Stages of Kung Fu Training – Part 3

Sow Choy


Learning how to punch, kick and block does not start with the hands and feet like you would expect. So far in the beginning stages the student has mostly focused on their stance, foundation, balance and footwork. More importantly along with these elements the new student has learned to use their hips to generate power in each motion. In order to hit, block or kick, you have to have your basic foundation and proper technique.

As you progress in our system of Choy Lay Fut you will start to learn several beginning hand forms. These first few forms are focusing on very simple footwork that the new student can easily grasp while they are learning all the basic hand motions and kicks contained in the forms. In the beginning the motions that you learn are very large swinging punches and blocks. The most famous, and often times recognized as the signature move of Choy Lay Fut, is the Sow Choy. The basic motion of the Sow Choy is similar looking to a a large overhand punch or the motion a baseball pitcher make to use their whole body to throw a baseball. The next motion that is usually connected to learning the Sow Choy is the Kwa Sow. This is a similar motion like the Sow Chow but it uses the back fist swinging down, opposed to the Sow Choy using more of a forward lead swinging motion.

Both the Sow Choy and the Kwa Sow are practiced together in the beginning to help the student make the connection from swinging the arms, to using the turning of the hips to swing the arms. Maximum power is only generated this way, not by just moving the arms from the shoulder. Typically we use both motions so often we refer to it as a “Kwa Sow” motion. They flow seamlessly into each other in front of the body creating continuous unbroken striking and blocking attack.

The way a new student learns the first motions in Choy Lay Fut  is by using large, powerful swings utilizing the whole body. This is done intentionally to help them develop power by using the whole body and not just the arms. This is done in an exaggerated way in order to help students feel the swinging naturally, and to let it whip smoothly. The large swinging motions of the Sow and Kwa are to be relaxed and without tension in the muscles. The best example that helps to understand this relaxed swinging power is by imagining that your arms are ropes with heavy metal balls on the ends. As you swing these balls around you only get the power by whipping them and being fluid and relaxed. The opposing type of power would be similar to swinging a straight metal rod using the arms to swing it. The force and power of the metal rod will be limited by the stiffness and rigidity of it. While the metal ball on the end of a rope can generate much more force from the relaxed momentum and velocity it can generate.

Although the Sow Choy may appear to be just a strike it is also a block. You can hit with either the front hand knuckles in what we refer to as a Cup Sow, or by rolling the hand to hit with the big knuckles. This motion can Strike as well as intercept a punch and pull the attacker in to control them. It is a simple motion to learn but can take many years to understand its many uses. But for now at this level the student just needs to focus on learning how to turn the hips, be relaxed and to use the whole body to block and strike with these first basic motions. After years of repetition and application they will discover the sophistication of these motions.


-Sifu Nick

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