A History and Style Guide of Monkey Style Kung Fu

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The Monkey style of kung fu is about as different a martial arts system as you'll find in this world. After all, we're talking about a type of martial arts that emulates the movement of monkeys and apes. Think about how they move, and then imagine copying it. Regardless, it is, in fact, a real self-defense system that many have lauded for being both unique and effective.

The History of Monkey Style Kung Fu

It is hard to trace the origins and lineage of the Chinese martial arts styles, as the arts have been in China- a country that has experienced a lot, including upheaval- for a very long time. Therefore, there are things we take to be true without being certain. Regardless, the style appears to have been mentioned in Chinese history as far back as 206 B.C.-220 A.D. A silk painting called "A Bathing Monkey Calls," illustrating a type of monkey boxing, and literature describing Tan Chang-Qing, showing his skill in monkey while drunk, are two examples. Later during the Song Dynasty, Emperor Taizu, known for inventing the Long Fist style of kung fu, is also believed to have utilized a monkey style of martial arts. It is from these early times that the Hou Quan Monkey Style of Kung Fu seemingly emerged.

Most today, however, correlate the beginnings of Monkey kung fu with a man by the name of Kou Si, who was from a much different time period. Word has it that Kou Si, whom you will also see identified as Kou Sze and/or Kau Sei, was alive in China as the Qing Dynasty neared its end ( in the early 1900's). Some indicate that he killed an officer accidentally while resisting being drafted. Other say he simply killed an evil man. Regardless, Kou Si was imprisoned for murder. While in jail, he observed a group of monkeys who were acting as prison guards from his cell. He studied their movements, which he was able to possibly connect to the martial arts he had studied. By the time he was released from prison, Kou Si had already begun to develop a new style of fighting that emulated primate movement.

The martial arts type Kou Si developed is called Da Sheng Men, or "Great Sage" Kung Fu. He named the style after the legendary Monkey King Sun Wukong from the Buddhist tale Journey to the West. Later, his student, Geng De Hai, morphed his prior knowledge of Pi Gua Kung Fu with the teachings of Kou Si to form a derivative monkey style called Da Sheng Pi Gua.

Da Sheng Men Monkey Kung Fu Substyles

There are variations of the monkey kung fu styles developed many years ago by Kou Si. The five best known are:

  • Drunken Monkey: What do you do when drunk? Well, people often look dizzy or unbalanced, they take faltering steps, and might even waddle. Part of Drunken Monkey's effectiveness is found in the way that it offers the attacker a highly skewed view of practitioners- making them look susceptible- which allows them to launch a devastating attack, oftentimes to a susceptible area like the groin or eyes.
  • Stone Monkey: Stone Monkey asks practitioners to become powerful like a primate. In other words, in this style practitioners expect to exchange strikes with an adversary. Like many of the monkey styles, Stone fighters leave a less vital area open for an opponent to attack while they look to strike more vital areas.
  • Lost Monkey: Practitioners of Lost Monkey look, well, lost. They emulate the movements of a monkey that might find themselves in a foreign group of primates for a moment, before striking when no one realizes it's coming.
  • Stand Monkey or Tall Monkey: This style doesn't involve the tumbling and rolling of the other monkey styles. Instead, it's about upper-level attacks- sometimes from climbing limbs- and utilizes a lot of pressure points.
  • Wooden Monkey: There is a lot of grappling in the Wooden Monkey style. This is a fierce style based on angry primates.

Characteristics of Monkey Style Kung Fu

Ever see the movie Bloodsport, starring Jeane Claude Van Damme? The film basically depicts the Kumite, a Chinese martial arts competition where practitioners of various styles take part in a single elimination tournament that can get quite gruesome at times. In this film, one of the practitioners does strange rolls, keeps his arms at odd angles, and generally fights like a primate.

Clearly, this fighter was utilizing monkey style.

Though there are different types of Monkey Style Kung Fu, their teachings generally encompass looking strangely confused and disoriented before making vicious attacks to vital areas. There is also a lot of rolling and strange, monkey-like movements.

Forms and Weapons

Forms are a part of Monkey Style Kung Fu. These forms are different than what most are used to. In fact, they can even be funny to watch, as practitioners may stop in the middle of doing swift movements of a dangerous nature to act like a monkey (scratch, etc.).

Weapons like the sword, spear, and iron ring are also utilized within the style.