The History of Choy Li Fut Kung Fu
Master Chan Heung, the founder of Choy Li Fut, was born in the Kwong-Tung province of China on July 10, 1806. At the age of seven, Chan began to study Kung Fu from his uncle who had trained in the Shaolin Temple. Mentally and physically superior for his age, the young boy made rapid progress in the martial arts. By age 15, Chan was the leading boxer in his area. At age 17, Chan studied under his uncle's senior classmate, a Shaolin expert, Li Yau Shan. After several years, Chan had absorbed all the teachings of Master Li. One day Chan's instructor said, "Your uncle and I spent 20 years in the Shaolin Temple. It is unbelievable how you could master all that we know in only half the time. Any further instruction will need to come directly from a Shaolin priest. However, most of these monks have disappeared from the area. The only one known is a wandering priest named Choy Fok. Unfortunately, he is leading a life of seclusion, and does not like to be bothered." Yearning for further knowledge, Chan Heung decided to seek out the nomadic monk.
Arriving at Mount Lau Foo, Chan Heung searched until he was able to locate the Shaolin priest. After reading Chan's letter of introduction, Choy Fok said, "I have given up practicing martial arts for a long time, so if you have come to acquire skill and strength in boxing, I am afraid that I cannot help you. I am too old and the remaining years of my life are being devoted to a thorough research of Buddhism. You may stay and study our religion together, if you wish". Instead of being discouraged, Chan Heung knelt down and humbly accepted the Monk's offer to become a disciple of Buddha.
Although the study of religion took up most of Chan's time, he still maintained a high interest in martial arts. In his leisure hours, Chan continued to practice the Shaolin style of combat that he had learned. Early one morning, as Chan was kicking rocks up into the air and smashing them into pieces when they fell downward, Choy Fok suddenly appeard and asked "is that all you can do?" Pointing to a 60-pound rock nearby, the monk said, "try your best to kick it up." Summoning up all his power, Chan swept his foot against the rock and sent it into the air. Proud of his feat, Chan waited for the Monk to show an expression of praise. Without saying a word, Choy Fok calmly walked over to the boulder and thrust his right foot under the heavy object. In a quick graceful motion, the Shaolin priest spun around and sent the rock flying more than 12 feet away. By now, Chan Heung realized that the priest still possessed some sort of super-normal power and immediately asked Choy Fok to teach him. Satisfied with Chan Heung's character and patience, Choy Fok agreed, and for the next eight years taught his new student all that he knew of Kung Fu.
At the age of 29, Chan left Choy Fok and returned to his native village analyzing everything he had learned. In 1836, Chan Heung founded a new method of fighting. Chan named the system after his two instructors, Choy and Li. The suffix Fut, which meant Buddha, was then added to pay homage to the Shaolin Temple from which his predecessors had come. Chan Heung's fame as a boxing expert soon became known, and he was persuaded by the village elders to set up a school in a nearby temple.
Shortly thereafter, the expansion of illegal opium trading between corrupt Chinese officials and foreigners led to the Opium War. Heung and his followers joined the army in Canton to fight against the British. When the Opium War was over in 1842, Heung and his men returned home. Disappointed with the influx of foreign power and a corruptness of the ruling Ching (Manchurian) Dynasty, Chan Heung began to establish training halls in many different districts. During this turbulent period, many secret societies were formed which advocated overthrowing the government. As a follower of this movement, Chan was instrumental in spreading the Anti-Ching ideology within Choy Li Fut training halls. Wherever he went, Chan trained his men to prepare for the coming battle. Because his revolutionary followers were widely scattered, Chan Heung taught them a series of war cries through which they would be able to secretly identify themselves to one another. Coy Li Fut fighters executed yells such as "Yik" while striking, "Dik" while kicking, and "Wah" while ripping out with claws. These battle cries, similar to the shouting Kiais of Karate Men were meaningless to an outsider. To Chan's followers, it served as a password and constant reminder that they should train hard for the revolution to come. By 1864, the anti-government movement had come to a halt. Chan went abroad to the United States, and at the age of 59 was appointed by the Chinese inhabitants of San Francisco to be their instructor in martial arts. Even in his advanced years, Chan retained his skill, strength, and bravery" at one time killing a tiger with his bare hands. After four years in America, Chan returned to China to live out the remainder of his life. Master Chan Heung left two sons and countless followers who faithfully perpetuated his Choy Li Fut method of boxing.
One of the most colorful styles of Kung Fu seen today, Choy Li Fut is characterized by graceful, long-handed techniques. These movements are practiced in swift, continuous flowing patterns.
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