will also train their students in tai chi.
 

Eagle Claw's recognition in the media

The Northern Eagle Claw school has received a lot of recognition and media exposure over the years. Sifu Shum has taught several Eagle Claw fist forms in videos that have sold very well in the United States and abroad. Judging from the number of videos and books sold, many people in the world are vicariously studying Eagle Claw - but there is no way to know their level of competence since Sifu Shum has never seen them. American magazines such as Inside Kung-fu and Fighting Arts, as well as Hong Kong-based magazines have carried articles about the school. New York City cable television and Japanese television also have interviewed Sifu Shum. The school was also featured in a recent documentary shown on PBS about rock star Lou Reed, who is a Tai Chi Chuan student of Master Shum.

   
Eagle Claw students are still taking part in competitions. In 1991, Eric Hargrove was champion of sparring in Baltimore. In 1993, Larry Norman got second place in sparring, again in Baltimore. That same year, Frank Marrero won the title of light weight champion in kick boxing at the All US Kung Fu Competition in Atlantic City. 2006 was a good year with Ying Jow students winning forms and fighting divisions.

 Ying Jow Pai, the Northern Eagle Claw Kung Fu school, is proud to celebrate the decades (and counting) of Sifu Shum's teaching. The school is strong, with dedicated and outstanding students who are continuing the line of a seven hundred year-old kung fu system.

 

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