Black Tiger, History Questions

Monarch

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Hello all,

I'm currently learning Black Tiger Kung Fu, but after researching online I'm having some difficulty piecing together exactly what style this is and where it came from. My instructor is Grandmaster John Dowdy who, as great a teacher as he is, didn't seem to invest much time into studying the history himself, as he did a lot of style hopping back in the day and this was just one of many styles he picked up along the way (his primary style is Hapkido). So the forms and applications he teaches are really great, but I'd like to know more about the cultural and historical background of the art.

He refers to it in English as Black Tiger, but says that the official Chinese name is Fu Jow Pai. From the research I've done online, it seems that Fu Jow Pai is a renamed offshoot which translates as Tiger Claw, and the original name of the art was Hark Fu Moon. He says that he learned it from one of two brothers (the other taught him Great White Crane, apparently) while in Greensboro, NC, and that they came directly from China, where they learned it from who-knows-where. I've contacted Sifu Shue Yi Kwan, who runs a Fu Jow Pai studio up in Peekskill, NY; he says he's never heard of any of these people and denies their connection to any authentic style of Fu Jow Pai.

This is where things get tricky, because Sifu Kwan's own style comes from the Wong Bil Hong lineage, who in turn learned it from "an unnamed monk" at a Shaolin temple, who broke up a fight between Hong and another sifu. This leaves much unanswered, such as: Was that the only temple Black Tiger was ever taught at? Did the unnamed monk ever teach anybody else besides Hong and the other sifu? What happened to that other sifu? It seems to me that Fu Jow Pai practitioners may be trying to make a claim of exclusive authenticity when their own lineage is pretty murky. More recently, I've found many saying that Hark Fu Moon developed out of Hung Gar, though the deep-set horse stances and rigid motions of Hung Gar don't really resemble what we practice.

My instructor has pointed out that with thousands of styles and sub-styles coming from China, with some of them being as specific as "the village style" or "the family style", it may be impossible to truly sort all this out. Unfortunately, he's no longer in contact with either of his teachers, who taught him decades ago.

So, I guess my questions are: If my Fu Jow Pai doesn't share the same lineage, why do many of the techniques look the same, and why would it have the same name if Hark Fu Moon was the original? Any other info on Fu Jow Pai/Hark Fu Moon that I should know about? Are there any online or in print resources I can study to learn more about the history (e.g., it's actual development within the Shaolin temples)?

Thanks,

Monarch
 

clfsean

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Everything referring to Fu Jow Pai pretty much points back to Wai Hong & that lineage from Wong Bil Hong & its My Jhong/Hung Ga roots.

There's another "Black Tiger" that is known as "Shandong Black Tiger" which is kinda funny since it came from Guangdong & based heavily on southern long hand stuff & nothing like anything from Shandong like Northern Praying Mantis or the Northern Long arm styles.

He's right about the family/village style being offshoots of larger more popular styles. That does add a layer of complexity it hunting down clear info.

However, if it's Wai Hong/Wong Bil Hong Black Tiger & you're not paralleling your horse, it's not right. Also Hung Ga isn't rigid. It appears to be most certainly, but it's far from rigid.
 
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Monarch

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Hey cifsean, thanks for the input.

Actually, our horse stance is done hips parallel to knees, there just isn't a major emphasis on stationary horse stance training like I see with Hung Ga. But then again, I don't know too much about Hung Ga, so I could be making faulty assumptions here. From what I've learned through Fu Jow Pai websites, it seems that you're right; the only known proponents of Fu Jow Pai come from the Wong Bil Hong lineage, and they only renamed the style as such once it got exported to the USA. Since my sifu's sifu came straight from China with no known connection to Wong Bil Hong et al, maybe he learned Hark Fu Moon in China and decided to follow the renaming once he arrived in the states. I guess I might never know though.

The movements in this form look very close to what I'm learning. I'm not familiar with that form specifically, although I only know a couple of forms so far anyway. Not sure who that is in the video. Some hallmarks of my style that may serve as clues would be an emphasis on dynamic, fluid forms, hand strikes done mostly with the fingertips and fore-knuckles, and many chin na applications.
 
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It seems that Hark Fu Moon was originated from the Hoy Hung temple in Gangzhou. Does anyone know anything about this temple, and if it is still active? I can't seem to find anything about it online except for Fu Jow Pai sites.
 

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i looked at Mr. Dowdey's website, looks like he is a grandmaster of his own version of Tiger Shark Hapkido, and not of tiger kung fu. I also see that on his website it lists White Tiger kung fu, not Black Tiger. i have no idea what one is vs. the other, but just wanted to note the difference.

I've also never heard of Great White Crane style, and would be curious to know more, as I train in the Tibetan white crane method.

sometimes when people teach something that isn't their primary method, is just something that they picked up in the past but no longer really train or work on, the quality of the training isn't very high. That's to be assumed, because the teacher himself is no longer doing it, and things get rusty over time when they are neglected. Personally, I think it's not the best way to teach. I think a teacher ought to teach what he knows best, and what he is actively working on in his own development, what he has kept sharp. Something from the past, that no longer gets any practice, should not be taught. But that's just my opinion. When this happens, often the real heart and soul of the system doesn't get passed along very well, and only a superficial understanding of the forms.

The video that you linked to is Tak Wah Eng. I don't know much about him or his lineage, but his name is familiar in the Fu Jow Pai.
 
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i looked at Mr. Dowdey's website, looks like he is a grandmaster of his own version of Tiger Shark Hapkido, and not of tiger kung fu. I also see that on his website it lists White Tiger kung fu, not Black Tiger. i have no idea what one is vs. the other, but just wanted to note the difference.

Yes, as noted above Black Tiger is not his primary style. He holds a red sash in the style, which he says is equivalent to first degree black belt. Maybe the sash ranking system could offer some clarity? The "White Tiger" was one of many typos on his site, lol.

I've also never heard of Great White Crane style, and would be curious to know more, as I train in the Tibetan white crane method.

I'll be sure to ask; from what little I've learned of it, it does seem to resemble the Tibetan style more than Fujian White Crane. Long arm techniques, lots of big, swooping, open-hand motions.

sometimes when people teach something that isn't their primary method, is just something that they picked up in the past but no longer really train or work on, the quality of the training isn't very high. That's to be assumed, because the teacher himself is no longer doing it, and things get rusty over time when they are neglected.

I wouldn't say that he doesn't train or work on it anymore, it's evident that all these techniques are well-practiced, just not his primary focus. I would agree that it's not necessarily the best approach to teaching (or learning for that matter), so I've decided to specify in this style. I would learn from a Fu Jow Pai/Hak Fu Moon specialist, but there are none in my area.
 

Flying Crane

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i looked at Mr. Dowdey's website, looks like he is a grandmaster of his own version of Tiger Shark Hapkido, and not of tiger kung fu. I also see that on his website it lists White Tiger kung fu, not Black Tiger. i have no idea what one is vs. the other, but just wanted to note the difference.

Yes, as noted above Black Tiger is not his primary style. He holds a red sash in the style, which he says is equivalent to first degree black belt. Maybe the sash ranking system could offer some clarity? The "White Tiger" was one of many typos on his site, lol.

fair enough. i did note the sash comment on the website. that kind of ranking is hit-miss in the Chinese arts. some use it, others do not. seems to be getting more popular lately.

I've also never heard of Great White Crane style, and would be curious to know more, as I train in the Tibetan white crane method.

I'll be sure to ask; from what little I've learned of it, it does seem to resemble the Tibetan style more than Fujian White Crane. Long arm techniques, lots of big, swooping, open-hand motions.

would appreciate more info on this, including who was his teacher.

sometimes when people teach something that isn't their primary method, is just something that they picked up in the past but no longer really train or work on, the quality of the training isn't very high. That's to be assumed, because the teacher himself is no longer doing it, and things get rusty over time when they are neglected.

I wouldn't say that he doesn't train or work on it anymore, it's evident that all these techniques are well-practiced, just not his primary focus. I would agree that it's not necessarily the best approach to teaching (or learning for that matter), so I've decided to specify in this style. I would learn from a Fu Jow Pai/Hak Fu Moon specialist, but there are none in my area.

my initial training was like this. in hindsight, a lot of it was kinda spinning my wheels. however, the connection eventually opened the door to another sifu, from whom i am now getting exceptional instruction. So there was good that came of it.
 

Flying Crane

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i looked at Mr. Dowdey's website, looks like he is a grandmaster of his own version of Tiger Shark Hapkido, and not of tiger kung fu. I also see that on his website it lists White Tiger kung fu, not Black Tiger. i have no idea what one is vs. the other, but just wanted to note the difference.

Yes, as noted above Black Tiger is not his primary style. He holds a red sash in the style, which he says is equivalent to first degree black belt. Maybe the sash ranking system could offer some clarity? The "White Tiger" was one of many typos on his site, lol.

i saw anither reference online, apparently Mr Dowdy did some MMA competitions? It also made reference to Whit Tiger. So either the typo has perpetuated, or he changed the name, or something else.
 
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Which reference? I know he fought in one UFC match and lost by TKO, but understandably he doesn't highlight that as one of his crowning accomplishments. In person, he has consistently referred to it as Black Tiger (and does say that the Cantonese name is Fu Jow Pai, which is odd because that translates as Tiger Claw, leading me to believe that his sifu probably told him it was called both and never explained the name switch from Hak Fu Mun to Fu Jow Pai), so I guess the typo was just repeated. My take on it at this point, judging by the quality of his classes and comparisons to what I've seen online, is that he certainly seems qualified enough to introduce me to the techniques, but in order to gain a more thorough mastery of the art I ought to learn from others eventually as well.
 

clfsean

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Fu Jow Pai --> performed by Tak Wah Eng

[video=youtube_share;fDq-vNWpXXM]http://youtu.be/fDq-vNWpXXM[/video]

Hak Fu Moon

[video=youtube_share;Pg2aKZnaC00]http://youtu.be/Pg2aKZnaC00[/video]
 

Flying Crane

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Which reference? I know he fought in one UFC match and lost by TKO, but understandably he doesn't highlight that as one of his crowning accomplishments. In person, he has consistently referred to it as Black Tiger (and does say that the Cantonese name is Fu Jow Pai, which is odd because that translates as Tiger Claw, leading me to believe that his sifu probably told him it was called both and never explained the name switch from Hak Fu Mun to Fu Jow Pai), so I guess the typo was just repeated. My take on it at this point, judging by the quality of his classes and comparisons to what I've seen online, is that he certainly seems qualified enough to introduce me to the techniques, but in order to gain a more thorough mastery of the art I ought to learn from others eventually as well.

yeah, might be that whoever wrote the MMA thing just lifted the info from the webpage. No big deal, just something i stumbled upon.

and to be clear, i absolutely do not judge someone based on their MMA record, or lack thereof. I'm certain that if I entered the UFC, my record would be dismal.
 

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