Hung Kuen Fundamentals: Fok Fu Kuen

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A fierce new manual on a 300-year-old kung fu discipline has been published in a bid to keep it alive and kicking. Writer Hing Chao puts Matt Fleming through his paces

Many would argue that China is built upon the philosophy of martial arts. Since early dynasties, a huge range of styles have been introduced and perfected, with the inner strength, courage, techniques and morals of these disciplines instilled in the population over hundreds of years. However, the bulk of these traditions have been lost. And the same could happen to the kung fu discipline of Hung Kuen – but not if a martial arts master, a Hong Kong writer and a new manual have anything to do with it.

Hung Kuen Fundamentals: Fok Fu Kuen has just been published in our city, co-authored by Master Lam Chun-fai, the world’s leading authority on the Hung Kuen style, and Hing Chao, a martial arts expert and local writer. The two men fear the ‘youth of today’ don’t care much for the 300-year-old discipline which focuses on deep low stances and strong hand techniques, and that means the loss of tradition.

“In many respects,” says Hing, “Hung Kuen is in a strong position compared to many other lesser known martial arts styles. It has thousands of followers worldwide. However, in spite of this, very few people can claim to have truly mastered the system. Because it has a large repertoire, many have pursued quantity instead of quality, and it is abundantly clear to me as a long-time martial arts practitioner that knowledge of Hung Kuen, like all traditional martial arts, is fading very quickly. The continuation of this great heritage is no longer guaranteed as young people lack the time, interest or perseverance to master the art form.”


One is not amused: Master Lam Chun-fai

Hing Chao was born in Hong Kong and grew up in the golden era of Bruce Lee. He was educated in the UK during his teens and started training in martial arts when he was just eight. In 2005, he was invited to study anthropology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and began researching martial arts. “It wasn’t long before I was introduced to Master Lam Chun-fai,” he says, “who is the highest authority in Hung Kuen. I started training with Lam Sifu soon after and have been studying with him ever since.”

Hing, who co-founded the Journal of Chinese Martial Studies in 2009 and also co-organised the first HK International Kung Fu Festival in the same year, says it’s taken a huge amount of research to create the manual with Lam Sifu (Sifu means master) – but they’ve done it as ‘there’s a tremendous need to document the knowledge and techniques as faithfully as possible so it can be promoted’. “The martial arts heritage in Hong Kong is in danger of being lost,” he says. “My aim is to get recognition for it.”

Hing admits that ‘people’s attention span is short in Hong Kong’ but the publication of this manual ‘will probably continue to raise some interest of Hung Kuen’ – however he adds that ‘unless sustained action is taken, this trend will quickly fade’. So he and the Sifu have planned a series of manuals on traditional martial arts following this one. “The short term goal,” says Hing Chao, “is actually to get the government to take stock of the importance and value of traditional martial arts in Hong Kong. We see this as a step in our campaign to gain recognition for traditional martial arts in Hong Kong – including Hung Kuen – as intangible cultural assets. Only then will we gradually begin to change mindsets.”

Hung Kuen Fundamentals: Fok Fu Kuen is published by the International Guoshu Association, priced $299. Look out for an app on the discipline which is out later in the year.

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