June 8, 2010
Wow, it has been an unbelievably busy past 10 days …. Work, you know…
And not helped by me twisting my left ankle (the umpteen times) doing a move from one of the 3 monkey forms that I do – really got to remind myself that I am on the wrong side of 50 and “monkeying” around could be chancy.
Well anyway, did spent some times with a couple of the local masters doing some “dim sum” and naturally, the topic of conversation gyrated towards TCMA; not that I am complaining, its always good to hear them describe their experiences and show some of their “tricks”.
Apparently both these Hakka masters just watched the “Yip Man 2” movie and we talked about the fighting in that movie a little and one of them said that this is just pure entertainment.
In the 40s and 50s, it was wu-xia novels that depicted the martial arts; vividly described techniques with poetic sounding names of techniques sometimes completed with illustrations sprinkled thru the novel – hey I got some of these in my collection and we are talking pre Ku Long and Jin Yong ……
Then the 60s saw many productions of kung fu movies in b/w format and that kind of got everyone enthralled with all that flying around and fighting both bare-hands and with a mixed bag of weapons.
The movies carried on with Hong Kong mass producing kung fu movies of every possible genre. And this is most likely how the rest of world “discovered” CKF and if you think I am wrong, just check with anyone outside of Asia to name CKF styles and you would in all likelihood, hear about styles featured in these movies.
Hong Kong, a mainly Cantonese society, was showcasing mostly Cantonese styles. Styles from the rest of China, relatively, got exposure only quite recently.
Now with “reality TV” type of fighting sport from the West, many are convinced that this is the true objective of martial art training.
Well, hate to tell you this but for many (and I mean many) of us, this is just “amusement”.
Real kung fu training got little to do with entertainment, be it choreographed fights or sport fighting, no matter how “real” you think those could be designed.
The soul of Kung Fu has never changed – kill or be killed and don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating violence.
But what if you got no choice?
The 2 masters (in their early 70s) lived through the racial turmoil during the early days of the Chinese in Sarawak and it was exactly that – fight to win and survive or perish. Some of their personal experiences send chills down my spine – the bloody carnages …..
Now, when you have walked that path and survived with acquired skills, maybe you’ll appreciate what I am trying so hard to preserve.
Not what you see in the movies or reality TV fight sports but the heart of authentic CKF.
I know I know, this is a case of “you don’t know what you don’t know” and its tough to persuade those who don’t know that they don’t ……
Got a short clip here featuring some mainlanders with nunchucks; not exactly a “ Traditional Chinese Kung Fu” thing so maybe they are inspired by the late Bruce Lee or Jay Chou, I don’t know…
So if your inspiration is from “entertainment”, how good are you going fight and win….
And it makes me wonder.
May 23, 2010
So you’re into CKF; you join a school, study basics, move on to forms and 2 man sets, weapons and maybe a little free-sparring and viola, next thing you know, you are now upgraded to be a teacher.
When you branch out, you are expected to adhere to the same route.
I don’t think I am very wrong to say that the above is what you see everywhere these days; 2 – 3 years, a “sifu” is borne.
And folks lament that traditional CKF is watered down and devalued.
Everywhere, you hear misgivings about traditional forms, training methodologies and really, the very heart of TCMA; why bother with the old ways when modern “technologies” are able to whip out better fighters ….. and so the arguments go on and on ….
Sometimes, reading what had been written, I wonder how much of TCMA have these folks experienced?
What they write reveal the shallowness of their actual knowledge of CKF.
Regardless of the style, one of the first few imperative lessons is “train courage, strength and followed by techniques”.
The “courage” portion is mental, emotional and even spiritual and in the old days, a Sifu would test a student repetitively to make certain that “courage” is attained; a good teacher would spare no efforts here and that is why sometimes it takes years in order for someone to even learn techniques and such.
The boldness to take on anyone, any form of pain and still not surrender is something that is glaringly missing in most training today.
I love the way the Japanese puts it “Conquer the fear of death and you fear nothing”.
If you can’t control “fear” – no techniques, tricks and forms are going to be any good.
So folks, if your training revolves only around forms, light sparring …… you are missing the bigger picture ….really…..
Here’s another mainland compilation clip – stick from various styles.
May 17, 2010
Ooookay, it’s that time again – answer emails…..
Firstly, again, allow me to apologize to those who have written in with invitations to be friends over at youtube and facebook etc etc..
Like I explained before, I am just about able to cope as it is; juggling my time doing this and that and the last thing I need is to commit to something I cannot upkeep.
Many emails received asked for specific articles in old magazines, video clips and info about schools and Sifus; I would try my best to oblige.
Someone wrote in to ask whether I subscribe to the theory that CKF was influenced by her neighbor India.
Well, for as long as I could remember, many elders before me spoke of the extraordinary relationship between India and China through the early ages; written documents attest to this.
I guess for most folks, looking at contemporary Indian fighting arts, they find it difficult to reconcile the 2 countries’fighting art forms.
I recall a Saolim elder telling me that to see the connection, you got to concentrate on the stick arts; they are telling movements to relate the 2.
Got a mainland clip here that might just do that; no background info but apparently a northern form. Something that you would expect to see Chuo Jiao, Sanhuangpaochui and Shaolin exponents do.
Reminds me of something from the “crazy” stick series ………
May 2, 2010
Another email received :-
“hi, i’m shervmen loi from malacca. i had visited your blog. you had done a very good job in trying to preserve traditional wushu. here in malacca also i can tell you that traditional wushu has been sidelined just to make way for the development of modern wushu. traditionalist like me were not many nowaday in malacca. i specialized in the seven stars mantis boxing under the lineage of luo guang yu. i had started my own blog since january 2010. here is the address, http://melakawushu.blogspot.com“
This is related to my earlier “Fong Yang” post and also a cue that I need to be careful when handling knowledge that I don’t really …… eerrrh ….. know …..
Also it brings home the point that I’ve been trying to make in this blog about “ass-u-me” … something that is very prevalent all over the places when it comes to histories and lineages of TCMA.
Anyway, my apologies to Sifu Terry Brown for my blunder …. I stand corrected.
Here’s Sifu Brown’s email :-
Thanks for publishing the reference to Fong Yang, your mention of the Shaolin temple at Toa Payoh made me feel quite nostalgic. I haven’t been back since my master sifu Tan Siew Cheng passed away back in 1996. Perhaps I will make it back one of these days.
I noticed that the word hills had been changed to skills in my little write up (combining Northern and Southern Hills became combining Northern and Southern skills) Not to worry overmuch but Uncle Tan always explained the Fong Yang respect by saying that the five knuckles of the right fist represented the Five Hill of kung fu. The first hill was Dharma, the second hill was Tai Chor, the third hill was Peh Hoke, the fourth hill was Lohan, and the fifth hill was Kow Koon (monkey art). The four fingers of the open left hand (when giving respect) represented North, South, East, and West. The two knuckles of the right hand that represented Peh Hoke and Tai Chor were pressed in to the palm of the left hand thereby signifying that in the world of martial arts Fong Yang practises the combined arts of the Northern and Southern hills.
Apologies for trying to teach granny to suck eggs But I figure that one of the reasons you and I have been dedicated to martial arts for so long has to be our love of their traditions, hence the ‘lesson’. Eric, thanks again for publicizing the Beggars Art.
February 2, 2010
Something else from my video library, this time, a “Umbrella Form” nicely done by local Hung Gar teacher, Sifu Lam Chee Keong, a personal friend living in Sibu Sarawak.
Trained by his dad, Sifu Lam is one of those still steadfastly keeping to ways passed down unbroken for the last few hundred years; a philosophy that is severely challenged by this modernistic short-attention span generation.
Like your fast-foods, everything is about instant gratification ….. who got time to wait for properly cooked foods? I want my food inside one minute !!!
You know, my other big time craze is watches and folks, not your digital do everything except cook an egg sort.
I love military watches, simple uncluttered easy to read and constructed to take all the punishments thrown at you when you are dodging bullets.
And it’s heartening to know that, at least, in the world of watch aficionados the trend is going back to those qualities that matter….try browsing some watch forums to see what I mean.
Okay okay, before I start talking Panerai, Lemania or Hamilton …here is the clip :-
January 11, 2010
Back a few months ago, I was in Sibu to revisit some of the masters there to discuss the book that the company is publishing this year; many of them are going to be subjects, I took the opportunity to visit Fong Yang master Ting Huat Yong in his residence/school situated on an island somewhere along the mighty Rejang River.
That evening after sipping tea and watching Master Yong taught a small class, we spent a couple of hours talking about TCKF.
My curiosity in his Fong Yang is clear; personally it strikes me as a fusion of Fukien and Hakka southern Kung Fu with pronounced elements of each showing unmistakably.
So after an hour of show and tell from him and me, I asked him about a “weapon” that is widespread in Sarawak’s CKF circles.
And yet this is a weapon that you seldom find in most weapon racks in regular CKF school; more a farmer’s implement than a weapon really…..the humble bamboo carrying stick that you would find farmers use to carry watering cans or carrying produces to the market place etc etc….
In Fuzhou, we call this “bien dan” and this is a weapon that we do in Fuzhou Cranes. When I first arrived in Sarawak, I was told many stories about how this carrying stick is a favorite weapon of many pioneer settlers; you are not breaking any law for having one on you everywhere you go.
When I met the late Huang Xin Xien most senior surviving student, Zhi Choon Fei in Sibu, he was recounting to me how the late Huang used an iron version of this stick to train his “jin”, a practice that is still done in GM Zhi’s school.
I think this is one weapon, besides the sticks that we do, that is most conducive for White Crane “touch and go” manner of expressing power.
Grip it too tight, you lose the intrinsic “springiness” of the bamboo but if you are too loose, you lose the stick.
Somewhere in the middle is the optimal or as we say it in Fuzhou “Pwan Gain Noon”.
The whole verse “Pwan Gain Pwan Noon Nyue mor tae thwon” or “Half hard hard soft, your opponent will not return” …….. That means your opponent is kaput hahahaha……
Okay enough of that morbid talk, here found on mainland 56 site is a rare bamboo carrying stick form.
January 3, 2010
I love Chinese Kung Fu.
And I presume many of you reading this blog are on the same red boat with me.
After spending most part of my life learning, teaching and now, hopefully contributing to the research, preservation and propagation, I just want to express some angst and wishes at the start of the New Year, soon to be the year of Tiger for the Chinese.
- Be realistic – Of all the valuable lessons taught by the many Sifus, mentors, elders and seniors, this has got to be the one that stands out. The Chinese, notwithstanding what you may have been told, are very pragmatic survivors. Throughout history, even with the many cataclysms, they are still tenaciously prospering every where they call home. And we all know that mainland China is one her way to “superpower” status and it doesn’t look like anything is going to stop that development. My own experience growing up on the small island of Singapore is statement enough to the doggedness, malleability and judiciousness of the Chinese. Singapore today can proudly declare to the world that “I did it my way”……….
- The world of CKF is a compound one with so much folklores, superstitions and these days, dodgy snake oil peddlers selling all varieties of half baked reproductions; it is easy to be beguiled as some of them are very persuasive. Personally, I still say the proof is in the pudding. You can make all sorts of claims but the question really is, can you deliver? You can tell me that you are internal/external or nocturnal for all I care but in the final analysis, what is your Kung Fu??? I want to share an incident here, not to put anyone or any style down, but many years ago a “foreign” teacher wanted to start a class in the Singapore Amateur Instructors Association’s training facilities. This “foreign” teacher came with a very impressive CV endorsed by many elite organizations of TCMA and a demo was arranged for him to introduce his stuff. With a couple of his students, he took the floor and was soon throwing his students about like beach balls. Extolling the power of “internal” training, he invited the audience to test his skills. This proved to be a very unintelligent move on his part. Sitting in the audience that day were some of the best free sparring champions Singapore ever produced and half of them are from the “Iron Fist” Saolim group. I know some of them personally and I’ll tell you that you don’t want to try them and their no-nonsense bones breaking skill sets; legacy left behind by none other that the late Saolim Chief Abbot, Venerable Sek koh Sum, a name spoken with high respect even today with mainland Shaolin. Anyway, to keep a long story short, that foreign teacher was floored with just one single punch to his solar plexus area and had to be carried out and he left Singapore not long after that. In recent times, I heard from someone that he has hit big-time over in the West with his “internal I touch you and you fly mumbo jumbo”.
- I received an email from a stranger, the kind that gets no respect from me, a while back. Hey, if you want to say something, say it in the open, veils are for the ladies and sissies….. So this thing asked how could I be dishing “chi” and “internal jin” since I belong to a White Crane group with intimate relation to the late Sarawak GM Huang Xin Xien? I want to take this opportunity to set the record straight once and for all…. I never studied with the late Huang, not his White Crane or Taiji. He was teaching at my Fuzhou school as a “guest” teacher and yes I did touch hands with him on the directions of my own teachers. Also, yes he did slam me into the cushioned walls that we had in the school. But it’s nothing like that “touch and fly” situation that you see in some of his clips. Why? Maybe because I was really “fighting” him and not engaged in Taiji push hands’ neutralizing and off setting balance routine that most of his clips are about. GM Huang was undeniably a superb Taiji push hand expert but how many of you have seen the efforts he put in to acquire his power …really how many??? Even today, if you visit his school here in Kuching, you’ll see a hanging bag weighing at least 300lbs that his descendants use for pushing training and visiting his most senior student in Sibu Sarawak, Zhi Choon Fei, I saw pretty much the same apparatus and training methods. So what so special about “internal” training??? Everything is about “hard work” – the blood, sweat and tears that you cannot avoid. Most masters, after years of honing, make it look “effortless”….. And if you think the late GM Huang was undefeatable then you don’t really know much about him at all. He lost to a Long Fist exponent in a fight in Taiwan even after attaining his “champion” status in the world of internal martial arts. You are also liable to hear how he picked to teach his Taiji over White Crane and some folks even suggest that Taiji is a more “refined” art…..well, all I want to say is this, many in Sarawak know about his encounter with the other White Crane giant, GM Huang Yi Ing and their agreement not to overlap in their teaching syllabus and in Singapore, his version of “soft” White Crane was frowned upon by many White Crane elders who saw it as his own hybridized “Taiji White Crane” blend. Many of us still keep to the unique “half hard half soft” principles that Fuzhou White Crane is based upon. And as for GM Huang, he is more remembered as a Taiji master and his White Crane background takes a back seat.
- So to repeat, I am not “dishing” or scorning “chi” except that I don’t believe in the “extraordinary” powers that some might have you believe. I guess you could say that in my 40 plus years involvement in TCMA and having met countless internal/external exponents, I have yet to be convinced of the some of the things attributed to “chi”. CKF is really nothing more than training hard and smart. I come from the old school that teaches courage, power, skill and no short cuts. You want a killer-punch or a kick that breaks rib cage, you put in the sweat. You want to stand up against a professional fighter and win; you better train harder than him. Even then, if you don’t have his ring’s experience, it’s going to be an uphill task. Free-sparring in your own school and in front of an audience, as any experienced fighter will tell you, are 2 totally different games.
- The world of TCMA is so fragmented these days that it pains me to read some of the squabbling going on sometimes even within the same styles of lineages. What is this all about? Everybody wants to be king? I think real kung fu people are exceptional, at least the ones I’ve met so far; they are usually modest (really) and disciplined in a way that only genuine kung fu peoples understand. It is truly like what the Germans say “The more noble, the more humble” … what happened to qualities like that in this world today. As descendants of a highly revered tradition, I humbly think we should be exemplary in the societies/communities that we live in just like the way the old masters did. Our attitudes and deeds, more than our skill, affect the fame or shame of our lineage and ancestry
And with the New Year, there is nothing that I wish more than to see more positive energies going into the conservation of authentic CKF. With the mainland opening up, better relationship with Taiwan and the internet making communications more convenient, the time is now for more to come together and salvage some of the art forms on the brink of dying out.
Hey if tiny itsy little moi can bring some 20 plus high hands from 6 countries to a place call Penang and intermingle…… envisage what else is doable….if we put our heads and hands together.
January 2, 2010
And now, a Taiwan documentary reporting on the past and present status of traditional CKF; I recommend this to anyone interested in the migration and evolution of TCKF after leaving the motherland…..
Back in 2007 when we did our TCMA gathering in Penang, I had Singing Crane teacher Ruan Dong (Changle China), Feeding Crane teacher Liu Chang I (Taiwan), Wuzu teacher Xiong De Lu (Sibu Sarawak) and Taizu teacher Teo Choon Teck (Singapore) for breakfast the morning before the event and the same topic was discussed.
Comparing notes on how the various Fukien/Fuzhou styles progressed after leaving China and interestingly, this Taiwanese documentary theme parallel what we observed that morning.
The ups and downs of TCMA in Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore went through an almost similar pattern…..
Many are suggesting that the future of TCMA lies with Sanda; getting exponents from diverse styles to agree to a standardized set of rules and compete; like the Lei Tais of old without the “kill”.
Select and stipulate traditional forms for competition was another idea tossed around.
I got to admit that these will benefit TCMA; organized MAs have been proven to fare better and these days, generally MAs training is really more a sport/recreation than a mean of survival.
Having said that, I am also aware of many old schools that are unwilling to take part in any of these which they view as “compromising” even when faced with the threat of extinction due to their harsh training regimen eschewed by most these days.
Then like I said before, the truth is always somewhere in the middle.
Yes, the old ways are important as a cultural heritage but in order to attract the new generation, you got to “repackage” it.
And it’s this “repackaging” that we got to be real careful.
You need folks who really know to know whether things are right or not, you change the form and shape but not the spirit ….something like that.
Okay back to the Taiwanese documentary….. In part 1 the commentator said that 3 of the major southern arts that resettled there are Golden Eagle, Southern Monkey and Crane….
I am a little disappointed that the Liu’s family Feeding Crane is not included….they must be one of the most visible Crane arts these days……
December 28, 2009
“Spit the spear head, go into a figure 8 flower, catch the spear head and spin around to spit it out again ……………..”
Hahahaha, I started this weapon in my teen years and then gave it up …. Why???
The folly of youth it must be and now, I am totally regretting it.
And already, I am too old a dog to learn anything new ….
Woof woof …… meaow …..hahahaha…