THE ANCESTRAL HOME OF WING CHUN
Foshan is a small city, 17 miles
south-west of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdon Province. Foshan was
formerly a religious centre (Foshan means Buddha Hill) and is also
famous for its pottery.
But for thousands of martial
artists throughout the world it's the ancestral home of Wing Chun.
I was fortunate to spend a short
time in Foshan in 1988 and also on several trips to Hong Kong to spend
time with practitioners of the Pao Fa Lein Wing Chun System.
This article will not imply that
one style is better than another. What I give to the reader is
information passed on to me in Hong Kong.
The history of the Ng Mui system
as passed down to Yip Man has been well documented so I won't go into
the history of this style. During my stay in Foshan I was fortunate to
meet Pung Nan the oldest living descendant of the NG Mui style and to
observe him teaching a class.
The boxing forms are much longer
than those of the Yip Man style and there are great differences in the
positions and angles in the forms.
Pung Nan's wooden dummy is fixed
in the floor and the form contains many finger strikes and double
punches. The finger strikes range from single fingers to all fingers
Before I left Master Pung Nan
whose nickname is Black Face (because of a large birthmark on his
right cheek) gave me four books containing his complete systems.
Other Wing Chun styles.
It's not widely known that there
are five distinctly different styles of Wing Chun being practised in
Foshan today. These styles are Leung Jan, Pao Fa Lein, Wan Qi Shang,
Guo Bao Chuang and Zhu Zhong Weng.
Pao Fa Lein
This style is said to have its
roots in the Shaolin Monastery in Henan Province and was taught by a
Buddhist monk whose nickname was Big East Wind. On leaving the Shaolin
Monastery Big East Wind travelled south to Ching Yuen village. The
Buddhist monk was a member of a secret society whose aims were to
overthrow the Ching Government.
He made friends with two
brothers Tse Kwok Cheung and Tse Kwok Leung. One of the brothers was a
Big East Wind taught the two
brothers his complete system before returning to the north. Soon the
two brothers became fed up with their jobs and returned to their home
The two brothers adopted a son
whose name was Liu Da Sheng. At the age of nine Liu began to learn the
Wing Chun system which he mastered in ten years.
Many stories are told about
Liu's fighting prowess. While still young a Kung Fu master by the name
of Peng challenged him to a fight with the Millstone Broadswords. Liu
killed the master and fled Foshan for fear of prosecution.
He returned around 30 years
later and hoped to keep a low profile but his reputation was to great.
Hearing his skill a magistrate
challenged him to a duel again with the Millstone Broadswords. Not
wanting to make the same mistake Liu suggested that they use one
wooden sword and one metal one, the magistrate agreed.
After the fight the magistrate's
clothes were left in tatters by the wooden broadsword.
When he grew older he worked in
a cosmetics shop making hair gel from sap. This process was called Pao
Fa Lein so this became Liu's nickname.
The present day Grandmaster is
Chu Chung who now lives in Hong Kong. Grandmaster Chu began his
studies at the age of 14 and had learned the complete system before
leaving for Hong Kong.
In Foshan the style was always
known as Wing Chun but on his arrival in Hong Kong he found other
styles of Wing Chun being taught so to differentiate his style from
the others he named it after his teacher Pao Fa Lein.
Grandmaster Chu has never wanted
to promote his style and has only taken a few disciples, namely his
two sons Chu Wing Chi, Chu Ping and Mok Poi On.
The style has many forms for
both fist and weapons (the first three have the same names as the Yip
Man system) and ten weapons forms, these are Millstone Broadsword,
Staff, Sword, Tiger Fork, A broadsword with a long wooden handle, Kwan
Dao, Thirteen Section Whip, Millstone Broadsword versus Staff,
Broadsword versus Broadsword and Staff versus Staff.
The style also has four wooden
dummy forms. These are known as the Internal Dummy, External Dummy,
Hard Dummy and Soft Dummy. The Dummy also has a sandbag mounted on
There are also many more methods
of sticking hands training. In 1988 I had the pleasure of touring
China with Mok Poi On and his student Leo Man, Leo and I became firm
friends and spent many happy hours practising Chi Sao.
'If you don't know where to
put them, put them at the end'.
As was mentioned before Big East
Wind was a member of a secret society whose aims was to overthrow the
Ching Government the members of this society had a password to
recognise each other. Some members of the government infiltrated the
group and learned the password taking the first and last letters of
their old password, which gave them Wing Chun.
Liu Da Shen claims to have
taught Leung Jan the first four forms of Pao Fa Lein Wing Chun.
Back to Foshan.
The time I spent in Foshan was
very enjoyable all the masters I met were most helpful and willing to
demonstrate their art. My thanks and gratitude go to Master Ou Yuen Ji,
a sprightly 70 year practitioner of Taiji, Seven Star Praying Mantis,
Eagle Claw, etc., Master Ou introduced me to his friend Guo Jia, a
practioner of Pao Fa Lein Wing Chun (78) and many other Wing Chun
What I didn't see in Foshan was
inter-style rivalry. All the masters spoke well of each other. When I
asked why practitioners of the same style do the forms differently the
answer was quite simple 'different teacher, different forms.
Foshan Tour and Seminars.
I will be leading a group to
Foshan in February 1990 to study Wing Chun; training in other styles
will also be available.
Its hoped that Master Mok Poi On
and his students will be in England next year to give seminars on the
Pao Fa Lein system.
As I said at the beginning of
this article no style is better than another is. Remember 'Black Cat
or White Cat; it's the cat that catches the rat that's a good cat'.
Master Pung nan
Above Sifu Derek Frearson with
Pao Fei Lein Wing Chun Masters and Grandmasters
Sifu Leo Man with Sifu Mok Poi On
Derek Frearson with Master Guo
More pictures available on the