Method and Sources

Our Research

We are researchers and practitioners of historically accurate Chinese warrior arts. We work with the ancient Chinese classics, forgotten manuscripts, archeological finds, and much more. Since 1987, we have pioneered modern, multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural research, of Chinese warrior arts and their relevant offshoots. At the core of our endeavour is the research and practice of Yin Fa 隱法, the Chinese art of stealth and the origin of the Japanese Ninja 忍者.

The Importance of research

Unless we practice traditional Chinese martial arts in the manner they were originally intended, with the tools and weapons of the time, they cannot work or be effective when called upon. They will remain a pastime or a simple form of exercise only. We must return to the original concept and environment from which these amazing arts were created in order to understand and feel what the masters of old meant for us. Only then, can we find the true way – the original way – of our warrior arts. This can only be achieved through specialised research of the historical record, combined with the correct knowledge of a living tradition!

– Les Conn

Research Premise

Chinese military history can be traced back at least 5000 years. The records are abundant and continuous. If pointed in the right direction, the scholar will see that there is nothing new to the Chinese arts of war. Every strategy, weapon, and technique has been tried out – often a lot earlier in history than we care to imagine. Technology may have improved, but the same basic underlying principles still endure to the present day.

In recent decades, several Western martial artists have arrogantly claimed that Chinese martial arts don’t work – or are weak – and thus need updating and new ideas injected. It is our opinion, based on our training in a forgotten era, and through our historical, sociological, and archeological research, that such a concept is completely incorrect. In our experience, the well-known Chinese saying tells all: “There is nothing new under the sun.”

Thus we work on the following premise until scientifically proven incorrect:

  • Legends are often based on truth. We do not dismiss legends or folklore but rather use them to start looking for elements of historical fact.
  • The Chinese appear to have thought of and tried out, every strategy, weapon, and technique, at some point in history. If it was successful it was retained, while failures were discarded.
  • Chinese martial arts are actually arts of war, or civil arts of defence, both of which revolve around the use of weapons. Unarmed combat is a small and insignificant part of historical Chinese martial practice.
  • Prior to approximately 1800 CE, the Chinese martial arts were practiced for significant physical damage or death.
  • If we find something appears weak or looks incorrect, we study it until the truth emerges. Sometimes it takes decades!
  • There are cultural, medical, and military practices, found in today’s “martial arts”. They must be deeply understood by the user to be of use in actual combat.

Our Source Material

  • Old martial arts manuscripts: our own private collection containing many documents rescued from the destruction of the cultural revolution. It is possibly the largest private collection of such material in the world today. Much of the collection has been put in digital format for long-term preservation.
  • Military manuals: We have copies of all the classic Chinese military manuals and we have access to most originals in one way or another. We also have an in-house computer program for searching and referencing within the classics.
  • Ancient books: We use many historical books written on various subjects not related to martial arts. These have proved a surprising source of information.
  • Museums: We use museums for weapons, weights, info on armour, etc. This type of information needs intelligent reconstruction and testing to be of use.
  • Hermits: We have spent many years gathering information and indeed studying with the hermits and recluse community of China and South East Asia. Their knowledge and customs are a surprising source of information.
  • Fellow researchers: in China, Japan, Mongolia, Korea, and Malaysia, have been an amazing help to us. The Mongolians have been especially helpful with surprising information.
  • Masters in Japan: During the period 1992 to 2005 we interviewed many credible Japanese masters (those considered credible by the Japanese government) on their art, origins, and surviving documents.
  • Anecdotes and notes from ageing Chinese masters: from the 1996 – 2005 period we interviewed and received many documents from Chinese masters living in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Many were desperate to share information as their art was in a terminal condition. Today they have all gone.
  • The Chin Woo (also called Jing Wu) record: We have copied a large part of the Chin Woo record. It is a massive store of books and other documents from the Qing period to the present day. There is interesting information available but it takes a mammoth amount of sifting to find gold.
  • Independent Chinese collectors: We have a network of Chinese collectors we work with.
  • Inside the Yakuza: For a short time we entered the realm of the Yakuza and were able to spend time with members discussing all things related to martial arts and more. The information was revealing indeed.
  • Inside the triads: We lived for many years in Hong Kong and had a chance to enter a triad group for information purposes. This relationship lasted some years and we must note we kept our noses in the business of martial arts and customs only.
  • We were able to get information indirectly from both the Hong Kong police and the Thai police on triad traditions and activities.
  • Our experience: We test ideas and work with information that requires a qualified background to do so. We are well qualified and have both completed a formal 20-year apprenticeship from the old method of transmission – a method no longer in service today. We are the last of this group.
  • Computer modeling: Technology has given us the opportunity to explore theories and analyse data in ways never before seen in the martial arts world. With previous experience in algorithmic development, we were able to immediately use technology to our advantage.
  • Martial arts dating and “DNA”  model: We have developed a method that can date martial arts techniques and identify their origin with great accuracy. As time passes we may submit academic papers on this development, but for now, we continue working with it in-house.