Dragon Breathing

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Breathing exercises and forms affirm the essential importance of awareness and focus as a foundation for performance.  Many variations of breathing drills can be found (see Breathing and Chi).  Some are exercises as within Chi Kung, others are full blown forms which are rigorously perfected (as in Sanchin).  At Iron Crane School, we incorporate Tan Jun Breathing into every class.  In addition, we practice three completely different breathing forms, An Mai Chuan, Dragon Breathing, and Sanchin.  Each form provides its own unique glimpse into breath, and its many reflections, and manifestations within our movement.  Here, our focus is Dragon Breathing.  I first saw this form performed on video by one of Master Archibeque’s students, Charles Wilk as part of a demonstration at what I believed to be Evergreen College in Olympia, WA.  I was very impressed with the form, and regretted I never had time to hook up with Sifu Wilk to learn it.  Some years later, I was teaching one of his students, and as he warmed up he executed the form.  I had him teach me on the spot.  Sifu Wilk can probably add a bit more to this, but my observation is the form has traditional origins in China.  Many of its moves echo what has been preserved from medieval times in drawings of martial artists practicing breath control and Chi Kung.  Concurrently, the form includes many moves, which though only implied in the most subtle way, are devastatingly effect attacks against balance and joints.  When I first learned the form, it was referred to simply as breathing exercise.  Dragon Breathing is what we call it

Sifu Wilk’s Additional Comments:

After visiting the site, Sifu  Charles Wilk offered these addional comments which complete our overview for this remarkable form.

“A few notes on the Dragon Breathing form

The form is based on the teachings of the southern sil lum temple gung fu combining elements of both Buddhist and Taoist chi cultivation systems.

The form is derived from the techniques of the traditional Chinese five animals style which I studied in my youth. The form contains movements primarily from the dragon (spirit training) but also includes teachings of the tiger (dynamic tension exercise), crane (circular movements), mantis (for speed)...note that some teachers use the symbol of the panther instead of the mantis, and the cobra (for breath control.)

The form also is designed to help develop body protection or iron shirt. Students go through conditioning exercises and are taught to withstand punches and kicks while performing the form. Herbal formulas and “Hit Wines” are used. In addition the principles of dim mak are revealed as each movement is studied for its potential in combat.

It should be noted that although the dragon breathing form is taught to beginning students as an introduction to hay gung, the form is actually a very advanced set. The form is designed for older practitioners and can be used for healing as well as self defense. The form contains many chin na (joint locking and control) movements along with pressure point and iron palm techniques. This form can be considered a complete fighting style unto itself.

Originally this form was over one hundred movements long, containing many repetitive cycles. With the help of Grand master Archibeque I modified the form and taught the short version to over one hundred people in the early 1980's. I am glad to see it has since taken on a life of its own and continues to inspire the essence of old school Chinese martial arts.

I like the way you and your students perform the set and I like the name “Dragon Breathing Form” as well.”

I hope this is helpful.

Charles Wilk

Here’s a view of Master Charles Wilk taken from the original recording


We apologize for the poor quality of the videos below.  These have been extracted from dated archives which were degraded and of poor quality.  Currently, these are the best available.  We share them in that spirit, believing it better to show what we have available than to use nothing.



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