(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/general-2/legacy-ho-fatt-nam/ho-fatt-nam06.html)
An important aspect in Grandmaster Ho Fatt Nam’s school is force training
Can Sifu please tell us more about how training in Sigung’s school was? How many students did Sigung teach and how many people trained together in a class?
When I met Sisook, Sigungs’s eldest son, recently in Penang he told us that a minimum requirement for beginners was to sit in the Horse-Riding Stance for a whole hour. Can Sifu please tell us more about the training procedure and the progression of the students during this initial phase? How does the outcome of this approach compare to our comparatively short, but powerful stance training sessions in regards to immediate and long-term effects?
We also learned about a technique that Sisook called “sleeping” which is lying between two chairs. Can Sifu tell us more about this technique?
Sifu Leonard Lackinger
Answer by Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
Recalling my days training under my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, is both nostalgic and memorable. They were some of the happiest days of my life, and I am eternally grateful to my sifu for his kindness and teaching.
Much of the time at my initial stage of training, I trained alone. There were no other students, and my sifu was often not present. I went to my sifu’s house, which also acted as a temple, every afternoon to train. These were sessions of training, not learning.
Sometimes when my sifu was at home, he would watched me, nodded and then walked away. Sometimes he would say, “Very good, carry on!” Occasionally he would teach me a technique or two, and I would practice and practice it to become skilful.
At my sifu’s house there was a big altar where many statues of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Taoist gods were worshipped. Students voluntarily offered a joss stick — just one joss stick — at a main incense burner. Initially, due to my ignorance and arrogance, I never did that. I remember telling myself that I went there to learn kungfu, not religion. But after an intimate conversation with Immortal Li, for whom I am also eternally grateful, I always offered a joss stick before I started training.
Later I requested to train at my sifu’s house at night where some of my seniors also trained. There were not many of them, usually just three or four. My sifu was very selective in accepting students, though I was quite surprised that he accepted me quite readily. I was not only the youngest in kungfu age but also the weakest. My seniors literally handled me in sparring like a small boy, though later due to my dedicated training I could put up some semblance of defence.
It may be of interest to note that before I joined my sifu’s class I could beat all other martial artists in free sparring. But then I chose my sparring partners carefully, and I did a lot of homework before I sparred. With hindsight, this was the seed of my 30-opponent programme.
With foresight, this may inspire our family members in Shaolin Wahnam of the tremendous depth of kungfu. It was not without good reasons, and certainly not due to vanity but with much frustration, when I said that it was not difficult to beat other martial artists in free sparring — if our family members confidently used kungfu, and put in a bit of free sparring practice.
All my four sifus, who were patriarchs in their arts, placed a lot of importance on the Horse-Riding Stance. Some of my seniors came to class just to practice the stance. Indeed, most of the time of training of my seniors was either force training or combat application. There was not much time spent on set practice.
However, I did not have to spend much time on stance training with Sifu Ho Fatt Nam. This was probably because my stances were already good. My sifu asked me to show him the stances. He said they were good, and he moved on to other aspects of kungfu training. In fact he taught me Lifting the Sky before even asking me to show him the stances. After seeing my stances, he taught me One-Finger Shooting Zen. I still remember very well what he told me right at the start.
“One-Finger Shooting Zen is very important in Shaolin training,” he said. “It developed two of the most important of the Shaolin arts, dim mak and tiger-claw. Here we teach the best right at the beginning so that you have sufficient time to practice. Practice it every day. “
Right at the beginning of my kungfu career with Uncle Righteousness, I knew the Horse-Riding Stance was very important. “People in the past practiced only the Horse-riding Stance for at least a year or two,” I was often told, even by people who themselves did not know kungfu. But I did not know in details why was stance training so important. I only knew that the stances formed the foundation of kungfu, but did not know why.
Later I discovered that stance training sunk our chi to our dan tian. All kungfu movements were built upon stances. It developed internal force. Much later I discovered that it also developed mental clarity.
The Horse-Riding Stance in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s school was different from that in most other kungfu schools, like the one I learned from Uncle Righteousness. Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s Horse-Riding Stance was higher and narrower, and was pyramid shaped. Uncle Righteousness’ Horse-Riding Stance was lower and wider, and was box-shaped.
Interestingly, the Horse-Riding Stance I learned from my other two sifus, Sifu Chee Kim Thong and Sifu Choy Hoong Choy, was also high and narrow. But at that time I thought of them as a particular Horse-Riding Stance for Wuzuquan and a particular Horse-Riding Stance for Wing Choon Kungfu, and not as Horse-Riding Stance in general. I associate the Horse-Riding Stance in general with the one I learned from Uncle Righteousness, as most other kungfu schools, especially Hoong Ka, also performed the stance in this way.
Thus, I was initially surprised why Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s Horse-Riding Stance was quite high. But as a good student, I just followed what my sifu taught me.
Another important aspect in Grandmaster Ho Fatt Nam’s school is combat application
The higher and narrower Horse-Riding Stance was certainly more comfortable. It was later after I had started teaching that I discovered that the higher and narrow Horse-Riding Stance, which gave it a pyramid-shape, better facilitated cosmic energy to be accumulated at the dan tian, thus building internal force.
Students at Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s school practiced individually, not in a group, i.e. each student practiced his kungfu on his own, though often they paired for sequence training or free sparring. They also arrived at and left the school at their own convenience, though they might leave at the same time to end the night session.
Students usually started their training with stances and One-Finger Shooting Zen. This was how I usually started my practice too, though my sifu did not spent time formally teaching me the stances. Next they practiced their own kungfu set, or part of it. Often they started with Four Gates, the fundamental set, or part of it. Then they got a partner to practice combat sequences or free sparring, or practiced force training on their own, like rubbing their arms against hard edges of pillars and Iron Palm.
Students seldom practiced a whole kungfu set, but go over again and again some sequences in the set. Hence, sequence sparring came naturally to us. Weapon training was seldom. The weapon most frequently practiced was the Ho Family Flowing Water Staff.
The training procedure I went through was “ku lian”, or “bitter-training”. Ku-lian i.e. enduring long hours of training before one could get a little benefit, is also the approach of most kungfu practitioners in the past as well as today, including those who practice kungfu forms for demonstration or bounce about in free exchange of blows. But my ku-lian certainly gave me more benefits than to most other practitioners.
In contrast, the training procedure of our students in Shaolin Wahnam is a big joke. We tell our students not to train too hard, least they over-train. We tell our students that achieving just 30% of what they achieved while learning in courses taught by me is sufficient to meet their needs. We tell our students to enjoy themselves — and we really mean it.
Yet, despite such enjoyment and less time in training, our students get more benefit than I got when I was a student. And by extension, as I was a very good student with a high level of attainment, our students have more benefits in less time than most other practitioners. Indeed, as some of our instructors have rightly commented, many of our students do not realise how very lucky they are.
Our approach is simply ridiculous in regard to both immediate and long-term effects. Students who practice stance training in my courses experienced internal force discernibly immediately after the training session. In my student’s days in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s school I would need about 3 months to experience similar internal force. With Uncle Righteousness who was famous for his fighting, and with Sifu Chee Kim Thong who was famous for his internal force, I did not feel any internal force after training the Horse-Riding Stance for many years!
Students who attended my courses would experience a chi flow on the very first day of their training. It took me more than a year training with Sifu Ho Fatt Nam for me to experience a chi flow, and it was nothing like what our typical students now experience. I did not have any chi flow training with my other sighs.
Internal force is the essence of good kungfu. Chi flow is the essence of any chi kung.
The long-term effects of our students are marvellous. After training in our school for a year, internal force enables our students to attain peak performance, chi flow enables our students to overcome illness, and to have good health, vitality and longevity.
Until I trained with Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, I did not experience any internal force earlier although I underwent stance training delicately. Hence, I cannot say that internal force contributed to my peak performance in my earlier years.
When I was sick in my earlier years, which was actually seldom, I had to take medication. I did not know that chi flow could overcome illness. More importantly I did not know that chi flow could prevent illness.
Once when I was injured by my siheng in free sparring, my sifu, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, who was an excellent traumatologist, applied medication on me for six months. If I had a chi flow immediately, I could have flushed out the injury in less than half an hour!
More significantly, chi flow gives our students good health, vitality and longevity. I have no doubt that my kungfu training, despite without chi flow in my earlier years, has contributed greatly to my good health, vitality and longevity, but I did not know the philosophy of how it worked as our students know it now. I also did not know in my student’s days how to transfer the benefits of my kungfu training to enrich my daily life, although it must have done so unknowingly, as our students now do.
The technique of lying between two chairs is called “tit pan kiew” in Cantonese or “tie ban jiao” in Mandarin, which means “iron-plank-bridge” in English. It is a very powerful internal force training method. My sifu taught me this method secretly. I don’t know whether he also taught other students.
When I accidentally placed my arm or leg on my wife, she complained that it was very heavy though I did not intentionally apply any force. This gave an idea how powerful “iron-plank-bridge” was.
Actually I almost forgot about this training method, though at the time when I learned from my sifu, I practiced it diligently every night. One reason is that we now have so many effective force training methods which are certainly more comfortable.
Ho Family Flowing Water Staff
The above discussion is reproduced from the thread Legacy of Ho Fatt Nam — 10 Questions to Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit
This is a “must see” video, recording a true history of the spread of Shaolin Kungfu throughout the world.
Special thanks to Shaolin Wahnam Japan and Shaolin Wahnam Canada for producing this marvelous video!
Based on the true story of Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit, 4th generation successor of the Southern Shaolin Monastery, Head of the Shaolin Wahnam Institute. (http://www.shaolin.org)
“The Boy who Became a Legend”
Act I – History of Shaolin
Act II – Ode to the Grandmaster
Act II – Life story of the ‘Boy who Became a Legend’
Performed live on Nov 22, 2015 at Sifu Chun Yian & Ms Swee Zhi’s wedding dinner at Cinta Sayang, Sungai Petani, Kedah, Malaysia.
To see the live performance, please visit these links:
Special thanks go to Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit of the Shaolin Wahnam Institute for the permission to create a rendition of his true life story and legacy.
Direction & Production
Screenplay & Narration
Sound Production – mixing and mastering
Visual Production – graphic design
Composition & Production
Hubert Razack, Emiko Hsuen
Copyright © 2015. Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit. All rights reserved.
(reproduced from http://www.shaolin.org/general/lineage.html)
The Lineage of Shaolin Wahnam
We in Shaolin Wahnam are very proud of our lineage which can be traced back directly to the two southern Shaolin Temples, as illustrated in the chart above.
Not many people realize that there were two southern Shaolin Temples, one in the City of Quanzhou, and the other on the Nine-Lotus Mountain, both located in Fujian Province of South China.
During the Ming Dynasty (14th to 17th century) a Ming emperor built a southern Shaolin Temple in the City of Quanzhou in Fujian Province as an imperial temple to replace the northern Shaolin Temple in Henan Province. This temple was burnt by the Qing Army around 1850s led by the crown prince Yong Cheng with the help of Lama kungfu experts from Tibet.
The Venerable Chee Seen escaped and built a secret southern Shaolin Temple on the Nine-Lotus Mountain, also in Fujian Province. This temple was also soon burnt by the Qing Army, this time led by Pak Mei who was a classmate of Chee Seen in the southern Shaolin Temple in Quanzhou.
The northern Shaolin Temple on Song Shan or Song Mountain in Henan Province remained throughout the Qing Dynasty. In fact, the Chinese characters, “Shao Lin Si” which means “Shaolin Temple” at the Main Gate of the Temple were written by the Qing Emperor, Qian Long. This temple was burnt only in 1928, 17 years after the fall of the Qing Dynasty, by rival Chinese warlords. Its burning was by cannon fire and had nothing to do with kungfu.
Our Grandmaster, Sifu Wong Kiew Kit, learned from four sifus, or teachers. Grandmaster Wong’s first sifu was Sifu Lai Chin Wah, more widely known by his honorable nick-name as Uncle Righteousness. His second sifu was Sifu Chee Kim Thong, regarded as the living treasure of the People’s Republic of China during his time. Grandmaster Wong’s third sifu was Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, the third generation successor from the southern Shaolin Temple at Quanzhou. His fourth sifu was Sifu Choe Hoong Choy, the patriarch of Choe Family Wing Choon.
It was no co-incidence that all Grandmaster Wong’s sifus were patriarchs of their respective styles because Grandmaster Wong sought for the best available teachers. Our school, Wahnam, is named after Sifu Lai Chin Wah and Sifu Ho Fatt Nam as much of our instructional material came from them.
(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/general/legacy.html)
The Famous Shaolin Temple
The Shaolin Temple
The Shaolin Temple. The name itself spells magic to millions of people all over the world. For a thousand years, the Shaolin Temple has been glorified in sagas, parables, literature, and legends. Today, the legend is still glorified across the globe in movies and on television
Since it was founded in 495 A.D., emperors of every succeeding Chinese dynasty have consecrated the Shaolin Temple as their Imperial Temple. This was where emperors prayed on behalf of their people. It was also the birthplace of Zen Buddhism. Today, every Zen school in the world traces its lineage back to the Shaolin Temple in China.
Over the years, the Shaolin Temple became a haven for China’s elite: generals, martial arts masters, classical poets and painters, famous calligraphers, scholars, and spiritualists. At its height, there were over 2000 monks staying in the Temple in Songhshan province. These monks were classified into four categories: administrators, scholars, workers, and warriors.
Hundreds of years later, a second Shaolin Temple was built in Fujian province in the south of China. Though it was smaller than its big brother in Songshan province, this Southern Temple played an important role in the development and spread of Shaolin Kung Fu.
The End of Shaolin
A monk outside one of the Shaolin halls
The Qing Dynasty in China (1644-1911) was a period of great turmoil, especially during the 19th century when governmental control was weakened. Prosperity declined. China suffered serious social and economic problems in addition a population explosion. Millions of people were dissatisfied with the government.
Although rebellions occurred all over China, the Southern Shaolin Temple had a reputation for being a revolutionary center. In an effort to crush the growing rebellion, the Qing army attacked and burned the Southern Shaolin Monastery during middle of the 19th century. Only the most skilled Shaolin Monks escaped the attack.
Our Shaolin Wahnam school traces its lineage back to two of these monks: the Venerable Zhi Shan (Gee Sin) and the Venerable Jiang Nan (Kong Nam). The lineages of these two monks remained separate for over 100 years until they were reunited again in my Sifu, Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit.
The Venerable Zhi Shan
The famous Shaolin Pagoda Forest
The story of the Venerable (a title of respect given to monks) Zhi Shan is well known in many Kung Fu schools. It has been depicted in hundreds of stories and dozens of movies. The Venerable Zhi Shan was the founder and abbot of the southern Shaolin Temple.
The Venerable Zhi Shan was a revolutionary. His main objective was to overthrow the corrupt Qing Dynasty in order to restore the previous Ming government. His teachings were fast and secretive, with emphasis on kung fu that was hard and combative. Although internal force training was certainly a part of his kung fu, many of his disciples focused on external force training.
Pak Mei (Bai Mei) was a former Shaolin disciple who later betrayed his masters by revolting against the Temple. It was Pak Mei who led the Qing Dynasty army to the Southern Shaolin Temple. Together, they razed the Temple to the ground. The Venerable Zhi Shan died defending the temple that he built.
Several monks and secular disciples managed to escape. Many of these masters are now legendary (even in Hollywood): The Venerable Herng Yein, the Venerable Sam Tak, Hung Heigun, Lok Ah Choi, and Fong Sai Yuk. Years later, two of Hung Heigun’s disciples tracked down and killed Pak Mei in order to avenge the Venerable Zhi Shan.
The Venerable Zhi Shan is often regarded as the First Patriarch of Southern Shaolin Kung Fu. The disciples of the Venerable Zhi Shan spread Shaolin Kung Fu to Guangdong province. Eventually, these arts spread throughout the world. Most Southern Shaolin styles today, like Hung Gar, Lau Gar, and Choy Li Fut, come from the Venerable Zhi Shan. From the Venerable Zhi Shan, the art passed to the Venerable Herng Yein, then to Chan Fook, then to Ng Yew Loong, then to Lai Chin Wah, then to my Sifu, Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit.
The Venerable Jiang Nan
A priceless old picture of Yang Fatt Khun with a young Ho Fatt Nam
Another monk who managed to escape the burning of the Temple was a young master named the Venerable Jiang Nan. This monk fled south with the Qing army in pursuit. His original name is lost to us. In an effort to hide from his enemy, he changed his name. After crossing a river that marked the edge of China, he chose the name Jiang Nan, which means “South of the River”. It was south of this river that he would spend the rest of his life.
For 50 years, the Venerable Jiang Nan wandered further and further south with only one mission in life: to pass on his art to a worthy successor. One night, near the border between present-day Thailand and Malaysia, he encountered a young medicine-man who was demonstrating Kung Fu to attract customers to his mobile roadside stall. The monk observed the young man every night for 6 nights. On the 7th night, after the crowd had dispersed, the monk approached the young man. Without any aggression in his voice, the monk said, “Not bad. But despite all the applause, what you showed was not real kung fu.”
The young man was shocked. As a traveling medicine-man, he relied on his kung fu to ward off bandits and thugs who would frequently challenge him. And yet this old monk was telling him that his kung fu was useless!
The monk continued. “Don’t take my word for it. If you like, we can put it to the test with some friendly sparring.”
Ho Fatt Nam (left), sparring with a student
The young man agreed, eager to prove himself. But to his amazement, the 80-year-old monk beat him easily. Even when the young man stopped pulling his punches and attacked full force, the monk handled him as if playing with a child. Recognizing the signs of true mastery, the young man knelt before the monk and begged to be accepted as a student.
With a smile, the Venerable Jiang Nan said, “Yes, on one condition.” The young man bowed lower and said that he would do anything. Raising the young man’s head and looking into his eyes with a smile, the monk said simply, “Start from scratch.”
That young man was named Yang Fatt Khun.
When master Yang Fatt Khun was in his 70s, he accepted a young man as a student. This man was already well trained in the martial arts and earned his living as a professional Muay Thai fighter. That man was named Ho Fatt Nam.
At first, master Yang rejected the young Ho’s requests to become a student. But one night, with the help of one of master Yang’s students, the young Ho snuck into the secret training hall. Prostrating before master Yang with the traditional gifts, he begged to be accepted. Taking the gifts and placing them on the altar, master Yang said, “This is Heaven’s Will.”
Each year, master Yang held a grand sparring competition amongst his students in order to choose his top ten disciples. From an unranked position, Ho Fatt Nam gradually rose to a top position. When master Yang announced his retirement, he named Ho Fatt Nam as his successor.
A young Wong Kiew Kit was one of the last students to learn from master Ho. When he first begged to be accepted as a student, master Ho had only one request: “Start from scratch.”