The Buddha, symbol of wisdom, compassion, courage and trustworthiness
After leaving Chan Chun Fook and Cheah Pak, Luk Ah Choy was thinking of his sifu, the Venerable Chee Seen. He sifu had been like a stern father and a kind mother to him. He was sent by his sifu to catch Lai Fu, who secretly crawled through a drainage hole of the Shaolin Monastery instead of graduating through the Lane of Wooden Men. Now he let Lai Fu go. Didn’t he forget his sifu’s grace and forsake his sifu’s righteousness? Didn’t he betray his sifu? He became very miserable, and decided to return to the Shaolin Monastery at once to see his sifu.
As soon as he arrived at the Shaolin Monastery, he went straight to a meditation room to see his sifu, the Venerable Chee Seen. He knelt down and said nothing.
Seeing Luk Ah Choy’s return, Chee Seen was very happy. But Chee Seen did not see Lai Fu captured. So he asked, “Ah Choy, you have been away for a long time. Stand up, have a seat and tell me what you have been doing all these days.”
Luk Ah Choy continued to kneel before his teacher and knocked his head three times on the ground. His tears rolled down unceasingly. “Sifu,” he said, “this time my return is to take punishment. I have broken monastery rules, and am willing to accept any punishment and advice sifu will give.”
“Ah Choy, what is this? What punishment?”
Luk Ah Choy felt ashamed. He told his sifu that he did not want brothers in the same kungfu lineage to fight with each other, that he let Lai Fu go, and that he lingered around outside the monastery to deceive his sifu.”
Hearing this, Chee Seen was furious.
“Bring my Zen maze!” he ordered.
The monks nearby were terrified. Those sympathetic to Luk Ah Choy were perturbed, thinking in their heart that Luk Ah Choy would surely be seriously punished. Some eyed Luk Ah Choy and were worried for him, but Luk Ah Choy was unmoved. He continued kneeling without saying anything.
Two monks brought his Zen mace for Chee Seen. He took the mace and walked out of the room. After a few steps, he turned round and asked Luk Ah Choy to follow him. He also asked the monks standing on both sides to sound the monastery bell.
When the monastery bell was sounded, everyone assembled in the main hall. The atmosphere was very tensed. Everyone was aghast to the extreme.
Chee Seen, with the Zen mace in his hand, stepped forward. He asked Luk Ah Choy to stand in front of the gathering.
“Ah Choy,” Chee Seen said loudly, “you have never beguiled the blood in my heart (i.e. my earnest dedication and expectation).
Luk Ah Choy could stand no longer. He cried loudly, “Sifu!”
The Venerable Chee Seen continued, “The principles of our monastery are to be wise, compassionate, courageous and trustworthy. You have achieved all these principles. Today, I have gathered everybody to show you as a model, so that all who come after can be like you.
“Let us just discuss what you have done this time. You received order to bring Lai Fu back to the monastery. Other people will do just that, so as to please me. But you are different, you let him go. You let him go because you do not want to see someone whom you have met for years to fight amongst themselves. Anyone who lacks feelings and righteousness cannot do that.
“Anyone knows that disobeying sifu’s order would be severely punished. But you are willing to take the punishment on his behalf, showing the great compassion of your heart. To be able to do this requires wisdom and thoughtfulness. It is not attainable by ordinary people.
“You have waited till today to return to the monastery to report. You have spoken straight (i.e. honestly) without any lies. This is trustworthiness.
“Just now I shouted for my Zen mace. For other people, whose face will not change color, whose legs will not shake? But you have remained complacent, and your spirit was calm. Without courage, who can do this?
“All said, all these are virtues. Virtues should be spread. I hope all present will emulate.”
After he had completed his speech, the Venerable Chee Seen held a cup of tea and passed it to Luk Ah Choy.
“Ah Choy, drink it.”
Luk Ah Choy again prostrated, then drank the tea in one gulp.
After Luk Ah Choy had finished drinking the tea, the Venerable Chee Seen said.
“Ah Choy, although your kungfu is still far from the stage of ascending the summit and creating afresh (i.e. have reached the height of the state of art, and is ready to create new developments), you have realized the principles we cherish. Tomorrow you can descend the mountain (i.e. leave the monastery).”
Luk Ah Choy was one of the Shaolin masters who spread Southern Shaolin Kungfu to the world. His disciple, Wong Kai Ying, taught his son, Wong Fei Hoong, whose lineage spread to Europe and North America.
Luk Ah Choy and Ma Hoi Sing went to the same open space near the door. Luk Ah Choy adopted the poise stance he used earlier to defeat Cheah Pak, “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave”, with his right tiger-claw in front in a right lift-leg stance. Ma Hoi Sing adopted the same poise stance in his left bow-arrow stance with two hands in front.
Ma Hoi Sing moved forward with a left bow-arrow stance and struck Luk Ah Choy with his left palm. Luk Ah Choy moved back his front leg and thread away the attack, then gripped Ma Hoi Sing’s left wrist with his left tiger-claw. Immediately Ma Hoi Sing struck forward his right palm. Luk Ah Choy retreated his body slightly to avoid the palm attack, and again gripped the attacking wrist with his right tiger-claw.
Now both of Ma Hoi Sing’s hands were held by Luk Ah Choy’s tiger claws. If Luk Ah Choy were to grip hard on the energy points at Ma Hoi Sing’s wrists, Luk Ah Choy would have numbed the hands of Ma Hoi Sing, making Ma Hoi Sing unable to fight further.
But Luk Ah Choy merely held the hands. He wanted to show Ma Hoi Sing that he could use the same technique to defeat Ma Hoi Sing, despite the saying that northern kungfu styles were known for kicks, and southern kungfu styles were known for fists.
Luk Ah Choy lifted Ma Hoi Sing’s both hands upward, still holding them, thus blocking Ma Hoi Sing’s sight. Simultaneously he executed a thrust kick at Ma Hoi Sings chest using a pattern called “White Horse Presents Hoof”. But Luk Ah Choy did not kick his opponent; he merely touched the chest. Then he lowered Ma Hoi Sing’s hands, covered them well with his own left hand, and pierced two fingers of his right hand into Ma Hoi Sing’s eyes, using a pattern called “Two Dragons Fight for Pearl”. Again he did not really pierce the opponent’s eyes. He stopped an inch from target. Then he gently push Ma Hoi Sing away, out of the fighting arena.
“Seng Yeong,” Luk Ah Choy said.
(“Seng Yeong” was in Cantonese pronunciation. The phrase meant “allowing me to make my moves”, and was often used by a winner in kungfu combat because of courtesy.)
“Thank you for not hurting me,” came the reply.
Ma Hoi Sing was dejected. He went towards the table to collect his double sabres.
“Actually my specialty is these double sabres,” he said.
“I can also fight you with weapons if you like.”
“What weapons would you use?” Ma Hoi Sing asked.
Luk Ah Choy looked around. Then he answered, “I’ll use a wooden bench.”
“A wooden bench? It’s meant for people to sit on, not for fighting.”
“A skillful exponent can use anything to fight,” Luk Ah Choy replied.
“It’s not fair. My sabres can cut you, but you can only hit me.”
“In the hands of an expert, a hit by a wooden bench can be more deadly than a cut by a sabre. If you can cut me, it shows that your kungfu is superior, in which case I have nothing to say. But I can assure you that you cannot even touch me,” commented Luk Ah Choy.
The two combatants assumed their poise stances. Ma Hoi Sing rushed forward with a right downward slash. Luk Ah Choy deflected the slash with his wooden bench. Instantly the left sabre came down with another downward slash. Again Luk Ah Choy deflected the slash with his wooden bench.
For the next attack, Ma Hoi Sing changed techniques. Instead of a downward slash, he attacked with a reverse slash of his right sabre, i.e. the slash moved from downward to upward, and aimed at Luk Ah Choy’s groin followed up to his body.
Luk Ah Choy let the reverse slash pass his body by retreating slightly, and at just the right moment he followed the upward movement of the slash with the legs of the bench facing skyward, and by turning the legs downward again, he locked Ma Hoi Sing’s right arm, causing him to drop the sabre.
Ma Hoi Sing used his other sabre to pierce at Luk Ah Choy. Luk Ah Choy moved adroitly to his right side to avoid the pierce, then lowered the wooden bench at Ma Hoi Sing’s left arm, with the legs of the bench facing downward, slamming the bench onto the floor. Immediately, Luk Ah Choy thrust the bench at Ma Hoi Sing, causing him to drop the sabre to jump back. Now both sabres were disarmed.
Again, Luk Ah Choy said, “Seng Yeong”.
“Warrior is very fast and skillful. May I know your name, and what style of kungfu you practice?”
“As you have said, I don’t change my name while sitting or traveling. My name is Luk Ah Choy, and I practice Shaolin Kungfu.”
“Shaolin Kungfu? It is the best martial art in the world!” exclaimed Ma Hoi Sing. He then left the shop with his gang members. Henceforth, Luk Ah Choy’s name became very well known.
Luk Ah Choy went to examine Cheah Pak.
“Luckily, you are not serious injured,” Luk Ah Choy said.
Chan Chun Fook, the old owner of the shop, added, “If warrior does not mind, to ensure Cheah Pak’s recovery, you can stay in my shop for a few days. There is a room upstairs.”
Luk Ah Choy earlier sold off all his medicated pills. So he wrote a herbal concoction for Cheah Pak specially effective for overcoming injury.
Luk Ah Choy, the old man who was the owner of the shop, and Cheah Pak were drinking wine, enjoying delicious dishes and conversing like old friends. They talked about heaven and earth (i.e. talked about causal things) until late at night, until most of other people were asleep.
Luk Ah Choy learned that the old owner was called Chan Chun Fook.
“That’s a lovely pipe, Uncle Fook” Luk Ah Choy commented, pointing to the pipe the old owner was smoking with.
“Every night after work, I would spend an hour or so smoking my pipe,” Chan Chun Fook said. “Cheah Pak is different,” the old owner referring to his cook. “He’s young. Every night he practices his kungfu.”
“I practice my kungfu diligently,” Cheah Pak added, “but I am no where compared to our warrior here.”
They were dining inside the shop, but suddenly a group of about ten persons in black dresses and all wearing masks appeared. They jumped in from open windows and were carrying weapons, like sabres and staffs.
“We’re here to take your money,” the leader who was holding a pair of sabres in his hands, said loudly to the dinners in the shop. “Quickly place on the table all you have, or else we shall chop you into pieces.” His voice was like thunder. A few remaining customers who were still having their meals were terrified.
Luk Ah Choy reached for his iron drakes and ducks, secret weapons he carried in a small bag on his body. In an instant, he sent the flying iron pills at the robbers. He had learned the secret weapons from a master, so his aim was very accurate. He hit the hands of the robbers holding their weapons. Their weapons dropped on the floor, and they were holding their hands in pain. Some of them were groaning on the ground.
But the leader used his two sabres to deflect the flying iron pills. He was shocked to see all his remaining gang members wounded. For a few seconds he did not know what to say.
Cheah Pak stood up and addressed the leader. “Since you have come, you may not like to leave empty-handed. I’ll give you a gift. I’ll test your kungfu so that the next time you will know not just walk into a shop to rob. But I don’t have any weapons with me, and you are holding double sabres.”
The leader replied, “Who are you? What’s your name?”
“I’m a cook here, and my name is Cheah Pak. What is yours?”
The gang leader took off his mask, and replied, “I do not change my name while sitting, or change my name while traveling. (This was a common saying in Chinese to emphasize that one never changed his name.) I am called Ma Hoi Sing.”
Seeing that Cheah Pak did not have any weapon, Ma Hoi Sing placed his two sabres on a table, and said, “I can fight you unarmed.”
Cheah Pak and Ma Hoi Sing chose a space near the door with no tables around. They each adopted a poise pattern. Cheah Pak stood at a lift-stance with his arms apart, in a pattern called “Beggar Asking for Food.” It looked open and inviting, but a skillful martial artist could respond effectively when an opponent attacked.
Ma Hoi Sing stood in a left bow-arrow stance with his left hand in front of his right hand, guarding his body. This was a common pattern used by northern style martial artists. True enough as northern kungfu styles were known for their agility, Ma Hoi Sing moved in swiftly with a right punch in a right bow-arrow stance.
Cheah Pak retreated his front right leg, warded off the thrust punch with his left hand, moved his left leg forward in a bow-arrow stance and struck out his right fist, in a pattern known as “Black Tiger Steals Heart”. His punch was full of power.
Ma Hoi Sing pulled back his right bow-arrow stance into a right lift-leg stance, still with his right leg in front but avoided the full force of Cheah Pak’s punch. Simultaneously he changed his right punch into a hook-hand by holding his five fingers together like a crane-beak, and hooked away the punch. Immediately be moved forward his right leg into a bow-arrow stance, and struck the opponent’s face with his left palm.
The two combatants exchanged many encounters. For a time it was uncertain who would be the winner.
From a side by observing Ma Hoi Sing’s movements, Luk Ah Choy was quite certain that he was a northern kungfu exponent, especially when he used a pair of sabres. A southern kungfu exponent would only use one sabre.
(Kungfu was generally divided into northern styles and southern styles. Northern styles were centred around the Shaolin Monastery at Henan in the north, and included kungfu styles like Chaquan, Huaquan, Hongquan, Tantui, Eagle Claw, and Praying Mantis. Taijiquan, Xingyiquan and Baguazhang were also considered as northern styles. Southern styles were centred around the Shaolin Monastery in Fujian in the south, and included the five family styles of Hoong, Lau, Choy, Li and Mok, as well as Wing Choon and Choy-Li-Fatt.)
After many exchanges, Ma Hoi Sing used his left palm to strike at Cheah Pak’s face. Cheah Pak warded off with his left hand. Immediately Ma Hoi Sing struck the opponent’s face with his right palm. Cheah Pak warded off the attack with his right hand. But the two palm strikes were feign moves to distract the opponent. Instantly Ma Hoi Sing opened Cheah Pak’s defending hands, and kicked up his right leg at Cheah Pak’s chest, so fast that Cheah Pak could not avoid, and fell back a few feet. He hit an empty chair, then fell to the floor.
Ma Hoi Sing attained his intention that he forgot his appearance (i.e. he was glad he attained his intention of defeating Cheah Pak that his conduct and appearance became bizarre). He turned round to look at Luk Ah Choy.
“Just now your secret weapons disarmed by brothers, though I could deflect them. Using secret weapons is not honorable,” he said.
“Coming in with masks and in black dresses to rob is also not honorable,” Luk Ah Choy replied.
For a short while, words failed him. Then he asked, “Would you like to exchange a few moves with me?”
“As you have asked, I shall oblige,” answered Luk Ah Choy.
Application of Shaolin Five-Animal Set between Dimitri and Sifu Leo
The evening sun was sinking in the west on a cold day. The sky was spread with colorful clouds. Luk Ah Choy faced wind and dust on a government road. He was concerned that when night descended, he had no inn to stay in.
Suddenly he noticed amidst some trees a small shed. He also observed on a wall an advertisement that read “Welcome businessmen and other passers-byes along this passage way.”
Luk Ah Choy hurried along and saw a few sheds, with their back facing a village. He was attracted that all the furniture was made of bamboo — bamboo doors, bamboo curtains, bamboo tables, bamboo chairs — which gave him a special sense of romance.
Besides the sheds there were some ancient birch trees, with their roots floating above the soil. The evening shade was thick like a cover, and when gentle breeze blew, saplings dropping from branches drifted amiably in the air. Seeing this lovely scene, Luk Ah Choy felt pleasant in his heart.
Luh Ah Choy entered an eating-house. A young boy in his teen came smiling forward. Luk Ah Choy ordered chicken and wine.
After some time, an old man placed a plate of fried chicken and a pot of wine on a table. Luk Ah Choy was hungry. He enjoyed the chicken and wine.
When some wine had gone into his stomach, Luk Ah Choy exhibited his warrior’s spirit. He went outside, rabbit rose and sparrow descended, and practiced a Shaolin set. When he had completed his set, he heard some people praising from behind. He turned back and found the old man and his workers.
Luk Ah Choy said, “This low person here did not know the presence of various dignified persons. If I have made mistakes, I beg your pardon.”
The old man smilingly said, “Warrior does not have to be courteous. Just now you allow us, wild people in the hills, to open our eyes. I just wonder what kungfu set you performed just now.”
“I performed Shaolin Five-Animal Set. It is a secret of Shaolin. This low person had the teaching of a high monk. Unfortunately my heart is dull and my techniques foolish, burdensome to enter the eyes of the initiated.”
A man from amongst the workers stepped forward, greeting in hands, and said, “I am very fortunate to have a chance to see a secret teaching of Shaolin. But I still don’t understand what warrior just mentioned. What are the techniques of the Shaolin five animals, and what are the differences. I hope warrior can enlighten me.”
The person who spoke was Cheah Pak. His chest and shoulders were wide, his waist narrow and legs long. At one glance, one would know he had practiced martial art.
Luk Ah Choy answered, “As elder brother has asked, how dare I not follow? The Shaolin five animals are dragon, snake, tiger, leopard and crane.
“Dragon form trains spirit. Martial artists have their chi (or vital energy) accumulated at their dan tian (or energy fields). Extending their limbs or bending their body, their heart and their hands and legs mutually co-ordinate, like a spiritual dragon traveling in clouds, changing and modifying beyond expectation.
“Snake form trains energy. Its application needs to be soft and harmonious. Firstly, use the technique of ‘Stabilizing Golden Bridge’ (performed at the Horse-Riding Stance with both outstretched arms with the index finger of each hand pointing skyward, and the other fingers bent at the second joints) to lead energy to flow to the finger tips, making the ten fingers like iron like steel.
“Tiger form trains bones (i.e. internal force). Waist and body as well as stances and footwork movement are both firm and agile, like tiger claws charging, catching, pressing and waiting. Short hands (i.e. close techniques) defend the body. Its force is at the waist, stance and footwork, and bridges (i.e. forearms).
“Leopard form trains strength. The moving forward and backward, jumping and avoiding must be alive and agile. Striking with fists depends on shooting, piercing, charging, pressing, testing and other techniques.
“Crane form trains essence. Attainment depends on one word, ‘quiescence’. Being quiescent applies to anchoring, sideways, striking, slanting, and taking. When moving forward, one is like flying to strike water. When moving back, one is like spirit realizing and intention deceiving. It employs quiescence to secure victory.”
Cheah Pak did not move, but said, “These words are very attractive for hearing. But the height or shortness of kungfu cannot be verified by words. Although I do not have any skill, I am willing to exchange a few techniques with warrior, and seek teaching for a few sets of martial techniques.”
Luk Ah Choy replied, “You want to verify the application of Shaolin Five-Animal Set. But I am just a guest passing this way. If one out of a million, in hands and legs (i.e. kungfu), if I lose my hand (i.e. make a mistake), everyone will not be comfortable.”
Before the sound of the sentence ended, Cheah Pak moved forward and thrust out his punch. Luk Ah Choy “leaned” his arm against Cheak Pak’s arm, wanting to find out the strength of Cheah Pak.
(This was known as “asking bridge” in our school.)
Cheah Pak felt his arm being pressed on. He slipped away and attacked Luk Ah Choy’s face with a pattern called “White Tiger Presents Palm”. Luk Ah Choy knew that one who could slip away and counter, instead of stubbornly matched strength, was good at kungfu.
Luk Ah Choy warded off the top attack, and struck the front leg of Cheah Pak. Cheah Pak retreated his front leg, turned his body around and slapped on Luk Ah Choy’s face with a pattern known as “Devil King Waves Fan”.
Luk Ah Choy squatted down to avoid the top attack, and simultaneously swept at Cheah Pak’s legs using a pattern called “Iron Leg Sweeps Hall”.
Cheah Pak jumped away to avoid the sweeping leg. Luk Ah Choy stood up and adopted a poise pattern, with his right tiger-claw forward, his left hand kept at the waist in a fist, and stood at a right lift-leg stance.
(This pattern was called “Single Tiger Emerges from Cave” in our school.)
This was exactly a pattern from the Shaolin Five-Animal Set. Luk Ah Choy employed the tiger form. Amongst the many techniques in the tiger-form was the single tiger-claw. A marvelous use of the single tiger-claw was to tempt an opponent to attack.
Cheah Pak rushed forward with another right punch. When the punch was near, Luk Ah Choy gripped the punching arm with his right tiger-claw, and with his left hand gave the opponent a gently push. Cheak Pak fell back a few feet.
Luk Ah Choy ran forward and helped Cheah Pak up, saying, “My friend, my hand is a bit heavy. I hope you haven’t hurt any tendons or bones.”
Cheah Pak jumped up, brushed off the dust from his body, and replied, “The gate of Shaolin does not have any false warriors. Today I have received the teaching. Thank you very much for letting mercy flow from your hands. I have increased my seeing and knowledge.
“I don’t have anything to thank you. Tonight, I shall enter the kitchen and make a few tasty dishes. We shall really celebrate. What do you think of that?”
The old man, who had been watching the happening all the while, came forward and said, “Warrior, please take a seat. Wine and dishes will soon arrive.”
Luk Ah Choy said, “I’m afraid I don’t deserve this.”
The old man waved his hand and said, “A happy day is better than a thousand years. You and me should not differentiate as host or guest. We open our cavities and drink heartily (i.e. we drink wine without any care). Once we are drunk, we can forget all worries.”