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The History of Tang Family Weng Chun

Written down by Sifu Michael Tang (2017)

Prologue

The common knowledge was that 永春拳 had been heavily linked to the Red Boat 紅船, with Abbot ChiSim 至善禪師 hiding as a cook on board the Red Boat and subsequently taught some self-defence fighting art to 黃華寶 and 大花面錦 to enable them to better defend themselves in case they were attacked. The art was passed down to Fung Siu Ching who worked for 新錦 on the Red Boat. Fung Siu Ching then spread the art and taught Tung Jik 董植 and Tang Suen 鄧算 (New Martial Hero Magazine). After the war, Tung went to Macau and taught Chu Chung Man 朱仲文 and Tang Yik 鄧奕 came to HK and they met at Dai Duk Lan 大德欄 where they worked together to develop 永春. Tang Yik was known and respected as the King of Weng Chun Pole (永春棍王). However, little was known about his Luk Dim Boon Pole (六點半棍) which was not practiced by other Weng Chun masters.

Back in early 2000, Andrea Hoffmann published his book on Weng Chun and in it, he had attached an organisation chart, which he got from Sunny So. The chart showed that Tang Suen actually got his 永春 through his own village seniors and this traces up to Fei Loi Temple 飛來寺 back in Ching Yuen 廣東清遠. This was the first open document that recorded a different source to the commonly known theory.

In the audio recording. Tang Yik had given details of his family tree which was different from the Red Boat and this also explains some of the differences between the 永春 forms and particularly the pole form he taught against the other streams through Fung Siu Ching. 

In his later years, Tang Yik was suggesting to name the forms he taught as Tang Family Weng Chun (鄧家永春) as a respect to his ancestors.

1. Prelude

Tang Yik told us about the background of 永春拳. 至善禪師 was in Southern Shaolin and before its destruction, the emperor's people was there as something like under-cover and got hold of the martial art forms used to be taught there. Upon the destruction, 至善 fled away. As a fugitive, he was hiding and wandering around different places in Guangdong and Guangxi. He himself was not concerned of being attacked. His concern was those who provided coverage or accommodated him.

There was no way that those who helped him would be able to defend themselves against the emperor's people, as they have strong martial arts background as well as knowing the traditional fighting technique used in Shaolin. Also that southern Chinese were smaller than northern people and less "strong".

To help them out, 至善 taught them some close contact defence techniques such that they could "fight" back before they are knocked down. The kind of technique was never meant to be used for battle field, group fighting nor aggressive attack, but just a way for self-rescue. Speed, explosive power and agility were the essence. The art also adopted a "from side to centre" 由徧入正 strategy to avoid direct "confrontation" which the smaller individual would never be advantageous. In fact, it was more of concepts than some organised training routines, as it was developed initially.

As the time spent by 至善 with each of his students were not long and each individuals would have other martial arts background, there were differences in interpretations and understandings. Also, as most of the teachings were done at confined spaces, the forms initially did not have a lot of footwork movements, like the 永春拳 form itself. Disputes such variations, there appeared to be some fundamentals that were common, including the Bong, Tan, Fou, Centre Punches, Narrow Stance, etc.

2. How It Started

The Tang village locates at FoShan/Nan Hai (佛山/南海), a district called 小塘 and the village is called 橫溪村. Tang Bun 鄧本 who was a trader going around to buy food stuffs back to sell at FoShan and used to go to Ching Yuen 清遠, a town at GuangDong north of GuangZhou. Ching Yuen was located at a branch of Pearl River and famous for poultry, pigs and other food stuffs and 鄧本 went there often.

There was a famous temple locating at an island at North River 北江, Ching Yuen called Fei Loi Temple 飛來寺 and there Tang Bun met a monk, and Tang Bun noted that he was good at martial arts and finally knew that he was Abbot ChiSim 至善禪師. Tang Bun was very keen to learn martial arts and did not miss any chance to learn from the great master. 

He travelled there often and learnt for two three years, when Chi Sim told him there he could not stay in Fei Loi Temple anymore and had to go. Chi Sim also ask Tang Bun to go find 黃華寶 and 梁二娣 and told him that the two did learn from him and Tang Bun should keep contact with them and get to understand more. 

During that two three years, Tang Bun did learn a hand form, a dummy set and the Luk Dim Boon pole form. Tang Bun asked Chi Sim what is the name of the hand form and the style he was learning. Chi Sim told him that it was not any standard Shaolin style, but specially developed by Chi Sim to help out the shorter southern Chinese to defend themselves from possible attacks by the guardsman from the emperor whom were primarily northern Chinese, more strongly built. The form is a close distance self-defending techniques using the principles of 以法收功 - Using techniques to conquer power. As he had resided in the 永春殿 - Eternal Spring Hall, so just called the form 永春拳.

Tang Bun did later contacted 華寶 and 二娣 and noted that their forms were similar, but different. This was possible as the time spent by Chi Sim for each teaching was not long and what he taught were more of defending concepts instead of training routines. Also, individuals would have different backgrounds and hence different understanding and expression.

Tang Bun taught the 永春拳, dummy and pole to his son Tang Jout 鄧就 who eventually taught those to Tang Suen 鄧算, a brotherhood of the same family.

3. From Red Boat to Ching Yuen

In old days in Guangdong, land transportation was difficult and the Pearl River and its related branches formed the most important link between towns along the Pearl River. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for the team of opera to move from one town to another, along with the heavy loads of costumes and gears, via land, which would be hilly. As such, they travel on boat from one town to another, where most of the prosperous towns were along the rivers. The boat formed a micro-society itself, as it hosted all essential elements to keep the team operational.

Tang Yik said that Chi Sim was hiding on broad the Red Boat as a cook. Once the boat was robbed. Although people on the Red Boat knew some kind of martial arts, as an actor, they were not the kind to fight robbers. Chi Sim was forced to stood up to defend the team which was in real danger and his identity was exposed and he subsequently taught people on the Red Boat to enable them to protect themselves. As there was carpenter on broad, the wooden dummy was believed to be erected there to form a convenient tool for practicing and teaching.

飛來寺 (Fei Loi Temple) is on the north of 清遠 (Ching Yuen) at 北江 (North River), which is a branch of 珠江 (Pearl River), a river system connecting major towns in GuangZhou, incluidng GuangZhou, Nanhai, FoShan, Ching Yuen, and of course Hong Kong!! It is logical that eventually Chi Sim came across 飛來寺and settled down there temporarily, as he, being a Buddhist monk did not really wanted to be a cook and also that his identity was exposed.

Fei Loi temple was distroyed by flooding, but the old Gate still exists, reminding us of the history when our senior used to pass through to bring us the Eternal Spring.

4. Back to Home - 小塘 橫溪

橫溪 was a village at 小塘 and mainly with surname Tang. Tang Suen came from a reasonable family and his father was doing some catering business in 小塘 and Tang Suen did not need to worry about earning money as he inherited business from his father, so he enjoyed a leisure life, at his early age. He initially was not targetted to be a martial art sifu but educated to be a merchant. But he did not do well in his education as his hand writing was not good nor presentable. But his talent was on martial art training and learnt from 鄧就 (Tang Jout), at the age of about 18. He loved to teach others, but not for money. He also loved to go to FoShan and visited 鄧樸 (Tang Pok), who was also the same brotherhood from 橫溪, Tang Pok also loved martial arts and did learnt Weng Chun from another source. Tang Pok operated a shop selling drums and musical instruments and was called Yuen Wo Drum Shop. They exchanged their knowledge in a friendly atmosphere.

But fate led Tang Suen out of his comfortable life into some hard tests and pushed him to take part along with historical tidal!!

Seeing the Tang Village Hall below and one could imagin Tang Suen and Tang Yik practicing inside or in front of the hall!!!

5. From SiuTong 小塘 to FoShan 佛山 - Shaping of a Grand Master - 佛山棍王

Tang Suen used to travel to FoShan to meet up with Tang Pok 鄧樸, Tang Pok also loves martial arts and invited a Sifu from 龍城 (Dragon Town), who's surname was also 龍(Lung) and said to be from Ba Pai Shan (八排山 ), at the border between GuangDong and GuangXi. It was said that 至善禪師 had been hiding to 八排. 鄧樸 did learn pole form from 龍 Sifu.

Tang Suen found out that 鄧樸 pole had better "Kung" than his, while the technique and detailing were not as good as his Luk Dim Boon. Tang Suen learnt that also and such form was the Kung Lik (功力) and is what we called Kwan Kung (棍功) now. After he completed this pole form, Tang Suen also learnt from another Sifu Yeung Tim (楊潻).

It was also told that Yeung Tim also learnt from 至善禪師. He did not have children and was working as a caretaker in a temple at GuangZhou. Yeung Tim's footwork was particularly good. 鄧樸 did learnt from 楊添 and later 鄧算 also learnt from him. The form learnt from Yeung Tim was the one we now called 雙功 Sheung Kung. The footwork was called 二換馬 and such footwork greatly supplement and enhance the static footwork of Weng Chun Kuen.

Fung Siu Ching 馮少青 was already teaching in FoShan and understood that there were 鄧樸 and 鄧算there visited them at Yuen Wo Drum Shop (元和 was located at 佛山 瓦巷. Fung Siu Ching only learnt a dummy form and very simple pole form from the Red Boat. They found out that their dummy forms were very similar, but Fung Siu Ching noted that there were great differences between (in complexity and comprehensiveness) between his pole form and the Tang's. Also, he found it difficult to teach as a Sifu without the handform. He was good and developed the Chong Kuen referencing from the Sheung Kung. Tang Suen asked Fung Siu Ching whether he wanted to learn and practice the pole form. Fung said "I am 55 already", and not possible to learn such at his age. Eventually, Tang Suen taught the Kwun Kung to Tung Jik 董植. Tang Suen was 5 years older than Tung Jik. Tang Suen also learnt the Chong Kuen from Fung Siu Ching.

Another Tang village members did learn 三展 鐡線 from Wu Heng (胡亨) together with 董享, father of 董植, 董恩 and Tang Yik did later learn that from his village elders.

6. Turning Point - FoShan - Hong Kong - Canton

People's life path sometimes would come to a turning point which totally changes an individual's destiny. Tang Suen was living happily and enjoying martial arts as his "hobby" and sometimes teaching just for "fun". But something happened which had driven him to a more interesting part of his life which eventually brought his family art to a different stage.

In the old days when people relied on farming to make a living, water was a very valuable resources and a lot of times, it was a source of conflict and have to be settled through fighting. The Tang village was no different. Once upon a time, there was a fight between the Tang families and the adjoining village and the neighbours were beaten up. Their Sifu came and challenge for a fight. The Tang seniors suggested a "drew of cuts" and Tang Suen "won". The challenger was stupid enough to suggest a pole fight with Tang Suen and one could expect the result. The challenger actually drop dead on his way back.

Tang Suen left the village and came to Hong Kong where it was a colony under the British rule. He was thinking of going to Nam Yeung (南洋) where he got a Tang village brother there. When he was in Hong Kong waiting for the further trip, one day, when he was lingering around and did ask a guy to borrow a match for his smoking, they chatted and noted that guy was from Dai Lik 大瀝, which was close to Siu Tong 小塘. The guy, named Lee Yat, noted that Tang Suen's dialect and asked him whether he was from 小塘 and knew of a guy called Tang Suen and asked whether the man infront of him knew martial arts of Tang Suen. Tang Suen did not tell his true identity, but told him that he knew Tang Suen and they have a friend exchange and eventually told Lee Yat that he was Tang Suen and said that he was thinking of going to Nam Yeung to find some living. Eventually, Lee Yat persuaded Tang Suen to stay behind to teach and that started his formal teaching. It was a ground floor shop at No 9, Wo On Lane, at a place which is now a "fun" place - 香港蘭桂坊(Lan Kwai Fong) at Central Hong Kong.

After a relatively short time. The Tang villager told Tang Suen that the Canton Police Chief was looking for a coach and suggested Tang Suen to try, as his families was still in Siu Tong. The police chief was Chan King Wah (廣州警察廰長陳景華). After some serious thoughts, he did apply, using a different name.

The historical place of Weng Chun has now changed totally - 香港中環和安里九號

7. A Tale of Two Cities - Canton/Hong Kong

Canton (GuangZhou) was one of the key centres in lat Ching Dynasty. It was also the key centre opened up for foreign trade. Hong Kong was a colony under British rule and considered as "heaven" for fugitives and revolutionist from China. It was also a "heaven", in later years, for martial artists from China, who wanted to enjoy free and stable livings from the decades of civil war, Japanese invasion, famines and cultural revolution under communist rule.

When Tang Suen ran away from his home village, it was a time of uprising - revolution against Ching Dynasty and inauguration of the Republic of China - 1911. Shortly after he came to Hong Kong, with the establishment of the new Republic government, a new police force was set up in Canton, headed by Chan King Wah - 陳景華. He wanted to recruit a good coach for the policeman. Tang Suen eventually decided to apply, mainly because he wanted to be back close to his family which was still at Siu Tong, and Tang Yik was about 2 years old. He applied using a fake name. He passed the "examination" by scaring off 40 some other contestants, mainly with his pole technique and returned to Canton as the new police coach. He turned his life from a well off second generation (二世祖), to a fugitive, becoming a martial art sifu and then be a respected police coach.

When he was serving as the coach for the police force, Chan King Wah and his friend, Wu Hon Man (胡漢民) who was an important figure and dedicated supporter of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, used to visit his classes and were impressed of his Kung Fu. When one of his colleagues learnt of the fact that Tang Suen had some past record that he was being posted as "Wanted", he volunteered to talk to Chan King Wah who kindly agreed to help out and eventually, the previous case was settled and Tang Suen could returned to his family.

But fate was not too kind to Tang Suen (as with a lot of people in China!!). The then President of Republic, who was a General of the Ching Emperor and initially supported the revolution and became President of the new Republic. He was not faithful to the "Revolution" and prepared to name himself an emperor again. Chan King Wah, along with Wu Hon Man and other faithful followers of Dr. Sun, were against such back-tracking and Chan was subsequently murdered by Lung Jiguang龍濟光, a warlord faithful to the then President, preparing to be crowned as a King.

Being the coach of Chan's police force, Tang Suen was in great danger and he had to be a fugitive again and fled to Hong Kong the second time.

8. He Tang Yik's Early Age

Tang Suen's wife gave birth to 6 children, 5 girls and 1 boy. Tang Suen was the only son, so he worried and always thinking of getting more boys.

He eventually met a lady, Miss Meng, who came from GuangXi. Miss Meng came from a martial arts family and also learnt Weng Chun arts in Ba Pai Shan (八排山). Eventually Tang Suen married her as a concubine. She gave birth to Tang Yik in 1910, who was the 8th child of Tang Suen. One thing worth noting is that, both Tang Yik's parents were martial artist and obviously he got some good genes positive to his later development of his martial art skills. Also, with his mother also came with martial arts background, Tang Yik got training at his very early age. 

Tang Suen had experienced many abrupt changes in his life, changed from a well-off second generation to be a martial arts Sifu and experience told him that the only thing that would benefit throughout life time at different hard challenges would be some special skills, particularly martial art training. As such, Tang Yik was given intensive coaching and training very early on.

Tang Yik did not fail expectations from his father. He was actually helping his father to teach at age of 17 to 18. At old days, not too different to nowadays, the Sifu, particularly when old, would not teach personally and would rely on his senior students to do teachings. Tang Yik was actually doing all the teachings to students of his father, particularly to those who lived in other villages or townships as Tang Suen would not be good for travelling far, at that age. In fact, as confirmed by Tang Yik and his students in the 橫溪, he was the one who actually teaching people like Pak Cheung and Taam Brothers.

Life had not been kind to Tang Yik, as will as most of people in China. After the Revolution and forming of the Republic of China, situation had not been improving and different war lords were fighting each other. After the Northern Expedition by Chiang Kai Shek, there were the rising of communist and in 1932 when Tang Yik was about 22, Japan started invading China. Although it was in the far north and not affecting the south that much, hardship started and starting 1937, full scale invasion started and eventually in early 1940's GuangDong fell under Japanese rule.

Tang Yik's wife was killed by Japanese soldiers and his 3 year old son was lost. That was when Tang Yik was at early 30's. This had imparted a major impact on him, which affected his whole life and partly affected the development of the Weng Chun arts inherited from his ancestors. He actually remained single throughout his life, granting a faithful life-long memory of his wife.

9. A Lonely Journey To The Unknown Future

「天將降大任於斯人也,必先苦其心志,勞其筋骨,餓其體膚,空乏其身,行拂亂其所為,所以動心忍性,增益其所不能。」 

Fate had been cruel by brutally taken Tang Yik's wife and son away from him, but had been kind enough, for Weng Chun, to keep him away when the disaster happened as otherwise he would sure give up his life to protect his family and the "treasures" he held would have lost forever and we now would not see the essential parts of the Weng Chun Kuen and Luk Dim Boon Pole series.

He left 小塘 (Siu Tong) after Japanese surrendered, but war in China still continued, and came to Hong Kong. Tang Yik brought along with him nothing, but his solid knowledge inherited from his father and mother, on:

1. Weng Chun Kuen, Wooden Dummy and Luk Dim Boon Pole form from Fei Loi Temple;
2. Sheung Kung from Yeung Tim;
3. Kwan Kung through Tang Pok;
4. Wooden Dummy from Red Boat; that was taught through Fung Siu Ching to Tang Suen
5. Chong Kuen from Fung Siu Ching;
6. Pole Dummy from Tang Village;

Apart from the above Weng Chun Kuen series, he also learnt or having great knowledge on 
1. A long knife form from his mother;
2. Saam Chien/Tit Sin 三展/鐡缐 (Hung Kuen Form)
3. Pat Gua Pole (八卦棍) and Monkey King Pole (行者棒)
4. A Whip Form.

When he came to Hong Kong, which was returned to British as a colony from the Japanese occupation, Hong Kong was relatively poor and life was difficult, particularly will a lot of "refugees" from mainland China. Also, as general living is not stable, ordinary people would not have money or leisure to learn martial arts. Kung Fu teaching would always linked with gangster activities, not exactly related to drug or postitutes, but to maintain ones share of living, underground law and order enforcement is very common and a Kung Fu teacher would have to prepare to fight against harassment and challenges, which would end up in either be beaten up or beating up others. Tang Yik did not like such as he believed that the bad luck that followed his father and his family would be a bad karma out of the accidental killing and bad things committed by students of Tang Suen, particular police when he was the coach and if he continued fighting or his students harming or even killed people, he would accumulate more bad karma. He would still have a slight hope that no more bad luck would not happen to his missing son. Instead, he wanted to be an apprentice as a tailor and settled down with a humble life.

But Fate did not allow his family arts to vanish, nor would he really could accept that such was lost from him. He was approached by Wai Yan, a well-off second generation of the owner of a poultry wholesale market shop, call 大徳欄 (Dai Duk Lan), inviting him to moved to live in the mezzanine floor of Dai Duk Lan and teach, no need to pay rental and he would get a reasonable return for teaching there by taking money of dead chickens (mostly suffocated through transportation) which were sold at a low price to cheap restaurants, a very attractive offer. He accepted.

10. Dai Duk Lan 大德欄

The poultry market was located at the western side of Yau Ma Tei, which is somewhat central part of Kowloon peninsula, fronting Sea. It was a central wholesale market for poultry, where retailers and restaurant operators went to buy chickens, duck, etc. It consisted of many individual stalls, all low rise, single or two storeys buildings. 大德欄 was one of them, a single storey one with a mezzanine floor. The ground floor was a storage as well as trading floor and the mezzanine office and storage. The building still exist, but the entire area is changed to fruit wholesale, just to avoid pollution and risks of bird flu.

Part of the mezzanine floor of 大德欄 became living place of new "immigrant" who later respected as the "King of Pole".

Life had not yet settled down with Tang Yik. His expectation of a reasonable income turned out to be a disappointment. While he was promised to have money on the sale of dead chickens in exchange for teaching, he found that those money was originally being shared out amongst the workers working there, as part of their income. It would create a major conflict with all the workers there, if he took all or a major part of that money. As such, the new comer decided not to take away others benefit. This was a major set-back in his mind as he was "misled" and such bad experience created a major hurdle in his mind to teach or share any of his real knowledge at Dai Duk Lan. But he stayed on in Dai Duk Lan, effectively serving as a night time security guard.

The arrival of Tang Yik did help Wai Yan to attract other Weng Chun and Wing Chun sifu's to Dai Duk Lan, notably Chu Chung Man, Tam Kong, Ip Man and Wai Yan's Sifu, Lo Chiu Woon. Chu Chung Man and Tam Kong learnt Fung Siu Chung's skills, including Chong Kuen and wooden dummy, from Dung Jik and Dung On. They gathered together and chat on Kung fu, and with occasional some exchanges. Wai Yan was trying hard to ask Tang Yik to teach and go around to challenge other sifu's on pole fight. Loaded with the bad experience of his father as well as the set back he experienced on the failure of the promises, he was very reluctant to do that. 

Some people nowadays, promoted the Dai Duk Lan as a major milestone in Wehng Chun and praised that as special Dai Duk Lan Project where the masters exchanged their knowledges and skills and benefitted all!! The fact was not. In those days, the Kung Fu knowledge was a "bread and butter" wealth that no Sifu would like others to know, not even his students, until those students were proven to be really faithful. There was a saying - 教識徒弟無師父. 

On the other hand, Tang Yik did agree with Chu Chong Man during their gathering at Dai Duk La, that in order to avoid argument, two forms each from Fung Siu Ching and Tang linkage will be adopted as the authentic curriculum of Weng Chun, as following

Weng Chun Kuen form from Tang Suen,
Chong Kuen form from Fung Siu Ching,
The Red Boat wooden dummy form from Fung Siu Ching
Luk Dim Boon Pole form from Tang Suen.

Actually, Tang Yik taught the 六點半棍功 Luk Dim Boon Kwan Kung (from Tang Pok) to most of his student. He only taught the Luk Dim Boon Pole from Fei Loi Temple, sometimes called 六點半棍法to differentiate such from 棍功) to those very faithful long time students 

Despite living a very humble life, Tang Yik was still very careful and selective in choosing his students, and had mainly been teaching outside of Dai Duk Lan. The criteria he adopted was that the students must be faithful and with righteous and caring heart as not to use his family arts for harassing people and particularly not using such in gangster fights.

This criteria had actually limited the development of Weng Chun as most of his students were intellectuals never wanting to teach Kung Fu as a profession!!! This is not a bad thing though to ensure purity of the arts.

11. The Key Form Taught

Although Tang Yik had been avoiding teaching his family arts in Dai Duk Lan, life had to continue and with help of his friends, notably Lam Heung Wing 林向榮, father of the later well respects Opera Performer Lam Ka Sing 林家聲, Tang Yik started to teach at Lam's home, starting with the fundamental and most important form:-

Weng Chun Kuen永春拳

The 永春拳 is the fundamental and foundation set and is a very important element. It consists of eleven sub-sets, as following:-
1. 較剪手
2. 雙批手 (雙膀圈手)
3. 複擒掌
4. 頂掌
5. 穿掌
6. 切橋
7. 截橋 (封手擒拿)
8. 膀橋 (破牌)
9. 標指 (攻眉)
10. 箭掌
11. 連環圈手

The names of the various sub-sets were written down from Tang Yik. Those in brackets were the names that he used to call such when he was teaching me and I just add such in, which in my opinion, would better represent the movements and applications.

The 永春拳 is the most important element in the entire Weng Chun Kuen. It encompasses all the hand and body movements. One more important fact is that the complete form can be turned into a highly structured partnering application training, which we now called Two Man Set.

One important fact to note is that, unlike 詠春拳 which has three sets, 小念頭 㝷橋 標指, which gives a step by step training in different depths, 永春拳 has one single set (the 雙功 and 椿拳 are supplementary forms which provides training on the holistic body movement and footwork). The 永春拳 is the basic form as well as the most advanced and in depth set. As such, it is very important that the 永春拳 should be practiced with the different expression of force and power, following the four different states of body and mind - 地 (earth). 水 (water), 火 (fire) and 風 (wind).

12. Eternal Spring 永春 planting its roots in Hong Kong

Apart from teaching in Lam's home, Tang Yik also started to teach other students privately as well as in some of his student's home. One of the key location was with his student Yung Tai Lun 容泰倫. Yung had a reasonable unit on north-east of Kowloon Peninsula and has a good size roof, which was perfect for Kung Fu training. Yung was amongst the most senior and faithful students of Tang Yik. His roof also housed a wooden dummy and the Pole Dummy, which possibly the first and only one Weng Chun Pole Dummy in Hong Kong. The two dummies actually formed part of the historical parts in the history as well as carrier of the Weng Chun Kuen. They were the units which Tang Yik showed the Tang family dummy form from Fei Loi Temple as well as the Pole Dummy form (六點半棍椿) as shown in the video by Kwong Chak Cheung, which gives the one and only one reference on how the Pole Dummy looks like, with the complete sequences. Without such, the Pole Dummy techniques from the Tang Family would be lost for ever!!

Some of the early students, whom I have opportunity to meet up with when I started to learn in the end of 1968 were:

謝金 - Tse Kam, who was a guerrilla at the age of 15 fighting against Japanese at North-eastern China, he came to Hong Kong as a manual worker at Sheung Wan Pier and later became a taxi driver
Fong Kit, who was intended to be trained up together with Tse Kam, but passed away early with cancer.

唐志 - Tong Chi, second generation from a machine shop family. Also good at TaiChi and Xing Yi
容泰倫 - Yung Tai Lun, a well off business man.
鄭榮彬 - Cheng Wing Bun, who worked as an officer in air-craft catering services. 
張偉明 - Cheung Wai Ming, a police officer.
陳凱旋 - Chan Hoi Suen, a technician in Carrier Hong Kong. He possibly is the only surviving senior students. He helped Tang Yik to teach at later years at 1, Playing Field Road, place where I lived since I was born.
白鉅成 - Pak Kui Shing, a law clerk. He was the nephew of Pak Cheung, not directly though, like Tang Yik and my father.
鄺澤昌 - Kwong Chak Cheung, a graduate from Hong Kong University in late 1960's and an engineer in Hong Kong Telecom. He was also a senior student of Lau Fa Meng - the Eagle Claw Grand Master, as well as Mongolian Wrestling. fu style TaiChi and other martial arts. He was one of the most dedicated student of Tang Yik and hoping to introduce standards to Weng Chun and helped Tang Yik teaching together with Chan Hoi Suen. He migrated to Canada and sadly passes away during a car accident when he was driving from America back to Toronto on a icy road, possibly fallen asleep!!

Those were the SiHing's I used to knowWhen I started to learn in December 1968, when Tang Yik came to my home every Saturday evening, starting with dinner and then training. That might form a turning point in Tang Yik's later years, as he found a sense of "home" there. My father was his nephew, although not directly, but pretty close. My father was actually older, and they were like brothers. I do not know when they met each other again in Hong Kong, but the regular teaching of someone from the Tang village (me and my brother), dinner, brandy and cigarette with my father, apparently helped him to open up and lit up his "fire". It also became a small centre for him to teach and the senior students came regularly, with some new students, including my elder brother, younger sister of Cheng Wing Bun, Vincent Tso and Wilson Yung.

13. 少林鄧家永春拳 Shaolin Tang Family Weng Chun Kuen

"For us - To have made one soul
The better for our birth;
To have added but one flower
To the garden of the earth;
To have struck one blow for truth
In the daily fight with lies;
To have done one deed of right
In the face of calumnies;
To have sown in the souls of men
One thought that will not die -
To have been a link in the chain of life
Shall be immortality."

Upset with what had been happening in Dai Duk Lan and the general understanding that everything Tang Suen had was from the Red Boat, Tang Yik decided to move away from silence, Tang Yik began to have the idea of calling his arts - 鄧家永春 Tang Family Weng Chun and used such name formally when he moved to live in 1 Playing Field Road. 

He moved out from Dai Duk Lan in mid 1970's and stay at various places, including in 冼家 Sin family, where he also taught the sons and daughters of the Sin family, when eventually he moved to live and taught in Playing Field Road. The following photograph of 鄧算宗師 (Grand Master Tang Suen) with the formal name of 鄧家永春 Tang Family Weng Chun was documented.

14. 雙功 - 椿拳 Sheung Kung - Chong Kuen

While the 永春拳 itself is the fundamental and foundation set, it has its limitations. It concentrates on training of hand forms, it does not provide with essential training on footwork, nor movement and stretching which is essential for building up body co-ordination. Such stretching and holistic body co-ordination is particularly important for young learners.

Knowing such limitations, Tang Yik actually introduced me to learn from two of his friends. He initially introduced me to learn from 邵漢生, a master in Lo Han Fist - 羅漢拳, but for financial reasons, that did not happen. After I graduated, Tang Yik also introduced me to learn White Crane (northern style) and Pat Gua Pole, from Master Chan Yiu. Apart from knowing more, the northern style did provided a better development of the body. He also asked Kwong Chak Cheung SiHing to teach me 翻子拳, part of the Eagle Claw system.

On the other hand, Sheung Kung in the Tang family curriculum did provide a solution, although it is not perfectly good to fill up the gap. There are little references on the 雙功 and some people said it is 雙攻 ( Double Attack). I like to use 雙功 as it better represented to theory of Weng Chun, a self-rescue counter attack form rather than aggressive attack and 雙功 meant training on two aspects, hand forms and footwork. As Tang Yik agreed with Chu Chung Man to use Chong Kuen as the authentic forms, as such he rarely taught Sheung Kung. On the other hand, Tang Yik did provided us with two sets of videos showing the Sheung Kung, one much earlier and another just before he retired back to his home town.

One point to note is the footwork and Tang Yik said it was called 二換步 - Double Rotate steps.

As told be Tang Yik, when Fung Siu Ching noted that Tang Suen and Tang Pok has the Sheung Kung, he loved the form, but as a Sifu already teaching publicly, he could not asked to learn such. However, he smartly based on the Sheung Kung and the Wooden Dummy and created the Chong Kuen (Tang Yik called it New Chong Kuen). One can see part of the Chong Kuen resembles the Sheung Kung. I personally like the Chong Kuen more as it has a better and continuous flow and footwork is more aggressive. There are also much more holistic and fluent footwork, body and Kiu movements.

15. 我是木人椿 I Am Wooden Dummy

貧賤不移 威武不屈

The wooden dummy is a very important "tool" in the 永春拳, and is my best training partner, as it never felt tire. It is available always, and responded fair and square to the effort one pays and it never hit back!!

As I mentioned in earlier section, Tang Yik taught two dummy forms, someone called them Heaven and Human. This was not heard of from Tang Yik. The two dummy forms are very similar, with the dummy form learnt from Fei Loi Temple got a few more foot techniques, and apart from such, there are no fundamental difference. What I believe was that such "divergences" was due to variations in individual's memory.

The dummy that Tang Yik used in the teaching in Playing Field Road was built in 1969, basing on measurements taken at Dai Duk Lan. One could see a fundamental difference between that with the Ines people used today would be location of the top cross bar. In the Dai Duk Lan dummy, the cross bar was below the top "arms", while most of the current dummies have the cross bar above the top two arms. I personally like the original format as it possibly simulates more a real human, support of the upper body would be from the spine and the response to the double hand hit (onto the head or shoulder) would be better.

Another variation that Tang Yik asked us to do after I broke the dummy's arm. The original arm was slim, same as what I saw a lot of dummies on the market. After the arm was broken, he asked us to increase the size (diameter) of the arms as well as widening up the tip of the arms by about 2 inches. What he said was that do not try to exercise nor fight with "someone" with such a slim arm!!! Also, increasing the diameter would spread the impact onto human's arm and this would allow one to exert a stronger hitting power. Widening the tip of the arm would also allow better hitting power and also reduce constraints on the movement. This is important with 永春拳 as we do not squeeze in our Kiu, and enable a better training on control by Yi Do Sao (二度手).

The 永春椿 would need to be practiced like the hand form stages - Earth, Water, Fire and Wind. After the squarely exercises conditioning correctness and body form, body movement and arm movements, one should hit the dummy with explosive power, while maintaining control and contact of Kiu. One should also practice the dummy forms with soft and sometimes with a pseudo contact, I.e., keeping the Kiu just touching the dummy's arm and let the mind flow with movement.

It is very important to exercise the dummy form with explosive power. Tang Yik always said, ChiSao and Two Man Set trainings are not for force of Kiu (橋力), they are for feeling, to develop reflex action and balance. The dummy is the platform for one to develop explosive hitting power. The movements should be continuous and we never pull the Kiu back and hit again.

Another point that I got from my own experience. To save a few dollars, instead of supporting the dummy in the traditional way or mounting such on a frame, I suspended the dummy. Eventually I loved such as the suspension format allowed a three dimensional freedom and enabled a better expression of hitting power and correct body posture. Tang Yik actually said, if someone is as strong as the dummy and so rigid and did not move against hitting of ones spiralling Kiu, do not fight with him!!!! The fact is that if one hits, like a 破排 or 滾手 on a conventional dummy which would only move front and back, one has to move too much to the side and this would create bad body co-ordination. Understand that one of Chu Chung Man's student had adopted such option.

16. 地水火風 Earth, Water, Fire and Wind

The basic element of all the teachings from Tang Yik started with the 永春拳 form (people later called that 十一手 - Eleven Hands, first I heard from Hoffmann; possibly German wishes could not understand why a form and a style could share the same name!! The 永春拳 form defines all the basic concepts of hand, bridge, body and stance (Ma). The part that is lacking is footwork.

Tang Yik told us that the Form should be practiced in three different forms and mind set (身法 心法).

The Earth 地 - As a start, the form should be practiced in a squarish manner, with body straight and "rectilinear" triangles. This is important to get position and movement correct, knowing where and how every movement start and stop - to get to a good 形. Also gradually adding "force" into the Kiu (bridge). One should not jump over this stage as it is the foundation, and nothing could be built for lasting without a good foundation - 萬丈高樓從地起. Keep Axis straight, central and vertical.

It is good to have strong arms and rigid Kiu. However, too much strength and force would limit and slow down movement, made one failed to react and most importantly eliminated possibly of 發勁 - Fa Jin. With Weng Chun which is a close distance self defence fighting technique for a smaller or weaker individual of defend, avoid attack and counter attack, having a strong punch is not useful at all, particularly a short distances. Tang Yik stressed a lot on a holistic spiralling movement and always refer to a "wet towel" theory. He referred to a bullet, which, guided by the raffle lines and spinning motion, will move faster with less resistance (my take as an engineer!!) and less defection resulting in higher accuracy. Also, a spinning bullet will have better penetrating ability.

To achieve this, one should let the body and muscle relax and let mind rest, allowing the entire body to act as a whole. One should allow the body to flow, like water 水 over the earth 地. This is an important step to transform from 形 to 意. The target of this is to enable the internal body power to be turned into external power in an explosive manner 爆炸力, the kind of 火.

When I was in Bamberg, for those who were there and still remember (I doubt Hoffmann nor Maria would!!), I have suggested them to perform the form every time with slow and rigid force first to develop 橋力. Then they should train with explosive power (of course speed) and then turn back to soft and relax and silky manner to cool the body down and let muscle soften down. I did not believe it was that easy for young man to understand "why I have to give up force"!!!

Incidentally, earth, water, fire and wind were the basic elements that Greek believed to make up everything we saw, felt and touched!!

17. 六點半棍 Luk Dim Boon Pole

Float like a Butterfly, Sting like a Bee

When we talk of Tang Family Weng Chun, we just cannot miss the pole form. Frankly speaking, little was known about the Tang Yik Luk Dim Boon, except that there was a "King of Pole" with great techniques in Luk Dim Boon, it was just like a myth. 

It was a great gift that the King of Pole did allow his students to video him showing what Luk Dim Boon was and what a man could do with the pole. It was great also that he did not hide anything, what was rare for him as master openly share his life time treasure and kept the pearl shining in history. I released his video to Andreas Hoffmann in early 2000, and further allowed Ming Pao Weekly Magazine to publicly posted his video and that started quite a bit of thought ripples for people to think about the Luk Dim Boon Pole. 

What is Tang Yik Luk Dim Boon?

I quoted in the opening by the great world boxing champion, who was the one that I truly admired what I was learning from Tang Yik, and it truly represented Tang Yik with his pole. Incidentally, Tang Yik got a nick name, also, the Mad Bee!!!

Let us start with the fundamentals first. "Luk Dim Boon" in Chinese means Six and Half Points. They represent seven movements which constitued the fundamental of the entire pole form. As such, the seven movements are called Seeds of the Pole. They are 
纒 撕 抽 彈 剔 割 槍, six attacking (or hitting) and defined as the full point. 纒 is a transitional, non-attacking movement and is call the half point. 

The "seeds of pole" appear many times in he form and also constituted as the "constituent elements" of many of the movements in the entire pole form. But the sequence of Luk Dim Boon in the pole form is different to the above. The sequence of the Seeds of Pole is based on the level of "Power" exhibited, starting with the 纏, increasing to 撕, and finishing on the 槍, which demands highest power with Openness. But if one follows the above sequence, one would end up in an open footwork and needs another movement to get back to the "home" position. Also, one should realise that the 纒 撕 抽 and 彈 are all practiced with the pole pivoted on the thigh while the last three are with the hands and pole extended, either at the start or finishing. This forms a good grouping. However, with the pole movement in the form, if it finishes with any of the last three, the pole will be off the thigh and one has to do another movement to get the pole back onto the starting posture, that is pole resting on the thigh.

Without going into details of the Luk Dim Boon Pole, a few points of importance. One should realise that the Luk Dim Boon is NOT for battle-field application. It is for self-defence of a day-to-day use (of course I do not want to meant we will have a fight day after day!!!). Tang Yik told me and I want stress an important instruction from Tang Yik - Luk Dim Boon should be targeted to hit the hand to disable the attacker. One might also use the 剔 which should only be targeted at the knee or the shoulder, never ever try to hit at the head or the centre of the body. The Cheung is too dangerous as it would easily kill someone, even with an armour.

Mobility is the key essence of the Luk Dim Boon and one could see the beauty of Tang Yik's movement on his tip-toe, just like a Ballet Dancer. It is body power. The pole is an extension of body, with the arms as a link between body power and the pole.

Epilogue

棍王鄧奕 (1910-1991)

To Serve, To Strive and Not to Yield

Tang Yik was born in time of change and grew up in the most turmoil years of China's history. He was born in a small village in FoShan, Guangdong, to a very ordinary family, not realising that he eventually had to carry on his shoulder an important duty to keep a great cultural heritage passing down from 至善禪師.

Tang Yik had maintained a great quality of moral standard of a martial artist, maintaining his faith to his father, his wife and the knowledge from his parents, defending the pureness and originality of the 永春拳. He also gratefully passed down his knowledge unreservedly, through personal teaching and the great videos, his knowledge to his faithful students. He had only one vision - keep the great arts from his ancestors flowing.

I would call upon all of us learning the Weng Chun Arts from him, would strive to keep 永春 flowing as a knowledge from the past to improve the world we are in, to get to what the name of the style wanting us to get to - "Eternal Spring" for mankind.

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