Talking Hands with the Southern Shaolin Master

Sifu Alan Hubbard
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Talking hands or “Gong Sau” in Cantonese means when someone tries to explain their techniques and want you to agree that his hand techniques are effective. If this person can Gong Sau and make you agree that you couldn’t defend yourself with your counter techniques, it meant he won the Gong Sau. In other words, you lost the fight in a technical way.

Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong came to the U.S. when he was 11 years old. His first trip returning to China was in the winter of 1979. His wife’s cousin Lee Keung took him all over the Guangdong Province for sight seeing traveling on his motorcycle. Grandmaster visited famous mountains and temples that he had read about. He went to many parks to watch people practicing kung fu. He needed information for his monthly column with Inside Kung fu magazine. Lee Keung had a friend who taught kung fu in the village near Taisan city so he brought Grandmaster Wong there to visit a master and found out that he was a traditional southern Shaolin Kung fu teacher, his name is Cheung Chew. Grandmaster called him Sifu Cheung and he was in his late 40’s. Lee Keung introduced Grandmaster Wong as a kung fu magazine reporter from America who was willing to interview him for an article.

There were a half dozen of students with Sifu Cheung at that time. He gave an exhibition by having his students perform kung fu forms for Grandmaster. Grandmaster Wong told Sifu Cheung that he teaches kung fu in San Francisco. After he interviewed him about his teaching and information of his kung fu system, Sifu Cheung tried to impress Grandmaster by showing him his techniques and tried to convince him that his system is very effective and so far no other kung fu school in Taisan can compete with them. Normally to prove your claim you would demonstrate your techniques on your student. However, he wanted Grandmaster to do the attacking move. Normally this would not be any problem for Grandmaster, however Grandmaster already told him that he also teaches kung fu and at that time his wife’s cousin was there watching him. It would be very bad for Grandmaster to lose face if he had lost to Cheung. No matter how humble he was, Grandmaster must protect his name for his teacher and for his students. Grandmaster could not let him to have an opportunity to tell someone later that he “talked hands” with him and Grandmaster couldn’t do anything.

Sifu Cheung asked Grandmaster to punch him with his left fist. So he put his fist out in front of Sifu Cheung’s face slowly. Sifu Cheung used his right hand to do an inward blocking and then grabbed Grandmaster Wong’s wrist with his left hand and followed with a horizontal outward chop to his neck with his right hand. At the same time, his right leg stepped into the back of Grandmaster’s left leg and tried to take him down. Grandmaster knew there was only one way to communicate with him so he reacted immediately with his right hand to grab Cheung’s right hand chopping to his neck and twisted it downward, at the same time, Grandmaster’s left forearm pressed down on Cheung’s upper arm and Grandmaster’s left leg retreated back like a backward sweep to counter his take down technique. Cheung bent his right elbow and picked up his right foot to avoid the sweep. Grandmaster picked up his right arm and folded his hand upward to make a figure “4” joint locking position. Grandmaster immediately saw Cheung’s face in great pain, the tables had turned. Grandmaster let him off and stepped back and clapped his hands and said to him, “good technique” in Chinese. Of course, his students didn’t know what was going on, but Grandmaster’s wife’s cousin Lee Keung saw Sifu Cheung’s facial expression at that time. He knew that Grandmaster won the Gong Sau.

Sifu Cheung appreciated that Grandmaster didn’t make him lose face. In front all of his students, he applauded Grandmaster Wong and said that his kung fu is very good. Lee Keung also respected Grandmaster even more from there on because he saw Grandmaster had the courage and respect to allow his opponent to save face, something his opponent wasn’t so generous to do at the onset. A Couple of years later, Lee Keung and his family immigrated to San Francisco. He resides in the Sunset district and he can still see that facial expression that told a secret story of earned respect by Grandmaster Wong.

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