The Imperial Marshalls

Yuen Kay San meets Fung Siu Ching
(As told by Sum Num)

As we know, Yuen Kay San had two sifus – Fok Bo Chuen and Fung Siu Ching. This is the story of how he met Fung Siu Ching as told to Sifu Yun Hoi by Sifu Sum Num.

Yuen Chong Ming, Yuen Kay San’s father was a very wealthy fireworks merchant. In today’s terms he would be a multi-millionaire. This meant that his sons never had to work. They spent their time developing their Wing Chun skills. Yuen Chong Ming was keen to ensure that his two sons, Yuen Kay San and Yuen Chai Wan, had the best gung fu instruction that money could buy. He undertook exhaustive research and finally settled on approaching the famous Wing Chun master Fok Bo Chuen to teach his sons the original, undiluted and unmodified Red Boat Wing Chun from Dai Fa Mien Kam. Yuen Chong Ming had heard of Constable Fok Bo Chuen’s legendary skills, especially with the Dit Ming Dao. Yuen Chong Ming contracted Fok Bo Chuen to move his family into the Yuen family estate, Mulberry Gardens. Nowadays this is at the City Bureau on the Futsan Fo Yin Road.

Fok Bo Chuen had been a feared Imperial Marshall, a job akin to a bounty hunter. He possessed a complete understanding of the Wing Chun system, as he had to use it regularly to apprehend bandits for the Dragon Throne. Yuen Kay San also learnt the iron hand techniques from Fok Bo Chuen. Yuen Kay San eventually attained such skill that he could spear his hand into a bag of rice or wheat with one blow to retrieve a coin placed in the grain. Sifu Sum Num wasn’t taught this skill from Yuen Kay San. He related that when he approached Yuen Kay San to teach it to him Yuen Kay San told him that the time for developing such feudal skills was past and he would be better simply buying a hammer! Sifu Sum Num nonetheless taught himself some iron hand skills. In a conversation with Sifu Yun Hoi, who also developed this skill in his youth, Sifu Sum Num said he found it deteriorated if one stopped the regular training required and asked if Sifu Yun Hoi had had the same experience. Sifu Yun Hoi replied that, yes, in his experience, it did deteriorate without continued practice although one always retained hands sufficienly strong enough to deliver deadly blows. They both concluded that it was a superfluous skill not worth the trouble in today’s world.

For many years, Fok Bo Chuen taught Yuen Kay San and his brother Yuen Chai Wan the hand forms, some different dummy forms – the Mook Yang Jong, Gwan Jong, and Juk Jong. He also taught them the Look Dim Boon Gwan, Yum Yeung Yee Jee Dit Ming Dao, and the Fei Biu (Flying Darts). Yuen Kay San’s Wing Chun skill developed to a very high level.

Yuen Chong Ming, however, had heard that there might be more esoteric skills to learn. So, Fok Bo Chuen suggested Yuen Kay San learn from his gung fu brother Fung Siu Chung, who had mastered some different methods like close body skills and was an expert in kum na methods. He was also a Ba Qua master but did not mix the two arts. Fung Siu Ching, like Fok Bo Chuen, was a famous Imperial Marshal (“Bo-Tao”) under the Ching dynasty. Marshals were paid to hunt down bandits and criminals and deliver them to the authorities. The Imperial authorities paid more for live criminals than dead ones, so they could be tortured. Hence, the Marshalls had to be able to capture alive the most dangerous criminals and bandits in China. Fung Siu Ching was known as one of the most feared Marshals in all of South China.

So, Yuen Chong Ming invited Fung Siu Ching to visit Mulberry Gardens, to meet his sons. Fung Siu Ching knew that Yuen Kay San and Yuen Chai Wan had both mastered Wing Chun under Fok Bo Chuen who had learnt the same Wing Chun as he had on the Red Boats from Dai Fa Mien Kam. (Sifu Yun Hoi’s note: Some modern Wing Chun adherents have speculated, and then proclaimed their speculation as fact, that Fok Bo Chuen taught the three hand and Fung Siu Ching taught a san sik method. This is not the case and such speculation is pure fiction. Sifu had specifically asked Yuen Kay San about this, as he was curious, and Yuen Kay San had stated that both did the same Wing Chun but Fung Siu Ching had more close body skills and kum na).

Fung Siu Ching was dined at the Yuen mansion and asked would he teach the Yuen brothers. The old Marshall reportedly said that if the Yuen brothers had been taught by his gung fu brother then they had been taught the same Wing Chun. So, he said that he doubted he could teach the Yuen brothers anything more. Yuen Chong Ming was sceptical and felt that this was the not the case. He implored Fung Siu Ching to test Yuen Kay San in a friendly contest of skill. Three times they engaged, Yuen Kay San told Sum Num. The first two times it seemed both were evenly matched and neither could prevail. Fung Siu Ching reportedly praised Yuen Kay San and was about to leave but Yuen’s father insisted there be one final encounter. So, the two engaged one more time. Yuen apparently drove the old Marshal back to a doorway and it looked like he had beaten him – in the exact words Sum Num says Yuen Kay San described it – “then something strange happened”. Suddenly, Yuen Kay San was thrown back to the center of the room! This was apparently the close body method of Fung Siu Ching. Yuen Chong Ming was elated! He pressed Fung Siu Ching to reside in his retirement at Mulberry Gardens – all expenses paid and on a generous stipend for life, in exchange for teaching his skills to the Yuen brothers as his only students.