training for Life
Column by Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong
March 2008 Issue

Who's Who of Guangdong

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Recently the government of the Guangdong Province of China had been approved for the selecting of 100 historically famous people to be entered into a book for the historical records. That is similar to what we would call Who's Who, therefore I call it the "Who's Who of Guangdong." In this book, there were famous scientists, artists, educators, businessmen, martial artists and politicians such as Dr. Sun Yet-Sin, etc..

In the category of Guangdong martial artists, only four past-masters were entered into the book. Chan Heung, the founder of Choy Li Fut kung fu was the first one to be entered into the book. The main reason for this is that he was the founder of one of the largest southern kung fu systems in the world. Secondly, he was involved with the anti-Manchurian revolution against the government in the 1800's. He trained a multitude of fighters for the revolution and his students were also involved with the burning the opium in Guangdong during the Opium Wars. Today his art is so famous because he had so many good fighters who opened up schools all over southern China. In 1949, after China became communist, some choy li fut masters left mainland and went to Hong Kong, Macao, and the USA. Chan Heung’s art is well spread all over the world having so many good masters teaching internationally.

The second person was Lam Sai Wing, student of the famous legendary master of Hung Gar, Wong Fei Hung. The main reason Lam Sai Wing was selected is because he had written a few books on the forms of Hung Gar kung fu. These books documented the forms accurately and were handed down to the future generations eliminating any possible errors Wong Fei Hung's teaching. It is said that his teacher Wong Fei Hung was not selected with him at the same time because there were no real facts of Wong Fei Hung documented about his life having contributed to Guangdong society or the community in the past. Somehow only the story books and movies made him famous. Later on, so many of the Hung Gar people in Guangdong complained that Wong Fei Hung was not selected that the selection committee said that regardless of the facts he is so famous now in the world because of the early movies of Kwan Tak Hing who played the character of Wong Fei Hung in Hong Kong and Jet Li's Wong Fei Hung movies featured all over the world they would include Wong Fei Hung in the book as well.

The forth person was listed is Leung Jahn, the past-master of Wing Chun kung fu. He was a native of Hoksan of Jiangmen city of China. He taught Wing Chun in Futsan of Guangdong. He was a very famous fighter of his time. Nowadays, his teachings are spread throughout Futsan, Hoksan, Hong Kong, and now all over the world by the influence of Bruce Lee's kung fu background in Wing Chun.

There was somebody who registered the trademark of the name and the Chinese characters of choy li fut (Cai Li Fo) in China in the year of 2003. That made choy li fut practitioners and schools have difficulty using the systems name on printed T-shirts or schools' signs or of any promotion using the characters of choy li fut legally. The good news is, Choy Li Fut is the only Southern kung fu system from Guangdong Province approved by the Chinese government in Beijing as The Non-Entity Cultural Legacy or The Intangible Culture Heritage. That means choy li fut kung fu is recognized as a major traditional wushu or kung fu system in China like tai chi chuan, xingyi chuan and bagua zhang, etc. Now Choy li fut cannot be registered by any individual citizen for commercial trademark. All citizens of China can use the name of choy li fut or Cai Li Fo (the Chinese Pinyin system of Romanization), the three Chinese characters belong to everyone now.

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

March 2008 Inside Kung-Fu