Northern Shaolin #3: Cho Ma “Riding Horse”

Longest of the Ten Forms

Northern Shaolin #3 Riding Horse. The image of riding a horse conjures feelings of quick movement over large distances with vigorous effort.  This image fits the Riding Horse Form well.  Riding Horse is a huge Form with many movements.  It is the longest of the Ten Forms.  Vigorous and energetic Riding Horse Form challenges the stamina and endurance of the athlete.

This Form contains many practical fighting techniques of all kinds and combines the qualities of Open the Gate and Following Step together in one Form without compromise.  Therefore, it is packed with aggressive kicking, leaping, and sweeping sequences that show Northern Leg Skills.  And it has dense sequences of powerful hand techniques and low stance footwork.

Northern Shaolin #3 Cho Ma, or
Northern Shaolin #3 Cho Ma, or

Unique Hand Techniques

Riding Horse includes many excellent hand techniques found in no other form.  This includes powerful slapping palms, quick penetrating palms, and many strong palms delivered to the chest.  The cranes beak is used frequently to hook the opponents leg, or arm, out the way and set up other attacks.  This is classical Northern Shaolin at its best!

Northern Shaolin #3 contains some great deadly elbow combination attacks.    the elbow is a great close in weapon for both attack and defense.  The elbow is very powerful and elbow attacks can easily be fatal.

Northern Shaolin #3 Cho Ma, or
Northern Shaolin #3 Cho Ma, or

Powerful Throws

There are several strong throws and sweeps.  One of these throws is a great precursor to the Slanting Flying throw found in the art of Tai Chi Chuan.  A personal favorite of mine is the leaping spinning neck breaking throw.  Ouch! The is also a fast combination of three sweeps.  First a 180 sweep to the rear then another 180 and finally a 360 that pulls back with a pull and vicious chopping palm.

Long and substantial Riding Horse makes an enormous contribution to the overall technical orientation and repertoire of the Northern Shaolin System.   It is similar in feel, tempo, and construction to Jumping Step Form.

Northern Shaolin #3 Cho Ma, or
Northern Shaolin #3 Cho Ma, or

A True Endurance form

This form is so long I rarely competed with it and do it infrequently at demonstrations.  When you are performing it looks best if you can finish with your breathing still under control.  With this form it is just nearly impossible to do that because it is so long and so athletic.  This is a true endurance form that challenges you no matter how in shape you are.  The good side is Shaolin #3 makes all the other forms easier to complete.  When you first learn any of the 5 shorter Shaolin forms they seem pretty, long especially #8.  When you learn Northern Shaolin #3 well you learn all things truly are relative and #8 wasn’t so long after all!

Another advantage of the long forms like Northern Shaolin #3 are that they force you to become more graceful and relaxed.  This happens because as you get tired you just have to relax.  You are going to relax no matter how tense you normally are because you are going to get exhausted.  When your muscles get really tired they relax.  When you get super relaxed your movements naturally become more graceful.  This actually leads to a big improvement in in your power.

Northern Shaolin #3 Cho Ma, or
Northern Shaolin #3 Cho Ma, or

The other advantage of long endurance forms is that they build mental strength.  When you want to quit because you are tired, or sore, but you keep going, your mind gets stronger.  Mental strength is central to martial arts training.  If your mind is weak, it doesn’t matter how many moves you know, because you’ll give up when the going gets tough!  When you learn to focus your mental strength and push forward regardless, you gain the ability to overcome obstacles in life, as well as opponents in Kung Fu.

Long endurance forms also force you to develop your breath control.  If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen it shuts down.  Then you forget what you are doing.  When you forget what you are doing you stop and stand there huffing and puffing!  Then your breathing can return to normal.

Northern Shaolin #3 Cho Ma, or

Proper Breathing is Essential

To remember a form like this and finish it takes a lot of mental focus.  Part of the focus is to make sure that you do not hold your breath.  This sounds simple.  Of course you will keep breathing.  However, when you are throwing lots of extreme moves like high flying kicks, ground sweeps, or spinning, leaping and chopping it is really easy to start unconsciously holding your breath.  This happens because in these sorts of moves it is easy to tense your diaphragm muscle without realizing it.  As soon as you tense the diaphragm you have stooped breathing, or your breath is way too shallow to support the activity.

Learning the Muscle Tendon Changing Qi gong really helps to set up the proper breathing patterns.  Practicing the correct breathing patterns while performing your push ups, sit ups, and kicks also really helps.