Lung Ying (Dragon Shape) Grandmaster, Wu Hua Tai, believed that to excel in martial arts you must focus on goals, rather than one specific style. He studied a range of complementary styles, including Tai Chi Chuan, to improve his kung fu.
As a young man in late 1920’s China, Wu studied White Crane Kung Fu 白鶴拳 and Wu-style Tai Chi Chuan 吳氏太極拳. Already an accomplished martial artist, he frequently sought to test his skills against others and continue improving. In the early 1930’s, it was suggested he test himself against Lung Ying 龙形 (Dragon Shape) Grandmaster Lam Yiu Gwai 林耀桂.
After a quick and humbling encounter, Wu became a devoted student for the next 40 years, with Lung Ying as his core style. Grandmaster Lam was an incredible martial artist and Wu realised that he needed to do more than just master the complex set of Dragon Shape forms.
Wanting to further soften his hands and obtain greater speed and power, Wu looked toward Yang-style Tai Chi Chuan 太极拳. He learnt directly from the Yang family, including the legendary Tai Chi Master Yang Chengfu 杨澄甫 and his eldest son Yang Sao Chung 杨守中. Wu subsequently embedded the Tai Chi form into his training regime, along with push hands practice.
Wu also incorporated Liu He Ba Fa 六合八法拳 into his training, along with its partner work, Yiu Shun. He learnt from Leung Tze Pang 梁子鵬. With this blend of soft kung fu practice, he went on to produce multiple Tui Sao (push hands) champions of China.
In his later years, Wu sought to transfer his Kung Fu to a compatible school in Melbourne (Australia), where some of his relatives lived. He discovered Barry Pang’s Wing Chun. Both Wing Chun and Lung Ying are said to have come from the same founder, Ng Mui. Wing Chun’s deft footwork, relaxed hands and Chi Sao (sticking hands) training, aligned perfectly.
Wu subsequently took up residency with Barry Pang Kung Fu throughout the 1990’s, transferring his knowledge and transforming their kung fu in the process.
A highlight of this period was a trip to China in 1994, together with Barry and a small contingent of his students. Travelling to Guangzhou we had the privilege of seeing push hands demonstrated by two of his students – both national champions.
In the main image at top of page, you can see Wu Sigung (at right) giving feedback to his students as they practice double-hand Tui Sao.
Ian from our travelling student group had the opportunity to feel the power directly, trying out their Tui Sao and Yiu Shun techniques. Being tall and strong, the champions had to work hard with their legs to throw him off balance.
It was incredibly valuable to see and experience partner work beyond our familiar Chi Sao in Wing Chun. The style boundary was broken and Barry Pang Kung Fu was transformed, now including many elements of Grandmaster Wu’s kung fu practice and philosophy.
Article: Written by R Zandbergs. Created from Grandmaster Wu’s oral history with Barry Pang.
Main photo: Tui Sao practice, Guangzhou China, 1994 (Photo by R Zandbergs)