The earlier history of Hung Gar, especially before Hung Gar Master Wong Fei Hung is somewhat ambiguous and confusing. This is largely due to much of the history being passed down verbally from generation to generation, master to student.
There are, however, some historical evidence and facts which sheds light to the origins and development of Hung Gar gung fu through time. Although the earlier history of Hung Gar is still not as clear as one would expect or want, there are on going efforts and research which may in the future clarify some of the historical contradictions and legends.
Most widely accepted version, regarding the origins of Hung Gar tells us that history of Hung Gar begins during the 17th century in southern China. Hung Gar is said to have its origins in the Southern Shaolintemple(Siu Lam Ji) in Fukien Province of Southern China.
According to the legends, the actual story of Hung Gar style begins with the Shaolin monk Gee Seen Sim Seeduring a time of turmoil and strife when China was under the rule of Ch’ing dynasty (Manchu). The Manchurian conquest and rule( 1644-1911) of China was a deeply humiliating experience for the Chinese. The Manchu’s, indeed, made things harder for themselves, as foreign rulers, with their decree that Chinese men would have to adopt Manchu costumes (including the infamous “queue”). This provoked violent Chinese popular resistance and helped the “Southern Ming” princes rally forces against the Manchu’s for almost two decades.
It is said that Gee Seen Sim See was a monk at the Northern Shaolin Temple. When the Ching troops burned down the Northern temple, the monk Gee Seen amongst others managed to escape.He flea to the Fukien province of China where he is said to have eventually became the abbot of Southern Shaolin temple and trained many people in the art of shaolin gung fu, including non-budhist monks who were known as shaolin layman disciples.
According to the legend it was during this time when a young patriot named Hung Hei Goon took refuge at the Southern Shaolin Temple to hide from the Manchu officials. Legend has it that Hung Hei Goon trained under Gee Seen Sim See and eventually became his top disciple. Hung Hei Goon is widely considered as the founder of Hung Gar.
Hung Hei Goon disliked the Ch’ing rule like many other Chinese and spent most of his life fighting to over throw the Ch’ing and restore the Ming. Hung’s real surname was Jyu, however due to being one of the most wanted rebels of his time, he later changed his name to Hung to hide his real identity from the Ch’ing government. He chose the name Hung as a tribute to the first Ming Emperor Hung Mo(Hong Wu) who is widely considered as one of the best, if not the best emperor in the history of China.
The Ch’ing government well aware of what was happening at the Southern Shaolin temple, felt threatened by shaolin temple and its activities. They planed a full scale attack and send imperial troops to destroy the temple and kill all the monks and rebels. The monks were out numbered largely and did not stand a chance against the army, the Shaolin temple was burned down to the ground. Hung Hei Goon and Gee Sim, Luk Ah Choi as well as some others managed to survive the attack and fled to the southern parts of China. These man swore to spread the art of shaolin and fight to “overthrow the Chi’ng, restore the Ming”.
At the time Gung fu training was banned by the Manchus. So Hung Hei Goon taught his art secretly at the Big Buddha Temple in Kwungtung, southern China. Once the ban was lifted,It is said that he began teaching openly and set up a school in Fa city of Kwungtung province. He named his art Hung Gar Kuen (Hung family Fist), mainly to hide its shaolin connections from the Manchus. It is said that Hung Hei Goons kung fu brother Luk Ah Choi also opened a school in the Canton area and thought kung fu.
Passed down from Luk Ah Choi the traditions and teachings of Hung Gar were carried on by the three generation of the Wong Family; Wong Tai, his son Wong Kei Ying and grandson Wong Fei Hung. Although all members of the wong faamily become well known for their kung fu and medical skills, the most famous member of the Wong Family was Wong Fei Hung.
Wong Fei Hung is without a doubt one of the most renowned, respected and talked about kung fu masters of all time. His life and exploits has been immortalized by hundreds of movies, publications, TV&Radio shows, comic books etc. In-fact so famous, that he has become a household name all over China, Hong Kong and most parts of south-east Asia. For Hung Gar practitioners around the world, he is considered as the father of the modern day Hung Gar due to his additions and pivotal role on the development of Hung gar kung fu as we know today. Wong Fei Hung trained with many other kung fu masters during his youth. It is said that he learned the famed iron Wire technique from Lam Fook Sing, a student of another famous Hung Gar hero Tid Kiu Sam. Real name Leung Kwan, Tid Kiu Sam is regarded as one of the best Chinese Martial Artist in China. He was one of the Ten Tigers Of Kwungtung-Kwungtang Sup Fu. Ten tigers were the most famous and respected kung fu masters of the time. According to many sources Tid Kiu Sam was the leader of the ten tigers. His fame grow far and wide, many from all over the country came to study under him.
As Wong Fei Hung grow up, he earned an excellent reputation for his gung fu as well as for his skills as a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine. He also became known and respected for his strong character, honesty, righteousness and moral values. He always helped those in need without asking for anything in return. Wong Fei Hung’s martial skills and the effectiveness of his style (Hung Gar) was tested and proven time and time again in many open challenge’s. Many famous and skilled gung fu fighters of the time came to cross hands with Wong Fei Hung but none could defeat him.
The most famous student of Wong Fei Hung was Lam Sai Wing. Lam Sai Wing is the first generation of Lam Family Hung Kuen Masters to carry on the teachings and traditions of the style. Lam Sai Wing passed the art down to his nephew/adopted son Lam Cho. Today Lam Cho’s sons Lam Chun Fai and Lam Chun Sing carry on the traditions and teachings of Hung gar handed down from their father. To see our Hung Gar lineage/family tree and to Find out more about the Lam Family click here.