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.

Aha, found a clip that illustrates what I was trying to say about “whipping & splashing” jin execution – signature features of orthodox Fuzhou Cranes…..

White Crane elders are constantly reminding me – “No whipping no White Crane”…..

Or commonly expressed as “Body like willow and hands like bullets” – in the old tongue i.e

Love the way how some Taiwanese lines are keeping things so close to the core of classical Crane Boxing according to handed down manuscripts – the ones that are taking me forever to convert……..

Hey hey, it is from Fuzhou to English ….and the Fuzhou portion is already killing me!

Dance of the Crane ?

June 22, 2010

Love the way this dancer do her stuff – no no no, I am not crossing over to “dancing”.

But just look and see how she keeps loose and focusing “power” only at the end of each move?

Arrgh, the often cited but misinterpreted “inch power” whipping and splashing that characterizes Fuzhou Cranes.

This dancer actually moves according to the way it is explicated in classic White Crane texts.

Coming from a Saolim background, it took me quite awhile to execute my Crane techniques in this manner.

The old Chinese Kung Fu idiom: – “It easy to learn Kung Fu but it is very hard to rectify Kung Fu”…….

Hear hear …..

Right, it is starting to look like this is the best I could do – update this blog once or twice a week.

With 2 books scheduled to be launched this year and both entailing extensive research and interviewing folks from all over Sarawak, proper time management is critical – aaarrgghh, “deadline” was just a word before but now …… I understand the “dead” in “deadline”…. Geeeze, this is cramping my style tsk tsk tsk….

Ahem, anyway ….. In the middle of all these excitement, Penang called and now I got to review my schedule.

Firstly, Peter (my Zhou Jia sihing) called about a week ago to tell me that one of our Zhou Jia schools is celebrating their 15 years’ anniversary with a dinner cum performance. My sibakgong will be the guest-of-honor and he wants me to be there for this event.

Then Por Suk rang and spoke to me about recording his entire Cho Gar Ban Chung Wing Chun syllabus onto DVDs. Now this is a breakthrough … so far I’ve only managed to record his Wing Chun partially. The whole thing …. Wow …… what can I say?

And just last evening, our other contact there want to know if we are able to be in Penang on the 25th of this month to meet the Minister of Tourism to discuss some of our proposals submitted. The Minister don’t do impromptu meeting, everything got to be penciled into her appointment diary….

Now if only all these are in the same time window but unfortunately there are not. So its either I shuttle back and forth or stay in Penang for 10 days to cover them all … decision, decision, decision……

Well, that is “work” …. And you know what they say …. “Deal with it!”

Now back to kung fu – something that I spoke about awhile back; how many folks misconstrue “Ancestral” for “Vibrating” Crane because in the Fuzhou dialect, both these are pronounced as “Zhong”….

I have yet to see any “Ancestral” Crane clip on-line except for the one I put up about 3 years ago.

There are, however, quite a number of “Vibrating” Crane clip posted on many mainland sites; typically performances by either Taiwan or Putien schools.

After watching these, I noticed something that both “Ancestral” and “Vibrating” Cranes seem to have in common; many “reeling cloth” and “washing hands” techniques.

Could be because producing colored cloth was, at that time, a big local industry; so there you go, something that very few historian talks about. Most records would explain histories, events and personalities and all that but how many probe into the development of the arts vis-à-vis daily lifestyles and practices?

Just like many Hakka styles around here are referred to as “tofu hands” and Fukien styles are known as “farmer’s kung fu”…. All for good reasons….

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 !!!

Some more bird talk.

May 10, 2010

Okay okay I know, this is supposed to be a Kung Fu blog and I should stay the course ….. but please remember also that “all Kung Fu and nothing else makes Eric a dull boy” … duh !!!

However, Kung Fu is a big part of my life and I don’t drift far, a little diversion now and then but still it is the “comfort zone” that I am comfy with.

Got another clip here to share – Yong Chun White Crane’s “8 parts”, to me, a signature form for them after Sanchiem; a “forcing the 4th gate” form since they don’t do any “angles or corners” battle form per se.

Maybe and this is a big maybe, latter days’ Fuzhou Cranes “4th gate” form is inspired by this form; it is really hard to ascertain particularly since no proper chronology record exist.

Talking to both Yong Chun and Fuzhou Cranes elders, nothing clear cut resulted …..

Then of course you got “Grand Ancestor” or “Tai Chor” Boxing  and the consensus is that this is a much older system and if you inspect their paradigm of training, you’ll find :-

  • Sanchiem – connecting sky, man and earth or in other tongue, absorbing into the earth and rising to the sky power trajectory.
  • 4 doors
  • 5 gates
  • 8 methods

Looks like all these are swimming in the same water no?

Another account that I’ve got from a White Crane elder around here is that “8 parts” refer to the 4 major wrist and elbow manipulations – this then put the form closer to what Wing Chun folks preach…..

This White Crane veteran has his fair share of touching hands with White Crane experts of most lines and really, I cherish everything he has got to share with me; you should see some of the classical hand written/illustrated manuscripts that his teacher left him – priceless!!!

Back to the form in the clip, the performer appears to be much “harder” that the earlier YCWC clips that I posted. This kind of delivery makes it easy to see why many in the Karate world are now claiming association to YCWC as reported in the many websites and magazines out of the mainland.

So which is the right execution? Well, if you ask me, they are both “right” – go back to the White Crane classics and you’ll find recorded in no uncertain terms, that White Crane is “half hard half soft”.

Sinking into the “Dantien” and sinking into the earth produce different energies and appearances….

To sink into “Dantien” you keep your legs tight like in your typical “hourglass” stance whereas sinking into the earth calls for the legs to stay “springy”.

Well, more on this topic over time …. Let me find more clips to demonstrate what I mean.

Okay, back to the bird ….

With so much mumbo-jumbo floating around, it is becoming tricky to tell what is what no?

Even with something as simple as the 4 divisions, we got folks passing Putien’s “Shaking Crane” as one of the main “Fuzhou” Crane.

Or misguidedly stating that “Shaking Crane” is “Ancestral Crane” because “Shaking” and “Ancestral” are both pronounced as “Zhong” even though they are 2 separate distinct written characters; this is where not knowing the language could lead to slip-ups easily.

In Mandarin, “shaking” and “ancestral” sound close but in Fuzhou, the contrast is much clearer.

Oftentimes, you hear that “Flying, Feeding, Whooping and Hibernating” Cranes are interpretation of physical behaviors of the Crane which is accurate to a large degree but even more profound is the “4 major energies” that is linked with these physical visible behaviors.

White Crane elders from the generation before me refer to these energies more than imitation of crane physical movements; this is one topic that I spent enormous time discussing with White Crane elders around here in Sarawak.

And fortunately for me, I found quite a few of them still familiar with this lingo and my comprehension of White Crane has enhanced immensely thru exchanges with them.

Well, anyway ….. One of the first “energies” that most Crane students would spend the initial few years training is “shuai” or roughly translated to “throw” and in the following clip, you see this unmistakably in the “Flying Crane” and also in the “Yong Chun White Crane” form.

Flying Crane is effectively based on “shuai” jin according to the classic manuscripts that were brought out of the mainland some 100 over years ago and YCWC, being more or less the “mother crane” encompasses this characteristic; it is just that different streams of YCWC emphasize different aspects and that is why you see some coming across as much “harder” expressions.

But you know the old CKF saying “with just one stroke, it’s enough to tell whether you’re real or not”……..

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.

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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.

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Warmest regards,

Terry



From an email I received:-

It has a great many forms (about 80) collected from various parts of China which reflect the travels of the ‘Beggars’ of Fong Yang. The style is said to combine the wings of Peh Hoke with the legs of Thai Chor and thus combines the Northern and Southern skills of kung fu.

A brief description of Fong Yang “Beggars” Art that was taught in Singapore by the late GM Tan Siew Cheng …..

In fact the school, on a roof top along Balestier Road, is not far from where I used to live in Toa Payoh, one of the oldest townships on the island and some where at the outskirt of that town is Siong Lim Temple – the one founded by the late Ven. Sek Koh Sum.

You can read more about this rare unique art here click.