Feature: Century-long legend of Hong Kong Chin Woo

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by Xinhua Writer Chu Mengmeng

HONG KONG, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- In Hong Kong, the Kung Fu world, made up of numerous martial arts sects, can be wrapped up in a single room.

More than 20 martial arts masters of various Kung Fu styles have gathered together in a studio in downtown Kowloon and aligned with one and another under the name of "Chin Woo."

After spending nearly five decades in the Hong Kong Chin Woo Athletic Association, Ke Junlong, the 69-year-old chairman, reckons Chin Woo as "a big family," drawing like-minded martial arts addicts together from various sects, and even across the boundaries of space and time.


In the Kung Fu world, various sects have different practice methods and techniques, and each one has developed their own secret recipe for practicing, which is usually kept to themselves. But Chin Woo in Hong Kong allows an apprentice to start more than one style at the same time.

Wing Chun, taught by Lam Chinting, is characterized by its philosophy of using an opponent's force against them. It became well-known because of Master Ip Man and Bruce Lee, Ip's disciple.

On the contrary, Eight Diagrams Palm emphasizes taking pre-emptive action before the opponent. It is taught by Lee Haucyun, who was also the vice chairman of the association.

Hung Kuen, which contains a series of powerful movements, is taught by Cheung Punleung, a small and wiry retired lifeguard who is one of the successors of Master Wong Fei-hung.

Wong Yiukau, tall and sturdy, teaches Lung Ying (Dragon Shape), a kind of agile and swift martial art of which the movements and the name were both derived from the Chinese dragon.

It is the core principle of Chin Woo to eliminate the boundaries among various sects and thus facilitate communication.

The masters are from different walks of life, but have invariably devoted their time and passion to the part-time teaching jobs here, as they share the same ardor for Chinese martial arts and the same goal of promoting the traditional Kung Fu culture, according to Ke.

To that end, lower tuition fees are charged at Chin Woo than at other places, attracting hundreds of students every week, including long-time Kung Fu fans who want to realize their dreams after retirement, kids who view martial arts as an interesting physical exercise, and foreigners fond of traditional Chinese culture.

"People have different reasons to love martial arts," Ke said, whether for the physical benefits, the practical self-defense techniques or its artistic manifestation. He could not be more delighted to see the love for martial arts is shared by more people with the efforts of Chin Woo members.


The word "Chin Woo," literally translated as "advocates and excels at martial arts," has always been a magnet for martial arts lovers ever since its emergence more than a century ago.

Founded by a group of martial artists, among whom was the renowned Huo Yuanjia, in 1910 in Shanghai, the Chin Woo Athletic Association aimed to unite various martial arts sects to train young people to be strong both physically and mentally.

In subsequent years, the athletic spirit of Chin Woo affected people in and out of the Chinese mainland, including a bunch of Hong Kong students, who later formed a local division in 1922.

Since then, the Hong Kong branch has been passed down till today without interruption. More traditions have been reserved here. For example, the traditional Chin Woo outfit and boots, designed by Huo Yuanjia and others to suit the needs while practicing, are still the uniforms for Hong Kong Chin Woo members.

Also, the 10 Chin Woo routine movements, drawn upon from a variety of martial arts sects to provide basic skill trainings for beginners, can still be learned in its rather original version from Lee Haucyun.

Yet, for Ke, the most valuable heritage handed down by Chin Woo ancestors should be the spirit of patriotism and righteousness.

From past to present, Hong Kong Chin Woo members have always participated voluntarily in all sorts of charity performances to raise funds for people in need, and provided free education for children in the 1950s.

Throughout its 101 years, Hong Kong Chin Woo has always been part of the patriotic community in Hong Kong, which can be exemplified by Ke's pick of 1997 as his most unforgettable year in Chin Woo.

"It was a bustling yet marvelous year," Ke recalls, adding that Chin Woo members, together with fellow martial artists in Hong Kong, held a number of performances throughout the whole year to celebrate the return of Hong Kong to the motherland.


In Hong Kong, a highly internationalized city, tradition has it that the gate of Chin Woo has always been open to visitors from home and abroad.

During the first half of the 20th century, the Hong Kong branch played an important role in propelling the spread of multiple types of martial arts from north to south China and then even outside China to Southeast Asia.

Attracted by the association's worldwide reputation, batches of overseas Kung Fu fans come to learn martial arts here every year. Some of them even brought the spirit of "Chin Woo" back to set up local branches.

Under the important contributions of Hong Kong Chin Woo, there are currently more than 80 Chin Woo branches worldwide.

Lee Haucyun directly helped establish two overseas branches, respectively in the Philippines and Canada. He was invited to teach in the two countries and then discovered the popularity of Chinese martial arts there.

"I recruited practitioners from various sects for the local Chin Woo branches, just like what we did in Hong Kong," Lee said, recalling that when asked by some foreigners to explain the spirit of Chin Woo, he gave a terse answer: to help the people in need.

Also, some types of foreign martial arts have been absorbed into Hong Kong Chin Woo. For example, Ke himself is a master of karate.

In 2017, to deepen communications among practitioners, Ke and other Chin Woo members initiated a grading system, applying relatively universal standards to appraise one's martial arts performances, regardless of the sect.

"It is highly welcomed, especially by foreigners who think the system offers a clear illustration of their level," Ke said.

So far, more than 100 people in and out of Chin Woo have passed the premier level and got their places on a Billboard-like list posted at the entrance of Chin Woo's studio.

The grading system is now recognized by other branches of Chin Woo and is about to be promoted worldwide.

Next, Ke wishes to assemble local martial artists and organize an international martial arts competition in Hong Kong, presenting the name "Chin Woo" and the charm of Chinese martial arts to more people all over the globe. Enditem

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