Altar Photo: Middle Right
Wong Fei Hung is a charismatic figure who has been portrayed in over 100 movies, played by many great actors, such as Kwan Tak Hing (who recently passed away at the age of 92) and Jet Li. The real Wong Fei Hung was born in 1850 in Guangdong. His father was Wong Kei Ying, one of the earlier Ten Tigers of the late Ching Dynasty. Wong Fei Hung was one of the later Ten Tigers.
Both Wong Kei Ying and Wong Fei Hung were inducted into the “Ten Tigers” while they were still in their early twenties, while the other eight Tigers were all at an advanced age and of a higher Kung Fu generation. This showed great respect and honoured the Wongs by indicating that their skills were comparable with the Sifus of a higher generation.
Wong Fei Hung began his martial arts training at the age of five and by the age of thirteen he was already an accomplished martial artist. He often went out with his father to demonstrate Kung Fu and sell medicine in different villages. On one occasion a famous teacher of another style, Sifu Gwan Dai Hung, was demonstrating on the same day. Sifu Gwan became jealous because the Wongs had a much larger crowd watching their performance. Every time Wong Kei Ying demonstrated his famous left-handed fishing pole techniques, he would draw a large crowd. Sifu Gwan felt that they were invading his territory and, with pole in hand, he approached Master Wong Kei Ying to challenge him to fight. Master Wong smiled and told Wong Fei Hung, thirteen at the time, to take up a pole and match skills with this Sifu using the Ng Lung Ba Gwa Gwun (Fifth Brother Eight Diagram Pole) techniques. Wong Fei Hung defeated the challenger and word spread far and wide. Even though still a child, he was a great fighter. This incident started young master Wong’s fame.
Wong Fei hung is credited with formalising the orthodox Hung system and creating the style’s most famous set, the Fu Hok Seung Ying Kuen (Tiger Crane Double Pattern Fist). According to Master Frank Yee’s Grandmaster, Tang Fung, the tiger-crane set was developed from Tiet Kiu Saam’s horse stance and hand bridge combined with Wong Fei Hung’s fighting techniques. In fact, the Hung system’s strength was in the tiger/crane techniques, the twelve bridges, horse stance and Wong’s secret Sup Juet Sao (10 Killing Hands), which was only taught to “in the door” disciples.
Wong Fei Hung was also famous for the Tiger Tail Kick & Mo Ying Gerk (Shadowless Kick). Many believe that Wong Fei Hung invented the Mo Ying Gerk, but he actually learned it from a famous Sifu called Song Tong Fai. There is a story that Sifu Song was staying at a hotel where at night he used to practice in the courtyard. One evening he heard a woman laughing, he turned and asked the woman “Why are your laughing?” She said “You only have hands with no kicks”. He couldn’t believe this woman would say this. Sifu Song asked the woman to show him and they sparred. Every time he made an advance within striking distance, he would be kicked but he never saw it coming. Afterwards, he got to know and eventually married the woman and learned this skill from her. Wong & Song were friends, Song wanted to learn the Tiet Sing Kuen and Fook Fu Kuen and Wong wanted the No-Shadow Kick. They exchanged and the Hung system inherited a new technique.
As an adult he taught martial arts to the navy in Guanzhou and held a position in the General’s office. Wong Fei Hung eventually left Guanzhou and moved to Fukien to become General Tong Gin Cheung’s right-hand man. General Tong was a fighter for the resistance to the Ching Dynasty. The resistance eventually collapsed and Wong moved back to Canton to teach Hung Kuen and to establish the Po Chi Lam medicine shop. Wong was undefeated throughout his life, and produced many famous students and disciples, some of which are:
- Liang Foon – His top disciple, famous for cracking the ground under his feet when he sat in a horse stance.
- Ling Wan Gai – Famous for his “Gwai Gerk” (Ghost Kicking) skills.
- Chan Din Biu
- Lam Sai Wing – Famous for his sabre techniques and writing three books on Hung Ga.
- Tang Fung – famous for his strict, rigorous training and his stubborn “Old Square Mind” mentality.
- Sui Low Ngan
- Sui Low Yuk
- Tak Gan Jow
- Luk Jin Gun
Wong Fei Hung was not only good at martial arts but also had exceptional Mo Duk (martial virtue) and medicine. During the late Ching Dynasty he owned two herbal shops, one in Canton and the other in Futsan. At his Po Chi Lam herbal shops, he would make his own Dit Da medicine which became very famous, leading him to be known as one of the four top doctors in Southern China, still remembered today: Wong Fei Hung, Jow Hong Gon, Lei Gam Chuen and So Hut Yee.
During his lifetime Wong Fei Hung had four wives. There is a funny story about how he met his 4th wife Mok Gwai Lan. Madame Mok Gwai Lan, also known as the “tigress” was watching a lion dance and Kung Fu demonstration during a celebration day for the Buddha in Fatsan. Mok Gwai Lan, 19 yrs old, and already an accomplished martial artist herself, wanted to see first-hand this famous man whose reputation preceded him. While Wong was demonstrating the Yu Ga Dai Pa (Yu’s family Great Fork), he kicked and his shoe flew off and hit her in the face. Mok Gwai Lan jumped on the stage and struck Wong Fei Hung in the face and Wong’s students were infuriated. Mok stated that “This time it’s your shoe, but what if the next time it’s your weapon. You could kill someone. A person of your skill should never have an accident like that.” Wong just smiled and said, “You are right I should not have been so careless.” Mok Gwai Lan disappeared into the crowd but Wong Fei Hung had fallen in love: a woman that strong would certainly make a good wife. He searched for her and eventually found and married her.
At the end of the Ching Dynasty and the founding of the republic in 1912, Wong Fei Hung became the head instructor of martial arts for the Special Forces elite military unit, under the direction of the General Lau Wing Fuk in Canton City.
In October of 1924 there was a strike against the government by all the businesses. Canton city fell to riots and Wong Fei Hung’s home and herbal shop were burnt to the ground. He lost all his belongings and money. Later on, his son Wong Hawn Sum lost his job and was shot dead in an altercation with a drug gang. After all this, Wong took ill and died in his home in 1933 at the age of 83. His wife moved with their sons to Hong Kong and taught Hung Kuen there. She also produced many famous disciples.