Hung Gar's origins go back to the original Shaolin Temple in Henan province. Legend has it that one of the monks, Gee Sin Sim See, fled the temple as it was burned down by the Qing government soldiers in 1768, and brought Shaolin kungfu to Fukian province in the South. There, according to legend, Master Gee See taught Hung Hei Goon (a Fukian tea merchant) the Shaolin Tiger Style. Hung, being a curious man, always sought to improve his skills. He added to his Tiger Style elements from his wife's White Crane system, movements from the Dragon, Snake, and Leopard forms, and techniques from the Five Elements Fist. He modified and expanded his Tiger Style to develop a system better balanced in long- and short-range applications, a system which better reflected his own character and skills -- Hung Gar.
The new Southern Shaolin temple became associated with many revolutionary activities and when it too was burned the famous Hung Hei Gun brought the art to Guangdong province and along with student Luk Ah Choy, popularized the tiger-crane style in that region. He passed it down to Wang Tai, who in turn passed it down to Wong Kay Ying, who then taught it to his own son, Wong Fei Hung. Hung Gar's mast famous figure remains Wong Fei Hung, who, as a friend and contemporary of Dr. Sun Yat Sen, became well known as a patriot doctor and kung fu master. Born in 1850 and trained by his father sine the age of 5 Wong Fei Hung was known as one of the "Ten Tigers of Canton." He was recruited to serve in the imperial army as a leader under the famous General Tong Gin Cheong in Fukien province. As revolt was still fomenting against the Qing government, General Tong agreed to lead the people of Fukien in their uprising, and he secretly formed the National Army. Wong Fei Hong became an assistant to the army's general Lee Hung Chang, and armed with thousands of soldiers they joined General Tong on the battlefield. Under the threat of the Qing, General Tong cut his beard and in disguise fled to Canton, followed by Wong Fei Hung. In 1911 they joined with Sun Yat Sen who finally managed to liberate the Republic. Afterwards, Wong Fei Hung set up a famous dit dar clinic in Canton where he treated many poor patients, and there he also taught a select group of students, the famous Lam Sai Wing among them. Wong was also credited with formalizing Hung Gar's major techniques into one of kungfu's most famous sets, the Fu Hok Sheong Yin Kuen, or Tiger and Crane set. He died in 1933 at the age of 83. Hundreds of novels and movies have since immortalized the legend of Wong Fei Hung. Hung Gar draws on the Shaolin heritage of the five animals and five elements. It is characterized by its low, solid horse stance and its strong upper body strength and conditioning. It remains one of the most popular kungfu styles both throughout Asia and in the West.
The essence of Hung Gar can be found in its name. "Hung" means to "stand tall with integrity." Hung Gar tenants stress honesty, directness, iron will-power and righteousness.
Southern China is a wet land of great rivers and agriculture. Trade and transportation centered around its rivers. Its population is greater than that of Northern China and its cities more crowded. Hung Gar is well adapted to close quarter fighting in small, crowded alleyways or in wet, slippery rice fields. Hung Gar training emphasizes strong stances, iron-hard blocks, low snapping kicks, ambidexterity, deceptive hand techniques and power, all geared for close-range techniques. The low, strong stances conform well to encounters on barges and rafts. Low snapping kicks are well suited to wet and slippery ground.
Hung Gar hand techniques stress ambidexterity and use simultaneous blocking and striking. The blocking maneuvers of Hung Gar were well-known and feared. Opponents often thought twice before challenging a Hung Gar practitioner, for if a block could numb an attacker's limb, how much more painful must a strike be? The training is grueling and highly demanding and fits well the student who is physically strong and compact, of muscular build and who possesses great endurance. Legends depict of Hung Gar students who stood in horse stance the length of time an incense stick burned down completely, anywhere between one to three hours.
At the Wing Lam Kung Fu School, the Hung Gar curriculum includes empty-hand, weapon and sparring sets. The sets include traditional Hung Gar forms, supplemented by sets from other systems. Each form builds on the basic skills of Kung Fu but each emphasizes a different ability. There are seventeen weapon sets, covering the four basic weapons - staff, broadsword, spear and straight sword - as well as more exotic weapons, including the long pole, hoe, double butterfly knives, trident, long handle knife, Tiger Head Shields, bench and round shield. The sparring sets complete the Hung Gar curriculum. These sets include hand and weapon sets, such as the Tiger and Crane Sparring Set, empty hand versus the horse-cutting knife, trident versus butterfly knives, Tiger Head Shield versus broadsword, and the three person staff combination.