What is a Langkah?

Langkah (Indonesian) - noun: literally step, move, pace, action, measure, stride, leap, foot, footstep, gesture, tread, footpace

In Indonesian martial arts, Pencak Silat, it commonly refers to geometric patterns on the floor used to train footwork and develop an understanding of the role of the lower body in maintaining balance and a base from which to generate power.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

One Ting I Know

I wrote this short story back in 2002, and an online martial arts magazine, part of the Martial Arts Planet discussion forums, published it. It's a quirky little story about the development of a fictional martial arts system. It's pure satire and contains quite a few word plays, so keep an eye out for them.

One Ting I Know

By Mike Casto

Ting Gar is an ancient form of Kung Fu from the Kung Pao province of China. Its founder was Lew Ting. Some legends paint him as a Chinese Robin Hood … but this is inaccurate. Lew Ting was a thief and a brigand...

One day, Lew Ting stopped a carriage expecting to find passengers with money aboard. When he opened the door of the carriage, though, he found three monks from a nearby temple. Lew Ting was outraged.

He had spent a lot of time cutting down a tree and dragging it into the road so the carriage would have to stop. In his anger he threw his bow to the ground and cursed his luck. The carriage driver pulled his sword and would have killed Lew Ting but the eldest of the monks stopped him.

To Lew Ting the monk said, "If I had money I would give it to you. You obviously need money more than I ... or you would not be willing to go to all this trouble and hard work to get it. But, alas, I have no money.

"I will give you, instead, something far more valuable. These are my most prized possessions … but, like the money, I sense that you have far greater need for these than I do." The monk handed Lew Ting a binder containing several parchments.

Lew Ting's confusion over the monk's actions began to turn to anger. No matter what they were worth to the priests, the writings were worthless to the illiterate Lew Ting. Something about the monk's manner, though, defused Lew Ting's rising anger.

He humbly accepted the bound parchments and bowed low to the monk. The monk blessed Lew Ting then climbed back into the carriage. The driver, having dragged the tree from the road while the monk and Lew Ting talked, flicked the reins and the carriage continued down the road.

Over the next few months Lew Ting tried to sell the parchments but could find no buyers. He considered taking them to the local monastery but how would he explain his possession of them. Finally he hid them in his home and tried to forget about them.

They remained hidden for several years. Lew Ting, though, found that he could not stop thinking about them. He wondered what was written on them that could be so valuable to the monk … for he had believed the monk's sincerity that the documents were prized possessions. He decided to find out what they said and why they had been so precious to the monk.

Lew Ting needed to know but he did not trust anyone to read it to him. He managed to steal enough money to hire a tutor to teach him how to read. For months he worked diligently until he could read the monk's parchments.

The first was a treatise on Buddhism. Lew Ting was not interested in Buddhism but he continued reading just for the sheer pleasure of reading. As he continued, he found that all of them dealt with the teachings of Buddha. He figured they probably were important to the monk … but to Lew Ting they were worthless. No wonder he had not been able to find someone to buy them.

Lew Ting tossed the documents into his campfire. A handful of pages fell from the bottom of the stack and did not make it to the fire. Lew Ting scooped them up and was about to add them to the fire when the writings on the pages caught his attention.

These documents concerned martial arts. Specifically the definition, manifestations and development of the internal power known as Chi. Much of it was beyond Lew Ting's comprehension … but he struggled through the words and tried to make sense of them. He tried to do the exercises described in the texts but felt like a three legged ox trying to climb a tree.

Then he had a dream. The monk who had given him the parchments was talking to him. "Well, my son, I see the parchments have been valuable. You have learned to read. You have learned of Buddha and, even though you reject his teachings, knowledge of his teachings is the first step to true awakening. Now you seek to develop your Chi.

You have done well … not as well as I had hoped, but better than I honestly expected. I will help you." He explained the writings and led Lew Ting through the exercises. Lew Ting woke in the morning and felt enlightened.

He took what he had learned from the dream and began developing his own exercises. He moved through motions and felt the Chi growing within him. He wanted to test his newfound ability.

He went to a nearby kwoon, a martial arts school, and challenged the head instructor, Master Fo Lee. The master refused to fight. Lew Ting attacked the master with one of the techniques he had developed. The master easily countered Lew Ting's attack and knocked Lew Ting to the ground.

Lew Ting got up and attacked again. Again the master countered and Lew Ting's face slammed into the cobbles of the kwoon's courtyard. Lew Ting crawled from the kwoon and returned home.

When his humiliation subsided, Lew Ting found himself angry. He was angry at himself, angry at the old monk, angry at the master of the school. In short, he was angry at the world. He swore that he would never be beaten again.

He began training rigorously and developing a fighting method that would be unbeatable. He called the art Ting Gar Chi Gung (translation: Ting style of Chi development) and named himself the master. When he felt he was ready, he returned to the kwoon.

The master greeted him and welcomed him. He remembered Lew Ting and hoped that he had come to his senses and returned, in humility, to seek training and proper instruction. Lew Ting attacked him with a technique he called "Blinding Wind." As the master brushed the sand from his eyes Lew Ting hit him with a wine jug. The master was knocked unconscious.

The students rushed out to see what had happened. The senior student of the kwoon, Tra Tor, took one look at his unconscious master and fell to his knees begging Lew Ting to teach him. Tra Tor became Lew Ting's first student. Many more would follow as the legend of Ting Gar grew.

Now, Ting Gar Chi Gung has come to the west and been renamed to suit the simplistic western tongue. It is now known simply as "Chi Ting" and is still considered one of the preeminent forms of combative martial arts.

© Mike Casto, 2002

The Wandering Guru

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