After the break ……

August 17, 2010

Hey folks,

Again I find myself telling you that no; I am not deserting this blog but that too many things just popped up concurrently making sitting down in front of my computer turned  into some scheduling……

Also sadly, my partner’s (for the last 11 – 12 years) elder sister passed away after 2 -3 years of struggle with cancer; all that chemo, radiations, drugs both western and eastern….. I don’t know…..what I do know is that our prayers are with her to go to a better place…..

Then with our new training center seeing good response, we have about 15 new intakes since words got out, Por Suk’s visit to share his Ban Chung Wing Chun – all these took some nifty coordinating from my staff.

Not forgetting that we got to squeeze in some R&R time for Por Suk to be a tourist since this is his first time in Sarawak. Even then, we spent most of the time talking about TCMA.

And when Por Suk revealed that he does a very rare Hung Gar form – “Buddha Crane Palm”, I persuaded him to pose the form for me to shoot…in the middle of a Chinese temple we were suppose to be just visiting….. Must have spooked the other tourists …hahahahaha

I will talk more about this uncommon Hung Gar form and another “monkey cudgel” form that he does – forms that I remember vaguely reading about in some real old books and thought no longer practiced today…..

Once again proving how little I really know ….

Good health to all of you.

You know in the course of my work, I need to read a lot –for background research for the various projects undertaken by the company and here we are talking about projects of mixed nature and  my reading materials are correspondingly, varied.

These last few weeks, I found myself referring to magazines like “Smithsonian” and “National Geographic” amongst others….

We are working towards building a museum and these 2 magazines are very helpful in many ways.

Anyway, I found 2 articles that, personally, articulate what I’ve been trying to say, ineptly, in this blog and forums back when I still bother with them…. that is…..

The first is from “Smithsonian” and taken from the Q & A section – the person interviewed is American Indian author Leslie Marmon Silko :-

Question :- How is storytelling particularly significant to the Laguna Pueblo , your tribe?

Answer :- In many indigenous cultures the oral literatures encompass the whole worldview, the whole identity of the people, the philosophy, the history. And so storytelling at Laguna Pueblo and among a lot of indigenous groups isn’t just some kind of evening entertainment: it’s the whole basis of community.

The second excerpt is from a special China edition of Nat Geo and here we have an article about the Dong people of Southern China – a minority tribe.

“I have heard that you could ask anyone in Dong village for a song and he or she would sing without hesitation. I would hear many; a welcome song about keeping out invaders, melodies about growing old, Dong favorites about feckless lovers……..”

Folks, a big big part of Chinese history and in particular, TCMA histories are handed down in oral forms. From one generation to the next and unbroken for hundreds of years.

So for me to read some smart alecks dismissing these oral transmissions is really vexing; are they part of the chain?

Do they even know about these oral transferences, usually only done within families?

And please, stop rewriting history just because it suits your hypothesis – you don’t have the right to.

How would you feel if I do the same with your family’s history – it’s like stepping all over your ancestors’ grave no?

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, here is the late Alexander FuSheng performing “Iron Wire” in one of his movies – found the clip over at 56.


So the year of the tiger is playing out just like some “feng shui” masters are predicting; dynamic with upheavals that hit at the roots of things …..Drastic changes, I say man.

Barely 3 months into the tiger’s path and already I find myself swarmed with projects, which is good – it’s better to be busy than to swapping mosquitoes…so says everyone…..

In front of me, I got these cooking in various stages and I thought I talk about each a little – just so nobody and nobody again starts thinking that I spend my days chasing dragons and tigers and ….. swapping mosquitoes…..hahahahaha….

  • Great Borneo Outdoors Challenge – This is a joint brainchild of Chas (Fisher) and ahem ahem ….moi. For Chas, it’s a no-brainer after having spent most of his life in the outdoors equipment industry. And as for me, with my modest forays into the caves and jungles of Sarawak, I just want more folks to partake …. This is a beaaauuutiful country for adventure racings and eco- visitations. Hey, I arrived 6 years ago and if actions do speak louder than words – I am still in Sarawak !!! In the next few days, a dedicated blog will commence to chronicle this event slated for 2011. This blog will see input from me, Chas and another gentleman, Troy Farrer ….him being  the main man in the  world of Adventure Racing; he is coming on board as our course consultant.
  • Our book “Chinese Of Sarawak” is now taking on a much larger format to include Chinese from various divisions of Sarawak and this is pushing back our launch date to end of this year. With the bigger coverage, we want to delve deeper into what makes the Chinese in this country tick …. How big did “old country” culture influence their fate and fortune in their new found home and folks, this is not a TCMA book per se albeit it did assume a significant role in the pioneer days ……and to think of it, even till this very day.
  • The company that I work for is also very pro-active in supporting local artists of various genres and you will be hearing more of this soon. My particular interest in this area is working with artists who are also familiar with TCMA and producing art works with TCMA as a subject ….. coming soon to a blog near you …………..
  • Wetland Preservation Project – no, I am not turning into a tree hugging eco-warrior but I am concerned, very concerned, with what modern man is doing that is detrimental to the environment. I mean look at the capricious weather that we have been getting lately …. You tell me it is not induced by mankind …………. So if there is a chance to do a little something….and that is exactly what my company is attempting with this project; a little premature to talk about this now, we are in the early stages but this is a gargantuan project demanding much attention …even at the front end.

But my deep-seated passion is still researching and documenting traditional Chinese martial arts transplanted into this part of Asia and that is my centerline.

I might meander off into other projects every now and then but I will always find my centre … eeerrrhh, what am I saying???

Well anyway, I think you catch my drift and for now, maybe the “tiger” need a little checking hhmmmm …

A mainland form, no background info available, known as “Suppressing Tiger”….. to me, a little Fukien (in fact, a small portion, the kneeling stance reminds me of Siaolim) and wushu-ish.

But that’s just me and what do I know?

Hung Gar Umbrella

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 :-

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.


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”…..

Lingnan Hong Quan / Hung Gar.

December 29, 2009

Mention “Hung Gar” or “Hong Jia”, the images evoked; predictably, revolve around Southern Shaolin, Gee Shim, Hong Si Guan, Wong Fei Hung, Lam Sai Weng and “Tiger Crane”, “5 Animals”, “5 Elements 5 Animals”, “Iron Wire” and “Ng Long Pak Kua Kwon”…..

In a nutshell, materials for many Kung Fu movies that flooded the market from the 60s till even today.

Hey, many Asian action movie stars owe their success to “Hung Gar” … so to speak and the audiences, first in Asia and now international, just couldn’t get enough.

Many movies/TV series are still being churned out with “Hung Gar” as the theme.

Even CKF magazines from that era are slanted towards Hung Gar.

So the common perception of Hung Gar is pretty much shaped by these popular medias and it is no question that Hung Gar is one of most popular CKF now.

Then some 15 yrs back I started looking deeper into the correlation between Fukien and Cantonese styles, since every account put most Cantonese styles as offshoots from Fukien sources, and even Hong Si Guan is recorded to be a Fukienese.

My fundamental issue was why most Fukien and Cantonese styles appear so dissimilar in terms of textures and flavors, why the big chasm?

Local evolution or did the history man had it wrong? Compare any Fukien styles with Hung Gar and I think you will see the dilemma.

If the case was local evolution, then there must exist somewhere, a “midway” form that carries the Fukien characteristics.

Look at Zhejiang, the other place where many Fukien styles fled to during the Ching Dynasty and many art forms there still show evidence of Fukien boxing.

And when mainland started opening up, books about Hung Gar started appearing in the market and the first thing I noticed is that their version of Hung Gar is nothing like the Hung Gar that we are all so used to.

And we are not talking one author and one book here …..

This prompted the question in my mind; could the popular Hung Gar be just but one line and there are many that still maintain their Fukien character?

I think this CCTV documentary entitled “Lingnan Hong Quan” answers that amply for me.

An entire small village with some 1000 plus inhabitants all doing the same kung fu, generation after generation and keeping everything unchanged.

They spend 3 years training their stance because to them, all power comes from the legs.

These are folks who do “4 level stances” for up to 1 and half hours at a time ……and the “Hung Gar” they do and have been doing for the last few hundred years …… you tell me……

And listen to the commentary, for the line that says “Most traditional CKF after been brought onto the big screen, have been transformed to the point that the original form is no longer recognizable”.

I find myself agreeing with that entirely….

Gordon Liu’s Tiger.

December 11, 2009

Aha, look at what else I found browsing mainland’s youku site …. Gordon Liu doing a short Hung Gar “Tiger” form.

And man, don’t you think he still looks exactly like he did in his early days Shaw Bros CKF movies….

What ,what is the “secret”???

I think it might have something to do with “Tit Sin” ….. hahahaha ……

So folks, it’s not only Tai Chi and the other “soft” arts that make you stay young.

“Dynamic tension” could also be another elixir …..hahahaha….