The Stealing Hands of Phoenix Eye Fist

Chu-Ka Shaolin

Phoenix Eye Fist is the only martial art that exclusively uses the knuckle of the index finger to strike the enemy. It makes no use of the flat fist or the vertical fist seen in Karate and other styles of Kung Fu. The movements of this style are peculiar to it in that the hands are always changing in rapid succession. The enemy is given no respite, as the Phoenix Eye exponent constantly strikes at the vital points, making it very difficult to retaliate in time. At one moment he is standing up attacking the head, and at the next he is crouching down attacking the groin or lower body.


All the strikes are close range, and the footwork involved is not like those of other styles of Shaolin such as Pak Mei or Chow Gar of the Southern style. Stances resemble more the Hung Kuen (Five Animals) also a Southern style, such as Horse Stance (ma pu) and Hanging Horse Stance (lo ma). There is no sign of the “Sanchin” stance so prevalent in other Southern styles. There is a lot of emphasis too on kicking, though not as much as on hand techniques. The kicks are almost always delivered after several hand moves, since it is believed that it is best to dazzle the opponent with a series of hand techniques to confuse the vision and then follow up with kicks. Such a rapid kick, unleashed after pinpoint hand strikes, is hard to stop.

Kicks are aimed at the groin or knee quite often and then the Chu-Ka exponent steps in with more hand attacks. Although the Phoenix Eye Fist is used a great deal, occasionally the Chu-Ka exponent will resort to open hand attacks such as Tiger Claw (hou-jau), Spearhand (chang-to-shan), Palm Heel (chang), Double Dragon Two Finger Eye Strike (Swang-loon).


Since the Chu-Ka man believes that high kicks are slower and more easily seen, he concentrates his arsenal of kicks on the lower part of the body. With the high kick you are standing longer on one leg and this can be dangerous with an experienced enemy. The four basic kicks are the Lightning Kick (san-tien-char), which is a straight, rising, forward snap kick, delivered with great speed and accuracy; it must be fast and accurate to be effective. The ball of the foot is the striking area. The next of the four is the Heart Penetrating Kick (chuan-sin chian). As the name suggests this kick is aimed at the heart region with explosive force and pinpoint accuracy. It is a forward, rising straight thrust kick, striking with the heel. It requires much training to perfect. The third kick is the Leg Stopping Kick (Tan-Chian) used against an advancing opponent to check his forward movement and scatter the focus of his power. This kick is aimed at the shin, knee and inner thigh. The heel and rear portion of the sole of the foot is the region used to strike. The fourth kick is the Deflecting Kick (Teau-chian) which is an arec-like kick used to deflect an attacker’s kick as it is being launched. It is especially useful when an opponent confines his attacks to the lower body. As it is often difficult to stop low body kicks the Chu-ka exponent deflects the kick and spins the leg of the attacker to one side, leaving one side of the body in a vulnerable position for a counter-attack. The striking surfaces are the outer edge of the foot and the shin bone.

Though these four kicks are the main ones, at a later stage there is a wider variety of kicking techniques.


The hand techniques (sou fa) are simple and sometimes elaborate. Nine different patterns of handwork form the fundamental exercises of the style and they are the foundation for future training. It has been stressed that it is absolutely essential to master these before going on to further training.

Bow Drawing Hands (kai-kung shou) is the first exercise which involves stance and posture combinations and the concerted actions of the hands and arms. The name, Bow Drawing Hands refers to the way the hands are drawn, as is drawing a bow while holding it vertically in front of the body. It develops a solid stance through which a foundation is built; then the power of the entire body can be transmitted through the hands and arms and directed at selected targets. Relaxed and slow hand movements are used in this exercise combined with very fast movements with no unnecessary tension in the arms. It develops the use of muscular contraction and relaxation which is necessary for fast and powerful hand strikes.

Golden Duck (chin ya chuan lien) refers to a golden duck emerging from beneath a lotus leaf. It attempts to describe the deceptive delivery of the Phoenix Eye Fist so that it is difficult to see and stop. This is the main exercise of Chu-ka and the foundation for all other Chu-ka handwork.

Stealing Hands (tauh-shou) means that the exponent steals the initiative, taking the opportunity for attack away from his opponent. This exercise gives the student the basic ingredients for learning how to deliver speedy, accurate and forceful short punches with his Phoenix Eye Fist.

Aggressive Hand (kai kung shou) has the same Chinese ideogram as for Bow Drawing Hands. It involves advancing forward while seizing and grasping the opponent then striking him with short punches. It develops strong fighting spirit and the necessary aggression.

Dodging Horse Strike (san-sarn mai) is a further hand technique which involves dodging to one side while moving forward and delivering a punch – in one fluid movement.

The drill is important because it teaches the trainee how to evade an enemy’s frontal attack while checking and attacking him on a different line.

Side Body Horse Strike (siei sarn tau) is similar to the previous one and differs only in that there are more short punching actions which are aimed at multiple attackers.

Plucking The Moon From The Sea ( hai tee lau yeh) is one of the more devastating hand methods involving both the Side Body Horse and the Golden Duck methods, combined with a deceptive, sudden lowering of the body to the ground in a crouching posture from which a hand is used in a plucking fashion to attack the testicles. The hand is based on the tiger claw attack but does not require a great deal of force usually associated with the tiger claw.

Thrust Penetrate Tear Hand (chu ching shou) uses a thrust of the hands in a spear like fashion at a vital spot and to tear using tiger claw. It is vital points attack training method.

Deflect Striking Hand (teau kher shou) is Chu-ka way of deflecting an enemy’s striking hand then in the same motion deliver a downward strike to him with the Phoenix Eye Fist. It teaches the student to counterattack instinctively and develops fast reflexes.


After the trainee has completed the fundamentals he goes on to the Chuan Tao and starts with the most basic one: Kai San, which means Opening The Mountain. The title signifies the start of the trainee’s journey, a long and an arduous one, an uphill struggle. It is only one of the seventeen hand and foot patterns used in Chu-Ka. In the list below we give them in Cantonese and Mandarin.


Is the present Master Teacher of the Chu-Ka Shaolin and he makes his home in the Ayer Itam quarter of Penang, in Malaysia. His master was the late Lee Siong Pheow who lived from 1886 to 1961. He was known to be a very fierce fighter in Canton, his home town. Sifu Leong began his training at the age of eleven. When he was a small boy in his home village it was necessary to be able to defend oneself as there were several gangs around mainly of youths who were looking for trouble. So on the advice of a friend Sifu Leong went to a local herbalist who was known to be an expert in the deadly art of Phoenix Eye Fist. The herbalist had recently come from China to live in Penang and taught very few students. He would often turn people who were prospective students away and was known to be very strict. Only students of good character were accepted by him. A further restriction was that he limited his students to those of Chinese or Cantonese origin. This led to Sifu Leong being rejected at first but the youngster’s persistence and his weak looking body stirred some sympathy in the feelings of the teacher and at length he was accepted. From that day on Sifu Leong stuck with the hard and strenuous Chu-Ka drills and reached his own level as a Master in his own right.

Sifu Leong says that only through constant practice will one reach the correct power technique, necessary for fighting. After thirty five years of Chu-Ka Sifu has come to understand the concepts of his art very well. On his master’s death he was recognized as the head authority of Chu-Ka Shaolin, a position accepted by the master’s widow, herself an accomplished herbalist.

Credits: Article excerpts from Sean Dervan, Francis Dervan and Tony Durham who went in search of Shaolin masters in the Malaysia region.

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