The “Sea Maau Hok,” or Three Shapes: Cat, Crane, and Snake combined fist boxing, is a lesser-known set taught and maintained by only a scant few schools of Hung Gar. This method was choreographed sometime circa 1940 or 1950 by Sifu Leung Wing Haang in a fastly modernizing city of Hong Kong. The Sea Maau Hok is not from the Shaolin Temple, nor is it hundreds of years old. This helps explain its unique composition in comparison to older Hung Gar sets, which had all or most of their formulation within the walls of Shaolin.
During the mid-1900s, the streets of Hong Kong were bustling, extraordinarily crowded, and dangerous. Numerous family clans and societies were vying for control of those streets. Bloody gang wars were fought to hold or expand territory, protect economic interests, and show whose Clan, Family, and or Society was the best in Martial Arts. Demonstrating superior martial skills meant your school attracted more students, and your gang became wealthier and more influential.
By 1950 Kung Fu had gone through a form of mixed martial arts revolution. The Boxer Rebellion and Secret Societies spent the past few decades openly sharing the secrets of their masters with one another, secrets many swore blood oaths never to reveal. They did this to preserve China, especially Southern China, from foreign and domestic threats. The gun and Western Boxing had been introduced to China, as had Japanese Jujitsu/Judo and Karate. Kung Fu was in serious need of an upgrade.
Another point of consideration is that the new Kung Fu styles developed in Hong Kong were specific for street fighting and dueling, not formation fighting on a battlefield. The monastic lifestyle did not influence these new styles of Kung Fu either. Gang members in Hong Kong were not monks. They had jobs and side hustles. Families and territories to protect. They could not afford to train 8 hours a day and then another 6 hours of meditation and contemplation of religious doctrine. The Buddhist nature of the Shaolin-derived martial arts faded and grew distant. These were no longer arts of self-defense and protection of others but systems reformulated to be aggressive and offensively minded.
These renovations to Chinese martial arts are evident within the Sea Maau Hok. This modern set serves as an interesting demarcation in the advancement of Kung Fu, and Hung Gar in particular. Rebel Shaolin Monks and Hung Clan fighters of the Boxer Rebellion gained fame as virtuous champions of the Chinese people and engaged in exploits worthy of the Chinese opera. Through globalization and foreign-inspired industrialization, their descendants become cynical members of quasi-criminal organizations struggling to survive the rat race of city life—the transformation from wild Tigers to scrappy ally cats.
The Cat, Crane, and Snake combined fist boxing set is a fighting form in the purest sense. All its techniques are arranged in a highly logical fashion. A near-limitless number of 3 to 5 count combinations can be extracted directly from the form and drilled into the thousands of reps. Cat, Crane, and Snake’s combined fist boxing set keeps with Hung Gar’s prime combat theory of cross-sectional interception and attacking the adversary’s flank.
The Sea Maau Hok does this in several ways. It employs many long arm or long bridge techniques from the ancient Vajramushti/Lama Pai(Lion’s Roar) adopted and heavily utilized by Hung Gar and Choy La Fut. Also, by cross and zig-zag (seven-stars) stepping to simultaneously retreat or avoid while attacking and using compound circular blocking methods common to Crane and Snake. Sifu Leung Wing Haang introduced rooster hops, deceptive small one-legged multi-directional jumps for outmaneuvering an adversary, and can be used as tricky foot stomps to break toes and ankles.
The Sea Maau Hok is a “softer” set within Hung Gar’s lineage, imparting the redirection of force, small circular movements, and minor angular alterations of attack and defense rather than large movement sweeping wedging and displacement. The cat movements of this set are a variation of the Tiger and Leopard of Hung Gar’s traditional five animals. The cat is smaller and shares characteristics of both but is neither—the cat techniques are that of an ally cat’s. They appear as Tiger and Leopard but are light, sneaky, unconventional, and underhanded in the application.
The Crane and the Snake naturally also apply the principles of Yin over Yang. The Sea Maau Hok frequently uses circular crane wing blocks and deflections, crane beak pecks to the ears, eyes, temples, and whipping open hand strikes that cause tremendous pain. The Snake entangles, entraps, and ensnares an adversary’s arms, leaving them open to strikes to the same targets favored by the Crane, including the throat and solar plexus. Snake uses low line kicks to the inside and outside of the ankles and knees, quickly kicking up into the groin.
The Cat, Crane, and Snake combined fist boxing set is not absent of heavy-handed shots to the head or heart of an adversary. Tiger and Fire Element techniques of straight-line strikes to the heart center and bludgeoning hammer strikes to the skull are showcased, and one is encouraged to train them, but they are minor roles within the Sea Maau Hok sequence.
Unlike most older Hung Gar forms, the Sea Maau Hok does not contain any hard dynamic tension movements prevalent in the pillar sets of Hung Gar (Taming the Tiger, Tiger Crane, Five Animals, and Iron Wire). Due to its softer, more yielding nature and emphasis on redirection and avoidance, the Cat, Crane, and Snake combined fist boxing set forgoes Iron Bridge and Iron Body conditioning found in the above-mentioned pillar sets.
The Sea Maau Hok is a set that meets the need for efficient street-fighting using concepts familiar to Hung Gar while filling in the gaps for someone who may not have time to train as hard as traditional Hung Gar required. But at the same time will lend itself to highly dedicated training and provide a plethora of tested and proven drills and combos for direct application, blending in seamlessly to the Hung Gar curriculum.
As both a longtime student of Chinese martial arts and someone who has trained for and applied techniques of Sea Maau Hok, I can attest to its validity. The cat techniques, in particular, are versatile and reliable while grappling for a dominant position. Cat claws can also distract an adversary so that you can deliver a potentially fight-ending kill shot. For example, a quick fingertip raking of their eyes and seizing their left ear to hold them in place with your right hand, followed by an immediate snake tongue strike into and down their windpipe with your left.
The Red Door Society of Hung Gar I have inherited proudly maintains and trains the Sea Maau Hok set. Teaching is available to all who are righteous and courageous. Our world is now populated and almost entirely governed by greedy, self-entitled violent pro-pedophile cowards who scream for authoritarianism. You likely will encounter these lunatics. It would be best if you were prepared and ready. I encourage you to find a martial arts or combat sports gym that will train you and train you right.
If you are interested in knowing more about my tradition of Red Door Clan Hung Gar, please feel free to contact me directly.