Hung Ga (also called Hung Kuen or Hung Gar) is a southern style of Chinese kung fu, well known for its balance in creating a healthy mind and body, as well as its practicality for self-defense applications. Named after Hung Hei Guen, Hung Ga is a powerful style which encompasses the hard, long range offense of the tiger and the soft, short range fluid defense of the crane, the evasiveness of the dragon, the precision of the snake, the swiftness of the leopard, and the application of the five element fist.
Hung Ga originated in the Shaolin Temple in China and has been passed on from teacher to student for hundreds of years. Below you will find a short history of the masters in our lineage who have passed on the art of Hung Ga to Grandmaster Frank Yee, who in turn passed it on to Sifu Peter Berman Yee.
Luk Ah Choy was the son of a Manchu that was stationed in Guangdung. After his parents died, Luk Ah Choy was brought up by his uncle. Because his uncle abused him, Luk Ah Choy ran away when he was 12 years old. He met a monk named Lei Baak Fu, a master in the Southern Fa Kuen, and became his student.
After 7 years of training, Lei Baak Fu sent him to the southern Siu lum Temple in Fukien Province. There, Luk Ah Choy became a student of Abbot Gee Sim Sim Si.
After the destruction of the Sil Lum temple, Luk Ah Choy went back to Guangdung, where he devoted himself to martial arts and Chinese medicine, until his death at the age of 68.
The Hung Ga system began in the Ching Dynasty during the reign of Yung Jing (1723–1736 A.D.). Hung Ga was the number one style among the five family styles of the south. These were: Hung Ga, founded Hung Hei Guen; Lau Ga, founded by Lau Sam Nganl; Choy Ga, founded by Choy Gau Yee; Lee Ga, founded by Lee Gum Lun; and Mok Ga, founded by Mok Ching Gui.
Each of these systems is unique and possesses distinctive and special techniques. Originally, Hung Hei Guen’s surname was Jyu. His grandfather was an official of the Ming government and the family was well off. Hung was originally a tea merchant before becoming a student of master Jee Sim and graduating from the south Shaolin Temple. As a staunch supporter of the deposed Ming regime, he changed his surname from Jyu to Hung in honor of the first Ming emperor Jyu Hung Mo (1271–1368 A.D.). Hung would have referred to his martial arts as Shaolin kung fu, but out of fear that the Shaolin connection would get him and his followers in trouble, he called the art Hung Ga or Hung family kung fu to hide its true source.
Later, his followers would continue this practice, in honor of their venerated master. After the burning the Shaolin Temple in Fukien, he met and married Fong Wing Chun, a former student of the Buddhist nun Ng Mui. Fong was knowledgeable in the Crane style kung fu. He later moved to Fa City in Gwang Dung province and later died there at the advanced age of 90 years. His tomb is still located there. There are historical records at Fukien Chan Jau Fu Ji that indicate Hung Hei Guen killed someone there with a single punch. In addition to having this as evidence of Hung’s existence, it also attests to the devastating power of his fists.
Hung Kuen became known for two things: the thousand pound foundation or horse stance and the iron fist/arms, from rigorously conditioned hands and forearms.
For example, when Hung Hei Guen sank into a horse stance, more than ten people with staffs were unable to move him. This is a difficult achievement, requiring many years of practice. As a result of becoming famous for strong, powerful stances, Hung Kuen has gotten a reputation for being a slow style, which is untrue. Although a solid root is the foundation of our training, we also train for quickeness and speed. Hung Kuen is solid first, but mobile and flexible second.
There are differing accounts of Wong Kei Ying’s training history. Some stories say that as a young boy he earned a living as a street performer. During a performance, he was noticed by Southern Siu lam kung fu master Luk Ah Choy, and became his disciple. Another story tells that Wong Kei Ying learned from his father Wong Taai, who was a student of Luk Ah Choy. Later, Wong Kei Ying was sent to Luk Ah Choy to continue his study under his guidance.
It is widely accepted that Wong Kei Ying later became the martial arts instructor of the general of Guangdong’s infantry regiment and gained fame as one of Southern China’s famous Guangdung Sup Fu. He exchanged a lot of knowledge with other kung fu masters, such as Wong Yan Lum, a "Lion’s Roar" gung fu master and also a member of the Ten Tigers.
Wong Kei Ying was also a well-respected doctor. As a doctor, he often traveled across China (along with his son, Wong Fei Hung) to find and bring back herbs and medicine to his clinic in Guangdung. It was during these travels that he met and trained with with many famous kung fu masters of the time. It is said that during one of their journeys, Wong Kei Ying helped to heal a man who was injured while watching a kung fu exhibition. The performer who accidentally injured the man was Lam Fuk Sing, a top student of the famous Tiet Kiu Sam. Lam Fuk Sing was so grateful for his help that he taught both Wong Kei Ying and the young Wong Fei Hung the famous internal form of Hung Ga—Tiet Sien Kuen.
During Wong Fei Hung's time, the greatest kung fu masters in Southern China were known as the Ten Tigers of Guangdung. Their names were Wong Yan Lum, Wong Kei Ying, Wong Ching Haw, Jao Tai, Tit Kiu Sam, Sou Hak Fu, Sou Hut Yee, Wong Fei Hung, Tit Ji Chan, and Tam Jai Kwan.
Wong Fei Hung's life story has been immortalized in books and movies for over 50 years. During a party at the Ying Ging restaurant in Hong Kong for the opening of Wong Fei Hung’s school there, the plans for the movie starring Kwen Tak Hing were made. The first movie played to packed houses and this continued until over 100 Wong Fei Hung pictures were filmed. These movies made his name famous and his legend grew steadily to folk-hero status. In fact, fictionalized accounts of Master Wong’s life are again popular in cinema.
When he was a young man Wong Fei Hung taught martial arts to the army. Wong Fei Hung has married four times. His first wife, surnamed Law, died three months after they were married from an illness. His second wife, surnamed Ma, bore him two sons, Hawn Sum and Hawn Lum. She died soon after. Wong's third wife also bore him two sons, Hawn Hei and Hawn Hsu, but she also did not live long. By this time word was out that Wong Fei Hung was bad luck for women, and no woman wanted any part of him. Even Wong resigned himself to this, and stopped trying to remarry. Unfortunately, Wong's son Hawn Sum was killed by gangsters with pistols after an altercation. This caused Wong to withhold his knowledge from the other sons, in order to protect them.
Wong Fei Hung had several students including Lueng Foon, famous for his horse stance, and Ling Wan Gai, who was famous for his kicking skill. These two good students died at a young age and did not go on to have their own schools and disciples. Other famous students of Wong Fei Hung include the popular Lam Sai Wing, a former pork butcher who had many students and wrote three volumes on Hung Kuen, and Tang Fong.
In addition to playing an integral role in the development of modern Hung Ga, Wong Fei Hung is a famous Chinese folk hero and the subject of hundreds of films.
Many years later, in Fatsan Dip Gao Heung, Wong’s school was performing a lion dance in honor of the anniversary of the Lam Hoi Association. Wong Fei Hung's good students Leung Foon and Ling Wan Gai performed the head and tail respectively. After the lion dance, a martial arts demonstration was held outside on the stage. After all the students had shown their kung fu, Wong stepped up to the platform to perform the Yu family trident, a type of weapon now considered the king of southern Chinese weapons. During his performance, he accidentally kicked his shoe off into the crowd. The shoe struck a young woman, and she was incensed. Despite attempted apologies by Wong, she slapped him in the face, yelling that he had no excuse, since he was a famous master of the martial arts. "What if that had been your weapon," she retorted, "I could have been killed." After this, a rather chastened Wong returned to the stage to perform his set. Later on, though the woman was plain in appearance, he could not get her out of his mind. She was young and strong and, he thought, maybe she would last longer than the other women! He investigated and found out that her name was Mok Gwai Lan and was in town with her number two aunt looking for a husband. As it turned out, the aunt, fearing that Wong would want revenge for his humiliation sought him out to apologize and he told her of his feelings. She agreed to act as a go-between and eventually Mok Gwai Lan and Wong Fei Hung were married.
Mok Gwai Lan had a strong foundation in her Mok Ga kung fu, so Wong Fei Hung taught her Hung Kuen. She eventually became the instructor for an all woman’s class in Hung Kuen. Previous to this, women were never taught any martial arts forms. Mok Gwai Lan lived long surviving her husband by many years and later teaching as Tang Fong’s assistant.
Tang Fong was born in Sam Soy village. In those days, the oldest male member of the village was in charge. Villages often hired martial arts instructors to teach them so the village could protect itself. During his youth, Tang Fong learned from Sifu Wong Yau, and Sifu Yuen Yin, learning Village style Hung Ga, also known as Old Style to distinguish it from the orthodox line of Wong Fei Hung, and Mau Shan, a form of folk sorcery. Later, he studied with Wong Fei Hung, completing the traditional Hung Ga style.
Tang Fong's nickname was "Old Square Mind" for his insistence on teaching the style exactly as it was passed down to him from Wong Fei Hung.
During his tenure with Wong, he was classmates with Lam Sai Wing. During this period, there was a famous incident. A rival of Wong Fei Hung trapped Lam Sai Wing, Tang Fong, his brother Tang Yee and others inside the Luk Sin Theater. Having only 10 people, and being outnumbered six to one, Tang and Lam were hard pressed to escape. During the fight Tang Fong used an iron ruler to douse the light, and they fought their way out. They escaped, despite that fact that Tang was stabbed during the incident. After this both Lam and Tang left town to avoid trouble.
Lam Sai Wing went to the Gwang Dung/Gwang Sai border area because there were fewer people there. Tang Fong went to work in Singapore as a miner. Later, Tang Fong returned to Gwang Dung. After Wong Fei Hung was quite old, Tang Fong and his brother opened a schoool called Yee Ying Ton. He also renewed his relationship with Lam Sai Wing, learning forms which were not part of Wong Fei Hung's original curriculum. Because of this period, many erroneously considered him Lam's disciple, but as he had mastered all of Wong Fei Hung's curriculum before leaving Wong's school, he is rightly considered a junior classmate of Lam Sai Wing. Eventually, Tang Fong took over the position as head of security at the Sau Kay Wan fish market from Lam Sai Wing. It was Yuen Ling who would eventually take Tang's place at the fish market when Tang was elderly.
Grandmaster Yuen Ling was born in 1921 in Guangdong, Sun Wui to a large family. While he was still young, his family lost its fortune due to the depression. He went with his older brother to Fatsan where they made a living peddling food from a pushcart at the railroad station.
At the railroad station, there were plenty of other food vendors and disputes were, more often than not, always settled with the use of force. Deaths were not uncommon. Grandmaster Yuen was known for his kung fu fighting skills and was able to establish an important position for himself within the Fatsan railroad station vendors' community.
Grandmaster Yuen studied Old Style Hung Ga kung fu under a sifu who was nicknamed Sau Gau. Old Style Hung Ga is a branch of the art not through Wong Fei Hung. During the 1940s, with China engulfed in World War II, Grandmaster Yuen escaped to Hong Kong and settled in at the Shau Kai Wan Fish Market to make a living. Like the Fatsan railroad station, only the strong survived the vending competition. It was here that he met Grandmaster Tang Fong.
Yuen Ling was an accomplished lion dancer and bone-setter, famous throughout China for his prowess.
Grandmaster Yuen became Tang Fong's last disciple. He learned Hung Ga and Dit Da medicine, as passed down by Wong Fei Hung, from Grandmaster Tang. Being a strong-willed, intelligent and capable person, it was not long before Grandmaster Yuen established himself as the Number One person at the Shau Kai Wan Fish Market, with control of all the seafood distribution throughout Hong Kong.
During this period, he also established a school at Main Street East, where he taught Hung Ga kung fu and treated patients at his clinic. Grandmaster Yuen was well known and legendary for his negotiation skills in settling disputes for his students, neighbors, friends and association. He would often attend these negotiations alone, carrying nothing save the iron whip-chain he wrapped around his waist. He would sit down with the opposition to discuss the issues and, if the negotiation did not go well, he would settle the matter with force.
Grandmaster Yuen was also proficient in lion dancing. He was well known for his Gnah Chat Sau Dai Si. His black lion head was famous throughout Hong Kong for its run-ins with other lions and dragons; having never lost in these encounters. He always emerged victorious, just as he did in the Cheurng Pao contests. He was also famous for his Dit Da medicine: jow, paste and pills.
Due to the tremendous strain of running both the fish market and the kung fu school, while suffering from stomach cancer, Grandmaster Yuen’s health took a turn for the worse. He died in 1966 at the young age of 45. On the day of his funeral, martial artists from all over Hong Kong, as well as members of the law enforcement and underworld communities came to pay their respects. It was one of the largest funeral processions in Hong Kong’s history.
Grandmaster Yuen passed on the complete system of Hung Ga to Grandmaster Frank Yee, who further developed the system taught at Yee’s Hung Ga.