WONG FEI HUNG is a charismatic figure who has been portrayed in over 100 movies, played by such greats as Kwan Tak Hing (who just recently passed away at the age of 92 – 1 year has been officially added due to his many humanitarian accomplishments) and Jet Li. The real Wong Fei Hung was born in 1850 in Guangdung, Lam Hoi Province, Sai Chu County, Luk Huern Yan villiage, China. His father was Wong Kei Ying, a student and disciple of southern Siu Lum Master Luk Ah Choi.
He was also one of the earlier 10 Canton Tigers of the late Ching Dynasty. While Wong Fei Hung was one of the later Tigers. It is important to note here that both Wong Kei Ying and Wong Fei Hung were inducted into the “Ten Tigers” while they were still in their early twenties. The other 8 Tigers were all at an advanced age and of a higher kung fu generation. We must also note that the positions of the “tigers” was chosen according to Chinese tradition. The oldest or most senior holds the highest position i.e…#1, #2, #3 etc. This placement was given out of respect and had nothing to do with level of skill. It was also apparent that the induction showed the great respect and had honored the Wong’s in that their skills were compared with the Sifu’s of a higher generation.
Young Wong Fei Hung began his martial arts training at the age of five. By the age of 13 he was already an accomplished martial artist and 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, named Sifu Gwan Dai Hung was demonstrating on the same day. He became jealous because the Wong’s had a much larger crowd watching their performance. Every time he demonstrated his famous left handed fishing pole techniques the size of the crowd would be unmatched. Sifu Gwan felt these two were invading his territory, so, with pole in hand he approached Master Wong Kei Ying and issued a challenge fight.
Master Wong smiled and told his 13 year old son, Wong Fei Hung, to take up a pole and match skills with this Sifu using the Ng Long Ba Gwan Gwun (8 diagram pole techniques). Wong Fei Hung eliminated the challenger and the word spread far and wide. Wong Fei Hung even though still a child was a great fighter. This incident started young master Wong’s fame.
Wong Fei hung is credited with formalizing the orthodox Hung System and creating the styles’ most famous set, the “Tiger Crane Double Pattern Fist Form” (Fu Hok Seung Ying Kuen). 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, the Hung system’s strength was in the tiger/crane techniques, the twelve bridges, horse stance and Wong’s secret “Sup Juet Sao” or 10 Killing Hands, which was only taught to “in the door” disciples.
Wong Fei Hung was also famous for the tiger tail kick & shadowless kick. A lot of people believe, Wong Fei Hung invented the Mo Ying Gerk (shadowless kick), but he learned it from a famous man named Sifu Song Ton Fai. The story goes… Sifu Song was staying at a hotel and 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 stated “You only have hands with no kicks”. He couldn’t believe this woman would say this. Sifu Song asked the woman to show him, Song Ton Fai and the lady sparred. He couldn’t believe that each time he made an advance within striking distance; he would be kicked, although he never saw it coming. Afterward he got to know and eventually married the woman and learned this skill from his new found wife. Wong & Song were friends, Song wanted to learn Wong’s Tiet Sing Kuen, and Fook Fu Kuen and Wong wanted Songs no shadow kick. So they exchanged and the Hung system inherited a new technique.
As an adult he taught martial arts to the navy in Canton and held a position in the General’s office. Later in his life Wong Fei Hung left Canton and moved to Fukien to become the right hand man of General Tong Gin Cheung. General Tong was a resistance fighter of the Ching Dynasty, eventually the resistance fell. Wong moved back to Canton and started teaching Hung Kuen and also established his Po Chi Lum medicine shop. Wong was an undefeated fighter throughout his life. He also produced many famous students and disciples.
The following are 9 of his famous disciples:
- Lian Foon – His #1 disciple. Famous for cracking the ground under his feet when he sat in horse stance.
- Ling Wan Gai – Famous for his “Gwai Gerk” (ghost kicking skills).
- Chan Din Biu
- Lam Sai Wing – Famous for his saber techniques and writing 3 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 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 Lum herbal shops, he would make his own Dit Da medicine which became very famous. This led him to be known as one of the four top doctors in Southern China. These four doctors are still remembered even today. They were:
- Wong Fei Hung
- Jow Hong Gon
- Lei Gam Chuen
- So Hut Yee
During his lifetime Wong had 4 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 Fat San. 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. Incensed, Mok Gwai Lan jumped upon the stage and smacked Wong Fei Hung in the face. Wong’s students became infuriated. Mok stated that “This time its your shoe, but what if the next time its your weapon. You could kill someone. A person of your skill should not ever 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. Wong had fallen in love; a woman that strong would certainly make a good wife. He searched, found and eventually married her.
At the end of the Ching Dynasty and the founding of the republic in 1912, Wong 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 at the age of 83, in 1933. His wife moved with their sons to Hong Kong, Wan Jai Go Si Da Do, and taught Hung Kuen there. She also produced many famous disciples.