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|Yale Cantonese:||Hùhng Gā|
|Yale Cantonese:||Hùhng Kyùhn|
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According to legend, Hung Ga was named after Hung Hei-Gun, who learned martial arts from Jee Sin, a Chan master at the Southern Shaolin Temple. Jee Sin (ak Gee Sum Sim See) was also the master of following 4 students, namely Choy Gau Lee, Mok Da Si, Lau Sam-Ngan and Li Yao San. These five students later became the famous founders of five of the southern shaolin styles (Hung Ga, Choy Gar, Mok Gar, Li Gar and Lau Gar).
The temple where they trained had become a refuge for opponents of the Qing Dynasty, who used it as a base for their activities, and was soon destroyed by Qing forces. Hung, a tea merchant by trade, eventually left his home in Fujian for Guangdong, bringing the art with him.
Even though Hung Ga is supposedly named after Hung Hei Gun, the predominant Wong Fei Hung lineage of Hung Ga claims descent not from him but from his classmate Luk Ah Choi (陸阿采), who taught Wong Fei Hung's father Wong Kei-Ying and, by some accounts, Wong Taai (黃泰), who is variously said to be Wong Kei Ying's father or his uncle. Because the history of the Chinese martial arts was historically transmitted orally rather than by text, much of the early history of Hung Ga will probably never be either clarified or corroborated by written documentation.
Because the character "hung" (洪) was used in the reign name of the emperor who overthrew the Mongol Yuan Dynasty to establish the Han Chinese Ming Dynasty, opponents of the Manchu Qing Dynasty made frequent use of the character in their imagery. (Ironically, Luk Ah-Choi was the son of a Manchu stationed in Guangdong.) Hung Hei-Gun is itself an assumed name intended to honor that first Ming Emperor. Anti-Qing rebels named the most far reaching of the secret societies they formed the "Hung Mun" (洪門).
The Hung Mun claimed to be founded by survivors of the destruction of the Shaolin Temple, and the martial arts its members practiced came to be called "Hung Ga" and "Hung Kuen."
The hallmarks of the Wong Fei-Hung lineage of Hung Ga are deep low stances, notably its "sei ping ma" horse stance, and strong hand techniques, notably the bridge hand and the versatile tiger claw. The student traditionally spends anywhere from months to three years in stance training, often sitting only in horse stance between a half-hour to several hours at one time, before learning any forms. Each form then might take a year or so to learn, with weapons learned last. However, in modernity, this mode of instruction is deemed economically unfeasible and impractical for students, who have other concerns beyond practicing kung fu. Some instructors though will stick mainly to traditional guidelines and make stance training the majority of their beginner training. Hung Ga is sometimes mis-characterized as solely external; that is, reliant on brute physical force rather than the cultivation of qi; even though the student advances progressively towards an internal focus.
The Hung Ga curriculum that Wong Fei-Hung learned from his father comprised Single Hard Fist, Double Hard Fist, Taming the Tiger Fist (伏虎拳), Mother & Son Butterfly Swords (子母雙刀), Angry Tiger Fist, Fifth Brother Eight Trigram Pole (五郎八卦棍), Flying Hook, and Black Tiger Fist (黑虎拳). Wong distilled his father's empty-hand material along with the material he learned from other masters into the "pillars" of Hung Ga, four empty-hand routines that constitute the core of Hung Ga instruction in the Wong Fei-Hung lineage: Taming the Tiger Fist, Tiger Crane Paired Form Fist, Five Animal Fist, and Iron Wire Fist. Each of those routines is described in the sections below.
The long routine Taming the Tiger trains the student in the basic techniques of Hung Ga while building endurance. It is said to go at least as far back as Jee Sin, who is said to have taught Taming the Tiger—or at least an early version of it—to both Hung Hei-Gun and Luk Ah-Choi.
The "工" Character Taming the Tiger Fist is so called because its footwork traces a path resembling the character "工".
Tiger Crane builds on Taming the Tiger, adding "vocabulary" to the Hung Ga practitioner's repertoire. Wong Fei-Hung choreographed the version of Tiger Crane handed down in the lineages that descend from him. He is said to have added to Tiger Crane the bridge hand techniques and rooting of the master Tit Kiu Saam as well as long arm techniques, attributed variously to the Fat Ga, Lo Hon, and Lama styles. Tiger Crane Paired Form routines from outside Wong Fei-Hung Hung Ga still exist.
These routines serve as a bridge between the external force of Tiger Crane and the internal focus of Iron Wire. "Five Animals" (literally "Five Forms") refers to the characteristic Five Animals of the Southern Chinese martial arts: Dragon, Snake, Tiger, Leopard, and Crane. "Five Elements" refers to the five classical Chinese elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Metal, and Wood. The Hung Ga Five Animal Fist was choreographed by Wong Fei Hung and expanded by Lam Sai Wing (林世榮), a senior student and teaching assistant of Wong Fei Hung, into the Five Animal Five Element Fist (also called the "Ten Form Fist"). In the Lam Sai Wing branch of Hung Ga, the Five Animal Five Element Fist has largely, but not entirely, superseded the Five Animal Fist, which has become associated with Dang Fong and others who were no longer students when the Five Animal Five Element Fist was created.
Iron Wire builds internal power and is attributed to the martial arts master Leung Kwan (Chinese: 梁坤; pinyin: Liáng Kūn; 1815–1887), better known as Tit Kiuh Saam (Chinese: 鐵橋三; pinyin: tiěqiáosān). Like Wong Fei Hung's father Wong Kei-Ying, Tit Sin Saam was one of the Ten Tigers of Canton. As a teenager, Wong Fei Hung learned Iron Wire from Lam Fuk-Sing (Chinese: 林福成; pinyin: Línfúchéng) a student of Tit Sin Saam. The Iron Wire form is essentially a combination of Hei Gung (Chinese: 气功; pinyin: qigong) or meditative breathing with isometric exercise, particularly dynamic tension, although weights were also used in traditional practice in the form of iron rings worn on the wrists. If properly practiced, it can increase strength considerably and promote a stable root. However as with both most forms of qigong and most forms of isometric exercise, it must be practiced regularly or the benefits are quickly lost.
Wong Fei Hung was known for his Fifth Brother Eight Trigram Pole (五郎八卦棍), which can be found in the curricula of both the Lam Sai Wing and Dang Fong branches of Hung Ga, two of the major branches of the Wong Fei-Hung lineage, as can the Spring & Autumn Guandao (春秋大刀), and the Yu Family Tiger Fork (瑤家大扒). Both branches also train the broadsword (刀), the butterfly swords (雙刀), the spear (槍), and even the fan (扇), but use different routines to do so. Mother & Son Butterfly Swords (子母雙刀) can still be found in the curriculum of the Dang Fong branch.
The curricula of different branches of Hung Ga differ tremendously with regard to routines and the selection of weapons, even within the Wong Fei Hung lineage. Just as those branches that do not descend from Lam Sai Wing do not practice the Five Animal Five Element Fist, those branches that do not descend from Wong Fei Hung, sometimes called "old" or "village" Hung Kuen, do not practice the routines he choreographed, nor do the branches that do not descend from Tit Kiu Saam practice Iron Wire. Conversely, the curricula of some branches have grown through the addition of further routines by creation or acquisition.
Nevertheless, the various branches of the Wong Fei Hung lineage still share the Hung Ga foundation he systematized. Lacking such a common point of reference, the "village" styles of Hung Kuen show even greater variation.
The curriculum which Jee Sin taught Hung Hei-Gun is said to have comprised Tiger style, Luohan style, and Taming the Tiger routine. Exchanging material with other martial artists allowed Hung to develop or acquire Tiger Crane Paired Form routine, a combination animal routine, Southern Flower Fist, and several weapons.
According to Hung Ga tradition, the martial arts that Jee Sin originally taught Hung Hei Gun were short range and the more active footwork, wider stances, and long range techniques commonly associated with Hung Ga were added later. It is said to have featured "a two-foot horse," that is, narrow stances, and routines whose footwork typically took up no more than four tiles' worth of space.
The Ha Sei Fu (下四虎) is said to fit this description, though the implied link to the legendary Jee Sin is more speculative than most because of its poorly documented genealogy. Ha Sei Fu Hung Ga of Leung Wah Chew is a Five Animal style with a separate routine for each animal. Other Branches of Ha Sei Fu Hung Ga also contain combined animal sets, like Tiger & Crane, Dragon & Leopard, etc.
Similar to Ha Sei Fu Hung Ga, the Ng Ying Hung Kuen (五形洪拳) fits the description of Jee Sin's martial arts, but traces its ancestry to Ng Mui and Miu Hin (苗顯) who, like Jee Sin, were both survivors of the destruction of the Shaolin Monastery. From Miu Hin, the Five-Pattern Hung Kuen passed to his daughter Miu Tsui Fa (苗筴花), and from his daughter to his grandson Fong Sai-Yuk (方世玉), both Chinese folk heroes like Jee Sin, Ng Mui, and their forebear Miu Hin. Yuen Yik Kai's books introduced this branch to the Western/European venue. while conventionally translated as "Five-Pattern Hung Fist" rather than "Five Animal Hung Fist", it is a Five-Animal style, one with a single routine for all Five Animals but also has other sets as well.
The Tiger-Crane Combination style has been found in almost every Hung style. While not as long as the Wong Fei Hung version, it is typically seen as containing 108 movements/techniques.
Ang Lian-Huat attributes the art to Hung Hei Gun's combination of the Tiger style he learned from Jee Sin with the Crane style he learned from his wife, whose name is given in Hokkien as Tee Eng-Choon. Like other martial arts that trace their origins to Fujian (e.g. Fujian White Crane, Five Ancestors), this style uses San Chian as its foundation.
Wong Kiew Kit trace their version of the Tiger Crane routine, not to Hung Hei Gun or Luk Ah Choi, but to their senior classmate Harng Yein.
Not all share the opinion that several Hung Kuen styles exist, because Hung Ga has its origin in the famous southern shaolin temple. And there the most famous linage with Hung Hei Gung, Luk Ah Choy, Wong Tai, Wong Kei Yin, Wong Fei Hung and Lam Sai Wing has its roots.
The dissemination of Hung Kuen in Southern China, and its Guangdong and Fujian Provinces in particular, is due to the concentration of anti-Qing activity there. The Hung Mun began life in the 1760s as the Heaven and Earth Society, whose founders came from the prefecture of Zhangzhou in Fujian Province, on its border with Guangdong, where one of its founders organized a precursor to the Heaven and Earth Society in Huizhou. Guangdong and Fujian remained a stronghold of sympathizers and recruits for the Hung Mun, even as it spread elsewhere in the decades that followed. Though the members of the Hung Clan almost certainly practiced a variety of martial arts styles, the composition of its membership meant that it was the characteristics of Fujianese and Cantonese martial arts that came to be associated with the names "Hung Kuen" and "Hung Ga". Regardless of their differences, the Hung Kuen lineages of Wong Fei Hung, Yuen Yik Kai, Leung Wah Chew, and Jeung Kei Ji (張克治) nonetheless all trace their origins to this area and this time period, are all Five Animal styles, and all claim Shaolin origins. Northern Hung Kuen (洪拳), by contrast, is not a Five Animal style and dates to the 16th century. Cantonese and Fujianese are also predominant among Overseas Chinese, accounting for the widespread dissemination of Hung Kuen outside of China.
With exceptions such as Frank Yee (余志偉; Yee Chi Wai) of New York City and Cheung Shu Pui in Philadelphia, both of the Dang Fong lineage, the foremost teachers of Hung Ga in the United States belong to the Lam Sai Wing branch. As the principal teacher under Lam Sai Wing, Lam Cho (林祖)(Lam Sai Wing's adopted nephew) has taught well known masters such as Y.C. Wong (黃耀楨) (San Francisco) and Bucksam Kong (江北山) (Los Angeles and Hawaii). Lam Cho's eldest son, Lam Chun Fai, now carries on his Hung Ga teaching in Hong Kong. Lam Chun Fai has also done much to spread Hung Kuen in Europe.
Other notable students of Lam Cho include Kwong Tit Fu and Tang Kwok Wah (鄧國華). Kwong and Tang taught in Boston, Massachusetts for twenty years before retiring from teaching. Among Tang Kwok Wah's students currently teaching in the area are Winchell Ping Chiu Woo 胡炳超 (Chiu Mo Kwoon, Boston), Yon Lee 李健遠 (who is also the master instructor for the Harvard Tai Chi Tiger Crane kung fu Club at Harvard University since 1985), and Sik Y. Hum. Calvin Chin of Newton Highlands carries on Kwong's legacy. In 2007, after 2 successful pilgrimages to the Shaolin Temple and several exchanges arranged through the Municipal Government of Dengfeng (登封市) City, China, Yon Lee and his students formed the Harvard Shaolin Cultural Foundation (少林文化基金會). In 2010, the Harvard foundation and the Songshan Cultural Research Foundation (嵩山文化研究會) of Dengfeng hosted a conference on Shaolin culture, focusing the link between kung fu and medicine (禪武醫).
Chiu Kau (趙教) began learning Hung Kuen in Singapore. He later married Wong Siu Ying (黃邵英) who began learning Hung Ga from her husband. The couple eventually settled down in Hong Kong where they continued their Hung Ga training at the Lam Sai Wing National Art Association Second Branch. Their sons Chiu Chi Ling (趙志淩) of Alameda, California, and Chiu Wai (趙威) of Calgary, Alberta, Canada are the inheritors of this lineage. Kwong Wing Lam of Sunnyvale, California, studied with Chiu Kau, Chiu Wai, and Lam Jo and learned the Ha Sei Fu style from Leung Wah Chew. In Hong Kong the original Chiu Wai Hung Kuen school continues under the teaching of Chiu Wah (趙華), and in 1998 another branch (洪拳學社) was established in Hong Kong under the teaching of Gam Bok Yin (金博賢).
John Leong learned from Lam Sai Wing's student, Wong Lee. The Chang Ke Chi (張克治) branch of Hung Kuen is represented by Steven C. George (史帝夫) of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada and Daniel Král, Vladimír Šanda, David Kříženecký, Stanislav Fraibiš, Martin Veselý of Prague, Czech Republic.
One of the more-famous teachers of Hung Kuen today is the famous Shaw Brothers movie director/actor, Lau Kar Leung (also from the Lam Sai Wing lineage), who has many students in Hong Kong. One of Lau Kar Leung's notable disciples is Mark Ho, also known as Mark Houghton, an Englishman who has lived in Hong Kong for 20 years. Mark Ho, with the blessing of Lau Kar Leung, has opened a unique Hung Kuen school in Fanling. The school itself looks like a scene from a Shaw Brothers movie; it has many training chambers, wooden dummies, and hanging logs. There are now Lau Family Hung Kuen schools in China and England.
Chris Dougliss in Ireland trained for a while under Mark Houghton. Chris then trained under Dave Bradley, who was a student of Mark Houghton in Birmingham before Mark went to Hong Kong. Chris moved to Ireland and continued training for many years with a select few students of his own. He then formed Clonmel Hung Gar Kung Fu School, which has trained rigidly according to tradition.
In the cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender, the style of Earthbending is based on the Hung Gar style of fighting. The series' creators consulted a professional martial artist in the design of the show's fighting style.