Kung Fu greeting: meaning and execution

The greeting in Kung Fu

The first thing to say is that in most of the martial arts the greeting is a form of respect demonstration:

It can be considered as:

  • A middle ground between a handshake and a military salute
  • A goodwill demonstration
  • A gesture of friendship
  • A gesture of detachment from the idea of hostility / violence (read Violence and martial arts)
  • An apologetic gesture for any damage that could be done (read Acceptance and prevention of pain)
  • An indirect declaration of belonging to a certain style / school

Depending on the situation, there are various kinds of hand salutations and each of them has a specific meaning / context in the economy of martial etiquette.

A note by Master Kongling – We do not like too much the formal aspects of martial arts but this is one of the few that has a serious meaning in terms of respect.

In Kung Fu, a lot of schools have their own salutations but the most important and diffuse is the one that consists of putting the left hand (open) on the right hand (closed): let’s see it in detail.

How to correctly execute the basic greeting

The premises

A martial salute is not a common salute, it often falls within a context of “struggle” (eg. sparring) and especially in those cases, it must follow certain safety rules:

  • The distance must be longer than the maximum elongation of the potentially offending combat elements (limbs when we are free-hand and weapons when we are armed)
  • The mind must already be focused on the struggle and ready to counteract the eventual leaks of correctness of who is in front of us
  • The eyes (read The overall view: see everything, do not look at anything) and all of our senses must never stop controlling the surrounding scenario (who is in front of us in the first place)

The complete gesture (formal version)

If the occasion is formal (eg. in front of a master), the first thing to do is to go in a position similar to the military “attention”:

  • Body straight, arms leaning on the sides, feet slightly at 45°, legs parallel and attached
  • The left leg should move close to the right (and not vice versa)
  • The position should transmit confidence (the eyes look frontally at the height of the base of the neck, the expression must be serious, confident but not aggressive)

The greeting:

  • In our school, the arms open laterally (as wings) until they are parallel to the ground (both hands are open)
  • At this point, both arms bend to allow the 2 hands to touch (at the height of the chest, in this phase the breath in starts, read Breathe Yoga: the warrior’s breathing)
  • When the 2 hands are near to our face, the right one closes like a fist (read How to tighten the fist) and the other remain opened
  • The point of contact is the knuckle of the right index finger which rests in the center of the palm of the left hand
  • After the contact, the left hand pushes the right one frontally (in this phase the breath out starts)
  • The breathing and the frontal movement end when the arms are bent at 90°

The conclusion:

  • Those of a lower grade wait in position for the person in front to finish their greeting
  • Then the arms return to the sides of the body and the left leg open laterally

Informal occasions

When, for example, we casually meet a master on the street and we want to greet him in a respectful but less formal way, we can simply execute the core part of the salute:

  • The left hand cover the right one (eyes at the base of the neck)
  • We shake the hands 2-3 times (with a cordial expression)

The meaning of the gesture

The greeting of Kung Fu in Chinese is called Bao Quan Li:

  • The right hand closed into a fist symbolizes the fighting force of the warrior (Yin)
  • The left hand (Yang) that controls it, means respect (almost as if to put the safety on a gun)

What to say while greeting

In 6 Dragons Kung Fu we do not say anything but generally speaking, it can be said:

  • Huan ying (welcome, 歡迎, pronounced “qǐng”)
  • Qing (please, 請, pronounced “huānyíng”)

Final notes

  • This is how we perform the salutation, it is useless to say that there are a lot of greetings and variations (even of the basic one we have seen)
  • In addition to this, we have a 6 Dragons Kung Fu’s specific greeting but it is thought only to the advanced practitioners who follow the Core Course and do the exams (read Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course)
  • It is interesting to say that some greeting methods hide combat techniques in their movements

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Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • Do you like this greeting?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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