Sifu Chan Yiu Wun is a well known master and instructor of Choy Lee fut Kung Fu in Hong Kong. The following is his personal account of the origin of Choy Lee Fut.
My name is Chan Yiu Wun. I am from the village of King Mui in the Sun Wui district of Kwangtung province. From a very small age, I was engrossed in Kung Fu and was taught Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu by fellow clansmen Chan Yik Yiu and Chan Yiu Chi.
Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu owes its beginning to Siu Lam Kung Fu and has a history of over one hundred and sixty years. The founding father was Chan Heung of King Mui, in the Sun Wui district of Kwangtung province. Chan Heung used to accompany a fellow clansman Chan Yuen Wu traveling and performing feats of Kung Fu for a living as a young boy. Chan Yuen Wu was a practitioner of Fut Gar (Buddhist) Kung Fu. When Chan Yuen Wu was forced to retire due to old age and illness, elder fellow clansmen informed Chan Heung that in Sun Wui Town there was a brilliant practitioner of medicine named Lee Yau Chan, who was also once a monk. Seeing Chan Yuen Wu could no longer travel and perform, and spurred on by his eagerness to learn Kung Fu, Chan Heung thus considered turning to the former monk for help. Chan Heung deduced that Lee Yau Shan, a man who had abandoned monk hood could be just the master of Kung Fu he had sought after.
With this in mind, Chan Heung thus left the village elders and set out for Sun Wui Town to find Lee Yau Shan so as to become his student and disciple. Chan Heung pretended to be hurt in the belly and in need of help at Lee’s surgery. In a brief glance, Lee saw a very normal looking and spirited man, he was more than mindful of the young stranger’s intention. Lee then asked Chan to loosen his garments for examination. In a sudden move Chan attempted to pick up Lee off the floor with a Fut Gar technique, aided by his own enormous strength. But Chan never thought it possible that by simply dropping both his arms, and push, Lee was able to brush his powerful arms aways. Not only that, Lee also executed a left foot kick at the same time, which threw Chan Heung backward several feet. Chan Heung immediately felt an overwhelming sense of respect and admiration for Lee Yau Shan, and prostrated himself in front of Lee, told him that he was out to seek a master to learn Kung Fu and that he was once a practitioner of Fut Gar Kung Fu under Chan Yuen Wu. Chan Heung went on to beg, plead and implore Lee to accept him as a disciple. As for Lee, he was most impressed by Chan’s achievement in Kung Fu thus far. He told Chan that for a lesser person, the same kick would cause serious injury. Next, Lee asked Chan Heung to demonstrate to him what he had learnt from Chan Yuen Wu. Lee knew at once what he saw was Siu Lam Kung Fu and readily agreed to admit Chan Heung as his disciple.
This incident led to Chan Heung’s indenture to Lee Yau Shan. The happy association went on for a period until one day when Lee told Chan that he had to go away soon and the truth was that he really was one of the survivors of the destroyed Siu Lam Monastery. It was evident to Lee that the time Chan spent with him; Chan showed determination and industry in his learning of Kung Fu, and was loyal to the ideals of Siu Lam. On the eve of his departure, Lee told Chan Heung that he could no longer teach him, but if he wished to continue for more advanced techniques, he would recommend him to Lau Fou Shan (Mt. Lau Fou) to pay respects to Choy Fook, his elder brother (in China, family title is used instead of rank, thus a senior fellow student in Kung Fu is an elder brother by virtue of his earlier admission.) Of course Chan Heung longed for such a chance, and asked Lee to write the letter of introduction.
Chan Heung traveled to Lau Fou Shan, found the old Siu Lam Monastery and to the first monk he saw, he asked if he was Choy Fook. The monk shook his head and said he was only a door keeper. Chan Heung pressed on and told the monk that he was referred by Lee Yau Shan to call on Choy Fook for lessons in Kung Fu and produced the letter of introduction. The monk invited Chan Heung inside the monastery as he told Chan Heung that Choy Fook was away. He went on to tell Chan Heung that it would be a good idea to test his own skill in Kung Fu before seeing Choy Fook. Pointing to a big medicine pounder, the monk asked Chan Heung if he could move it with his foot. This Chan Heung did as his foot swept the pounder aside for several feet. The monk broke into laughter as he nodded his head in approval for the pounder weighed well over one hundred catties (about two hundred pounds.) And it was enough to convince the monk that Chan Heung was recommended by Lee Yau Shan. The monk said to Chan that he had not even make tea as Chan had traveled long distance and must be thirsty. He gathered a big bundle of tree branches, each one was over a yard in length and several inches in thickness, and asked Chan Heung if he could chop firewood the way he was about to show him. With his bare hand, the monk chopped the dead tress into suitable lengths. Next, the monk showed Chan Heung how in just one kick with his foot, o sweep the pounder several yards away. Chan Heung knew at once that the monk possessed unusual skill of Kung Fu and was full of admiration for him.
The monk then opened and read the letter of introduction handed to him earlier by Chan Heung. The monk disclosed the content to Chan Heung; that his mentor Lee Yau Shan thought highly of him as he was holding the right principle towards learning Kung Fu and loyal to serve the ideals of Siu Lam. Only then the monk revealed to Chan Heung his true identity, he was none other than Choy Fook.
Chan Heung promptly kneeled, as a gesture of respect, and greeted Uncle (in Kung Fu) Choy Fook for the first time, Choy Fook was glowing with happiness; he made no secret of the fact that he liked Chan Heung very much. He asked Chan Heung if he could stay longer, for in Siu Lam Monastery, five years spent there would be considered a minor attainment, and seven years a major attainment in Kung Fu. And it would take seven years to really achieve something in Kung Fu.
Chan Heung wasted no time in formally acknowledging Choy Fook as his master and stayed in the Monastery for a full seven-year. One day Choy Fook told Chan Heung that he had to travel afar to see his brothers (in Kung Fu) soon, and he had taught him everything he knew in martial arts and medicine. When the time comes for him to propagate Kung Fu, Choy Fook specifically mentioned to Chan Heung, he should always use the name Hung Sing as a code and to distinguish himself.
Soon after, Chan Heung bid farewell to Choy Fook, left Siu Lam Monastery for his home village. The village elders knew quite well that Chan Heung returned as an accomplished Kung Fu exponent for having spent several years in Siu Lam Monastery. As at that time Chan Yuen Wu had already been passed away, and there was no one to fill his role as Kung Fu instructor in the village, so Chan Heung was unanimously asked to teach fellow clansmen. Chan Heung agreed to the popular request and so the Hung Sing Choy Lee Fut school of Kung Fu of Siu Lam by Chan Yuen Wu and later turned to Lee Yau Shan and Choy Fook. Thus Choy and Lee, the first two words of the name, were chosen out of Chan Heung’s respect and gratitude for his two mentors. Fut was in memory of his involvement in Fut Gar Kung Fu under Chan Yuen Wu.
Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu was first propagated in King Mui, the home village of Chan Heung and the village ceremonial hall was turned into a training area. The legacy of Chan Heung includes stakes for exercise the arms, for kicking, wooden dummy etc. The boxing forms include Siu Sup Chi Kuen (little cross form), Dai Sup Chi Kuen (big cross form), Ping Kuen (level form), Sup Chi Ko Da Kuen (big cross striking form), Siu Mui Fa Kuen (little plum-blossoms form), Pak Kwa Sum Kuen (eight-diagram form), Mui Fa Pak Kwa Kuen (plum-blossoms eight-diagram form), Tung Yan Pak Kwa Kuen (copper-man eight-diagram kuen), Fut Cheung Kuen (palm of Buddha form), Pak Mo Kuen (pak mo form), Te Gin Cheung Kuen (iron-arrow long form), Tat Ping Kuen (tat ping form), Sir Hok Dui Da Kuen (snake versus crane form), Loong Fu Kuen (dragon and tiger form), Sup Pat Law Hon Yik Gun King (eighteen-Buddha internal system), Fung By Low (willow-swaying wind), Chui Pat Sin (drunken eight immortals).