training for Life
Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong
January 2011 Issue

Scholars and Warriors

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When I was young, my teacher Dr. Hu Yuen Chou, told me about Chinese culture and history to achieve more depth in my kung-fu. He said there were three great Chinese novels that featured Chinese martial arts.

His recommendations included: Journey to the West by Wu Cheng En, which has many interesting stories about the Monkey King; Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, which includes good stories about General Kwan or Kwan Gung; and Water Margin or Outlaw of the March by Shi Naian. This last novel talked about 108 heroes or martial artists. Each of the book's characters has different fighting skills and uses different weapons.

In the Choy Li Fut system, there is a monkey hand form (hao ying kuen) and the monkey staff form (hang jie pang). Besides the imitation of the monkey's movements, this hand form also uses the imagination from the Monkey King stories.

Since the Monkey King was an invincible fighter, his fighting techniques were unique. These two unusual choy li fut monkey forms feature gymnastic movements such as falling, rolling, tumbling, sweeping, low ground kicking and and other acrobatic fighting techniques.

In Journey to the West, besides the Monkey King named Sun Wukong, there are two other characters: the Piggy, Zhu Bajie; and the Sandy, Sha Heshang. Three were the disciples of the Tang Monk, Xuan Zhuang. The Piggy uses the Nine Tooth Rake as his weapon. In choy li fut kung-fu, the nine tooth rake form is called gau chi pah. This exotic weapon can be replaced with the modern garden iron rake for practice. The other character is the monk Sandy. His weapon is the crescent moon spade. The choy li fut crescent moon spade form, yuit nga chaun, is a powerful long weapon form that has a plethora of practical fighting techniques featuring graceful movements.

In the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the famous long weapon is the Kwan do. Kwan do means General Kwan's long-handled broadsword. General Kwan's name was Kwan Yu; his other name was Kwan Yun Chang.

Kwan Gung had three blood brothers. Liu Bei was the eldest and eventually became one of the kings. Liu's weapon was the seung gim, the double straight sword. In the choy li fut system, there are two sets of double straight sword formsó the chi hung seung gim (female and male double sword form); and the fei lung mui fa seung gim (flying dragon plum blossom double sword form).

Kwan Gung's second younger blood brother was Zhang Fei. The famous snake tongue spear was Zhang Fei's personal weapon. Choy li fut's snake tongue spear form is called the sieh mao cheung. It is a traditional weapon form handed down from the founder with the written script to document all the movements. General Kwan's youngest blood brother was Zhao Zilong, an invincible general. His weapon was the red-tassel spear.

One character from the novel of Water Margin was Lu Zhishen, a good fighter who loved to help others. One day he accidentally killed a local street bully. That bully was a relative of a high official, so he was forced to become a Buddhist monk to avoid capital punishment. However, he refrained from becoming a vegetarian. He always went into the town center to drink and eat meat.

One day he got drunk in town and came to the temple. The monks guarding the temple wouldn't let him pass the gate because Lu was so drunk. Lu got mad because the monks stopped him, so he fought those monks. Since he was drunk, he swayed and rocked as he stepped. His body was leaning and turning. The other monks could hardly punch him. He defeated all the monks and got back into the bedroom of the temple and went to sleep. The next morning he remembered the events of the night before. He created the drunken fighting movements and invented drunken kung-fu.

Lu Zhishen's weapon was the golden bell spade. In the choy li fut system, besides the drunken kung-fu hand form jui kuen, there is also a golden bell spade form called gum jung chaun. Scholars wrote novels and martial artists (warriors) created the fighting techniques from the literature. That is the harmony of the yin and yang, because the scholars were yin and the warriors were yang. Thus, in ancient China the emperor needed scholars to run the country and warriors to defend its borders.

Doc-Fai Wong is a contributing editor and writes a bi-monthly column for Inside Kung-Fu.

January 2011 Inside Kung-Fu