with the Black Tiger
By Tak Wah Eng
On a warm spring morning, I took a walk through Chinatown. As the sun warmed the morning sky, the crowds of people rushed to work and the smells from the coffee shops, brought back memories of my younger days. I remember when my father would play Mah Jong at the Pell Street Association. He always told me stories about my grandfather living in California during the gold rush. He also recalled stories of his youth in San Francisco and eventually migrating and settling with his family here in Chinatown. My father brought the family over when I was very young, and now, 40 years later, I still call Chinatown my home.
As I pass the small shops and narrow alleyways, I made my way to Columbus Park. Sitting on the bench, I watched the senior citizens practice Tai Chi and gossip as the children ran around and played. During the time when my father was ill, the park was only place I
was able to find peace of mind and solace. I made many friends there.
Yesterday near the park, Sifu Henry Moy and I had a chance encounter with the true Black Tiger, my Sifu, Fu-Jow Pai Grandmaster Wai Hong. He was gracious to us and invited us to join him for a cup of coffee. Sifu Moy bought some coffee and dim sum as the Grandmaster led us to his "tigers den". It reminded me of the home and school of the Late Great Grandmaster Wong Moon Toy. My Sifu began to tell us how he learned from 'Uncle Wong' in a similar setting.
Fu-Jow Pai originated in Guangzhou China at the Hoy Hong Temple with an unnamed monk, (but of course, Grandmaster Wai Hong knows his name. It is only passed on to the successor of the system as sworn by his teacher never to reveal it to anyone except to the next legitimate heir.) The monk passed his knowledge to Master Wong Bill Hong as the first successor of the Fu-Jow Pai. Wong Bill Hong eventually passed the knowledge to his nephew Wong Moon Toy who brought it with him to America. Master Wong Moon Toy was able to pass his art down to one of his top students; Grandmaster Wai Hong.
Over the years, Wong Moon Toy taught many students the art of Hung-Gar and Jing Mo, but only Grandmaster Wai Hong was designated as the true successor of Fu-Jow Pai. The old master stated the Wai Hong had attained over seventy percent of his Fu-Jow skill. The Late Master Wong Moon Toy was wise in his choice in selecting Grandmaster Wai Hong to succeed him in the art.
Grandmaster Wai Hong was able to make Fu-Jow Pai flourish as he introduced it to the world. Fu-Jow Pai is now internationally recognized and has flourished under his guidance and leadership through books videos and movies.
While sipping coffee, Sifu began to talk to us about the "old days" and how he was taught the secret methods of the black tiger. Sifu Moy sat with his mouth wide-open listening to Sifu describes these old training methods. Then Grandmaster Wai Hong said to me,
"Tak Wah, you have been with me since the beginning and no one has spent more time with me than you. I know the others are thinking you are learning all the secrets from me and they donÕt like it at all." I replied, "Sifu, I always loved to listen and learn from you. Being together now makes me feel good, just as it was when I first met you as a teenager. I remember spending every night learning your Kung Fu and now, in a blink of an eye, 40 years have gone by. " I then told Grandmaster Wai Hong, "You are stronger and better than ever. Most of your students have gone and established their own schools, but I am glad to be back home and fully content to be learning and practicing with you. Sifu, you are my only teacher."
Its strange how things come full-circle. Today Grandmaster Wai Hong, like the unnamed monk presides over the park passing on his knowledge and keeping a watchful eye for the next successor of the art. The same spirit from Hoy Hong Temple now resides in ChinatownÕs Columbus Park in the heart of Grandmaster Wai Hong. I leave my master with the sun setting behind us reassured that the spirit of the Black Tiger is alive and well.