Grandmaster Lun Gai Foshan Wing Chun
My Teacher Grandmaster Lun Gai 06.11.1927 to 05.01.2014
By Derek Frearson
In 1928 Joseph Stalin (18.12.1878–05.03.1953) was the supreme leader of Russia and Chiang Kai- Shek (31.10.1887 – 05.04. 1975) led the Northern Expedition to unify the country becoming China’s overall leader. Mao was fighting for control and had been expelled from his party post on the 14th of November the previous year. By April 1928 his luck began to change when the remnants of the Nanchang Mutineers under brigadier Zhu De sought refuge at Mao’s base. The Zhu-Mao red Army was formed and Mao sought to reestablish himself and by November 1928 Mao’s demands were met and he was told he was in charge of the Zhu-Mao army.
It was into this pivotal point in Chinese history that a young boy by the name of Lun Gai was born on 06.11.1928. Lun Sifu is number 3 in the family. He had one older brother, one older sister and one younger. He also had a younger brother but he was given away or sold at very early age as the family was too poor to keep him. He has no idea where he is now or what has happened to him. The family home was in Shiwan in Foshan which was famous for its ceramic figurines, I think Shiwan was only included in the Foshan City by the New Government in recent years.
Much is written about the life of Grandmaster Ip Man (Cantonese) (Ye Wen Mandarin) and his students in Hong Kong, his teachings and followers have received wide publicity. Thanks to their hard work the late Grandmasters art has now spread to every corner of the globe. Generally, little has been published about his teaching in Foshan (Fatshan) and his students from those early days. Lun Gai’s variously spelt as (Lun Kai) (Lun Jie) (Lun Jia) father died when he was 9 years old, so he started work at the age of twelve as a boy servant at the Luen Cheong Embroidery Factory on Wing On Road which was owned by a relative. The factory stood around 800 meters north of Grandmaster Yip’s residence at Mulberry Gardens. The owner of the factory was a good friend of Grandmaster Yip and so he invited him to teach Wing Chun (Yong Chun) (Ving Tsun) to his children in the warehouse at the back of his factory.
Lun Gai began to study under the Grandmaster at the age of fourteen; Grandmaster Yip was around forty years old at this time and in his prime. The group would meet every evening and consisted of eight students and the Grandmaster taught for free, he asked his students to address him as ‘ Man Sok ‘, Uncle Man. This was during the occupation by Japanese forces so the class would meet in secret. Great emphasis was placed on the study of the Siu- Nim-Tau form and on Horse Stance practise. When they practised Chi Sao Grandmaster Yip would cover his eyes and Chi Sao with all the students and he could tell by the feel which of the students he was training with. The teaching method at this time was to teach the complete system in one year as lessons were held every night, which included Siu-Nim-Tau, Chum-Kiu, Biu-Tze, Butterfly Knives, Long Pole and Wooded Dummy. There was no instruction in any other form of sticking hand training apart from the two handed Chi Sao. Master Lun recalls that Ip Mans friend and neighbour whose family home was also in Mulberry Gardens, Yuen Kay San 1898 to 1956 used to stop by some evenings to sit and watch the class.
STORIES FROM THE OLD DAYS
Kwok Fu told this story in an interview with a Chinese television company: “Yuen Kay San was really famous he was as well-known as Yip Man. He was really amazing, his Kung Fu skills were very, very good. Every night Yip Man would sit here and he would sit beside him, watching us learn. Eventually, Yip Man said “Hey, you, go take care of him. Don’t let him just sit there and smoke don’t let him watch me teach.” I said, “Hey, Uncle Jo, come and teach me! You’re quite good, please teach me”. I saw that he was older than me, he was older than me by ten or twenty years and I was in my twenties. So I attacked [but I thought] “Ah, his age is so much older, it’s just not right. I shouldn’t use all my power to attack.” When Yuen Kay San attacked he was quite ruthless and fast, when I attacked him. I didn’t hit. I just stopped. Just at the point. His attack was quite unrelenting when he tried to hit me, but nonetheless he couldn’t hit me” And Lun Gai recalled to me: “Yip Mans friend Yuen Kay San used to come and watch our training Master Yip told us not to practise the Wooden Dummy if Yuen Kay San was watching” So it seemed that the Old Hero’s still liked to keep some secrets. I asked Lun Gai Sifu if he had ever had to use his Wing Chun in a real life situation he said Grandmaster Yip did not want his students to fight.
There was one occasion however just after the Cultural Revolution when he went on his bicycled out into the countryside at night. He was travelling along a dark road when two men jumped out in front of him, as he stopped the light, which was driven by a dynamo, went out. He quickly put the bicycle down; one man threw a powerful punch towards Lun sifu. Lun applied the Kuo Sao movement from Wing Chuns Second form Chum-Kiu. He heard the breaking of bone and the man screamed with pain, turning to the side the other man had already launched a kick, which glanced against Lun’s thigh. The man didn’t follow up the attack hearing his accomplice’s screams both men fled.
YIP MANS CLASS IN FOSHAN
During the training at the Luen Cheong Embroidery factory the students were Chow Kwong Yiu, Lun Gai, Kwok Fu (Guo Fu), Chan Gee Sun, Lui Pak Ying, Chow Sai Keung, Chan Sum, Tsang So. Lun Gai and Kwok Fu were good friends, being six years older Lun Gai looked upon him as being an elder brother, in Kung Fu terms Lun Gai was the elder (Sihing) Kung Fu brother since he joined the class before Kwok Fu. The class ran for three years and after the break up some of the class members stayed in touch with Uncle Yip, Grandmaster Yip visited Kwok Fu several times in his family village home around 10 miles from Foshan during this period to give him some books to copy, these were passed onto Lun Gai, thereafter Lun Gai gave them to his close students.
Kwok Fu moved to Guangzhou in 1948. During his time in Guangzhou Kwok Fu met and exchanged with Sum Nung (Yuen Kay San / Guangzhou Wing Chun) and others. Lun Gai, Kwok Fu and Sum Nung were boyhood friends in Foshan. When Master Lun was talking to me about these days he said that Kwok Fu was the best at this time. He was a man and Sifu Lun was a boy. Because of the 6 years’ difference in their ages Kwok Fu was much stronger so could use the techniques better with more power. My thoughts are they were both the best at some time in their career. Later when Kwok Fu got older and his health deteriorated Lun Gai was the best and he had a much longer training and teaching career than Kwok Fu. In the Ip Man Ving Tsun Genealogy book Kwok Fu lists 1 student as a disciple his son Guo Wei Zhan, Lun Gai lists 25 disciples. In Foshan I have never heard people talk of things like who was the best of Yip Mans students. But I have read speculations from around the world from outsiders. The two brothers always discussed and shared with each other, and the two families are linked by not only friendship, Yip Mans Wing Chun teaching but also marriage. Master Lun recalls a story of when Yip Man was out walking with a relative. The relative got involved in an argument with a detective. As the argument became more heated the detective pulled out his gun to shoot, Yip Man grabbed the gun and disarmed it.
Grandmaster Yip left Foshan around 1949 after the Communist takeover as an Undercover Police Captain he feared possible reprisals from the new regime. Before leaving China Grandmaster Yip instructed his few remaining students to use the Phoenix Eye punching method which Lun Gai Sifu favoured in his training. During the early years of the Communist takeover the two classmates lost contact and went their different ways. Lun Gai made an effort to try and contact Kwok Fu but to no avail, at the same time Kwok Fu was also trying to find Lun Gai. Knowing his old classmate was an electrician by trade Kwok Fu would always ask any electricians he met if they knew Lun Gai. One time in Guangzhou Kwok Fu met an electrician who said he knew Lun Gai and that he had returned to Foshan and was working at a pump factory there. Kwok Fu wrote a letter to the pump factory which Lun Gai received, the old classmates were reunited in 1958 and have been close friends ever since.
During the Cultural Revolution 1966 to 1976 the practise of martial arts was frowned upon by the Red Guards many martial arts Masters were persecuted this included torture, imprisonment and death. Kwok Fu suffered at the hands of the Red Guards and his health is still poor today because of their treatment. Lun Gai continued to practise throughout this period mostly at home; sometimes he would go to the park or the Ancestral Temple. Often the practise at the Temple would be watched by a Policeman who was also a martial arts practitioner so he never reported him. Lun Gai Sifu has taught for many years in Foshan and has passed on Grandmaster Yips legacy to numerous students.
IP MANS FOSHAN WING CHUN / HONG KONG WING CHUN
On the development of Wing Chun in Hong Kong and the differences between Foshan and Hong Kong Chun as taught today. Sifu Lun doesn’t know why the teaching of Yip Man was different in Hong Kong, he can only assume that Yip Man might have added or dropped some movements, he also might have allowed his students more freedom interpreting the movements, this would account for the differences of his followers. He does, however, know that Yip Man only taught the Bagua steps in Foshan. Sifu Lun’s method is very direct, the amount of power he generates over such a short distance is phenomenal. I was on the receiving end of many “Jerk Hands” techniques and his “Slap Block” made my whole body shake.
Sadly, Sifu Lun has suffered from health problems for many years. After his wife passed away on 30th June 1998 his mental state became very poor and confused. Sifu has also suffered from painful knees as he has taken medications for high blood pressure for a long period and it appears that this has caused these side effects. Since early 2000 he has found it difficult to walk and since 2006 when outside the house has moved around mainly in a wheelchair.
Since my first visit to Foshan in 1989 I have taken many students and friends to Foshan to train and meet with Master Lun. His teaching method was mainly to teach the forms, Chi Sao and applications. Master Lun’s method of teaching never altered it has been the same from the first day I studied with him and throughout all my training and the groups I have taken until his retirement. Sifu has said that he taught me in the same way that Grandmaster Yip Man taught to him and I also preserve the same method in my teaching. Sifu Lun teaches in a traditional way and doesn’t offer grades or certificates. Even at 70 his hands were still very fast and powerful, on one occasion we were discussing how to apply force with the Phoenix Eye punch. Our training area was on a rooftop and Master Lun proceeded to demonstrate the punch on a large metal water tank, his right hand flicked into the tank with a thud as he continued to explain the point. The point was lost for a while as the centre of attention was the dent that had appeared in the water tank, “Sifu you’ve dented the tank”. He laughed loudly then continued the explanation. Since that day I have seen him train by punching trees and brick walls.
LUN GAI THE MAN
Master Lun was an electrician by trade working inside a pump factory, to subsidise the family income he also offered electrical repairs to appliances and homes of friends, neighbours and acquaintances. Master Lun has 5 children 4 girls and 1 boy. Master Lun is a very kind humble man, during training he apologized for any deficiencies in his teaching. He said that he is not an educated man since he only had one year’s schooling. The fact is he was a very intelligent man and liked by all who knew him. A deeply honest man who never wanted to draw attention to himself or stand out in a crowd. In company he was a man of few words and seemed more interested to listen to others chatter. Often with a grin on his face he would chuckle at others banter. Not only just for training we passed many hours together just relaxing, eating in his home or outside. Also travelling outside of Foshan city for sightseeing visiting Temples and beauty spots. We spent a lovely day at his sons landscaping business with another student, eating fresh vegetables and fish straight from the pond.
One morning we were in the park training he didn’t seem his normal self, after training we always went for Dim Sum. I would put my arm in his and walk the short distance to the restaurant. I was shocked to feel his body trembling. I asked “Sifu what’s wrong” I immediately called my little (kung fu) sister. She said Sifu feels a little tired and will go directly home and not take Dim Sum this morning. I suggested we walk out of the park and get Sifu a taxi. He refused us and said he is fine. Around 30 minutes later word came back that he had collapsed at the park gates and had been put into a taxi and sent to hospital.
We set off to the hospital and eventually walked into a room with several other patients inside receiving treatment. Sifu saw us and gave that smile that said I’m pleased to see you and a little embarrassed to cause you problems. Sifu was on a drip it transpired that he had been neglecting himself since his wife’s passing skipping meals. I was in the park next morning and Sifu did not come, I was able to give an introduction of Lun Gai’s Wing Chun to a new student who came to enquire about training. He came back and continued training with Master Lun. In 2002 I was to attend an event in Hong Kong a Bai Si with Master Lee Kam Wing, some years earlier Sifu Lee had travelled to Foshan with me and met both my teachers there Lun Gai and Ou Rong Ju. I was in Foshan before the event and asked Sifu Lun to travel to Hong Kong with me. I said I would take care of him financially and from a safety point and that I have also invited one of his other students who will take him back to Foshan. He said he is not sure and he will talk to his son. After taking to his son he said he doesn’t want to be a burden to me and shouldn’t go. This is really the mark of the man never wanting to put others out or be a problem but would always go out of his way to help others.
In 2008 I attended the second Foshan Festival and Chi Sao competition and spent 2 happy days watching the event with Master Lun. With Sifu quietly calling out the moves and counter moves in animated conversations. Precious training, precious memories and precious friendship.
I HAVE TAUGHT YOU EVERYTHING
I completed the system in the early nineties and ventured to ask Master Lun some years later “Sifu is there anymore for me to learn, any secrets?” “No I have taught you everything it’s up to you what you do with it now” he replied. In February 2004 Master Lun gave me permission to form the Lun Gai Foshan Wing Chun Association we now have branches in Hungary, South Africa, Spain, France, Czech Republic, Greece, USA and throughout the United Kingdom.
Sadly, Master Lun passed away peacefully in his bed on 05.01.2014 he was the last student of Grandmaster Yip Mans Foshan legacy to pass away.