The Challenger from Texas

Sifu Steffan de Graffenried
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I recently heard a story which took place in early 1977. It was about one week before Chinese New Year when a man from Texas came to Grandmaster Wong’s school. At that time the school was on Noriega Street between 32nd and 33rd Avenue in the Sunset district of San Francisco. It was late in the evening; after 10 PM and most of his students had gone home. Ricky Farmer was the only student there for private lesson. He was teaching Rick the Small Plum Blossom hand form at that time.

The Texan was a redhead with big eyes, a big nose and big sideburns. He was about 5 feet 10 and weighed around 190 pounds. He said he had an extensive Asian martial arts background, he didn’t believe in forms practice. He thought that forms were a waste of time. He believed free style fighting was the only practical martial arts. He imitated the ding-ji-ma (bow stance), the nau-ma (twist stance) and the diu-ma (cat stance) by watching Grandmaster Wong instructing Rick earlier and said those stances were useless. Grandmaster Wong told him that the stances were good for strengthening the legs. He said, “Yes, that’s what every kung fu instructor has told me, but I still think it is a waste of my time.“ The Texan said, “when it comes to actual fighting, those stances are useless.“ He told Grandmaster Wong to stand still in a cat stance position and he would attack Grandmaster Wong to prove the cat stance was useless.

Grandmaster Wong did what he said. Grandmaster Wong’s arms were folded in front of his chest and his right foot was in the tiptoe position. This man rushed into Grandmaster Wong with a football attack and tried to push Grandmaster Wong over. Grandmaster Wong’s left foot stepped back and his right leg turned into a slanting position like sieh-ma. Grandmaster Wong’s arms connected to the man’s arms and turned his waist and shoulders to the left side at the same time. This man was sent flying like a kite and tumbled at least 5 meters to Grandmaster Wong’s left. Ricky Farmer caught his body to keep the Texan from swinging into the wall.

Grandmaster Wong immediately went back to the same cat stance. The man stabilized for couple of seconds and said to Grandmaster Wong, “Let me try one more time?“ Grandmaster Wong said, “Sure.“ This time he used his right foot did a foot-lifting sweep to Grandmaster Wong’s front foot and tried to follow with a right palm push into Grandmaster Wong’s chest to knock him over. Grandmaster Wong quickly picked up his right foot into a crane stance. When he pushed Grandmaster Wong’s chest at that moment, Grandmaster Wong put his right foot back down into the same cat stance position like before; at the same time he used his right hand to perform a nop-sau (grab) on the man’s right hand and pulled it downward to Grandmaster Wong’s lower right. The Texan fell down flat on the ground. Grandmaster Wong’s student Rick helped him to get up.

Grandmaster Wong asked him, “Why did you come to my school since you didn’t believe in traditional kung fu?“ He replied, “I just like to have full-contact experience with traditional kung fu instructors to build up my confidence.“ He continued saying, “but so far I haven’t had anyone like you who can move so quickly by using kung fu techniques.“ The man apologized for coming so late in the evening and for causing any problems and left. A few months later, he sent couple of his friends who moved to San Francisco from Texas to study from Grandmaster Wong.


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