International Writers Magazine:
One of Taiwans last remaining Monkey Masters wants to fight in the
K-1 and UFC to show the world the power of traditional Chinese martial
Master in the Cage
Hisams hands are huge and swollen, as hard as rocks. In demonstrations,
he uses them to smash granite slabs to dust. One could only imagine
what those hands would do to your skull, even through boxing gloves.
gym is a four story walkup, overlooking a highway in Tainan, the
ancient capital of Taiwan. Here, 37 year old Al Haroun Hisham, a
German born Syrian is one of the last keepers of the traditional
After several hours
of forms and body hardening exercises, Hisham begins his daily ritual
of bag work, running, weight lifting, and wrestling with a 50 kg dummy.
This the training that won him the International San Da Wang championship
last year, and the one which he hopes will carry him on to a repeat
win of San Da Wang, followed by the Art of War in China, and eventually
landing him in the UFC or K-1.
Hisham weighs over 80 Kgs of rock solid muscle and carries very little
body fat. At first glance, his routine looks like a mix of East and
West, new and old, but, Hisham says that most of the techniques he uses
were developed in China centuries ago.
The ancient monks ran. They hit the bag. They did everything that
we do today. But, they also used meditation and Chinese medicine to
harden the body both inside and out. Explains Hisham. He doesnt
believe he is bringing something new to the MMA world. Instead, he believes
he is helping the world to rediscover something that was lost. My
traditional Chinese martial arts training involves hardening the forearms,
inside and outside. In the monkey, we punch with the wrist, so we have
to harden the wrist. We punch back hand, and hand knife edge, as well
as the palm. If we condition the entire hand, the monkey claw is very,
very dangerous. Hisham also uses Chinese conditioning on all parts
of nees, elbows, and feet. I practiced the conditioning like iron
shirt, combined with Chinese medicine. Internal and external training:
this make the body like a weapon.
Hishams family originates in Damascus. My father immigrated
to Berlin in early 60's. Back in Damascus, my family practiced wrestling
for generations. I grew up with it. My grandfather wrestled. My uncle
was a wrestling master, a national team member. He won many regional
championships and went to the Asian games. He was my first teacher.
We didnt have a real school, so we wrestled on the floor with
mattresses. Old school wrestling in Syria is different than modern Greco
Roman. They used to head-butt and grab skin or cheek muscles. So, when
they threw you, they ripped out the flesh and muscles. And, they did
really bad stuff to you on the ground.
Hisham first fell in love with Chinese Kung Fu when he was a young buy,
My father exported German cars Damascus. He used his money to
buy several cinemas in Berlin. In the 1970's, we were the first ones
playing Chinese martial arts movies. My father sat my right in the front
row, when I was only four years old. He watched the Shaw Brothers and
all of these old school martial arts movies. Afterwards, I went home
and practiced what I had seen. My parents pushed me to do some exercise.
My mother was a ballet dancer. My father didnt want me to do that,
but my mom taught me the split and stretching. My father always wrestled
with me. But most important was the influence from the movies. My goal
was to become a Shaolin monk. This was something I really admired"
growing up, Hisham earned a black belt in Tae Kwan Do. While he
did his national military service, he also learned some Chinese
martial arts which were taught to German paratroopers. He eventually
found a monkey master in Berlin and studied with him for four years.
He liked the Chinese martial art that he was learning, but he suspected
that something was missing. It all looked like the ballet
my mother used to do. It was very beautiful, but where was the application?
The old school wrestling
had taught Hisham that modern sport arts could be watered down versions
of ancient, deadly martial arts which were applicable in real fighting.
So, in 1996, he came to Taiwan for the first time.
I did a lot of research which said that there were three major
migrations of Chinese Kung Fu masters to Taiwan. The first was in 1644,
during Ming and Ching Dynasties. Next, the Boxer, after their failed
rebellion in the summer of 1900, escaped to Taiwan. Finally, during
Maos cultural revolution, when all masters of ancient arts were
being killed, many Kung Fu masters took refuge in Taiwan."
According to Hisham, The real martial art is not found in Mainland
China because of the communism. But, I thought it could be found outside
of China, in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Macao,
Hisham used money he earned from his school in German and from his work
as a bodyguard, to finance his trips back and forth to Taiwan, seeking
the masters. Eventually, in 2005, he settled permanently in Taiwan.
He is married to a Taiwanese woman, who shares his vision of rediscovering
the ancient Chinese arts and showcasing them to the world by winning
the K-1 or UFC.
am not a snake. I am not a tiger or a praying mantis. My body looks
like a monkey. So, this is a style that works for humans, and the
animal inside you can come out. I traveled all over Taiwan to find
masters. I heard some legends that they didnt pass their knowledge
on because monkey is a special technique which they didnt
want to teach just anyone. They taught some bits of monkey and incorporated
it into existing animal styles. But no one wanted to teach the real
monkey because it is so deadly.
Hisham feels that
the Hanaman boxing practiced in Thailand should also be included into
Monkey Kung Fu. After all, it is the same monkey god in both countries.
Therefore, he used flying knees and elbows.
Eventually, Hisham found an 88 year old master, who was practicing monkey,
but teaching crane. This master was one of only two which Hisham found,
and he has since died. Next, Hisam went to the monkey temple. They
had a Dao oracle, who meditates then goes crazy, gets possessed, and
people ask him questions. I was watching and he called me in and asked
what do I want what is my wish. I asked him some questions he couldnt
know, things about Germany. And he gave me some answers which were correct.
I dont really believe but my family does some Sufi things so I
asked more about monkey fist."
Eventually, Hisham was given permission to meditate in the temple. "After
12 days, something happened. I started to move in a strange way, I couldnt
open my eyes, and I nearly collapsed. Then came the visions. People
told me they saw me and knew the Monkey King was in my body. I saw monkeys
jumping around. I was very afraid. Afterwards, I created some new techniques
which I learned from the visions and I made a new monkey form. I believe
this because it happened to me. If I tell westerners they dont
believe. But I have a different background so it is different for me.
During his search for a monkey master, Hisham found a lot of so called
masters, but they werent fighting.
In Germany there is a branch of Wing Chun which made their name
fighting like the Gracies did. They challenged everyone and won. So,
now there is no question. We all know Gracie jiu Jitsu is good. Some
people say you shouldnt fight, it is against the code. But how
do you know what level you are at if you dont fight? I want to
fight in MMA and K-1 because there arent many Chinese or traditional
martial arts in there. I think in the beginning there were a few, but
I dont know if they had thirty years of experience. When you meet
MMA guys, Thai boxers, and boxers, if you tell them you do TMA, they
look at you and smile.
"A lot of the reality and professional fighting crowd think TMA
is a useless joke," Ken Shamrock said in his interview, after his
loss to Hois Gracie, that's when he saw Gracie come in, wearing a ghi
and a black belt. He just assumed that he didnt know how to fight.
Ken guessed wrong that day. And this is what Hisham hopes to show to
People look down on Chinese martial arts. They say Muay Thai are
the hardest, boxers are the fastest
But what about traditional
martial arts? They have 3000 years of development. How can they not
be good? I think the big question is how you practice martial art. If
you really practice six hours a day you can be good. If you chose the
right way, and if you dont involve into so many techniques you
can be good. I was a student of TMA before, for that style, you need
36 forms. For that one, 72 forms. But after a while, I wondered why
am I trapped into a lot of techniques if I cant use them. So,
real martial arts only have a handful of forms, five is enough, including
a breathing form. And then the rest is application."
Hisham has many reasons for wanting to fight on the world stage. First,
I want to prove if this thing I made up works or not. Secondly, for
a boxer, 25 years old is peak, but for TMA 40 or 45 is the peak. I really
admire old MMA masters Randy Coutour for example the best example for
real martial artists. He is over 40, but it is not easy to defeat him.
The young guys 25 to 30 are good, but how long can they keep this level?
Hisham tells about a Taiwanese master who still trains at age 88. Chinese
martial arts says, learn chi and ne gong, and you can stay healthier
and stronger. Add the gong the working out and the skills and this is
real kung fu. Many masters are practicing martial art, but they forgot
the martial part.
He went on to say that many westerners are only practicing the external,
the fighting, and have forgotten to add the rest. Hisham believes a
complete Chinese TMA fighter can win.
I want to fight first in San Da Wang in Taiwan, again, and the
Art of War, in China because I want to show the biggest audience in
the world that traditional martial art can win. Today everyone is looking
at MMA looking to the west rather than to China and to traditional martial
art. They say Gracie Jiu Jitsu is the best, but Randy Couture doesnt
do BJJ he does traditional wrestling and he shows everyone there is
Hisham wants to do the same, to show the world that there is something
beyond the mat.
© Antonio Graceffo December 2008
Antonio is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia.
His book, The Monk from Brooklyn, is available at amazon.com. See his
videos on youtub.
His website is speakingadventure.com
Contact Antonio: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Kingdom of Champa, originating in the second century AD was one
of the most powerful empires in Indochina
of Hong Kong
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I set up a rigid schedule of watching TV. Over several weeks, I
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