Got a call, out of the blue, from a senior journalist of a local daily asking to interview me couple of weeks back.

Errrh, I was a little hesitant at first – me and my keeping a low profile mindset – hey, I don’t need every Tom, Dick and Harry asking to “touch hands” when I am out there ……..got better things to do with my hands really….

Anyway when the journalist, Wilfred Pilo,  mentioned that he is a Tang Soo Do practitioner, I thought this should be interesting – a wordsmith and martial art exponent, so I agreed to meet up.

So there we were, 2 strangers meeting in a food court and exchanging experiences – what can I say?

It just doesn’t get any better than this ……

The John Lennon lookalike on the left is Mr. Martin Watts and I got a mail from him about his …….. well…. you can read all about it here click.

All the best Martin.

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

Eric ………

Okay folks, first, apologies for the lapse in entries; hey, it’s CNY after all ……everybody is supposed to goof off for 15 days …. It’s a tradition thingy you understand?

Then  I want to express my appreciation to Kevin Mak, a Malaysian now living in Australia for his kind support – here’s wishing you a “Happy/Healthy and Fruitful” New Year….

You know, every now and then, I still get emails asking me questions like:-

  • What exactly is it that I do for a living around here? A Singaporean transplanted in Sarawak, do I even work at all???
  • Do I teach CKF around here?
  • Any other “life” outside TCMA?
  • Blah blah blah ……..

Weeell, over the next few updates, I am going to try to clear up some of these queries….and you shall see that I have got “life” abundant – I just don’t talk about it too much in cyberspace….. Not a big fan of “reality” internet ….

But, I think it’s time to get a little up close and personal ……a little ……..

Ahem !

I am going to start this exercise with “EDC” ……and for those of you unacquainted with this acronym; “EDC” stands for “Everyday Carry”.

From Wiki:-

Everyday carry (EDC) refers to various items, usually small, that are worn or carried by a person on a daily basis for use in everyday tasks from the mundane to the unexpected. EDC preparedness considerations can be partially summed up in Arc Flashlight‘s “‘Every Day Carry – most convenient’ class” flashlight criteria

And folks, there are many forums out there with this topic; I kid you not, grown-ups gathering to talk about knives, touch lights, multi-tools, guns etc etc….

I think what a man picks to carry everyday in his pockets gives a clue to who he is no?

So with that, here is my stash everyday… pic shows 3 knives and 2 watches ….I do one at a time. These are my current favs that I am showing; I got more (much much more) than 3 knives and 2 watches.

The “Astro Boy” usually sits in front of my computer monitor and sometimes, the dashboard of my car…….

Jeeeze, in Singapore I usually leave home with only my credit cards and now .. …… maybe it’s all that natural jungle I see around me ….hahahaha…….

Okay the inventory list ,going clockwise:-

  • My Samsung B2100 all weather/shockproof phone. If need be, I could use this as a weapon hahaha….
  • Astro Boy on top of my second phone , a simple Nokia. I carry both a personal and company’s phone.
  • Compass/thermometer and my Lamy Safari Fountain Pen.
  • My Pilot Laco watch from Chas and his guys in Seattle and the Gshock that has been with me for a while. This baby can take quite some beating I tell you and still refuses to give up hahaha….
  • The 3 knives that I take turn carrying daily. I practice techniques with these 3 a lot – you should see the log that I cut – looking like a lamb kebab…..
  • My LED torchlight. I need to stay out late most nights and some of the places I go to, especially outside Kuching main town are connected with unlit roads – talking about small kampungs/villages.
  • A ever handy carabiner – just in case….

Greetings from Por Suk.

February 14, 2010

Got a call from Por Suk today and his CNY Greetings; it has been awhile since I checked out his blog – been super busy lately preparing 2010 project papers – you know “WORK” !

Anyway, Por Suk (Opera Wing Chun GM), also told that he has got recent blog entries about Chas’ training stint with him, that plus a couple of CNY Greetings video clips.

Check it out…click here……

My humble abode.

January 19, 2010

Okay, things are finally settling down with the new place. Most of the boxes are unpacked and now it is a matter of getting organized, particularly the piles of books, magazines and DVDs ….. hmmmm…how should I arrange them?? Dates of publication, northern, southern, internal, external, Chinese, Malay/Indonesian, Indian ……

Guess I will just go by the sizes of the book, start with the bigger ones and then line them up accordingly ….. just like in the army hahahaha….. hey, after all, these are books about fighting, a little regimental discipline can’t be wrong.

Then off course I will be flying to Penang the day after tomorrow and there are materials to get ready – working papers, budget projections like the one we used in our inaugural gathering in 2007 – we flew in all the performers, paid for their hotels and foods for the entire length of their stay in Penang, can’t you imagine how much that cost us???

And folks, we are not talking cheap motels and street vendors’ food here – we took up almost an entire floor of Continental Hotel in the heart of Penang, walking distance from all the major cultural heritage sites. Many of the meals were catered by leading restaurants ….. There was one evening that we spent in an open air food market and that was more for the Carlsbergs…..you need moonlight to fully appreciate good beer, trust me…..

So, to give you a glimpse of what it is like now for me now, here are a couple of pics of my new “home”.

Top pic : As you enter the house, you will be “greeted” by my 20 yrs old sword and a pair of butterfly knives – a gift from one of my students here.

Middle and bottom pics : My work bench mentioned in my previous post. This is one segment of the house that would probably never be neat – in a state of perpetual flux what with me pulling out books and mags for cross referencing etc etc….

I am hoping to build a mini video editing studio …soon …soon….

White Crane …. I think.

January 15, 2010

I knew it, I knew it …..

That it is a matter of time that someone somewhere would repackage White Crane for mass consumption with all that health-promoting and makes you feel good pitching.

Hey it happened in Singapore with Lama White Crane’s “Min Loi Chang” or “Needle in Cotton” sold by some “entrepreneur “ as alternative to Tai Chi, the housewife’s’ and not the martial version.

So do I like this senior citizen’s White Crane???

To answer that, I got to quote the wise words of Simon Cowell who, in one episode of “Britain Got Talent” asked rhetorically – “Do I like a dog that meows” after watching a contestant all made up like a punk rocker but sang an aria instead……

Okay okay, I got nothing against senior folks doing anything for health but this is too close for comfort ……. I guess.

So, before anyone thinks about tweaking traditions, think thrice before you act.

The outcome might not be what you expect.

The bamboo carrying stick.

January 11, 2010

Back a few months ago, I was in Sibu to revisit some of the masters there to discuss the book that the company is publishing this year; many of them are going to be subjects, I took the opportunity to visit Fong Yang master Ting Huat Yong in his residence/school situated on an island somewhere along the mighty Rejang River.

That evening after sipping tea and watching Master Yong taught a small class, we spent a couple of hours talking about TCKF.

My curiosity in his Fong Yang is clear; personally it strikes me as a fusion of Fukien and Hakka southern Kung Fu with pronounced elements of each showing unmistakably.

So after an hour of show and tell from him and me, I asked him about a “weapon” that is widespread in Sarawak’s CKF circles.

And yet this is a weapon that you seldom find in most weapon racks in regular CKF school; more a farmer’s implement than a weapon really…..the humble bamboo carrying stick that you would find farmers use to carry watering cans or carrying produces to the market place etc etc….

In Fuzhou, we call this “bien dan” and this is a weapon that we do in Fuzhou Cranes. When I first arrived in Sarawak, I was told many stories about how this carrying stick is a favorite weapon of many pioneer settlers; you are not breaking any law for having one on you everywhere you go.

When I  met the late Huang Xin Xien most senior surviving student, Zhi Choon Fei in Sibu, he was recounting to me how the late Huang used an iron version of this stick to train his “jin”, a practice that is still done in GM Zhi’s school.

I think this is one weapon, besides the sticks that we do, that is most conducive for White Crane “touch and go” manner of expressing power.

Grip it too tight, you lose the intrinsic “springiness” of the bamboo but if you are too loose, you lose the stick.

Somewhere in the middle is the optimal or as we say it in Fuzhou “Pwan Gain Noon”.

The whole verse “Pwan Gain Pwan Noon Nyue mor tae thwon” or “Half hard hard soft, your opponent will not return” …….. That means your opponent is kaput hahahaha……

Okay enough of that morbid talk, here found on mainland 56 site is a rare bamboo carrying stick form.

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……