Liuhe Quan: A Method For Martial Art Mastery
It is one thing to be an expert of an ancient craft, it is much more impressive to be able to facilitate that wisdom to a modern audience in a manner easily understood.
Enter Henny Eleonora.
Listen to Henny teach and you will hear complex classical ideas properly understood, clearly expressed, and applied in powerful ways.
Though the exact movements of another style may differ from yours, the powerful wisdom of them is often a universal language.
Whether brashly spoken or eloquently expressed, wisdom is a valuable gift which helps all who receive it.
Read on to learn about the life of a Liuhe Quan expert and the philosophy of movement he can impart that will help you upgrade your training, regardless of training background!
History of Henny Eleonora
While growing up in South America, Henny Eleonora had two especially important things that guided his future path: a love for kung fu movies and a household filled with many farm animals.
Henny’s father was a wrestler who, when he retired from competing to focus on his family, began teaching his son. Between karate lessons from a local club and the training his father gave, Henny found a love for martial arts that would only continue to grow.
Whenever he would get the chance to head over to the cinema, Henny would watch the heroic images of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan and dream of traveling overseas to train.
Back home, the Eleonora household kept numerous animals and it was up to Henny and his father to provide food for them all. The work of Henny’s father brought him in contact with many Chinese people, friends whom they would get vegetables from for their animals.
In return to helping pluck the vegetables, Henny soon began learning Chinese martial arts from his father’s friends.
Years passed and Henny went on to move to Amsterdam, home to numerous high-quality dutch kickboxers. As wont to do, the local talent surrounding Henny acted as inspiration for Henny to continue to improve as a fighter. It was here in Amsterdam that Henny crossed paths with the Luk Hop Moon School and began to train under Master Deng Ji Xiang.
In 1984, his earlier cinema-fueled dream of martial art adventure came true—he moved to Asia to study martial arts in the region of kung fu masters, carrying on their legacy of skill and wisdom.
He would continue to travel for training, traversing to Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, and Cangzhou to meet with multiple masters.
This journey brought him experience in various internal styles, Xing Yi, Pa Kua, Tai Chi, and Dao Yin (the precursor to qigong); the opportunity to compete on a televised kung fu competition with Wu Bin and Donnie Yen as guest judges; and even recognition as an official student under one of the last old Liu He masters, Zhang Shaofu.
It is Henny’s goal to bring the training you can find overseas in Mainland China or Hong Kong to Europe and beyond.
Currently, Henny is preparing to host a kung fu training camp next summer in the northern mountains of Udine, Italy. Known as the Academy of Harmony, the martial arts experience will bring together the talent of multiple high-level martial artists, including experts from China and even a USA-based martial arts coach/choreographer for Cirque Du Soleil.
A (Brief) Lesson on Liuhe Quan
Said by some to be created by the famed general of the Song dynasty, Yue Fei, the complete system of Liuhe Quan encompasses boxing methods, weapons training, solo practice, partner practice, qigong exercises, and more. Though the exact origin of the style is up for debate—many styles and lineages muddle history and lay claim to Yue Fei simply for the associative fame—what is known is that it is an older style which influenced many of the martial art systems of its time in China.
Within the twenty empty hand and weapon sets learned, practitioners learn to work with apparatuses such as the glaive, sword, spear, nine-section whip. Other weapons trained and considered specialties of the system include the Dangong (slingshot), Danshou Gou (single hook), and Lanma Jue (a weapon used to stop a horse).
What’s in a Name?
The name of Liuhe Quan actually has various potential origins it can harken back to. Let’s break down the name before we look at why it was chosen.
Liu is Mandarin Chinese for the number six. Easy enough to understand there.
Quan translates to “fist” and is often used in a name to designate a martial art system (for example, taijiquan, bajiquan, huaquan, etc.).
He, on the other hand, gets a bit deeper. It is often translated as “harmony”, however this relates more to connectivity and unity than it does peace and absence of conflict.
Liu He—or, the Six Harmonies—is a concept integral to martial art skill. It is a foundation of proper connection throughout the actions of a practitioner.
One interpretation is the coordination of the internal qualities—Xin (heart), Yi (intent), and Qi (vital energy)—and the coordination of external body parts—hands and feet, elbows and knees, shoulders and crotch.
Another interpretation pulls from ancient Chinese thought. Liu He can refer to the four cardinal directions—north, south, east, west—in addition to that which is above (heaven) and that which is below (earth).
Together, that understanding of the universe is called Yu Zhou in Mandarin Chinese. If you break these two words/characters down, you’ll find that Yu means “time” and Zhou means “space”.
This becomes a lesson to pay attention to front, back, left, right, above, and below in each moment.
In other words, care about the entire process throughout space and time, coordinating your eyes and hands, your steps and body, your brain and strength.
“If there is left, there must also be a right, If there is a forward, there must be a back.” Henny mentions. It is easy to get caught focusing on only one limb or a single direction of movement. In order to coordinate movement in a significant manner, attention must be paid in ensuring all is acting together cohesively.
Though various groups may articulate the idea of Liu He differently, the idea remains the same; understanding the absolute unification of a being.
“Liu He is only a word, [it] simply means ‘six in combination’,” Henny explains. “It is a method, not a system. This method is within all arts you may practice. There is coordination of everything from inside to outside. Liu He is actually just a method in all things that you practice. When you bring it into a form, it is pretty complicated to physically use that harmony in the right time.”
A Balanced Approach
A person must be balanced. As much as we work out, we must also “work in”—cultivating awareness of our internal dialogue and learning how to coordinate our breath with the movements of our body.
Hard and soft approaches need to be balanced. Similar to how more and more modern MMA and Muay Thai gyms now offer yoga classes or massage to help the body recover and prevent imbalance, Henny also teaches Dao Yin.
“When we practice martial arts, we often put a lot of offense on our body. You push your body so far and do all kinds of crazy things. You don’t think about the future. [For example] what if I injure myself? Then there comes a moment where you start paying attention to the future things [your body's needs].”
If you want superb kicking ability, you need to stretch just as you need to strengthen. If you are seeking fluidity of movement, you need to address the processes that happen to you internally—in other words, your mind-body connection.
If there is confusion or hesitation in your think/feel/act process, your motion will be disjointed. That process has to be refined just as much as your muscles in order to be a higher level artist.
Though we live in a digital age where people can easily view and pick up movement, methods often get lost. A great teacher imparts theory and methodology so that you can recreate success for many more generations.
At the end of the day, isn’t that the ultimate goal of a martial arts lineage?
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