Hung Ga Story: Me and Master Chan Hon Chung: exclusive excerpt from Alberto Biraghi’s excellent book!
Hung Ga Story is a memoir of Alberto Biraghi and his martial arts journey.
Alberto studied the traditional Hung Ga Kyun in Hong Kong with the late Grand Master Chan Hon Chung, spending with him more than a month per year from 1977 until the closing of his historic gym at 729 of Nathan Road.
Are you curious about traditional Gung Fu training in Hong Kong in 1970’s and 1980’s? Well, read on!
Learning the Hung style was not easy in 1977, especially if you were Italian.
I knew nothing about Gung Fu apart from what I saw in a few movies, neither did I know about Chinese culture. In these miserable condition I entered a temple of knowledge and tradition and to make it worse, Benjamin Fung introduced me as “an Italian karate expert who wants to checkout Chinese Gung Fu”. As you can understand the first welcome was kind of cold and suspicious (I didn’t realize it immediately, I was told a month later by the students, after friendship had been established, that no presentation could have been worse in that community).
The first day (a sunday) was frightening: sifu Chan welcomed me with a smile, then, once understood that I wanted to learn Gung Fu, he put me in front of the wall with my feet together, knees slightly bent, arms wide at 45 degrees and asked me to kick at low level, one leg after the other one, slowly. Then went away. Around me I heard people training the forms, kicking the bag, punching the dummy, using the weapons, but I had to stay in front of the wall doing the damned kick. One hour later (it was August with 40 degrees, 95% of humidity and the back of the aircon system blowing hot air in the gym) I was as wet as after a shower. Eventually Chan sifu appeared from his office, came to me, looked for a while, smiled, put two fingers on my waist and pushed me down a little, showing me to go on, but in a lower stance. Awesome!
An hour later I was ready to collapse when he appeared again, put me in Ji Ng Ma, told me to slap the front knee with the opposite hand, then start rotating the arm backwards: ten turns then change the position with a 180 degrees waist turn and start again with the other arm. This went on for one more hour, then sifu came back in, told me to stop, showed me the toilet where I could wash some sweat away and pushed me out to the nearest tea house, where I was introduced to the first cup of Pu Erh tea (Pou Lei in Cantonese) of my life. I never quit Po Lei and Chinese tea is still a basic part of my day.
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