Good Stuff !

April 30, 2009

Spoke about this a few entries back; a brilliant documentary studying the growth of Chinese Martial Arts throughout the ages.

From a military indispensable combat training to subsequent civilians’ proliferation, this documentary provides insights not commonly found in other documentary of the same genre.

Even the styles inspected are uncommon.

And for those who think they’ve “been there, done that” and “seen it all” …. Well I got news for you.

Some of the styles classical styles featured in the documentary are “exotic” even to folks around here.

In the clip, you’ll see something named “Xiong Qi Quan” and if you understand Mandarin, you are going to hear how every village in China came with its own style. I know of enormous ongoing efforts to research and preserve these previously unheard of skills, particularly in my ancestral home in Fuzhou.

So the sky is higher and the earth is thicker after all ………

Herbs and insect.

April 29, 2009

These last couple of days I’ve been kept real busy with preparing for an upcoming TCM workshop to be conducted by Sifu Liew Joon Mew, Chu Gar Praying Mantis; shuttling between his clinic and the office takes over an hour …… and with weather being so changeable lately, driving on a wet 2 lanes winding and undulating road isn’t exactly a breeze.

Sifu Liew, besides a Chu Gar expert, is also a proficient TCM practitioner, both old and “new” school. Taught by his father in the old herbal and massage therapy methods, he went on to study acupuncture etc in China, Singapore etc…

My role is the workshop is to help translate as we anticipate more non-Mandarin speaking attendees and Sifu Liew only speak Mandarin and Hakka.

So, much time is spent pouring over TCM topics to be covered and I got to do some background research to ensure that I stay on the right track and with my little formal TCM training; it’s like going back to school again.

Well, you live and you learn, I guess.

But with Sifu Liew, we could never stay away from talking Kung Fu, no matter how hard we try.

So in-between talking hawthorns, ginsengs and acupressure points, we again find ourselves talking insect – Praying Mantis to be exact.

To be even more precise, Hakka Praying Mantis.

I told Sifu Liew, who is researching this topic energetically, that I will try and find some clips from Hong Kong and China for his cause.

Here’s one – right there on youtube. Not exactly PM, but Chu Gar Gao. Looking at the “mechanics” of the performer, I think it’s something that Sifu Liew will love to view.

Youtube is easy. It’s the mainland video sites that are going to be a little tricky…….another winding and undulating road.

WCK manual Pt. 2

April 28, 2009

The saga continues :-

Sooo much have been written about Wing Chun and some so diametrically dissimilar that it makes what the late Bruce Lee said rings so clear.

“Distorted by classical mess”.

Perhaps, it’s some of these “modern authors” who are doing all the distorting.

Whatever, it’s an unhealthy trend that is affecting many styles; at the rate things are going, I am starting to wonder if I’m Chinese anymore …. Even though I look like one, talk like one and can traced my ancestry back to the middle kingdom; you see someone might just “expertly” argue that I am not.

Not to throw another spanner into the works, I will start posting some WCK materials here for all to view.

Some are recent takes and others are classical materials detailing WCK – the one that originated in China, that is.

What started out as a “not using power but method to win” philosophy has now transmuted into “The Matrix”.

May the force be with you, Na-Nu Na-Nu blah blah blah…..

 

Ps – entire manual is 113 pages long, will post in installments.

Let the record shows ..

April 26, 2009

Another good book that I like to recommend if you’re looking into histories, traditions, rites and even popular folklores related to Chinese Wushu through the ages.

In some of my earlier entries, I spoke about “JiangHu” or literally “Rivers and Lakes” and this is the common terminology used to describe the world of CMA – events, politics and personalities etc etc..

Most “jianghu” affairs are given the miss by conventional MA historians and even if you do find any, it’s typically very brief.

So apart from oral diffusions, the other good place to look is “Hung Mun” or “Triads” and clans’ records.

When I started my quest for more materials many years ago, this was precisely the suggestion given to me.

Easier said than done, I gotta tell you.

Working with “Hung Mun” could be tricky, especially if you are not a member; you tread carefully with these folks – observing every protocol in the book and only after gaining their confidence before they open out their materials.

Clan chambers and associations are a tiny bitsy simpler. Oftentimes, accesses to their libraries are not restricted but trying to understand the archaic and sometimes, idiosyncratic, manner of writing is really trying.  

And remember, standard Mandarin is not always the norm with these dialect clans.

Reading in Hakka and reading in Fuzhou are 2 different deals I assure you.

Take the case of QuanZhou Shaolin for instance; archived records from “QuanZhou Fu” of “House of Quanzhou” described the operation of Shaolin in very detailed manner. The temple might be gone but the records state very clearly the temple’s existence few hundred years ago. This record is not a “commercial” publication and if you are researching Shaolin, this is an essential source of information.

Last, but not least, are manuscripts found within various Kung Fu families that are restricted only to the seniors of those families.

Ven. Sek Koh Sum, Chief Abbot of Saolim, was reported to have passed on a set of writings to a very senior disciple in Penang.

I called on this gentleman during one of my trips there and was given a quick glimpse …..

What a treasure trove of details about Shaolin in Fukien; 100 over Shaolin forms and training methods listed!

Now if only I could make copies …..

Even Por Suk (Hay Bun Wing Chun) shared some of his Sifu’s materials and his personal communications with Cho Gar Wing Chun elders in China.

Really folks, I could go on and on ….

Let me reiterate – the records are there. You just got to know where to look.

And please, don’t speculate and attempt to rewrite history…….

Now back to the book, I extracted a couple of pages about hand signs commonly used in “jianghu” – some adapted for modern “applications”.

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I am a believer.

April 25, 2009

Nowadays, it is really in vogue to declare that Shaolin is just but another one of the hundred of styles of Chinese Kung Fu; challenging the long held idea that Shaolin is one of the main precursors of CKF.

From very young, I was taught that Shaolin has a hand in almost all the Kung Fu still in existence; a notion, even to this day, time-honored by many elders of CKF.

However, many books and forums, are disputing this and all kind of explanations are put forth.

I am one of those who stick to Shaolin as a prime resource of CKF and on many occasions, questioned; accused of being inflexible and anachronistic.

Folks, I got good reasons for not wavering from Shaolin being the key starting place of CKF.

Besides the fact that throughout my 40 years of Kung Fu experience, countless number of Sifus and elders communicated this, I got hundreds of book and some going dating back to the 20s, naming Shaolin as the original source.

So unless and until someone find some iron-clad proof, you are still going to hear me recite:

 

“10,000 plums blossom on 1 tree and 10,000 methods originated in Shaolin”.

 

And for those of you studying “Hung Mun” poetry, you must know that this line is an integral part of the initiation poem.

Got some pages here extracted from a book authored by the late great GM Wan Lai Sheng. According to him, there were 5 main Shaolin styles:-

  • Song Shan or Honan
  • Emei
  • Wudang
  • Fukien
  • Canton

Some  branched out to many other sub-styles.

Many folks around here even claimed that, at one time, 10 Shaolin Temples were operating in China even though not all of them were named as “Shaolin” per se.

This info did not just come from oral transmissions but also recorded in manuscripts taken out of China when Chinese resettled in SE Asia.

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Of all the lessons taught by my Sifu and elders, this has been indelibly imprinted in my mind.

And the most demanding, bearing in mind, how most in the martial world needs to be number 1 – “Winner takes all” or “Victor is King”; since time immemorial, most feuding have revolved around this.

So to me, to be able to bring folks from diverse styles together, in spite of historical baggage, must be the sweetest part of “MAG 2007”.

To see old friendships renewed and new ones formed, cutting across styles, race /dialect,  age gaps and heirarcy is  so gratifying …..

Everyone interacting ,having fun, sharing and working tightly together to put on show to re-emphasize that Kung Fu is truly “the crown jewel of Chinese culture” – you don’t find this very often these days.

When Peter and I spoke about arranging another gathering, my main impetus is knowing that I would be, in a small way, helping to keep CKF alive.

That and the camaraderie coming from every participant, both performing and behind the scene; the organisers, co-ordinators, committee members…..

Not forgetting the 10-course dinner after the finale   🙂

You know what they say; family that eats together stays together.

Same applies to Martial Arts families.

All things said, the event is memorable in many(and some, really unexpected) ways and its something that I will always remember.

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Eyes of a hungry tiger.

April 24, 2009

Remember the basic Kung Fu lessons?

Yes? Then I’m sure you must remember the “eyes must be like hungry tiger” bit – something that we were constantly reminded when we doing techniques, forms and fighting.

Usually we put on that fierce look, growl and then wham!

Hahaha, I still see that in the kids doing MAs around here.

When I was sorting through pics from “MAG 2007”; something that I’ve been putting off, I notice this “look” in some of the Sifus’ eyes.

That intense focus,that “I want to eat you alive” stare ….  hey I got the pics here – I don’t have to describe them …………..

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MAG Touch Hands.

April 23, 2009

Just in case you are wondering, MAG is acronym for “Martial Arts Gathering”; that’s the name of our event in Penang.

“Touch Hands” refers to the seminar/workshop held the day after the public show and what a blast we had.

Picture this, a group of Hakka, Fukien/Fuzhou and Cantonese high hands, in a hall expounding their system of fighting.

How do you handle close range techniques, kicks and ground fighting; one day was really not sufficient.

Not when you got

  •          Sifu Liu Chang I – Feeding Crane
  •          Sifu Cheong Cheng Loong – Hakka Phoenix-Eye
  •          Sifu Ruan Duan – Whooping Crane
  •          Sifu Teo Choon Teck – Grand Ancestor
  •          Sifu Li To Shen – Hakka Boxing
  •          Sifu Liew Joon Mew – Chu Gar Praying Mantis
  •          Sifu Ku Choy Wah – Ban Chung Wing Chun
  •          Sifu Tony Yap – Yip Kin Wing Chun
  •          Sensei Russ Smith – Okinawa Goju Ryu

 

Walking participants through the intricacies of their respective art form; this is the potion of “MAG 2007” that, to me, represent a “first” – the wealth of TCMA knowledge and collectively few hundred years’ experience under one roof is just beyond words.

I am fully conscious of the current hard time and putting on another show is chancy.

But in the words of my late Sifu and I know it sounds like a cliché, tough times don’t last.

Tough people do.

And all the Sifus I named are as tough as they come.

If not tougher.

Getting them together again, I think, is not that tough   🙂

mrta-0929wmSifu Liu Chang I – Feeding Crane Taiwan

mrta-0931wmSifu Cheong Cheng Loong – Hakka Phoenix-Eye 

mrta-0970wm       Sifu Ruan Duan – Whooping Crane

mrta-1056wm     Sifu Teo Choon Teck – Grand Ancestor

mrta-1077wm         Sifu Li To Shen – Hakka Boxing

mrta-1066wm        Sifu Liew Joon Mew – Chu Gar Praying Mantis

mrta-1071wm     Sifu Ku Choy Wah – Ban Chung Wing Chun

mrta-1050wm        Sifu Tony Yap – Yip Kin Wing Chun

mrta-1095wm     Sensei Russ Smith – Okinawa Goju Ryu


Siao Chong San

April 22, 2009

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Another on-going topic in martialforest.