Author's Note: One of my Western Gongfu students once navigated his way to Sai Kung Town and caught the local bus which travelled in a loop throughout the countryside of Sia Kung. We had given him the name and map coordinates of our Ancestral Village - and he found it - but there was a catch. When he rang the bell in the middle of nowhere to get-off (many of the Hakka villages are hidden from obvious view and must be accessed through a think cover of trees - the bus-driver, seeing that he was alone, refused to open the door. The driver explained that this was a Hakka area and that these people are renowned for their aggressive tendencies. The driver was under strict orders not to let any Westerners (unaccompanied by Chinese people) to get into trouble in areas they do not understand or are not familiar with. Therefore, my student had to safely return to Sai Kung Town. ACW (17.11.2023)
Sai Kung is a Hakka coastal area of the North East New Territories where our ancestral Chan Village is (or was) located. The area is now a very well structured National Park. Sai Kung is also a town which lends its name to the region. We have visited many times and never had any trouble navigating. Hundreds of years ago, the migrating Hakka people planted sustainable forests as part of the charcoal trade they pursued. These forests strewn the hills and valleys to this day.
We have never heard of hikers going missing - as hikers have no reason to enter these areas. Still, things change and the graphics on the maps contained this episode show where our Gongfu took root in South China after migrating from North and Central China many years ago. The Hakka people who occupied these areas used to be highly aggressive to uninvited guests. This martial attitude stems from the history of the place and the reality of the Hakka-Punti Clan Wars of the mid-1800s which killed millions. This was poor quality land that the Hakka had to cultivate and then defend from Cantonese (Punti) attack.
Coxinga (1624-1662) lived about 100-years after Yasuke in Japan. However, he was half-Japanese himself and possessed a personal bodyguard known as the 'Black Guard' comprised of African men freed from Portuguese slavery by Chinese forces. A pictures survives of one of these African men. Coxinga is famous for taking-on - and defeating the Dutch forces on Taiwan - and was granted that staus of 'King' of that island by the Ming Emperor of China. Coxinga was a Ming Dynasty General - the child of a Chinese man and a Japanese woman!
The Chinese language texts make much of the Dutch being defeated. This may have been the first military engagement between China and the West. Perhaps the Black Guard had a pivotal role. The drawn picture shows the African man carrying the Guan Dao (the blade of Lord Guan) - a high status weapon! Portuguese slavery must have been prolific! I once visited Portugal for a holiday and was astonished to find their tour guides talking about their slave-trading past with a sense of pride! Britain takes a different path and tends to deny it!
As regards 'tradition', 'lineage' and 'respect' - these are aboth fundamental Chinese cultural aspects which were brought suddenly into the modern world in 1911 (the ‘Nationalist’ Revolution) and 1949 (the ‘Socialist’ Revolution). In Japan, this process began with the Meiji Restoration of 1868. This all evolves around the concept of 'face' (面子 - Mian Zi) - or the ability to walk through the public spaces with one's dignity fully intact and face on display. To traverse the public spaces used to demand a stern adherence to the teachings of 'Confucius' as defined by various philosophers and politicians, etc. Indeed, Confucianism regulated not only the society of China for over two-thousand years, but also many other countries including Korea, Japan, Vietnam and Okinawa (including large areas of South-East Asia). Furthermore, wherever Chinese people have migrated - Confucianism has followed. Confucianism still defines Chinese society, but the way this happens has evolved over the centuries and can still seem baffling to the uninitiated. Regardless of this, understanding ‘Confucianism’ is the only way ‘in’ and ‘out’ of a Chinese cultural grouping.
In the old days, breaking these rules led to the breaking of one's body - a simple correlation between spiritual morality and physical punishment. The individual body used to be the property of one's parents and belonged to the State (that is to the 'Emperor'). The body of a child used to represent the continuation of a family's ancestral 'Qi' energy and the lasting of the Clan Surname. Judicial execution often involved public beheading (the 'loss' of face through the loss of the head) – a punitive process which usually including the killing of all members of the same family (depending upon the severity of the offense). Social execution involved the 'exclusion' of an individual and a family (Clan) - from all meaningful social interaction. It is interesting to note that despite the differences in political and economic view that exist between Beijing and Taipei, for instance, Chinese people living in Taiwan and Mainland China would agree (both implicitly and explicitly) about what 'face' is, and about what 'losing' and 'saving' face actually entails - so important is this central aspect of Chinese culture.
Today, the forces of modernity have radically redefined this tradition - but occasionally murders and beatings do still occur throughout Chinese society - usually involving disputes regarding love affairs, relationship betrayals and intimate deviations, etc. Of course, if an individual is known to have behaved in a terrible fashion for whatever reason, social ostracization tends to follow. Remember, China is comprised of 56 ethnicities which enlarged through the Chinese diaspora as it intermixes with different people throughout the world. This means that 'saving face' and 'losing face' tends to vary in interpretation. For instance, my modern academic colleagues in China tend not to give 'face' much consideration - but the older members of our Chinese family still live their lives by this concept! Okinawa, for instance, is still being punished by the Mainland Japanese for being historically ‘Chinese’ – and this has involved the post-1945 US Military Bases being lodged of the Island. This US neo-imperialist presence has been compounded by an assault on Ryukyu culture that has been intended to eradicate all obvious ‘Chinese’ cultural tendencies and replace these with a blend of Americana and Nipponisation. Yet the robustness of the Okinawan way of life stands inherently strong – with an older version of ‘Confucian’ ideology lurking firmly in the background and regulating the martial arts, leisure and business communities.
Indeed, the Chinese concept of 'face' (面子 - Mian Zi) literally translates as 'Face Child' or 'Face Master'. The second ideogram '子' (zi3) means 'a child that is born already old and wise' - and is associated with 'Laozi' (老子) - one of the founders of Daoism. Perhaps 'Saving Face' would be better redefined as 'Preserving Face'. In England we talk of proudly holding our heads-up high in public.. Of course, in the strict Confucian model, the onus is on the individual rather than the social collective. Today, the social collective is just as responsible as the individual - so that the entirety of society works together to preserve the status quo. Now, it is as if the collective society has its own 'face' that has to be preserved in the 'face' of individual behaviour. It is a two-way street. Individual responsibility is now balanced with collective responsibility - creating a preserving 'tension' of positive interaction. An individual's 'face' is considered secondary and is only saved when the 'face' of orderly society is acknowledged and preserved. Having explained all this, there still exist pockets of Chinese culture spread throughout the world that uphold older versions of ‘Confucian’ ideology and expect all incomers to understand and respect this reality.
Interesting - Thank for drawing my attention! The following is what I can Tell you.
搂 - lou3 = A mother spreading her arms (and hands) to embrace an object - pulling it close to her body (like a mother embracing a baby). This might be described as 'grappling' in English - just as grappling-hooks were once used in the Royal Navy to grip-hold of enemy ships (preventing their free movement) and 'pulling' these structures close so that 'Marines' could then jump onboard, neutralise the enemy crew and take control of their ship!
子 - zi3 = Son, off-spring (children) or 'Master' and 'Teacher' (I think this derives from the legends stating that Laozi - one of the founders of the Daoist religion - was born as an old man with white hair. Daoism advocates a rejuvenating wisdom that purports to create the state of 'Immortality').
Stepping inside the opponent's critical distance and thus 'taking away' their ability to respond effectively. Furthermore, the manner in how the opponent is tripped and thrown involves the deliberate 'hurting' of their body through impat with the ground. This exists within all traditional Chinese gongfu and involves the breaking of fingers and toes, joint dislocation, eye-gouging and groin-kicking. Punching the nose and throat is a basic requirement. A practitioner gets inside the opponent's guard (seen in this video) and takes control of the limbs and torso.
A Master of this art 'prevents' the opponent initiating the smooth rolling seen within modern Judo, Aikido or Jiujitsu - as 'falling' in this context must inflict damage upon the opponent - a punishment considered 'just' within ancient China for starting a fight! This why training in this type of in-fighting requires the ability to roll on an unpadded floor. The inner art is to prevent the intended damage from the fall - by 'countering' its intent through 'correct' placement (usually at speed). This is a key factor within traditional Taijiquan practice.
HONG KONG, July 20 (Xinhua) -- The man, the myth, the legend. Bruce Lee was all of these things and more. On July 20, 1973, the world lost one of its most iconic and influential figures when he passed away suddenly at the age of 32. Yet, 50 years later, his legacy lives on, larger than life and more resonant than ever.
Tourists flock to the Avenue of Stars along the Victoria Harbour waterfront in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, a place of pilgrimage for Bruce Lee fans from around the world.
They pause at Lee's bronze statue to pay tribute to the martial arts master, often laying flowers at the base of the two-meter-high effigy that showcases Lee's classic Jeet Kune Do move, inspired by his final complete film, "Enter the Dragon."
Source: Xinhua Editor: huaxia 2023-20-07
Shin Yong-woo from South Korea is one such fan who has travelled over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) to pay homage to his hero. He stood before the statue, dressed in black pants with his bare chest exposed, just like Lee frozen in frame by the monument. With a pair of nunchaku in his hands, Shin began his performance, twirling the weapons with fluid precision. A fan since he was nine years old, Shin credited Lee with inspiring him to learn Chinese martial arts.
Some pay their respects with a simple bow or a moment of silence, while others perform their own martial arts routines in front of the statue, channelling their inner Bruce Lee.
Unlike Shin, who reveres Lee's Kung Fu as a physical art form, Patrick Weber from Britain is more drawn to the deeper meaning and philosophy behind Lee's teachings. Weber held a 25-year-old "Enter the Dragon" poster as he took photos in front of the bronze statue. He also brought a thick album that documents his more than 50-year journey as a fan.
Lee's legacy includes a collection of inspiring and insightful quotes that have resonated with people of all ages and backgrounds. "The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering." "The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus." "Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one."
"I love his philosophy on life," Weber said. "And the multiculturalism he portrayed was exactly what the world needed at the time."
Born in San Francisco in 1940, Lee spent much of his childhood and formative years in Hong Kong, where his father was a well-known Cantonese opera singer.
It was in Hong Kong that Lee began to study martial arts. His passion for Kung Fu and his innovative approach to martial arts quickly earned him a following in Hong Kong, where he starred in several successful films and TV shows. His fame and influence soon spread to other parts of China and Asia, inspiring a new generation of martial artists and popularizing Chinese culture and philosophy around the world.
As one of Hollywood's most influential Chinese American actors, Lee introduced Chinese martial arts and its underlying culture and philosophy to the world through his films, and even brought the term "Kung Fu" into the English language. His confident portrayal of Chinese culture in martial arts movies continues to inspire people decades later.
"He's so cool!" said Sophie Uekawa from Japan as she looked at the statue, reminiscing about her teenage years several decades ago. "In 1973, Bruce Lee's movies became a sensation in Japan when they were first released. The queues for his films were so long that they stretched for several blocks, and 'Enter the Dragon' played for more than a year in one cinema before it was taken."
In recent days, a series of commemorative events in Hong Kong have confirmed the enduring influence of the Chinese Kung Fu culture that Lee represented. The "Bruce Lee: A Timeless Classic" exhibition opened at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, showcasing various books, stamps, and figurines related to the superstar from different eras. The museum also has a permanent exhibition introducing his life story.
Inside the exhibition hall, a wall of famous quotes presents Lee's philosophy: "Using no way as a way, having no limitation as limitation," "Success is a journey, not a destination," and more.
Wang Wei, who works in the education industry, included the exhibition as one of the stops for Chinese mainland students on their educational tour of Hong Kong.
"Bruce Lee is an important part of Hong Kong's pop culture and represents the Chinese spirit and character embodied by the people of Hong Kong," Wang said. "With a profound understanding of Chinese culture, he showcased the confidence of Chinese culture through Kung Fu."
The Bruce Lee Foundation is holding its first "Camp Bruce Lee" event in Asia at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, where about 30 primary school students from Hong Kong are experiencing Jeet Kune Do and learning about the star through various art forms over a few days.
"This movie is about the history of Japanese imperialism invading China in the last century ..." Inside the museum, the guide points to a still from the movie "Fist of Fury" and introduces the plot to the young campers while explaining the national history. The still captures the moment when Lee's character Chen Zhen kicks down the "Sick Man of East Asia" sign in the movie.
English Language Xinhua Article:
Feature: Enter the Dragon -- Bruce Lee's legacy still inspiring 50 years after his passing
I was forwarded this short video clip from a colleague involved in high-level Aikido practice - which in their Japanese School involves Katana (Long Sword) 'cutting' (carried out in a peaceful, meditative state). It was explained to me that their Sensei had explained that prior to WWII - many 'Official' Sword Smiths in Japan possessed a 'Permanent' Governmental Permission to 'Test' the effectiveness of freshly forged blades on the necks of judicial prisoners Sentenced to Death. As the process of 'Test Cutting' blades today (only using rolled-up tatami mats) is referred to as 'Tameshigiri (試し切り) - could I decipher, translate and transliterate this Japanese term to see if this 'history' is denoted in the concept. My research is as follows:
1) 試 (Tame) = Trial, Experiment and Exploration.
2)し(Shi) = Death, Execution and Judicial Decapitation - achieved through s single (efficient) Sword 'cut' or 'swing' - where the blade does NOT oscillate (wobble) left and right when in movement.
3) 切 (Gi) = Slice, Cut and Cleave apart.
4) り(Ri) = Perfected Form, Finished and Completed Movement.
The data obtained when forensically translating this term - which requires rolling-back layers of 'politically correct' (interpretive) terminology accrued over several post-1945 decades - does indeed support the history lesson as transmitted by the 'Aikido' Sensei concerned. The tatami mats - which must be struck and cleaved with a 'graceful ease' - have 'replaced' the necks of condemned Japanese criminals (who are now 'Hanged' in private). This is in fact a 'Death-Cut' - or a sword strike designed to render an opponent DEAD in the quickest and most efficient manner!
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!
Dear Tony (Sensei)
Exactly - well said. As you already know (these are really 'Notes' to clarify my own understanding - as I know you know) - real combat is fluid and requires an instantaneous adaptation. My view is that this ability stems from years of experience endlessly repeating the same movement - or patterns of movements (in a disciplined manner) - whilst participating in sparring (or various other types of fighting) - where all this ingrained activity comes out (due to necessity) and manifests in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways!
Usually, simplicity prevails over the complex in such situations defined through 'immediacy' - and much of the modern 'Bunkai' is so very intricate and diverse that I doubt any of it could be realistically applied in the few seconds required to nullify an attack AND take away an opponent's ability to effectively respond. (Whilst holding one of their arms - the opponent still has a head, one arm and two legs free to respond - more than enough to be effective).
When I think back to training with yourself in Hereford and Cardiff (and the Tensho Kata you demonstrated in Sutton) - I remember your weight being firmly 'dropped' (rooted) whilst you also seem to 'float' - like a cork bobbing about on the surface of the water! This manifestation is continuous and effortless whilst being retained whether you are standing still, moving (in any direction) or even sitting down.
From this foundation your arms and legs are 'moved' depending upon the Kata, Basic or exercise being demonstrated. I suppose what you are saying is that modern Bunkai focuses too much upon the movement of the arms and legs - but tends to by-pass (or 'ignore') the need to be 'rooted' and to 'move' properly from this root.
What you say about Miyagi Chojun's attitude toward 'Bunkai' is typical of traditional Chinese gongfu. Many Masters will know one or two 'favourite' applications of the various Form moves - but will always teach that each Form movement has hundreds (or more) applications that should not (and cannot) be limited to a single interpretation.
This being the case, where does the concept of 'Bunkai' come from within Karate-Do? Certainly, there are old photographs of Goju Ryu 'Disciples' in Okinawa applying Kata movements as self-defence - quite often as Miyagi Chojun is looking on. As far as Southern Chinese gongfu concepts are concerned - I am not familiar with the term '分解' (Fen Jie) - which in Cantonese is pronounced 'Fan Gaai' and in Hakka 'Fun Ge'.
However, there are some dialects of Hakka (not that spoken in my family - but in villages further North) - which pronounce '分解' as 'Bun Kiai'. Within the Fujian dialect - '分解' is pronounced 'Hun Kai' or 'Pun Ke', etc. This seems to morph quite naturally into the Okinawan-Japanese 'Bun Kai' - and would suggest the concept spread (linguistically) from South China to Okinawa. Of course, this might not be the case and could suggest the experience was developed in Okinawa (as part of the transmission process) and 'reflected' in the adoption of appropriate sounding 'Chinese' terms.
I would agree fully with Miyagi Chojun - as I teach our family gongfu in just that way. Yes - if asked I can easily explain the purpose behind this or that movement - but it is only through 'practicing' each movement until the human awareness and perception penetrates its fully and its multitudinous (and 'empty') essence is found - that the 'movement' itself is totally comprehended. I was always taught that the ability to sit for long periods of time in cross-legged meditation is the highest expression of all gongfu Forms.
On the other hand, a 'Master Chan' in Malaysia (a 'relative') focused all his life on perfecting just one Form movement - which involves the grabbing hold of a single (attacking) front-kicking leg - and 'breaking' that leg around the 'knee-joint'. He would apply a downward fore-arm (elbow) strike (whilst shifting into a back stance) across bamboo sticks thrust at him by students until one, two or three sticks could be easily broken! Whilst sparring, he would attempt to 'goad' an opponent into 'kicking' whilst skilfully avoiding all over incoming blows. Needless to say, the jungles of Malaysia had a number of permanently 'limping' former opponents!
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.