For educational purposes, I lived in Hereford from September, 1984 – July 1988. Prior to this I had spent a year living in Reigate and Redhill. Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) had suggested that whilst travelling for education, I should attend whatever local martial arts training was available, and in the case of the karate styles, try to discern the Chinese gongfu roots. I spent a year training in Wado-Kai Karate-Do under Sensei Alan Bound in Reigate, but when I arrived in Hereford, I was swept along into the local Shukokai class taught by Sensei Tom Beardsley 4th Dan (I will write about this separately). However, in 1986 I was informed about a traditional Goju Ryu class in Hereford – I think from am advert in the magazine entitled ‘Karate and Oriental Arts’ - taught by Mr Tony Smith. This was in Hereford Leisure Centre (I think on Wednesday and Friday nights), with a Sunday training in the countryside. These classes were extraordinary and reminded me of our traditional Hakka Chinese gongfu style. The emphasis upon heavy (muscle and bone) body-conditioning was so familiar to me that it felt like a ‘returning home’. This Okinawan approach was obviously ‘Chinese’ in manifestation – just as Wado-Kai and Shukokai were typically ’Japanese’. The grading system of coloured-belts was similar (with some differences), but the gradings were so hard and infrequent that those that focused on Goju training had to psychologically and physically commit themselves to levels of dedication I had not seen in any other Karate Training Hall (or ‘Dojo’). Practitioners, led by Tony Smith and his assistants, trained to the point of utter exhaustion – and then moved into new dimensions of existence! As a 10th Kyu white-belt, I had to undergo a three-hour grading session (under ‘Sensei Bill’ 3rd Dan and his equally highly graded partner - whom I met again many years later, by accident at a dinner party) to earn my 9th kyu – a white belt with one black tag. As matters transpired, I was granted two grades in one examination (together with a friend named Ashwin Bulsara) and left with an 8th kyu grade – a white belt with two black tags which I still possess today, and am very proud of. I was living a double martial arts life at the time, being a practitioner of Hakka gongfu since a young child. I managed to train for about 18 months solid in Goju Ryu in Hereford, but trained for much longer when back home in Devon (between my required but secretive gongfu lessons). I made contact again in 2000 with Tony Smith via telephone and the internet and we became good friends. Since my formulative days in Hereford, I had married British Chinese woman born in Hong Kong, had inherited our family gongfu style and was teaching classes of my own. For about two months in 2005, I had a friend who was driving near to Cardiff once a week and she agreed to visit Hereford en route and we trained with Tony Smith in a different hall (somewhere near the centre of Hereford). Tony also stayed a few times in our home in South London and I was happy (and honoured) to meet his partner and sons. As an author, I wrote an article about Tony Smith and it was published (in two parts) in the ‘Traditional Karate’ magazine in 2007 (please see below). Around 2007 Tony introduced me to Mr George Andrews 8th Dan at his training hall in the Elephant and Castle part of London.
Within the Hakka Chinese villages of the New Territories, and regsrdless of clan family name or differing village martial arts styles, from young, Hakka Chinese children were taught to make the peculiar 'Pheonix Eye Fist' (凤凰眼拳 - Feng Huang Yan Quan) whilst learning how to strike anatomical pressure-points in self-defence drills. In the local Hakka-Cantonese dialects, this is known as 'Fung Ngan Kune', with the wrists, hands and knuckles starting off being weak and slowly being strengthened through shadow-boxing, light striking and then heavy striking. Broken skin and brusing would be treated with locally brewed 'Iron fighting wine' (铁斗酒 - Tie Da Jiu) - referred to as 'Dit Da Jow'. Within our Ch'an Dao System practiced within Banana Village in Sai Kung, learning medicine and martial arts was a dual activity - with one subject never learned without the other. It was known that although small in stature, a child could knockout an adult using a Pheonix Eye Fist if the village was ever attacked. This is a highly effective technique that is difficult to learn properly with many people damaging their own knuckles when making contact. I have also seen the 'Pheonix Eye Fist' in a kata of Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-Do as practiced in Hereford. Below, I demonstrate how to make the 'Pheonix Eye Fist:
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.
Generally performed in groups of 50 - squat kicks condition the mind and the legs. If recovering from injury or inactivity, start slowly but exactly with groups of 10 (as this will also work the heart and lungs). The muscles (quadriceps) of the upper (front) leg will soon become fatigued, weakened and difficult to move. You must train through this experience with further movement, and use the other muscle sets of the legs to distribute the effort. As a conditoner for combat, squat kicks develop tremendous strength, power and endurance. A practitioner can hold a stance with strength, move with fluidity and kick with power. The bones, joints, tendons and muscle structures can absorb or deflect incoming blows with little or no damage. Squat kicks are an essential preparation for ruck sack running, and can be performed whilst holding dumb-bells, or with a free-weight bar held across the shoulders.
Starting from around 16 years of age with a ruck sack of around 15Ibs - 20Ibs - a practitioner should start running over various types of terrain, and for different distances at various times of the year. The point is to 'sweat' and a number of clothing layers should be worn. This practice is a combination of weight-lifting and running. As the body (and mind) strengthens, the weight should be slowly increased. As a grown man, the weight should reach 56Ibs (perhaps 40Ibs for a woman) - but temporary increases up to 76Ibs can be used for short periods. Distances should vary from 1.5 miles to 5 miles on paved roads, but it is also good to run on grass and occasionally on sand. Much longer distances can be used if running is replaced with hiking. If a practitioner is only just beginning to get fit, or is recovering from injury or illness, always start by walking over a certain distance. It is a good idea to lift free weights for a time prior to ruck sack running so as to build the bones, muscles and joints, and to practice ordinary running (and periodic sprinting) to condition the cardiovascular system. For many, just 'wearing' the iron vest for any extended period of time is very difficult to do, and creates substantial muscular pain in the neck, shoulders and back, as well as in the knees, ankles and various parts of the feet. This is normal and will pass. Just as the iron vest compresses the body - the structures of the body 'resist' and generate an outward counter-pressure - which generates a substantial repelling force. This is how the body withstands and rejects any incoming power. Furthermore, carrying this weight forward generates tremendous 'forward' momentum which is very difficult for an opponent to 'stop', and which has the effect of 'uprooting'. All the blood vessels are opened and strengthened through a stimulated circulation, the bones are hardened and the both strengthened and relaxed in a coordinated and dynamic manner. The mind becomes calm and all expansive as the qi (vital force), jing (essential nature) and shen (all embracing empty mind) are thoroughly cultivated.
During 2005, myself, and my eldest daughter Sue-Ling - travelled to Glastonbury for educational purposes - accompanied by Ch'an Dao student 'Liz'. As I was was writing and publishing numerous articles in magazines and journals at the time, and given that Liz was also training with John Davies in Yin Bagua (I had also attended a few lessons in Regents Park), it was thought we should carry-out a photo-shoot in the grounds of the spiritually charged Glastonbury Abbey (of King Arthur fame). Although some of these pictures were subsequently published, most are now being shown in public for the first time. I am not a Yin Bagua practitioner, but I do respect this style and hold its students and teachers in the highest regard. When Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) was forced to flee the Western aggression in Beijing (following the Boxer Uprising in 1900 (together with the Royal household) he was protected en route by the imperial bodyguard 'Yin Fu' (尹福) [1840-1909] - the inventor of this syle. The Chinese surname of 'Liz' is '尹' (Yin) pronounced 'Wan' in Canttonese.
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.