According to the Chow Gar tradition, when Chow was a teenager, he developed a serious stomach complaint which would not respond to normal treatment. His father sent him away from home in hope that a change of climate would help his problem. Under the care of a monk, Chow was healed.
Chow ended up finding work in the local temple as a cook. All employees of the temple had to practice Shaolin kung fu under the guidance of the high Monk Sim Yam. Chow started his martial arts training and practiced very hard.
Because of his small height, Chow found himself being bullied in the temple by someone called Shee.
One day, Chow was out for a walk when he heard the distress calls of a little bird. Chow investigated this noise to find a Tonglong (praying mantis) lifting up its arms for a final strike. In a blinding instance the little bird was dead. Chow could find no trace of the wounds and realised that there was something special in this method of attack. Chow decided to further study the mantis by poking sticks at it and studying its little “fists” as they thrust outward to attack.
Because of his small and weak physic, he developed a system where he harnessed the hidden powers of the body. This idea came about while witnessing the mantis overcome a bird twice its size. After years of patience, hard work and the help of the high Monk Sim Yan, Chow Ah Naam developed the Southern Mantis system.
He studied these techniques and used them to defeat a bully who would pick on Chow named Shee. From that day, Tonglong was on its way to be a most potent martial art. Chow started teaching his new art and accepted a student, another Monk called Wong Fook Go, who was responsible for passing on this art to the common folks who lived near the temple in the South East part of China.
Wong Fook Go taught the system to a young man named Lau Sui. At the age of 14, Lau Sui started his kung fu training. He pursued under seven well known Masters. Because of his great skills, he had learnt all what those instructors had to offer within 8 years.
One fine day in the late years of the last century, a group of village people were watching a spectacular martial arts show. Lau Sui was demonstrating various styles of Chinese Kung Fu (Tiger, Eagle & Monkey) as well as weapons.
Suddenly, from the middle of the crowd, a monk stepped forward and said loudly… “Young man, your kung fu is just a little better than NOTHING, how can you stand in front of people and teach them?” Lau Sui stopped his demonstration and looked at the monk from top to bottom. In this situation one would probably be very angry and would ask that person to leave, instead Lau Sui, being a very modest young man replied, “from what you have said, your kung fu must be at a top level?” The monk said “If you want you are welcome to try me, you can even hit first”. Lau Sui seen this to be a good chance to test his skills and learn more kung fu so he took up the monks offer.
They both squared off with their styles adopted stances. Lau Sui suddenly attacked with a straight punch. The monk moved his shoulder slightly and used the ‘Ging power’ and Lau Sui was sent flying back a few yards away. The monk shook his head and disappeared into the crowd.
Lau Sui found out that the monk was staying close by and tried on several occasions to defeat the monk. He eventually realised that the monk was far superior. He knelt in front of the monk and begged him to accept his as his student. The monk, Wong Fook Go, accepted.
Lau Sui invited the monk to his home and asked the monk, “every time I tried to hit you, it was as if I was hit by lighting, and how you moved so fast”.
The monk laughed and said “You have great strength but I directed it back to you, so your strength was used on yourself. The power I used to divert your strength is the type that comes from within called Ging or hidden internal chi power.
The shock you received was due to the shock power I applied. Think about a Praying Mantis, an insect which has the power to overcome opponents three times its own size. This system is called Southern Praying Mantis and is designed to develop this kind of extraordinary power”.
When the monk first saw Lau Sui he knew he had the potential to be a Master of Kung Fu and later realised that he had a humble heart. Wong Fook Go made up his mind to teach Lau Sui this high level Kung Fu and hope he would serve his country.
In six years, Lau Sui had learnt everything from the monk and the monk told him that it was time to go their separate ways. Being a lover of nature, Wong Fook Go went onto travel extensively, while Laui moved to Hong Kong in 1913.
Lau Sui bought Hakka (Hakka being people originally from Northern China) praying mantis to Hong Kong and taught the first non-hakka generation. He taught numerous people the style he called Chu Gar Gao, or Chu Family Creed. (Chu is a famous surname and is reoccurring throughout the history of China.)
Although he had many students, he accepted only five disciples:
Chu Kwong Hwa, Chu Yu Hing, Lum Hwa, Wong Go Chang and the only non-hakka disciple was Yip Sui (also spelt Ip Shui).
Ip Shui lived with Lau Sui for 7 years. Being the first non-hakka to learn the system of Chu Gar Gao, Ip Shui made his name in Hong Kong due to the many bouts he had against other styles.
After Lau Sui’s death, Ip Shui created a new stream of the Southern Praying Mantis known as Chow Gar, named after Chow Ah-Naan, the first ancestor of the style. Ip Shui’s Chow Gar has spread all over the world, having schools in Hong Kong, England, Australia.
My Sifu, Matthew Hansen now trains with a direct student of the late Grand Master Ip Shui, Sifu Hang Ng, at the Chow Gar Association in Mong Kok, Hong Kong.
*Details regarding the lineage of the Chow Gar art have been obtained from various sources and are correct and true to the best of my knowledge at the time of publication.