The following is an excerpt from the beginning chapter of Chinese Gentle Art Complete: The Bible of Ngo Cho Kun, written by Yu Chiok Sam and translated by Alexander L. Co. This first-ever re-release of the book since 1917 is bi-lingual and contains photos not in the original to highlight the text.

二十世紀,一武裝和平時代也。文明愈進步,殺人之器,亦講求愈精。而柔術一門,逐若天演淘汰之列,不知槍湮彈雨,賁育原無所施,而短兵相接時則柔術尚矣。日俄一役,其彰明較著者也,且流水不腐,戶樞不蠹。研究衛生學者,大多以運動為增進身體之健康,夫運動法日術相接之佳良,又熟有過柔術者乎。吾國滿清未造,積弱相仍,摺紳士夫,縛雞無力。光復以 後,當軸者稍知文弱之不足競存也,於是學校兼課柔術之文,然則柔術雖一技之微,而小足以保身,大足以強種,使上行下效,化病夫為健兒,中國前途庶有生氣乎。

The 20th century is a time of war and peace. The advancement of science has improved the weapons of war to a very advanced stage. With the use of guns and bullets, the rigorous training of hand-to-hand combat has almost been eliminated. But when infantry confront each other, the arts of empty hand combat, or martial arts, are still excellent tools. Their practical applications were evident during the Sino-Japanese-Russian war. Running water doesn’t stagnate, and a constantly used door hinge doesn’t rust. Most hygienists agree that exercise helps develop a strong, healthy body. But, can the benefits of Western physical exercise be better than Kung-Fu?

During the post-Manchu era, people still pursued a scholarly education. But the scholars were all weak in physique. But after the Republic, the leaders of the nation realized the insufficiency of promoting only education and neglecting the exercise of the physique. That is why kung-fu is now a supplemental subject in schools. Although kung-fu is just a small factor in the development of the people, it can help in developing the individual and in turn produce a healthy, strong population. People in all levels can become healthy individuals, rather than the former “sick men of Asia.” In this way, there will be a greater future for China.


A man has only two hands and two feet. To be able to use them effectively, the eyes and the hands should be coordinated. A trained kung-fu practitioner can move his hands and feet gracefully, as though he were dancing. Once he masters this art, he can defend himself easily when confronted with an opponent. He can still manage even against 10 opponents, due to his dexterity in moving and jumping around. His opponent cannot catch him. There are four principles that you must know to apply kung-fu effectively. They are:

一、以靜待動 夫動則氣浮,靜則神定。以靜待動,彼則竭而我盈,所謂先發制人,未有不反為人所制也。

1. Using passive inaction to wait and counter the opponent’s action (attack).
When the opponent moves hastily, his chi will rise. If you are passive, then you will be alert and attentive. Use inactive passiveness to wait for the opponent to act first. Then the opponent will be open to a counter while you are fully covered (protected). This is what the saying, “those who attack first will only be defeated,” means.

二、以柔濟剛 災炎者滅,燒匕者缺。齒以剛折,舌以柔存。彼身可合圍,力能扛鼎,而我一挑半剔已挫折有余矣。

2. Use gentleness to conquer hardness.
The razing fire is quickly destroyed. The tooth is easily broken because it is hard. It is hard to destroy the tongue because it is soft. The opponent may be robust and have the strength to lift a tripod. But with a flick and slash technique, you can easily defeat him.

三、以速御遲 秦中逐鹿,捷足先得,況兩雄相角,勝負轉瞬間乎。惟電閃風行,靜如處女,出如脫兔,是非笨伯所能當也。

3. Use speed to control the slower opponent.
The speedy runner arrives first. When two strong fighters engage in combat, victory is determined within a fraction of a second, like the speed of lightning and the blowing rage of the wind. Be passive like a lady. But if you move, be as agile as a rabbit. This is beyond the skill of a clumsy person.

四、以虛擊實 將欲取之,必姑與之。欲將與之,必姑棄之。出不急以攻無備,此柔術不二法門也。虛與委蛇,俾應接不暇,而吾技進矣。夫柔術錯綜變化,自非筆墨所能形容,而能動中機宜,箭無虛發吾知其必有合也。

4. Feint before you strike. Be deceptive.
If you plan to get in, pretend that you are not interested. If your intention is to get out, pretend that you want to get in. Don’t show your intention to attack so that you can catch him off guard. Pretend to be relaxed so when you suddenly approach him, this is the proper time to attack. There are so many possibilities and changes when using this gentle art that the pen cannot fully describe them all. Act when a favorable opportunity arises. Don’t move aimlessly. Then you can manipulate the situation to your liking.

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