The countdown has started …… 5 more days before I head out to Penang to ensure that everything is in place.

 

Standing by there to receive all our invited guests from all over, starting with my Dutch Hungga friend.

 

This gathering is important to me for many reasons:-

 

  • Face to face meetings with friends that I have been corresponding with these last couple of years over the internet – thanks to skype we’re able to talk, for hours sometimes, and share our experiences, knowledge and sentiments about TCMA.
  • Meeting White Crane friends from Taiwan and China. This alone makes this whole one year’s effort worthwhile. To be able to touch hands and share knowledge with them is something that I’ve been anticipating for a long time. All from the same spring but have since flowed in different directions. To me, this is a “reunion” of sort ….. Cranes flying south for the winter …
  • I think this get-together is also exceptional in terms of the number of Hakka boxing masters and styles represented. These last years, I’ve been reading and hearing about the close relationship between Fukien and Hakka boxing and this meeting will be the perfect occasion to examine some of these theories.
  • Nanyang Wing Chun – what more can I say about this subject? When I spoke to Tony Yap of Yip Kin Wing Chun, he was the one who equated this event to a reunion of Nanyang Wing Chun.

 

I could go on and on about the merits of this event but, a top for me is, this meeting is about “family”.

 

All martial arts, one family.

 

This is the quintessence, nothing more nothing less.

 

And God willing, we will meet annually.

 

This is a news article published 2 days ago in the Malaysian daily, The Star.

 

 

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An insight of Shaolin fighting systems, including Hor Hok Siang Heng – Tiger Crane Combination.

(Extracted from article originally published in “Bushido” Singapore)

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In the rugged terrains of Fukien Province, in the Tian Hor area of Eng Chun (Yong Chun) District, there existed a Buddhist temple known as Pak Lok Shiang Shan. It was in the year of Tai Hoe that an old Shaolin monk came to this temple. It was said that this high ranking monk from Shaolin Temple was specially invited by the monks of Pak Lok. The Shaolin Temple from which he came from was not the one where Bodhidarma resided, which was situated in Honan Province. It was the Shaolin Temple in Fukien which was constructed in his honor by some of his famed disciples.

 

According to legend, the monk was known as Tze Chien. He was trained in both the system of ‘Tak Choon’ 5 sets – the direct legacy of Bodhidarma and the crane system – the legacy of the monk Pak Hok.

 

On arrival at the Pak Lok Temple, he started teaching Kung Fu.

 

Years passed and Shaolin Kung fu infiltrated into almost all the villages of the Eng Chun District. The villages took up martial art training with the motive of repelling bandit attacks. Governmental forces were either too weak or took too long to come to the aid of remote villages.

 

The spreading of Shaolin Kung Fu was mostly done by boxers who had been trained by the monks. Some were engaged on a full-time basis by certain villages. These masters were held in high esteem because they had the force to counter evil. But then, they also had the force to commit evil. It was therefore quite difficult for the masters to decide whom to teach. They came up with ploy of testing their disciples’ patience. Aspirants had to do manual chores for them for many years before they were even taught the basics.

 

Hardship drove many of the people of Eng Chun District to turn towards the sea for a living. Like most of the Chinese living along the coastal provinces, they became fisherman or worked on trading junks. There voyages took them to all parts of South East Asia.

 

Many of them migrated and settled overseas, especially in Nanyang, which is now the region composing of Malaysia and Singapore. Their objective was to make enough and return to China and easy life.

 

The parents of Ang Liang Huat were no different. They migrated and settled in Singapore. By the time he was eight, they had enough money to return to their homeland. With the money they had saved they bought land to cultivate. Being the son of a landlord, Ang had no necessity to work. All his time were taken with the pursuit of his interest; Kung Fu.

 

He learned the secrets of Shaolin boxing from the age of ten until he was twenty two. By then, with looming war clouds, the country was in turmoil. The Ang family left for Singapore, this time never to return.

 

Liang Huat had learned enough Kung Fu systems to last him a lifetime. He had numerous teachers as his parent could afford to pay for the best.

 

His teachers:-

 

Tek Hong Yew, alias ‘Sim Pik Lao Lang’ or the ‘The mysterious old man, was Ang’s first sifu. He had the habit of coming and mysteriously leaving without a word and hence the nickname. Hong Yew was the nephew of the renown Tek Lah, the 3rd placed contestant in all-China ‘Stance Contest’ at Peking, at which Generalissimo Chang Kai Shek was also a spectator. It was reputed that not even the combined efforts of several men could budge him an inch when he assumed his stance.

 

Ang’s second teacher was the monk Shiang Lim. He was from the Chun Chien Shaolin Temple.

 

His third, Tan Kwee Long, taught him the use of weapons. Tan was a Tai Chor master and acknowledged leader of all the peddlers of herbal medicines in the Eng Chun District.

 

The stout and tough looking Ang is fifty, but his looks belie his years. To Bushido’s query of “What is Ngo Chor Kung Fu?” Ang replied that it was the term given to the Shaolin art and the combination of the following five famous styles.

 

  1. Tak Choon Koon – directly taught by Bodhidarma
  2. Tai Chor Koon – propagated by the Emperor Sung Tai Chor
  3. Kow Koon – The Monkey Art, taught by the monk Heng Chai
  4. Pek Hok Koon – The Crane System, taught by the monk Pak Hor
  5. Lohan Koon – evolved by the monks of Shaolin

 

To a further query of “What happened to the Nun’s Fighting Art taught by the Ngo Mei?” Ang said that it was part of Peh Hok Koon, just like Wing Chun is part of the Ngo Mei system.

 

Ang said that there were many who claimed to be masters of Ngo Chor Koon. He was skeptical of their claims as these five styles would take a man more than a lifetime to master, each taking more than thirty years to complete. It was humanly impossible for any one to master all the give systems. He explained that the present style he is teaching is the Tiger-Crane combination.

 

“Never consider your techniques or style as the ultimate in marital arts, nor your counter as the only counter. Remember that there is always a counter against another counter,” Ang advised.

 

“What is Tak Choon Koon?” Bushido ventured.

 

“It is composed of five sets of movements designed to exercise the body and strengthen the internal. The hands and legs are spread out in the movements and tremendous strength exerted. It also involves breathing and meditation. It was later modified into Sam Chien Koon, a cousin of Sanchin in Karate. This was also known as ‘Tiong Chi Koon’, literally meaning Middle Arrow Style.”

 

According to Ang, Tai Chor techniques only involved forearm movements at its inception. The arms were kept very close to the chest. This was a defensive art and it was difficult for an attacker to penetrate the defense of such a stylist. It had its restriction in that it was also difficult for the practitioner to attack freely, having only the use of two jointed parts – the fist and forearm.

 

This was later modified, using ‘Sam Chat’ or three jointed parts; namely the fist, forearm and arm. The modified techniques enabled practitioners to attack more freely and have a longer reach.

 

Tai Chor is based on strong, powerful movements and accompanied by loud shouting at every move. Altogether, it is a fearsome style, based on the behavior and movements of an attacking tiger.

 

The Monkey style has many versions. Different systems like Tai Chor and White Crane have adapted and incorporated it into their art, presenting it in a slightly different form.

 

“I practiced the Full Monkey forms,” Ang said. “It was the most popular style in Eng Chun District. The difference is that in the Full Monkey forms, only tip of the toes touch the ground when one is in a stance. This provides the practitioner with a great mobility. For attack the following techniques are used: Piercing fingers, back hand strike, elbow strike, turning kicks, frontal flicking kicks, grabbing, rolling and sweeping.

 

The White Crane style was based on the long-limbed movements of the bird from which the name was derived. Names of certain elements were used for hand techniques. Kin (Gold) was the name given to the side block, Bok (Wood) to the down block, Chwee (Water) to the twirling block, Hay (Fire) to the upward block, and Thor (Earth) to the elbow block.

 

Ang was requested by Bushido to elaborate on the kicks used by the Tiger-Crane combination. The following are supplied by him:

 

  1. Spearing kick to the face
  2. Scissor kick – sweeping to throw opponents off balance
  3. Golden Sleepers – Twin maneuvers, one leg stamping and the other executing a high kick
  4. Kim Yam – turning double kicks for surprise attack
  5. Golden Swallow Yin Yang Kick – double kicks, the first as a feint
  6. Peh Beh (White Horse Kick) – used when one leg is caught by an opponent. Executed by dropping to the ground, supported by the hands and using a back kick with the free leg.
  7. Sweeping ‘Sha Tong’ Kick – low double sweeping kicks to topple the opponent

 

These formed only part of the comprehensive array of kicking techniques of Ang. Some were akin to TKD techniques and those of northern Chinese boxing.

 

Sifu Ang assisted Quek Yong Haw, the Tai Chor master, at the Mun Nam Pugilistic Association from 1951 before he started his own club, the Nanyang Pugilistic Association in 1953.

 

 

 

 

 

Another WCK clip; something labeled as “Hard School” Wing Chun and in another DVD by the same Sifu featuring “Siu Nim Tau”, this branch is described as a module of Hung Gar.

 

The Sifu also explained how SNT is fundamental training concentrating on one hand at a time and “Bong Kiu” starts students with 2 hands and left/right linked sequences.

 

Also mentioned is how the forms teach body co-ordination to attain the “whipping” energy needed to fire WCK techniques.

 

Personally, I am really thrilled that so many branches and schools of WCK are opening up and presenting their training methods and skills.

 

So no more just reading about them, now I get to, at least, see how they physically express their art forms.

 

Starting to really understand why they call it “Martial Forest”; so many species and sub-species……..

 

 

 

Alexander Fu Sheng.

October 21, 2007

Tragic end of a top money-spinner – Alexander Fu Sheng

Alexander Fu Sheng was the ninth of 11 children of a rich prominent family in Hong Kong. He was considered his father’s favorite son, despite showing little interest in things academic and no desire to try his hand in business.

 

He left school after only 2 years of secondary education, but eventually went on to become more of a money spinner than any other members of his family.

 

Fu Sheng, the stocky and boyish-looking Hong Kong film star, whose untimely death in a car crash at 29 was a great loss to the Chinese movie world, was born on October 20th, 1954, as Cheung Fu Sheng.

 

After leaving school, he showed a keen interest in Kung Fu, the Chinese art of self-defense. At the age of 16, he joined the actor’s training class run by Shaw Brothers. With his natural talent for comedy, he breezed through the course and coupled with his father’s ties with well-known director, Zhang Che, and his friendship with Asian Movie King, David Chiang, found no difficulty in getting into show business.

 

While others spent years trying to break into the big time, Fu Sheng took only a year and minor roles to do so. A second-generation protégé of director Zhang, who also gave him his stage name, Fu Sheng, he shot to fame in his first lead role in “Policeman”, a contemporary drama, This movie, like 22 other films in which he starred in, was directed by his mentor Zhang, who was responsible, in no small way, for his successful movie career.

 

His close relationship with Zhang was obvious because all 22 films made between 1974 to 1980 e.g.:-

 

  • Heroes 2
  • Nacha
  • Boxer Rebellioin
  • Brave Archer Pt. 1 & 2
  • Chinatown Kid
  • Avenging Eagle
  • Deadly Breaking Sword
  • Proud Twins

 

Were shot under Zhang’s direction.

 

His subsequent films between 1981 and 1983 e.g.:-

 

  • Return of the sentimental sword man
  • Brave archer Pt. 3
  • Rat versus Cat
  • My rebellious son
  • Hong Kong Playboys

 

Were not made under Zhang’s direction because Zhang had quit Shaw Brothers.

 

Fu Sheng played the lead role in 32 films altogether and was estimated to have earned at least HK 10 millions from them. He left unfinished 2 projects (one of which he was also directing) half completed and another (with Japanese singer Hideki Saijo) in the planning stages.

 

Unlike David Chiang who always played the conventional hero, Fu Sheng, with his big expressive eyes, chubby face and baby-smooth complexion was never the hero in the traditional mould. He was not invincible, no always righteous, and did not always die the tragic death. At times, he was not even the best fighter in the show.

 

However, his ability to provide comic relief with his slapstick Kung Fu antics, endeared him to audiences. In truth, Fu Sheng was largely responsible for launching the craze in kung fu comedies.

 

His impish grin, funny face and pouting lips plus his boyish good looks and natural agility were the trademarks of his acting.

 

At 23, he married glamorous Taiwanese singer Jenny Tseng after a much publicized 3 years courtship. It was love at first sight for him. He saw her singing at a night-club and was absolutely smitten with her. Later when she was warded for some ailment, he even camped outside the hospital.

 

His marriage to Jenny Tseng was not without it ups and downs. His parents objected to the tempestuous whirlwind romance because she was a year older than him. It was 3 years later that he obtained his parents’ blessings to tie the nuptial knot in December 76.

 

In the movie world, where marriages are known not to last long, theirs seemed to be a happy one until one May !983 when Fu Sheng walked out of their Clear Water Bay Road after a heated argument.

 

He was killed while driving the Porsche 911, a present from his wife. Known for his passion for car racing, it is believed that Fu Sheng’s sport car crashed along the hilly road into a cliff one night after he had dinner with his brother and some friends at the Country Club at Clear Water Bay.

 

Fu Sheng has been disqualified from driving and fined HK 1,000 by a magistrate for careless driving just 12 hours before the tragedy. He died 5 hours after the car crash. His elder brother Cheung Chun Pang, 35, survived the accident.

 

At his funeral, more than 2500 actors, friends and fans turned up to pay respect and mourned the passing of the Peter Pan of the Chinese Silver Screen.

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One of the things that I do miss living here in Sarawak is the extensive availability of Kung fu materials, in prints and videos, found in shops scattered all over Singapore.

 

Some of these shops have been in this business for, like, the past 10 – 15 years and their collection of titles are really remarkably comprehensive.

 

These days, it’s a real cinch to find these materials. Back when I was a kid, book shops were really “far and apart” and even then, they carry mainly school texts and “mainstream” subjects’ books.

 

I remember this one “itinerant” operator; he appeared in only open-air night markets and his books were really “hardcore” CKF – either Kung Fu books or “Wu Xia” novels.

 

I lived in a small village in the eastern part of the island and he was there only Fridays. So putting aside daily school pocket allowances to visit him became a routine; one that was to last until today.

 

Every time I am back in Singapore, I will religiously do my CKF book shops rounds – notwithstanding wind or rain……

 

This clip is from a DVD I picked up this recent trip – Pak Mei’s Sup Ji Kuen.

 

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

Pages from the book “Overview of Cantonese Wing Chun Kuen” – compiled by mainland China and featuring almost all known sects of Wing Chun from Canton province.

 

Now, if only someone could do the same for Fukien variations and do a contrast …..

Apologies for the lapse in posting; just got back from a hectic whirlwind trip covering Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to work on final details of the upcoming event with masters and schools invited in those 2 places.

 

In Singapore, I met with Master Teo Choon Teck, Master Ku Choi Wah, and my Zhou Jia family and I also got introduced to a Hakka Master, Liao Song Feng, distinguished for his knowledge of 5 different Hakka Kung fu.

 

Master Liao Song Feng. Time was too short for me to arrange for any taping session with Master Liao but I did managed to acquire a short video clip of him performing in a recent MA event in Singapore.

 

The 2 + hrs meeting with all the Masters and their students took place in a coffee shop and we were seated in the open air just right outside the “Singapore Poon Yu Association” premise; how very fitting.

 

In addition to working out the schedule and traveling plans for the Singapore contingent, the meeting also touch on post and future activities; where to do the next gathering for instance.

 

I am so thankful for the great support that I am receiving from these schools, so passionate about getting together to share and interact; makes this one year of effort so meaningful and to add Master Liao into the already stellar cast…what more could I ask for?

 

After the meeting, I joined Master Ku in his Cho Gar Wing Chun class and again we spoke at length about Wing Chun and White Crane. Master Ku, later, gave me an eyes-opening book registering all the major Wing Chun sects in Asia.

 

I never knew that there was such a place known as “Crow Lake” in Southern China famous for Wing Chun and that Master Ku’s Cho Gar is also otherwise known as “Crow lake” Wing Chun Kuen….

 

From Singapore, I hopped over to KL to meet up with Master Yip Fook Choy and his senior student, Tong Yap.

 

Over dinner, I confirmed Master Yip’s “Yip Kin Wing Chun” participation in the event.

 

So, it was with great satisfaction that night when I headed back to the hotel, knowing that I will be having Cho Gar Ban Chung, Hay Bun and Yip Kin Wing Chun together for the first time in many many years, in the same room displaying their proud legacies…..

 

That night I was dreaming of my flying swordmen and dragons again ……

 

 

 

 

After the long weekends’ holidays; Malaysia celebrates “Hari Raya Puasa” as a public holiday; I am booked to fly into Singapore today.

 

The last time I was there must have been like 6 months ago and it would be nice to have a change of pace for the next few days.

 

Since this is a “business” trip, appointments are in place to meet with the various schools invited to the Penang gathering to discuss, you know, the finalized program, logistics etc etc etc…

 

Got my “never leave home without it” digital video camera, I am aiming to shoot some more footages of the schools in action for this blog.

 

There is one stop that I must make and i.e. my White Crane school, or what’s left and my Sihing, who owns and operates a coffee-shop in Singapore.

 

Doesn’t matter where I go but each time I am back in Singapore, I would spend some time with him; really a “family” thing.

 

And I think this is the one thing that is undermined these days in Kung Fu training. Kung Fu was more than just an activity; you join a kung fu school, you become part of a family stretching all the way back – a connection with the past. And the bond between you and the family, like in my case, is expected to last a lifetime.

 

I remember how my teachers insisted on the customary offering of incense at the school altar the moment you step into the premises. No buts….

 

You greet all you seniors with the proper salute and you behave during and after training; really, code of conduct expected in most Asian and Chinese homes during my growing up days.

 

Yeah some of you must be thinking; what outmoded old fashion mindset ……but when I read about some of the crazy stuffs happening in the world today, I cannot help but wonder how much of it cannot be attributed to the fact that kids are left too much unguided?

 

I am no expert here but this I do know; if you don’t maintain your garden, pretty soon you are looking at a disordered anything-goes mini-jungle.

 

To maintain, you need to cut and trim, disinfect and fertilize the plants.

 

In a nutshell, you need to work it.

 

Maybe, just maybe that’s what the world needs – some working with behaving, showing respect for laws and orders and most importantly, right family values.

 

Respect the elders; they have been on the path longer than you……

 

Later…. for now I need to pack and head for the airport …..

 

 

 

Master Lew Kao Chai – Chu Gar Kao Hakka Tiger Boxing.

One of the first few Masters I met when I first moved to Sarawak from Singapore, Master Lew is everything I expected a Kung Fu master to be.

Unassuming and genteel, Master Lew in his 60s, still pack a very mean punch; a phrase commonly used to portray him around here.

Esteemed by many as a CKF elder, his views are often sought after when it comes to CKF. I am indeed much honored to call him a friend.

A few months back, a friend Sean Whitaker from England was visiting and I introduced them.

An Iron-Ox Praying Mantis teacher, Sean was heard commenting after a session with Master Lew, “this man is strong; his appearance is really deceiving”.

I couldn’t agree with that more; personally being on the receiving end of many of Master Lew’s techniques.

His Chu Gar is explosively fast and the way he moves is precisely like when they say “If my opponent is still, I am still. When my opponent moves, I move first”…..

Thru’ him, I am initiated into an entirely new world of Hakka styles boxing and the realization of how little I really do know about the big wide world of CKF.

To be able to include him in our entourage to Penang for the gathering is really a big privilege.

Again, I see myself working closely with this Master in many projects ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With only just 3 weeks to the Penang event and a little time to spare before I travel to Singapore; I thought I take a little time out (since it’s a public holiday here) to visit one of the masters invited.

Sifu Liew Joon Mew, custodian of Hakka Chu Gar “Internal Jin” Praying Mantis, lives about 18 miles outside Kuching.

The morning started out really soggy, strong winds and heavy downpour, made the ½ hr drive through the countryside just the little more “thrilling”.

It was still raining when we got to Sifu Liew’s house/TCM treatment clinic lying at the foot of a scenic hill surrounded by lush greens; this is agricultural country.

We sat down in his rustic living room and the conversation quickly turned to CKF and his particular branch of Hakka mantis. Describing in details, he pointed out that basic training reigns, everything is in the fundamentals. The eventual aim is to be able to generate his distinctive style of jin to power the techniques.

Cosmetics are given little consideration and he recounted how the early Chinese settlers had to fight for their rights to stay in Sarawak. You either win or die or leave for another site and that’s exactly how many Chinese from Kalimantan Indonesia ended up in Sarawak. So Kung Fu is really about survival in a, usually, hostile environment. No time for fancy experiments.

The 7th generation in his family line, he was requested, on many occasions, to return to his village in China to restore the arts. But with roots firmly grounded in Sarawak, he is hesitant to make any radical changes to his present lifestyle and opted instead to travel there where his schedule permits.

We talked about the future of his art and the various ways to ensure that it’s kept alive. Plans were drawn and it’s look like I will be working very closely with this Sifu from now on.

It was almost 3 hours later that we left Sifu Liew and by then, the sun is out shinning brightly; mark of better things to come for TCMA maybe?

Got this photo presentation here showing the wet trip, the village leading to Sifu Liew clinic/home and the interior of his house with a very rural kitchen that reminds me of Singapore in the 60s…

Sifu Liew in action.