Kungfu fighting: The art of keeping fit

No holding back… Mr Harry Wee Kim Ann, 74, is passionate about inspiring the younger generation to pick up the Five Ancestors Fist, a Chinese martial art.

IT BEGAN with a desire to learn self-defence. Mr Harry Wee Kim Ann, then 23 years old, decided to learn the Five Ancestors Fist, a traditional form of Chinese martial arts, to protect himself from gangsters in 1968 when gang crimes were rife in Singapore. The martial art form eventually became his lifelong passion.

According to Mr Wee, the Five Ancestors Fist, also known as Ngo Cho Kun in Hokkien dialect, was founded by Chua Geok Beng, a prominent wushu master in Fujian, China in the 1800s. It combines five fighting styles – Tai Cho Kun (Emperor fist), Tat Moh Kun (Bodhidharma fist), Hean Lu Kun (Soft fist), Peh Ho Kun (White Crane fist) and Tai Seng Kun (Monkey fist).

<WATCH> Powerful and systematic… Mr Wee demonstrates the Five Ancestors Fist.

Each style is distinct but packs a punch.

The 74-year-old said: “Tai Cho Kun uses aggressive and confrontational combat techniques while Hean Lu Kun employs evasive and defensive movements that are ‘soft’ and supple.

Peh Ho Kun emphasises rapid finger, hand and leg movements that emulate the power of a crane’s beak and wings, and Tai Seng Kun mimics a monkey’s behaviour with feints, jumps and agile movements. The Five Ancestors Fist derived its breathing technique from the Tat Moh Kun.”

Mr Wee trained for 10 years with his teacher, Lim Hai Leng, until his group of trainees disbanded in 1978. Recognising that there is “no fixed end” to learning and mastering the martial art, he continued to practise it for the next four decades.

“This art has immeasurable depth. There are so many things to learn and do. You have to keep improving,” Mr Wee explained.

The grandfather of four has won multiple medals in national and international martial arts competitions. He also bagged the gold medal at the prestigious Zhengzhou China International Shaolin Wushu Festival in 2014.

“I felt a great sense of achievement because I was competing at the Shaolin temple, the birthplace of Chinese martial arts, against many highly-skilled practitioners in my age group from China and other countries. I had to ask myself whether it was a dream!” Mr Wee said with a laugh.

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Gold-getter… Mr Wee has participated in seven martial arts competitions since 2008 and won a medal each time.

While winning the competition in China was a dream come true for Mr Wee at his age, he lamented that the younger generation is not as interested in the traditional martial arts.

Keen to share his love for the Five Ancestors Fist and pass on its heritage, Mr Wee conducts private lessons at his Braddell Hill estate and currently has seven students, whose ages range from 12 to 74.

He also accepts invitations from organisations to conduct demonstrations with his students, for instance, at the Singapore Wushu Dragon & Lion Dance Federation’s Kungfu Night in April and Jurong Country Club’s year-end party in 2016.

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Role model… Mr Wee’s achievements were feted by his Member of Parliament in the Bishan-Toa Payoh Constituency, Mr Chee Hong Tat, in 2016. (Photo: Mr Chee Hong Tat’s Facebook page)

The spry senior said that the decades-long dedication to his martial art has built his ‘qi’ or the energy within one’s body. “I have a clean bill of health. I don’t experience any health issues as my body is very strong!” he added.

Other than his classes, Mr Wee still practises the Five Ancestors Fist three to four times a week for an hour each time and has his sights set on competing in the Shanghai World Wushu Championships this October.

“I hope to inspire others to learn this traditional martial art and pass on my knowledge so we can all be healthier,” he said with a smile.

If you’re interested in learning the Five Ancestors Fist from Mr Wee, email him at harrywka@yahoo.com 

Article published on 03/05/19