By: Huang Hanxun
Avalanche Steps Boxing Set
By Huang Hanxun
(Originally published 1955. Brennan Translations, January 2020. 59 pages.)
Review by Christopher Dow
Any cursory read of kung fu history will contain something like this: Damo introduced chi-kung-like exercises to the Shaolin Temple, and the monks, utilizing these and martial arts introduced from the outside, created Shaolin kung fu. After that, as the dozen or so Shaolin styles spread beyond the temple walls, they proliferated into several thousand different styles.
The moment I saw the title of Avalanche Steps Boxing Set, I thought, okay, here is one of those thousands of styles whose names are lost in a forest where only the most significant styles—such as Long Fist, Wing Chun, Tai Chi, Hung Gar, and so forth—stand out.
Thankfully, author Huang set me straight in his introduction by stating that Avalanche Steps Boxing is the name of the second basic set of Mantis Boxing, after Fourteen-Line Tantui. The set, he says, comprises forty-seven postures that is performed as a continuous sequence, while expressing full power throughout. Huang’s introduction is well-constructed and succinctly lays out the background and principles of Avalanche Steps Boxing, though I would also have like to have seen a history of its development.
Apparently the form is a basic one and fairly simple to learn, with advance/attack alternating with retreat/defense. According to the author’s map of the form’s progression across its practice space, the practitioner advances along a straight line, takes a turn, advances the same distance along a parallel straight line, turns, does another parallel straight line, then turns and finishes with a fourth line. He also says that because of the alternating character of the attack and defense, that two practitioners can face off and perform the form, alternating in their attacks and defense. Doing this, he says, automatically makes the applications apparent.
The introduction ends with a discussion of three practice modes that enable the partner sets to work: Understanding, which is going through the entire set as a defender; Dividing, which is going through the entire set as an attacker; and Deconstructing, which is to separate out and practice particular techniques to more deeple study their dynamics and applications.
Then, without further ado, Huang launches into the form instruction section, which occupies the majority of the book. Each movement is described in words followed by a brief description of a possible application. The accompanying photos are faded and less than ideal, but at least you can see the basic postures.
Apparently, the original edition of the book ended after the form instruction section, but translator Paul Brennan has brought us the revised edition, which adds a chapter after the form instruction. This chapter, titled, “Something from My Thirty-Five Years of Mantis Boxing Knowledge,” contains a number of points about usage and the correct ways to use your body, limbs, and stepping to find greater efficiency and utility in the art.