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The Jing Mo & Northern Styles Connections

September 29 2015 at 7:42 AM
LJF  (Login LJF)

Bruce Lee & Jing Mo’s Kung Fu
According to Dan Inosanto and Jesse Glover, Bruce Lee’s Jun Fan Kung Fu comprises of Southern and Northern styles of Chinese fighting arts. Besides the Southern style like Wing Chun, Hung Gar, Choy Li-Fut, Praying Mantis etc., the Northern styles which he had learnt in HK were mainly from Master Siu Hon-Sung (1900-1994). Master Siu was Lee Hoi Chuan’s (1902-1965) good friend and through his father’s arrangement, Bruce attended Master Siu’s private lessons in early 1959 (circa Feb-Apr) before leaving for the U.S. In 1963, upon returning to HK, Bruce once again, continued his learning from Master Siu. According to Master Siu, he taught Bruce the fundamental sets of Jing Mo’s Kung Fu, which include Jeet Kune (aka Jit Kuen), Gung Lik Kune, Bung Bo Kuen (Preying Mantis’ Leaping Fist), Tam Tuei (Tam Leg), Bat-Gwa broadsword, Five Tigers Spear etc. Bruce also self learnt other Jing Mo’s Kung Fu through martial arts manuals, like Hwa Kune, Eagle Fist, Lost Track Kung Fu etc. Jing Mo’s Kung Fu was mostly Northern Styles that was being taught in Jing Mo School whose founder was the prominent Chinese hero, Grandmaster Fok Yuen-Ka.

Grandmaster Fok Yuen-Ka (1868-1910)
On 7th July 1910, Grandmaster Fok Yuen-Ka (aka Fok Yuen Gap) founded Jing Mo School (aka Jing Wu Athlete Association) in Shanghai. He was given the nickname “Yellow-Faced Tiger” in honor of his various defeats of the foreign boxers and clearing the bad reputation - “Sick Man of Asia” for his fellow country men. The most famous patriotic Kung Fu heroes at that time were Grandmaster Wong Fei-Hung from Southern China and Grandmaster Fok Yuen-Ka from Northern China. Their legendary feats had been played on movies and TV series numerous times since the late 40s till today. Grandmaster Fok was a highly skilled “Lost Track” Kung Fu master who gained the respect of many Chinese people. His life’s ambition was to unite the people by first leveraging their health through martial arts learning. That was the main purpose he established the Jing Mo School which was seen as a form of nationalistic movement.

Jing Mo literally means “Proficient in Martial Arts.” Many people joined the Jing Mo School upon its opening. However, just barely a month of his newly found Jing Mo School, Grandmaster Fok suddenly passed away on 9th August 1910 at the age of 42 due to sickness. His death led to many speculations, and many Chinese believed he was being poisoned to death by the Japanese who was envious of his skills and trying to seek revenge of their Karateka’s defeat to Grandmaster Fok. Part of the story was depicted in Bruce Lee “Fist of Fury” in 1972. Grandmaster’s untimely death was similar to Bruce Lee’s mysterious death which caused many speculations and one similar speculation was that both were being poisoned to death.

Grandmaster Fok left behind a group of highly-skilled students such as Lau Chan-Sing, Chan Kung-Zit, Chan Tit-Sung, Cheung Man-Dat, Bian Yun-Shan etc. However, his second son, Fok Dung-Gwok (1895 - 1956) succeeded his Jing Mo’s career and later opened a branch in Guangdong. Subsequently, he expanded the branches to Southeast Asia with his uncle. One of the famous Fok Dung-Gwok students was Siu Hon-Sung.

Master Siu Hon Sung (1900-1994)
At the age of 10, Master Siu began learning Southern style Kung Fu which included Hung Gar, Choy Li Fut, Lo-Hon Mun Kune and Preying Mantis from various Kung Fu masters. He learned Hung Gar from Fung Wing-Biu, who was a student of Grandmaster Wong Fei-Hung. Fung then referred Siu to his friend Hung Cheung (to learn Choy Li Fut). Master Siu was also referred to Chik Wong the authority of “Chow Gar Pak Kwa Staff” fighting techniques. Master Siu enrolled into Jing Mo Athletic Association’s branch at Guangdong in 1920. There, he learnt Northern styles from Sun Yuk-Fung, and Southern styles from Hung Cheong. In fact, Shih Kien (Han in ETD) and Master Siu Hon-Sung were both Jing Mo schoolmates and graduates, and one of their famous teachers was Master Ku Yu-Cheung (also the Grandmaster of Wong Jack-Man)

Shek and Master Siu were close friends of Lee Hoi Chuen in HK. Later, Master Siu studied the secret martial arts of the Fok family, “Fist Enigma” (aka “Mai Chung Kuen” or “Lost Track Boxing”) from Fok Dung-Gwok. Ultimately, Master Siu became a Kung Fu master who was well versed in both Southern and Northern styles Kung Fu. During the 1950s and 1960s, Master Siu was actively involved in the HK film industry producing and acting in many action movies like the “Wong Fei-Hung” series and at the same time, teaching Kung Fu to young people in his martial arts school called “Hon-Sung Health & Recreational Institute.”

Before leaving to the U.S. in April 1959, Bruce spent about 2 months learning from Master Siu, whom he addressed as 4th Uncle. In a 70s interview, Master Siu said, “After Bruce had learned Wing Chun, he came to ask me to teach him some Kung Fu. I chose to teach him the second set of Jing Mo’s boxing form – Gung Lik Kune because it is easier to learn since its form is shorter. I taught him this fundamental Northern style which stresses the use of kicks. This influenced Bruce’s kicks as seen in his movies. Northern style has larger movements as compared to the Southern style. It is more fanciful on-screen. Later, I taught Bruce a set of jumping step boxing (Bung Bo Kuen). This kind of boxing is a basic boxing form of Northern Praying Mantis Kung Fu. Its characteristics are tumbling, swift movements and the circular horizontal kicks. Bruce was very smart and he mastered it in just 6 or 7 lectures. Then, I taught him a set of Jeet Kune (aka Jit Kune), the 4th set of the basic boxing forms of Jing Mo school. I also taught him 2 sets of weapon forms. One of them was Bak-Gua-Do (Eight Trigams Broad Sword and the other was Five Tigers Spear. However, Bruce aimed not at weapons as they can only be used in performing, and not in today’s society, so he concentrated mostly on boxing.”

Bruce maintained a long-term friendly relationship with Master Siu even after he went over to the U.S. They used to exchange martial arts knowledge and opinions through many letters (some letters still survived till today). Every time when Bruce returned to HK, the places which he visited most were Ip Man’s school and Master Siu’s house. He went there to seek Master Siu’s personal advice and guidance. Master Siu was an easy-going person and there were many photos taken of him and Bruce together at the restaurants, either having tea-chats or martial arts discussions. Master Siu’s imparted not only his Kung Fu to Bruce but also shared his valuable experience and knowledge. This in one way or another helped Bruce to leverage his skills and knowledge to a certain extent. Besides Master Ip Man (1893-1972), Master Siu Hon-Sung was Bruce Lee’s officially declared 2nd formal Sifu in HK.

Bruce & Northern Styles
Bruce played the character of "Chan Zhan," 5th student of Master Fok Yuen-Ka in the movie “Fist of Fury” (based on Jing Mo’s school background which was partly fictional). In one scene where he fought against the Russian fighter (played by Bob Baker), he displayed Master Fok’s famous secret art of "Fist Enigma" or "Lost Track Kung Fu." In real life, Bruce had self-learnt and studied "Fist Enigma" through his martial arts manual. Since Bruce was Master Siu’s student, then logically, he could be considered as the 4th generation student of Grandmaster Fok Yuen-Ka. In addition, during Bruce’s teenage years, both uncle Siu and uncle Shih Kien had told Bruce many heroic stories of Master Fok. That was why Bruce admired Grandmaster Fok and had Fok’s photo pasted on his scrapbook – “Chinese Gung Fu.” Not forgetting to mention Shih Kien who played the villain - Han, in ETD, was also a genuine master of various Jing Mo’s style and Southern style Kung Fu just like Master Siu Hon-Sung. Bruce respected uncle Shih and used to seek his advice and exchanged martial arts experience with him before and during the filming of ETD. They even had an informal sparring in-between takes of ETD.

Apart from his official learning of Jing Mo’s Kung Fu from Master Siu, Bruce also learnt various Northern style Kung Fu like Northern Shaolin Kick, Fut Kuen, Eagle Fist, Chin-na, Hsing-Yi Kuen, Bak Gwa Kuen, Taiji Chuen, Lo Han Kuen, Hwa Kuen, Poked Leg, 24 Chain/Continuous Kicks, Northern style Mantis Boxing etc. The Northern styles which Bruce learnt could be seen in Bruce’s displaying the modified “3-steps Rising and Cyclone kicks” in the Long Beach Karate Tournament (1964) and in “Enter The Dragon”(1973). Also, the shadows of the Northern styles could be traced in his various Kung Fu stances and weapons demonstrations during the photo shooting session at the California beach in 1967.

According to Jesse Glover, Bruce taught him various Kung Fu techniques from Wing Chun, Tiger Crane Double Forms Fist, Northern Style Praying Mantis, Taichi, Bat Gwa, Jeet Kune, Hsin Yi, Eagle Claw Tumbling Fist. He also taught him footwork, sticking hands, straight blast, drawing attacks, kicking and some techniques that emphasised on wrist and arm locks (Chin-na techniques). Bruce studied many styles of Kung Fu and incorporated some of these essential techniques into his system and discarded the rest.

Also, Bruce learnt Internal Style which was the advanced form of Kung Fu as it consists of various internal energy Kung Fu techniques. Bruce liked to talk about the philosophical concepts of 3 internal Northern styles i.e. Taichi, Hsin Yi and Bat Gwa and had good comments of the Internal Styles martial artists. He believed many Internal Styles practitioners were highly skilled and were on par or even surpassed the best Wing Chun fighter he had seen. The theory of Yin and Yang taught him the ways of comparison in looking upon everything such as hard against soft; fast against slow; horizontal against vertical etc. He was also inspired and motivated by I-Ching (an ancient Chinese manual of divination based on 8 symbolic trigrams and 64 hexagrams, interpreted in terms of the principles of Yin and Yang. It was included as one of the ‘5 classics’ of Confucianism) which was actually the main source of his martial arts philosophy. He tried to apply the Yin & Yang Theory and I-Ching in real life situations. To him, this was an extreme important direction for his advancement in the route of martial arts.

Challenger from Jing Mo - Wong Jack-Man (1940 - )
As a matter of fact, Wong Jack-Man who challenged and fought Bruce in 1964, too, was a student of the Jing Mo Athletic Association. He is the student of Master Yim Sheung-Mo (1882-1971) and Master Ma Kim-Fung (1916 - ) whom imparted him Hsing-Yi Kune, Tai-Chi Chuen, Cha Kune, Northern Shaolin Kung Fu and other Jing Mo’s style Kung Fu. Also, he is the direct grandstudent of the famous Master Ku Yu-Cheung (1894-1952). In 1964, he departed HK and arrived in San Francisco, and worked in the branch of Jing Mo Club. As he had sparred and defeated some top martial artists in the Chinatown, thus, the Chinese Martial Arts community appointed Wong, whom they considered to be the best martial artist in Chinatown to be their representative and sent him to challenge Bruce at his school. (Note: Bruce had earlier performed on the stage of Sing Hoi theatre, LA where he declared openly that he would accept challenges from anyone who disagreed with his views on the practice and in-heritage of the classical Kung Fu which he thought was a classical mess. The Chinese Martial Arts community felt very disgraceful and hence, issued a challenge to him).

It was really interesting that in 1964, Bruce Lee and Wong Jack-Man, the two students of the Northern/Southern style cum Jing Mo’s style Kung Fu, were unaware that they were descendents of the Jing Mo’s family and their Great grandmaster was Fok Yuen-Ka. They confronted each other in the showdown of Oakland Chinatown. During this “challenge to death” fight, 5ft 11 Wong was defeated by 5ft 7.5 Bruce in a couple of minutes. Though both learnt Jing Mo’s style Kung Fu, Wong used Northern style Kung Fu (i.e. Shaolin Lo Han Kune) while Bruce applied mainly Southern style Kung Fu (i.e. Wing Chun) in the fight instead. According to the witnesses, Wong was moving around the room, trying to avoid the aggressive attacks from Bruce and eventually was forced to the ground and surrendered. However, Bruce was unsatisfied with his overall performance as he thought the fight should have ended in a couple of seconds if not for his under expectation’s stamina and too rigid Wing Chun style. Thus, he began to put in tremendous effort in evolving his personal martial arts skills, training, concepts, physical conditioning etc from then onwards and 3 years later, he found his personal art - JKD in 1967.

Man Is More Important Than Established Style/ System
Generally, Bruce thought that some Northern Style Kung Fu were much more fanciful with footwork, acrobatics and jumping moves, in contrast to many Southern Style Kung Fu which are less fanciful but more practical and economical in real fighting. Thus, Bruce liked to perform Northern Style in his demos to attract the audience's attention, and he would normally use Southern Style in his fight. Moreover, Bruce knew that certain Northern styles still hold their reputations for real hand to hand combat such as Hsing-Yi Kuen, Bak-Gwa Kuen, Northern Shaolin etc. which are higher level Northern Style Kung Fu. Bruce was a talented martial artist who knew how to apply, modify and incorporate the essential techniques from various styles into his own Jun Fan Kung Fu. All martial arts would only become effective if one understands their basic roots, functions and how to maximise them to the fullest. At the end of the day, it is not the art but the practitioner himself matters. As Bruce used to tell his students, “Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.”

From Fok Yuen-Ka to Bruce Lee & Wong Jack-Man:

Bruce Lee’s Jing Mo’s Kung Fu:

 Respond to this message   

  • Master Siu Hon-Sung on Bruce Lee - LJF on Sep 29, 2015, 8:41 AM
  • Excellent Info LIF - JKD54 on Sep 29, 2015, 9:56 AM
  • Re: The Jing Mo & Northern Styles Connections - Billy on Sep 29, 2015, 1:01 PM
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