The History of Hung Gar
Hung Gar is a traditional Chinese martial arts system, the most widespread of the five prevalent southern systems. Its origin is from the "fighting monks" of the first Shaolin Temple in Henan province. The Shaolin system derived from Chuan (Zen) Buddhism, a hybrid of Dharma Buddhism and Taoism. As early as 500 AD, Da Mo, the legendary Bodhidharma, taught breathing exercises (qi-gong) to the monks. This helped them improve their physical health so they could endure longer periods of meditation. The breathing exercises evolved into a fluid self defense system that was much softer in execution of movement than what developed later. It included techniques, mimicking five animals - tiger, white crane, dragon, snake and leopard. These were developed, in an effort to protect the Henan temple, the most splendid of all the monasteries, from bandits and invaders.
During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Shaolin monks reached the pinnacle of their fighting skills, warding off intruders and assisting the ruling sovereignty and neighboring villages against attackers. This was the last native Chinese Empire, and the most fertile period for all the arts. It was also during this time when the majority of fighting styles was developed, including Hung Gar. Gee Sin Sim (Chi Shin), an abbot originally from the Henan Shaolin Temple, is given credit for planting the seed of Hung Gar, as well as other traditional systems. During the Ching Dynasty (1644-1912), in the mid 17th century, Ming family and former officials took refuge in the temple, masquerading as monks. The abbot opened the Shaolin system to these outsiders, in hopes of garnering support to overthrow the Manchurians. Of these followers, Hung Hei Goon stood out the most. His talent caught the attention of the abbott, who wanted to train him personally. The Shaolin monks, who were supported by the Ming government, were thought to be a threat to the new government. After many attacks to the temple, the Ching regime was successful in burning down the monastery. Most of the Shaolin monks died, defending their temple. Several of the surviving monks, including the abbot, fled to the southern temple in the Nine Lotus Mountain located in Fijian province. There, Gee Sin Sim felt the urgency to systematize the training, facilitating mastery of the system to further protect the temple.
Hung Hei Goon was a tea merchant from Fijian, but couldn’t prosper in Kwungtung province under the tyranny of the Ching government. Hung Hei Goon’s grandfather was an official of the Ming Dynasty, and he, a supporter. Out of loyalty to the deposed government, he changed his family name from Jyu to Hung, in honor of the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Jyu Hung Mo. Under the directive of the abbot, Hung Hei Goon returned to Kwungtung province to open a school and spread the knowledge. The system was taught as the Hung Gar (Hung Family) system so it would not be associated with its source. He married Fong Wing Chun who learned the White Crane system from its founder, Ng Mui, a surviving abbess from the Henan Shaolin Temple. (Fong Wing Chun should not be confused with Yim Wing Chun, for whom the abbess named her White Crane system.) Hung Hei Goon became famous for his martial arts and gained the namesake of "The Southern Fist". Hung Gar evolved as he incorporated the Shaolin Five Animals style with his wife’s White Crane system. The reputation of the school, and its master, became widespread in southern China. By this time, Gee Sin Sim had more followers. He sent his best students to Hung Hei Goon for further training. Luk Ah Choy who later became known as the forefather of several traditional Chinese systems, was among the students sent. After his training, Luk Ah Choy was sent to Guangzhau to spread the knowledge.
In Guangzhau, Wong Tai became a student of Luk Ah Choy. He taught his son, Wong Kay Ying. In search of more knowledge, Wong Kay Ying studied with Luk Ah Choy and other disciples of Hung Hei Goon. He passed all this knowledge to his son, Wong Fei Hung. During a street performance, Wong Kay Ying and his son, rescued a martial artist in trouble for accidentally hurting a bystander. The performer was Luk Fuh Sing who was a student of Tit Kue Sam, a disciple from the Shaolin Temple. Luk Fuh Sing was so grateful that he passed on the knowledge of the "secret form" to the father and son. This form, Iron Wire Fist (Tit Seem Kuen) is considered to be the most advanced form in the Hung Gar system. The Tiger Crane (Fu Hok) form became the signature of Wong Fei Hung. Reputed as one of the "Ten Tigers of Kwungtung", today, he is immortalized, with many movies and publications portraying his life. Wong Fei Hung’s life was also filled with tragedies; several of his wives died prematurely. A son he trained died in an ambush, and thereafter, he thought that he could protect his other sons by not teaching them. He later married Mok Gwai Lan, another descendent of one of the five southern systems, Mok Gar
One of Wong Fei Hung’s best students was Lam Sai Wing, a pork butcher from Guangzhau. He was a disciple for fifteen years before he was entitled to advanced training. Credit goes to Lam Sai Wing for perpetuating the system that we know today and setting precedence for future masters in the Hung Gar system. This system remains closest to its original Shaolin style and has maintained the integrity of the system.
Without any sons to carry on his legacy, Lam Sai Wing adopted his orphaned nephew, Lam Cho at age 6. He assisted his uncle in teaching the system at his schools and made his own imprint on the system. His hand techniques were superior, and he was reputed to have the agility of a northern stylist and the strength of a southern stylist. Today, Lam Cho continues to practice the Iron Wire Fist form. His sons, Lam Chun Fai and Lam Chan Sing now carry the family tradition. Lam Chun Fai, as the elder son, is now the reigning grandmaster of the Siu Lam Fu Hok Pai Hung Gar.
Kwong Tit Fu began his Hung Gar training in Guangzhau under his uncle, Kwong Chong Sau. He learned several systems, and to further his knowledge, he sought out Lam Cho in Hong Kong. He later emigrated from Hong Kong to the United States. In 1971, shortly after Kwong Tit-Fu’s arrival, Calvin Chin secured him as a Kung Fu instructor for a youth athletic club where he was a martial arts instructor. He assisted his new teacher in establishing the first Hung Gar Tiger Crane school on the East Coast. After many years of extensive research and development, Kwong Tit Fu founded his own system, Fu Hok Tai He Morn. This system is a synthesis of the methods and principles of Hung Gar Fu Hok kung fu, Wu style tai chi and Mu Dong - Yat Hei Ngm Hahng Morn, an advanced level internal system. After receiving a black belt in the Uechi Ryu Karate system, Calvin Chin wanted to further his knowledge by studying a traditional Chinese system. He tried several different systems before he heard of Kwong Tit-Fu’s martial arts prowess. Calvin Chin was president of his teacher’s school, and its chief instructor. Today, he remains the top disciple of the Fu Hok Tai He Morn system and continues the tradition at his own school.
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The Practice of Hung Gar
This southern Chinese kung fu style incorporates both external and internal methods. Hung Gar emphasizes strong stances, long and short hand techniques, which encompasses straight, circular, and angular movements. The intent is to develop efficiency of movement, as well as coordination. This result in superior inside maneuvers, none more evident than the variation of kicks, mostly executed below the waist. Although the execution of movement appears to be hard, this system, in fact, incorporates both hard and soft techniques in a multitude of directions. The execution of advanced techniques is complex. Research has determined that Hung Gar possesses more intricate hand techniques and stance maneuvers than any other traditional system from China. Because it is also an internal system, it boasts many health benefits.