Keep looking …..

April 29, 2010

It took me a while but finally….I landed a “big” one.

For some time now, I’ve been aware of the existence of at least 2 books written by the late GM Li Zai Ruan; the highly esteemed White Crane/WuZu teacher who resettled in Borneo.

Today, among the CKF elders in Sarawak, you could still find direct descendents of GM Li if you try hard enough; I met one some 2 years back operating a Chinese medical hall and doubling as a TCM doctor. I went to him to get some old injuries treated and thru him, I got to know GM Li a little better; his life here and the arts that he taught in Sarawak.

And this is the perplexing part – there are 2 GMs in this region, both celebrated Wuzu teachers but for some reasons also referred to as “Yong Chun White Crane” high hands.

I am trying to establish if they were trained in both or was it a custom to use Wuzu and YCWC interchangeably those days?

Looking at the syllabus they taught, it reveals a balance of standard WuZu and YCWC … so what the inside scoop?

The other GM besides GM Li is GM Kan Teck Guan, deemed by many to be a giant in the Wuzu world.

Short of talking to direct students of these 2 gentlemen, the next best thing is to get a hold of written works left by them.

GM Li, I was told, wrote a few books in his time and 2 of which were named as “Crane Boxing”.

Gotta tell you, hunting down his books is anything but easy … but hey you know what they say:

“The Heavens would not deny those with heart”.

So with plenty “heart”, I finally found another of his works and now it’s digesting and dissecting time ……

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 :-

Hi Eric,

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.

>

Warmest regards,

Terry



Kung Fu Art.

April 27, 2010

So what are you so busy with, a friend around here keep asking. He has been trying to get me out to his regular watering hole for the last couple of weeks ……

I would love to, with loud music, pool games and “friendly” ladies ….. Hey it all spells fun.

But at this moment, besides working with Penang on a couple of projects, the adventure-racing program and the book “Chinese of Sarawak” …. I am also working directly with a bunch of young artists on various undertakings.

Mostly “mixed media” trained, this is one superb opportunity to test out what they can do with the hundreds of pictures that I’ve taken these last couple of years; a good assortment of Kung Fu, landscapes and everyday moments from all over Sarawak and West Malaysia.

Love the ways they blend editing software and classical methods to render a picture – the result is just so inimitable….

Here’s one picture that is “work in progress” – this picture will be further worked by one of them to achieve a different feel altogether.

Soon, I will be featuring some of these artists ……

So, my boss might be right after all; believe and start thinking certain thoughts, you are really sending energies out into the universe which magnetize events and circumstances that reaffirm your conviction….errrh in this case, a Nat Geo documentary.

I was at a friend’s yesterday and the TV was showing a Nat Geo program about “fusion” foods that are now very hip in Hong Kong. Towards the end of the documentary, the filming crew visited a traditional soy sauce factory where everything is still done in the old-fashioned way; no mechanization of any sort and even the jars used are hundreds year old and are you ready for this – the jars are never washed ………… according to the soy source folks, this is one of the factors that gives their sauce that unique highly sought-after signature taste.

I actually heard about this when I was in Penang, special iron-ore jars that are used repeatedly without any washing and some jars are 200 – 300 years old. Hey, I even approached the proprietor hoping to buy one of the jars – they will look fantastic in a “Bali” style garden – I was a landscaper in my previous “life” remember? Well, I got turned down flat … what can I say?

Some things you simply cannot buy and for the rest, you got “MasterCard” hahahaha…..whatever …..

I am devoted to many traditional ways – I think our “contemporary” lifestyles have abundantly proved that not all “new”  methods are enhancing in any ways – hey when you need 5kg to produce 1 kg of “modern” food – something is just not right, not the math nor the methodology….

I am a huge fan of the British “River Cottage” series with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – I might just start my own “River Cottage” here except that I’ll have a kung fu school and a restaurant serving home grown vegetable and produce that are free from ….you know all that chemicals laden fertilizers and feeds – everything reverted to time-honored modes.

Now, that’ll be the day……

Okay before I continue “daydreaming” here is another clip found on a mainland site – don’t know much about the details except that many of the qinna techniques bring to mind a book in my collection – published before WW2, this is a “Bak Siulam” 2 men routine that was incorporated into JinWu training syllabus.

Don’t know if it is still practiced these days in JinWu but I remember watching performance of this when I was just but a kid in Singapore in the 60s …..

Hmmmm daydreaming – maybe that would send out some “energies” to attract some positive circumstances to attain my “River Cottage”……. Hahahahaha……..

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.

Enjoy.

It’s quiet here this week. Hope you don’t mind.
Thanks for stopping by.

Eric ………

大鸿拳.

February 5, 2010

Ooops, with the CNY holidays forthcoming, I am trying to tie up as much as possible before the 1 week or so slack-off time; to binge on foods and drinks with relatives and friends ….. hey typical Chinese “family” time.

“To eat is to prosper and to gamble is naught”  … now how many times have I been reminded of this? But then again, to binge on calories and cholesterols laden food is gambling with your health, no???

But once a year, you get to push logic back and just be.

So what have I got to share today?

A Dahongquan clip 大鸿拳 clip that I found and folks, please this is not Shaolin’s Dahong or “Vast Red” or Canton Hong Quan or Hungga.

The Hong here is the Chinese character for a “mythical” bird and you can go to Baidu for some background info.

Here’s a link that you might like – click here.

An article about fading art forms over on the mainland.

Now this rings a bell – oh that’s precisely the same state of affairs that we are facing in SE Asia. The hundreds of styles that got transplanted in the last few hundred years; many are now just nothing but a mention in some old books or archives.

And on that note, I wish you happy weekends.

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 :-

Pearly sound bites.

January 24, 2010

Here is an extract from a Malaysian Tourism site :-

Penang, often referred to as the Pearl of the Orient, is one of the most picturesque and romantic cities in all of Asia. This tropical island-city lies in the Indian Ocean, just off the north-west coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

Penang received its name from the Pinang, or Betel Nut tree, once commonly found on the island.

Established as the first British trading post in the Far East in 1776, Penang today is a bustling metropolis reflecting a unique, exotic blend of East and West.

On Penang Island sits the capital, Georgetown, a city steeped in history and tradition, yet sparkling with progress and modern development.

The island also boasts some of the best food in the region, ranging from Nyonya Cuisine to foodstall favourites like nasi kandar, char kway teow and penang laksa, all of which are cooked in a uniquely ‘Penang’ way.

You know, I have been in and out of Penang so many times that I have lost count.

And I thought I have seen and tasted enough but this is no where near true, every time I visit, I would spot something that I missed before … from foods, old buildings with quaint façade to martial arts … what can I say???

The more I know, the more I realize how much I don’t …. And Penang is one place that you really need to savor patiently.

So, any misgiving why my boss want to invest there?

This trip is to scout for a good venues for our plans and you know how it is always location, location and location.

Plus, I met up with 2 crucial persons who are going to be instrumental in moving our projects forward so this trip is really all work and almost no “play” hahahaha….

Still I found time to move around a little to shoot  more pics and before I left, a short Carlsberg session with Saolim Sifu we all call “Ah boy” shown in the pic below sledge hammering a stone slab on his student’s head.

I will upload more pics later …….

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.