Updated: Nov 4, 2022
Below is the first in a series of posts that are a republish of a piece I did in 2009. The text is verbatim from the version that is on Sifu's current website. I am republishing it here for several reasons.
Fist, I think Master Fung's own words speak for themselves. He is always very particular on how he phrases stuff, the examples he uses and relationships he points out. Every so often I go back an re-read what he said and I notice something I missed before.
Second, If you are using the materials on IntentionFist to help your practice, I think its helpful to understand where the information comes from. This section in particular articulates the many sources my Sifu has drawn on in formulating his personal expression of the Art.
You see a big 'Yi Chuan' stamp on everything here, and that is absolutely true, I am using Yi Chuan theory in order to organize and present The Method, but that does not mean that what is being is or could even be purely Yi Chuan, whatever that would be.
Yi Chuan was something my Sifu came to after extensive experience with Chinese Kung Fu, growing up in and around Hong Kong at a time when it was a melting pot of martial artists and ideas. Sifu draws heavily from his experiences with Hop Gar, Mok Gar, Tai Chi, Tong Bei and others, sometimes incorporating exercises from those arts into his method or simply relating ideas that may be clearly expressed from that point of view. In addition his dedication to the practice of Esoteric Buddhism informs and inspires his entire approach.
Third, it gives me an opportunity to reflect on how some of the points he makes have impacted my understanding of Yi Chuan and may be useful for helping you. I have included those thoughts at the end of the article.
Master Cheuk Fung on Yi Chuan
by Steve Ehrenreich April 2009
The following interview has been assembled from Master Fung's teachings and conversations I have had with him over the years as his student. The questions and answers on the following pages have been selected to give you a broad overview of Master Fung's teaching philosophy and his perspectives on Yi Chuan.
Master Fung's Background
Student: How did you first get involved in Yi Chuan?
Master Fung: Through a mutual friend I was introduced to Master Tang Er Quan, a wealthy businessman with a passion for Martial Arts who was a student of Yi Chuan's founder, Master Wang Sheng Chai. Master Tang took time out of his busy schedule to teach a small group the Jam Jong, sensing strength and stepping methods of Yi Chuan.
Student: This was in Hong Kong?
Master Fung: Yes, about 1963. Master Tang taught us very directly. His time was valuable and he wanted us to get the most out of it. When he was in town a group of us would get together, get a few tips and pointers then go to yum cha (lunch or dim sum) to discuss what we learned. At that point I had been studying Gung Fu for many years so this way of learning was very effective for me.
Student: What other styles did you study before Yi Chuan?
Master Fung: Primarily Hop Gar. As a child I was very fortunate to be accepted as a direct disciple in the Poon Kam lineage of Hop Gar. My teacher, after many years, encouraged me to investigate and study other martial arts in order to continue unfolding what I learned from him. So investigating arts like Yi Chuan was originally an extension of my Hop Gar training.
Student: Was Master Tang your only Yi Chuan teacher?
Master Fung: No, I have learned Yi Chuan from several other teachers, thanks to Master Tang igniting my interest in Yi Chuan.
Student: Who else have you learned Yi Chuan from?
Master Fung: In 1975 I became a student of Master Han Sing Hwan who taught me both in San Francisco and Hong Kong. Master Han was considered one of the top students of Master Wang and was famous for his fighting ability. In the early 1980's I further studied with Professor Peng-Si Yu and his wife Madam Yu. Professor Yu was considered another top student of Master Wang and known for his abilities with energy. Both Professor and Madam Yu were both gracious enough to share their knowledge and understanding with me.
Student: How did you get involved with Mok Gar?
Master Fung: In 1965 I was introduced to Grandmaster Tsui Yiu Cheung, top student of both Grandmasters Lum Yiu Kwai of Dragon Style (Lung Ying) and Lum Yum Tong of Mok Gar and was lucky enough to be accepted as a disciple. From him I learned both Mok Gar and Dragon Style. Master Tsui was also known as the Mute Knight as he was both deaf and mute as result of a childhood sickness.
Student: Didn't that make learning from him especially difficult?
Master Fung: You would think so, but no. He was an exceptional practitioner and gifted as a teacher. Through signs, gestures and touch he would get his point across, sometimes the easy way and sometimes the hard way. On the other hand, some things were more challenging . . . like getting him to answer the door! The point is that learning martial arts is a very physical process, too much intellectualizing is not necessary.
Student: What other styles have influenced your Gung Fu?
Master Fung: Tong Bei and Tai Ji Chuan have had some influence. I often use routes or exercises from these arts to enhance our core methods. Over the years I've visited with and paid respects to many famous martial arts teachers and practitioners, picking up theories and methods that have helped me further my understanding. In particular Master Han Sing Chio, older brother to Master Han Sing Hwan who is also renown and respected in the martial arts community, was very kind in his willingness to share his knowledge with me.
Student: Have any other teachers influenced you?
Master Fung: Yes. For many years I have studied Esoteric Buddhism and its practices and principles have interwoven themselves into my approach. My primary teacher, the Venerable Dharma Master Yuen Hung guided me for many years as his disciple. Also, the Venerable Dharma Master Hsuan Hua's (founder of the City of 10,000 Buddhas) teachings and guidance have greatly influenced my personal cultivation and understanding.
I recall Sifu saying one time that he has probably forgotten more kung fu than most people have ever learned. Considering how much exposure he has to martial arts of all kinds I think that is probably a true statement.
If I recall correctly, Master Fung started teaching when he was like 18 or 19, taking over a Wing Chun class from another instructor. He has a picture in his briefcase that was taken back then. Its like he stepped right out of Saturday Kung Fu Theater...his waist like 14 inches, arms and chest striated with muscles and a, 'you talking to me?'' look on his face.
Flip a little further into his pictures and you get a sense of how intense his training was. Shapes that would intimidate a yoga instructor, stances so low he might as well have been sitting on the floor, rings and weights and gear of all kinds. He related to me how he and his kung fu brothers would compete to see who could handle the heaviest barbell, rolling it back and forth across their extended arms before popping into the air and catching it the same. Growing up Sifu was the one who took the challenges. If his brothers wanted to know if someone could fight they would send Cheuk in find out.
Flipping through those pictures was an interesting experience. I found myself constantly looking up at my kind, gentle and funny Teacher to convince my self he and the scary looking guy in the pics were actually the same person. That steel is still in there, albeit wrapped in cotton these days.
An interesting consequence of learning from a deaf mute kung fu master is alternative communication skills. Sometime when I was in the back of the class I would practice with my eyes closed. Why? Sifu has this unique knack for making what I would call 'illustrative sounds' when leading class. Basically he was being extra demonstrative in relating what he was doing with his fram by making sounds. "eeeeeeeyyyyyiiiiip' would be the sounds as he prepared his frame, a grunt here and and exhale there helped you to understand his timing if you had the ears for it.
Back in the day, Sifu was know as 'Lightening Hand' because of his incredible hand speed. This historic video does a great job of illustrating just how quick he can be.
Contrast that clip with another (now also historic) clip of Master Fung presenting Sensing Strength. You may wonder what happened to all that speed. Short answer....it went inside.
I bring this up for a very important reason. If you are on this Integrated Strength journey and you are primarily emulating your instructor or any authentic internal teacher of any sort you may find yourself in a conundrum.
What you are emulating is more of a 'finished product' that the work-in-progress you may be. You see the training you do to discover & develop the skill is not the same as what you do to apply the skill. Application requires internalization. Internalization hides (on purpose) the very mechanism generating the strength. A classic Catch-22.
Master Fung Demonstrating