20220930 Pangai Noon

Pangai-noon Kung Fu was a style of Southern Chinese Kung Fu that is no longer extant in its original form, but has been recreated from Uechi Ryu Karate, having been the basis for that art. The name Pangai-noon indicates that the art’s techniques are half-hard, half-soft.

Kanbun Uechi studied Southern Chinese kung fu and later would refer to the style as Pangai-noon (traditional Chinese characters: 半硬軟) meaning „half-hard, half-soft“. In the late 19th century and early 20th century Kanbun Uechi trained under a teacher and Chinese medicine hawker known in Japanese as Shū Shiwa (Chinese: Zhou Zihe 周子和 1874-1926). Shū Shiwa/Zhou Zihe’s life is not well documented. Some have suspected without conclusive evidence that he had connection with the secret societies which worked for the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and the restoration of Ming dynasty. Research by the Fuzhou Wushu Association reported in 1984 revealed that he was born in the Zhitian Village (直田村) in 1874 to family wealthy enough to have him educated in letters and fighting arts which included weapons and Tiger Fist Kung Fu or Huzunquan (虎尊拳, Fujian Tiger Boxing).

The standard Japanese pronunciation of the three characters is han kō nan (はんこうなん), while the standard Mandarin pronunciation is bàn yìng ruǎn. The Cantonese language pronunciation is bun ngaang yun. In modern times, the katakana version of pangainoon (パンガイヌーン) has been used in Japanese writing rather than the kanji (半硬軟). While the Fuzhou Wushu Association confirmed the meaning of „half-hard, half-soft“ in interviews in 2012, in 1934, Kanbun Uechi explained to Kenwa Mabuni when he asked about the meaning of „Pangai-noon“ that it referred to the rapid speed of the kata

Shushiwa (Zhou Zi He) or Chou Tsu Ho (1874-1926) was a teacher of the style was in the Fukien (Fujian) province of China during the late 1800s and early 1900s. His best-known student was Kanbun Uechi, an Okinawan who taught the style in Okinawa in nearly the same way he had been taught it, with minor wariations. After his death the style was further expanded by his son and renamed Uechi Ryu Karate in his honor.

Pangai-noon contained at least the three forms Sanchin, Seisan, and Sanseirui (or Sanseiryu). It may have contained a fourth form that Kanbun Uechi did not teach. Uechi Ryu is considered to be based on the Tiger, Dragon and Crane styles of Fukien Kung-Fu (though the stances, body posture, and some techniques resemble Fukien Mantis). Indeed, the forms of Uechi-ryu closely resemble a number of other Fujianese kung-fu styles, including Taizu Quan and Fujian White Crane. There is an emphasis on an index-knuckle punch called a Shoken Tsuki and the spearhand called a Nukite, and an unusual big toe front kick that focuses the power to a very small area (called Sokusen).

The art began to be recreated from Uechi Ryu by the 1980s by splinter groups from Uechi Ryu organizations that are attempting to differentiate themselves from that style or to reclaim the origins of the system. The best-known is Shohei-ryu. All teach a modified version of Uechi Ryu, typically discarding the five forms added after Kanbun Uechi’s death. These styles may be termed „Pangai-noon Karate“, most closely associated with the organization of Shinyu Gushi, or „Pangai-noon Kung Fu“. Pronunciation of the Chinese terms may also be rendered as Pwang Gai Noon Ryu in Okinawan, or in Japanese as Han Ko Nan Ryu. No school of original Pangai-noon Kung Fu is known to still exist.

It is disputed whether there was actually a Chinese style of martial art that was called „Pangai-noon“ by its practitioners. Some older teachers of Uechi Ryu on Okinawa have said that their teacher Kanbun Uechi referred to the art as Nan Pa Toro Ken (South Group Mantis Fist). The term may be a corruption of a phrase used to characterize the style as „half-hard, half-soft“.


See the YouTube video for a short history of Pangai Noon and it’s relationship to Sanchin and how teachers check the correct application by striking the students with fist and wood.

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