Choy Li Fut Kung-Fu Forms and Scripts

Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong
September 2004 Issue

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Although known as a southern system, Choy Li Fut kung fu his its origins in both northern and southern China. The system's founder, Chan Heung, had three teachers, two from the and South one from the North. Choy Li Fut is one of the few kung-fu styles strongly influenced by both northern and southern Chinese kung-fu, combining the long-arm techniques of the South with the quick, agile footwork that characterizes Northern China's martial arts.

Choy Li Fut was founded by Chan Heung, a well-known and highly skilled martial artist of that period. His martial arts career began at age seven, when he went to live with his uncle, Chan Yuen Woo, who was a famous boxer from the legendary Shaolin Temple in Fujian, China. From Chan Yuen Woo, Chan Heung learned the art of southern shaolin kung-fu, and became so proficient at it that by age 15 he could defeat any challenger from nearby villages. By the time he reached his 17th year, Chan Heung was ready to assimilate more martial skills. So Chan Yuen Woo took him to Li Yau San, Yuen Woo's senior classmate from the Southern Shaolin Temple. Chan Heung spent the next four years perfecting his kung-fu under Li Yau San's careful eye.

It soon became apparent after only four years of training that Chan Heung was again ready to move onto higher levels. In only ten years he had already reached a level of skill that had taken Yuen Woo and Li Yau-San 20 years to attain. The young man's potential was so great that Li Yau San suggested a Shaolin monk named Choy Fook, who lived as a recluse on Lau Fu Mountain, as the best teacher for Chan Heung. When Chan Heung was 29, he left the monk Choy Fook and went back to his village where he spent the next two years revising and refining all that he had learned from Choy Fook. Chan Heung had now developed a new system of kung-fu. In 1836, he formally established the Choy Li Fut system, naming it in honor of his two principal teachers, Choy Fook and Li Yau-San, and using the word "fut," which means Buddha in Chinese, to pay homage to his uncle, Chan Yuen Woo, and to the Shaolin roots of the new system.

The reason the Choy Li Fut system has so many kung-fu forms is because Chan Heung learned from three highly skilled Shaolin masters. Each of his teachers had many traditional forms and Chan Heung himself developed many training and fighting forms from his own experience and years of training. He also developed forms for various students who had different physical shapes and abilities. His kung-fu forms have been recorded into scripts which have been handed down to his closed-door students.

My second Choy Li Fut teacher was Dr. Hu Yuen Chou. Dr. Hu spent 20 years studying Choy Li Fut under the founder's grandson, Chan Yiu Chi. Hu Yuen Chou's hard work and the diligent training he received from Chan Yiu Chi insured the mind and spirit of the system. He received the traditional King Mui form scripts that had been handed down from the founder. In the Kong Chow lineage, my third Choy Li Fut teacher, Wong Gong, inherited his traditional form scripts from Chan Cheong Mo and Chan Yen, who had received his scripts from the founder's oldest son, Chan On-Pak.

My teaching of Choy Li Fut has the most complete training system of traditional forms today. In 1978, I began to translate the Choy Li Fut form scripts into English. From the English translations, these scripts have been translated by my European students into Spanish, French, Italian, Polish, Dutch, Hungarian and many other languages. Having translated the King Mui and Kong Chow form scripts into English, I also restored and translated the Fut San branch form scripts I learned from Lau Bun and my other si-suks (uncles) in Hong Kong.

Doc-Fai Wong writes a bi-monthly column for Inside Kung-Fu.

September 2004