Another hectic week just zipped by …. The year of the Tiger is proving to be more “vigorous” than I first imagined.

Well, this is good …. It’s always better to be busy than idle …so say so many folks around here.

And this past week had been made “busier” with the visit of my Zhou Jia (Jow Ga) sihing, Peter Lum, from Penang.

He was supposed to travel with Por Suk (Cho Ga Ban Chung Wing Chun) but Por Suk had to change plan last minute; one of his students bought tickets for him to go to China….

Well anyway Peter stayed with us in the new house so it was 4 days of kung fu talks and discussions of projects plus meeting with my boss, kung fu folks in Kuching and some sightseeing / shopping squeezed in.

This being his virgin trip to East Malaysia, we wanted him to experience as much as possible; life in East and West Malaysia are really 2 totally diverse matters.

You just go to hands on both to know what I mean.

4 days are just barely adequate to scratch the surface, so Peter is scheduling on coming back …. With Por Suk.

In the meantime, I will be building a “mok chong” or “wooden dummy” using “belian” …one of the hardest “iron wood” known to man.

I will be working my knives techniques on the dummy … what are you thinking you dummy hahahaha….

Downtown Kuching near the waterfront.

GM Kong Shu Ming (Hakka Suppressing Tiger Fists) having morning       coffee with Peter.

“Arsenic Lake” in Bau Kuching. Seriously the lake is laced with arsenic left behind during the gold mining operations. Swim at your own risk !!!

Proof of life.

January 27, 2010

Arh,arh arh …. That is the sound of me gasping for air …. I am up to my nose with work after my trip to Penang.

2 full scale proposals to be submitted by end of this week …… arrrrrggghhhhh!!!

Annnyway, I got a bunch of DVDs that I am converting and hopefully extract bits to be youtubed for sharing, which reminds me; I am out of Carlsberg….hahahaha….

I did receive a mail today from one of my youtube subscribers; don’t really know anything about this subscriber …. Nothing but a username you understand?

He sent me a link of “Butterfly Palm” a Hakka style that I spoke about briefly in one of my earlier posts.

Yes, this style of boxing is still practiced in Sarawak but around here, it’s taught within the Henghua community. Henghua or XinHua is another southern dialect group.

The thing is that they are found mainly in Sibu and not where I am at now, Kuching Sarawak. Sibu is about half an hour away by air.

So the next time I visit I’ll try and make contact with them and perhaps capture their renditions on videos…..

Here’s the clip sent to me.

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.

Cheers.

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……

3 leggged Tiger.

December 30, 2009

Another remark here, with the mainland now more connected with the rest of the world and easier flow of info, back and forth, many hitherto only read about styles are beginning to come out in many TV programs and d-i-y online video sites.

If like me, you frequent these sites, you will know what I am talking about. Even around here, every Saturday afternoons I was told, there is a “Super SanDa” series that is beamed to this region…now all I need is one of those TV satellite dishes…. You know, those ugly looking thing that I am sure are magnets for lightning …. Nah ….I can live without sanda, super or not hahahaha…..I definitely don’t need to attract lightning…

Annnyway………you often hear the term “village style” being used in forum discussions etc ….and have you ever stop to ask what is a “village style”???

So, I suppose there must be an equal and opposite “city style” for every “village style” mentioned?

Or is this just another way of saying “I have never heard or seen this style since it was never featured in any popular movies, magazines , books and most importantly, it is not on Youtube! And my only knowledge of CKF is delivered in those medias”…… or the term is a convenient category for anything that I know next to nothing about?

Well, every style got to begin somewhere and something tells me it is probably in some quiet environments that the founder can focus on developing his/her art; most movies would have you believe that it is some mountains, temples or in a sparsely populated neighborhood – you don’t need busybodies peeping ……

Ooookay, I am going to stretch and say that most styles had a “humble” village beginning and some take their arts to the big cities, military or other institutions and from them acquire that “city” status and probably, fame and fortune. Other just remained in the communities where they started with no city ambitions – hey to each his own, go with the flow, the way of the Tao blah blah blah…..

My problem is when folks belittle “village” styles; please remember for every city, there must be 10 fold that number of villages.

Again, bear in mind what Bob said:-

Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.

Or worse, something you know absolutely nothing about.

Here from a village style, a form named “3 Legged Tiger”…..

More of that “stare you in the eyes and hitting you with life-threatening no nonsense techniques” Hakka Li Gar Kao kung fu……

The way they do their solo forms, 2 men conditioning and even the “jian” in their hands looks more menacing – forget grace and delicate movements – just go for the jugular ……. Aaaaaarrrrggghhhhhh !!!

Wanderer’s Sect.

December 6, 2009

The Hakka people belong to a subgroup of the Han Chinese people based in the provinces of Guangdong, Jiangxi, and Fujian in China. Their ancestors were often said to have arrived from what is today’s central China centuries ago. It is said that in a series of migrations, the Hakkas moved, settled in their present locations in southern China, and then migrated overseas to various countries throughout the world. They have had a significant influence on the course of Chinese and overseas Chinese history: in particular, they have been a source of revolutionary, political, and military leaders.

Read more here.

Geeeze, I didn’t know Chow Yun-Fat, Thaksin Shinawatra and Abhisit Vejjajiva , the previous and now Prime Minister of Thailand are Hakka……

But then again, what do I know?

The Hakka, gypsies or wanderers and treated as “Ke” or “guests” often had to fight the locals and that resulted in their practical down-to-earth styles that you see today.

I came to Sarawak in search of Fuzhou styles but the big bonus discovery must the many Hakka styles that managed to remain true to the traditions – nothing added and nothing taken away.

These are folks who use their arts to fight and kill and nothing in their 200 – 300 years experience in this region suggest any need to “modernize” or “improve”.

A good tool is a good tool, the packaging doesn’t matter.

Here’s a clip featuring “Liu Min Kian” or “Wanderer’s Fist” from Taiwan.

You say, he says……

December 4, 2009

And I say before you say anything about Chinese Kung Fu, go find out more.

If your knowledge comes from the movies, some translated (and most inaccurately done) western works and self-styled experts hypothesizing in forums and websites-don’t be too quick to issue statements about CKF.

Here’s a clip that I found in a mainland site featuring a whole array of Hakka styles and it’s an eye-opener to say the least.

And this is after touching hands with a dozen of Hakka masters from around here, all from rarely heard Hakka styles.

So the sky is higher and earth is thicker than I thought hahahaha……..

Btw, the Hakka performance in the clip reminds me of a White Crane style that was taught in Singapore many years ago …..