I believe in Singapore, we had these schools but moving times and changing trends have given the impression that Chinese martial arts can be taught with minimal equipment. Chinese martial arts training was hardcore and this is one element I want to bring back to Chinese martial arts.
During our trip in Hong Kong, we visited Chiu Wai’s Hung Kuen School in Tai Kok Tsui, Kowloon. This martial art gym gives you the ‘old school’ vibes. The place stands out with ‘function over form’, well equipped with instructors who know their stuff.
Grandmaster Chiu Kao was one of the great Hung Gar masters of his time. He started learning Hung Gar in Singapore when he moved here to work in the mines since the age of 9. He continued his Hung Gar education back in Hong Kong and opened many schools in Hong Kong in the 1930s where, besides teaching the Hung Gar, he practiced bone setting.
One of his sons, Chiu Wai, started helping him from a young age and has since continued this great tradition of serious and athletic approach to Hung Gar training. He retired in the 80s and resides currently in Canada.
His disciple Chiu Wah is now the chief instructor at his Hong Kong school. Master Chiu Wah is a dedicated warrior herself that displays a mastery of internal strength and stability rare in martial arts practitioners these days. It takes the kind of discipline and rigorous daily regime of at least 2 decades to attain. It is something I seek for myself as a lifelong learner of Hung Gar.
When a student shows they are in fact serious and they want to take things to the next level, that is always a true practicing instructor’s dream.
I cannot stress more the importance of weight training in Chinese martial arts which is as important as qigong practice and techniques drilling. I see it is an integral part of the Chiu Wai school’s culture and training style. Grandmaster Chiu Wai was known to move with agility despite his muscular build, dispelling myths that muscle mass hinders speed. While there are in fact many large practitioners who don’t move as sharply or as gracefully, we need to understand that agility in movement comes from good footwork. When we practice footwork and the legs are strong and stable, we can move fast.
I appreciate the strength and conditioning focus of the Chiu Wai school. I want my students to keep up with such standards with the strength regime I have for them. Chiu Kau started his lifelong journey with Hung Gar on the streets of yesteryear Singapore. We have that history of mental and physical toughness in our blood. My goal is for the world to know Singapore’s Hung Gar for having that kind of solid warriors with athletic physique.