“Old Hung Ga Kyun” vs. “New Hung Ga Kyun”

Old Hung Ga KyunQuestion: “Old Hung Kyun”, also called “Village Hung Kyun”, vs. today’s most widely spread lineage of Grand Master Wong Fei Hung.

Can you please summarizes their brief history, connections, development and techniques of the “Old Hung Ga” and “Modern Hung Ga”?

Answer: This month’s Hung Kyun question wasn’t raised by a single individual, but actually by many of you. I have received many quests regarding the “Old Hung Kyun” as a response to our regular Practical Hung Kyun Newsletter, on Facebook, as well as various discussion forums.

Please check out the brief analysis and comparison between old and new Hung Ga Kyun, their connections, development, techniques and fighting strategy below!

During my numerous visits of Hong Kong and Southern China in general I have done an extensive research regarding the various families and lineages of Hung Ga Kyun. I still have to go through the piles of notes, photocopies of rare manuals and manuscripts, as well as vast video material. Many of the Hung Ga lineages were pre/non-Wong Fei Hung – when interviewing various old Masters and Grand Masters, I have found out a lot interesting info which I am going to share with all Hung Ga Kyun fans.

Cantonese Master Lam Yan speaks about the differences between the style of “Earlier Five Tigers” (“Old Hung Kyun”) and “Later Five Tigers” (“New Hung Kyun”).

  • “Old Hung Kyun” refers to the original martial arts system handed down from Ji Sin Sim Si/Hung Hei Gun and/or practiced by Hung Society (Hung Mun), in the contrast to the later development of the system by  Wong Fei Hung and his disciples.
  • In Southern China, Wong Fei Hung’s Hung Kyun, today the most widespread lineage, and it is commonly called as “New/Modern Hung Kyun” (San Hung Kyun).

Roots

  • Roots of (Old) Hung Kyun are in Fujian (Fuk Gin in Cantonese) province, be it (legendary) Fujian Shaolin Temple or Fujian White Crane. “Old Hung Kyun” is still practiced in Fujian, eg. in Zhangzhou. According some sources, Hung Hei Gun was supposedly born in Fujian.
  • Today, many various “Old Hung Kyun” systems are practiced in Gwong Dung as well, eg. in Fa Dou – some sources actually claim, that Hung Hei Gun was actually born in Fa Dou, and not in Fujian, where he later worked/studied. So or so, the roots definitely point to Fujian, and the spread and development happened mainly in Gwong Dung. Cantonese lineages of “Old Hung Kyun” are closely connected to “Red Boats” of Chinese opera – one of the lineages is even named “Red Boats Hung Kyun” (Hung Syun Hung Kyun). So called “Old Hung Kyun“ is also connected to “Old Wing Cheun” (written as 永春拳), and Hung Society (Hung Mun).

Old Hung Ga: Tit Gung Saam Sin Kyun

Lineages and Familes

  • Various lineages of “Old Hung Ga” are often named by the districts, where they are practiced (Jeung Jau Hung Kyun, Fa Dou Hung Kyun, Jaam Gong Hung Kyun, Saam Seui Hung Kyun…. ), or typical features/sets, like “Triple Stretch Hung Kyun” (Saam Jin Hung Kyun), “Flower Hung Kyun” (Fa Hung Kyun), “Five Animals Hung Kyun” (Ng Ying Hung Kyun), or families (Taam Ga Hung Kyun).
  • in Southern China, Wong Fei Hung’s/Lam Sai Wing’s “Modern Hung Kyun” is also reffered to as “Tiger and Crane Hung Kyun” (Fu Hok Hung Kyun). “Tiger and Crane Double Form Set” is one of the excellent examples of so called “Mixed Families” (Jaap Ga) sets, i.e. combination of various styles, including “Old Hung Kyun”.

“Bridges” and “Stances”

  • Most of the “Old Hung Kyun” systems are “Short Bridges, Narrow Stances” (Dyun Kiu Jaak Ma). As for the “Long Bridges”, the research shows that the Grand Masters of the previous generations alway emphasized that they were where adopted later. When? That is not clear. The apocryphal legends tend to put the adoption of the “Long Bridges, Wide Stances” further in the past, eg. to the times of Ji Sin Sim Si and his three legendary visits of Gwong Dung province, after which he has modified the original “Short Bridges” art. Other sources mention Sing Lung of Lion’s Roar/Lama Paai, or Wong Yan Lam’s (or his students’) Hap Ga.
  • There is a saying describing the “New Hung Kyun” – “Hung Ga’s Bridge’s, Fat Ga’s (ie. Hap Ga’s) Quick Strikes” (Hung Ga Kiu Fa, Fat Ga Faai Da), although we have to say that today’s Hung Kyun is influenced by many other Southern Chinese styles.Old Hung Ga Kyun Bridges and Stances

Body Structure and Footwork

  • “Old Hung Kyun” uses mainly upright and frontal body position with forward/backward type of footwork, so called “Meridian Line Stepping” (Ji Ng Bou), preferably aggressive stepping in, closing the distance with pressing attack (Bik Da).
  • “Modern Hung Kyun” has included side body positions, zig zag steps (Chat Sing Bou, “Seven Stars Stepping”) with evasion and entries from the side, and octagonal footwork (“Eight Trigram Stepping”, Baat Gwa Bou, i.e. eight directions, NOT walking in the circle).

Kicks

  • “Old Hung Kyun” didn’t feature many kicks (my Sifu even told me that old Hung Kyun didn’t have any kicks at all!)
  •  One of the legends says how Wong Fei Hung learned the secrets of the “No Shadow Kicks” from another sifu and has included the kicking techniques in his combat arsenal. True or not, again, it shows that the old Masters knew that the adoption of (more) kicking techniques was something special. “Modern Hung Kyun” features few reliable kicks, but still, they form just small part of the overall arsenal. Out of 108 patterns of the long sets, there are no more that 5-7 kicks:

–  “Taming of the Tiger of in Gung Pattern: 5 kicks (2 groin kicks, 1 inside sweep, 1 side kick, 1 inside/outside sweep)
– “Tiger and Crane Double Form Set”: 7 kicks (5 groin kicks, 2 inside/outside sweeps)
– “Ten Form Sets”: 5 kicks (all groin kicks)
– “Iron Thread Set”: 0 kicks (Tit Sin Kyun is one of the represent ants of “Old Hung Kyun”)

Fighting Strategy

  • “Old Hung Kyun” emphasized mainly “Press and Hit” (Bik Da)
  • “New Hung Kyun” still uses Bik Da extensively, but it has also adopted “Long Bridges” tactique of “Evade and Hit”, Sim Da.

Conclusion

Wong Fei Hung is truly a founder of “New Hung Kyun”, and has probably significantly modified the original art because of his extensive cross-training. Today’s “Modern Hung Kyun” is definitely more comprehensive art with wider technical arsenal, covering all ranges of fighting.

Study and understand the roots, but don’t necessarily think that the older, the better, or “original”, “unchanged” – even the so called “Old Hung Kyun” lineages have of course changed and adopted – each and every generation makes more or less significant changes, so it is really hard as well as useless to say which lineage is more true to the origin. 

We at Practical Hung Kyun don’t care about “original” – we do care about “functional”. And so should you. 

Pavel Macek Sifu, Practical Hung Kyun

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