Yau Kung Mun (柔功門), also sometimes written as Yau Kung Moon, is a rare Chinese martial art characterized by its aggressive tactics and effective fighting techniques, including the use of the Phoenix Eye Fist and short range shock power.
The Yau Kung Mun kung fu system offers training in all aspects of the Chinese martial arts tradition including self defence, Qi Gong, meditation and Chinese medicine. It consists of both an internal kung fu system and an external kung fu system, two separate arts taught under the banner of Yau Kung Mun.
The external Yau Kung Mun system is closely related to the Bak Mei system and shares many of the same characteristics such as short range explosive power, use of the phoenix eye fist and a very aggressive mindset.
The internal Yau Kung Mun system includes sitting, standing and moving Qi Gong methods, Buddhist yogic exercises and many other internal power training methods such as practising movements with a heavy ball made of wood, stone or metal to develop the systems characteristic flexible whole body power.
Advanced students also learn the internal form Siu Lam Yau Kung Sup Bat Seung Toi Jeung or Shaolin Flexible Power Eighteen Double Pushing Palms which is considered the “treasure” of the Yau Kung Mun system, containing all the fighting and healing methods of Yau Kung Mun hidden inside one long form divided into three sections. The initial stages of the Yau Kung Mun system focus on developing soft “yau” power. This is primarily done by practising solo drills, hitting pads and numerous two-person methods designed to teach the practitioner to use a very relaxed and penetrating type of power.
In addition to the soft power training, students also study the hard “kung” power aspect of the system. They learn to condition their bodies for fighting using a variety of methods, including iron body, iron hand, iron bridge, iron claw and many two-person conditioning exercises. We also use external and internal dit dar medicines together with specific Qi Gong exercises to help our bodies recover from the hard conditioning practise.
This way, practitioners learn to balance soft and hard energy to create “Yau Kung” or “flexible power” which is the speciality of the system.
In Yau Kung Mun, every part of the body is a weapon. Common fighting techniques include a variety of hand strikes, kicks, elbows, knees, headbutts, joint locks and breaks, take-downs and wrestling techniques. We also use skills such as Dim Mak / Dim Yuet and auto-kinematics to further increase the effectiveness of our techniques.
Students learn to develop and apply their skills through numerous partner drills and free sparring. Various whole body sensitivity exercises are trained, teaching the student how to feel and react to their opponents slightest movement while relying on proper body mechanics and soft power instead of brute force. Sparring is done both in a semi-contact without gloves, allowing for a larger range of techniques and full-contact with gloves and mouthguards so that the students can learn to take a hit and keep going while getting their reflexes and body movements down for real fighting.
Yau Kung Mun practitioners also practise variety of weapons such as the long pole, single and double daggers and broad sword. While being part of the tradition, the weapons also have very practical uses for the modern day martial artist. For instance, the long pole, when practiced with a heavy wooden or metal pole, develops whole body power and coordination and the dagger methods teach practical knife fighting and self defense skills while enhancing the practitioners speed and reflexes.
From their very first day of training, students are also introduced to the healing knowledge that is part of the system, including external and internal herbal medicines, massage therapy and energy healing.
The history of Yau Kung Mun dates back to the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) and the Shaolin temple in the Honan province, where the system was created by the Buddhist monk Ding Yang. He dedicated his life to improving and developing the art while at the same time striving for perfection in both his martial and spiritual practices. Because he was a humble and withdrawn person he decided not to name his system and as time passed by it became known simply as the “style with no name”. During several centuries, the Yau Kung Mun system was only taught inside the Shaolin temple and only in its entirety to one monk per generation. According to legend, when an outsider came to the Shaolin temple to fight, the challenge would be met by one of the practitioners of the “style with no name”. Thus, the challenger would be faced with an unknown fighting system and could be beaten easily.
During the Ching dynasty (1644-1911), the Manchurian emperor had the Shaolin temple destroyed and many of the monks were killed. Only a small number of monks managed to escape with their lives intact and one of them was Doe Sung, a skilled practitioner of the Yau Kung Mun system. Doe Sung passed on his knowledge of the system to Sing Loi, who taught Kit Loi, who in turn taught Tit Yun. These men were all Buddhist monks of the Shaolin tradition.
Tit Yun became famous for his iron body and it was said that his blows landed on his opponents like strikes from an iron bar. It was he who finally gave the system its name, Yau Kung Mun, meaning the style of flexible power. He was also the first monk ever to pass on the tradition by selecting a layperson as his disciple; this disciple was our late Great Grand Master Ha Hon Hung.
The first person to learn Yau Kung Mun outside the Shaolin temple was Great Grandmaster Ha Hon Hung (1892-1962) from Kou Ming County in Guandong province. Sijo Ha was a skilled exponent of several different kung fu systems. As a teenager he learned Choy Lee Fut from his brother Ha Sang, who was well-known in Kou Ming for his skills as a kung fu practitioner. During the years that followed, Sijo Ha also gained deep knowledge of several other northern and southern styles of kung fu. Eventually Sijo Ha became deeply interested in the more subtle aspects of kung fu and began his search for a more internal system than what he had previously learned.
Around the year 1915, Sijo Ha Hon Hung became the only disciple of Shaolin monk Tit Yun, who taught him the complete Yau Kung Mun system, the eighteen methods of Shaolin and Chinese Dit Dar herbal medicine. After completing his training, Sijo Ha was authorized by Tit Yun to open a school of martial arts and healing. The monk told him to call the system Yau Kung Mun, meaning the School of Flexible Power. Tit Yun later retired to the mountains in Lo Fu San where he lived as a spiritual monk and continued his studies in Buddhism.
In 1924, Sijo Ha Hon Hung opened the Yau Kung Mun Academy at the Pearl River Martial Arts Club in Guangshou ( Canton ). During this time, he also founded his own organisation called the Ha Hon Hung Sports Association. Sijo Ha blended the knowledge of all his previous martial arts in order to offer his students many different methods of combat, while the internal Yau Kung Mun system only was taught to his most loyal and talented students. He added various external forms and principles from his ealier studies to the original syllabus of Yau Kung Mun, providing a solid base for students to begin with before progressing on to the more advanced training of the internal Yau Kung Mun system.
The reputation of Sijo Ha Hon Hung continued to grow and over the years he passed on his knowledge to hundreds of students in a variety of styles. In Canton today, many of the Bak Mei schools are in some way linked to the teachings of Sijo Ha.
When the Japanese invaded China, Sijo Ha Hon Hung was given the honor of teaching fighting techniques to the Chinese army and also played a major role in helping to drive out the Japanese from his home town of Han Hoi County. Today, these effective military fighting techniques are taught to beginner Yau Kun Mun students in the form Tung Jee Kuen.
There is a story passed down within the Yau Kung Mun system of a particular demonstration of power by Sijo Ha Hon Hung. In the autumn of 1931, a visitor from Russia was performing various acrobatic feats outside a recreation park in Canton . The Russian was boasting about how he was strong enough to subdue a bull and was mocking the Chinese people, calling them the weak, useless and sick men of Asia. When Sijo Ha heard about the Russian, he decided to go up against him to prove that the Chinese were not weak. First he challenged the Russian to a test of strength, as it was customary in those days for the fighters to first demonstrate their strength and skill before engaging each other in actual combat. The Russian accepted the challenge, so Sijo Ha simply walked up on the stage and sat down in a hardwood chair that the Russian had been using for his demonstration. Sijo Ha then smashed the chair into pieces with a simple twist of his waist. Upon seeing this, the Russian withdrew from the challenge and was later seen apologizing for insulting the Chinese people.
Sijo Ha Hon Hung was the person responsible for introducing Yau Kung Mun to the world. During his lifetime he trained many great masters and started the Ha Hon Hung Sports Association in Hong Kong, which today has Yau Kun Mun schools all over the world and is famous for its kung fu, lion and dragon dancing and Chinese herbal medicine (Dit Dar).
Sigung Leung Cheung was one of the earliest and most outstanding diciples of Sijo Ha Hong Hung. He was born and raised in Shun Tak, an area close to Canton in southern China. Sigung Leung was an industrious and conscientious young man, intelligent, perseverant and a man of few words. He learnt the complete Yau Kung Mun system from Sijo Ha Hon Hung and in addition he was also taught the arts of Dit Da and dragon and lion dancing.
Sigung Leung Cheung’s kung fu training was very rigorous and intensive. During his first two years as a student, he only trained to perfect the systems stances and other basic techniques. In later days, his stances were so strong that the ground would shake when he rooted in them, something that was witnessed at countless demonstrations. At over sixty years of age, he was still training his internal power on huge trees in Centennial Park in Sydney, making the upper branches shake with every strike.
In 1954, Sigung Leung Cheung opened his own Chinese martial arts school in Hong Kong where he taught the Yau Kung Mun system, including lion and dragon dancing. His school and students also participated in many demonstrations and exhibitions of Chinese martial arts and performed lion and dragon dancing at different festivals. The school also had a clinic for treatment using traditional Chinese medicine and over the years he became renowned for his knowledge in this field. The Traditional Medicine College in Hong Kong still displays his portrait in memory and recognition of him.
Later in 1973, he established the Leung Cheung Sports Academy with the goal of teaching Yau Kung Mun and preserving the Chinese martial arts tradition. Students from the Academy competed in a number of tournaments and exhibitions with excellent results that include gold medals at the Hong Kong Festival, Chinese Martial Arts Gunn Mo Competition and the South East Asia Chinese Martial Arts Competition (where Chan Sui won both the middle and light weight). The effectiveness of Sigung Leung Cheung’s teachings were proven time and time again by his dedicated students.
When the disciples of Sijo Ha Hon Hung established the Hong Kong Chinese Martial Arts Association, Sigung Leung was one of its executive committee members and also the deputy public relations officer. Sigung Leung Cheung worked hard and unselfishly to help society and was very much involved with various charities and social campaigns, such as campaigns against crime and environmental issues.
Sigung Leung Cheung migrated to Sydney, Australia in the 1977 where he taught kung fu at the local Chinese martial arts schools as an honorary instructor. After he had gained a sufficient number of students to warrant opening a school of his own, he established, in 1984, the Australian Yau Kung Mun Chinese Martial Arts Academy in Chinatown, Sydney. During the following years, the school continued to prosper and produced a number of students who were successful in competition. Sigung Leung also once again offered his support to the society, collecting money for charity by giving public kung fu demonstrations and performing lion and dragon dancing. Organisations that he helped include the Sydney Hospital, the Spastic Centre, the Cambodian Refugee Foundation and the Australian Chinese Sanatorium.
Sigung Leung Cheung also worked hard to promote Chinese culture. He represented his countrymen at a number of occasions such as Australia Day, Ethnic Day and the Festival of Sydney. During the Guandong Province Trade Exhibition, he took his students out in the suburbs and demonstrated the lion and dragon dancing together with performances of the Guandong Acrobatic Troupes in order to promote a cultural exchange.
In 1988, Sigung Leung Cheung closed his hands and retired from teaching martial arts in public. However, he continued to teach a small number of students and later also performed the Bai Shee ceremony with a few select disciples. He also continued to treat and heal many people with his knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine.
Sigung Leung Cheung passed away in April 1999. His passing was felt throughout the Chinese community in Australia and by martial arts associations around the globe. A number of dignitaries and kung fu masters from different schools, together with martial artists from the other side of the planet, attended his traditional Chinese funeral service.
Today, Sigung Leung Cheung’s memory and teachings are carried on by his students who loved him like a father and have pledged to continue the traditions of the Yau Kung Mun system in his honour.