Remembering Lau Bun
Training for Life
Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong
INSIDE KUNG-FU MAGAZINE
July 2002 Issue
Lau Bun (1891-1967), was born in Toi San, Guangdong Province of Southern
China. When he was young, he studied a number of Southern Shaolin Kung Fu
systems such as Hung Gar, Mok Gar, and Fut Gar etc. His father was in
California at that time, therefore his family did quite well financially. He
could afford to hire the famous Choy Li Fut master Yuen Hai from Fut San to
give him private instructions. He also studied the Shaolin Five Animal Form
from Yuen Hai's second wife who was also a highly skilled kung fu master who
originally came from Fukin Province. He loved Chinese broadsword fighting
techniques; his nickname was "Don-Do Bun". After Yuen Hai passed away, he
became his successor.
The situation in China in 1930 didn't offer many opportunities for an educated and skilled youth such as Lau Bun. China, at that time, was suffering the earthquakes of political and social uncertainty in that they were being dominated by foreign powers which introduced opium to China. Opium became a method of payment for Chinese towns to protect themselves from warlords. While the Ching Dynasty crumbled warlords took control all over China until finally Chang Kai Chek consolidated power and united the warlords under his control. The only escape from this dangerous environment was to immigrate to other countries; one destination was America, where, at that time, many immigrated in order to participate in the construction of the railroads; in this way cities like San Francisco saw a spectacular immigration explosion. American authorities began to enforce strict controls on this growing population.
For Lau Bun the options offered to him in this country were important and he arrived in the United States like many other immigrants crossing the border from Mexico and taking the name of Wong On. He took this new name because it allowed him to avoid deportation - he was recognized as the son of a legal resident in order to reside in America.
The Chinese community in San Francisco is very close-knit with their countrymen and he took refuge there. He quickly prepared himself to serve the community in the only way that he knew: Traditional Chinese Medicine. Lau Bun was an exceptional herbalist and knew the treatments for pain as well as for trauma. His years of Choy Li Fut practice had trained him well in the secrets of Dit-Da herbs, accu-pressure massage, and other Traditional Chinese medical techniques.
But what really made him famous in the Martial Arts was a quarrel with immigration officers in Los Angeles. It happened one day when an officer in a patrol car tried to stop him but Lau Bun refused and resisted the officer who called for back-up. Lau Bun escaped into a building and was pursued inside by immigration officers who arrived. He then fought off the four or five officers and escaped by jumping from the second floor of the building into the streets of Los Angeles. They attempted to pursue him but he was too quick. Upon hearing this information some influential characters of the Chinese community named him Chief Instructor of the Hop Sing Tong's Kung Fu club.
Lau Bun is credited with bringing Choy Li Fut to America. Around 1931, he finally ended up in San Francisco. In order to make money and practice his martial arts, he joined the Hop Sing Tong, serving as a bodyguard and a gambling house bouncer/guard.
Sometime between 1931 and 1939, he established the Wah-Keung Kung Fu Club of Choy Li Fut where he taught private groups and Tong members. This club later became the Hung-Sing Studio of San Francisco in America. By this time Lau Bun was already distinguished for his fighting ability and his school's Lion Dancing proficiency. He was also a famous Dit Da herbalist in San Francisco's Chinatown. He cured thousands injuries for the Chinese community. His school performed kung fu and lion dancing exhibitions to raise funds for the Chinese Hospital in San Francisco each year until his passing.
Lau Bun passed away on September 6, 1967 at the age of 76. His loss caused a void at his studio, so the senior student Jew Leong took over the studio and relocated the Hung Sing Studio to another place in Chinatown of San Francisco and appointed our Grandmaster, the young (then 19 years old) Doc-Fai Wong to be the head instructor for the new Hung Sing Studio in October 1967.
Lau Bun trained his pupils in the traditional way, just as he had learned. Since he didn't have any economic interests he could select his students for their ability to train hard, loyalty and seriousness, in this way he could pass on the system. Lau Bun maintained a strict rule of not teaching Non-Chinese.
Fortunately the circumstances have changed and Grandmaster Wong teaches all persons with the desire to train hard, without any prejudice of race, religious belief, etc. Now Lau Bun's Choy Li Fut is spreading all over the world through the efforts of one of his students; our Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong.
Doc-Fai Wong writes a bi-monthly column for Inside Kung Fu.
July 2002 Inside Kung-Fu