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.”
As Sifu Lee Wei Joo thrusts a right punch, Grandmaster Wong responds with a Butterfly Palm strike.
Luk Ah Choy thought to himself that if he returned to the Shaolin Monastery now and told the Venerable Chee Seen that he could not find Lai Fu, Chee Seen would be suspicious. So he decided to stay outside for some time before returning.
When he left the monastery, he brought along 5 taels of silver. After about half a month searching for Lai Fu, he found that he had about 1 or 2 taels left. Thinking for some time, he came out with a plan. He had learned some thiet-da, i.e. kungfu medicine for injuries due to falling or being hit. So he decided to sell some thiet-da medicine, like medicated pills and medicated plasters, to support his livelihood while staying outside the monastery.
He went to a medical shop to buy some medicine, and prepared some medicated pills and medicated plasters. He also bought a gong. Then we went to town to sell his medicine.
Luk Ah Choy had not been in streams and lakes before (i.e. in society), so he did not know society rules. Whenever an artist came to a new area, he had to pay respect to a big brother (or leader of the gang controlling the area), otherwise the artist could never be able to stand on his feet (i.e. to survive in his trade as he would be beaten by the gang). While Luk Ah Choy was demonstrating his kungfu before selling his medicine, a group of gangsters came forward to destroy his sales apparatus.
“Stop!” Luk Ah Choy shouted at the gangsters. “What are you doing?”
A person who appeared to be a leader of the gang shouted back, “How dare you start selling medicine without first paying respect to our big brother?”
“Who’s your big brother?”
“He’s called Iron Hand Four, because his hands are hard like iron, and he is the fourth in his family. Everyone is scared of him.”
But before he completed the sentence, he and his gang started damaging the sales apparatus. Luk Ah Choy went forward, gripped the gang leader’s band and bent it backward, causing him much pain.
“Let go of my hand, let go of my hand,” he screamed. Luk Ah Choy gave him a gentle push and he fell many feet away, groaning on the floor. The other gang members were stunned, and dared not move.
Just then, the crowd separated into two sides, and a tough man came forward. He was huge and dark, and his hands were big and rough.
“I’m Iron Hand Four,” he howled. As he spoke, he rushed forward with his right hand coming at Luk Ah Choy’s head.
Luk Ah Choy retreated a small step to avoid his chop. “This is the first time I let you attack,” Luk Ah Choy said.
Iron Hand Four moved forward to execute another chop with his left hand. Luk Ah Choy dodged to his right side to avoid the second chop, saying “This is the second time I let you attack.”
Iron Hand Four was furious. This time he threw his body forward and executed a right punch. Luk Ah Choy adroitly moved to his back. Smilingly he said, “This is the third time I let you attack. If you attack again, I shall strike back.”
Iron Hand Four was enraged. He turned around and executed a right punch again. As the punch was approaching, Luk Ah Choy moved forward with a butterfly palm strike, his arm brushing away the coming punch and hitting the opponent on the chest. This was a high-level move, using the tactic of no-defence-direct-counter, and employing the principle of “when there is a bridge, go along the bridge”.
Iron Hand Four was thrown many feet backward, landing on the ground. In a second or two, he vomited blood.
Luk Ah Choy threw a few medicated pills at him, saying “Take a pill with warm rice wine everyday for the first three days, then take a pill after three days.” His gang members picked up the medicated pills on the ground, and carried him away.
A lot of people rushed forward to buy the medicated pills. Luk Ah Choy sold all his medicated pills that night and made a lot of profit.
One day a Shaolin student called Lai Fu wanted to fight his way through the Lane of Wooden Men. But after a short while, Lai Fu was screaming in the chamber. He was badly hurt by the Wooden Men.
The Venerable Chee Seen ordered the operation mechanism of the Wooden Men be turned off, and Lai Fu to be carried out. After applying medicine on him, and resting for a few days, Lai Fu felt better.
But he was depressed. He had been learning kungfu in the Shaolin Monastery for more than ten years, but now he could not pass through the Wooden Men. Anyone who could not graduate from the Lane of Wooden Men had to remain in the monastery, no matter for how long he had been there.
Lai Fu realized that earlier Wu Wei Thein was in the same situation. Wu Wei Thien could not fight his way through the Wooden Men, and had to crawl out of the monastery through a drainage hole.
But since that time, an iron grill was made to cover the hole. Water could flow through the grill, but it prevented any human from crawling through it. Lai Fu thought hard and found a solution. Every day, without other people knowing, he took some vinegar from the kitchen and pour the vinegar at the iron grill.
After repeating the action for a month, the vinegar ate into the iron making the iron grill fragile. One late, after he had made sure everyone else was sleeping soundly, he went quietly to the drainage hole. He bent down so that he would not be noticeable and used an iron staff to hit hard at the iron grill. After some hitting, the iron grill collapsed and he crawled through the drainage hole. Outside the monastery wall, he knelt down, knocked his head three times on the ground, and then hurried down the mountain.
Early next morning, some monks on duty discovered that the iron grill at the drainage hole was broken. They quickly sounded the monastery bell to alert all those in the monastery.
All the monks and students of the Shaolin Monastery gathered at the main hall. Chee Seen called the register and found that Lai Fu was missing.
Chee Seen was very angry. “Where is Luk Ah Choy?” he shouted.
Luk Ah Choy came forward and knelt down, “Here is disciple ready to take sifu’s order.”
“Descend the mountain immediately, and bring Lai Fu back.”
Luk Ah Choy left the Shaolin Monastery, He searched in the day time and slept at night, ate when hungry and drank when thirsty. After a few days he came to a small town. He found an eating shop at a main street.
He could smell the aroma of rice, and felt he was hungry. So he entered the shop and looked around to find a table to have his meal.
To his utter surprise, he found a familiar face sitting at a corner. He was Lai Fu, the man he had been searching for many days.
Luk Ah Choy approached Lai Fu, and said, “I never expected to see you here.”
Lai Fu was shocked. He asked his siheng (or elder kungfu brother) to sit down.
“I am under the order of our sifu to bring you back to the Shaolin Monastery,” Luk Ah Choy went straight to his mission.
“Luk Siheng,” Lai Fu pleaded, “Please don’t come forward.” He quickly grasped his iron staff which was leaning against a wall.
“What do you want to do? Just a few movements with your staff, you think you can stop me? Quickly put away your staff, and follow me back to the monastery. Otherwise don’t blame me for not thinking of our joss sticks and candles relationship (i.e. we came from the same kungfu lineage, as joss sticks and candles were used to worship past masters).”
Lai Fu knew very well he would not be a match against Luk Ah Choy. He quickly put away his staff and cried, “Siheng, Lai Fu is here. You can hit or kill me if you want.”
“I am here under sifu’s order to bring you back to the monastery. When you left secretly, sifu was very angry. He ordered me to descend the mountain to search for you. No matter how long the time, I may wander over the edges of heaven and the corners of seas (i.e. everywhere), I must catch you. What has happened is due to your own making. Please don’t blame me for not being your siheng.”
Lai Fu dropped his head and said, “Siheng acts under order. How can little brother blame you? But you and I have been in the monastery for many years, and I don’t think you will see me suffer without extending any help. If I follow you back to the monastery, what kind of punishment I shall receive, you already knew. If siheng can open a bit of the net (i.e. let me escape, like in fishing, open the net to let the fish escape), little brother will appreciate your blessings without end.”
Luk Ah Choy shook his head and sighed. “It is easy to say. You must know my difficulty. If I let you go, how can I report to sifu?”
Lai Fu dropped his head and remained silent. Then suddenly he said, “Not wrong. I know siheng’s difficulty. But secretly escaping from the monastery is not me alone. As far as I know, Wu Wei Thien was one who secretly escaped from the monastery. Why not punish him, and just punish me?”
Luk Ah Choy replied, “How can you compare yourself with Wu Wei Thien? Sifu can forgive him because he has good reasons.”
“Wu Wei Thien and me secretly escaped from the monastery. Why can’t I use it for comparison? What is there any difference between he and me?”
“Wu Wei Thien escaped because of his filial heart. So we all can understand him and admire him. Sifu can forgive him.”
Lai Fu replied, “Siheng Wu’s escape was due to his filial heart. Isn’t my escape due to my filial heart too?” I also have a father and a mother. I have entered the Shaolin Monastery for ten years. Because I am stupid, my kungfu progress is not great, I cannot pass through the Lane of Wooden Men. As if I am stupid, I cannot see my father and mother?
“Siheng, you were also born from your father and your mother. Being a son or daughter, who does not think of his or her own father and mother? Moreover, I have been in the monastery for ten years. This time my escape was due to the binding of bitterness of thinking of my father and mother. Thus I used such a mean method. It was not because I purposely wanted to break monastery rules.
“But events have come to this rice field (i.e. come to this stage). I do not think of being lucky again. Today If I die here, I do not have any angry words. A few days ago I have returned home to meet my parents.”
Saying this, his eyes were filled with tears, and he swallowed his voice.
Luk Ah Choy also dropped his head without his own knowing. He thought silently to himself, “His secret escape is also due to his feeling for his father and mother. This feeling was human in all heaven and earth. He himself did not have any trace of being tied or dependent on any support because he had lost his parents when small. Otherwise, he would not be able to release himself from such emotion. Moreover, this time descending the mountain to catch Lai Fu was he alone. If he let Lai Fu go, no one would know.
When his heart was moved, his hands became soft. He signed and said, “According to reasons, an order from sifu cannot be avoided. But thinking that your action came from your filial heart, I’ll let you go to reverence your father and mother.
“But what happened today must never leak out. Otherwise it will not be good for you or me. I hope you can appreciate my bitter heart (i.e. my intention which is difficult to make). When you return, reverence your father and mother, that will do.”
Lai Fu was touched until his tears and mucus flowed out profusely. Quickly he knelt down to thank Luk Ah Choy.
Luk Ah Choy said, “I can’t accept such a big ceremony (i.e. kneeling down to thank him). You better hurry away,”
Lai Fu grasped his iron staff, ran out of the shop, and fled like a comet.
The monk, Cheong Mong, laughed aloud. “If you have such an ambition, how can I not teach you?
“Secret weapons are meant to supplement the inadequacy of ones kungfu. When one is engaged in combat with an opponent, it is not always that he will win. Thus, there is no harm to learn another skill to protect himself, just like natural breathing.
“Using secret weapons,” Cheong Mong continued, “is based on the understanding that ‘clear spear can be handled, but secret arrow is difficult to avoid’ (i.e. it is easy to handle open weapons, but difficult to handle secret weapons’). Superficially, it is mean and cruel to use secret weapons. They are not used by gentlemen who prefer clear and open combat. But when secret weapons are used properly, they are convenient in moving forward or backward, attacking or defending. Secret weapons are like open sabres and swords. They depend on the user, whether he uses the weapons properly.”
Luk Ah Choy asked, “What are the different types of secret weapons, and how are they used?”
Cheng Mong gently slapped on Luk Ah Choy’s shoulders. “You need not hurry. Listen to what I’ll tell you.
“There are many types of secret weapons. It is difficult to describe them one by one. But those frequently used are flying darts, little arrows in sleeves, flying stones, flying knives, iron grasshoppers, comet round hammers, and iron drakes and ducks.
“Flying darts are the most common. In martial circles, there is hardly anyone who does not know flying darts. The difference is whether his art is deep or shallow.
“There are three sharp points in flying darts. The length of a flying dart is about four inches, and weighs about four taels.”
(A Chinese inch was longer than a British inch. A tael was about 40 grams or more than 1 British onze.)
“Those who use flying darts,” Cheong Mong continued, “usually tie their tails with some red cloth, called dart dress, to cut through the air. When darts are sent out, they surely hit opponents within a hundred steps. Some exponents use yin-hand to fly out their darts, some use yang-hand. It often depends on the situation.”
(In kungfu, the back of the palm is referred to as yin-hand, and the open palm as yang-hand. Interestingly, yin and yang are reverse in Chinese medical terminology. In Chinese medicine, the back of the palm is referred to as yang, and the open palm as yin.)
Cheong Mong continued to say, “Little arrows in sleeves are often used by people who travel at night. They are more deadly than flying darts because they are shot out by a machine. Their force is tremendous, and their use convenient.
“The shooting machine is a cylinder made from iron, with a diameter of less than an inch. In front there is a small opening, used for storing arrows. At the tip is installed something resembling the wings of a butterfly. A spring, the length similar to that of the cylinder, is placed inside the tube. The cylinder with arrows inside is hidden in sleeves. By moving his arm in a certain way, an arrow can be shot out.
“Flying stones are the cheapest. There is no need to spend money buying them. There is also no need for extra work. Ideally, the stones are pointed in front and bigger at the back. The length is about three inches and each weighs about four to six liangs (or taels, and each tael was about 40 grams). Its use is similar to that of flying darts. The targets are an opponent’s mid-point between the eye brows, the temples and the eyes.
“Flying knives are small knives the shape of willow leaves. The length of a flying knife including its handle is about seven inches. Where the handle and the blade meet, there are a few rounds of lines. Its weight is about six liangs (or taels). The knives are covered with a sheath made of shark skin. When using, the exponent holds the handle of the knife, and send it flying out aiming at an opponent’s body. Those who are expert in throwing flying knives, can hit their target within fifty steps.”
The more Cheong Mong spoke, the more involved he became. He then explained the special points and uses of iron grasshoppers and comet round hammers.
Then he handled his iron drakes and ducks, and said, “These iron drakes and ducks are the most subtle amongst secret weapons. They are simple to be made, easy to be carried about, and their application is smooth-handed (i.e. straight-forward). Basically they are a pair of iron pills, one bigger than the other, and both iron pills weigh less than half a katy.”
(One katy was 500 grams. In the past, one katy was divided into 16 liangs or taels, but in China today, one katy is divided into 10 taels.)
Cheong Mong continued, “When using the iron drakes and ducks, it is usual to use the yin-hand, so that an opponent may not notice it. When used against a formidable opponent, although the iron drakes and ducks would not take his life, they would prevent him from pressing in further.
“I’ve explained a lot about secret weapons. When one is in martial circles, it is not necessary to train all of them. Otherwise, it is not only inconvenient to carry so many different types of secret weapons, he may not have the time and energy to train them.
“Thus, kungfu disciples must know about secret weapons, but they should not spend too much time on them. If a person chooses one or two secret weapons that are concurrent with his character, it is enough to be used for life.
“Now in the martial circles, the most frequently used secret weapons are flying darts, flying stones and little arrows in sleeves. Flying knives and comet round hammers may be met sometimes. Iron grasshoppers are like unicorn’s horn and phoenix’ feather (i.e. very rare). Hence amongst those who wander about in lakes and streams (i.e. martial artists), if they can train in more than three types of secret weapons, and are capable of hundred hits without a single miss, they are regarded as experts.
“Speaking there and speaking here (i.e. of all that I have spoken), there is only one phrase. Using secret weapons focuses on essence, and not on many. If there are many, but no essence, his kungfu is zero.”
Luk Ah Choy heard until his heart feel itchy (i.e. he became curious and interested). He asked, “How can one attains the level of essence?”
Cheong Mong answered, “There are many doors (i.e. many methods). It is not telling just one or two (i.e. briefly) and explain clearly. But there is actually no secret. The focus is on smart practice, so that force can be developed at the elbow and wrist. Accumulated over a long time, practice generates the marvelous, and the marvelous generates spirit. Left and right meet the source (everything will work well as planned), there will be nothing that the techniques do not arrive according to intention. I have practiced this way for more than twenty years.
“Although I may not have attained its true essence, today you have seen my secrets, and this is due to good karma (i.e. cause and effect). Henceforth, we shall train and study together.”
Luk Ah Choy could not have thought Cheong Mong was such comfortable and fast (i.e. quick and ready). He was happy beyond expectation. Quickly he knelt down to thank Cheong Mong. Henceforth, everyday he followed Cheong Mong and learned iron drakes and ducks. Because he had practiced kungfu for ten and more years, his nature of comprehension was very high, and after a few months his kungfu had gone beyond people’s intention and progress.
One day the Venerable Chee Seen said to Luk Ah Choy, “You have been in the Shaolin Monastery for many years. It is time to test you skills. All those who learn Shaolin Kungfu from me must go through the Lane of Wooden Men to pass a graduation test. You are qualified now. You should try your skills against the Wooden Men.”
Luh Ah Choy was very happy. He prostrated to his sifu, the Venerable Chee Seen, and early next morning he went to the Lane of Wooden Men.
The mechanism of the one hundred and eight Wooden Men was set in operation. These wooden men were so ingeniously devised that they fought with good kungfu techniques and skills. But Luk Ah Choy’s kungfu was excellent. He avoided some wooden men, fell some, pushed away some, jumped over the heads of a few, and fought his way through the lane.
At the exit, he found a large copper urn with three joss sticks burning. The large copper urn barred the way of the doorway. To exit, Luk Ah Choy had to lift the urn, turned his body around, and then exited with his back. Two marks, a dragon on his left arm and a tiger on his right arm, were imprinted on his two arms as marks of one who had successfully fought his way through the Lane of Wooden Men in Shaolin Monastery.
The Venerable Chee Seen was very pleased. “He has not forsaken my bitter heart (i.e. my long time and earnest effort in teaching him),” he said to himself.
Chee Seen returned to his meditation room and sat down to rest. Then, Luk Ah Choy hurriedly came back.
In surprise, Chee Seen asked, “Why are you back?”
Luk Ah Choy knelt down and said, “In these many years, sifu has sacrificed heart and blood (i.e. has sacrificed very much) to teach me kungfu. Even if my body turns to powder and my bones are crashed, I cannot repay sifu one out of a million. Today, although I have successfully fought myself through the Lane of Wooden Men, I realize that my kungfu is still far from excellence. I wish to remain in the monastery to continue practicing kungfu for a few more years to overcome my weakness. I hope sifu can give his permission.”
Chee Seen rubbed his palms together and replied, “Very good. If you have such an empty heart (i.e. you are humble), you can remain in the monastery. In future, if you meet anybody who can teach you something new, you can learn from him without first seeking my permission.”
(It was usual for a student to seek his sifu’s permission before learning something new from another person.)
Soon, deep autumn arrived. The scenery of the mountain became cool and fragile, the solitary monastery was deep and recurring, a role of chrysanthemum flowers swayed in the breeze, and myriad dew drops were found on wild grasses. Luk Ah Choy was taking a stroll in the back garden, and heard sounds of strange creatures in the distance, and found red leaves floating in the air, creating in his heart a sense of peace and tranquility.
Suddenly he heard something clear and distinct, like something hitting a wooden floor. Luk Ah Choy was curious, followed the clear and distinct sound, and hid himself behind an old tree. He saw a monk practicing kungfu.
The monk placed a wooden board, with a target on it, tens of steps before him. He waved his hands and countless iron pebbles hit the target.
Luk Ah Choy could not determine what type of kungfu it was. But each time the monk moved his hand, like a string of winds, iron pebbles would hit the target. Without realizing, he gave a cry, “Marvelous.”
The monk stopped his training, turned around and asked, “Who? Who is there?”
Luk Ah Choy had to come out of his hiding, bent his body in greeting, and found that the monk was one of Chee Seen’s assistant instructors called “Cheong Mong” (which meant “Running Elephant”). Immediately Luk Ah Choy said, “Student intrudes into your spiritual presence. I earnestly beg your pardon.”
“We have been together for a long time. There is no need for courtesy. Just now you cried out a word of praise. Were you happy with what you saw?”
“Student is ignorant. I wonder what type of weapon the iron pebbles sifu trained just now, belongs to? I hope sifu can enlighten me.”
“They are called iron drakes and ducks, and are a form of secret weapons.”
(A drake and a duck were always in pair. They were colorful.)
Luk Ah Choy was very happy. Since training kungfu for many years, he had never seen or understood secret weapons. So he immediately gave a greeting and said, ”Student is really lucky to be able to see the ultimate art of sifu. Student knows nothing about secret weapon. I wonder whether sifu can grace student, and teach student a thing or two?”