Michael Nelson-Cole; Martial Arts Instructor & Personal Trainer, London, UK
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History of Tien Shan Pai Kung Fu

Tien Shan Pai - Founding Legend

Tien Shan Pai originated in the Xinjiang (新疆) in Northwest China. Xinjiang has a long history. The area was called Xiyu in ancient China which means 'West Region'. It was plundered by the Huns before the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD. During the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 24 AD), Xinjiang was treated as an integral part of the nation's territory. Since then, Xinjiang was governed by all successive dynasties. Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region covers over 1,600,000 square kilometers (617,763 square miles), one-sixth of China's total territory, making it China's largest province. Historical evidence suggests that Taoism was introduced into Xinjiang from inland China by Han migrants around the fifth century. Although, like many temples, shrines and tombs in China, the location of the temple referred to in the founding legend has been lost, it is still regarded as the legendary root of Tien Shan Pai.

Legend has it that Tien Shan Pai was practiced by monks who lived in a temple nestled among the snow-capped peaks of that region's rugged terrain. As the story goes, a young herdsman was searching for lost animals and wandered too far from home. The grasslands he knew so well suddenly looked unfamiliar and he realised that he was lost. Noticing an old monk with a long white beard approaching nearby, the boy stopped him and asked for directions. When he returned to his village, the boy told his mother about the old monk. She replied that he had met Tien Shan Lao Learn, a monk who was noted for his martial arts skills. The mother encouraged her son to find the monk and learn his martial arts secrets. The young boy set out to find the old monk. His quest carried him deep into the mountains. Mile after mile, he searched out but could not find the old monk. At the point of physical exhaustion, the young boy stopped at a nearby stream to quench his thirst. While kneeling by the stream, he saw a reflection of a beautiful temple nestled in a snow-capped mountain. Sensing that he was close, the young boy continued his search for the old monk.

After a long journey into the mountains, the boy found the temple, but his hopes were dashed when the monk refused to accept him as a disciple. They were not permitted to teach outsiders, the monk explained. Instead of going home as they suggested, they boy knelt in the snow outside the temple doors. On the second morning, he was discovered lying unconscious from the cold and was taken into the temple. Seeing his determination, the old monk reconsidered. Tien Shan Lao Learn decided to teach the boy, whom he nicknamed Hong Yein (Red Cloud) because of the mist that rose from his bleeding knees. He stayed in the temple until he grew to manhood, and when he left, he eagerly passed on his skills to other dedicated students. Hong Yein Chu Shih, was the first to teach the monk's martial artistry to the outside world, is regarded as the founder of Tien Shan Pai.

Tien Shan Pai - Recent History

A more recent description of our history would be from Wang Chueh-Jen. He was very small in stature and was not able to enlist in the military, however, due to his very high level of skill in the martial arts, the military hired him to teach combat training to the Special Forces. This training consisted of fighting and combat training, and Wang would have to train with these men hands on. It was from this fighting experience that he developed ‘Radar’ fighting, which gives practitioners the ability to better judge their opponent's movements. Tien Shan Pai also emphasises moving to the side (called ‘Mizong Pu’, meaning ‘lost step’). Together, these two concepts give the practitioner what some have called the art of disappearing and has proven itself very effective in Kuoshu Lei Tai fighting in the early 1950's when there were no weight classes, no rounds, and the only protection was a pair of thin cotton gloves.

In 1957, one of the biggest and most famous tournaments in the world was held. This was the Kan-Tai Hauo (Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau) and it contained some of the best fighters from all around, including some very famous fighters originally from mainland China. In this tournament, they divided into three weight categories and added time rounds. Tien Shan Pai proved very effective at this prestigious event, with Wu Ming-Zhe winning in the lightweight division. When a student reaches a high enough level in the Tien Shan Pai system, they train in the advance method of ‘Tien Ing’ or ‘Tien Shan Eagle’. Tien Shan Pai belongs to the Northern style; and therefore contains Northern style characteristics but it also contains ‘Ing shou’ or ‘sound rhythym’, which is a particular feature of the style. Tien Shan Pai students have developed a reputation for excellence and compete successfully in full contact fighting, forms and weapons competitions in national, major international and world tournaments.

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Tien Shan Pai Syllabus

1st Degree Black Sash - 1st Deng (White Mandarin Tunic with Coloured Sash)

  White Sash - 6th Ji

    初級拳 Chu Ji Quan (Primary Fist)
    小武花 Xiao Wu Hua (Little Martial Flower)
    散打 San-Da 1, 2, 2A

  Orange Sash - 5th Ji

    初級拳對練 Chu Ji Quan Dui Lian (Primary Fist Two Man Set)
    龍拳 Long Quan (Dragon Fist)
    散打 San-Da 3, 3A, 4

  Green Sash - 4th Ji

    梅花拳 Mei Hua Quan (Plum Flower Fist)
    盤龍鞭桿 Pan Long Bian Gan (Coiling Dragon Whip)
    散打 San-Da 5, 6

  Blue Sash - 3rd Ji

    中級拳 Zhong Ji Quan (Intermediate Fist)
    梅花單刀 Mei Hua Dan Dao (Plum Flower Broadsword)
    散打 San-Da 2B, 7

  Purple Sash - 2nd Ji

    羅漢拳 Luo Han Quan (Lo Han Boxing)
    白眉棍 Bai Mei Gun (White Eyebrow Long Staff)
    散打 San-Da 3B, 8

  Brown Sash - 1st Ji

    梅花連環腿 Mei Hua Lian Huan Tui (Plum Flower Kick Combination)
    八級拳 Ba Ji Quan (Eight Ultimate Boxing)
    鴛鴦譜 Yuan Yang Pu (Mandarin Duck)
    燕形劍 Yan Xing Jian (Swallowtail Straightsword)
    中級拳對練 Zhong Ji Quan Dui Lian (Intermediate Fist Two Man Set)
    散打 San-Da 9, 10

2nd Degree Black Sash - 2nd Deng (Blue Mandarin Tunic with Black Sash)

    小虎燕 Xiao Hu Yan (Little Tiger Swallow)
    突擊 Tu Ji (Sudden Attack)
    短棒對劈 Duan Bang Dui Pi (Short Staff Two Man Set)
    單刀對槍 Dan Dao Dui Qiang (Broadsword vs. Spear)
    梅花雙劍 Mei Hua Shuang Jian (Plum Flower Double Straightsword)

3rd Degree Black Sash - 3rd Deng (Red Mandarin Tunic with Black Sash)

    九節鞭 Jiu Jie Bian (Nine Section Whip)
    擒拿對練 Qin Na Dui Lian (Chin Na Two Man Set)
    單刀對劈 Dan Dao Dui Pi (Broadsword vs. Broadsword)
    叉腿 Cha Tui (Crossing Leg)
    白馬下山 Bai Ma Xia Shan (White Horse Descends Mountain)

4th Degree Black Sash - 4th Deng

    小紅拳 Xiao Hong Quan (Little Red Boxing)
    猴拳 Hou Quan (Monkey Boxing)
    大刀對單刀 Da Dao Dui Dan Dao (Big Knife vs. Broadsword)
    三節棍 San Jie Gun (Tri-Sectional Staff)
    梅花雙刀 Mei Hua Shuang Dao (Plum Flower Double Broadsword)
    盤龍棍行槍 Pan Long Gun Xing Qiang (Coiling Dragon Long Staff vs. Spear)

5th Degree Black Sash - 5th Deng

    禦步連環鴛鴦腳 Yu Bu Lian Huan Yuan Yang Jiao (Mandarin Kick Combination)
    醉拳 Zui Quan (Drunken Fist)
    虎頭雙鉤 Hu Tou Shuang Guo (Tiger Head Double Hook)
    雙刀破花槍 Shuang Dao Po Hua Qiang (Double Broadsword vs. Flower Spear)
    斬馬刀對槍 Zhan Ma Dao Dui Qiang (Horse Knife vs. Spear)

Additional Syllabus:

    地公拳 Di Gong Quan (Ground Style)
    螳螂拳 Tang Lang Quan (Praying Mantis)
    春秋大刀 Chun Qiu Da Dao (Spring Autumn Big Knife)
    三才劍 San Cai Jian (Three Power Straightsword)
    奇門劍 Chi Men Jian
    穿心劍 Chuan Xin Jian
    天罡寶扇 Tian Gang Bao Shan (Fan)
    走線飛錘 Zou Xian Fei Chui (Flying Steel Ball)
    雙頭槍 Shuang Tou Qiang (Double Head Spear)
    梨花雙劍 Li Hua Shuang Jian (Pear Flower Twin Straightsword)
    雙環 Shuang Huan (Double Ring)
    鋪地錦滾螳雙刀 Pu Di Jin Gun Tang Shuang Dao (Ground Brocade Double Broadsword)
    雙匕首 Shuang Bi Shou (Double Dagger)

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