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The Way of the Master

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  • #46

    Beautiful Stories and a living history
    Sifu Mark Appleford



    • #47
      Awesome and inspiring

      Thank you for sharing with us, it's really wonderful to read these stories as I prepare for Summer camp.

      I feel each set in our school has a life to it, a unique essence of all those who have been before.

      Best wishes,


      • #48
        Dear Sifu Chun Yian

        How to secure the copy of this book, please? I recall reading that it's going to be a limited edition, but haven't heard about ordering etc.

        Thank you!

        With Shaolin Salute


        • #49
          Hi brothers and sisters,

          I'm glad to know you like the story. Well, it serves as a reminder of how the Shaolin arts pass on to our school for those who already heard and know about the lineage; and for those who haven't heard about it now at least you can have the ideas of the lineage.

          Pertaining to Jacek's question, this book will have the special and limited edition as well as the normal edition. The book is not open for ordering yet as it is still in the process of editing. I will communicate about ordering and tell the difference between both editions once the book is printed.

          After knowing about the lineage, I would like to share some interesting real-life stories that Sigung Ho tell Sifu. All these stories are in Chapter 18 and 19......

          Running on Water

          Tea times and meal times were also great times for telling real-live stories. One of the stories which I found very interesting was one that concerned a lost art called shui seong tang peng (水上登萍) in Cantonese, which means running on water to land.

          My sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, was quite young then and was living in a house by a deep and broad river. One morning while sitting on a river bank he saw an old master running across the river towards land. As he lived there, he knew the river was deep. But the water came up only to the knees of the old master as he ran across the river.

          “I really pinched my arm to make sure I was not dreaming,” my sifu told me and my wife, Goh Siew Ai, was with me then.

          “Before I realized, the old master had run up the bank and run away. I knew that was advanced heng kung (轻功) or art of lightness called shui seong tang peng, which is now a lost art. So I waited there every morning hoping that he would come that way again, and I could beg him to accept me as a student. I waited every morning for quite some time, but he never appeared again.”

          This reminded me of a story a former colleague, Sam, at Dungun English Secondary School told me. He said that a boat ferrying some people across a river capsized in a village in China, and an old master ran from the river bank across the river water to the boat to save lives. He did that a few times carrying two persons in his arms each time until the boat finally sank.

          There was another interesting story about heng kung, or the art of lightness. But this time it was told to me by my sifu not over tea or meals but when he was about to start teaching a new kungfu set called Shaolin Seven Stars.

          Art of Lightness

          This was a Northern Shaolin set. My sifu did not learn it from Sigung Yang Fatt Khun, i.e. from the lineage of the Venerable Jiang Nan of the Shaolin Temple at Quanzhou, but from the wife of another of his sifus whose name my sifu did not tell me.

          As it was a tradition in the past, a student would stay with and serve his master who would feed the student. My sigung (师公), which means the teacher of one’s teacher, was a northern Shaolin master, and travelling medicine man. He travelled from town to town demonstrating his kungfu skills and selling his medicine. My sifu had to carry all the luggage on his back. As transportation was bad at that time, they usually walked from village to village, town to town. This was, my sifu said, part of his training.

          Early every morning, my sigung and sifu would go to a wood. My sigung would select and mark ten trees. They would run round the ten trees which were quite far apart. They would start together, but soon my sigung, despite his age, would be far ahead of my sifu. Next my sigung would be out of sight.

          Then my sigung would come behind my sifu, and as he passed my sifu he would give my sifu a hard slap saying, “Why are you so slow?” This would go on for months. Whenever my sifu thought he had improved and narrowed the gap, the old master ran faster. It seemed the young man could never catch up with the old man.

          One morning my sifu refused to go running.

          “You have progressed quite well. Now continue your training,” my sigung said.

          But my sifu still refused to train. “You told me you were teaching me good kungfu, but all I have done is to run round ten trees and get hit each time you come behind,” my sifu demonstrated.

          “I am teaching you excellent kungfu. Are you going to train?” My sigung asked again.

          “I must have gotten up on the wrong side of bed that day,” my sifu told me.

          I was very naive. “Sifu, what’s wrong with getting up on the other side of bed?” I asked innocently.

          “Oh, it means everything went wrong for me that day. So I told my sifu I was not going to train. Actually I saw my simu giving me an eye signal to train. But as I said, I got up on the wrong side of bed. I ignored the kind hint and refused to train.”

          Simu (师母), which means “teacher-mother” refers to the wife of one’s sifu. Sifu means “teacher-father”. A sifu is both a teacher and father to his students. If a student’s sifu is female, he stills call her “sifu’, not “simu”.

          My sigung asked my sifu again, “This is the third and last time I am asking you. Are you going to train or not?”

          “No, even if you were to skin me, I’m not going to train!”

          “Right,” my sigung said, “Follow me and I shall show you what kungfu I am teaching you.”

          My sigung took my sifu to the back of the hotel they were staying. A back wall was about ten feet high, with bits of sharp glass lining the top of the wall to prevent burglary. My sigung was wearing a long robe and holding a long pipe. He tugged the ends of his long robe to a waist sash.

          “Observe carefully. Don’t blink your eyes!” He told my sifu.

          My sifu saw my sigung bend his knees slightly. In the next instant he was up in the air above the 10-foot wall. My sigung did a summersault in the air, used his long pipe to scrape away some pieces of glass and when he regained upright position after the summersault he stood on one leg on the top of the wall in a pattern known as “White Crane Flaps Wings”.

          Then he jumped down the wall onto the ground without a sound. My sifu was spelt-bound. He realized it was heng kung, the art of lightness, an almost lost art.

          My sifu knelt down, kowtowed three times and begged, “Sifu, I am young and untrained in matters of society. Please forgive my ignorance. Please continue to teach me the art of lightness.”

          “No,” my sigung said, “I have given you three chances and you have rejected them.”

          My sifu told me that many past masters believed that if they gave their students three chances, and the students rejected them, the students were not destined to learn the art in question.

          “I had learned a good lesson. I promised myself then that if I had another opportunity to learn from another great master, I would follow what he said. So later when I had the rare opportunity to learn from your Sigung Yang Fatt Khun, when he told me to practice One-Finger Shooting Zen every day, I just followed what he said.”

          I also learned a good lesson by trying to be smart when asked to perform the lion tail for a public demonstration many years ago under Uncle Righteousness. So when I met a great master, I also just followed what he said.

          With best wishes,
          Chun Yian


          • #50
            Attached is the picture of Sifu performing Shaolin Seven Stars
            Attached Files


            • #51
              Dear Sifu Chun Yian

              Thank you for clarifying about the plans for the release of the book.

              A wonderful and important lesson in that last excerpt from the book!

              With best wishes


              • #52
                Dear Chun Yian Siheng,

                Thank you very much for posting these excerpts from Sifu's autobiography. I loved all of them, and it is wonderful to get to read Sifu's writing again!

                That last excerpt was particularly fascinating, and I loved how you reminded us about the importance of understanding and valuing our lineage.

                I very much look forward to reading more, and of course to purchasing the book when it comes out.

                With much love and respect,
                Hubert Razack


                • #53
                  Hi there,

                  It's story-telling time again. This story is regarding Sigung Ho fighting with a Muay Thai fighter and the conversation is between Sifu and Sigung Ho......

                  Smashing a Coconut in the Air

                  Besides answering my countless questions, my sifu also told me many interesting real-life stories.

                  At that time Siamese Boxing or Muay Thai was in vogue. Everyone seemed to want to learn Muay Thai because Muay Thai fighters seemed invincible, having defeated many challengers, including some kungfu practitioners from Hong Kong.

                  “It is a shame,” my sifu commented, regarding the easy defeat of the Hong Kong kungfu practitioners by Muay Thai fighters from Bangkok, Thailand. “Those kungfu practitioners could not even fight against ordinary street fighters. They have no combat training. They only perform kungfu forms. They would be no match at all against those experienced Muay Thai fighters.”

                  “Sifu,” I took the opportunity to ask, “You were a professional Muay Thai fighter before. Can you tell me some of your experiences?”

                  My sifu slowly took a few sips of his tea. Then he puts down his cup and said, “I’ve many interesting experiences. But I shall tell you the most memorable.”

                  I placed my cup of tea on the table too, and sat upright to listen.

                  “Years ago, when I was still learning from your sigung, Yang Fatt Khun, a three-time national champion from Bangkok came all the way to Kelantan to challenge my sifu. He came in full gear and was holding a coconut.”

                  “What’s meant by full gear, and why is he holding a coconut?”

                  “He had a golden robe over his body and he wore a head-band with decorative features. The golden robe and decorative features were insignias that he was a three-time national champion.”

                  “Even to win the national Muay Thai championship once was formidable. Indeed a Thai national champion was a better fighter than an international champion. The Thais were very good, Muay Thai fighters from other countries, even when they were the best in their respective countries, were a class below the Thais.”

                  “A three-time national champion must be a terrific fighter!” I added. “But why did he come all the way to challenge sigung?”

                  “He must have heard of my sifu’s fame. Although my sifu kept a low profile, his fame still spread wide and far.”

                  “The Muay Thai fighter didn’t say anything when he came into our training hall.” My sifu continued. “He threw the coconut high up in the air, jumped up, turned his body and with a sweeping kick in the air broke the coconut into pieces. He wanted to show that his flying kick was fast and powerful.”

                  I just listened in awe.

                  “Then the Muay Thai champion spoke in Thai. He said that he wanted to challenge my sifu. Many of us staying in Kelantan could understand Thai. So language was no problem.”

                  “My sifu stepped forward. He did not ask why the Muay Thai champion wanted to challenge him. He waved his hands at us and calmly said, ‘These are my students. Pick anyone to fight first. If you can defeat him I shall fight you.’ My sifu then walked back to his chair, sat down and continued to sip his tea.”

                  “The Muay Thai champion eyed us. Then he pointed at me. I was the smallest in size amongst my classmates. My classmates closed their mouth and laughed.”

                  To close the mouth and laugh is a colloquial expression in Chinese. It means to be amused because an opponent makes a serious mistake.

                  The 3-3-9 Mantra

                  “The Muay Thai champion made a serious mistake. He didn’t know I was a Muay Thai fighter before, and therefore knew much about Muay Thai. He also made a mistake of showing off his strong point, so I was prepared for it. Most important I knew the secret of Muay Thai fighting, 3-3-9.”

                  “What’s 3-3-9?” I asked.

                  “It’s a special way of Muay Thai attack. A Muay Thai fighter would never attack you using isolated techniques. He always attacked in sequences. He used three attacks in a sequence, and three sequences continuously.”

                  My sifu demonstrated some Muay Thai attacks in sequences, simultaneously murmuring “sam sam kao, sam sam kao, sam sam kao.”

                  Although I didn’t know the Thai language, I knew that “sam sam kao” meant “three three nine” because the Thai words sounded like Chinese.

                  “Why is it called three-three-nine, and not three-three-three or three-six-nine, for example?” I asked in a rather naive manner.

                  “Oh, it’s just a way of saying.”

                  My sifu then demonstrated the three-three-nine tactic on me. He threw me a right lunge punch, very unlike a punch in Shaolin Kungfu but typical in Muay Thai. I spontaneously warded it off using a right Single Tiger Emerges from Cave. But it was a feint attack. He followed immediately with a right horizontal elbow strike. I retreated a small step and brushed it away with my left palm.

                  Before I realized it, he had turned around in an anticlockwise direction and his left elbow was coming down on my face. I thread it away using my left Golden Dragon Plays with Water. Then I found his right shin just an inch from my left ribs while his right fist was just in front of my left jaw. Had he not stopped in time, he would have fractured my ribs or broken my jaw.

                  I could imagine how efficient my sifu was in his young days as a Muay Thai fighter. Until then I had not seen him practice any Muay Thai movements, but when he demonstrated those movements to me he was so fluent and fast.

                  “Most other martial arts do not have a turn-body elbow strike.” My sifu explained. “But Muay Thai fighters are very good at it. For other people, turning around may be a disadvantage. But if you try to strike Muay Thai fighters when they turn around, they are ready for you. They are very nimble.”

                  “How did you fight the Muay Thai champion, sifu?”

                  “I pretended to be not good so as to further flatter his vanity. As he attacked with sam-sam-kao, I retreated clumsily, but making sure his attacks were futile. I was waiting for his coup de grace, his flying sweeping kick, which I was sure he would use.”

                  Actually my sifu was describing some effective strategies and tactics. But I was unfamiliar with strategies and tactics then. It was much later in my teaching that I had better understanding of strategies and tactics, which greatly benefit my students.

                  My sifu continued his account. “I gave a false opening. He rushed in, jumped into the air, turned his body and executed his deadly sweeping kick in the air. I lowered my body and following his sweeping momentum lifted his whole body from below, swung around and threw him away. It was such a co-incidence. I threw him right out of the door. He fell face forward, bleeding his nose and face. He got up, picked up his robe and hurried away without saying another word.”

                  As he described the action, my sifu also showed me the movements. “The pattern is called Spiritual Dragon Rises to Sky.”

                  “You must need a lot of strength to throw him out of the door,” I commented.

                  “No, I didn’t use much strength. I used his momentum. He was already in the air, flying at me. I just turned my body and threw him away.”

                  As I recalled the demonstration with hindsight, it was a beautiful example of using an opponent’s momentum against himself, and of rotating the waist. I did not define these principles then, which are crucial in Taijiquan but also found in Shaolin. It was much later when I taught Taijiquan then these principles came alive.

                  *Attached a picture where Sifu perform Spiritual Dragon Rises to Sky*

                  With Shaolin Salute,
                  Chun Yian
                  Attached Files


                  • #54
                    Wonderful, Thank you for sharing us these wonderful stories from Sifu’s book.

                    Best regards,



                    • #55
                      Awesome. I have to say that The Way of the Master is number 1 book I am waiting for this year.
                      Pavel Macek Sifu

                      Practical Hung Kyun 實用洪拳



                      • #56
                        I have heard this story before, both in writing and in person, but this time is even better! Not only is Sifu becoming a better teacher, Sifu is also becoming an even better storyteller.

                        Simply fantastic!

                        Thank you, Sifu
                        Charles David Chalmers
                        Brunei Darussalam


                        • #57
                          Just claiming my right for a limited edition copy


                          I will promise my self to set the correct mode and place for such a great journey of a rewarding life story.

                          Thanks Sihing for the update,

                          The two hallmarks of Shaolin teachings: Wisdom and Compassion

                          Sifu Mahmood Ahmed



                          • #58
                            Originally posted by Charles David View Post
                            I have heard this story before, both in writing and in person, but this time is even better! Not only is Sifu becoming a better teacher, Sifu is also becoming an even better storyteller.

                            Simply fantastic!
                            Sifu Andy Cusick

                            Shaolin Wahnam Thailand
                            Shaolin Qigong


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                            "a trained mind brings health and happiness"
                            - ancient wisdom


                            • #59
                              Hi brothers and sisters,

                              Yes Sifu did tell us a lot of interesting stories especially during tea and meal times. Interestingly, these stories are found in Chapter 18 and 19 where the names of the chapters are "Questions over Tea and Meals, and Defeating a Muay Thai Champion" and "Tea Times, Meal Times and Story Telling Times".

                              No worry Mahmood when the book is ready, I will open a new thread in the forum to annouce how to order the book

                              Perhaps one more interesting story, hope you will enjoy it......

                              Move Horse Change Step

                              There was another interesting story my sifu told me over tea that started with Muay Thai fighters but ended up with a Japanese wrestling expert.

                              There was an iron mine in Kelantan in north Peninsula Malaysia owned by a Japanese company and managed by my sifu’s friend. The manager had difficulty employing a work supervisor because all the work supervisors resigned after a short time.

                              The reason was because many of the workers were Thais who practiced Muay Thai. These Thai workers were disobedient, and whenever the supervisor tried to discipline them, they would attack him using Muay Thai.

                              One day the manager sought help from my sifu. “Sifu, you must help me. I know you won’t be interested to be a work supervisor in my iron mine, but please take up the post for a short while to help me discipline my workers.”

                              The manager was not a student of my sifu. But it was customary for the public to address a well-known kungfu master as “sifu”.

                              Due to his persuasion, my sifu finally took up the post as work supervisor. My sifu was small in size. When the Thai workers saw their new work supervisor, they thought they would have an easy time.

                              When my sifu enforced work rules, the Thai workers attacked him with their Muay Thai. One worker would give my sifu a typical Muay Thai sweeping kick. My sifu would hook his leg, and fell him onto the ground.

                              Another worker would lunge forward with a punch. My sifu would grip his arm and pushed him onto the floor. A third worker would rush in with an elbow attack. My sifu would twist his arm to his back. Eventually a group of workers would attack my sifu at the same time. My sifu would weave through them and defeat all of them, but controlling his strikes and not hurting them.

                              Finally the workers knew they had met their match, and did their work accordingly. The news went back to Japan. The board of directors was surprised.

                              One day a Judo master flew in from Japan, went to the manager’s office and spoke to the manager. “I’d like to meet Sifu Ho Fatt Nam,” he said.

                              “Sifu Ho is at the mine, supervising our workers. Please have a seat. I’ll send someone to ask him back.”

                              “I’ve come to pay respect to the master. It’s only proper that I’ll go to see him, not the other way round.”

                              So the manager escorted the Judo master to see my sifu. When the Japanese master saw my sifu, he acted like an old friend, putting his arm round my sifu’s shoulder as they walked back to the office.

                              “Actually he wanted to throw me,” my sifu explained. “After every two or three steps he attempted to throw me to the ground. But I neutralized every of his attempts.”

                              “You could have jabbed him with your elbow,” I said.

                              My sifu looked at me and smiled. “You don’t do that to a guest who flew all the way from Japan, do you?”

                              I was taken aback by my sifu’s wise remark. But I had the presence of mind to say, “Then what did you do, sifu, to neutralize his throws?”

                              “It’s very simple. Chow ma wun po,” my sifu replied.

                              Chow ma wun po (走马换步) is in Cantonese pronunciation and it means “move horse change step”. This principle is fantastic. I tried it on martial artists who were good at throws, and it worked very well. It has enabled me to neutralize any felling attack!

                              When they reached the office, the Japanese master said to my sifu, “Sifu Ho, you were efficient in neutralizing all my throws. I am also good at wrestling. I am a professional wrestler, and there is a technique no one has succeeded in countering. May I apply it on you?”

                              My sifu agreed. The Japanese master held my sifu squatting on the floor, twisting back my sifu’s two arms and stepping on one of my sifu’s bent leg.

                              “How would you counter such an attack?” my sifu asked me.

                              “I would use Carp Turns Body,” I answered.

                              “Carp Turns Body is a good counter, but you may hurt your leg as an opponent is already stepping on it. There is a better counter. It is called Rain Flowers in the Sky. It is a close-door secret.”

                              My sifu explained how “Rain Flowers in the Sky” was performed. As it is a close-door secret, i.e. a secret taught only to selected disciples behind closed doors, I would not describe it here but let you have some fun guessing it.

                              With Shaolin Salute,
                              Chun Yian


                              • #60
                                Wonderful, thank you.
                                Pavel Macek Sifu

                                Practical Hung Kyun 實用洪拳