Thursday, January 21, 2010

Batman -- Martial Artist - 06.02 - Mok Gar

Mok-Gar (or Sil Lum Mok Gar Kuen) is another Southern Chinese branch of Kung Fu. Like most Southern styles of Kung Fu (including Wing Chun), Mok-Gar stresses in-fighting.

The legend of this particular style’s origin claims that it was developed by a midget monk of the Sil Lum monastery (Southern Shaolin Temple) named Mok Da Si. At the time, Mok was considered the foremost master of the Southern Shaolin Fist (Sil Lum Kuen/Shaolin Chuen). Like many great masters, he made his own adjustments here and there, developing the art into one not unlike what we know as Wing Chun. As a shorter man, it would be a poor decision for him to attempt attacks and defenses better suited for longer limbs. Thus, he taught the principle of getting in close to the opponent, using short blocks and punches, and low kicks.

Three generations later, Mok Gin Kiu learned stronger and more varied kicks from a teacher outside of his family and became a famous fighter. At this time, the style he inherited dropped the long-since erroneous name of Shaolin Fist and began to be called Mok Gar Kuen after the family.

One of the most notable Mok-Gar practitioners was Mok Kwei Lan. As a teenager, she studied under her uncle and eventually married a friend of his: the famous Hung Gar grandmaster and fairly modern Chinese folk hero Wong Fei Hung. Mok Kwei Lan convinced her highly skilled husband to incorporate the kicking skills taught in Mok-Gar, so that the Hung Gar style as passed down from Wong Fei Hung shares many kicking techniques with Mok-Gar.

Mok-Gar makes use of two different wooden dummies. The first type is the same found in Wing Chun. The second is called a darn gee and is typically made up of a hollow bamboo post (about 13’ tall, 4” in diameter, set into the ground by about 3’), filled with washers (or coins). It is used to practice techniques and build power, particularly for kicking. The primary goals are to increase flexibility, speed, and accuracy and to toughen the feet.

Mok-Gar encompasses most traditional Kung Fu weapons, but primarily focuses on wooden pegs (shorter sticks, mostly for jabbing vulnerable points on the body), butterfly knives (same as Wing Chun), and the siu so gee (like a nunchaku, but with one end much shorter than the other).
Would Batman learn Mok-Gar? Maybe. While it is about as effective as any other Southern Chinese style, Batman might not find it necessary to learn this art if he learns both Wing Chun and Karate. The blocks and punches taught in Mok-Gar seem to be half-way between the blocks and punches found in Wing Chun and most styles of Karate. The trapping found in Mok-Gar could also be covered by Wing Chun and Jujitsu. In Bruce’s travels in China, he would certainly come across Mok-Gar, Wing Chun, and Hung Gar, and would find something in each of them. If nothing else, he would likely find the dummies used in Mok-Gar to be effective training tools.

Additional information came from Wikipedia, of course, as well as other internet sources (like ).
A Handbook of Martial Arts by Fay Goodman


Bruce said...

When I was considering which martial art to start with forBuilding Batman, I considered what was called Shaolin Kung Fu. Would this have been Mok Gar?

M.C. Elroy said...

You have to be really careful and questioning when you see something being called "Shaolin" Kung Fu.
While there have been distinctive styles of Shaolin martial arts (typically known as Shaolin Fist, Long Fist, or Shaolin Long Fist Form), most Chinese martial arts seem to have some historical relation to the Shaolin Temple.

Because styles often have their roots in the Shaolin Temple, many martial arts instructors (or rather, martial arts businessmen) will call what they teach, or their school, "Shaolin" something-or-other. They do this usually as an attempt to capitalize on the Shaolin brand-name that has been popularized by the Temple's representation (typically misrepresentation) in video games, movies, and TV shows (i.e. the very well-known "Kung Fu" TV series). (One of these long-lasting effects is the use of the word "Temple", while it is actually a monastery; also, the monastery proper is no longer so much about martial arts, but the hundreds of schools surrounding the monastery are run by monks or former monks who try to make a living teaching kung fu.)

Some styles are even "made up", or hybridized modern styles that the creator labels as "Shaolin" (such as "Shaolin Kenpo").

In the modern Shaolin schools, students typically train in wushu (the more demonstrational, aesthetic style approved by the Chinese government) or sanshou (the kickboxing style approved by the Chinese government). While the roots are still present, these are not really the same as the old forms of Shaolin martial arts.

So, when looking into a school or instructor, you should really do your research. You should always find out the school's history and what style the instructors are really teaching.