What is Chi Lin?
Chi Lin is a martial art from South East Asia that was taught in America by Grandmaster Dennis Decker. "Sifu", as we called him, died in 1997. His students are continuing the practice and teachings of his art throughout the United States. Chi Lin schools are usually privet where the art is taught by teachers to a select few students. This is not always the case but for the most part it's the rule rather then the exception.
Chi Lin has a few styles within the art that he taught. The Chi Lin Family, as "Sifu" liked to call his students, encompasses three different styles of fighting within the one art. Chi Lin Chuan Fa was taught during the 1970's when Sifu was teaching in Morgantown West Virginia. He also taught what he called Chi Lin Kempo, (Chi Lung Tao) during 1966-1984. Later, in 1980 he taught what he called Chi Ling Pai Gung Fu until his death in 1997. Chi Lin also has its own form of knife fighting called Bat Sou Gung, where selected students are taught to knife fight using chalk or magic markers to illustrate hits by the knife. All these styles make up Chi Lin.
What's the difference between the three? Master Decker would teach his art to very different people around the country. Most of the people he would instruct were experienced in other arts. He would tailor his art to fit the student. If a student studied Shotokan Karate, for example, he would teach them his art by relating it to the student's Karate. He would show the student techniques in such a way that they could use them within their own style. For people who studied Karate, he would often teach Chi Lin Kempo.
Chi Lin Chuan Fa was what he taught in Morgantown, West Virginia during the mid to late 1970's. The animal styles of Tiger. Crane, Leopard, Monkey, Butterfly, Dragon and Snake, just to name a few, make up this style. The art was changing, as he grew older and his perceptions about his movement, body alignment and power changed. In 1978 he began calling his art, Chi Ling Pai Gung Fu. The art included much of the same basics as Chi Lin Chaun Fa. Some of the forms were the same but some new ones were introduced as well.
The forms, over time, were influenced by The 8 Circles, (Circular Forms from Pa kua), and what "Sifu" called the 8 Rails, (8 forms that included the Pa Kua footwork with ascending and descending explosive energy and power). This is the essence of Chi Lin. The coiling and twisting of mass within these circles are another form of Snake or Dragon, and really is the central element to all Chi Lin. Furthermore, the animal styles of Tiger, Leopard, Dragon, Monkey, Eagle, Crane, Bear, Butterfly, Lion, Phoenix and Falcon are used within the circular footwork.
Chi Lin Kempo, Chi Lin Chaun Fa and Chi Ling Pai are really very similar. They are what he was teaching to different martial artists, with different backgrounds, at different times in his past. The movement all has the same feel to it. It all came from Grandmaster Decker's vast understanding of mass and motion. When you watch all the styles, you can see him moving. You can see his techniques and his understanding of fighting. In a room full of martial artists, I could pick out Chi Lin in a split second. The movements are very recognizable. They work. When you were hit by "Sifu", you were hit hard! His hands felt like bricks from his years of Iron Palm training! It was his complete understanding of mass, movement, energy and power that allowed him to fight and defeat opponents with grace and skill that was quite unique. He would end a fight in tenths of a second. You were on the ground looking up and wondering how you got there.
What is Chi Lin?
Chi Lin is more then just punching, kicking and blocking, however. Chi Lin is also about Control, Respect, Loyalty, Compassion, Caring, and Honesty. Respect for the teachers, the knowledge, the art and the "family", as well as for yourself. Loyalty to each other. Compassion towards people and all living things. Honesty with yourself and others. These are not just ideas that are written in a manual that are given lip service from time to time. These are ideas that need to be understood completely by the student. What do these words really mean? Their complete understanding is essential for the student to master the art. Then the student must put the understanding into practice through their own actions. The understanding only comes after careful observation of your own mind.
Meditation is taught to selected students to help them understand life through watching their own mind. Concentration mind exercises and awareness exercises make up what we call The Pre Meditation Exercises.
Once sufficient abilities to concentrate are developed, the student may be able to develop awareness and then may be able to meditate.
These exercises are used to Sharpen the Five Senses. To see more of what there is to see. To hear more of what there is to hear. To be able to sense more of what is going on in the environment and therefore to learn more about what is going on within and around you. This is important. Keen Observation and Awareness leads to Understanding and Wisdom. This is the Master's practice. Honestly, very few students actually take the art this far. Most are content to practice punching kicking and blocking. However, the advanced martial artist always deals with the mind and the body. A powerful developed body with a week mind is like a beautiful shell found on the beach. A hard outside with nothing in it. Empty. Likewise, a powerfully developed mind with a half-dead body is also not beneficial. There must be a balance between the two. This is Chi Lin.
The Chinese Unicorn is considered to be one of the rarest and most beneficial animals of Chinese Mythology. It is related to the Dragon and is one of the most powerful animals in the myths of ancient China.
The Chi Lin of myth is a gentle creature that has endless compassion for all life. It is also extremely intelligent and wise beyond our comprehension. A messenger of Heaven. That is why sighting a Chi Lin was taken very seriously by the people and government of ancient China.
The Chi Lin is considered very rare and special. When present in the land, it foretold of a benevolent and righteous ruler who would benefit the people.
The Chinese consider the foundation of their written language to have come from the Chi Lin based on the markings on its coat.