Kung Fu Articles by Yap Leong

During the Year of the Dragon 1988, Yap Leong's son, Zhiwen was in his mother's womb when they met Prince Charles & Princess Diana with their Dragon Dance team for the premiere of the film ' The Last Emperor' The event was shown live on national TV. By sheer co-incidence twelve years later in the Year of the Dragon 2000, Zhiwen met the Prince in Chinatown.

Monkey God

Kung Fu Lineage as appeared in Kung Fu Secrets No.1 - Yap Leong

Kung Fu practitioners like to belong to an earlier generation or lineage. This makes them feel important with regards to seniority as well as respect. The moment they 'enter the door' or 'yup moon', they can claim seniority from those who come later.

When does one consider being 'yup moon'? Does it happen when the student starts paying his or her training fees, or when he or she is formally accepted as a disciple via a ceremony? Imagine a situation when a student just wants to train and does not even consider the formality of being a disciple. He/she could be training for ten years, but a newcomer could, through good connections, wealth or influence within a year, become a disciple. Who then is more senior? The student who is not a disciple or the one who is?

How about the new student, who is much older than an existing student, but joins a day later? Who then should call who 'Si-Hing'?

Why the confusion? In a Western style education, we know where we stand -whether qualified or not. We cannot escape the certificate system! In Oriental martial arts it is based on a mixture of patronage, wealth, influence, dedication, and being there at the right time. It also depends on the mood, integrity, greed and attitude of the Master.

For instance, a student may be training with a Master for 20 years. Suddenly they fall out, and the student goes his own way. The Master then accuses his student of being a 'farn kuat chai' literary meaning 'a guy who turns the bone' or 'one who betrays'. Out of spite, jealousy, anger or whatever, he disowns his student and appoints his next student, who may not have done as many years or even be as skilful as 'his future heir'. Never mind. The Master will then say that he never taught his departed student anything, and that the secrets are still with him. He will of course offer his so-called secrets to his future choice. What does the departed student do? To justify his departure, he will say that his (former) Master was greedy, and that he never taught him anything at all, and always indulged in martial arts politics.

With modern communications, it is not difficult to find out information or identities of Masters or seniors of those publicly teaching, provided they are still alive. Hence all these travels to far flung corners in China to 'bye si' (to be accepted) and 'yup moon' with a handy red packet. These red packets may not mean of lot in financial terms to a Westerner or Overseas Chinese, but to a poor Chinese Master it is 'hell of a lot'. They usually pay a visit each year, and after a few years, come back with a scroll, letter, certificate, plenty of photos with their Masters or whatever to say that they have mustered a complete kung fu system. They then became the appointed custodians of their system on the death of their Masters.

What about the poor blokes in China, who toiled day in, day out and made tea, even for the foreign students? They could be training from the age of six for twenty years upwards, but never mind, they were not good enough to earn the attention of their Masters or become the next 'Jeon Moon Yern' (appointed guardian of the system)

The well-tanned Westerners or Overseas Chinese then return to their countries and tell the world, especially through the popular Martial Arts Magazines, that they would become the next 'Jeon Moon Yern' after the death of their Masters. They display their certificates and pelt out Chinese terms like 'Lau Soo or Sifu (teacher), Dor Jia or Xia Xia' (thanks) etc. to convince us skeptics that they had in fact deserved to inherit their systems.

What about their Ex-Masters who taught them the same systems? Bad luck to them. They would have become 'juniors' if their Masters in China were their Grandmasters. By this process, the foreign Westerners or Chinese have moved one generation up and pushed their Ex-Masters one generation down. Their Sifus have become their Si-Jut through a simple process of going to the source.

At worst they can then addressed their Ex-Masters as 'Si-hing' if both shared the same Masters in China.

The moving up the ladder of seniority does not have to be within the same Master lineage. It could be through an indirect lineage, through another Master, but within the same system.

It is very common to see a 'family tree' showing who is who. This is a sneaky way to show one's seniority over another through an indirect link back to as far back as possible to a famous Master a few generations back.

The first thing for a student or potential student would be to pick out a famous Master in the family tree - one who is currently teaching. He then look for names listed 2 generations above that Master. Those listed do not need to be any good or capable. They could very well be geriatric or incapacitated. The only criteria is seniority. They would then pay a visit to that person and 'bye see' and 'yup moon'. After that, they proudly announce to the world, by updating the family tree with your names added, and publishing the facts in a popular magazine. They then keep on repeating the Mantra that that so and so famous Master is in fact their Si-jut (nephew), if not in front, then, behind his back.

Kung Fu Lineage II (short extract) - will be appearing in future edition of Kung Fu Secrets - Yap Leong

Once upon a time there was a guy who fell out with his Taekwondo master, left and started his own dojo. He neither had permission from his ex-teacher to teach nor a certificate to prove his lineage. Subsequently, through his contacts he joined a famous master of a different system.. He then claimed lineage by having a signed and dated certificate and proudly bragged of his 'status'. What he had forgotten was his own past and also the fact that none of the masters or grandmasters in the past had certificates. Their only certificate was the size of their fists. In those days, in China, all these masters needed to prove was to prevent their sign-boards from being smashed by outsiders. It was known as 'Charc Jiu Pai' in Cantonese. If they still remained intact, they would be their certificates. The advice to these so-called diploma holders is to quietly teach their own students, make a small living and refrain from bragging, because by doing so, they are insulting their masters or grandmasters who never held 'diplomas'.

The Ancient Sage he says: 'show me your certificate to prove your lineage'

The Modern Sage he says: 'show me yours first'

White Crane

Lohan

Sung Tai Cho

Tamo

Lady in Green Dress

 

Chi Experts & Empty Force - as appeared in Kung Fu Secrets No.2 - Yap Leong

There is an abundance of ‘Chi’ in this universe. Not surprisingly there are just as many ‘Chi’ experts who claim they have the power of Chi, seen it or heard about others performing it. When asked to prove it, they were unable to do so, or the person who could, who is also their great grandmaster, is either dead or meditating somewhere in the Himalayas.

One expert whom I met many years ago, told me that he could send someone flying across the room without having to touch that person. It was called ‘Empty Force’. I was obviously very keen on the subject and pretended to be amazed by what he said. He said he could do it from a distance of upto 20 feet. He also had a couple of disciples who could do it, but at a lesser distance of 15 feet.

Furthermore, he was a re-incarnation of the Jade Emperor and one of his disciples, a reincarnation of Tamo (the Shaolin Patriarch).

Without wishing to show disrespect, I suggested myself as a guinea pig and just stood about 3 feet (not 20 feet) away, so that I could taste his amazing power. He immediately declined to demonstrate stating that it would not have an effect on me.

I asked why he could not do it and he replied that I was a reincarnation of a ‘High Immortal’

I felt really pleased with myself. How lucky I was to meet a reincarnation of the Jade Emperor who had a student, a reincarnation of Tamo and me, a reincarrnation of a Higher Immortal. What more could I wish for. That encounter was the last I heard or seen of the ‘Jade Emperor’, who was a regular visitor to my shop, Shaolin Way.

Long Distance Chi

Then there is a case of another master who talked about his ability to send chi energy down the telephone line to treat his patients. He usually had to travel long distances to meet them. Since his healing ability became more and more powerful, all he did was simply use BT. (British Telecom - in case you are.......)

He was also saving himself a costly train journey, not to mention the travelling time.

He, like most others, had obviously gone into a state of delusion about his ability to transmit ‘empty force’ or ‘healing chi’. Now he claims he can stop anybody without even touching. I will have to ask him to give me a demo when I next meet him.

The ancient sage sighs with consternation yet again.

Obviously I did not have enough encounters with the real ones to prove or disprove ‘empty force’. Inevitably I had to ask one, whom I held the highest respect - the late Grand - master Chee Kim Thong. He even told me a story.

There was a master in Malaysia who dressed up like ‘Wong Fei Hung’ and could strike with his ‘empty force’ A lot of people were really convinced he had the skill.

Chee Kim Thong then took up the challenge and told the master that he would stand with his back towards him. He could strike anytime with his empty force whenever he was ready. The master declined the invitation.

I was not interested in that master’s skill. I wanted to know whether he, Chee Kim Thong, believed in it or had it. He gave me a smile and said it was possible, but only within a short distance of about a foot.

Temple

Shaolin Monks - Go Home - as appeared in Combat Magazine in 1999 - Yap Leong

Twenty years ago I saw performances by Wushu performers from China. They were great entertainers. Now we have Shaolin Monks. Their performances are no different from those Wushu performers years ago. The only difference is that they are dressed in monks' robes and shaved off their hair. Tamo would not have approved of such degradation of their dignity and status as Shaolin Monks. What happened to the Buddha's concept of non-attachment? Others are commercially using them. Instead of practising martial arts to attain non-attachment and enlightenment, they are doing the opposite. China - please take note and send them home. If we want to see the Shaolin Temple and the Monks we will visit them. Instead they are flying all over the world in droves, and deserting the Shaolin Temple for their so-called contractual obligations. The last great desertion of the Shaolin Temple was when the Manchus burned it down. Now greed and temptation drive them out. So return to Shaolin and complete your mission of non-attachment.

The Ancient Sage he says: My representative, who is coming down to Earth to take you all to Heaven, is late. So please be patient.

The Modern Sage he says: We have been patient for over 2000 years.

The instant expert with instant cures

The instant overnight expert was selling Feng Shui like hot cakes. 'If I do the feng shui of your house, I will guarantee that your feng shui will improve or change for the better within three weeks'.  These ridiculous claims were obviously made to suit both the instant expert and the client.  It enriches the instant expert within minutes and the client hopefully wait for something to happen within three weeks.   By then the instant expert would have found another trusting client with the same forlorn hope. 

Another instant sales pitch is to inform prospective wide-eyed clients that they are disciples of famous masters. One instant disciple suddenly became visible and told his client that he was a disciple of someone's famous and charged a hefty amount for his feng shui consultation.  He has barely left elementary level but his mouth was advanced level. Once again the ancient sage sighs with consternation.

Many years ago, in Malaysia, I happened to watch a street performer selling his amazing instant cure medicine.  To attract the crowd, he said he would demonstrate the breaking of a brick, not with the palm, but with the wrist part, which appeared swollent.   I was obviously not interested in the medicine, otherwise I would have bought it and gone home straight away.  So I stood there from 8pm to midnight, just to see how he could break that brick with his wrist.  As I was young, naïve and also very patient, I thought the performance would eventually arrive. Unfortunately, he was only selling medicine, and the demonstration was just to lure the next lot of crowd to his medicine pitch.  At 12 midnight he finished his job and gathered his tools, including the brick, which was still intact.  I left smiling, contented, became a bit wiser and dying to go to the loo.

Throughout the years, it is common for someone unknown and useless to claim that he is the next generation up on someone famous and skilful. In other words he is the Si-Suk (Uncle Master).  It is also not uncommon for someone to jump levels by going straight to the Grandmaster instead of training with the Master.  One big red packet will do the trick.

One unlikeable master even claimed that he had become a great, great, great Grandmaster, even though he was just about forty years old.  The reason is that his student taught someone, who immediately taught someone who immediately taught someone and so on and so forth.   Even I myself have become victim to this 'kung fu system'.  Unfortunately, my status keeps on dropping.  Instead of the other way up - up - up, it was down - down - down.

The Ancient Sage he says: There is 'Heaven' and there is 'Hell'.

The Modern Sage he says: In 'Heaven' there is no 'Hell'. In 'Hell' there is no 'Heaven'. How on Earth can there can there be Heaven and Hell?

Origin of Kung Fu

There have been lots of naïve speculations about the origin of kung fu.  Where did it come from? India? Certainly Not! Northern Pakistan? Of course not!

Did a Mythical Hindu Deity create a sword to fight demons?  In time this Art took root in Northern Pakistan, from where Buddhist Monks happily took it to China and beyond. This version was printed in a UK martial arts magazine not so long ago.  I thought Bodidharma was supposed to be from Southern India and he took the easy route rather than through the Himalayas

Once upon a time an Indian guy asked me ‘Where did Karate come from’?
I replied ‘Japan’
How did it get into Japan?
‘From Okinawa’
How did it get into Okinawa?
China
How did it get into China?
India? I asked.
‘Absolutely – Bodidharma brought it from India to China’ he replied.

Oh he was so proud!!

What happened to the art in India then?  How come there is none left?

Well – Bodidharma took everything - the whole art - from India and gave it to the Chinese.  That is why there is none left in India.

Really?

Really!

Recently there was a quiz on a national radio programme.  The question was: ‘Where did Karate originate from’?  Was it (a) India or (b) Portugal?
The listener answered ‘India’ and was told that it was correct.  What utter nonsense.

Well, did Bodidharma really bring the art into China from India?  If he did, why bother to go to meet the Emperor?  Why not go straight to Songshan to the Shaolin Temple?

Maybe the Chinese monks crossed the Himalayas into India and spread the art there.  This would enable the Indian monks to re-cross the Himalayas and return the favour to the Chinese by giving them back all their Art, leaving no trace of any art in India whatsoever.

 

There is an instructor who teaches a funny Japanese-named art which he called it Shotokan based, but influenced by the Indians.  Why didn’t he simply call his art ‘Indiankan’?  At least it would tie in with the Mythical Indian Art, based in Northern Pakistan, with a bit of Genghis Khan added in.

Never heard of Bodidharma
To be honest, I doubt that the Indians have ever heard of Bodidharma until they read about him in Shaolin.  Where was his birthplace?  If they could identity his birthplace, why did they not find anybody practising the same art there?  They don’t have to show me the wonderful art – just point out to me where I could find Gurus in India where I could experience the 18 Lohan- Hand Exercises. 

Mythical Deity?
Instead we heard of this mythical deity with a demon destroying sword as a basis for influencing kung fu.  China had millions of these demon destroying swords which were not connected to any mythical deity.  Just read their comic books.  Maybe Bodidharma actually did nick the whole art in its entirety from his birthplace and gave it to the Chinese.  What generosity?  It is just like saying a kind hearted Englishman took all the Fish & Chips from England and gave it to the European, leaving England without any Fish & Chips. 

Maybe Fish & Chips did come from India.  There were plenty of fishes and potatoes plus plenty of mythical deities there to give the dish their holy blessing and shipped them off to England, through the Himalayas,  passed the Great Wall into China, round the Cape of Good Hope and then to England.

Changes in the Textbooks
If Kung Fu really came from India, why was it called Kung Fu, and not some Indian term?  Bodidharma would be appalled if we called it Kung Fu.  He would have wanted an Indian sounding name, just like the Japanese, who cleverly got rid of the Chinese Connection by changing the name ‘Tang Soo Do which means ‘Chinese Hand’  to ‘Hung Soo Do or Karate’ which means ‘Empty Hand’  The Japanese really knew how to change their ‘textbooks’ even then. 

Maybe the Chinese did not know the Indian word for ‘Indian Hand’ or Bodidharma did not care a toss as he was totally mental – sorry – in a state of mind or Chan or Zen or whatever at the time.  

Background in Kung Fu, Karate or Taekwondo
In order to justify their claims, a few Indian instructors started coming out with their so-called ‘Indian Arts’.  They had to have a history and the best person they could latch on to was Bodidharma.  Whenever they appear in the Martial Arts Magazines, they wear their traditional robe, put on a turban and carry a sword and shield. As Shaolin Monks are usually bald and don’t even put on a turban or carry a sword and shield, where is the Indian connection?

Are there similarities between their so-called ‘Art’ and Kung Fu?  Were they doing an Art Form?  Did they have a Shaolin salute?  Did they have set patterns and not wild swings and parries?  Could they trace their lineage prior to Bodhidarma?  Have they ever heard of Bodidharma until the Chinese told them?  Is it because of the popularity of Kung Fu since the sixties that they suddenly found out that they had an ‘Art’ by reading about Bodidharma being Indian?  Did they have ‘spring energy’, ‘frightened energy’ ‘yin energy’ or any described in Kung Fu?   Did they devise forms and transmit them from one generation to another, from master to disciple or father to child?

When you look at the history of these Indian Instructors teaching so called ‘Indian Arts’, you would find that their original martial arts background would have been Kung Fu, Karate, Aikido, Jujitsu,Taekwondo or Kickboxing.  After they qualified (or maybe not), they decided to change them into Indian Arts by pulling out some mythical stories to back them up.  One of the instructors I knew practised Wing Chun, but now teaches the Indian Art and keeps on practising the Wing Chun Dummy & Chi Sau - just in case he needed the Chinese Art to protect himself.

How come we don't hear of Tiger, Crane, Leopard or Snake Martial Arts in India? Surely there are such animals or snakes in India.  I will leave out the dragons as they are just a figment of the imagination of the superstitious Chinese. One thing they certainly do have is the art of Snake Dancing out of their Basket to the tune of spiritual music.  There are millions of Indian Snake Charmers around.  Snake Kung Fu?  None!!!

Bodidharmai & African Martial Arts?
This problem is not confined to India alone.  There are instructors who taught African Martial Arts, who said that Bodidharma, after leaving China, travelled to Africa, including Indonesia and Malaysia as well.  There is another instructor who mentioned about an Egyptian Martial Art based on the crocodile.  The problem is that he is a Taekwondo man.  He is probably the only one in the whole galaxy who really believes in Crocodile Martial Arts.  However he is wise enough not to blame the influence on Bodidharma 

I thought Bodhidharma died in China at a ripe old age.  To justify the existence of their arts, they said that after Bodidharma left China, he settled down in Africa to teach the Africans.  What utter nonsense again!  Take a look at one of those African Martial Arts Videos and you will find teachers showing moves which looked like modified ‘bong sau’ blocks. Sound very Wing Chun to me.

 

Why did the some of these Indians keep on boasting that kung fu came from India?

The truth is that up to and until, the Kung Fu Boom in the sixties, nobody, even amongst Indians themselves, had heard of Indian Martial Arts.  They were not extinct, but simply non-existent.

They then heard of Bodidharma, but could not do anything because they simply did not have a martial art to back them up. They then studied and practised Chinese, Korean or Japanese martial arts,  Years later, they became knowledgeable or experts in those arts.  Some became instructors and stuck to their arts, but others decided to ‘India-nise’ them, by stating falsely in their brochures ‘as influenced by the Indians’.   As knowledge of the existence of Bodidharma grew, they ‘decided’ that his birth place was in Kerala, even though there was no prove of him being from that region.  They could not trace his lineage there.  So they resorted to speculations and innuendos.  Any guru who teaches any form of fighting art in Kerala would do. 

Then they mentioned Kalaripayattu and their oldest suggested existence date back to the 13th century.  However was Kalaipayattu a martial art system in the same proper context as ‘kung fu’?  If it was, then the British Army would be classified in the same way.  Similarly the Mongol Hordes were all ‘kung fu’ practitioners, including the ‘Deer Hunters’. 

As Bodidharma alone was not enough proof, they brought in their mythical gods, who existed million of years ago, to back up their fantasy story.  This would precede the Chinese Martial Arts, whose origin was a mere 5,000 years ago.

 Don’t forget they had never heard of him in the first place, until recently when the Chinese, or the Japanese, told them.  I wish the Chinese had followed the Japanese by altering their ‘textbooks’ as well.

The BBC programme, Goodness Gracious Me, said it all.  Whenever the origin of something was mentioned in a dialogue between two Indian actors, one of them would always answer ‘India’.

Did Bodidharma know kung fu?   
When Bodidharma came to Shaolin what he brought with him was not Indian Kung Fu or even Indian Curry and Chapati, but Buddhism.  Asked the Shaolin Monks whether they had curry & chapatti for breakfast at that time or even now they would have said ‘ NO’.  Bodidharma preferred sweet & sour vegetables in case the Indians want to know. 

If Bodidharma knew kung fu, he would have gone straight to Shaolin instead of going to see the Emperor.  After having been snubbed by the Emperor, he decided to settle in a cave in or around Shaolin and did his years of meditation.

‘Legend’ had it that he sat facing the wall for 9 years and became enlightened.  ‘Legend’ also had it that to prevent himself from falling asleep he tore off his eyelids and threw them on the ground.  Immediately tea leaves started sprouting from it.  Got It!!  However he could not inspire his followers to do the same when they were also nodding off listening to his sermons or practising their mantras or chanting.  Imagine weird looking zombie-like novice monks with no eyelids!!! 

I bet the Indians did not know that the tea leaves originated from Bodidharma’s eye lids.  Otherwise they would have claimed them to be Indian too.  At the moment the proud Chinese can claim that tea originated in China.  Hurry -change the Chinese textbooks before they found out.

 After reading this article and if you are still not convinced then good luck to your endeavour in searching for a good art in India, but please don’t mention anything about kung fu, karate, taekwondo being from Indian or Indian influenced.  Simply mention that the Indian Arts are Chinese influenced.

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