The Eagle Claw System can be traced back to the end of the Southern Sung Dynasty (about 1250 AD.) At this time, China, under the rule of the King Go Chung, was being invaded by the Mongolian “Golden Soldiers”. The Sung general in charge of resistance to the “Golden Soldiers” was Ngok Fei. Training his soldiers in fighting techniques he had learned from a Sil Lum monk named Jow Tong, Ngok Fei continuously defeated the Mongolian invaders and on several occasions, almost succeeded in capturing their general. As a result, Ngok Fei and his fighting techniques acquired a reputation throughout China.
The fighting techniques of Ngok Fei had a well-deserved reputation. Known as the “108 Fighting Techniques,” they were primarily a system of hand techniques refined and perfected by Ngok Fei. Varying from simple blocking and punching to more complicated grapplings, these techniques emphasized the use of grabbing, locking and pressure point strikes. These techniques, which are still taught today as the form “Lin Kuen,” made Ngok Fei a well-respected man during his lifetime.
While Ngok Fei was earning his reputation as a great general, the Sung King enjoyed a life of leisure. He had delegated much of his authority to his Prime Minister, Chun Koy, who unfortunately, was neither scrupulous nor patriotic. To further his own interests, he continuously advised the king to cease all hostilities with the Mongolians and recall Ngok Fei. After a time he succeeded and Ngok Fei returned to find that he had been discredited in the eyes of the king. A short time later Ngok Fei died, either executed or by suicide, no one is sure.
Upon the death of Ngok Fei. his soldiers, in anger, left the service of the king. Some of these soldiers continued to practice the 108 Fighting Techniques while wandering to all parts of China. In this way the system survived the political and social upheavals of 13th century China until, in time, it came back to the monastery where it underwent its greatest change.
The Creation of Faan Tzi Ying Jow Pai
Ngok Fei’s 108 Fighting Techniques returned to the monastery where it had begun with the monk Jow Tong years before. Here it was practiced and passed on to succeeding generations in much the same form as Ngok Fei had developed. Then, some time during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), the system underwent a dramatic change.
At that time the Eagle Claw System, which consisted solely of the 108 Techniques, was revealed to a monk named Lai Chin. Lai Chin, a great master of the system known as Faan Tzi, was very impressed with the Eagle Claw techniques. He decided to combine the two systems in such a way that they would compliment each other and thus form a single, smooth, effective Kung Fu system. Lai Chin spent years at this task. First he had to master the 108 Techniques of Eagle Claw. Then he had to find the weak points of both systems and combine the two to form one system, stronger and more effective than either could be alone. Lai Chin succeeded in his task and named the new system Faan Tzi Ying Jow Pai.
Lai Chin is one of the most prominent figures in the history of the Eagle Claw System.. His development of Faan Tzi Ying Jow Pai is the system presently called the Northern Eagle Claw. Combining the original 108 Techniques of Ngok Fei with established Faan Tzi forms, Lai Chin created the system that is still practiced today in much the same way as he developed.
For his part in the development of Faan Tzi Ying Jow Pail, Lai Chin became a prominent member of the Kung Fu society of his day. The system itself continued to be practiced and passed on, and its later history contains the names of many men, some of whom would become famous in their own time.
Chan Tzi Ching
Chan Tzi Ching was one of the most famous of all Eagle Claw masters, earning quite a reputation as a fighter. Never using more than three techniques to defeat an opponent, he fought successfully throughout China. His strength was also incredible; he developed his strength to such an extent that he could get his full power in a three inch punch.
Upon receiving the Eagle Claw System from Lau Shing Yuo, Chan Tzi Ching began teaching in southern China. While teaching in a place called Ching Hoy Yin, he was approached by a Kung Fu master named Fawk Yung Gop who invited him to help in creating a Kung Fu association. This was the beginning of the Ching Mo Association. Soon after being approached by Fawk Yun Gop, Chan Tzi Ching went to Shanghai to establish the first Ching Mo gymnasium. He taught Eagle Claw there and soon had more students that he could teach alone. He returned to his village and selected some of Lau Kai Man’s students to train as assistants. Among these students were: Lau Chi Cheung, Lau Jim Ng, Lau Yimp Cheung, Lau Fat Mon, Cheung Jim Man, Yui Kin Wah, and Lee Bo Ying. One of these, Lau Fat Mon, had already received the system from his uncle, Lau Kai Man. These students traveled to the Association in Shanghai where they were trained in the 10 basic Ching Mo forms.
By 1924, two more Ching Mo gymnasiums had been established, one in Hong Kong under Chan Tzi Ching, and one in Fat Sen where Lau Fat Mon was now teaching. But in 1929, Chan Tzi Ching had to return to his village at the request of his family. Before leaving Hong Kong, he sent for Lau Fat Mon to teach in his place. At the Hong Kong school there were many students, some of whom were deeply interested in the system. Among these students were: Ng Wai Nung,Lo Yuen Kun, Lee Chop Ming and Law Wai Chiu.
Eagle Claw from the 1930’s to the Present
In 1931, Lau Fat Mon accepted an invitation to teach Kung Fu at the village Wong Jong in the state of Gong Moon. With two of his students, Ng Wai Nung and Yui Kin Wah, he established a Ching Mo gymnasium in the village. Though the village was small, about 5,000 people, there were some 300 students and the school was well furnished. About six months after the school opened there was a festival in the village which was to include the first public demonstration of Eagle Claw. Many sets were performed by Ng Wai Nung and Yui Kin Wah complete with flips and splits. The audience applauded vigorously. Then Sifu Lau gave a special performance based on Jui Kao Tong (the special Eagle Claw Drunken Set). Both hands were claws — one seemingly holding a wine bottle and one a cup. Using natural mimicry, Sifu Lau staggered about like a drunken eagle. Suddenly he would fall flat on his back, but like magic he would pop up onto his feet. Then he would fall flat on his side and, twirling his legs like wings, spring up again. The techniques of the Eagle Claw Drunken Form are in the secrets of falling, rolling, hopping, jumping and springing and the great Lau Fat Mon amazed all with the inner strength he demonstrated. The audience could see that his movements were both smooth and powerful. When he finished, the applause was like thunder.
But this success proved to be provocative to the southern style Kung Fu men of the village who were also watching. Later, in the tea house where the Eagle Claw men were celebrating, these jealous men became more verbally aggressive and loud. A hothead behind Ng Wai Nung’s chair tried to punch him but Ng Wai Nung caught the motion out of the corner of his eye. With one hand, he blocked the punch and palmed him in the waist so hard that he tumbled over backwards across the tea house. The other men ran out and respect for Ng Wai Nung went up. However, when news of this got back to Lau Fat Mon, he punished Ng Wai Nung and Yui Kin Wah.
Three years later, Lau Fat Mon left the village and returned to Hong Kong at the invitation of the Jong Nam Sports Association ( ). With him went Ng Wai Nung; Yuin Kin Wah remained in the village to teach. When he arrived, his old students from Ching Mo came to join him at Jong Nam and the new school became very crowded.
Ng Wai Nung had been following Lau Fat Mon for over a decade at this time and so even though Lau Fat Mon was very busy, he found time to teach him the deepest secrets of Eagle Fist. Part of these were the three master forms Jui Lao Tong (Eagle Claw Drunken Set), Fuk Fu Kuen (Control the Tiger Fist) and Lin Kuen (Connected Fist) also called “Long Form” in honor of its extraordinary length. Lau Fat Mon had acknowledged Ng Wai Nung’s successorship by culminating his ten years’ training with these treasures of the Eagle Claw System, without which the system is much incomplete. In addition, Ng Wai Nung also completed the Wu Style Tai Chi System under Chui Sau Chun and Lau Bing Hun, two very famous sifus.
In 1936 Lau Fat Mon was offered a commission as colonel if he would come and teach in the army. He accepted the offer and stayed in the army during the Japanese bombings of Canton and until the Japanese surrender. He then returned to Canton and took a position as senator, holding that office until the coming of Mao Tse Tung. Lau Fat Mon then returned to Hong Kong where he continued to teach Eagle Claw at his own school. Lau Fat Mon died of a heart attack on March 17, 1964. During his life he helped to bring the Eagle Claw System to Southern China.
Ng Wai Nung taught at the school of Lau Fat Mon until 1942. At that time, as Hong Kong was about to become involved in the Second World War, he returned to his village. Upon arriving, he began teaching Kung Fu in three different villages. At each of his schools, demonstrations and lion dances were performed, making the name of Ng Wai Nung very popular in that area. At demonstrations, Ng Wai Nung would perform a special set, “Fuk Fu Kuen” (Control the Tiger). This very high form makes explicit use of chi to connect the movements together. It requires perfect control of power because the techniques are fast and suddenly slow, slow and suddenly fast. At one time it is hard and then soft — true Ying and Yang power. Fuk Fu Kuen is a form taught to masters only. He would also perform “Say Moon Dai Do” (Four Doors Great Knife), a Kwan Do set, with such power and skill that he reminded people of the Kung Fu god Kwan Wan Cheung.
In 1949, Ng Wai Nung returned to Hong Kong where he remained for the next seven years teaching Eagle Claw and Tai Chi. Some of his advanced students at this time were Shum Dak Chiu, Shum Man Lock, Shum Yui Ching, Ho Wai Man, and Shum Leung.
In 1956, Ng Wai Nung went to Singapore at the invitation of the Singapore Ching Mo Association. A sifu was needed there who could teach both Northern Style Kung Fu and Tai Chi and, at the suggestion of the manager of the Hong Kong Association, Chan Kung Jit, Ng Wai Ng was called on. After a while, he returned to his school in Hong Kong, which he had left in the care of Shum Man Lock and Shum Leung. When he returned to the school on Yee Chow Street, he found it had become very crowded. He moved the school to Tai Nam Street and then to Tai Po Road, where the school still is. He remained teaching at the Hong Kong school until just recently. Now 80 years old, Ng Wai Nung has turned the school over to his two sons, Ng Quan Pok and Ng Quan. During his life, Ng Wai Nung has done more to spread the Eagle Claw System than anyone else.
Ng Wai Nung had several serious students who wished to master the Eagle Claw System. One of these was Shum Leung, his godson. Shum Leung began learning Kung Fu at the age of eight and would practice every morning for three hours beginning at six. Ng Wai Nung took a close interest in the instruction of his godson and in the 20 years of his study, Shum Leung learned the secrets of Eagle Claw as well as Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan.
In 1972. Sifu Shum left Hong Kong and came to America to spread the Eagle Claw System here. He opened a school in New York City and soon had many students of different backgrounds. In the few years that he has been teaching here, he has become well known judging tournaments and performing demonstrations in New York, Boston, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. Sifu Shum has also served as treasurer of the Eastern U.S. Kung Fu federation.