Imua ShanTung KunTao is divided into its root or core system (the VanDerGroen system) and the offshoot systems, developed by many students of the original system. Many, if not most of the practitioners exercise both root components and developed strategies concurrently.
The core or family system originated from the teachings of Mr. Lie Gai (Edgar F. VanDerGroen), the master teacher of the system, and Tai Sifu Otto R. VanDerGroen (Otto Van Der Groen), the developer and one responsible for its dissemination. The offshoot systems where in place, and where legitimate components of the organizational mechanism while the founding teachers where alive. They are not considered renegade systems, but “brother” systems.
Imua ShanTung KunTao (Imua Kuon Tao Kai Karate Association) took its western open name while Tai Sifu Otto was stationed in the U.S. Army in Germany during the 1960’s. The group he was teaching during that period included many Hawaiians and from there the inspiration of calling it “Imua”. Imua is an ancient Hawaiian word meaning “To go forward with Spirit”. It is a word reflecting an attitude of courageous engagement when facing an overwhelming challenge. This word describes perfectly the logistical and emotional makeup of the system.
Typical of a ShanTung style, the strategic use of legs, low stances and extended striking is evident. Most Chinese Kung Fu systems are distinguished in their complexity and variability of movement. Imua ShanTung (the VanDerGroen method), on the other hand, is distinguished by its economy of movement, which is also quite unadorned in its expression. It beauty lies in its powerful and flowing simplicity.
Both arm and leg techniques are complementary to each other and used synergistically. Ranges (combative distance), striking height, striking elements and blocking elements, as well as displacement strategies, are dynamically fluid. Blocking motions are used as striking motions and vice versa. Displacement is not restricted to averting attacks or reaching a striking distance, as much as it is more so utilized as means to place the opponent in a position of situational disadvantage.
The interchangeable transformation of circular to linear and linear to circular forces is also quite evident. These are consistently coupled by an emphatic use of body weight and momentum in order to accentuate the power delivery properties during the contact phase of the displacement, strike or block.
This is most clearly evident to the observer as a slight undulatory yet heavy movement while displacing or “body dropping”. In addition, all movements are performed with the intent of procuring the coupling of previously dissociated forces into an augmented point of contact emphasis. Opportunistic striking is not emphasized, and it is place, clear coordinated momentum strategies which yield evolving and efficient contact potentials are stressed.
Although it is clearly recognizable when observed, it is quite difficult to describe, since its most prominent feature is its fluidity and plasticity. One way of some how resolving this descriptive dilemma is by stating that, in Imua, every movement is potentially another. In other words, a punch, block or a kick is not defined by prospective intent, but retrospectively, by its effect.
VanDerGroen principles, strategies, method and system: The makeup of the The VanDerGroen Family Ancestral Tradition.
In as much as organizationally Imua developed as several interpretative systems based on the original teachings of Mr. Lie Gai and Tai Sifu Otto, their original materials remain. These are considered as core or root principles, strategies and method which comprise their system.
The VanDerGroen Principles include:
- VanDerGroen Angular management principles
- VanDerGroen Displacement principles
- VanDerGroen Stricking principles
- VanDerGroen Range Management principles
- VanDerGroen Force Application principles
- VanDerGroen Foundation, Balance and Preparation-Execution principles
- VanDerGroen Physical and Mental Conditioning-Preparedness principles
VanDerGroen Strategies Include:
1. Readiness Strategies
a) War time / Peace time readiness
2. Engagement Strategies
a) Attitude of engagement for defense and offense.
b) Response strategies in advancing and retreating engagement
c) Positioning while engaging of one or several opponetns to increase one’s own efficacy and reduce the opponents capabilities.
3. Strategies for detemining the desired effect in resolving conflict (Psycho-Social aspect of conflict) etc.
*etc as discussed extensively in the forum
This referst specifically the practice method which enables all elements to be blended into a functional, effective mechanism and includes all elements described above and also those cultural, traditional elements which give it it’s unique and recognizable identity and produce the VanDerGroen Ancestral Traditional Family System.
As stated by Tai Sifu Otto: “True self defense is one movement which brings your opponent to defeat”
The exploration of any subject is shaped by the philosophical background of the scholar. In this, it is clear that the plastic quality in Imua is very much an extension of Taoist philosophy, which is central to many other Chinese systems .
Of particular influence in the development of Imua technically is the “Taoist understanding” as it relates to the “Truth”. The “truth”, within this criteria, is not viewed as a knowable partial concept (a truth). The “Truth” is indeed accepted as the extension of absolute expressed (and potential) reality. In considering this, a “truth” has a defined and instantaneous “functional interface property” as it relates to that specific moment and circumstance. This is so if one considers “a truth” to be merely an independent knowable fact, temporal and dissociated segment of the whole. In the following moment, it relates to something else, it behaves differently and hence it becomes something else. The “knowledge” of it changes, while the “Truth” of it remains.
In a combative system, the aim is to overcome, to avoid defeat or more accurately, to reach a desired state of resolution. If one focuses on the knowable, which has been understood to be transitory, one requires of constant adjustment, mental, physical and emotional, in dealing with the inconsistent variations in the passing of each moment in an environment of conflict. In doing so, one’s own adjustments augment the timing requirements of the exchange and hence decrease the probability of attaining one’s own desirable outcome while directly increasing one’s opponents probabilities of achieving his.
Any movement, offensive or defensive, is therefore viewed as equal. Not only in the order of importance, but in their fundamental nature. It is hence a “one focus” mental model of “no focus”, since the state of comprehensive readiness/response must remain the same in either situation, or as it relates to any movement. To commit to one is to disregard the others.
The design of the VanDerGroen system and its background philosophy are not defined by the intent to “out strike” the opponent. Effective conflict management through sound, comprehensive, and inclusive strategy as it relates to the process and nature of conflict in itself are truly the defined goals of the practice in Imua ShanTung KunTao. In addition, and just as essential is personal edification which brings about mental and physical readiness which allows for surpassing the demands imposed by conflict, in all and any of its expressions.
The fruit of the study of the resolution of conflict is not the gathering of capabilities which allow for the imposition of the will of the powerful over the weak. That is suppression. The study of Imua ShanTung is also not the study of courageous violence.
Imua therefore, is not an attitude of aggression but an attitude of courageous engagement.
Courage is not aggression, as much as conflict is not violence. Courage is grace, in awareness of the value of what is true.
Violence serves to impose one’s will upon others with disregard to their value, and their place in the order of things. Grace on the other hand is the selfless attempt to preserve or restore the rights of others, weaker than ourselves, when confronted by violence or injustice. This is done then with disregard to personal preferences, in service to that which has greater value than ourselves.