Weng Chun Kung Fu History-By Andreas Hoffman
According to legend, in 520 A.D., the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma travelled from India to the Shaolin Temple (the Siu Lam monastery) in China. Bodhidharma laid the foundations of Weng Chun by looking for a holistic approach to the questions of human existence, the awareness of one’s body and how to deal with energy, power and aggression. Up to this day, members of the Weng Chun Kuen Kung Fu clans celebrate Bodhidharma’s “birthday”.
The Temple of “the Eternal Power of Life” A special temple was set up in the Southern Shaolin monastery, in which only the most experienced monks came together in the course of hundreds of years to refine and improve their Kung Fu. The temple acquired the name Weng Chun, which means the “eternal power of life” or “everlasting springtime”.
The Philosophy – Principle of Effectiveness For the Southern Shaolin monks, it was paramount to experience reality directly. Their philosophy of Chan-Buddhism meant a return to the natural and the simple. This often stood in contrast to the philosophies of fighting styles taught outside the temple. These often referred to magic, faith or obedience to older generations. This is why the Weng Chun temple incorporated only those fighting concepts, which really worked simply and directly.
Shaolin Abbot Chi Sin Sim Si – Guardian of the Art Treachery led to the Southern Shaolin temple being destroyed in the 18th century by the ruling powers. The Southern Shaolin abbot Chi Sin Sim Si was able to flee with some other monks and got himself hired as a cook on the “Red Boat” under a false name. The “Red Boat” was a ship of a Chinese opera troupe, which travelled from town to town to entertain the people.
Tiger Wong tyrannizes the Members of the “Red Boat” One of the most brutal Kung Fu fighters of his day, Tiger Wong tried to exhort protection money from the Opera troupe. He gave them an ultimatum of one day. Should they not pay at the end of the day, then he would destroy their boat. The leader of the opera troupe, Wong Wah Bo and his followers were in a state of despair. They had no money and, moreover, they could not protect themselves, because they knew no “fighting Kung Fu”, but only “Opera Kung Fu”. As the deadline expired, the members of the “Red Boat” felt that their end was near.
The “crazy” Cook stands up to fight Then suddenly, the cook, who till then they had considered to be somewhat crazy, blocked Tiger Wong’s path. Tiger Wong did not take what seemed to be a cook seriously and tried to grasp his throat with a simple Tiger claw technique. The “cook” at once used Tiger Wong’s force to break two of his fingers. Furthermore, he advised him to end the fight, because Tiger Wong would have no chance of winning. The latter was beside himself with rage. An elderly and simple-looking cook had humiliated him in public. He tried to beat the cook using arms and legs in fast and brutal chain techniques. However, the cook at first just let Tiger Wong go by and dodged his blows but then suddenly locked his arms and legs with “joint locking and grappling techniques” (Qinna). The more Tiger Wong wanted to move, the more he injured himself because of the cook’s techniques. Tiger Wong realized that he had found his master and gave up the fight (the various Weng Chun Kuen clans tell different versions of the fight between Tiger Wong and Chi Sin Sim Si).
The vital Secret The members of the “Red Boat” were delighted and wanted to learn Kung Fu from their cook at once. Abbot Chi Sin Sim Si revealed his true identity and was ready to teach the opera troupe. However, as he was one of the most persecuted men of his time, his pupils had to promise never to use or reveal his real name. That is why it came about, that many legends concerning Weng Chun were invented around this time, so as to protect Master Chi Sin Sim Si.The first students under he leadership of Wong Wah Bo were: Sun Gam, Leung Yee Tai and Leung Lan Kwai.
Only the Weng Chun masters, who had learned the entire system from their Master were told the truth.
The “Pretty Face” transforms the “Angry One” During the Ching Dynasty serious male artists often portrayed female roles in opera performances. San Gam was an excellent artist, who on the one hand was very good at playing especially female parts in the opera, but on the other hand represented best of all the Weng Chun of the “Red Boat” at fights. San Gam was his nick-name which meant literally “pretty face”. While Sam Gam was shopping one day for opera costumes for the “Red Boat” in Southern Chinese Fatshan, he was mocked and attacked by the young, coarse and ill-tempered tailor’s apprentice Fung Siu Ching. The bullish Fung Siu Ching had to land in the dust seven times, before he noticed that he was no match at all for this strange looking man. Fung Siu Ching wanted to offer tea to San Gam straightaway (Chinese Kung Fu custom in order to become a master’s pupil). However, San Gam turned him down on the grounds, that he did not want to teach any ill-tempered people.
After Fung Siu Ching had proved himself to San Gam in a one-year probationary period, he was accepted and introduced to the tradition of the Weng Chun Kuen. Ten years he learnt from San Gam. Moreover, Fung Siu Ching went on to become one of the most famous Weng Chun masters in Asia. He was able to transform his original quick- temperedness into an endless creative energy for Weng Chun
The Flowering of Weng Chun Kuen in the 19th Century At that time Master Fung Siu Ching taught pupils from the whole of China, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia (even today there are still many Asian Weng Chun schools, who trace their lineage to Master Fung Siu Ching or the “Red Boat”). He was one of the first full-time Weng Chun masters. He supervised teaching groups during the day as well as at night and had many private pupils.
Fung Siu Ching’s master pupils in Fatshan were: his son Fung Tin, the brothers Lo, Tang Suen, Dung Jik and the “Chemist” Ma Chung Yi Security in Fatshan During the Ching dynasty (1644 – 1911) only the larger cities were protected by the “state police” of the day. Smaller cities and villages were protected by renown Kung Fu masters.
Master Fung Siu Ching’s master pupils guarded many villages in Fatshan and the surrounding area. The Lo brothers, for example, drove off entire bands of robbers armed only with butterfly knives and sabres. On one occasion, the two Lo brothers are said to have even chased off twenty armed robbers without injuring them. The Lo brothers just took the clothes and weapons away from the robbers, so that these fled. Their Weng Chun Kuen “brother” Master Tang Suen received the honorary title “King of the Long Pole” from the people of the villages, that he protected, because he kept them safe from the greatest dangers using a long pole.
The Initiator WAI YAN Wai Yan was born at the beginning of our century as the son of a rich Chinese family in Hong Kong.
Via his older friend Lo Chiu Woon, the young Wai Yan often came into contact with the martial art Weng Chun Kuen. However, Wai Yan did not really want to know anything about “Kung Fu”, because he had often experienced Kung Fu practitioners as violent and uneducated. Had his friend Lo Chiu Woon (a descendant of the Lo brothers) not been a Weng Chun master and a Chinese academic at the same time, then Wai Yan would certainly not have had any contact with him.
Patronage One day, Lo Chiu Woon asked Wai Yan, whether he would teach his younger son the art of Chinese writing (this is comparable to accepting the role of godfather here.). Wai Yan happily agreed to do so, without being aware of the consequences of his promise. He now shared the responsibility for the young Lo. Conversely, for Wai Yan this meant that he now also had to master Weng Chun Kuen, which had been practised in the family tradition of the Los for several generations.
In this way Wai Yan began – albeit somewhat involuntarily – to learn Weng Chun Kuen from Lo Chiu Woon and his brother Lo Hong Tai around 1930. Wai Yan’s original dislike of Weng Chun Kuen changed into a passionate zeal for this martial art. After Wai Chun had attained mastery of Weng Chun, he initiated a new project with Weng Chun in order to further refine the art
The Projekt Master Wai Yan converted one of his trading houses called “Dai Duk Lan” into a Weng Chun research academy. He did not want to enrole any pupils in this “research academy”, but rather bring together and unite the best Weng Chun (Grand-) masters of his day. These were then to try and perfect the efficiency of Weng Chun with no need for secrecy between them in “Dai Duk Lan”.
The former Shaolin temple served as a model. Shaolin Kung Fu was developed and tested again and again in the Weng Chun Hall for more than a thousand years.
The search begins for the great Weng Chun masters
The “Unbeatable” from Macao: Sifu Chu Chung Man
When Sifu Wai Yan heard of an “unbeatable” Weng Chun sifu called Chu Chung Man, he set out straight away to Macao. Once there, he became friends with Sifu Chu Chung Man by fighting him. This man was esteemed in Southern China as the most famous Weng Chun master, because he always defeated any challengers without any effort and also maintained many (training-) contacts to other Kung Fu masters. Sifu Chu Chung Man was so taken with Sifu Wai Yan’s project, that he moved to “Dai Duk Lan”.
The Weng Chun Grappler Tam Kong
For his part, Sifu Chu Chung Man knew the Weng Chun master Tam Kong. Tam Kong had specialized in grappling and could beat most opponents there with ease, because many Kung Fu fighters did not devote enough attention to grappling. Sifu Tam Kong also joined the project.
The “Kings” of Weng Chun Weaponry
In Fatshan, Grandmaster Tang Suen’s Weng Chun master pupils, Tang Yick and Pak Cheung, were called the “kings” of the long pole. They often drove off whole bands of robbers, armed only with their long poles or their swords. Master Pak Cheung was regarded as missing since the Chinese Cultural Revolution (In 1978, Sifu Cheng Kwong found the old Grandmaster Pak Tscheong on a remote farm near Fatshan. Shortly before he died Andreas Hoffmann was also able to learn from him.)
Sifu Tang Yick was found by Sifu Wai Yan in Hong Kong. At first, Tang Yick did not want to share his knowledge with other Weng Chun masters. However, the openness and warmth of the others changed his mind
The Five Dragons of Weng Chun Kuen With Sifu Tang Yick the project now included five members: Sifu Wai Yan, Sifu Lo Chiu Woon, Sifu Chu Chung Man, Sifu Tam Kong and Sifu Tang Yick. The Weng Chun masters fought, discussed and lived together every day. They also invited Kung Fu masters from other styles to share and exchange their experiences.
The five Weng Chun masters were called the Five Dragons of Weng Chun Kuen by the awed Chinese population.
The project was carried out by Wai Yan, Chu Chung Man and Tang Yick for twenty years. In this time, they tried again and again to put their gained knowledge to the test and to discover all the secrets of the art of one-to-one fighting. Their result was the evolution of a Weng Chun, that enabled the pupil to practice his self-defence with even more safety and ease
Dai Duk Lan was closed beginning 90´s: Grandmaster Tang Yick keep teaching with the help of Sifu Tang Chung Pak in the Playing Field Road, Hong Kong, Grandmaster Wai Yan is teaching his closed door students only. Here is the picture of GM Tang Yick´s Weng Chun Headquarter in the Playing Field Road The Present
Today, in 2002, the last dragon lives in Hong Kong – Grandmaster Wai Yan. He initiated the project and out-lived it. He never wanted to teach any pupils. However, Sifu Lau Chi Leong and Sifu Cheng Kwong were stubborn enough to be taken on by Grandmaster Wai Yan as pupils. In 1986, Sifu Cheng Kwong introduced the German Andreas Hoffmann to the last dragon. Andreas learnt the brilliant Weng Chun of the Five Dragons directly from Grandmaster Wai Yan until 1996. He accepted the inheritance passed on to him and today represents his family of Weng Chun Kuen world-wide.
Sources of the historical background of Weng Chun Kuen
The Chinese handwritten book by Lo Chiu Woon – Weng Chun Grandmaster – written in the Fifties on the history of Weng Chun Kuen.
Oral narration by the Grandmasters Wai Yan, Grandmaster Pak Cheung.
Copyright ©1995–2007 Andreas Hoffman All Rights Reserved.