Chinese historians and archaeologists have spent many years trying to collate information with regard to the actual location of the Southern Shaolin Temple and eventually settled on the above site in Putian. Historical records and hearsay indicate that there may have been more than one Shaolin temple or even sub-temples in the surrounding area. Certainly, artefacts such as large stone baths have been found in various remote places, whose inscriptions indicate a connection to a Shaolin temple. These however are not evidence of the fighting monks associated with the birth and proliferation of kung fu styles such as Wing Chun, Ng Cho and Hung Gar to name only a few. History and folklore certainly indicate that the Southern Shaolin Temple (Nam Siu Lam Gee) existed, wherever it was located and that it was a hot bed of political activity and revolt. The history of many Southern styles is rooted in the existence of this temple. In fact our style, Chu Gar Hung Kuen history locates it’s origin in this temple. The name “Chu Gar” means “Chu Family” and is a direct reference to Chu Hung Mo (a member of the Imperial Family) who is thought to have taken refuge in the Shaolin temple becoming a shaven headed disciple who funded revolutionary activity behind the walls of the temple.
“Hung Kuen” means “Red Fist” and the reference is thought to allude to the “Hung Fa Yee” or “Red Flower Pavilion”, where it is said that counter revolutionary forces gathered and trained. It is a Hung Gar system therefore, directly transmitted from the Southern Shaolin Temple, which pays respect( through it’s name) to Chu Hung Mo. Many Southern styles chose names that were put together to indicate to each other a reference to such activities or prominent revolutionary figures which would be understood by all involved even if different but connected branches. In some instances a Chinese character was substituted for one with the same sound but a different meaning to create a different reference and subsequently hide their affiliation to the Shaolin Temple. Some styles invented a fictional origin and lineage so as not to arouse suspicion about their true origin and thus invite imprisonment or certain death.
It is my considered opinion that at that time martial skills must have been taught very hurriedly ( much like basic armed forces training) because of the urgency and certain styles probably came about by putting together sets of workable techniques possibly involving hand, foot, holding and locking and weapons techniques. which gave a grounding in fighting the military who were of course well trained and well equipped. Besides this some of the military could also be mounted horsemen with long pole arms and also equipped with weapons to enable combat when un- mounted or un-horsed. It is known that persons who normally worked the land or other manual workers would have been comfortable and adept in employing the likes of farming implements, carrying poles and other tools as weapons. This would have solved the problem of securing , financing or making weapons to equip a large number of people. (To this day, training, using many farming implements and everyday objects such as a bench seat is still included). It is quite likely they would probably also have training in building types of barricades which could impale horse and rider. Knowing the landscape better than insurgents was also an advantage in enabling ambushes and guerrilla type tactics. It should be remembered that many of these counter revolutionaries were not soldiers and possibly had no martial training or previously gained fighting skills. Many were possibly patriotic nationalists who wanted to regain freedom from the Ching Dynasty and restore the Ming. Historical inaccuracies, legends and huge differences in the transmission of what is essentially the same “Mother” style, indicate that these techniques or styles had an oral rather than a written transmission. Added to this, persons who passed the styles further for necessity or posterity may well have chosen techniques or skills preferred by them personally. Over time, huge differences would be apparent. Some more educated persons may have systemised their techniques, added to or taken away from them and even have made written or pictographic records which have been passed down through generations of families or villages. Whatever the case, most styles were a closely guarded secret and it seems that in later times, many teachers only taught their “closed door students” the true Kung Fu. Other students just learned the basics. It also seems quite likely that some foreigners were deliberately taught techniques wrongly to preserve the integrity of the Chinese National Art (Kok Sut).
I have personally trained and taught this style for over 40 years and I determine after much investigation, information from my Master and much research on the part of others, that the statements above are likely to be correct and that essentially all Hung Kuen (Hung Gar) is from the same origin or “Mother” ( Nam Siu Lam Gee) and thus all practitioners are members of the same family despite their recorded lineage or difference in forms etc.
GRANDMASTER CHU SHIU WOON
Master Chu’s father originated from Toisan. During warring times in China his father took refuge in Tibet. Here he met and married a Tibetan girl. Master Chu is half Tibetan and half Chinese. When he was a child he was admitted into the Lasa Temple and became a young La Ma. His father was working in the temple and sold Buddhist books and beads etc to earn a living.
During his early years in the temple he learned “Mud Chung Hei Gung” which he says, has benefitted him throughout his life.
When he was 13 or 14 years old, both his parents died in quick succession and for the sake of returning his parent’s bodies to be buried in his father’s village, the young La Ma Monk left the Lasa Temple and returned to the world an orphan. Whilst in Guangdong he met and followed an extremely old Shaolin Monk who had also returned to the world. His name was Go Lo Tin. He was a herbalist and bone-setter and made his living by selling medicine. He taught Master Chu Lion Dance, Dragon Dance, Hung Kuen Kung Fu and the treatment of bones all of which he was very skilled in.
Go Lo Tin had a brother named Go Tin Yat who taught Master Chu a short hand Kung Fu system called Chu Gar Kuen (surname coincidental). This system only contained a few hand and weapons sets along with some Hei Gung. This has been taught to only a few disciples and in particular to Bob Melia, who now lives in Chang-mai, Thailand.
Master Chu now lives in Manchester, England but prior to him arriving here he also lived in Australia and India. He is a prominent figure in Manchester’s China Town and still performs the Lion and Dragon Dance particularly through the streets of Manchester at Chinese New year. His senior disciple is John Farrell.