First of all, I would like to dedicate my thanks to the organizers of the event, Penang Ling Nan Association for bringing us all together and making this warm gathering possible. They made us feel that men coming from different corners of the ocean are all brothers, Wu Hu Si Hai Jie Xiong Di (五湖四海皆兄弟). The events, transport, meals and accommodation were all well taken of and well planned.
The Kung Fu Festival was also supported by the Penang tourism board and local politicians. My first thought was that they are taking this kung fu event very seriously. It is unlike the kind of community martial arts events hosted in Singapore. The Kung Fu Festival was held in a fully equipped convention centre.
Even the music that was specifically chosen to accompany each performance indicated that the organizers really knew their stuff, the essence of each style and the tempo of their display.
At the end of the event, we realized than many of the coordinators and backstage support crew were actually students of Penang Ling Nan Association. The focus that they placed on getting the event off the ground in and around their full-time jobs is very commendable.
Throughout the Penang International Kung Fu Festival, ushers and coordinators were keeping things in order, coordinating support staff such as security personnel, drivers and the cooks. We noticed that they had fewer ushers and volunteers than many Singaporean events of similar scale. The love for Kung Fu that we saw in Penang was very refreshing, inspiring and invigorating. I feel that it may be due to people in Penang leading a slower pace of life than us Singaporeans, with lesser urban distractions, thus they are able to focus on things. How to have good things in life? Focus on one thing at a time...
The outstanding point about this pugilistic meet is the seminar session. Sharing, unveiling the mechanics and philosophies of their styles, Kung Fu practitioners from different styles can truly discover each other’s uniqueness. The seminar was open to the public which allowed many complete beginners to witness the feeling of Kung Fu being used. There is always a impression that Kung Fu teachers are secretive with teaching and cautious of different styles, but this friendly gathering has instead allowed us to be more connected.
The feeling in Penang was completely different. The three day event went on with hardly any air of rivalry. Instead, we realized the similarities of our Hung Gar Kung Fu, that our force generation method and our bridge hands and emphasis on focused power hits have remained consistent even though the art has spread over several nations for more than a century. As we meet our Hung Gar brothers, we rejoice that the common methods from different lineages are coming together.
Many young Singaporean thought that Hung Gar is just a family style taught in Singapore on a local community level. They are not aware that Hung Gar Kung Fu is being practiced in many Western countries as well as Hong Kong and Taiwan. Our style has established international respect.
This pugilistic meet in Penang is a winter holiday vacation for many. In Europe, China or America snow will still be falling and the temperature below 10 degrees Celcius. As for me, I enjoy the slowing down of pace of life in Penang and particularly enjoyed touring historical sites in this tropical island town. All of us are making Kung Fu friends with a holiday mood.
Aside from the history of Penang, Penang food is simply terrific. I will go to the details right away, Penang Char Kway Teow and Kway Teow Teng. Simply put, they have the right ingredients and a rich taste. In Singapore I always dread Hokkien food for being too bland, often overcooked or undercooked. Either the ingredients are incomplete or the control of fire is not good. So it ends up that the soup or sauce doesn’t dissolve into the ingredients.
In Penang they call it Char Ko’ay Teow, and Ko’ay Teow T’ng. Like Singaporeans and Taiwanese many Penang residents are of Southern Fujian ancestry. Their Char Kway Teow has ‘Wok Hei’, aroma imbued with fiery wok energy. It is a Cantonese term. ‘Fo Hau’, which means fire control in Cantonese is actually also a key in making good Hokkien food. The warm aroma engulfs your taste buds. You can taste the veggies are organic too. My guess is that many Singaporean hawkers have lost the skill, running through the motion, spilling soup and sliced vegetables here and there as they rush to knock off. Preparing food needs focus and pride in the work too...
Article by Leroy Kwok