|BIRTH OF THE SOUTHERN FIVE FAMILIES FIST GUNG FU SYSTEM
(Nam Ng Ga Kuen Gong Fu Moon Pai)
Originally, there were five main Southern Gung Fu styles that were designated by the word Gar (which means family) following
exists today, know that it covers the five family arts of Choy, Li, Fut, Mok, and Hung and the classic Southern Sil Lum Five
Animals of Tiger, Dragon, Crane, Leopard, and Snake. This is true, but many people do not understand how in-depth and
involved the system actually is. Nor do they recognize the rich history associated with its creation.
During the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368), a great change occurred in Shaolin Gung Fu. A great General, well trained in combat
arts, Gwok Yuen (Abbott Zhao Yuan), sought refuge at the Shaolin Temple in Honan. In a short time, Gwok Yuen had mastered
the arts of Shaolin and became Abbott of the Honan Temple. However, he felt that improvements could be made and innovated
the changes that would impact the Shaolin system and its branch styles for generations. He took the existing Sup Baht Lo Han
Kuen (Eighteen Buddhist Disciples Fist), which according to legend had been devised by Da Mo (the founder of Shaolin kung
fu), and expanded it to 72 movements to create a more comprehensive fighting form. Not completely satisfied, Gwok Yuen left
the confines of the Shaolin temple to search for other knowledgeable martial artists to help him restore the Shaolin system to its
former glory. In his quest, he found two other accomplished masters, Bai Yu Feng and Li Sau.
Gwok Yuen, Bai Yu Feng and Li Sau went into seclusion to work on improving and rebirthing the Shaolin system. Their
combined efforts produced a most commendable outcome; the creation of the Ng Ying (Five Animals). These teachings were
transmitted through several generations of Shaolin monks. In 1644, a retired Ming General, Tzu Gwo Tzo (Tzu Yuan/Chu Te
Chou), whose Buddhist name was Tung Chan Sim Si, inherited and mastered the teachings. Abbott Tung Chan had 36 disciples,
which included the well known Five Elders of Shaolin (Fong Dao De, Wu Mei Sze Tai, Miow Shen, Tze Shein/Gi Sin Sim Si,
and Pak Mei Dao Ren). The most influential individual in dispersing the Five Animal System at the Southern Sil Lum Temple in
Fukien Province during the 15th century was Tze Shein (Gi Sin Sim Si). The concepts of the Ng Hong (Five Elements) were
later developed and incorporated with the concepts of the Ng Ying (Five Animals). The combination of the two fighting concepts
(Ng Ying and Ng Hong) became known as Sup Ying Kuen (Ten Shadows Fist) which is the basis for the five family styles of
Southern Sil Lum Gung Fu: Hung, Lau, Choy, Lay and Mok. As the generations passed, these concepts became fighting forms;
and, while portions of Ng Ying and Ng Hong can be seen in many of today’s Southern Gung Fu styles such as Choy Lay Fut,
Ving Tsun and Jow Gar, only one style contains all ten fighting techniques, the Hung Gar Kuen of Hung Hei Goon.
The Five Family-Five Animal System originated in the Southern Sil Lum Temple and was created by five Sil Lum descendants.
Each of whom contributed their elite techniques to form a new system which had better transition & strength, and compensated
for the weaknesses in their own styles. The new system concentrated on speed, accuracy, and power. The 5 - Animals (Tiger,
Crane, Leopard, Snake & Dragon) fighting actions were added to strengthen and expand the combative concept. The Dragon
techniques however, were used to enlighten spiritual thinking.
The most popular story claims that when escaping revolutionaries transplanted these arts to Southern China, they adopted many
of the distinguishing characteristics of the existing native styles (i.e. rapid close quarter hand strikes and low powerful kicking
techniques aimed below the belt). The focus of Southern styles was learning through suffering and building up a strong
foundation in the Say Ping Ma (Horse stance). Many Southern styles seem to share these major guidelines. You will never see a
southern style which does not work on stances and powerful hand techniques. Most of the southern styles are family styles
which represent close communication and traditional values. The combination of Northern and Southern elements make these
kung fu systems particularly versatile and effective self-defense systems.
The population and geography of Southern China played an important role in the development of the five major family styles of
Southern China. The five famous Southern Shaolin Families of Gung Fu were:
Hung Gar (founded by Hung Hei Gung/Khoon), Lau Gar (founded by Lau Sam Ngan), Choy Gar (founded by Choy Gau
Yee/Choy Pak Tat), Lei Gar (founded by Lei Gum Lun/Li Yau San) and Mok Gar (founded by Mok Ching Giu); Over time,
Lau was replaced by Fut to pay tribute to the systems Buddhist roots.
The five family systems were created strictly as fighting arts, used to battle the Qing Dynasty rulers. Unlike Northern systems,
which were much older and had evolved during peaceful times when students could study for many years before reaching
higher levels; the masters of the Southern systems had to hurry their training and quickly teach their students how to fight. As a
result, hard power was taught first, followed by internal training (if taught at all). Stances were wider and lower, and Southern
footwork was less active than Northern, relying more on the practitioner's strength for defense.
There is another less common and therefore less popular story of the creation of the Five Family styles. The claim is that Hung
Ying (Ma Hsing) whose Buddhist name was Gi Sin Sim Si was the top ranking monk of the Shaolin Temple in Honan (where he
learned Gung Fu from Tung Chan Sim Si). When the Honan Temple was destroyed by Qing troops, Gee Sin escaped to the
South Sil Lum Temple (Kwong How Temple) in Guangdong. Here he incorporated some of the short – midrange Southern
elements into his Gung Fu, he then took on his ten famous disciples to whom he taught various “old” Northern styles mixed with
the “new” Southern elements. Among these disciples, were Hung Hei Gung, Liu San Yan (Lau Soan Ngan), Choy Gau Yee/Choy
Chin Kwong, Li Yau Shan (Lee Yao San), Mok Ching Gui (Mok Tai Cheung, Mok Da Si) and Liu Chan. To each, Gi Sin Sim
Shee taught a portion of the old style that was best suited to and could be learned fastest by each student. As Liu Chan was a
religious monk, his vows prevented him from fighting. The other five however, went on to fight in the revolution. During this
time, to hide their Shaolin connection, they named their fighting style after themselves. This accounts for the 5 famous Southern
Families Choy, Li, Mok, Hung, and Lau; Fut was carried on by Gi Sin’s top student Ng Ging who later changed his name to
Ching Cho Wor Seung (Green Grass Monk).
Either way, except for Hung-gar, the Southern family styles individually are rarely seen today in their original forms.
NOTE: The following terms are used to differentiate key individuals associated with particular styles; based upon historical (but
not necessarily accurate) documentation.
• CREATOR: The first well documented or generally accepted individual, credited with organizing/establishing the basic
elements of a particular style.
• FOUNDER: The first well documented or generally accepted individual, credited with the
naming/development/dissemination of a particular style.
• GAR: The word Gar, means family or clan, and in this case is used to signify Gung Fu families. Depending on the dialect
being used, the following words may be used in place of Gar: Ga, Ka, Jia, Chia, Jie, Gu, and Ku.
© 2005, Red Mantis’ Southern Five Kung Fu Association
What is Ng Ga Kuen?
Ng Ga Kuen is a composite mixture of the Five Southern Family styles (Fut, Hung, Choy, Li, Mok) of the Siu Lum Temple at
Guangdong . In addition, Southern Five Animal Styles are integrated rather than independent. The two should not be confused as
one, the Five Families are the foundation; encompassing all of our concepts, strategies, and theories and it is from here that Ng Ga
Kuen Begins; the Five Animals (see below) constitute our advanced level training (to assist in the internal and external conditioning
of the body); and the additional Animals at an intermediate level, completes the training (not considering those things which are
covered additionally such as combined animal sets, advanced and intermediate weapons and two person sets, etc).
There is a common misconception amongst Ng Ga Kuen practitioners that our 6 “core” forms are each attributed to one of our
founding ancestors (Fut, Hung, Choy, Li, Mok). It has been said that the Salute is from Choy Ga, Small Cross is Fut Ga, Butterfly
is Li Ga, Combination is Lau Ga (where Lau Ga comes in is a whole different topic), Blackbird is Mok Ga and Palm is Hung Ga.
This is incorrect, although some of our forms may appear to be specific to one family (Palm looks very much like our old school
Fut Ga forms), each of our forms is actually made up with the influence of all of the families. Look closer and you can see this to
be true, in the Palm; the palming movements are Fut Ga, the punches are strong Hung Ga, without question; there is only one kick
but, nonetheless, it is a Mok Ga kick, etc…………
Though none of our basic forms can be attributed exclusively to any one style, we can compare and trace individual movements.
In Blackbird for instance, we see a great amount of palming, slapping and slicing techniques (derived from Fut Gar) and a few
kicks (borrowed from Mok Gar) and shifty footwork (from Choy Ga- the Rat Stepping Style). In other instances, a connection
beyond just single movements may be apparent; Saluting Act for example, when performed with tension is reminiscent of Hung
Gars’ Iron Thread exercise.
One aspect of our system that deserves special mention is Fut Ga. This “Family” style, created by the monk Sam Dak, in and of it’
s self, is all encompassing and represents the collective knowledge of all Southern Siu Lum Martial Skills. Although, in Ng Ga
Kuen we associate only certain movements with Fut Ga ; it IS the epitome of Southern Siu Lum Temple at Guangdong .
Although, at one time Wong Sifu did teach the family styles individually; in 1969, with the help of our current Grand Master, Ma
Seming, Ng Ga Kuen underwent it’s first standardization. In the process, Wong Sifu felt that since throughout each of our “core
forms” all the families were represented. He felt that the individual family forms were repetitious and not necessary. There is no
question that these forms are a legitimate part of our system but, as of 1969, they were no longer part of the official curriculum. I
am, in agreement with the opinion that the core forms represent, collectively in each form, the Five Family styles; And aside from
historical value the individual Family forms, hold no additional benefit in learning.