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:
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.