HYSTORY OF TAM SAM GRAND MASTER
Like in the best Chinese martial tradition worth its name, the CLF KF system also has its own baggage of history and traditions, its people and its adventures; stories of men often different from each other, often with different lives, but with a common goal. All those who have been part of the CLF system actually have in common the pure ability for combat, as well as the inclination to the socio-political resvolt of their time.
Its history can be written in different ways. One mode is the notional transmission, precise and literal, of the martial and technical history of others, often empty and anachronistic. This is what happens today in the Chinese Martial Arts, that is, the study of hundreds of forms (Tou Lu) and fighting with methods and techniques identical to any other modern combat system (see Full Contact, Jiu Jitsu, Sanda or San Shou).
The other way is to follow the path traced by previous generations and immerse into their concrete, real and direct experience, with awareness of the evolution of our own experience and system.
This is the difference between the “Master” who brings questions and answers, cognition, logic and experience in the wake of the experience of a system, and the “Master Instructor” who simply performs and bears the experience of others, in whom answers are born and dead without asking, and where the system dogmas are the only visible path!
Among the various characters who have traced the history of this ancient Chinese Martial Art, there is one who was given the nickname of “The legendary Fist of the North” whose real name was Tam Sam (ideogrammi cinesi). The history of Chinese Kung Fu is full of legends and popular folklore, which are often historically inaccurate. Tam Sam, however, was also recognized in life as a martial arts legend. A name and a story that was built on the field and on real and personal enterprises. Unlike other famous Chinese masters on which novels and movies have been made telling stories and legends often too distant from reality, Tam Sam (ideogrammi cinesi) can be considered a modern fighter who gave a huge contribution to the real Chinese Kung Fu, although his system Pak Choy Lay Fut Sing was and is kept jealously hidden in an old logic of “family and clan”. Practice and experience, reality and consciousness, like in a Zen koan, this is the keystone of the Tam Sam’s (ideogrammi) martial practice. Tam Sam (ideogrammi) was born in the Hoi Ping suburb in 1873 and grew up in Toi Ting, a village of Canton. With a strong character and endowed with remarkable intelligence, young Tam showed an innate will to learn Martial Arts since he was a boy. It was his father who introduced him to the study of Kung Fu under the guidance of a famous Hung Gar master named Chow Gum Biu. Tam Sam had a combative spirit. During his course of studies in Hung Kuen Kung Fu, he heard about the fame that the practitioners of the Hung Sing Gwoon of Fushan were gradually spreading around the Guanzhou area. Willing to test his skills, in particular those of the Hung Sing Choy Lay Fut system, he decided to pass by the Hung Sing Gwoon to meet Master Lui Tsan (ideogrammi ). Tam Sam entered the school and haughtily invited Master Tsan (ideogrammi) and his students to train and fight with him. A senior student of Master Lui’s named Wong Sum stepped forward and accepted the challenge. The fight started and Tam Sam succeeded to hit Wong Sum in the ribs; but the latter, thanks to the combination technique “Jo But Kwa Sow”, managed to end the match pretty quickly. Despite being wounded in his body and his pride and unable to continue the match, Tam Sam, wanted stubbornly to fight Master Lui Tsan. Considering the advanced age of the Master, Tam Sam was convinced that it wouldn’t be difficult for him to defeat old Lui. Thus, at least his wounded pride would be partially redeemed. But one again, young Tam sinned of excessive arrogance and poor training. In fact, the encounter with Master Lui lasted a few seconds and the young challenger found himself again on the carpet. This time, however, something in him had changed. Aware of the effectiveness of the Choy Lay Fut system, he humbly asked master Lui to accept him as a student in his school. Lui Tsan, a senior disciple of Master Jeong Yim (ideogramma) (or Cheung Hung Sing, 1824-1839) accepted young Tam Sam as his student.
Under the guidance of Lui Tsan, Tam Sam successfully continued his training until Master Lui Tsan personally promoted him to the rank of instructor at the Hung Sing Gwoon. His instruction course at the School was fast and intense; in a few years he earned the respect not only from his classmates (who called him “Sam Sook”), but also from practitioners of other systems present in Fushan. Tam Sam, however, retained his character and temperament along his instruction period. He never lowered his head, and even in front of strong positions, he would continue to be rather “direct”. A major turning point in his life path was a famous episode known as “Kuen Da Sam Ngan, “ that is, “the punch that defeated the three Ngan.” During an argument with Si-Sook Ngan Yiu Ting (his Kung Fu uncle) and some members of his family, Tam Sam came to fight and defeat his own Hing Dai (Kung Fu brothers) in a not too friendly match, and most importantly, not authorized by Master Lui Tsan. Fighting against another brother, and even more so against an older relative, meant breaking the code of ethics and morality of the Choy Lay Fut. Master Lui Tsan, who learnt of the incident, although with a heavy heart, couldn’t help to fire him from the school. Codes and rules had to be respected, even if Tam had been right in the incident. Tam Sam had to leave the school even though his training under the guidance of the teacher he had not yet been completed. For a certain period of time he continued to learn and train in secret with some of his Kung Fu brothers of the Hung Sing Gwoon. But for him the only way to get a personal evolution and improve his Martial Arts technical baggage was to fight. Thus it was that he began a long series of bloody battles with fighters of other systems that forged his reputation as solid fighter. His experience grew along with his fame. His fights were held behind closed doors or outdoors, but in any case they were real battles, the exploits of which could be heard throughout the region. Anyway, Tam Sam remained still friendly and respectful toward his former master and his Hung Sing Gwoon companions, and so, when he realized that his reputation was beginning to cast shadow on Master Him Tsan and the School, he decided to go away from Fushan. He founded his own school in a temple in the North called Di Mew and named it Siu Hung Sing Kwoon Buk. Thanks to his fighting skills and experience, Tam continued to create new techniques and redefine old ones, surpassing the original system and making a personal contribution to the system, especially in the area of combat. In Siu Buk, Tam Sam earned the nickname “the unbeatable fist of the North” , because of his invulnerability in combat. Over time, his students persuaded Tam Sam to shorten the name of the school and modify it in Buck Sing Choy Lee Fut for being too long, but especially as a distinguishing mark with respect to other two branches of the same system. It was then that in addition to the Choy Lay Fut branch of King Mui and Fushan was born the Buck Sing branch. In the course of his studies, Tam Sam gave life to a real system within the system. His research was particularly developed in the technical field and in the principles that were applicable in combat. Few Tou Lu (forms) many Kuen (techniques and principles): this was and still is the basis of the Choy Lay Fut Pak Sing system. Some of his techniques that made him famous in the martial world for their effectiveness in combat are, for example, the Kwa-Sow-Chop and the Lin Wan Chop Choy (cyclic attack with Leopard fists). Tam Sam loved so much fighting that he hired a biographer to record his meetings. The book should have been called “the record of 100 victorious fights”, but the author died in Hong Kong during the early drafting stages and it was never completed. In 1912 was formed the republic of China and in the following decades, under the promotional push of the new government, various associations for the Chinese Martial Art in both North and South of China were created. The new government recognized the Chinese Martial Arts as a national treasure and it promoted publicly their spreading. It was a period of flourishing technical interchange among various systems and associations of traditional Martial Arts. The government itself gave rise to these transactions, particularly between the styles of the North and the South. One of the most famous “exchanges” between North and South systems was held in the city of Canton. Ku Yu Jeong, famous master of the Buk Siu Lam style and known for his body techniques and his iron palm, was appointed head of the delegation of the North , while in the South was also known to Master Ku Yu Jeong, who considered him like a national hero and at the same time a Martial Art brother. Ku Yu Jeong wanted to meet Tam Sam and train with him, but Tam thought differently and wanted to face Ku Yu Jeong in combat. After a famous meeting between the two “behind closed doors” of which nobody knows the final outcome, both masters reached an agreement of respect and mutual exchange between their groups of students. The two schools could freely exchange directly and indirectly their experiences. Tam Sam was an honest and direct man, but with a strong personality, and although he gave his students freedom to exchange experience with the School of Master Ku Yu Jeong, he never wanted to personally share his system with him because he would never accept in his heart to learn Kung Fu from the North. He was also a member of the Canton Martial Arts national Council. During the Second World War and the Japanese invasion, Tam Sam was elected head of the training camp “Di Dao (Bog Saber)”. He died in 1942 at age 69, from an incurable disease. Among Tam Sam’s favorite disciples were Mah Yan, Kong On, Leong Ji, Chan Nien Pak and Lee Chow. His son Tam Fei Pang had a large following of disciples in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Tam Sam (ideogrammi) was not only a great fighter, but also an educated man and an excellent calligrapher. He spent most of his life working as a clerk and a man of lows in various districts of Guangzhou. However his reputation as an undefeated fighter marked his path and his lifestyle in a substantial way. He didn’t like schemes and dogmas, and he always supported individual experience as the only true road in the development of one’s skills and technical background. He used to encourage his students to confront their technical level with other practitioners. His life experience and his thoughts created an effective and direct system in the true martial practice.
Among his most famous sayings:
“Arms should be like the wind blowing on the candles, legs are like walking on clouds”
“Turn around your opponent like a tiger who raises his head and strike like a dragon who sinks his claws”
“The Master practices, beginners speak; the Master lives, beginners discuss; the Master savors the morning and the sunset, beginners are worried in the morning and tired at sunset….Where there are words you will find a man, where you find coherence in the silence there will exist your Master”