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Shen Academy of Kung Fu & Qigong


Kung Fu Magazine Articles

This page contains links to articles that have been published on a variety of magazines written by or about our students, our sifu, our masters, and/or our styles of kung fu, Ng Ga Kuen, Choy Lay Fut and Chow Gar. Other articles featuring important or relevant information are also included. To go to a specific section, click on the appropriate title on the sections listed below. To see a specific article, click on the picture which will load a pdf version. To return to this section, click on the return arrow key on your browser page.

Articles may be downloaded to your computer or printed for your own use and reference only. No other use is permitted without prior written authorization. Anyone wishing to link to this page or to a particular article, please contact us at [email protected]  

SKFIA's Aguascalientes Seminars on Inside Kung Fu Magazine

Coverage of SKFIA's efforts in Mexico. This is a short report published in the INSIDERS section of the August 2010 edition. Click Here for PDF.

Sifu Mario Figueroa's Published Magazine Articles

Inside Kung Fu Magazine June, 2006 - Alive and Well

 This was the first article written by Sifu Mario Figueroa. It was written to re-affirm the importance and relevance of the Ng Ga Kuen style to the Chinese martial arts community and the kung fu world at large. The idea for the article came at a time when the Ng Ga Kuen style was all but forgotte by the Chinese martial arts community and the kung fu world at large.It had been over 18 years since the last feature article on Ng Ga Kuen was published. The style remained alive with practitioners in the Los Angeles area, others spread out over the United States and many followers in Mexico. The style was shrowded in mistery and misconception, 

with unscrupulous "masters" and "inheritors" making false claims. The article was written to set the record straight, to clear up many misunderstandings that had arisen over the years of silence, and to bring Ng Ga Kuen back to its rightful place as one of the most important and influential style in the traditional chinese martial arts. Version en Español

Inside Kung Fu Magazine September 2006 - Kung Fu Invasion

 The first article to be published in both english and spanish, in the history of IKF magazine, it chronicles my trip to Guadalajara, Mexico to assist my kung fu brother, Francisco Aguilar, in launching his school, Ng Ga Kuen de Mexico. It was a time of exploration and investigation into the origins and evolution of the "Shaolin Cinco Animales" or Shaolin Five Animal style of kung fu, a derivative of Ng Ga Kuen. Despite years of separation from its roots and little technical support, schools flourished. 

This made a deep impression on me and gave me a deep respect for all of these loyal followers who kept the style alive. The article is both about the resurgence of Ng Ga Kuen into Mexico by a few but more importantly about the survival and growth of the Five Animals style thanks to the hard work and effort of loyal instructors and Sifu in Mexico. Version en Español 

Inside Kung Fu January 2007 - Inside Job

Around 2003, I came across some footage of Sifu Paul Whitrod performing Chow Gar Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu and I deeply impressed. Somehow after all these years of being intimately involved with chinese martial arts, I had missed or ignored the Hakka systems and now I was intrigued. I could see something foreign yet somehow familiar, and was immediately hooked. I began searching for more information and found that it was very scarce and hard to find. There were literally no instructors in the USA and very little literature to be found.

I decided to contact Sifu Paul Whitrod directly in the UK and began a wonderful relationship that continues today. I am a student of Chow Gar, and hope to some day achieve a good standard of proficiency. Learning this style has taught me so much about my own kung fu and has increased my knowledge and understanding tremendously. This article is composed of edited portions of Sifu Paul Whitrod's excellent book on Chow Gar Southern mantis. I speaheaded the effort and did some of the editing, but the article remains Sifu Whitrods work.

Inside Kung Fu April 2007 - Kung Fu's Complete System

Shortly after the trip to Mexico, my Choy Lay Fut kung fu brother opened up a school and to support his efforts, I wrote my first article on Choy Lay Fut. The article was a great experience and alot of hard work. The article was very well received and it made me realize that I had accumulated a great deal of understanding, and gave me the confidence to continue writing and sharing my knowledge and my perspective. 

This article helped me reflect on kung fu as a holistic discipline, as a complete path to advancement. I forced me to look at the varios elements that are part of the whole discipline and to take stock of where I found myself in the path. This introspection revitaized my training and my study and infused my practice with motivation and energy. As a result, began a concerted, organized effort towards organizing my knowledge and applying it to the analysis of kung fu styles and the underlying principles, concepts and theories at work.

Inside Kung Fu September 2007 - Hall of Pain

Following on the suscess of the prior article, my kung fu brother asked for another article, this time focusing on the wooden dummies of the Choy Lay Fut system. Being one of my favorite subjects, I accepted. This article was also a great success and I received many acolades from the readership of the magazine. It was as much work, if not more than the previous article and as before, I ended up doing all of it, from taking the pictures, to researching the information and everthing in between. 

As with the prior article, I learned tons from working on this one and that plus the idea of helping to bring visibiity to my kung fu brother's school was my motivation. The article was a huge success but although I received accolades from the magazine readership, my kung fu brother was much less enthusiastic about it and even though I took all available measures to ensure that we had the same vision, it was not what he envisioned. It was at this time that I decided that I would not do any further writing for someone else or about someone else. My ideas, I found were as worthwhile as those of any kung fu practitioner out there and my knowledge, understanding, insight and experience were better than most. It was time to write about me. Version en Español 

In 2006 I working with a younger kung fu brother, helping with his understanding of kung fu and of the Ng Ga Kuen style which he as learning, but at a very slow pace. I shared with him openly and this turned into an opportunity to visit his school and conduct seminars for his students and private training with him. Out of this training and this relationship came the article "Dragons from the South",

which describes some of the areas and focus of our training and of what I shared with this younger kung fu brother and his school. At the time, I was deeply focused on codifying the Ng Ga Kuen style, laying out its principles, its theories and concepts into a system that could be transmitted to others with reproducible results. Using what I had learned from my training and from the various teachers, I analyzed and began to document the underlying workings of the style. I also spent a good deal of time defining testing the proper combat combat/sparring applications of the style.

Some of this work is described in this article. Although I did write about my kung fu brother's school, most of the content is about what I was involved in at the time. Version en Español

Inside Kung Fu, July 2008 - Kung Fu's Buried Treasure

The tools and techniques of traditional kung fu training are very valuable for any type of style or sport modality. I am a believer and proponent of wooden dummy training as a essential and practical tool for combat training, and this article was written to convey some of the ideas that I have developed in my years of using a variety of wooden dummies. The dummy used for the article is a special design that optimizes the dummy for modern sport combat but also takes advantage of its original design and intent to develop and sharpen a variety of required martial skills.

The concept of cross-training is used to convey the use of time honored traditional methods, tools, techniques for developing, improving and optimizing skill, reflex, speed, strength, balance, timing, distance, all of which are necesary for empty hand combat, whether it be self-defense, tournament, street-fighting, ring fighting or mma type no-holds barred competition.

Grand Master Ark Yuey Wong Articles

Ng Ga Kuen Articles

Choy Lay Fut Articles


This article was published in the July 2008 issue of Inside Kung Fu Magazine. To see a pdf of the article please visit . All photos were taken on location at Shen Kung Fu Academy in Oceanside, California.

By: Sifu Mario Figueroa

As a martial artist, you are on a never-ending quest. It is an on-going effort to improve, to gain more knowledge, to find new insight and of course, to increase your skill. You endlessly practice the methods and techniques of your chosen style and depending on your makeup, age and level of advancement, make incremental gains in physical ability and combat effectiveness. Should you need to engage in combat, will your style, its approach and its training methods bring you victory?

To answer an unhesitating “yes” is an indication of the vanity and arrogance that plagues the martial arts as a whole. Read any online forum today and you will easily see how well entrenched this mentality is. The reality is that no one can really know, and that is the reason for our on-going training, to continually improve… to better our chances. Confidence is good. The ego to believe you have all the answers is not. False security is fatal.

Cross Training - An age old Practice

For centuries, different martial arts styles and systems have jealously guarded their methods and techniques, keeping them within their specific family, group or lineage. While this may have safeguarded proprietary knowledge, it also resulted in stagnation and stunted further development and growth.

Yet older still is the practice of learning, adopting and sharing knowledge as a way of expanding, diversifying a styles repertoire and improving its effectiveness. Many styles have been born out of joining, adding and melding of different approaches, techniques and methods. In the early 1900’s, forward thinking masters formed the famous Ching Woo Athletic Association for the purpose of strengthening and growing traditional Chinese Martial Arts. Even the very cradle of martial arts, the Shaolin Temple may be the best and most ambitious example of martial arts cross-training, something like a combat think-tank.

In the early 90’s, the UFC demonstrated the fallacy of closed mindedness. Modern competitors learned that adopting methods and techniques from other styles is essential to their success. Ground fighting became compulsory and the “ground and pound” was born. Then learning ended and all went back to their closed camps and to business as usual. But why stop there? The Gracies took traditional Jiu Jitsu and evolved it to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and mixed martial artists adopted ground fighting, added that to their stand up fighting and improved the competitive landscape. Is that all there is? Have we reached the apex of combat technology? Not by a long shot.

Skills Training in Chinese Kung Fu

What makes a good fighter? Technically speaking it is a combination of stamina, endurance, speed, accuracy and strength. These are valued assets regardless of the style you have chosen and to facilitate their attainment, each style has developed its own training methods. Every skilled fighter whether in the mat, the dojo or the octagon will exhibit these traits in good measure.

Still, everyone can point to someone who possesses higher, subtler, intangible abilities, beyond those just mentioned. An old master, perhaps your teacher, a champion boxer, and some of the top competitors in the mixed martial arts will all have that certain something that keeps them ahead of the rest. These unique fighters may have obtained these traits naturally or they may have developed them through some training method.

So it is clear that there are other attributes that can greatly benefit martial artists, but what is not clear is how to go about acquiring them. This is where Chinese kung fu excels and offers a wide variety of training methods. A majority of these methods were developed in secrecy and have been closed to those outside a specific style, system or subgroup. As more and more information is available on various arts and styles, and shared in books, magazines, dvd's, internet forums, websites and video sites such as you tube, skills such as rooting, centering, sticking, sensitivity, flow, relaxed power, jing/explosive power, short power, iron palm and iron body conditioning are now coming to light.

Semantics and martial arts movies have cast a fuzzy veil on Chinese martial arts but it is easily lifted by a bit of investigation. Fa Jing, Chin Na, Dim Mak, and Chi Kung are more examples of the skills and methods that are valued in Chinese Kung Fu and sought after by those training CMA. To cast these ideas off, or scoff and ridicule them due to their flowery names or their mysterious nature, as some do is to shut off a world of possibilities. Granted, some of these concepts seem elusive and can sound esoteric to the unfamiliar, but what are important are the tangible gains that are made by training in them.

For example rooting includes the ability to stay on your feet and to generate power when encountering an opposing force and/or in a restricted space. Chi Kung develops higher lung capacity which enhances stamina, endurance and strength. Sensitivity and stickiness are the skill to anticipate the movements of the opponent and maintain proper distance.

Dummy Training at Shen Kung Fu Academy (

The Wooden Man – An Advanced Training Device

The mook jong or wooden man is typically associated with the wing Chun style of kung fu and is the hallmark of this famous fighting system. However, wooden dummy training was developed in the Shaolin temple and is part of the training of a number of styles derived from and influenced by Shaolin kung fu such as Choy Lay Fut, Ng Ga Kuen, Hung Gar, Fut Gar, and others. This wide spread use and retention over the centuries is a testament to its importance and effectiveness as a training device.

The wooden dummy trains many advanced skills of the Chinese martial arts. However there are 3 primary advanced skills that are of utmost importance to fighters from all styles and disciplines. These are body conditioning, flow and distance.

The strength and ability to withstand strikes is often what makes the difference in a fight and lack of it has ended many prematurely. Wooden dummy training strengthens and conditions the most important blocking and striking surfaces of the body, such as inner and outer forearm, elbows, shins, insteps, feet, fists, palms, backhands, and fingers. Consistent use of the wooden dummy develops amazing resistance and strength in these areas.

While theories and terms vary, wooden dummy training helps to develop what is termed “the 3 distances”, also known as 3 gates in some styles. This refers to long distance, intermediate or transitional distance and inside or close distance. Stand-up fighters prefer the middle distance for example, while ground fighting is obviously a close in fighting style. Mixed-martial arts on the other hand, work the intermediate and inside distances. The objective in Chinese kung fu is to master all 3 ranges. Long distance consists of swinging strikes and of long-range kicks and sweeps which are used to set up and manipulate the opponent and to soften up his defenses. The middle range is where hooks, uppercuts, stop kicks and where parries, redirecting techniques and centerline control are used both to cause damage and to transition into the close distance where grappling, locks, throws, take downs and other finishing moves can be deployed.

Flow refers to smooth, relaxed power, to putting combinations of techniques together, to follow up, and follow through. Flow involves staying with your opponent, using multiple levels and angles, to hit openings. A fighter that has mastered flow is efficient, does not tire as easily, creates openings and shows little wasted effort. Such a fighter is un-rushed, poised, and yet relentless.

Dummy Training for All-Styles

The new Shen cross-training dummy pictured in this article is designed and manufactured by Focus Fitness and distributed exclusively by Shen Martial Arts ( Based on the traditional mook jong, it incorporates key innovations that provide users with additional versatility. The body and limbs of Shen Cross-Training dummy are made to simulate skin, muscle and bone. This allows for strikes, kicks, and thrusts and bumps to be applied to all surfaces of the dummy. This means techniques ranging from head level kicks and thigh kicks to chin na grabs and grappling techniques can be applied. The hard body and arm / leg core provide excellent body strengthening and conditioning equal to or better than its wooden predecessor. Combinations of techniques using all 3 distance ranges can be drilled at full speed and power and can include shoots to the lower body and partial lifts for take downs. Hooking techniques, knees to the body can all be practiced with as resistance equal to the force of the techniques.


Cross training has long been a catalyst for improvement and evolution. Modern martial artists must continue to search for ways to not only better their skills and to maximize their performance, but also to add additional skills that can make them more effective.

It is important for the modern warrior to keep an open, receptive mind as well as to remain humble and unbiased as regardless of your level of advancement, there is much more to learn and develop on this never ending journey. Knowledge may be found in non-combat disciplines, and in non-physical fields, and much insight can be found in the very roots of the modern combat sports, in the traditional martial arts.

Whether you train in Karate, Krav Maga, Thai Boxing, Tae Kwon Do, Kenpo or Mixed Martial Arts, dummy training will help improve your training and with the proper methods can add important skills to your repertoire. New tools such as the Shen Cross Training Dummy allow modern martial artists to train important and necessary skills while exploring and incorporating different methods from both modern combat sports and traditional arts such as Chinese kung fu.

Sifu Mario Figueroa teaches traditional kung fu and chi kung in Oceanside, California. For seminar and workshop information visit or email [email protected]. For information on the Shen Cross-Training Dummy visit or email [email protected]

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