Wong Man Kai – A Biography of My Sifu, Lam Sai Wing

Lam Sai Wing  My sifu, Lam Sai Wing, was born in Pingjau village, Naamhoi district. He was born into a kung fu family. Jin Jeung Kyun (Arrow Palm Set) and Hang Yut Dou (Crescent Moon Knives) were both techniques of his family. Logically, Lam Sai Wing started his kung fu training at a young age and he had already become famous before he had grown to an adult. Lam Sai Wing was always very kind. Although he was a butcher, he was different from the other butchers. If there were any problems in the village, Lam Sai Wing would resolve them by mediating instead of fighting.

My sijou1, Wong Fei Hung, resigned as the chief kung fu instructor for Lau’s army troops and went to Gwongjau to be a traditional ditda doctor. As Wong Fei Hung was famous, my sifu went to Wong Fei Hung and asked if he could become his student. At this time, however, my sijou had retired from teaching. Thus, he refused to teach my sifu. However, my sifu did not give up and went back to Wong Fei Hung many times afterwards to ask again. After a while, Wong Fei Hung asked my sifu to show his kung fu. After Lam Sai Wing had showed his skills, Wong Fei Hung thought that my sifu was talented at kung fu and accepted him as a student.

The techniques of my sijou originated in the Siulam monastery. My sijou has met many people who were good at kung fu. He used the techniques of different kung fu systems as a reference and created Fu Hok Seung Ying Kyun, the Tiger-Crane Set. This set contains both hard and soft techniques. The set started a new era for the kung fu world at that time.

My sifu had a well developed body and was very powerful. Besides, my sifu was very generous, for he would teach his students all of the techniques that he knew. His kung fu had reached a very high level after twenty years of training. He then opened a kung fu school in Powajing Street in Gwongjau city. One day my sijou told my sifu since he had his own school, my sijou wanted to teach him a secret technique. My sijou said that my sifu would be the best in the world if he knew how to use this technique. In addition, he asked my sifu to treasure this technique and not to show it to the public. After my sifu learned the combination Bong Ji Cheui2, he defeated almost all of his enemies for ten years.

Many people never taught their secret techniques to others. My sifu, however, was very generous and would teach all of his knowledge to his students. Even the combination Bong Ji Cheui, which he only learned after twenty years of training with my sijou, he taught openly. All of my sifu’s students respected him very much. They bowed to him at every lesson, even the students who were older than him. If a student had problems learning, then my sifu would meet with him and teach him again. All of the students appreciated the kindness of my sifu very much. This was because, generally speaking, students were concerned that their sifu would not teach everything to them if the sifu held many secret techniques. My sifu, on the other hand, did not hold anything back, but was more concerned that his students may not be able to learn all of his techniques. Therefore, he wrote books about his kung fu techniques and his ditda. Through these books he wanted to pass on all of his knowledge to the public. My sifu welcomed anyone that had any questions after reading the books. He would answer the question with an extensive explanation. The students of my sifu opened their own schools and ditda clinics throughout the northern and southern parts of mainland China. My sifu always said that the decline of Chinese kung fu was due to the fact that many teachers were selfish and would not pass on all of their techniques. The reason that my sifu taught all of his techniques was, “If there are ten students who want to learn, then in the future there will be ten Lam Sai Wings. This would help in the spreading of the Hung Kyun. Why should I hide all of my techniques? Why do I think this? It is because I know that there are also bad people who left their kung fu schools and cheated on their sifu by telling other people they have learned from another teacher. They seldom mention who their real sifu is at all. I am very sorry about such situations.”

My sifu has never accepted any money or meals from his students. Conversely, if a student had financial problems, then my sifu would give clothes and food to him. If my sifu did not have enough money, he would even sell his own things in order to be able to help the student. Because of this, news of his kindness spread throughout the world of martial arts.

My sifu became famous throughout the entire province of Gwongdung. As a result, many people took advantage of his fame and pretended that their schools were a branch school of Lam Sai Wing.

Towards the end of the Kwong Shu years3, there was a bad monk from Honaam province. He called himself “Iron head” because he liked to attack people with his head. He even used this skill to insult the master of his temple and wanted to take over the temple. My sijou was a friend of the temple master. My sijou asked my sifu to punish this bad monk. The result was that the temple master kept his position in the temple.

At the beginning of the Syun Tung years4, there was a student who went to a brothel. There he saw that the madam mistreated a young prostitute. He asked the madam why she had hit her. The madam said that the relatives of the young girl wanted to buy back her freedom. The madam, however, did not allow this to happen. Then the student told this story to my sifu. My sifu went to the brothel with Tang Yi, Tang Fong, Kwan Sun and Tam Chau. They put money on the table and took the young prostitute away. However, the madam called upon almost one hundred helpers to fight them. My sifu and his students won the fight and rescued the young prostitute in the end.

Towards the end of the Syun Tung years, there was a theater called Lok Sin, in Gwongjau. The owner of this theater was Lee Sai Kwai and he was also the leader of the local army troops. He and all of his staff at the theater knew kung fu. He was jealous of the fame of my sifu. Therefore, he always wanted to defeat my sifu. He decided to employ twenty people to attack my sifu. My sifu did not know of this plan. One evening, he went to the theater with Tang Yi, Tang Fong, Kwan Sun and Tam Chau. Lee Sai Kwai closed the doors to the theater and his staff attacked my sifu with weapons. My sifu and his students defended themselves with bare hands. Lee Sai Kwai then called upon two hundred soldiers to surround the theater. My sifu threw a stone at the lamp and in the darkness he managed to escape. Many people were injured in the fight and some people were even killed. My sifu and Tang Yi only received injuries to their backs by knife attacks which happened at the very beginning of the fight. The attack shocked the Ching government. Therefore, it gave orders to arrest my sifu and his students. My sifu then fled to Gwailam.

After the Ching dynasty5, my sifu returned to Gwongdung. The army commander of the Fuk troops, Lee Fuk Lam, asked my sifu to be the main martial arts instructor for the troops. My sifu, however, had so many bad experiences because of his fame and wanted to keep a low profile. Therefore, he turned down the offer. Lee Fuk Lam, however, asked my sifu again. Lee Fuk Lam also knew kung fu very well and must have rated Lam Sai Wing’s kung fu as very good. Otherwise, he would not have asked Lam Sai Wing. The brigade commander of the Fuk troops, Ng Yan Wu, was extremely enthusiastic about my sifu’s kung fu. His whole family learned kung fu from my sifu. As a result, the martial arts skills of the Ng family became very famous within the army troops throughout Hong Kong and Gwongjau.

Because of the fame of my sifu, the “Hong Kong Butchers Association” asked my sifu to be their kung fu instructor. My sifu accepted the offer because the Fuk troops had just moved to Fukien province at this time. The school was established in Juk Syu Bo, in Central district. Many teenagers wanted to learn from my sifu. The best students at this time were Wong Kam and Wong Siu. At the same time, my sifu published two books, one about Fu Hok Seung Ying Kyun (Tiger-Crane Set) and one about Gung Ji Fuk Fu Kyun (Tame the Tiger in an 工-Pattern Set). The martial arts world considered these books to be a good reference.

Lam Sai Wing

I work in a business firm in Hong Kong. Formerly, my body was very weak and I felt sick all the time. Even though I took medicine, I still did not recover at all. After I started to learn kung fu from my sifu, I recovered totally within three months. It was then that I knew that kung fu training could help my health. It functions better than other sports.

I suggested to my sifu doing something to spread our kung fu around. Thus, Lam Chi Sat, Lam Cho, Lee Cheung Tak, Chu Yu Jai, Chan Pak Kei, Au Yeung Chau, Hon Chung, Hon Hoi, Wu Lap Kung and I established the “Southern Style Martial Arts Association” (Naam Mou Tai Yuk Wui). My sifu was the chief instructor of the association. Lam Cho and Cheung Wo were the assistant instructors in the association. Lam Cho is the nephew of my sifu. He started to learn kung fu at a young age and is very skilful. Because of my sifu’s fame, there were over one thousand people who wanted to join the association at that time. Therefore, the association employed Ken Tak Hoi to teach Northern style kung fu. Many kung fu teachers were not open to communication with other styles. My sifu, however, had an open mind. He liked to exchange ideas with Northern and Southern styles because he also wanted to improve his kung fu skills through discussion with others.

The commander in chief of the “Twelve Troops”, Chan Jai Tong, asked my sifu to be the martial arts instructor for his troops and to be his own personal instructor. After a good while, my sifu resigned, even though the commander requested him to stay several times. My sifu did not want to work in the army anymore because of his old age. He came back to Hong Kong and opened a school on Lockhart Road. The school remained there until Hong Kong was occupied by the Japanese in the Second World War. My sifu had already retired from active teaching by then and went to live in Ping Jau village. There he passed away when he was eighty three years old, in 1943.

The kung fu techniques of my sifu were very good. Moreover, he was very kind to everyone. We will spread our kung fu and the spirit of him to the public.

 

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  • 1 The Cantonese term for ancestor, creator of a style or even the teacher of the teacher of your teacher. In this case, sijou is, however, used as a very respectable form for sigung (the teacher of your teacher).
  • 2 Rattle fists. A combination/principle from the Tiger-Crane Set.
  • 3 Kwong Shu (Guangxu in Mandarin) is the name of an emperor who reigned from 1875 – 1908.
  • 4 Syun Tung is the Cantonese name for Henry Pu Yi, the last emperor of China, who reigned from 1908 – 1911.
  • 5 1644 – 1911 (Qin dynasty in Mandarin).

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Translation copyright: Fan Kwoen. C. & K. Van ‘t Slot

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