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  • Writer's pictureSifu Sharif Bey


All of the southern styles of kung fu have their origins south of China’s Long River.  Any kung fu style north of this river is termed “Northern Style.” 


Fukien City is the origin of the southern styles, and was known as Nam Siu Lam Kuen, or South Shaolin Fist.  The Southern Shaolin Fist is from the Kwangtung Fukien Temple in the province of Chin Chow.  This temple was built in the years 874-879 during the Tang Dynasty.  It was later after its construction that this temple became associated with Shaolin.

The Manchus, via the Ching Dynasty, began their rule of China in 1644.  The people of Han descent despised their authority, and many wanted it overthrown.  Naturally, many Chinese rebelled against the Chings in an effort to restore the previous Ming Dynasty.  The rebels used the Southern Siu Lam Temple to hide, organized and train forces to defeat the Chings.  The Ching government, realizing the threat of the Siu Lam Temple ordered the temple burned and the rebels killed.

Five Siu Lam masters escaped the destruction.  These famous five were later known as Ng Jo; the Five Ancestors.  The temple was destroyed, and the five masters and many other escaped into different parts of China and abroad.  This in turn was the beginning of the creation of different branches and various styles of kung fu.  These styles of kung fu are collectively known as Kwangtung Southern Fist, or Fukien Southern Fist, to acknowledge and to remember their common origin.  There are five famous family styles stemming from Southern Siu Lam, known today as Hung, Lau, Mok, Choy and Lee.

Following the escape of the five monks, they started the secret organization called Hung Mun (‘Hung Door’).  Hung Mun was also called the Society of Heaven and Earth.  This secret society was started in 1674 (about 30 years after the rise of the Ching Dynasty).  The Hung Mun used the kung fu of the Southern Siu Lam Temple; it’s purpose was to continue the work of the Siu Lam Temple in its fight to overthrow the government.  These five founders extended their kung fu throughout China so that rebels could effectively retaliate against the Ching Government.

Hung Mun was named after the first Ming Emperor, Jyu Yun Jern.  The year that Jyu Yun Jern was Emperor is called “Hung Mo”, or “the year of Hung Mo.”  Jyu Hei Gung took the name “Hung” in the remembrance of the Ming Dynasty and the first Emperor.  This is also where the name “Hung” comes from in Hung Ga.  This organization became so popular and rebellion activity became so strong that it spread throughout Kwangtung, Hubuk, Hubei, Hunan, Gongsei, and Sansei provinces.

The Southern Siu Lam Temple was known for being very serious about the strengthening of the foundation; they were known to be very careful in the development of the stance.  The different stances used were strong and the shifting from stance-to-stance was diligently worked.  The hand movements were intricate.  They had many different techniques and were very careful to perfect all the movements.  They had a saying that referred to the these movements: “not big open, but big close.”  This refers to utilizing what is considered close range or inside fighting.  The movements were sophisticated and complicated.  The Southern Hand is known for sticking to the opponent’s hands and the movements are considered sneaky and continuous.  One of the reasons for the adoption of this tactic in the South was climate.  With the warmer climate less clothing is worn, leaving the body to move more freely and intricately without the hindrance of clothing.  Thus the shorter, inside close-range movements were preferred, developed and utilized.  In the North the climate is much colder and more clothing is worn, so the movements developed differently.  The Northern style movements are bigger and clearer.  The restriction of padded clothing would have made the execution of the more intricate techniques less effective.

Many different types of sound were known to affect the body internally and help develop additional strength and chi.  Different types of sound are used with different types of movements.  This is used to bring the power out, making you stronger and helping the power in the techniques reach the extremities and beyond.  This is called the “exploding” or “bombing” power. 

Various animal and element shapes are used within the fighting make-up of the Southern Siu Lam because of the unique natural spirit, physical and philosophical aspects each possess.  These four points are carried in within the Hung Ga.  Hung Ga is recognized as the leader of the five family styles.  The strong stance, short hand movements, use of sound and the animals are a major part of the system, along with the additional knowledge of Gee Shim.  Gee Shim was the Chief Abbot at Siu Lam, and was also a master of the “Fut Jeurng” or Buddha Palm style before entering Siu Lam.  Gee Shim is credited with adding into the Siu Lam system the “big open and big close” movements, that is to say, long range.  These movements, coming from Fut Ga, Fut Jeurng, and Lohan Kuen were combined with the points previously mentioned, the result being a completely new appearance from the original Lohan Fist.  With the strong stances, the Siu Lam hand movements, the internal development, animal shapes, Tit Kiu Sam’s hand bridge, and the Buddha Palm, Hung Ga became a complete and powerful system of close and long range fighting.

Tit Kiu Sam was a famous kung fu master, contributing greatly to the development of Hung Ga with the addition of his powerful hand bridge and his internal and external body development.  A monk of the South Siu Lam Temple, he is credited with the development of the famous Iron Wire form.  This form is the most advanced training set of the Hung Ga system.  This set focuses on the development of strong stances, powerful arm movements and developing the internal strength.  These were all combined with Gee Shim’s techniques to create an even more effective system.


In every system of kung fu there is a distinct philosophy that is connected with it.  In Hung Ga that philosophy is called the Seven Star Fist Method.  This philosophy is made up of two parts: the historical philosophy of the Sun and Moon, and the fighting philosophy of the Five Elements.

The Seven Star Fist is famous for being able to hit hard and for being very brave at closing in on the opponent.  The hands and arms of the Seven Star Fist practitioner are powerful and the hands are said to move like lightning.  Philosophy of the Chut Sing (Seven Star) involves the Five Elements and the Sun and Moon.  The Sun and Moon idea originated from the Ming Dynasty.  An example of the Sun and Moon philosophy is found in the bow/salute that is used in Hung Ga.  The practitioner bows in respect to all observers in the beginning and the end of the hand forms, presenting his right fist and left palm.  The right hand represents the Sun and the left palm represents the Moon.  When the hands come together they form the character “bright” or “Ming.”  This symbolizes the defeat of the Ching Dynasty and the restoration of the Ming Dynasty.  This idea of Sun and Moon is extended to all Hung Ga techniques.


The left palm and right fist secret hand sign was developed by members of the Hung Mun and used by the rebels to greet one another, to recognize fellow rebels and also to remind themselves of their struggle.  Therefore, all techniques in the Hung Ga system utilizing the right hand are termed a sun techniques, and all techniques using the left hand are called moon techniques.  Techniques using both hands simultaneously are called sun and moon techniques.  These are some of the techniques that reflect the Sun and Moon philosophy:

  • Sun and Moon Ming Loyalist Bow

  • Sun and Moon Double Uppercut/Double Raising of the Sun and Moon

  • Sun Character Arrow Punch

  • Black Tiger Fist

  • Moon Shadow Hand and Foot


This philosophy originates from the Shaolin, it was contributed by Gee Shim and his expertise in the Lohan Fist.  The five elements are Gold, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth.  Each element possesses specific qualities, these qualities inspire a specific state of mind.  This state of mind manifests into a physical state of being. 

The practitioner thinks of the qualities of the element in his mood and translates these qualities into a physical technique.  The state of mind together with the body connections of the specific technique enhances the speed and power of the strike or block.  It also allows the internal power to flow freely, so that the techniques will have maximum effect. 

Some of the elements are indicative a philosophy only, not a shape, such as Fire, Water and Earth.  Other elements are used for their shape, such as Gold and Wood.  Take Gold for example.  You can see how hard and strong the technique is, just as hard and strong as a golden axe.  You can also see and feel the squeezing balance that Wood represents.  With the Fire element you can’t see the pressure of the advancing force, but you can feel it.  This “feeling” is also indicative of Water and Earth.  This is the philosophy behind the ideas of Fire, Water and Earth, coupled with the shapes of  Gold and Wood.  The importance of the Five Elements philosophy is that there is a source of power behind all techniques, and it is derived from the state of mind possessed by embracing of the philosophy.


  • GOLD Hard like metal; never soft

  • WOOD Even, balanced, linked

  • EARTH Solid and sinking

  • WATER Quick, continuous motion with no reserve

  • SUN Right hand

  • MOON Left hand

GOLD (Gum Gau Jin Sau)-strong, solid and extremely hard

The state of mind is hard as if it were metal.  The physical movement must reflect this.  Golden Scissors usage is to chop and break the elbow.  You must never be soft when using this technique; it must be bone-breaking hard. 

The techniques corresponding to the Gold element are:
-Golden Scissor Hands
-Ten Shape Splitting Gold

WOOD (Leen Wan Chou Da)-even, balanced and connected

The state of mind is as if an axe blade was stuck in a tree.  When a piece of wood splits, the object that divides it is stuck in between.  The physical quality that this represents is the squeezing and the balance.  The physical movements must reflect this quality.  All techniques using the Wood element use both hands simultaneously to provide balance. 

The techniques corresponding to the Wood element are:
-Simultaneous Block and Punch
-Squeezing Wood Punch

WATER (Soi Lum Pow Choi)-quick and fully committed

The state of mind is as a tidal wave moves in the ocean.  Water must be a combination of complete movements, like a wave; a series of continuous motions.  The physical outcome must crash and destroy anything in its path.  The physical movement must reflect this quality.

Key point:  the technique of Water is executed with tremendous speed and power and you must never hold back; continuing all the way through, just as a wave would.  If you rise up in your stance you will lose power.  You must sink the stance (an Earth quality) as the movement goes up and you must lean forward.  The move is for striking and can also be used to dislocate or break the arm.  Your strike must be solid, powerful and fully committed.  You have to quickly close the distance.  The main points in using this technique is that you must have heart, you must be very brave, your hand bridge must be strong and your stance must be solid and firm. 

The technique for this element is:
-Cast Ball onto Wave Uppercut

FIRE (Lin Wan Fa Jin Choi)-strong and intimidating, moves upward

The state of mind is as a raging fire engulfing a building.  Even at a distance the feeling  of danger instills fear in the observer.  The physical movements must reflect these qualities.  All techniques considered Fire must be fast, strong and move in an upward direction, just like a fire, and with the same intensity. 

The technique corresponding to the fire element is:
-Continuous Fire Arrow Punch

EARTH (Yat Ji Jin Choi)-solid and sinking

The state of mind is as if it were the ground; stable and firm.  Nothing is more solid than the earth and the physical movements must reflect these qualities.  Earth element focuses on sinking of the stances and a strong foundation.  Every time you strike with the Earth technique you must sink the chi to bring up the power and become rooted to the very ground you stand on.  Hand movements of the Earth element must originate from the hip and go straight at the opponent’s middle gate.  Anything that goes straight out and sinks is Earth fist.  This is using the philosophy of the Earth as the foundation. 

The technique corresponding to the Earth element is:
-Sun Character Arrow Punch

Within each of the Five Elements each item or particular move of any technique can be broken down separately or into a combination of different elements such as Wood, Fire, Earth and the Sun and Moon philosophy.  For example, Water is made up of continuous movements; when it is separate it is no longer Water.  If the movement that is going upward is used alone it is considered Earth, because the stance must sink, which uses the Earth philosophy.  The hand movement going upward is using the philosophy of Fire, and the usage of both arms for balance is Wood, and depending on which hand is striking would determine whether it would be a Sun or Moon technique.

This is the Five Elements philosophy of the Seven Star Fist Method.  The philosophy combines the Five Elements with the Sun and Moon philosophy.  Hung Hei Gwun, founder of the Hung Ga system, was in direct line of the teachings of Gee Shim.  He was very active in the struggle against the Ching government and later became a member of the Hung Mun.  The Hung system has been in existence for more than 400 years.  Its origin, history, and the kung fu masters contributing to the system have made it the complete, powerful and effective martial art it is today, and it is practiced by thousands throughout the world.


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