THREE FAMILIES OF CHOY LEE FUT
by Sifu Frank
Chan Heung was a native of King Mui’s Chan village in the Sun Wui Province of Kwantung.
He was born in *1805/1815 and grew up in a village where everyone shared the Chan surname. At the age of 7 years old he became a student of Chan Yuen Wu, a former Shaolin Monk and a master of Hung Kuen gung fu. His abilities greatly improved and by the age of 15 Chan Yuen Wu asked the teenaged Chan Heung to set up a school in his own hometown and start teaching the Hung Kuen system he was learning. As a young teacher, Chan Heung accepted and defeated all challengers which helped his reputation to grow at a rapid pace.
One day Chan Heung got wind of a new local gung fu master which was asked to come and open a school in the area. Since he was well known in the area Chan Heung thought this would be a great opportunity to make a name for himself if he could defeat this new master. The name of this new gung fu master was Lee Yau San, founder of the Lee Ga system and student of Li Sik Hoi-one of the Hung Mun Society founders. So he came up with a plan to ambush him to see what Lee Yau San could do. Soon after he learned that Lee Yan San would be at a local restaurant and this is where he would launch his plan.
Chan Heung suddenly lunged at Lee Yau San grabbing him around the waist intending to pick him up and slam him on the floor as he was exiting the restaurant. Lee Yau San reacted quickly and swept Chan Heung legs out from under him and as he was falling Lee Yau San managed to kick him a few feet away before Chan Heung hit the ground. When Lee Yau San saw Chan Heung get back up to his feet he was shocked because he was confident that his kick would have severely injured Chan Heung. Lee Yau San then demanded an explanation for Chan Heung’s cowardly attack. He also wanted to know the name of his teacher. Chan Heung refused to implement Chan Yuen Wu and took sole responsibility for his actions.
A few days later Chan Heung received word that Lee Yau San was talking about him, saying the Chan Heung was wasting his potential with his selfish pursuit of greatness. He was 17 at the time and this somehow this touched Chan Heung who then realized what Lee Yau San meant and resigned from his post as a teacher and asked Lee Yau San to take him as a disciple. Lee Yau San agreed to teach Chan Heung, and for the next 10 years Chan Heung reached a level it usually took 20 years to achieve. Along the course of his training, Chan Heung and Lee Yau San heard that a survivor of the Shaolin Temples destruction was on Mt. Lau Fu and the decided to go and pay him a visit to check him out.
Monk Choy Fook (Cai Fu) was one of the survivors of the temples destruction and escaped with his head on fire (not to be confused with the Green Grass Monk). The scar left behind earned him the nickname of “Lan Tau Fook” or scar headed Fook. It is also believed that he was master of the Choy Gar System. Both Chan Heung and Lee Yau San went to Mt Lau Fu and came across a temple with a person sweeping the stairs. They asked about Monk Choy Fook but the person-a older, but still in great physical shape and mentally sharp-said that Choy Fook was away but would return shortly, and they were welcomed to wait if they chose to do so.
Lee Yau San must have been a very competitive person, because after the monk offered to make some tea and chopped the firewood with his bare hands, he (Lee Yau San) took it as if this monk was bragging about his skills. So he walked over to a rice grinder and kicked it straight up and out of his hole in response to the monks actions. However, the monk then walked over to the rice grinder and chopped off a corner of it and pulverized it in his hands then proceeded to throw the dust at Lee Yau Sans feet as a warning to anyone wishing to cause trouble at the temple. The message was quite clear to Lee Yau San who said goodbye to Chan Heung and took his leave.
Chan Heung was undoubtedly impressed with the monks abilities and begged the monk to take him as a disciple, but the monk refused because he only wished to study Buddhism. But Chan Heung continued to plead with the monk to reconsider until he actually did.The monk agreed to teach Chan Heung Gung Fu on one 3 conditions, and follow them completely or leave. The first was he had to stay and study Buddhism for ten years, second was he wasn’t allowed to show off, kill, or maim with the gung fu he learned. And the third was to kick the rice grinder back into its original resting place.
Chan Heung immediately kicked the rice grinder back into place and the Monk agreed to teach him. Ten years later, Chan Heung completed his training under this monk in the art of Shaolin Gung Fu. A feast had been prepared for Chan Heung by the monk who at that point revealed he was indeed Monk Choy Fook, and he wasn’t sure whose good fortune it was, but he thought he would die alone on that mountain.
*** Presently, there is question to whether Chan Heung’s actual birthdate is 1805 or 1815. Without the actual birthrecords it will be impossible to verify. However, according to the “History of Choy Lee Fut pt 1” written by Mr. Alan Yee, a member of the Li Iu Ling Chan Family lineage Chan Heung was 48 years old in 1864. If you subtract 48 from 1864 you will get the date of 1815/16. Still, according to the Fut San Hung Sing Kwoon, and various other sources on the web, Chan Heung’s birthdate is believed to be 1815 and not 1805. With Alan Yee’s information, it seems that the 1815 date is more plausible than the earlier date.
Monk Choy Fook then said that 6 years is a great accomplishment but 10 is even better, and to really follow along the true path of Shaolin he should learn Chinese medicine, and the 6 magic spells. Chan Heung quickly decided to stay another two years and study with Monk Choy Fook who was in his late 90’s.Upon his departure Chan Heung asked Monk Choy Fook to guide him in what to do next. Monk Choy Fook said he wasn’t made for the life of a government official, but he and his children will become leaders of men if they were to follow the Shaolin tradition. He then presented Chan Heung with a pair of couplets that read : “The dragon and tiger met in Heaven to revive our shaolin ways,” and “Teach your followers righteousness and let each generation uphold and enliven.”Chan Heung was then escorted down Mt Lau Fu by Tung Kwan, Jeong Tin Cheung, and Chan Chung Nin who was a native of Sun Wui also. And that was the last time Chan Heung ever got to see Monk Choy Fook again who died at the age of 112.
Back in King Mui Chan Heung immediately set up a medical clinic called the Wing Sing Tong. Afterwards, the village elders of the Chan Clan asked Chan Heung to open a school in the villages ancestral temple where he could teach only Chan Family members.According to the Chan Family Chan Heung opened his school under the name of Hung Sing (Hung Sheng) which means “Holy One” and began teaching a mixture of Monk Choy Fooks, and Lee Yau Sans gung fu. As he developed his system he figured he would honor his two sifu’s and call the style Choy Lee Fut, the “Fut” meaning buddha while representing its shaolin roots.
According to available Chan family records he had an original group of 18 students all of the same last name of Chan except for one outsider. They were: Loong Gee Choy (a possible cover for Jeong Yim), Chan Din Yao, Chan Din Fune, Chan Din Bong, Chan Din Wai, Chan Dai Yup, Chan Mau Jong, Chan Din Sing, Chan Din Jen, Chan Din Duk, Chan Sun Dong, Chan Dai Wai, Chan Yin Yu, Chan Cin Hing, Chan Ding Sing, Chan Dai Sing, Chan May Wing, Chan Din Gung. Over the years Chan Heung travelled all around China Spreading Choy Lee Fut. During his travels he managed to return to Mt. Lau Fu to visit Monk Choy Fook only to discover that in his absence his sifu passed away at 112 years old. The passing of his sifu saddened him but also inspired him to promote his gung fu even further.Back at home in Ging Mui he established his own family, while his personal development and continual creation of new techniqueswhich would become exclusive to his family branch went on until his death in 1875.
Out of the original 18 students of Chan Heung, many had went on to open other Choy Lee Fut schools in the area and usually did pretty well for themselves. Yet, none had received more notoriety than Jeong Ah Yim, the founder of the Fut San Hung Sing branch of Choy Lee Fut.
Jeong Ah Yim was his original name, and he was born in the Sun Wui Dong Ling Village during the Qing Dynasty. His parents were killed and he was under the care of his uncle Jeong Kwan. Starting at a very young age, Jeong Yim had a passion for learning the martial arts. His first teacher was the Shaolin Monk Lee Yau San-master of the Lee Ga system- and who is said perhaps to have been a disciple of Lee Sik Hoi-one of the 5 ancestors of the Hung Mun secret Society.
The government was after Jeong Yim for as we say “dodging the draft.” The government was trying to recruit him in the military and Jeong Yim didn’t want to go. And if things weren’t bad enough, his uncle Jeong Kwan had to leave town on business and wouldn’t be able to take his young nephew with him. So, he came up with the idea of paying his old friend in King Mui a visit. His friend was a gung fu master and founder of a new fighting system. Hoping that his old friend could take in the young Jeong Yim, they set out for King Mui’s Chan Village.
Upon their arrival in King Mui, the two were met by Chan Heung, the chief gung fu instructor there. Jeong Kwan explained their situation but was faced with the unfortunate fact that those without the Chan Surname were allowed to reside in their village much less learn their gung fu. But Jeong Kwan pleaded until Chan Heung devised a plan. He was able to take in the young boy, but only in the capacity of a groundskeeper. However, the young Jeong Yim wasn’t allowed to learn the gung fu from their village. An agreement was made and in 1836, Jeong Kwan left his young nephew with Chan Heung.
During his daily chores, the young Jeong Yim watched as the students practiced their gung fu. Since he already was accomplished by the age of 12, he was able to pick up Chan Heung’s Choy Lee Fut rather quickly. At the time, Choy Lee Fut was based off of the styles taught by Monk Choy Fook, and Lee Yau San. Jeong Yim was already familiar with the Lee Ga system, which ironically they shared the same sifu. So at night time while everyone was sleeping, Jeong Yim would practice his stolen gung fu until he was caught in the act by Chan Heung.
It’s obvious that Chan Heung saw the great potential in Jeong Yim because for the next 5 years this late night training continued. Everything went smoothly during this time, but the one time Chan Heung went away, his senior disciples decided to point their attention at the outsider Jeong Yim. Believing Jeong Yim didn’t know gung fu at all, the senior disciples ultimately got Jeong Yim to fight them. Unfortunately for them, Jeong Yim whooped them pretty badly. This forced the parents of the senior students to order Chan Heung to kick out the outsider.
Reluctantly, Chan Heung asked Jeong Yim to leave, but not before instructing him to go to the Pak Pai Mountain and locate a Shaolin Monk there to complete his training. So, in 1841, Jeong Yim left for guangxie and found the Monk Ching Cho Wo Serng (Green Grass Monk) at the Pak Pai Mountain. He was accepted as a student and for the next 8 years (1841-1849) Jeong Yim learned the deadly art of Fut Gar Kuen.
Monk Ching Cho or Green Grass Monk was a famous monk from the Shaolin Temple. In fact, at some point he was even the Abbott of the temple. After the destruction of the Southern Temple, Monk Ching Cho (who is also believed Fong Dai Hung-one of the 5 ancestors of the Hung Mun) helped establish the Hung Mun Secret society. Therefore,the Green Grass Monk not only taught Jeong Yim gung fu, but he instilled the revolutionary spirit within him.
Once Jeong Yim’s gung fu training was complete, the Green Grass Monk changed Jeong Yim’s name to Jeong Hung Sing, which translates into Hung Mun Victory. He then instructed Jeong Hung Sing to go to Fut San, contact the Hung Mun branch there, and offer his school to help train their revolutionary fighters. For the next two years Jeong Hung Sing intensely trained his student strictly for combat. In 1851, Jeong Hung Sing responded to the launching of the Tai Ping rebellion by organizing all his Hung Sing Kwoons throughout southern China and formally established his Fut San Hung Sing Kwoon.
Just prior to this, Jeong Hung Sing returned to King Mui where Chan Heung warmly welcomed him back. In their meetings, Jeong Hung Sing shared what he learned from the Green Grass Monk with Chan Heung. But when Jeong Hung Sing Returned to Fut San, he and Chan Heung began to separately develop the style of Choy Lee Fut. While Chan Heung’s Choy Lee Fut is based off of the Choy and Lee Ga styles, with Fut attached at the end to represent their shaolin and buddhist roots, Jeong Hung Sing’s Choy Lee Fut was developed based off his teachings from Lee Yau San, Chan Heung, and Mong Ching Cho Wo Serng. In essence, Jeong Hung Sing put the “FUT” in Choy Lee Fut.
In no time at all after the launching of the Fut San Hung Sing Kwoon, the effectiveness of Jeong Hung Sing’s fighting style quickly spread throughout southern China like wildfire. He was pretty busy with the fact that he was the founder of a new Choy Lee Fut system, training freedom fighters, defeating all challengers, and running from the law. Because the Hung in his name was the same as that of the Hung Mun, the government was after him, and closed down his school on more than one occasion. Each time, Jeong Hung Sing and his disciples re-opened Hung Sing Kwoons elsewhere.
Jeong Hung Sing had many, many students. But three of his oldest disciples were Lui Chun, Lee Yan, and Yuen Hai. Other students included Tham Lup, Jeong Sam Bing, Wong Sei, Chun Mien, Lee So, Wong Fook, and Chan Ngau Sing. Senior disciple Lui Chun went on to produce Tam Sam-who became the founder of the Choy Lee Fut Buk Sing lineage. Through Lee Yan’s line the Singapore Hung Sing Kwoon was established, and Yuen Hai produced Lau Bun who became the founder of the first gung fu school on the american continent, as well as the first Hung Sing Kwoon established there.
Then in 1864, the Fut San Hung Sing Kwoon was closed down once again. This time, Jeong Hung Sing fled to Hong Kong where he stayed until 1967. In that year, he returned to Fut San when he believed things had coolded down and re-opened his Hung Sing Kwoon. At this point, Jeong Hung Sing had to change the “Hung” in his name to something tha sounded similar but had a different mearning. The new Hung used mean Wild Goose, yet in Chinese Culture the Goose represents longevity and could perhaps be another secret meaning of Long Live the Hung Mun.
Evidence of Jeong Hung Sing’s involvement with the Hung Mun is found in a number of places. The first is found in the pair of couplets ALL Hung Sing kwoon’s use. The left side reads, “A strong fist releases out like a tiger raising its head” while the right side reads, “A graceful staff flies above like a dragon whipping its tail.” Now, when you string the first two words of each couplet together, it means “Hero” as in revolutionary hero. Another link is found in the set up of Jeong Yim’s alter. A true Hung Mun based school will have the alter, a table in front of it, and two chairs. One is for the master, and the other is for his top disciple.
The next confirmation to the connection to the Hung Mun is the following which was discovered on the front of walls of Jeong Hung Sing’s school.
the first line reads: The big bird spreads its wings like an overturned hand
The Second is: the scholar who excels so much that his name or fame will remain forever
the third reads: Salutations to the brothers in the 5 lakes and four seas or four corners
the fourth reads: the sun will shine brilliantly for generations
(CERTAIN WORDS IN THESE LINES WHEN STRUNG TOGETHER WILL FORM THE HUNG MUN SECRET SOCIETY SLOGAN “FAN CHING FU MING” WHICH
TRANSLATES INTO “OVERTHROW THE CHING, RESTORE THE MING”)
Jeong Hung Sing continued to develop his Hung Sing Choy Lee Fut and training freedom fighters for the rest of his life. His successor-Chan Ngau Sing-didn’t come into the picture until 1883 when Jeong Hung Sing was about 60 years old. According to material passed down from the Fut San Hung Sing Kwoon, Yuen Hai was responsible for recruiting Chan Ngau Sing, whom, at first was extremely skeptical of Jeong Hung Sing. He felt that he was actually better than this old gung fu master. However, the old Jeong Hung Sing matched up with Chan Ngau Sing and advised him to pay attention, because he’s going to fall first the to the east, then to the west, and finally down the center.
At the end of three quick rounds, Jeong Hung Sing honored his word, and Chan Ngau Sing landed exactly where Jeong Hung Sing, this old dying relic, predicted he would. Chan Ngau Sing learned the hard way that this old master really was one of southern China’s greatest fighters and requested to be taken as a disciple. In 1893, Jeong Hung Sing came down with an illness, and Chan Ngau Sing tried to take him to see his own personal doctor. However, Jeong Hung Sing, founder of the Fut San Hung Sing Kwoon passed away due to this illness. As it’s passed down within the Fut San Hung Sing Kwoon, Jeong Hung Sing left behind his wife (Chan Kay) and his two sons who died pretty young themselves. Chan Ngau Sing from that point on became the next inheritor of the Fut San Hung Sing Kwoon.
Tam Sam was born in 1873 in a Hoi Ping Suburb, and grew up in the Toi Ting Village of Canton, China. His parents gave him his first name because he was the 3rd son born to them. By nature he was a lover of a good fight, strong willed and very intelligent. He started out learning Gung fu under a famous Hung Gar Master named Chow Gum Biu.
A friend of Tam Samfs practiced gung fu at a Hung Sing Kwoon under Master Lui Chun. Eventually Tam Sam gave in to his curiosity- because he passed the school everyday-and went in intending to see if their gung fu was worth its weight in salt. He had heard good things about Hung Sing Choy Lee Fut and wanted to know first hand. Arrogantly he walked into Master Lui Chunfs school and asked if anyone wanted to spar a few rounds with him. Wong Sum who was a senior student stepped forward and accepted the challenge while Master Lui sat back and observed the match.
During the match Wong Sum struck Tam Sam with a powerful Sow Choy. Tam Sam managed to hit Wong Sum in the ribs. Then Wong Sum used his Hung Sing Jo Ma Kwa Sow technique which instantly ended the fight because Tam Sam was unable to continue the match. Tam Sam was very disappointed by his own performance and was desparate to save face. Thinking that since Master Lui Chun was advanced in age Tam Sam felt the he would have a better chance at defeating him. His friend urgently tried to pursuade Tam Sam to change his mind and cautioned him that something like this was unwise. Still, Tam Sam ignored his friends warning and proceeded with the challenge.
Master Lui Chun never gave Tam Sam a chance. In a matter of seconds he floored Tam Sam who was scolded by his friend for acting so foolishly and said “see, I told you so. You are lucky my sifu controlled his punches or you would have been seriously hurt.” Convinced that Hung Sing Choy Lee Fut was more than effective Tam Sam asked Master Lui to accept him as a student. Since Tam Sam was already trained in the martial arts Master Lui agreed to take him in. Only a few years later Tam Sam excelled in the Hung Sing fighting art, and was eventually appointed as the assistant instructor teaching the younger students who would call him Sam Sook.
Regardless of anyonefs position in life Tam Sam wouldnft let anyone bully him. For example, one afternoon he got into an altercation with his Si-Sook (gung fu uncle) Ngan Yiu Ting and a few of his family members. The incident was later referred to as the “Kuen Da Sam Ngan” which means “fist that defeated 3 Nganfs, after he beat all of them up. Master Lui Chun discovered what happened, however his hands were tied, there wasnft much he could do. It was against the code of Choy Lee Fut to fight another brother, but to beat up an elder left Master Lui with no other options but to ask Tam Sam to leave.Unfortunately at this point Tam Sam had not completed his training under Master Lui. But what he didnft already he later learned it from his friend Wong To who trained with Tam Sam very hard.
To Tam Sam the only way to get better was to go out and challenge people and learn from those experiences. Often these challenges end up in bloody battles, and he began to develop a name for himself as a fighter. Yet, he realized that his reputation may begin to tarnish the of Master Lui Chun and the Hung Sing Kwoon.Out of respect for his sifu Tam Sam moved his school north into a temple called Siu Buk Di Mew. He named his school the Siu Buk Hung Sing Kwoon. Over time students such as Chow Hing and Lai Gum pursuaded Tam Sam to shorten the schools name to Buk Sing Choy Lee Fut because it was too inconvenient to repeat over and over, and he agreed, ultimately creating the 3rd branch to the Choy Lee Fut system.
Since Tam Sam was so adept at fighting he went on to create new techinques and redefine old ones,. An “extra in means extra power” was his motto for his school. He would invite many of his gung fu brothers and elders over for intensive, in-depth studies of Choy Lee Futfs techniques. It is then that he became known for his Lin Wan Chop Choy (continuos cyclic panther punches). Following in the tradition of the Hung Sing Kwoon Tam Sam had a pair of double couplets made. They read: “Turn around like a tiger raising its head, and punch like a dragon raising its claws.”The second read: “Hands are like the wind blowing out the candle, and The footwork is like walking on clouds.”
The government also invited many northern styles to come to the south and teach gung fu. A competition was to be held in Canton with the southern styles competing against the northern styles. Ku Yu Jeong, a well known northern stylist who was renowned for hos iron body techniques was nominated to head the northern Team.Tam Sam was nominated to be the southern teams coach. And his reputation was so widespread that even Ku Yu Jeong heard of him and regarded him as a fellow hero and actually wanted to train with him. But Tam Sam had different intentions, he wanted to fight Ku Yu Jeong. In place of fighting an arrangement was set up between them to each exchange a group of students for cross training purposes.
In his heart Tam Sam was a die hard Hung Sing man and did not want to learn anything northern himself. Some of his favorite techniques were Kwa-Sow-Chop (Back hand, Sweeping Fist, and stabbing punch). It was techniques like these that he used to defeat many of his challengers. Although he preferred the wider horse stance and the longer ranging punches of the Hung Sing Kwoon.Then, during World War II and the Japanese invasion Tam Sam was elected to head the “DI DO (Big Sword) training camp. Durning this time he was also a member of the Canton National Board of Martial arts, a husband and a father. Sadly, in 1942 Tam Sam passed away at the age of 69 years old.