Hong Kong: D-Day 79th Anniversary (1944-2023) – Remembering Master Chan Tin Sang (陳天生) During WWII! (6.6.2023)
Our Chinese grandfather - Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) fought as part of the 'People's Militia' (with his Section also known as the 'Hakka Resistance') in the Hong Kong and New Territories region. When he recalled these events years later – he often described this time period (1941-1945) as ‘The years covered in blood.’ - as there was never a time that he was not covered in his own blood or the blood of his enemies. Hong Kong had been under the imperialist rule of the British from 1841-1941 - when the Imperial Japanese Army successfully overran the area - killing thousands of ethnic Chinese POWs and civilians in the process! Thousands of ethnic Indian and 'White' British soldiers were killed in combat, wounded and taken into captivity (where many were tortured). What follows is description of what the ethnic Chinese people experienced throughout Hong Kong and the New Territories – a reality either deliberately ignored or simply not known by Western historians and biographers. Part of the problem is not simply political bias or historical preference (although these two issues undoubtedly play their part) - but rather that not ALL ethnic Chinese people understood fully what was happening! The ‘White’ British Administration did not trust the ethnic Chinese population – as they were afraid of homegrown uprisings – but positively detested the Imperial Japanese! This is why the British Authorities ‘refused’ to arm the ethnic Chinese population at the beginning of the Japanese troubles! Rumours of a fifth column in Kowloon turned out not to be true (these groups were comprised of Japanese sleeper cells activated to meet and assist the incoming Japanese troops).
As the British Authorities did not arm the local ethnic Chinese populations with modern firearms – these people (comprised of the Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien and Teochew ethnic groups amongst others) had to rely upon their traditional martial arts skills to fight the Japanese invaders. This was NOT a problem as the ethnic Chinese attitudes were still very ‘feudalistic’ at the time and the martial arts incredibly effective on the battlefield and in self-defence encounters! How did (modern) British arms enter the area? This seems to have been through a behind-the-scenes agreement between the CPC and the British government. The People's Militia was organised by the Communist Party of China (CPC) - as the Nationalist government had no interest in Hong Kong being part of a united China again (for the British this must have been a tricky business as the CPC was not formally in power in China - nor was it ‘recognised’ by any ruling government outside the USSR). It is remarkable that given CPC troubles being experienced in Central and Northern China at the time (fighting the Nationalists and the Japanese) that it was able to 'project' its power into what was then a very distant and remote area – but the understanding that had been reached between the CPC and the British allowed a small trickle of UK arms into the region to be used by the local Chinese people! This 'Resistance' movement against the Imperial Japanese was permitted providing the CPC power structure (together with the British arms) be 'withdrawn' from the region following the eventual defeat of the Imperial Japanese!
Our Hakka Chinese family clan in Sai Kung suffered terribly at the hands of the brutal Japanese - with women and girls routinely 'raped', 'tortured' and 'murdered'! Not only do we possess eye-witness accounts of this barbarism - but long before the internet the Japanese liked to 'photograph' (and sometimes 'film') their crimes for all to see! These are crimes that the Japanese committed all over China and Asia - and which the Japanese government has yet to properly acknowledge and apologise for! Chan Tin Sang was 17-years old in 1941 and 21-years old in 1945 - when the war ended. During that time, he lost most of his immediate relatives and was accustomed to fighting ‘hand-to-hand' with the fanatical Japanese soldiers - using his Hakka martial arts skills to survive (his father died fighting in this manner in 1944). Later, in search of a better life - Chan Tin Sang came to England in 1956 when he was 32-years old. He worked hard for 10-years in what became London's 'new' Chinatown and finally saved up enough money to bring his wife and daughters to the UK (as they already possessed 'British Citizenship') in 1966 (when he was 42-years old). He passed away in 1993 when he was 69-years old - which was quite old at the time - but many believe that the years of deprivation (and continuous violence) he experienced between 1941-1945 definitely shortened his lifespan. Sometimes - as individuals and groups - we possess no choice. By the time the Western allies were landing on Normandy 79-years ago – the Japanese Occupiers were still strong and effective throughout Hong Kong and the New Territories! It would be with the entry of the Soviet Red Army (during late 1945) into Manchuria that begin the demise of the Imperial Japanese Army and signal the return of the British to Hong Kong!
Thank you for your interesting email regarding the relatively 'open' stance as found throughout the various lineages of Fujian White Crane Fist when practicing the 'San Zhan' (三戦) or 'Three Battles' Form - as compared with the 'closed' stance work (and obvious groin protection) found within the 'Sanchin' Kata of the Goju Ryu Karate-Do Style!
Yes - I have noticed this. I was talking to a student about this. It reminded me of the stance used for skiing. As if 'gripping' or 'stabilising' on a slippery surface. Sometimes, the old Masters (such as Master Chan) would talk about stepping in, through or onto congealed blood - which is slippery. He fought, wounded and killed invading Japanese soldiers during WWII (1941-1945) as part of the Hakka Resistance operating throughout the New Territories (a People's Militia had developed - supplied from the Mainland). His father (Chan Yun-Fat) was killed fighting in 1944 leading an attack on an Imperial Japanese Army position - armed only with traditional gongfu weapons. This was a diversionary attack whilst those armed with the limited number of rifles and ammunition attacked the main target.
His wife's mother was gang-raped by Japanese soldiers, skinned, hung-up by her hair and set fire to. Por Por (Mrs Chan) used to tell us stories for years about those terrible times - until her passing in 2011 (years later, a Detective contacted Mrs Chan and said one of her brothers had survived a Japanese village massacre and had been taken to Australia by foreigners - she got to meet him again one more time in his now native Australia a year before he passed away. I spoke to him on the telephone. He was around five years old at the time of him going 'missing' - with his small body being hidden under the bodies of the adults killed around him).
We practice falling to the ground forward, backwards and to the sides in our Hakka Longfist Family lineage - and using Ground Fighting (with a groin guard and a head guard). I suspect that other aspects of the Fujian Style in question also teach a groin guard in an accumulative sense - as is usual in traditional gongfu. Goju Ryu is highly rationalised and modernised (a process of sheer genius) - which is a good thing - but traditional gongfu is often sprawling, illogical and difficult to fathom!
PS: Wong Tai Sin is our 'Daoist' family God - as Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1923) was a TCM Doctor (taught in the old way). It is virtually impossible to acquire statues of this 'healing' God as it is very carefully guarded by the Temple Authorities in the New Territories! We have a photograph on our family shrine - but my ex-wife currently looks after the family Wong Tai Sin statue (which was passed into my keeping by Mrs Chan upon her passing). Indeed, my ex-wife can be seen on the above-linked BBC programme - 'Escape to the Country' with our family statue of Wong Tai Sin (黃初平) shown at 5:39:
Email: For Your Files - How I Realised 'Enlightenment' or the More Modestly 'Self-Awareness' - This Experience Cleared the Path for Me to Encounter You! (22.11.2021)
What is interesting is that after decades of effective inner and outer martial arts practice, I have arrived at a profound 'stable' state of mind, body and spirit (whatever that is). This journey has traversed many inner and outer levels or states of being. Mostly, this has included a logical approach to physical training motivated by 'doubt' a) in the process itself, and b) in my ability to keep-up the practice or c) to carry-out the prescribed practice correctly. This 'doubt' was inward whilst the physical 'outer' Chinese martial arts techniques were superb and highly effective. This 'doubt' (which ceased to function about 14-years-ago in c. 2007) acted like a force of magnetism drawing my 'uncertain' inner-being toward to the solid and stable outer-structure of the martial arts techniques and how they might be used in self-defence (function) and mind and body health and fitness (longevity). There is now a great awareness. A great all-embracing sense of psychological being that appears to be united with mind, body and environment. This unity I term 'spiritual' because all this seems 'transcendent'. Of course, whilst being driven on by the inner doubt to practice physical martial arts (as a form of 'armouring' against external attack), I also committed myself to intense Ch'an meditative practice as a means to 'uproot' this doubt which all motivating throughout my entire life to 'take action' in many different arenas - it also contained an element of 'weakness'. As I interpreted this 'weaknesses' as a major problem that a) held me back in a state of fearful 'non-action', or b) sabotaged physical actions so as to render all exertion completely pointless! The mind 'cleared' and 'expanded' - it became all-embracing so that the body stopped appearing to be 'outside' of it and took its place entirely within psychological awareness. Although I had my initial experiences of the realisation of a 'still' and 'empty' mind with its awareness expanding and embracing all things around 1990 - it took another 15-years for this experience to settle-down (2005), and about another two or three years for all vestiges of 'doubt' to completely dissolve (2007/8). What did happen around 1990, however, is that my physical use of outer Chinese martial arts technique deepened, expanded and matured, and since the time of 'teaching' in my own right (as opposed to 'training' under a teacher) - I have never lost a fight in the training hall. (Around a year before this experience, I was following a strict Chinese (Mahayana) Buddhist 'monastic' regime and sitting in meditation for hours a day practicing the hua tou 'Who is hearing?' Suddenly, whilst sitting in my 'cell' and without warning, my mind 'ceased to move' becomingly utterly and completely 'still'. This was accompanied by deep sense of permanent ecstasy! My Chinese teachers correctly taught me with 'silence' - whilst my Western teacher Richard Hunn (1949-2006) - my Western Ch'an teacher - correctly taught me with words! Ironically, he drew my attention to the authentic Chinese Ch'an texts. 'Neither be attached to the (realised) inner void - nor hindered by (the 'external') hindering phenomena'. It was deep within the 'silence' of my Chinese Ch'an Masters (including Chan Tin Sang [1924-1993] that I discovered the poignant meaning of Richard Hunn's spiritually 'vibrant' words. This is how I knew that Richard Hunn was correct in his understanding. Later, this dual instruction [into non-duality] led to the next shift in perspective This occurred a year later after a further period of intense practice, and was a product of a complete change or 'turning about' [see the 'Lankavatara Sutra'] at the deepest essence of the mind. It was such a profound and important 'first principle' that I nearly omitted it from the list of all the important events! I was once meditating sat on the ground outside 'returning' all sensory data 'back to its 'empty ground' essence - when a cool and refreshing Summer's freeze blew gently across my face. Suddenly, my mind instantaneously 'turned the right way around' immediately abandoning its previous 'inverted' functionality and appeared to 'expand', assume an 'all-embracing' position of being, whilst this 'new awareness' thoroughly permeated the physical-body and penetrated the physical universe throughout the past, present, and future! This permanent shift in psychological and physical manifestation changed 'me' from the DNA-chemical foundation upward and influenced all the views and opinions I now hold!) This includes not only transforming the experience of sparring with students (which is now unified experience premised upon wisdom, loving kindness and compassion) - but also manifested within the otherwise 'brutal' realm of 'honour fights' whereby unknown and unfamiliar individuals suddenly turn-up at my training hall and (disrespectfully) ask to spar! They wish to gain fame and fortune through 'out of control' violence which involves (for them) the 'beating' and 'exposing' a local (Chinese) gongfu teacher! How did this happen? I think whereas my opponents were still motivated by a deep and profound sense of 'doubt' (often involving a profound 'self-hatred') - I no longer experienced this 'doubt' which 'divides' human-beings during combat. Doubt by this time in my life had become nothing more than a profound sense of enhanced 'awareness' full of compassion and understanding. This is all held in place by a physical (martial) ability that can use 'gentleness' just as easily as 'harshness' to 'control' or 'regulate' physical interactions.
Signed: Adrian Chan-Wyles [陳恒豫 - Chan Heng Yu] (22.11.2021) - '釋大道' (Shi Da Dao)
Witnessed and Authenticated by Yau, Gee-Cheuk [邱芷芍] (22.11.2021) - 'Gee Wyles' - Wife of Adrian Chan-Wyles
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.