Five Family Fist
Note: Shaolin is the standard Mandarin pronunciation used when referring to
the Shaolin Temple or Shaolin derived martial arts (when speaking in the Kung
Fu community, Shaolin generally implies the Northern Temple). The Southern
Temples are more appropriately referred to in local dialects; Cantonese being
the most prominent (Shaolin would therefore be pronounced as Siu Lum)
Our Ng Ga Kuen, (Five Family Fist) descends directly from the Siu Lum Temple prior to its destruction in 1928. In a sense, it could be argued that Ng Ga Kuen is Siu Lum (Shaolin) Kung Fu. Then again, this could be argued to be something of a grandiose claim, so allow me to explain:
From Left: Sifu Steven Perez, Sifu Rob Bibeau, Sifu Orlando Ayala.
In 1921 Ark Yuey Wong immigrated to the United States from China. He was in his early 20's at the time of his immigration and initially settled in San Francisco with family. Later he was invited to Los Angeles and founded a school on Ord St. in LA's Chinatown. During the intervening years he had taught numerous Chinese students in and around the San Francisco area, but it was a specific action by Professor Wong in 1958 that might be the only reason you've even heard of Kung Fu (no... Bruce Lee is not THE reason you've heard of Kung Fu). So what was this action by Professor Wong? He broke the color barrier and began to teach non-Chinese students traditional Chinese Kung Fu. And not just any traditional Kung Fu, the quintessential traditional Kung Fu, Ng Ga Kuen. Of course, two questions are still begged here, 1. What is Ng Ga Kuen? and 2. Where did Ark Wong learn it?
In answer to the first question I am reminded of an explanation that one of my teachers, Sifu Mario Figueroa used to give. "Kung Fu names are like the ingredients listings on the back of food packages." Uh... What? Well, Ng Ga Kuen (Five Family Fist) is just a short way of saying "Fut Ga, Hung Ga, Choy Ga, Li Ga, Mok Ga." Those five styles, which are family styles, make up the influences which comprise Ng Ga Kuen. Another analogy that
my Sifu used to offer: "think of Shaolin as something of a 'think tank' a research university in which great masters and military generals (often retired) got together, hung out, drank tea and practiced their arts together in a really zen lab." It was in this "think tank" way that Ng Ga Kuen was created at the Southern Shaolin temple at some point during the Yuan Dynasty. Now I know what you're thinking "whoa, wait a minute pal, the Shaolin system is the five animals...right?" Well, yes, that's true, sort of. Two explanations here: First, Ark Wong commonly referred to Ng Ga Kuen as "Five Animals Style" simply because he realized that explaining in detail the five families versus five animals was particularly tough (I'm barely giving you a fingernail scratch on the matter). Second, in Ng Ga Kuen we do teach the five animals (actually ten in most Southern styles) of Shaolin... when the student reaches that level. (The first Five Animals are: Tiger, Leopard, Snake, Crane and Dragon; the second Five Animals are Lion, Monkey, Elephant, Horse and Biu). Beyond this, a few select students will learn The Bull Style and Southern Eagle Claw.
Now to answer our second question of where Ark Wong learned Ng Ga Kuen.
Ark Y. Wong began his kung fu training at the age of 7, and although there is debate about what he learned from who, the generally agreed upon facts are that Wong Sifu had a total of 14 of the best teachers that money could buy. The three most well documented Sifus were Master Ho Ark Yeng, Lam Ark Fun and Chief Monk Pang (the head Monk of the Kwangtong district). At age 17, he attended college but he persisted in his study of Kung Fu and taught private Kung Fu lessons. Some years later he returned to his home village and taught as a school teacher and at night taught Kung Fu. It is reported that very shortly after his immigration to the United States he again began teaching. As discussed, in 1958, Ark Y. Wong broke stride with a centuries old tradition and began teaching traditional Kung Fu to non-Chinese students. The action preserved the art of Ng Ga Kuen to the present day. There are only a handful of AUTHENTIC Ng Ga Kuen Sifus still teaching the style in its entirety. Sifu Rob is proud to be a part of this lineage which began with DaMo’s arrival at Shaolin, was brought to America by our late Dai Sifu, Wong Ark Yuey, was spread and preserved by his top students Master Richard Vera and Grandmaster Seming Ma (amongst others who are not part of my lineage); was adhered to and followed with the utmost reverence by Sifu Steven Perez and Sifu Orlando Ayala; and finally passed down to myself, a lifelong and dedicated disciple of Ng Ga Kuen.
Sifu Rob brought Ng Ga Kuen to New Mexico after completing his service as an Infantry Officer in the United States Marine Corps. Initially Rob was teaching at nearby parks and even in the court yard at his house. After being home for only a few months Rob determined that the values inherent within this ancient system could very positively impact the local community and so decided to open the possibility to train in the most traditional Kung Fu in Albuquerque, NM.
Our Ng Ga Kuen Lineage is presented in the chart below: