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Thread: The Way of the Master

  1. #41
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Sungai petani, Kedah, Malaysia
    Hi there,

    Thank you Wei Joo for raising up the question of book launching. Indeed, we do not set a specific date to launch the book yet but we expect the book to be published and available around August/September this year if everything goes on smooth manner. I will update the progress of the book from time to time. Certainly, we will only produce an amount of books which I will discuss and confirm with Sifu again for the special and limited edition and no re-print will take place after that. The special and limited edition is available in conjunction to Sifu's 70 years old birthday in the year 2014.

    The book is in the progress of editing now and it takes a long time as it's really long. Well let us dig more in Chapter 17 to know more about the burning of Shaolin Temple......

    Southern Shaolin

    A few Shaolin masters escaped from the inferno. One of them, the Venerable Chee Seen (至善禅师), built a secretive Shaolin Temple on the Nine-Lotus Mountain (九莲山), with the aim of overthrowing the Qing Dynasty. He had many famous secular disciples, like Hoong Hei Koon (洪熙官), Fong Sai Yoke (方世玉), and Lok Ah Choy (陆亚采). Chee Seen’s two most senior disciples, who were monks, were the Venerable Harng Yen (杏隐禅师) and the Venerable Sam Tuck (三德和尚).

    Another Shaolin monk who escaped was the Venerable Jiang Nan (江南和尚). He was not as famous as the other Shaolin masters because knowing that the Qing army would be tracing him, he left China. But he was very important in the history of our school, Shaolin Wahnam, which will be described later.

    This second southern Shaolin Temple on Nine-Lotus Mountain was also burnt by the Qing army led by Pak Mei (白眉) and Fong Tou Tuck (冯道德). Pak Mei and Fong Tou Tuck were classmates of Chee Seen at the southern Shaolin Temple in Quanzhou. Ng Mui (五梅), a Shaolin nun, Pak Mei, Chee Seen, Fong Tou Tuck and Miu Hien (苗显), a secular Shaolin master, were known as the Five Shaolin Elders (少林五老).

    After the first burning of the southern Shaolin Temple at Quanzhou, Pak Mei escaped to Ermei Mountain (峨眉山), where he founded Pai Mei Kungfu (白眉拳) and Dragon Style Kungfu (龙形拳), and Fong Tou Tuck escaped to Wudang Mountain (武当山) where he founded Wudang Kungfu (武当拳), which was different from the Wudang Kungfu of Zhang San Feng about 5 centuries earlier.

    Political difference between Chee Seen on one hand, and Pak Mei and Fong Tou Tuck on the other led to the second burning of the southern Shaolin Temple on Nine-Lotus Mountain by the Qing army, commanded by Ko Chun Chong (高进忠), a senior disciple of Pak Mei and military governor of the two provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi.

    Many secular Shaolin disciples escaped to Guangdong resulting in the numerous Southern Shaolin styles like Hoong Ka (洪家), Wing Choon (詠春), Choy-Li-Fatt (蔡李佛), Lau Ka (刘家), Choy Ka (蔡家), Mok Ka (莫家) and Chow Ka (周家).

    The burning of the Shaolin Temple during the Qing Dynasty was a historical event in kungfu. But not many people realize that the Shaolin Temple here referred to the southern Shaolin Temple in the Fujian Province of South China, and not to the northern Shaolin Temple in Henan Province of North China.

    The Northern Shaolin Temple Was Not Burned!

    The northern Shaolin Temple was not burnt during the Qing Dynasty. It remained throughout the Qing Dynasty. In fact the words “Shaolin Temple” in Chinese hang on the main entrance of the temple were written by a Qing emperor. The temple was burnt in 1928, eleven years after the Qing Dynasty had been overthrown.

    Its burning had nothing to do with kungfu. The northern Shaolin Temple was long deserted, and a warlord occupied it as a military camp. A rival warlord attacked it with guns and cannons in 1928. Hence, to claim that lineage of one’s Shaolin Kungfu is traced back to the Shaolin Temple in Henan is historically flawed.
    In kungfu context, the burning of the Shaolin Temple by the Qing army referred to the southern Shaolin Temple. Not many people realize that there were two southern Shaolin Temples, one at Quanzhou and the other at Nine-Lotus Mountain, and both were burnt by the Qing army.

    The southern Shaolin Temple at Quanzhou was an open temple. The public knew about its existence. It was burnt by the Qing Army with the help of Lama kungfu experts from Tibet with their infamous flying guillotines. Chee Seen, Jiang Nan, Pak Mei and Fong Tou Tuck escaped from this Temple. The kungfu practiced and taught by all these four grandmasters were Southern Shaolin Kungfu from the southern Shaolin Temple, not Northern Shaolin Kungfu from the northern Shaolin Temple.

    Chee Seen built a secretive southern Shaolin Temple on Nine-Lotus Mountain. The public did not know about this temple. Its existence was betrayed to the Qing government by one of the ten great disciples of Chee Seen named Ma Ling Yi (马龄兒). Ma Ling Yi bore a grudge against his teacher, Chee Seen, and his classmates because he was spanked for being drunk and breaking a gigantic oil lamp hung in the training hall. The temple was burnt by the Qing army led by Pak Mei. Many of Chee Seen’s disciples escaped and spread Shaolin Kungfu in the south.

    Both burnings of the two southern Shaolin Temples were closely connected to our school. Our school is called Shaolin Wahnam in honour of my two sifus, Sifu Lai Chin Wah and Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. The lineage of Sifu Lai Chin Wah is traced directly to the Venerable Chee Seen, and the lineage of Sifu Ho Fatt Nam to the Venerable Jiang Nan.

    With Shaolin Salute,
    Chun Yian

  2. #42
    PM is offline Sifu Pavel Macek - Founder of Czech Lam Ga Hung Kyun
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Europe, Czech republic
    Excellent, thank you. I hope that the book will contain the Chinese characters as well - a gem for us fans and researchers.

  3. #43
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Sungai petani, Kedah, Malaysia
    Hi brothers and sisters,

    Yes PM certainly the book will contain the Chinese characters as well, in simplified Chinese version.

    At the later part of Chapter 17, Sifu explain the lineage of Sigung Lai and Sigung Ho in details, which is as below:

    The Venerable Chee Seen and the Venerable Jiang Nan

    The Venerable Chee Seen’s most senior disciple was the Venerable Harng Yen. The kungfu set, Essence of Shaolin (少林拳术精华), which I cherish very much, was transmitted by the Venerable Harng Yen. The following poetic couplet which was painted on the wall of the training hall when I first established Shaolin Wahnam Association in Sungai Petani, and which summed up the techniques and the skill of Shaolin Kungfu succinctly, was attributed to the Venerable Harng Yen.

    Miu fatt fatt chong sang miu fatt
    Kai kung kung seong kein kai kung


    Amidst marvelous techniques are born marvelous techniques
    Upon wondrous skills can be seen wondrous skills

    At the Shaolin Temple the Venerable Harng Yen taught Chan Fook (陈福). It was the same Chan Fook who later taught Beggar Su (苏乞丐), one of the Ten Tigers of Guangdong known for his Drunken Kungfu. Chan Fook had left the southern Shaolin Temple before it was razed. Chan Fook also taught Ng Yew Loong (伍耀隆).

    Ng Yew Loong migrated from China to Malaysia and was a very well known kungfu master in Penang. Ng Yew Loong taught my sifu, Sifu Lai Chin Wah, better known by his honorable nick-name as Uncle Righteousness. I learned from my sifu, Uncle Righteousness, in 1954.

    The other lineage in our school was from the Venerable Jiang Nan. I know the lineage stories very well because my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, told them to me himself.

    When the southern Shaolin Temple at Quanzhou was razed to the ground, the Venerable Jiang Nan escape and ran out of China, as he knew the Qing army was after him. His name at the Shaolin Temple was not Jiang Nan. But after crossing a big river, which was probably Zhu Jiang or the Pearl River, he adopted the name Jiang Nan, which meant South of the River.

    From Jiang Nan to Yang Fatt Khun

    The Venerable Jiang Nan fled south, crossed the Chinese border into Thailand, and kept going south. He had only one mission in life, that was to pass on the Shaolin arts to just one trusted disciple. He was very strict in selecting his successor. He was about 30 of age when he escaped from the burning temple, and after about 50 years of searching, when he was about 80, he met my sigung, Yang Fatt Khun (杨法坤).

    Yang Fatt Khun was about 30 then, and was a traveling medicine man in what was then southern Thailand. But in a treaty in the early 1900s, the Thai ceded it to the British in what is now Kelantan in Peninsula Malaysia. To attract crowd, Yang Fatt Khun would first performed some kungfu and demonstrated some feats like piercing a potato with a straw or having a slab of granite broken on his chest. These are actually stuntman shows to attract crowd, and not real kungfu.

    I remember once I politely asked my sifu whether I could learn some of these stuntman shows. I knew my sifu had a lot of these tricks as some of his sifus, i.e. my sigungs, were traveling medicine men, and my sifu often had to perform these stuntman shows to attract crowd.

    “Why do you want to learn these feats?” My sifu asked me.

    “It’ll be interesting for demonstration,” I replied.

    “These are stuntman shows,” he said. “Don’t waste your time on them. Spend your time to practice genuine kungfu,” he reprimanded.

    Although my sigung, Yang Fatt Khun, performed stuntman shows, I had no doubt that his kungfu was genuine and effective. Where he operated were Muay Thai fighters, and Muay Thai fighters would not let a medicine man demonstrating kungfu go unchallenged. Many Muay Thai fighters had challenged my sigung, and he had defeated them readily. The type of kungfu my sigung practiced was Fengyang Kungfu (凤杨拳), which was famous for its phoenix-eye fist.

    For seven nights the Venerable Jiang Nan watched Yang Fatt Khun performed his kungfu, demonstrated his feats and sold his medicine. Then on the seventh night, after the crowd had dispersed and Yang Fatt Khun was packing his apparatus to prepare to leave, the Shaolin monk walked towards the young man and said.

    “Young man. The crowd applauded your performance of kungfu. But it was no good. It was only good for demonstration!”

    Yang Fatt Khun was very surprised. The monk was about 80 with long white beard, but upright like a stature, a voice like ringing bell, eyes sparkling and vitality of a young man.

    Before Yang Fatt Khun could say anything, the monk continued.

    “Don’t take my words for granted. The test of kungfu is fighting. Let us have some friendly free sparring to see if your kungfu is good. I shall wait for you to pack your things. Then we find a suitable place to spar.”

    So Yang Fatt Khun packed his things and led the monk back to his hotel. At the back of the hotel where nobody watched, they sparred.

    At first Yang Fatt Khun hesitated to use force or speed, out of respect for the monk’s old age.

    “Fight your best,” the monk commanded.

    They spared, and sparred and sparred. But all the time Yang Fatt Khun found himself simply overwhelmed. He did not actually know what happened. The old monk just handled him like a child.

    Yang Fatt Khun knew that there was no doubt the old monk was a rare kungfu master. He knelt down, kowtowed, and begged, “Sifu, please accept me as your student.” It was only later that my sigung found out the Venerable Jiang Nan was the last of real Shaolin monks from the legendary Shaolin Temple.

    The old monk gently touched the young man’s head. “There’s one condition,” the monk said. “Wind up your medicine business, follow me up a mountain, and start afresh.”

    There were actually three conditions in one. The last condition, start afresh, has become standard in our lineage. No matter how accomplished a student may be, he starts afresh when learning from us.

    My sigung, Yang Fatt Khun, was already an accomplished fighter when he learned from the Venerable Jiang Nan, but he started afresh when he learned the Shaolin arts. My sifu was already an accomplished fighter, being a professional Muay Thai champion, but started afresh when he learned the Shaolin arts from my sigung. I was already quite accomplished in kungfu, being called a kungfu genius, but I started afresh when I learned from my sifu.

    My sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, told me that starting afresh had many benefits. A big benefit was that a student would not miss out anything important, especially at the beginning when the fundamentals were taught. Another big benefit was that the teaching and the learning would be systematic and progressive. Of course a student who already had much prior experience would progress much faster than other students.

    The statement made by our first patriarch, the Venerable Jiang Nan, that the test of kungfu is fighting, has also become a cornerstone in our lineage. Because times have changed, fighting may not be the top priority in our kungfu training. We may pay more emphasis on good health, vitality, longevity, mental freshness, spiritual joys and peak performance, but there is no uncertainty that when we train kungfu we must be able to fight if the need arises.

    We do not just talk about kungfu, we do not learn kungfu for demonstration to please spectators, we do not submit ourselves to being punched and kicked at in free sparring, we know how to fight well if we have to, though we would prefer not to if we can.

    From Yang Fatt Khun to Ho Fatt Nam

    When my sigung, Yang Fatt Khun, learned Shaolin Kungfu from the Venerable Jiang Nan, my sigung was about 30. When my sifu, Ho Fatt Nam, learned from my sigung, my sigung was about 70. My sifu was the last of my sigung’s disciple, but eventually rose in rank to become his successor.

    Before he learned Shaolin Kungfu from my sigung, my sifu was already very accomplished in kungfu, having learnt from six other masters, and was a professional Muay Thai fighter, earning his living by fighting in the ring.

    My sifu heard of a famous old Shaolin master, and wanted to learn from the old master in order to improve his fighting in the ring. But each time he approached the master, my sifu was rejected. But my sifu was very determined, and kept on begging the master to teach him.

    In order to stop this young nuisance, the old master said, “You don’t have to beg me further. I don’t teach anymore.” When a master declared that he was no longer teaching, intending students had no reason to beg further. My sifu thought he had lost the chance to learn form the old Shaolin master.

    But a senior disciple of the old Shaolin master, who was almost as old as the master himself, took pity on my sifu. He knew my sifu was dedicated and talented, and thought that it would be a waste if the Shaolin arts were not passed on to succeeding generations.

    So he told my sifu, “It’s true my sifu is no longer teaching publicly. But he still teaches us in private.”

    He told my sifu the secret training place. “All doors are close when we train. But tonight I shall secretly leave the back door open so that you can come in.”

    My sifu was overjoyed. He bought the traditional gifts of a cockerel, two bottles of the best Chinese wine, and big oranges. Sure enough he found the back door unlocked. He sneaked in and found some people practicing in a hall, while the old master was seated on a chair at the altar sipping tea watching his students practice.

    My sifu quickly but quietly went towards the master, knelt down and with both hands offered the basket of traditional gifts above his head to the master. The master took the basket and placed it on the altar. My sifu was very happy. Placing the gifts on the altar meant that the master accepted him as a student.

    “This rascal. It’s destiny,” the old master said.

    When my sifu told me the story, I was ignorant enough to ask, “Why did sigung call sifu a rascal? And why did sigung say it was destiny?”

    “I was a rascal because my sifu could not retire as he had planned. It was destiny that he had to teach me.”

    That's the end of Chapter 17.

    Best regards,
    Chun Yian

  4. #44
    PM is offline Sifu Pavel Macek - Founder of Czech Lam Ga Hung Kyun
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Europe, Czech republic
    Wonderful, thank you!

  5. #45
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Dear Chun Yian Sipak,

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful stories. It is very inspiring to read of Sitaigung Ho Fatt Nam’s determination and success in learning from Sichanggung Yang Fatt Khun.

    Thank you Sigung for the opportunity to read them.

    Can’t wait for this book

    Shaolin Salute,

  6. #46
    Mark A is offline Sifu Mark Appleford - Chief Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam UK
    Join Date
    Feb 2003


    Beautiful Stories and a living history
    Sifu Mark Appleford

  7. #47
    Nick Jones's Avatar
    Nick Jones is offline Sifu Nick Jones - Instructor, Shaolin Wahnam England
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    London, UK

    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,

  8. #48
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    London, England
    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

  9. #49
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Sungai petani, Kedah, Malaysia
    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

  10. #50
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Sungai petani, Kedah, Malaysia
    Attached is the picture of Sifu performing Shaolin Seven Stars
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