Review: Essence of Lien Bu Chuan

Lien Bu ChuanWe want to congratulate Artie Aviles, James Man Chin and Nelson Tsou on two excellent reviews they have received for their book “The Essence of Lien Bu Chuan.”

We are especially grateful to both Nick Scrima at The Journal of Chinese Martial Arts, and Nancy Fiano, from the Xinyi Dao Academy and the World Fighting Martial Arts Federation, for graciously allowing us to reprint their reviews below. 

From the Journal of Chinese Martial Arts:

It is refreshing to see a workbook on Chinese martial arts such as the Essence of Lien Bu Chuan. It is obvious that the authors, Artie Aviles, James Man Chin and Nelson Tsou, have given a lot of thought as to how to present the manual to the public. Their approach demonstrates a deep understanding of both the historical and technical aspects of this traditional routine, “Lien Bu Chuan.”

Lien Bu Chuan (in Pinyin: Lien Bu Quan) was propagated at the Nan Jing Guo Shu Guan, as the authors have noted, and is now practiced in many different Northern Chinese martial arts systems. The routine is one of the centerpieces of foundational training in Northern Shaolin Long Fist.

In reading the dedication presented by Nelson Tsou, followed by the acknowledgement and preface, one gets a sense of the connection and respect bestowed on past masters and seniors. These are important aspects that are essential in all traditional martial arts schools.

The introduction features an in-depth historical overview of Lien Bu Chuan and provides the martial background for Masters Li Mao-Ching and Han Chin-Tan and their contributions to the spread of Northern Shaolin Long Fist.

The authors reference Li Mao-Ching’s book on Lien Bu Chuan, noting the essential skills he emphasized (stance work, handwork, and footwork) and how they are implemented in training and, later, through the practice of forms. The Lien Bu Chuan verses as taught by Master Li are also presented.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this manual is the chapter titled “How to Use This Book,” which is divided into seven parts: Sample Main Frame, Description of Detailed Approach, Legend, Sample Images of Flows and Diagram, Two Page Form Flow, Overhead Form Flow, and Position Pattern Diagram. Here great pains have been taken to explain to the reader how to use and understand the contents and essence of Lien Bu Chuan. That is why, in the opening sentence of this book review, we refer to the manual as a “workbook.” Whether this is your first glimpse of Lien Bu Chuan or whether this routine is already part of your martial arts curriculum, it is well to spend ample time familiarizing yourself with each section before moving on to the next chapter. Giving a more lengthy description of this section would only take away from the splendid job done by the authors.

The heart of the book is the chapter titled “Lien Bu Chuan: Movement by Movement Study of the Form: With Detailed Instructions.” If the previous section has been diligently studied, then this section will be easy to follow. Pay attention to the key points and re-read the detailed instructions, and you will find small pearls here and there that shed light on the long corridor that is Chinese martial arts.

The complimentary sections on additional interesting details and enhancements, and sequence control and turning will then deepen your understanding of the form.

An interesting twist to the manual is that the section on basic training appears toward the end of the book rather than at the beginning, which is how most workbooks are arranged. Since the authors’ intent is to focus on Lien Bu Chuan this is understandable.

The authors provide a detailed explanation of stances, footwork and handwork, and here too there are tidbits that can deepen your knowledge of these important elements of the art. If you are a novice, this is the place to start and it is well to spend ample time practicing these fundamentals.

Nowadays, some of the customs and martial arts rituals are getting lost or their significance and meaning watered down.The section on additional materials provides usefulinformation on the salutation and some common terms, and for the more serious scholar, three different comparisons of the verses of Lien Bu Chuan.

In closing, the authors offer a perspective on morality and its significance in martial arts. This, like many other sections of this book, provides an insight as to the commitment on the part of the authors to preserve and transmit the traditions of the art.

The Essence of Lien Bu Chuan is a valuable addition to any martial arts library.

From the World Fighting Martial Arts Federation:

The very first thing you will note about the cover of this book is that none of the authors have listed their names with titles or honors. They have, however respectfully dedicated the book to their teacher, Grandmaster Li- Mao-Ching. They follow the Grandmaster’s teaching, in that they are skilled, yet humble, they endured many decades of tough training so that they could conserve and preserve the traditional arts. Each one teaches with politeness and professionalism, with an eye toward precise, exacting correctness.

Lien Bu Chuan (Continuous Steps Form) was chosen by the Central martial Arts Academy in Nanjing in the late 1920’s as one of the simple, basic, required forms to learn. Stance, Hand Work and Foot Work are the skeleton of the form and movement, flow and applications make it an art form.

This book is a gem and a treasure because of the way it is logically and practically laid out. The form is listed by its Verses in both English and Chinese. The drawings and descriptions are some of the finest I have seen in martial arts manuals. Each movement is numbered with a flow chart across the top of the page. You can immediately see where the particular movement is in the sequence of the form. Simple line drawings show the full body and the direction in which the hands and the feet move. To help make it even clearer, a top view is shown. Key points for each movement are given, as well as applications.

The entire form is drawn out both in elevation and overhead view so that it becomes easy to see what direction and which angle you are facing while performing each movement.

This is a must have book for anyone looking to learn Northern Shaolin Styles. The only thing better than using this as a guide would be seeking out these teachers and learning directly from the source. I urge my friends in the tri state area of New York, New Jersey and CT, to enroll with Master James Jett Man Chin and be a part of this great lineage.

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