I am 52 years old and been doing Martial Arts, most of that time but I still feel like I have unfinished business another thing to learn a style to try, I watch boxing and think yeah I should go back to it get myself back into boxing shape, just to show that I can? My training with Chu Sifu was about getting rid of ego training in an art to keep that art alive and to be part of a culture and to learn skills that are no longer taught. When I went to Krishna it was like an epiphany in a lot of ways what he was doing and showing sort of made the jigsaw whole for me, it made my Kung Fu better by opening my mind to different concepts and ideas. After illness I started Taiji but not just a mainstream style I wanted to train in a little known and rarer style, so went to Sun Style Taiji and in Dave Martin found a great guy with no ego who just wanted to do the best he could in promoting his chosen style. I am not sure where this blog is going as I write it I just need to get some thoughts down as to why after all this years I still feel I have something to prove to myself? Is it ego? is it vanity to be known as one of the best? or is it just the way I am made? I lost my dad when I was 12 years old and maybe not being able to prove to anyone that I was good at anything, academic has driven me on as I really feel within Martial Arts I have found what I was born to do, I have trained with some of the best guys in the world within their chosen arts and continue to do so when opportunity arises, as I sit here typing I think well I could train the old stuff pick up the sticks again, push myself to new heights physically and mentally, but I don’t want my mind writing cheques my body cant cash, to me that would be detrimental to my development, I think where I am I am meant to be, training in what I should be for my health and well being, I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone who cares to read this but would appreciate any thoughts you have, I have stopped at many crossroads along my Martial path, stumbled and fell many times, been kicked and punched without a blow being thrown, I suppose I have answered my own question, do I have unfinished business?yes, with myself
I am writing about my good friend John Farrell. John is not widely known in general martial arts circles but to many of the older generation martial artist, he is known as a long time practitioner of Shaolin Gung Fu and senior student of Chu Shui Woon.
John has over 40 years training and teaching most of that time spent with Chu Sifu. In the early days of the martial arts boom in the UK John trained with teachers Sifu Alan Lamb and Danny Connor before seeking out Master Chu and training with him at the New Moon Restaurant in Gatley.
He found what he was looking for and since has been devoted to learning, teaching and propagating his teachers way through demonstrations and Lion Dance.
John has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Chinese Gung Fu and in particular Northern and Southern styles, he is also an authority on Chinese Lion Dance and has a vast knowledge of the different greens to be picked.
I would encourage anyone to seek him out if you want to learn authentic, traditional Chinese Gung Fu and I find myself fortunate to be his friend and Gung Fu brother for over 30 years a friendship forged in a traditional system with a traditional teacher who has given us a gift to share with the world but only to those brave enough to seek us out.
John and his brother Peter have gone about training and teaching in their own way not involved with politics or commercialism just passing on what they have learned to those who ask, little known, appreciated by a few loyal students
But treasured by me.
My thanks to you both for you friendship and brotherhood.
Within the system this is a formidable weapon, it is approximately 7 feet long and weighs between 30 and 40 pounds it was not a weapon I chose to learn but it was what Chu Sifu thought would be best for me as I was a big guy back then and I think he gave it me to develop the attributes of stable fast footwork with power.
I am so pleased he decided to teach me this weapon I grew to love it but it was as with everything in the system difficult and very hard work.
First I was taught the basic movements pressing, uplifting, sweeping, thrusting, twisting and striking with reverse of the Pa. This was done in a straight line involving horse stance, bow and arrow stance and twisted stance turning and repeating until Chu Sifu said enough. This was repeated daily and after about 6 months I felt the Pa was not heavy and I could control it without it controlling me.
Over the next five years I was taught two forms each about 12 moves long which eventually linked into one form. The moves were what I had been practicing but in a set of movements with some additional flourishes and designed so I could perform it when needed at events and Chinese New Year.
As well as the basic movements there are exercises designed to strengthen the grip and forearms.
Some of you might think that learning an archaic weapon such as this is not relevant to today’s world of Martial Arts, but to keep alive a tradition and also to develop the strength and skill this weapon bestows was well worth the effort.
Chiu Siu Woon was born in Tibet in 1923, his father worked as an artisan repairing the temples, his early exposure was to the practice of Virgin Hei Gung which can only be learned before puberty, and I personally feel this practice has helped maintain his good health and vigor as a basis for what he later learned.
When his father passed away the young Chiu his mother and sister took the body on a pilgrimage through India and back to China to Kwantung province.
Unfortunately Chiu’s mother and sister became opium addicts and gambled away what money they had, this forced him to find a job cleaning. He was asked to work for a local doctor cleaning and keeping the house. The doctor observed the young man and eventually asked him if he would like to learn medicine and Kung Fu, the doctors name was Go Lo Tin and he taught the young Chiu medicine, bone setting and Kung Fu. The name of the style was ‘Chu Gar Siu Lam Hung Kuen’. The name means ‘Chu Family Red Fist’ and is different to the other styles of Hung Kuen. It was predominantly a village boxing art, the history of the style is that a temple was dedicated by Chu Hung Mo an emperor, the practice of Kung Fu was done at this temple and in deference to the emperor the style was called Chu Gar, the red fist comes from the red door the graduates passed when leaving the temple.
When Chiu had learned all he could from Go Lo Tin he was sent to his masters brother Go Tin Yat, to learn Chu Gar Kuen a style purely for fighting and used to counter the long arm styles. The cultural revolution was starting and so Chiu was sent by his teachers to Hong Kong to preserve what they had taught him. He never saw or heard from them again. After traveling to India and Australia Chiu eventually settled down in Manchester, England and began to teach a small group, one of the first westerners was John Farrell and John is now Dai Si Hing (big elder brother) and has been for many years.
Bob began his training with Chiu Sifu in 1981 and is a Si Hing of the style second only to John Farrell, Bob underwent 5 years of daily training to learn the Chu Gar Kuen. He believes he is the only one to have done this training in its totality and though others have learned some they have not had the same training over a sustained period.
Chiu Sifu said Go Lo Tin was a lay priest and had been at the Shaolin Temple, he had left to pursue a worldly existence and help people.
I had learned many empty hand forms and also about 6 weapon forms when Chu Sifu started to teach me some Chu Gar Gwun, this was called Gow Jit Gwun and it first involved part filling a gallon container with water attaching it to the end of the pole then performing ten movements whilst in low horse stance using just one breath.
You gradually added more water to the container and it took about six months to fill it to 3/4 full, this training was extremely difficult but the benefits were enormous as I developed a lot of power in the short and medium range, Chu Sifu explained to me that there were three stages, I was doing level 1, level 2 would be hitting a 6″ nail in the wall in one hit! The last level was sensitivity moving around a wooden dummy striking at but not breaking eggs.
Unfortunately I never got past level 2 as other things took precedent in training and Sifu would always say there was time later to learn it.