Hung Kuen master Lam Chun-fai, 73, and his son Oscar Lam Chuen-ho, 28, demonstrate their craft. Photo: Felix Wong

Video: English-language kung fu manual aims to boost global popularity of Hung Kuen

English-language book aims to preserve ancient style of Hung Kuen, and boost popularity abroad

Johnny Tam

International fans of the martial-arts style made famous by kung fu legend Wong Fei-hung will find it easier to learn with the publication of its first English-language manual.

Publishers of the manual - to be launched next week - hope it will help to preserve the 300-year-old style known as Hung Kuen while also popularising it overseas.

They also want the government to adopt the style as part of Hong Kong's intangible cultural heritage.

Believed to have originated in Southern Shaolin along with other southern Chinese martial arts, the style was adopted by Wong, who was famed for his fighting prowess and righteousness in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

It was passed to Wong's student Lam Sai-wing and his adopted son Lam Cho, becoming the subject of countless movies and television series.

Lam Cho's son, Lam Chun-fai Si Fu (master), who has taught Hung Kuen in Hong Kong for 60 years, now fears it faces extinction because of a dwindling number of serious practitioners and the apathy of young people.

"Pupils were more persevering and single-minded in the past. They could easily spend a day practising Kuen," Lam said.

"But now, pupils can't stand any hardship. They say practising is tiring and give up easily."

Lam, 73, attributed this to the many modern-day distractions.

"There are many entertainments nowadays, making it difficult for young people to focus on one thing," he said.

"Though the number of Kuen learners overseas is growing, it's not the case locally," he added.

He hopes with the launch of the book, not only more overseas kung fu lovers will be interested in learning Hung Kuen but also more local youngsters will learn and pass the tradition on. The book, , comprises three parts with the first introducing the origin and development of Hung Kuen, in particular the Lam family's version.

The second illustrates the techniques of the foundation empty-hand set - Gung Gee Fok Fu Kuen - in Hung Kuen while the third carries memorial dedications to Lam Cho.

"Chinese martial arts were usually orally transmitted. Only very few written records were made," said the book's co-author Hing Chao, co-founder of the International Guoshu Association. Chao has been pioneering the research and revitalisation of traditional Chinese martial arts culture.

"By publishing this book, we have produced a systematic record of Hung Kuen and have taken the lead in preserving it," he said.

During the months of preparation, Chao said they took reference from the way that Japanese karate had been preserved, properly documented and published.

He plans books about other kung fu styles in future.

Chao, a student of Lam Chun-fai, said the government should support the preservation of South Chinese martial arts by listing it as a national intangible cultural heritage.

"Hong Kong is a unique city which has been witnessing the development of southern Chinese martial arts," said Chao. "It has the responsibility of passing it on to the next generations."

The manual will be launched next Wednesday at Western Market, Sheung Wan.

It will be available at all major book stores in Hong Kong at HK$299.


This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: A kung fu manual for the masses