February 20, 2018

History of Choy Lai Fut (Choyleefut) kungfu


Chan Koon Bak
1st descendant
Son of Chan Heung
Chan Heung
Founder of Choy Lai Fut
Chan Yiu Chi
2nd descendant
Son of Chan Koon Bak

Where did the name “Choy Lai Fut” come from, anyway? The founder named the style after his teachers – Choy Fook and Li Yau San (in Cantonese we pronounce Li as “lay”). The word “Fut” means Buddha, and is an indication that the style has a Buddhist influence.

The story of how the style came about goes like this:

The founder of Choy Lai Fut, Master Chan Heung, was born in July 10, 1805 in the Sun Wui Ngaai Sai district of the Guangdong province of China, in the village of Ging Mui.

Master Chan began his martial arts training at the age of seven, under the instruction of an uncle, Chan Yuen Wu. Several years later, he went on to continue his studies from a famous master of the Li style, Li Yau San. Li was also from the Sun Wui disctrict and was said to have been fairly tall in stature.

Written by Choy Lai Fut founder Chan Heung, this couplet reads: "The inception of Choy Lai Fut was self conceived, A true descendant arose from the Shaolin origin."

Written by Choy Lai Fut founder Chan Heung, this couplet reads: "The inception of Choy Lai Fut was self conceived, A true descendant arose from the Shaolin origin."

Seeing that Chan had a true talent for martial arts and was a diligent student, Li decided that Chan would learn even more if he could study under yet another master. Hence, he took Chan to Mount Law Fou to become a disciple of a renowned Shaolin monk, Choy Fook, and there Chan started his training in the Choy style of kungfu.

Choy Fook’s father, Choy Gau Yin, was also a renowned martial artist who came from a northern province in China — however, we are not clear on exactly which province this would be. After he became a Buddhist monk, Choy Fook was given a Buddhist name which many Choy Lai Fut practitioners may know him by — Ching Cho. He was apparently injured in a fire, and was also known as “Laat lay tau” in Cantonese which roughly translates to “ruined head” which describes his scalp after it was burned. Choy Fook, as with some other Shaolin monks, became part of an underground society whose purpose was to try and overthrow the Ching dynasty in China in order to bring the Ming back to power.

While Chan was studying with Choy Fook, the monk one day made a decision to take leave and travel throughout the country. It is believed that he was going to meet up with fellow anti-Ching activists, and continue his work against the Ching rulers. He asked Chan to return to his own village. Chan then asked him if he may open up a kungfu school when he returned, and what he should be naming the school. Choy Fook told him to call it “Hung Hsing”. Master Chan compiled his decades of studies in martial arts and integrated the different kungfu styles into one unified system. He named his newly developed style Choy Lai Fut in recognition and appreciation of his masters.

It is said that when the anti-Ching movement failed, his school name was changed to “Hung Hsing” with different Chinese characters (although it is pronounced exactly the same) in order to protect the school — the previous characters used would have linked them back to the underground society, and would have brought potential danger to the school. The new characters are the same ones that we use when we describe the lineage of our style, Hung Hsing Choy Lai Fut, and these five characters are shown in our school insignia (plum blossom) at the top left corner of the website. These are also the same characters that we use for our school today — the Chinese name of our school is “Hung Hsing Kungfu School”. These characters are shown underneath our english school name at the top.

*It is possible that other Choy Lai Fut schools may have slightly different versions of this history. We do not claim to be the authority on the history of the style, we only offer it to our students and anyone else who may be interested in learning more about our style. Our story is based on what Grandmaster Wong Ha learned from his own Sifu, Chan Yiu Chi, who is the grandson of Chan Heung.