Due to ancient Chinese leaders and family heads being obsessed with controlling knowledge and information, we believe much of the history has been lost or destroyed, and the following is based largely on oral tradition.
When learning LAMAS as a martial art, the health side is still considered very important. "Qigong" roughly translates as "breath work", and an essential part of learning LAMAS Qigong (whether for health or martial art) is learning how to breathe. Students will therefore learn gentle body movements which have specific health benefits, as well as martial interpretations.
LAMAS Qigong was originally based on 5 animals: Lion, Bird, Monkey, Fish and Snake. Later, a Dragon system was formed by combining elements of each of the animals, and then a Tiger system was added as a yang to the Dragon's yin. Unlike many other tiger martial arts that are often based on a tiger fighting a crane, the LAMAS tiger is fighting a dragon.
Su Wu, who was a deputy commander of the imperial guards, was sent by Emperor Wu, along with another deputy commander called Zhang Sheng, on a peace keeping mission to northern China. Things didn't go smoothly, and a local leader called Chanyu Qiedihou demanded that the men surrender and served him. Whilst Sheng surrendered, Su refused, even when a sword was put to his neck. As punishment, Chanyu Qiedihou locked Su Wu in a cellar without food or water. Su Wu managed to survive by practising qigong, eating snow that fell into the cellar and eating his own clothing! The chanyu eventually gave up and exiled him.
In 81 BC, after 19 years, Su Wu finally returned to Han and was given the rank of Director of Colonisation. The story of Su Wu's fortitued and loyalty has inspired several songs, poems and plays.
Grandmaster Lowe has published several instructional videos and two books: "The Art of Daoyin" (out of print) and "The Stress Elimination Handbook."
The Tiger system lays a very good foundation, is relatively easy to learn and easy to apply (compared to other animals in LAMAS). It does not require extreme flexibility or strength. Once a student has reached black sash in the tiger system, he or she can decide whether to learn the more advanced "White Tiger" system or specialise in one of the other animals.
The sai are very much in keeping with the tiger philosophy of moving in close and controlling an attacker. They can be used to trap other weapons to bend or snap them. Sometimes, the sai in one hand will be used to trap a weapon while the one in the other is used to stab or strike at the attacker at the same time. As they have little use in modern life, weapons are now only occasionally taught to senior students.