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Zaine
Black Belt
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Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1660
Location: Dallas, TX
Styles: Shorin Ryu, Long Fist, American Street Karate, Mantis, Schola Saint George (Fiorian sword fighting)

PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2015 8:00 pm    Post subject: The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu by Wong Kiew Kit (Book Review) Reply with quote

I would like to thank Tuttle Publishing who, through Patrick, was kind enough to give me this book to review.

As someone who has trained in Okinawan karate for most of their journey, I did not know who Wong Kiew Kit was before reading this book. All I knew was that, having recently branched into kung fu, I was excited to read The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu. Wong Kiew Kit (who I will refer to as Wong from this point on) is a thirty year veteran of kung fu, having trained with Shaolin monks and grandmasters of Shaolin kung fu. He is an accomplished author and dedicated martial artist.

The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu starts by giving the reader a little history of the martial art and its many branches. Wong not only takes us through the general history of a number or branches in Shaolin, he takes us through the language that was used to identify them at the time. While seemingly unimportant, this gives us a lot of context (as Wong explains) about what exactly early martial artists felt was important and which techniques were focused on.

From there, we get to the bulk of the book. Wong starts by giving us a breakdown of what he feels are the core styles within Shaolin. He does something very important; which is that he makes sure to let us know that one or the other is not better than any other martial arts system. Period. In fact, he tells us that the "best" martial art depends on the person taking it. While some styles of Shaolin are fit for a tall person, others work better when your are smaller. This is not to say that a tall person cannot excel in a style that is better suited for a small person, but that a martial artist should find the style that is going to feel the most comfortable to them because that is where they are most likely to succeed. This leads into an important philosophical concept that he strings throughout his book: ego and elitism will get you absolutely nowhere in martial arts.

Wong talks about the philosophies and beliefs of the Shaolin throughout his book. He especially focuses on the art of meditation and balancing oneself. He believes that to be a good martial artist, we must be healthy both physically and mentally. He also believes that we generate greater power when we are able to use our chi in a more effective way. Saying this, I know that there is a stigma on the word "chi." However, I would push for the reader to keep an open mind here about what he means. Wong does not mean to say that we can use chi to move objects, push people or knock someone out without hitting them. He means that there seems to be some spiritual force within us that helps us draw power. This is more or less the idea behind tai chi: focusing our chi in a positive way to promote a healthy mind and body, while learning how to use it to create power in martial moves.

Wong dedicates the largest part of his book to what most read these things for: actual practice. He starts off with a very important concept, which is that practice makes perfect. He is diligent in letting us know that we cannot simply show up to class 1-3 times a week and expect to be excellent at the art. The martial arts takes practice and, if you want to be good at them, you should practice daily and move on only when you have become proficient with what you are practicing. Wong states that it takes beginners around three months of practicing to start to understand and become proficient with the concepts they need. While this seems like a large amount of time, he mentions that, as we learn the basics and become more and more masterful of them, the new techniques take less and less time to become proficient with. Wong teaches us everything we need to know to get started in Shaolin kung fu while pushing us to seek training from a reputable instructor who teaches both the physical and spiritual side of kung fu.

Finally, Wong leaves us with philosophy. As stated above, Wong believes that a good martial artist cultivates both their physical and spiritual selves. In these last few chapters he writes about chi, zen and obtaining enlightenment. While many people interested in karate are only interested in the physical aspect (a fact that Wong is aware of), he is ever vigilant in pushing us to develop a healthy balance as he believes that it is tantamount to not only being a good martial artist but a healthy person.

To say that I enjoyed The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu is an understatement. I think that Wong lays out a system of practicing martial arts that every martial artist (regardless of what system you practice) should follow. I think that Wong gets the center of what a martial artist should strive for (balance, humility, compassion, etc.) and does so in a way that is enjoyable to read. His writing style makes the chapters fly by seamlessly, and he is quick to tell an anecdote that adds to the meaning of the concepts he is teaching. If you buy this book and absorb what Wong has to say, you will be a better martial artist for it.

Buy the book: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk (KarateForums.com receives a small commission on any sales generated through these links).
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Patrick
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Joined: 01 May 2001
Posts: 26881
Location: Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2015 8:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the submission, John.

Patrick
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sensei8
KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 14145
Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Sat Feb 07, 2015 8:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice review...nice article, John!! Thank you!!

Nice to see that the book doesn't just skim the surface about Shaolin Kung-Fu, but delves deeply so that the reader can acquire much more intimate knowledge, both as a practitioner, and/or as a avid reader.

I've read many books that only achieve a sort of stick people understanding of the subject, and that left me bored and uneducated on the subject. Often times the title was the only interesting thing about it.

This book, imho, isn't like that! Thank the Lord!!



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chiliphil1
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Joined: 29 Oct 2011
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2015 11:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great review! I have this book myself and I have not completed it yet but it's on my list of things to do.
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bushido_man96
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Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 27502
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like a good read. I'd especially be interested in the little bit of history he includes. Thank you for the review!
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Wastelander
KF Sensei
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Joined: 18 Oct 2010
Posts: 2381
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Styles: Shorin-Ryu, Shuri-Ryu, Judo, KishimotoDi

PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 12:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the review!
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