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Yuen Kay-San and Foshan Wing Chun Kuen

By Yuen Jo-Tong
Martial World Magazine, 1983

Yuen Kay-San was the fifth child in his family and people called him "Yuen Lo Jia" (Yuen the Fifth). Born into a wealthy merchant family in the late 1880s, he loved martial arts from an early age. During his youth, his father hired the famous Wing Chun master Fok Bo-Chuen to teach him the martial arts. The instruction took place in their house on Mulberry Garden (what today has become the Foshan Fo Yin Road, at the City Bureau). Fok Bo-Chuen had a wide knowledge of martial arts and was proficient in all the elements of the Wing Chun style: Fists, Knives, Pole, Darts, etc. In the beginning of Yuen Kay-San's training, he started to spear rice with his palms, then he progressed onto coarse sands and continued until he could spear iron sands without hurting his skin. Finally, the achievement of his palms was so enormous that he could spear into a bag of rice with one blow to retrieve a previously placed copper coin.

Yuen Kay-San was intelligent and diligent and in the course of his martial training and he understood the subjects thoroughly and captured all of the essence of his lessons. He wrote down large quantities of notes. These were the primary resources for him to systematically perfect Wing Chun's theories.

After all his hard training, Yuen Kay-San's Wing Chun techniques of the Fists, Pole, Double Knives, Dummy, and Nail-Dart were fully developed. He then continued his Wing Chun studies under the famous master Fung Siu-Ching who was a renowned marshal in the Qing dynasty, rich in fighting experience. Yuen Kay-San followed Fung Siu-Ching, learning until Fung's death. By that time, Yuen Kay-San's power was quite substantial. Not only were his hand and foot techniques great, but he was able to throw nails as darts, never missing the bull's eye. He was especially skilled in his Double Knives. His techniques were very tight with no sloppiness nor omission. He would sometimes swing the Double Knives while wearing white clothing, observers would throw at him cotton balls soaked with ink, but not a drop of the ink would ever touch his clothing. As far as the pole techniques are concerned, Yuen Kay-San was one of the founding fathers of the Six and a Half Point Method.

Yuen Kay-San had inherited from Wing Chun, but he also contributed to it. Due to his fame and his achievements within the Wing Chun style, the local martial artists publicly regarded him as one of the leaders of the style.

although Yuen Kay-San's martial art skill was profound, he had never used it to bully others. If there were any unfriendly challenges, he usually took a humble and reserved position. He emphasized the morality of the martial arts; sometimes when he couldn't avoid these confrontations, he would just take them as technical encounters, and never would injure his opponents in victory. There was once a warrior monk who came south to Foshan from Jiangxi province. Since he knew Yuen Kay-San had outstanding martial skills, he specifically picked him to compare fighting techniques. Yuen Kay-San refused him many times without success. At the end the fight was set to take place at the "Palace of Ten Thousand Years Longevity" in Foshan. Prior to the event, both parties agreed that neither would be responsible for any death or injuries resulting from the fight. During the fight, both were using Iron Poles as weapons. The monk's Iron Pole was hit away by Yuen Kay-San and he was unable to protect himself. With the monk's life hanging on a thin edge, Yuen Kay-San immediately declared the fight over, so the monk left with a mixture of appreciation and shame. Just like the many important fighting events Yuen Kay-San experienced, this incident was at the time posted in some small newspapers published in Foshan.

Yuen Kay-San was an aboveboard and straightforward man. His humbleness was remarkable, and he had many close friends. Among the more well known ones were Leung Jan, Ng Chun-So, Cheung Bo, etc.

Yuen Kay-San's personality was very humble, polite, and honorable; he never liked to stand out front and show off. During that time, if there were martial art studios having grand openings, or some martial art organizations hosting big celebration or ceremonial events, he would kindly turn down any invitations to become their host or honored guest. Firstly because of his humbleness and politeness, secondly he was afraid it might cause friction within the style.

At that time there were many who bowed before him and called him a sifu, but actually he only taught a very limited number of disciples. Among them, the successful and accomplished one was Sum Nung, who is now an osteopath in Guangzhou.

Yuen Kay-San died of illness in the mid 1950s.

(Note: the author of this article is the grandson of Yuen Kay-San. This article was edited)

Man Cheung

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