Eagle Claw Fan Tsi Moon & Lau Fat Mang's History - Part I
As told by Grandmaster Lily Lau And translated by Cindy Lee
by Lily Lau and Cindy Lee
Shaolin "Fan Tsi Eagle Claw" is a set of traditional Chinese Kung Fu fighting techniques. This type of Northern Kung Fu was developed and widely used in China. It is thought that the traditional style of Eagle Claw Kung Fu was used by the famous military General Ngok - Fei to train his soldiers. Ngok - Fei inherited this set of techniques from Chow Tong in Shaolin.
This set of fighting techniques is mostly composed of the following: "Jau" (grab), "Da" (strike), "Kum" (catch), "Na" (hold), separating the tendons, dislocating the joints, and fast changing stances and tumbling. Traditional Eagle Claw is based on three fundamental forms: Lin Kuen Ng Sahp Lo (combination fist - 50 sections), Hahng Kuen Sahp Lo (walking fist 10 sections) and 108 Chin Na (joint locking). The techniques are very practical.
Eagle Claw Kung Fu was invented during the Sung dynasty. Its popularity, however, did not come until the Ming dynasty. The historical development of Eagle Claw Kung Fu is as follows. A monk named Lai Chun, who was a famous practitioner of the Fan Tsi Style, developed an interest in the Eagle Claw Lin Kuen techniques. He invested a great deal of time training and improving the techniques which he incorporated into a new set of Fan Tsi Eagle Claw Kung Fu fighting techniques. These techniques were then passed down to a monk named Tao Chaig who passed them on to a monk named Fat Sing. Up until this time, this set of techniques was only taught to Buddhist "monks" and so, these techniques were not known by many people.
At the end of the Ching dynasty, a man named Lau Si Chun, from Hubei inherited these fighting techniques from a monk named Fat Sing. Lau Si Chun spent ten years practicing diligently. He became famous in Beijing because of his knowledge and ability in the "Shaolin Fan Tsi Eagle Claw" traditional fighting techniques. Lau Si Chun also specialized in fighting techniques using a "dai gong gee" (long staff). He became known as "Da Gong Gee Lau" because of his outstanding performances in the "old days" fighting competitions. He later taught at a school in the Wa Bai area.
Lau Si Chun accepted few new students from the Beijing and Hong Yuen regions. In his early days he accepted Lau De Shi and Zhi San Zhi as his disciples. In his later years, he passed all of his techniques to his nephew Lau Sing Yau. Lau Sing Yau then passed this knowledge to his third son Lau Kai Man and his nephew Chan Tsi Cheng.
Chan Tsi Cheng succeeded in learning all of the techniques. Because he admired the Chin Woo Association, started by Huo Yuen Ja, Chan Tsi Cheng went to Shanghai to join. He had promised himself that he would spread the knowledge of Eagle Claw Kung Fu. Not long after, many martial artists came to learn from him. Chan Tsi Cheng personally taught each student but became overwhelmed by the amount of work. He went back to his family's village, and invited friends who knew the techniques to help him teach. Those that joined him included Lau Zhi Yeng, Lau Xim Ng, Lau Fat Mang, Lau Xim Ren, Xiou Xian and Lee Bao Ying. The youngest of this group was Lau Fat Mang.
Lau Fat Mang was Lau Kai Man's only nephew, so he learned from his uncle at a very early age. When Lau Fat Mang arrived in Shanghai, the first thing he did was to go to the head office of the Chin Woo Association to teach. In this Association, everyone was required to know the ten basic forms of Chin Woo. The ten basic forms are: Tam Tui, Gung Lik Kuen, Da Gin Kuen, Sahp Gee Gin Kuen, Tuet Jien, Ng Fu Chon, Quan Yeung Quan, Toa Kuen (2 man form), Bat Kua Do, Jeet Kune. After that, they could learn one of the 5 Kung Fu styles taught at that Association. In time, Lau Fat Mang became Chan Tsi Cheng's assistant Eagle Claw instructor. In 1924, the Chin Woo Association was started in Hong Kong. The Association wanted to send a teacher from the head office in Shanghai to go to Hong Kong to teach, and Chan Tsi Cheng was selected.
Before Chan Tsi Cheng brought Eagle Claw Kung Fu to the Southern part of China it was taught only in Northern China. Lau Fat Mang remained in Shanghai and became the head teacher in the Chin Woo Association where he trained many successful students.
Two years passed and the Chin Woo Association opened a school in Fut Shan, which is located in the south. Lau Fat Mang was sent to this school. At that time, the people in Fut Shan were very eager to learn Kung Fu techniques and the Chin Woo Association was the only place they could go to learn. Therefore, Lau Fat Mang had many students. Among his successful students were Choi Li Qui, So Bao Quo and Tong Wan Ng. Tong Wan Ng was invited to teach in Xing Chou where he remained until 1945. He died in Singapore having planted the seeds of Eagle Claw Kung Fu there before he passed away.
In 1929, Chan Tsi Cheng left Hong Kong and returned to Northern China. The Chin Woo Association in Hong Kong was left without an Eagle Claw teacher. This style of Eagle Claw Kung Fu had become very popular. The Association began searching the country for a teacher. The President of the Chin Woo Association heard that Chan Tsi Cheng's student, Lee Piu Yin, had returned from Singapore. Lee Piu Yin, who was from Fut Shan was appointed to teach Eagle Claw in Fut Shan. This situation allowed Lau Fat Mang to go to Hong Kong and take over the teaching position.
(For the continuation of this story, and to see how Eagle Claw spread throughout Hong Kong, see Lily Lau's column in the next issue of the Kungfu e-zine).
About Lily Lau and Cindy Lee:
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