Wu Hua Tai (1914-2002) was a renowned student of Grandmaster Lam Yiu Gwai, the master responsible for the dissemination of Dragon Shape Kung Fu.
Wu Hua Tai was already an accomplished martial artist when, as a young man, he met Lung Ying (Dragon Shape) Grandmaster Lam Yui Gwai 林耀桂 in Guanzhou, China. This came about after a series of challenges matches that Wu had been seeking out, in order to test his skills. After defeating a Mok Gar master (Lam Yung Tong), he was referred to Lam Yiu Gwai for a higher-level test. After a quick and humbling encounter with the Lung Ying grandmaster, he became a devoted student for the next 40 years. He took every opportunity to train harder and longer than the other students, realising that skill takes time and effort. During this time the Grandmaster spoke of the origins of Lung Ying and the founder of the style, Ng Mui.
Wu was taken aback by Lam Sifu’s mobility, power and incredibly soft hands that enabled lightning striking speed when attacking and acute sensitivity when redirecting an opponent. In order to soften his own hand techniques, Wu sought out complementary styles to master, in particular:
- Yang-style Tai Chi, learning from Yang Chengfu 杨澄甫 and his eldest son Yang Sau Chung 杨守中 and
- Liu He Ba Fa (Water Boxing), learning from Leung Zhe Pang 梁子鵬 (Liang Zipeng).
Each of these styles emphasise stability and strength through the base and soft hands. Like Lung Ying, both include partner work to develop hand sensitivity, namely Tui Sao (push hands) and Yiu Shun. Building these on top of Lung Ying’s renowned stepping and stance strength, Wu created a training system that enhanced his skills more than a single style could. As an instructor, he produced high quality students, including multiple Push Hands Champions of China.
Grandmaster Wu visited Australia in the late 1980’s and met martial arts instructor Barry Pang. Wu identified Wing Chun as a complementary martial art that also originated from the same founder of Lung Ying. The legend of Ng Mui was something that Grandmaster Ip Man passed onto his first generation students. Wu trained for several years with Barry and his school, transforming their kung fu in the process. He attended their student training camps in Victoria, sharing his knowledge at intensive teaching and training sessions. He also joined Barry on kung fu trips to China, meeting kung fu masters in Hong Kong and on the mainland, including Grandmaster Ip Chun.
Grandmaster Wu passed away in 2002, aged 88. He is greatly missed in Barry Pang Kung Fu circles, but never forgotten.