Every month a
feature article will be published on this web site. Features such as the history of Choy
Lee Fut as passed down from father to son by Master Chen, along with the history of the
Sydney school, insights into the numerous Choy Lee Fut dummies and weapons, and other
techniques such as grappling and pushing hands will be regularly featured for the benefit
of our members.
Translated by Howard Choy
Chan Heung began his training at the age of seven with his uncle/village elder Chan Yuen Wu. He was quick to learn and made remarkable progress, gaining a good reputation and also many students.
One day Chan Heung discovered that a highly skilled instructor by the name of Lee Yau Shan had been invited in to the neighborhood. Chan Heung, a lover of a good fight decided to his skills by ambushing him while he was leaving a restaurant. Despite Chan Heung's best efforts he could not make Lee budge. Lee took the attack calmly before using his legs to throw Chan Heung yards away.
Lee questioned the young man for attacking him in such a sneaky fashion rather than challenging him properly to a fight. Chan Heung felt ashamed, and replied that the attack was his own idea in an attempt to test the inadequacy of his own skill, and that he did not want to implicate his teacher for his own defeat.
Chan Heung soon realised his mistake and promptly enrolled in Lee's school. He followed Lee for five years taking his skills to a new height. One day they decided to visit a recluse monk by the name of Choy Fook who they believed to be a skilful martial artist.
While the two men waited at the temple for Choy Fook an old man proceeded to chop wood with his hands. Lee commented to Chan Heung that if this old man was showing off for their benefit then they must reply with some of their own tricks. Lee got up, walked to a nearby rice grinder and kicked it clean off the ground. The old man watched with amusement before chopping off a corner of the stone rice grinder, pulverising it in his bare hands and throwing the powder in front of Lee, announcing that he was indeed Choy Fook. Lee now very apologetic and respectful of Choy Fook left immediately.
Chan Heung realising his opportunity to further his training immediately fell to his knees and begged Choy Fook to take him as a disciple. Seeing that his request was a genuine one Choy Fook told Chan Heung that he must obey the following three instructions or leave immediately:
For the next ten years, Choy Fook taught Chan Heung kung fu with great discipline and precision. And with a combination of hard work, dedication, natural ability and the karma of a good teacher Chan Heung was able to complete his training within this time.
... the story continued
Choy Fook Bids Chan Heung Farewell
One day Choy Fook hosted a banquet for Chan Heung and proceeded to bid him farewell. During the festivities Choy Fook told Chan Heung of his own origin. He was originally from Fukien Shaolin monastery, which had been destroyed by fire. While he was in Fukein, the Ching army invited 36 monks from his monastery to help quash the rebellion in Tibet, which had been going on for three years. It took three months to get Tibet under control again. Fearing the martial prowess of the Shaolin monks, the Ching government invited the monks to join the court as monk soldiers. When the monks refused, the Ching government, fearing future opposition, decided to eradicate the entire Shaolin monastic order by putting the torch to the whole temple complex on the 25th day of the 7th moon in the 11th year of the reign of Emperor Jung Jing. All save six monks perished; Choy Fook was one of them and escaped with his head on fire. He was nicknamed 'rotten head' because of the burn scar on his head. Later on he made his way to Mount Law Fou in Kwangtung province where he went into hiding.
Choy Fook admonished Chan Heung that if one truly wanted to follow the way of the Shaolin, it was necessary to seek the way of the Buddha, as well as learning Chinese medicine and the 'six magic spells'.
Choy Fook continued to say that Shaolin fighting arts had originated with the founder of the monastery, Monk Dart Mo (Bodhidhama) and later on had been improved by Monk Gok Yuen and others. Masters from outside the monastery had also been invited to contribute their skills. These included the famous Lee Sau and Bak Juk Fung. With time and constant experiment Shaolin fighting arts were further refined. Six years of Shaolin kung fu practice could be regarded as a small accomplishment; ten years could be regarded as a qualified accomplishment. Choy Fook said that he was not quite sure whether it was Chan Heung's good fortune or his (meaning Shaolin martial arts) that Chan Heung had succeeded in learning all that he could teach, since he was quite resigned to the fact that he might die in this wilderness, taking his art with him to the grave. Although he was quite willing to send Chan Heung home, Choy Fook continued to say that to be a true follower of Shaolin, one must also seek the way of the Buddha as well as learning the 'six magic spells'. Hearing that, Chan Heung decided to stay for an extra two years until he was ready to leave the monastery in the twelfth year.
At the time of his farewell, Chan Heung asked his teacher to spell out his future. Choy Fook told him that although he was not meant for the life of a court official (by sitting the martial examination), he and his offspring would be leaders of men as long as the Shaolin tradition was kept alive. Amongst other advice given, Choy Fook gave Chan Heung a double couplet which time has proven to be authentic:
When Chan Heung bid his final farewell, he was accompanied by three of his brothers in learning all the way down the mountain slope. They were Jeung Tin Cheung (nicknamed Courageous Jeung), a monk from Mount Law Fou by the name of Tung Kwan, and a man from his own Sun Wui county called Chan Chung Nin.
... to be continued next month.
Edited by Darryl Choy