The 7th International Championship of Traditional Kung Fu, in Qingdao, in Shandong province, in China, from the 14th to the 16th of August 2009, gave the opportunity to the instructor of ASK, Doukas DImitris, and his students, Papachristos Christos and Divanis Giorgos, to travel to China and follow Grandmaster Lily Lau to a travelogue in the south of this vast country.
The first stop was Qingdao and the Kung Fu championship. The athletes of ASK participated as the Greek National Team, officially representing the Hellenic Wushu Kung Fu Federation..
The Shandong province is considered to be the capital of the north for the Chinese martial arts. Many of the great Masters and various Kung Fu styles were borned and developed here. The Tang Lang (praying mantis) style is one of the most famous. Naturally, it was this style that dominated the contest, with great rivalry and many athletes practicing it.
The Ying Zhao (Eagle Claw), also famous but rarer style, was represented in the contest by the students of our teacher, Grandmaster Lily Lau, from Brazil, Greece, Hong Kong and China.
Some of the other styles represented in the contest were Shaolin Quan, Taiji Quan and Xing Yi Quan.
The first day, as it is done in almost every contest, there was the demonstration by the teachers.
The Eagle claw was represented by members of our team, gaining applauses and many positive comments. The next day, our good appearance continued, with two first places --of Papachristos Christos at the sword and Divanis Giorgos at the fist- and two second places -at the fist and the spear respectively. The instructor Doukas Dimitris, gained the first place at the Veterans’ fist.
Our stay in Qingdao concluded with a seminar at Tang Lang Gien (sword).
Μeihua Tang Lang is famous for its sword techniques; its fighters practice two taolu, Da Mo gien and Ba Xian gien. During our previous visit in Qingdao in 2006, we were taught by Master Song Chang Ji the Da Mo gien taolu. In this seminar, we were taught Ba Xian gien (8 immortals), a beautiful Taolu, containing unique techniques and the characteristic movements of Μeihua Tang Lang. Our teacher, knowing the interest of her student, Dimitris Doukas, in the techniques of the Chinese sword, and after his request, asked her good friend and organiser of the championship, Zhang Wei Fu, to teach us the second taolu as well. His initial and honest reaction was: “why they want a second taolu, since they already know one?” This shows the spirit and the way of thinking of the traditional Chinese teachers, who insist on quality and not quantity. Nevertheless, his respect and friendship for our shifu Lily Lau and his wish to honour our team that travelled from so far to participate in the contest he organised, bended his initial hesitation and he asked from his “younger brother” in the system, Master Song Chang Ji, to teach us…
…our next stop was Shanghai.
In 1910, Huo Yuen Ja, founded the first Kung Fu association in China, the Chin Woo Association. His aim was to see the Chinese martial arts united and to empower his compatriots to regain their lost dignity. In that period, the great imperial powers of the era were overrunning China, imposing the opium war, and referring to the country as the “Patient of the East”.
We watched his story last year, as presented in the movie “The Fearless”, with Jet Li as Huo Yuen Ja (being aware of the cinema’s exaggerations). After Huo Yuen Ja’ s death, his students continued his work and Chin Woo Association gained great reputation, founding branches in many other cities in China, with thousands of students.
The five Kung Fu styles taught in the Shanghai Association were the following: Eagle Claw (Ying Zhao), Praying Mantis (Tan Lang), Shaolin Fist (Shaolin Quan), Taiji Fist (Taiji Quan), and Mizong Fist (Mizong Quan).
The Master of the Eagle, Chen Zi Zheng, was one of the five initial great masters who taught there.
When Chin Woo spread to other cities, Chen Zi Zheng went to his village, the hometown of the Eagle, in North China, and chose some of the best students of his kung fu brother, Lau Kai Man. Amongst them was the father of our shifu, Lau Fat Mang. When Chen Zi Zheng went to Hong Kong to teach, Lau Fat Mang replaced him and taught the Eagle in Shanghai.
Today, Chin Woo has schools in many countries around the world. Nonetheless, there are disagreements about the use of the name and the leadership (there is a legal dispute with the Chin Woo of Hong Kong).
In the airport of Shanghai, the secretary of the Chin Woo Association welcomed the shifu Lily Lau and her team. They also disposed a minibus and a driver for our tour in Shanghai. At the headquarters of Chin Woo, the Vice President greeted us, as the President was on a trip in Malaysia. He showed us around in the school and he informed us about their activities and future plans. In 2010, 100 years will be completed from its foundation and they will organise an international championship (from the 3rd to the 9th of August) to celebrate. The event will take place in Shanghai, and only the associations that are recognised by Chin Woo will be eligible to participate. They will compete to the ten initial taolu (Tam Teui, Gung Li Kuen, Da gin Kuen, Saph Gee Gin Kuen, Tuet Jien, Ng Fu Chon, Quan Yeung Quan, Toa Kuen , Ba Kua Do, Jeet Kune). The USA Chin Woo Federation will participate with three teams, while its President made the honour to our shifu to be the coach of the mission and to participate with her own team.
....the next stop of our team was the south Shaolin temple in the Foujian province.
The abbot of the monastery, Fan Tza, is a friend of the shifu, and has travelled in the past, along with his team, to San Francisco, to participate in the championship that she organises.
A big banner welcomed shifu Lily Lau and her students. The monks made a demonstration to honour her, while teachers from all over the area gathered to welcome her.
The South Shaolin Temple does not have the prestige of that in Zhengzhou, but neither its touristic orientation. The Masters in Foujian practice the traditional Kung Fu and laugh when they watch the modern wushu, declaring that “this is not Kung Fu”. Many, unknown to us, traditional styles are practiced there, the most famous of all being the White Crane, which is considered by many to be the origin of the Japanese Shorinji.
The festivities for the arrival of the teacher continued with demonstrations by both sides…
...Hong Kong -a British colony for many years- is more familiar to the western visitor. For someone who comes from China, its neatness and communication ease (almost everybody speaks English!) is a pleasant surprise. The urban landscape, with its infinite skyscrapers is compelling, but the expensive living conditions make you long for the continental China and its “odours”.
Our shifu was born and raised in Hong Kong, as her father settled there after the war and taught the Eagle in the Chin Woo of Hong Kong.
In this city, there are many “exotic” traditional Kung Fu styles and many teachers, as the Cultural Revolution did not affect it. During the Dim Sum (invitation to dinner) with the teacher, we met many of them and visited their schools.
Tam Ga Sam Jin is a south Kung Fu style, similar to Hu Ga (tiger), which impressed us by its strength and its pervasive cries.
Grandmaster Leung Ting, the famous teacher of Wing Tsun and close friend of our shifu Lily Lau, accompanied us in one of these dinners and invited us to his school. It was very interesting to see the school of such a famous teacher, decorated with the pictures of many famous Kung Fu personas, diplomas of many countries, where he has taught, and many antiques, accumulated through time.
Liu Kok Chiu, teacher of the Eagle and Bagua Zhang (his teacher was a student of Chen Zi Zheng), director of the Chin Woo of Hong Kong, came to visit us in Leung Ting’s school to greet shifu Lily Lau: “Even though we have the same rank in the hierarchy of the Eagle, it is Sifu Lily Lau that does all the work to maintain the system and to disseminate it in the whole world” he declared, in the presence of Grandmaster Leung Ting said master Liu Kok Chiu. In this way he wanted to acknowledgeour shifu’s offer to the widespread of Eagle Claw Kung Fu.
The island of Tsuen Tsao was our next touristic destination, where Grandmaster Lau Fat Mang receded to write his books about the Eagle and teach his family. There, sibok Kalman Wong, assistant and “right hand” of the teacher in America, demonstrated his knowledge of the exotic plates in the restaurants of the island
...while the team was enhanced with the Hong Kong students (amongst them sibok Wong Leung Wo (teacher of fine arts, poet, first assistant instructor of tshifu Lily Lau and one of her oldest students), we continued our trip towards Foshan. It has to be noted that Sifu Wong was the one who helped the teacher, after her father’s death, to keep the school and continue teaching. When the teacher, at the age of 22, started looking for her father’s advanced students, in order to collect and rescue the knowledge of our system, she sent Sifu Wong in many places in China. In one of his trips, 40 years ago, he had visited Foshan.
Today, there live two brothers, students of Lau Fat Mang from the period he taught in the Chin Woo of the area (1938). Chang Huan, the younger brother, came in Foshan, from his village nearby, to meet his shifur’s daughter and her students. He came in the hotel we were staying, along with Grandmaster Ma Yue Kiung, teacher of Long Yin, Bak Mei Kung Fu. This style combines two systems: the “dragon” and the “white eyebrow”. It is a southern Kung Fu, famous for its fighting techniques and widely practiced in the area of Canton.
Even today, at the age of 72, teacher Ma, with his characteristic deep voice, doesn’t refuse challenges and he has the fame of a powerful fighter in Foshan. We saw that for ourselves, as he was recognised and respected by the people we met on the streets. A small demonstration in the reception of the hotel by the two assistants of Ma Yue Kiung, gave us a first impression of the atmosphere in Foshan. People of Foshan love Kung Fu and fighting. Many Kung Fu styles were borned in Foshan. Wing Chun is one of the most famous.
Sharing the company of these teachers and listening to their discussions about Kung Fu was a priceless experience. Sifu Ma still remembers the Eagle Claw techniques he was taught by Chang Huan when he was young.
It was particularly interesting listening to Huan’s stories about the period that great Grandmaster Lau Fat Mang was teaching in the Foshan Chin Woo. The ninety-year-old Huan was talking with great admiration about the skills and the achievements of the great master, while he was demonstrating his techniques and grabs that remained powerful.
The evening ended with a visit to the school of Ma Yue Kiung and a demonstration.
Wing Shun Lau, teacher of Xin Yi Liu He Quan and Shuai Jiao, whom we met in the Qingdao contest, came to Foshan to meet our shifu and we seized the opportunity of a seminar in Shuai Jiao. Thus, we spent the last day with this nice teacher, strong drinker, but even stronger fighter, explaining the basic reversal techniques of this Chinese battle...
Our tour, which started in Qingdao, ended in Foshan, where our shifu met with Dai Wing Xong, Vice President of sports of Foshan. There, we were showed around the athletic facilities of the area, ready to host the Pan-Asiatic athletic competition, in 2010.
The tour of Grandmaster Lily Lau was realised in the frame of her new post, as the President of the United States Traditional Kung Fu Wushu Federation.
The ultimate aim is the establishment of an international championship of traditional Kung Fu, controlled not by I.Wu.F., but by the teachers that kept the traditional Chinese Kung Fu alive, while the modern Wushu was the formal policy of I.Wu.F. After its failure to introduce Wushu to the Olympic Games, the I.Wu.Federation focused on traditional Kung Fu. However, many of their choices were wrong, i.e. the addition of aerial kicks and acrobatics to Taiji. The public servant’s mentality of its members, their obvious for demonstration orientation and the separation of Kung Fu from its fighting and moral values, the ignorance of its reviewers -as we saw for ourselves participating in their championships- provoked the reaction of many teachers. The result is the desire to establish a separate federation of traditional kung fu, where the teachers will have a decisive role.
Many hope that the United States Traditional Kung Fu Wushu Federation, which consists of many remarkable teachers, will be the forerunner of the establishment of the new federation. Our shifu Lily Lau, as the President of the United States Traditional Kung Fu Wushu Federation, managed -through this trip- to gain the support of many teachers.
From our side, the trip was important as we participated in all these meetings with famous teachers, gaining significant experience of the mentality and the organisation of the Chinese Kung Fu.
In Foshan, we said goodbye to our shifu Lily Lau.
However, the trip of the A.C.K. team continued to Macau and Zhuhai, where we stayed for 30 days, practicing Nei Jia quan.