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  • Writer's pictureJohnny

Yi's, Ha's, Wei's, and Um's

Er Zu Temple and Si Kong Mountain

Seven Star Fist

Sweating through my bright red Puma sweater. Dark black Carhartt hat tossed to the side as it was drenched in cool, salty, perspiration. Lining up we listened attentively to Master Zhang. Cindy translated, "Today, you all will finish learning your forms. Room inspection!". I was surprised. Eight days into my stay here, and only three-four of those days were focused on learning the form. Now, here I was getting ready to finish it.

Cleaning up my room, I continued to think about it. My sore legs protested as I folded the blankets to my bed. "This seems too fast!", I thought to myself. Scarfing down my simple lunch of rice and veggies; I went to the training hall to continue working on the form. Even the little dog that followed me knew I needed space. Finding a spot on the wall, watching me practice my form. Covered in a new layer of sweat and oil, the other students arrived for the next training session. Jogging, basics, stances, and then more form work.

The moves of Seven Star Fist, or 七星拳, are quick, low, and explosive. Pushing forward, shrinking back. Always low, striking with kicks, punches, and the iconic "Seven Star Hand". It wasn't long before Master Zhang's eyes began to scrutinize my form silently. Correcting me on where I need to be quick, slow, low, and high. Adding a jump kick here, low stance there, and finishing with a quick succession of moves while shouting, "Yi!" and "Wei!". Master Zhang (proudly?) said, "结束了, Finished!". Panting, I asked one final question.

"Where does Yi come from?"

The Shouts of Shaolin

Back in the days of Maling Mountain. Master Peng told me a story about why we shout, "Wei" at the end of our forms. It was said that in ancient times, the Shaolin Temple was often victim to bandits. There is the story of Jin Na Luo and his Fire Staff (Huo Shao Gun) fending off bandits.

But, the iconic stance at the end of many Shaolin forms is said to have come from a single monk named "Wu Hua". Apparently, the monks were either told of bandits coming or Wu Hua saw a band of bandits coming towards the temple. So, he stood atop a nearby hill so the bandits could see him. He stood in his combat pose and shouted, "Wei!". Some stories claim a single shout send the bandits running while others say Wu Hua continued to shout, displaying his Qi and confidence, eventually scaring them away. Hence, the move most Shaolin forms end on is called "Wu Hua Zuo Shan", or Wu Hua Sits on the Mountain.

"Where does Yi come from?"

Master Zhang told me that in traditional Kung Fu. Shouts were a display of your qi. Although, most forms in old Shaolin were actually internal, slower styles which had little to no shouting. As time went on, more and more of Shaolin's forms were turned into external forms. The rise of competitions and modern Kung Fu also lead to the use of more shouting as it was entertaining to those watching.

But, there are three shouts that were even in traditional forms. "Wei", which was explained above. "Yi", which is used for punching/fist movements. And, "Um" which is used for grabbing movements.

(not "um" like you're thinking. Imagine the noise of flexing while getting punched in the stomach)

These noises are all used to not only display your Qi, but also help you release your power in the movement. The noise should correspond with the speed that you deliver the move. If you slowly deliver the punch then the "Yi" should be elongated. "YiiiiiiIII!" Even the final movement (Wu Hua Zuo Shan) can be drawn out, then so should the "Wei". "WwwwwwwwEI!"

Eventually, modern competition and performance added another sound. "Ha". This sound brings memories of the Wushu Carpets, and big competitions I've been to. This sound is used to help send power out in the movements but also entertain the crowd and judges.

Hope this helps someone out!


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