Master Fook Yueng

Mr. Yueng asked me to not write about him until after he passed away, and I was hoping it would be much later, as late as possible. One of the most advanced Taoist masters in the world recently passed away at the age of 97 (2012), he was a true wizard of the Taoist kind, like a powerful Jedi, his energy was vast and sparkled, and he had a joy that was contagious.

Let me start by clarifying some information about Mr. Yueng's connection to Bruce Lee. Most people think Yip Man was Bruce's teacher, and he was - his high school teacher. However Bruce also had a university level teacher, so to speak, and that was Mr. Yueng. Bruce lived with him for three years upstairs in a fancy chinese restaurant where Mr. Yueng was a cook, and was his student for a total of around eight years. Mr. Yueng did not want people to know he taught Bruce because he didn't want people challenging him to fights or bothering him for lessons. Bruce liked it too because then he got to say he made it all up. Mr. Yueng also did not want Yip Man to lose face, because Mr. Yueng's kung fu brother, Bruce's dad, was friends with the Yip Man family. This is the reason that Mr. Yueng asked me to not write about him until he passed away.

Mr. Yueng taught Bruce a kung fu form called Jeet Kun, and what Bruce taught didn't have a lot to do with that form, he just liked the name, he added Do to the name to appeal to the karate people. Bruce didn't know there was another higher level, named Shen Kun, which is the Jedi stuff, which Mr. Yueng taught to a few people later on.

Fook Yueng joined the Chinese opera when very young, around the age of ten, and the training they endured was brutal, much moreso than anything today. They had to get up at 4 in the morning and work out hard for two hours before even being allowed to use the restroom. The opera was divided into two parts, there were the singers, and then there were the martial artists. Fook was one of the martial artists and he was so good that he became the Monkey King. The Monkey King performance consists of the hero, the Monkey King, to run and jump and summersault through a group of three or four others who were all swinging sticks, spears and swords at him at the same time. At the same time he was taking away their weapons and then throwing them back. The Monkey King performance has to be the most advanced acrobatic performance that you will ever see. Bruce Lee's dad, Lee Hoi-Chuen, also joined the opera as a boy and was also the Monkey King, so Mr. Yueng and he were the closest of kung fu brothers. Kung fu brotherhood was taken very seriously because the opera was their family, and thus Fook was Bruce Lee's uncle.

The opera company was the Red Boat Junk Opera, and it consisted of a some boats, that were painted red, that traveled up and down the coast of China and it's rivers giving performances in the cities. When they got to a new city they were required to have a challenge fight between the hero of the boat and the hero of the city. If the city won the match then the opera had to pay taxes to the city, if not then they didn't. Some people were crippled and killed in these fights. Fook told me about a kick boxer on the boat whose legs were so strong that he could put the anchor over the side with his leg. This person had his Achiles tendon ripped off by and Eagle claw fighter, which probably made his career more difficult after that. Mr. Yueng was sometimes the boat's hero and he said no one could ever hit him, which implies that he never lost a fight.

Once their boat went to San Francisco to give an opera performance there, and that is when Bruce was born, making him a US citizen. It was at this time that Mr. Yueng decided to stay in the US because the Japanese had just invaded China and he didn't want to get involved in that, so he jumped ship and remained in the US. He eventually moved to Seattle, Washington, where he lived for the rest of his life.

One interesting note about the Red Boat Junk opera is that their form of Wing Chun, which was a softer.more internal, style than you see these days, was outlawed by the Chinese government. That was because the opponents of the Qing Dynasty used the Red Boat Opera Company as a cover to disguise themselves as a troupe of traveling entertainers. Their identities as Chinese opera performers provided a cover for martial arts training; however, the flashy moves of opera style martial arts were not suited to the activities of espionage and assassination, which required specialized skills. Even though assassinations themselves would be carried out using poison or knives, their targets were usually protected by bodyguards who, on discovery of an intruder, would seize the person, call for help, and disable the person to be held for interrogation. Therefore, according to this hypothesis, Wing Chun was designed to deal with an opponent who seized rather than struck and to silence that opponent immediately. This would explain certain technical aspects of Wing Chun, such as its emphasis on close-range combat and its many strikes to the throat and diaphragm.

to be continued ...

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