Hung Kuen Kung Fu is a southern Chinese Martial arts style that developed from the roots of Shaolin Temple. It seems Hung Kuen was invented out of necessity rather than popularity. Many other styles of Kung Fu were developed around this time period because of the increased awareness of the legendary Shaolin skills. In the beginning Hung Kuen was developed for military fighting, a necessity that was needed to combat the oppressive Ching government during the boxer¡¦s rebellion in China. The strong values that an individual achieves in Hung Kuen were developed during this perilous time period. Values of courage, perseverance, and iron will discipline. These values have withstood the test of time and are forever immortalized through the arduous training that the style demands of its practitioners. Now several hundred years later, practitioners of the Hung Kuen style still develops these important values today.
One man cannot be solely accredited with the development of such a complex style that has been passed down throughout the generations. The political world of China at that time was always changing, many patriots of the style kept the torch of knowledge alive and contributed to the style¡¦s early development. The creator of the style¡¦s original concept has his own surname immortalized. Hung Hei Gung is credited as the inventor of the Hung Kuen style. Many rumors and speculations have been discussed on who taught Hei Gung and what form of kung fu he learned during the conception of the style. I believe that he learned an adaptation of the Shaolin tiger system. This is truly represented by the Fist Form (Kuen) he created called, ¡§Taming the Tiger¡¨ (Gung Gee Fuk Fu Kuen) which is still practiced today by students around the world.
There are many theories on how Hung Hei Gung developed the style throughout his life and what contributions he made. What we do know is that Hei Gung is accredited for developing Hung Kuen¡¦s duality of hard/soft energy. This energy is represented through the most predominate animals of the style, ¡§tiger and crane.¡¨ The tiger represents the hard energy, characterized by the strong palm strikes and fierce snapping power of the wrist. The hard energy is used to control the opponent and knock him off balance, while delivering strikes that concentrate on rooting the body to the ground and simultaneously moving the waist. The crane represents the soft energy, characterized by the quick piercing strikes of the fingers and the elusive whipping power of the hands. The soft energy is used to evade strong attacks with the body and redirect the opponent¡¦s force with the crane¡¦s flowing energy.
Hung Kuen has five animals that are practiced in the style, dragon, tiger, snake, leopard, and crane. Each animal in the style has it¡¦s own characteristics that involve different hand positions, body movements and particular spirit. The dragon represents the internal energy (Chi) dealing with breath control and employs powerful punching techniques. The snake represents speed and directness and uses vital targets and takedowns in the fighting applications. The snake strike uses all four fingers in various attacking patterns to overcome the defenses of the opponent. The leopard represents circular and spinning energy. The leopard strike uses the first row of the knuckles with the thumb placed on the outside of the hand for support. This strike is much smaller than a fist and can attack difficult areas or weak points of the body that are hard to reach. The tiger and crane which we have already discussed use the hard and soft energy and are far more predominate in the style than the other of the three animals. This duality is clearly seen through the most famous fist form in Hung Kuen called, ¡§The tiger and crane double pattern set.¡¨ This set encompasses all the major tiger and crane techniques and allow the practitioner to perfect this duality of hard and soft energy.
Hung Kuen is a very balanced style that has a multitude of fighting techniques and a wide range of energy sources. Hung Hei Gung developed his knowledge from the Shaolin skills to create the foundation of these animal techniques and energy sources. As the knowledge was passed down from Hung Hei Gung, exceptional teachers within the style made certain refinements and adaptations. The style as it is seen today would be somewhat different than when Hung Hei Gung developed it. This is a natural progression of how all kung fu styles improved to maintain their popularity and effectiveness with change of times. Without the changes Hung Kuen might not have existed today or reached the height of popularity that it now enjoys today.
Hung Hei Gung passed the knowledge to many different individuals during his life. He was the first to spread the art form in China. Most of his efforts to spread the style were influenced by his hatred of the oppressive Ching government. Many rebellions happened in the south of China, so the Manchurians as they were known decided to attack and burn down the Shaolin temple. They also outlawed the use of martial arts to keep their firm grip of control in the south of China. This was the start of the boxer¡¦s rebellion. So Hung Hei Gung was perpetuating Hung Kuen for the effect of freedom for his kung fu brothers and his country. He had many disciples and kung fu brothers that also followed him in his desire to seek freedom from the Ching Government. The most famous of those disciples that help transferred the torch of knowledge was a man named Luk Ah Choi who became a famous Hung Kuen practitioner.
Luk A Choi followed in the same footsteps as Hung Hei Gung and taught the style to preserve it and make the style more known in the southern states of China. His most important contribution was keeping the style alive during a very dangerous and perilous period were a person was beheaded if found practicing or teaching kung fu. Many stories have been written about how these Hung Kuen patriots had to travel among opera troupes to conceal their identity from the government. They would travel on boats so that they would not be easily captured and continued to spread their knowledge of Hung Kuen throughout the south of China. Their goals were to spread Hung Kuen to enough people so they could take up arms against an increasing tyrannical government. In his teaching efforts Luk Ah Choi found a great student that would help him elevate the style to a complete new level of popularity and effectiveness. His student¡¦s name was Wong Kei Ying.
Wong Kei Ying was one of the members of an elite Kung Fu group called, ¡§The ten tigers of Canton.¡¨ This group consisted of kung fu masters from various styles that possessed extraordinary skills. They all had developed such a reputation that their name was known throughout all of China. Wong Kei Ying was also a very accomplished doctor of medicine specializing in bone setting and muscle treatment (Dit Dar). He operated a clinic in southern China called precious iris woods (Po Chi Lam) and was regarded as a great healer that helped many people overcome their illnesses and injuries. With a perfect mix of medicine and martial arts, Wong Kei Ying was a pivotal master in the Hung Kuen style. He had perfected the knowledge that was passed down from Hung Hei Gung and Luk Ah Choi and proliferate the effectiveness of style through his generous efforts. His most famous accomplishment is immortalized through the development and teaching of his own son, the most famous of all Hung Kuen masters, ¡§Wong Fei Hung.¡¨
The information on the history up until this point can be argued on many levels because there are no living people that still exist to give us an account of what actual took place during the creation of the Hung Kuen style. This information was passed down to Wong Fei Hung and some of it has been lost from the ravages of time. The next section deals with how Hung Kuen developed to today¡¦s world and all the information is based on the actual accounts of Lam Cho, who was alive when Wong Fei Hung was teaching and transferring the knowledge to his uncle Lam Tsai Wing.”
Page Last Updated: August 20, 2006