My Chinese gongfu teacher (living in Sutton) - Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) - advised me to ‘explore’ the many martial arts that were then around, bearing in mind that virtually all Japanese karate has its roots in the Chinese gongfu styles imported into Okinawa from China’s Fujian province over the last few hundred years. As long as this exploration was carried-out away from Sutton (where I did not live at the time), there was no problem despite the memories of the Japanese atrocities carried out in China still being fresh in the minds of the elderly members of the British Chinese community (many of whom had witnessed these barbarous acts, been subjected to them or lost relatives). Whilst attending college in the Reigate area, myself (and a friend – Robert Townsend) decided to make a study of a Japanese school of karate. As we started in September, 1983 and only had to July, 1984 at this college, our study would be relatively short, but committed. The classes were held once a week (I think Tuesday evenings – 730pm-9pm) at the Sovereign Leisure Centre, and conducted by Sensei Alan Bound 1st Dan (at the time).
We did not know what style this was to start with, but just turned-up (we were both 16 years old). It turned-out to be administered by the ‘Southern Karate-Do Wako Kai’ association which interpreted its mission as returning to the ‘true’ of the Wado Ryu (和道流) style founded by Hironori Otsuka (1892-1982) - who had only passed away the year before. It was felt that the original ‘spirit’ of Wado Ryu had been departed from, and a return to the ‘Way of Peace’ was needed. Within the Chinese language ‘和道流’ is pronounced ‘He Dao Liu’ - and means ‘Harmonious Way Tradition’. Like many ‘old’ traditions in Japan, Chinese ideograms are used to describe its principles. In this style I was taught power through correct positioning. There was no body conditioning such as in my family gongfu style, but a practitioner was taught to assume a superior psychological and physical positioning from the very beginning (which eventually culminates in ‘enlightenment’ for those who pursue the spiritual aspects), a dominance which is maintained in combat through continuously out-manoeuvring an opponent so that they cannot set themselves to deliver their best techniques against your body. Within our Ch’an Dao System, this is reflected in the principles of aligned power and correct approach found within Taijiquan (and internal martial arts), although Wado Ryu has part of its roots in Jujitsu. We generated power through exact movement and we learned a reverse-punch drill I have never seen in any other karate style (involving ‘snake’ stepping). Sensei Alan Bound was a very good and talented teacher.
Eventually, the classes (which always seemed to have around 20 or 30 people attending), were moved to the Scott Hut next to Redhill train station. The spiritual message was that if you align yourself with the deepest and loving principles of the universe (and do not conflict with life), then you will be invincible in the face of untoward violence and harassment. I have a soft spot for Wado Kai (and genuine Wado Ryu) despite the fact I am a Hakka Chinese martial artists! As young students, Sensei Alan Bound gave use a karate suit each and allowed us to pay for it over a few weeks. He was a gentleman! We successfully graded for our yellow belts (and probably our orange belts) - I think we travelled to Guildford to do this (and were graded under Sensei Barry Wilkinson 4th Dan) – and many years later, whilst looking through boxes of old documents and academic work, I came across my Wado Kai ‘licence’ and a grading certificate! It is my belief that Wado Ryu could do a lot of good bringing the Chinese and Japanese communities together! Thank you Sensei Alan Bound for enriching our lives!
In 1992, Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) - passed on his family style of Hakka (Longfist) Gongfu to me. In 1993, he was involved in a car accident in Sutton, which led to him developing further medical complications, and following a stroke – he passed away in St Helier Hospital. I received a scrap of paper with Chinese writing on in 1992 – confirming the transmission – which was formally confirmed by his widow –Mrs Chueng Yat Tai – in 2002. This type of time scale is not unknown with regards to traditional Chinese transmissions. I moved to permanently live in Sutton around 1996, and quietly set-up a small Gongfu Training Hall after first securing permission from the local Chinese clandestine societies operating in the area. Due to the respect that Master Chan Tin Sang was held, a) permission was granted (which means the training hall was acknowledged as truly representing traditional Chinese spiritual and martial culture), and b) we were granted ‘exemption’ status from paying the usual monthly ‘fees’ to these groups. This goes on all the time within Chinese culture throughout the West, with many Westerners being completely unaware of it.
As a consequence, many supposed Gongfu Training Halls – even those that are commercially successful and interviewed for publication in Eurocentric magazines and journals – are not acknowledged as ‘legitimate’ by the Chinese community these groups claim to represent (regardless of whether any Chinese people train in them). Even in modern China, although the influence of these clandestine associations no longer exists, the idea that there is ‘legitimate’ and ‘illegitimate’ representation of Chinese culture is still a very strong. Master Chan Tin Sang stated that if I decide to ‘teach’ in public (and if he is no longer alive), I am not allowed to lose any fight – be it in sparring or during a ‘honour’ fight (of which I have had many since). As I have taken on the leadership of the ‘Chan’ (陳) clan, I must represent all the ancestors going back thousands of years, and not let them or their descendants down! All opponents must either be taught and improved as both human-beings and martial artists - or ‘removed’ as a threat – end of story.
Many of those who read this (and were in our Training Hall in Sutton at any time since 1996) will know this to be true, as they witnessed the many fights (at the end of training sessions) that I was involved in. Fighting does not bother me at all, and I enjoy it as a physical, cultural and spiritual activity. I have no hatred in my heart whatsoever, and only cultivate love for existence. Insult me, my family, our friend, other people or our beliefs and I will deal with you in a firm, disciplined and ‘fair’ manner, in accordance with the law, and as a gentleman. Before this, you will have to survive one of our Ch’an Dao training sessions which have defeated professional fitness instructors, combat sports athletes as well as serving soldiers. If you doubt this to be true – we can start with a thousand squat kicks and see how well you fight after this! This is genuine Hakka gongfu and I suggest a quiet and humble approach whilst you build experience and strength.
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.