KONG CHOW WUI KOON
Kong Chow Martial Arts and Lion Dance troupe founding members comprised of not less than 10 Kung Fu masters representing different sects. The troupe 1st chairman and Kung Fu master was Master Tham Chun Mun, commonly known as Uncle Kit. His was well known for his Hung Gar Tiger Claws Kung Fu. Kong Chow has three masters who were the 3rd and 4th generation direct disciples of Legendary Kung Fu master Wong Fei Hong. (The 2nd generation of Master Wong Fei Hong were Master Lin Wan Kai and Master Lum Sai Weng)
The 3rd generation were Master Nam Soon and Master Song Siew Bo. Master Nam Soon is the disciple of Master Lin Wan Kai and Master Song is the disciple of Master Lum Sai Weng.
The 4th generation were Master Siew Kum Chuen, Master Song Chew Yuen and Master Tang Fook Tim. Master Siew is the sworn brother of Nam Soon, Master Song and Master Tang are the disciples of Master Song Siew Bo. Master Tang and the son of Master Siew are still actively coaching Kung Fu in Kong Chow. Kong Chow Master Wan Chong Woon taught Southern Shaolin martial arts in Kong Chow from the 40’s to 70’s and later assisted Singapore Shaolin sects in introducing Hung Gar Choy Lei Futt Kung Fu and Lion dance.
Other than Hung Gar, Kong Chow has Master Lee Yet Choy, the disciple of Choy Lei Futt 3rd generation Master Chan Cheong Mo, taught Choy Lei Futt Kung Fu in Kong Chow in the early days and later assisted in forming Singapore Hong Sheng Goon. Master Leong Peng was well known for his Chow Gar Kung Fu and Lion dance in Kong Chow. Master Lum Kwai Chuen, whom also from the Singapore Chin Woo federation, taught Pak Pai Kung Fu in Kong Chow. These masters and many other Kong Chow masters have passionately committed their time and effort to pass on their arts and skills to the future generation.
To keep its arts and cultural activities going, Kong Chow has for the past 6 decades, carried out its anniversary public performances, twice yearly ancestor worship performances, and Chinese New Year plucking green performances without fail.
Kong Chow has also been very active promoting martial arts and lion dance beyond the association affair. Some of the commendable performance includes the fund raising in 1951 for the fire disaster in Bukit Ho Swee where thousands were made homeless overnight. The highlight of the lion dance stunt Kong Chow performed was the 4 storeys high lion dance plucking green where 6 persons have to stand on top of each other with the assistance of a long pole. Such stunt was never seen in Singapore after the 60’s. To do this, other than teamwork, the performers have to master their horse stunt and this could only be trained in the hard traditional ways. Other similar stunning performances include smashing of ceramic pots and balancing on a single pole. In 1955, one of these public performances caught the eye of visiting Britain Queen Elisabeth where the Queen ordered to make a table size medal as a reward for the association’s effort in public and community services. This huge medal is currently displayed at the Singapore Overseas Chinese Heritage centre.
Kong Chow Martial Arts and Lion Dance have travelled to Kuala Lumpur several times as early as 1952 to do fund raising public performances for Kong Chow Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Lumpur Chin Woo federation. In the 70’s and 80’s, Kong Chow also travelled to Melaka and Ipoh for fund raising performances for Melaka Kong Chow, Perak Kong Chow and Ipoh Chin Woo.
Traditional martial arts e.g. Hung Gar, Chow Gar, Choy Lei Futt, Shaolin, Pak Pai, and Tai Chi are still practiced in Kong Chow. However, the number of practitioners has dwindled over the past 2 decades partly due to the inactive promotional activities, the change in the demographic in Chinatown where the younger families were moved out to other housing estates, and with the introduction of competitive modern Chinese Martial Arts in China that created the change in the trend. In spite of all these, Kong Chow still retains her traditional arts and culture especially in the area of traditional Kung Fu. Kong Chow valued traditional Kung Fu for its arts and cultural value more than as a trend and sporting value. Kong Chow tries to keep the forms of arts and culture but has been keeping up the trend in the approach of promoting these activities. These include setting up of website, forming the Kids group, reaching out to schools, etc. This is what Kong Chow is moving towards for the past ten years.
Kong Chow was the first association who have a Kids Lion dance and kung fu group in Singapore during the 50’s and 5 years ago, Kong Chow re-started its Kids Lion Dance and kung fu group with a total of 25 members currently. Lion dance is closely related to martial arts from the perspective of traditional Kung Fu. The traditional Lion dance needs the basic of Kung Fu horse stunts and arm strength to perform the routine. This motivates the practitioners to learned kung fu seriously in order to excel in Lion Dance. Such mindset and interest has to start at the early age, which explain why Kong Chow focuses a lot on its Kids Martial Arts and Lion Dance group.
In order for the members to learn about their roots, Kong Chow for the past 5 years, has been organising its annual visit to China Pearl River Delta region i.e. Xin Hui, Zhong San, He Shan, Fu Shan, etc for martial arts and Lion Dance cultural exchange. On top of that, Kong Chow also sent its members for international competition in China. The recent competitions Kong Chow participated were the 1st World Wide Chinese Lion Dance Competition organised in Guangzhou in 2005 where Kong Chow got a Silver medal in the traditional category. The second competition was the 1st International Choy Lei Futt Kung Fu and traditional Lion Dance competition held in Xin Hui in 2006. Kong Chow won 6 gold and 1 silver medals of which 3 medals were won by Kong Chow Kids Martial Arts and Lion Dance members.
Kong Chow also set up a traditional Lion Dance display hall in 2003 on its 3rd floor where various types of antique and traditional lion heads are displayed for viewing. These lion heads were offered by established Martial Arts and Lion Dance association in Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Guangdong. It is believed that the display hall is the one and only with the most traditional Guangdong lion heads in the world. Through this display, the visual aspects of the arts and culture are preserved.
Kong Chow will be liaising with other Kong Chow associations in the world to take concrete actions to preserve and promote traditional arts and cultures i.e. martial arts, lion and dragon dance, and Cantonese opera. In 2007, Kong Chow Martial Arts and Lion Dance troupe and her opera troupe have travelled to Kuala Lumpur Kong Chow association to do a series of fund raising public performances in the capital. The publicities and response were overwhelming. Kong Chow has also spread its arts in Southern Thailand by assisting Hatyai Chin Woo federation to start its lion dance, Hung Gar and Wing Chun kung fu. Kong Chow will also be travelling to Bangkok in September 2007 as guest performer for the entire Thailand Cantonese associations gathering conference and gala dinner. Kong Chow will continue to grow its network China to exchange and promote martial arts culture. Kong Chow hopes that the future generation can pass on these fine arts and culture which have already sustained for more than two centuries. It is encouraging to see that western countries are embracing these arts and culture but it is worrying that the locals are taking these arts and culture for granted. The last thing that Kong Chow forefathers would not want to see is the vanishing of this valuable traditional culture.