A History of Five Ancestor Fist Kung Fu
Substantial evidence of the art can be traced to Quanzhou’s history during the Song Dynasty (900s). Zhao Kuangyin, the founder of the Song Dynasty, would spend time in Quanzhou, which was regarded as a very prosperous maritime city. Many royal families moved to Quanzhou to enjoy the richness of the city. At this time, the tale goes, Kuangyin was drinking with his servants and shared with them the skills and principles of Taizu Boxing, one of the styles within Wuzuquan. From there, Taizu moved from the Emperor’s court down to the Shaolin Temple, and then to the general populace. Historical documents place Taizu at the Northern China Boxing Assembly at that time.
There was a popular saying in Quanzhou, “Fist, Wine, Opera.” This was describing the entertainments of the citizens of Quanzhou, drinking wine, listening to opera music, and practicing kung fu, which was Wuzuquan. Wuzuquan refers to five ancestors including Taizu, Luohan, Dazun, Xingzhe, and White Crane. These five styles of boxing are united into one called Five Ancestor Fist. Emperor Kuangyin created Taizu Boxing. It’s methods involve close fighting techniques and getting close to an opponent step-by-step. Dazun refers to the Bodhiharma, combining meditation and softness to the hard techniques. Luohan is aggressive and motionless using forcefulness and motion to accomplish one’s goals. Xingzhe is Monkey Boxing, with sure footwork and flexibility in jumping. Finally, there is White Crane Boxing, penetrating with the White Crane Dance. The five styles are united into one featuring the aggressive and fierce power and the masculine beauty.
There is another version of Five Ancestor Fist that comes from possibly the 1300s. A rich merchant’s son was obsessed with the martial arts and sent out an invitation to traveling Masters for a preservation of their skills. Five Masters responded. As the six men worked on creating this new style, a woman, known only as Hian Loo, wearing a green dress, laughed at the men, calling them out for their harshness. They tested her and found her skill was superb, and she is recognized as adding the finer points of softness and subtlety to Wuzuquan.
The more verifiable history begins in the 1800s with Chua Giok Beng, a martial arts master who lived in and around the area of Quanzhou, in the Fujian Province. He was renown for his skills in the art of Wuzuquan and from him came ten disciples who named themselves the Ten Tigers. Beng was credited for a revival of the system and its spread.
Chee Kim Thong
However, he was not the only Master of the system, as it was practiced by the Shaolin Abbot Lin Xian. At this time, it was a general practice of the martial art Masters to keep their systems within family. However, Lin Xian had witnessed a young man proficiently defend himself in a public setting, yet he remained humble about it. Lin Xian inquired about the young man and found that he was gaining some notoriety and fame in his execution of Northern Shaolin techniques. That young man was Chee Kim Thong.
Chee Kim Thong was invited by the Shaolin priest to tea. At the conclusion of the meeting, Xian agreed to take Chee on as a pupil. He originally only planned to take Chee Kim Thong on for a year, but due to the young man’s diligence and aptitude, he kept him on for an additional two, spending all that time teaching not just Wuzuquan but also herbal medicine, the healing arts, Five Elements theory, and calligraphy. At the close of three years, Chee’s training was passed to Xian’s sister, Yu Neo, who specialized in the softer aspects of the art. He continued with Yu for another year before his training was complete.
It was in the 1930s that Chee became involved in the military during the invasion of the Japanese, and he was responsible for a guerilla militia that was known as the Big Knife Army. Armed with broadswords, they would carry out attacks against the Japanese using the techniques that Chee had taught. Eventually, it became so dangerous for Chee, that he fled China, moving to Malaysia in the northern province of Terengganu. As the Japanese continued their conquest, Chee Kim Thong fled to Kuala Lumpur, and then to Singapore. When the Japanese invaded Singapore, he fled back to Malaysia. He stayed in hiding for quite some time, returning to the village of Dungun. He concealed his martial skills, but not his healing arts and became renown as an expert bonesetter and practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Eventually, word of his martial prowess got out, and a man named Yap Ching Hai persuaded Chee Kim Thong to begin teaching again.
International Wuzuquan USA
In 1971, a young Marine named John Graham, was stationed in Rota, Spain. It was his first time overseas and he came across a martial arts class and fell in love with the discipline. “It was the energy of the room, the way they were moving. It was what I had been looking for!” Graham began studying Shotokan. He was sent back to the States for a short time, to Charleston, South Carolina, where he found a Kempo class. Then, he was sent to the UK, London, where he found the Iron Man of Karate, Steve Moorse who trained in Goju Ryu. While in London, Graham was walking by a magazine rack the street one day, in 1973, when he noticed a cover of a magazine advertising a first demonstration by a Chinese Grandmaster of Kung Fu. That Grandmaster was Chee Kim Thong.
After the demonstration, Graham decided to train in Wuzuquan. “It was my suspicion that what I was seeing in Wuzuquan, was actually the Grandfather of Goju Ryu.” This suspicion has been proven by Grandmaster and Historian George Alexander, on a later trip to the Quanzhou Province with Graham. The Japanese did indeed learn White Crane from the White Crane Masters in villages like Putien.
Graham began studying under Grandmaster Chee Kim Thong, and eventually he returned to the United States and began a career as a police officer. He taught Wuzuquan at the local college and eventually purchased land and opened his school on Dawes Road in West Mobile, Alabama, where it remains to this day. For over 28 years, Graham journeyed to Maylasia and China to study with Grandmaster Chee Kim Thong. John Graham, now a recognized 10th Dan Grandmaster of Wuzuquan by the Chinese Government, maintained a strong and vibrant relationship with Chee Kim Thong until his death in 2001. His school has become an internationally recognized center for training and research in Wuzuquan by the Quanzhou Wuzuquan Asssociation. After Grandmaster Chee Kim Thong’s death, he continued to travel to the Philippines and Quanzhou, China, in an effort to continue his learning and expand his understandings of Wuzuquan.
Grandmaster Graham’s Headquarter’s School in Mobile, Alabama is a premier training center to learn Wuzuquan and study it in all of its facets. It is recognized as an official research center for the study of Wuzuquan by the International Wuzuquan Association. Grandmaster Graham has very close ties with the Headmaster of the Nine Dragon’s Shaolin Temple in Quanzhou, Master Chee Chin Wei, who has worked with Graham on weaponry and forms. He has trained privately with Grandmaster Alexander Co of the Beng Kiam Wuzuquan style in the Philippines. He has had Master Xiao Feng, the Inspector General of the Quanzhou Wuzuquan Association, as a guest in his school, where Xiao taught a 200-year-old two-man set practiced in the Shaolin Temple, Liumenbafa. At his Headquarters school, Graham teaches Chee Kim Thong and Kong Han separately, emphasizing to his students that their knowledge of Wuzuquan should not only be deep, but wide, including the form taught by Master Wei, Wuzuquan Paqua. All of these forms are taught separately and distinctly, slowing raising his students’ understanding of Wuzuquan.
Bill Wallace and Joe Lewis
Not only is he well received in Asia, Graham is also well known in the West. In 1988, he began training under Grandmaster Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, and the Father of Kickboxing, Grandmaster Joe Lewis. Bill Wallace is an undefeated PKA (Professional Karate Association) champion with 23 full contact fights from 1974 to 1980. He retired undefeated. In 1990, at the urging of Grandmaster Graham, began designing his Superfoot curriculum while at Graham’s home during a seminar weekend. Grandmaster Graham’s school has the honor of be the first officially recognized Superfoot School.
Joe Lewis had achieved a Black Belt in 9 months under in 1965 in the art of Shorin-Ryu Karate. After his service in the military ended, he moved to California and began touring the tournament circuit. He was instrumental in the popularizing of sparring that moved beyond point-sparring to full contact. He is considered the Father of Kickboxing to this day.
When he met them, Grandmaster Graham became fascinated with their techniques of fighting methodology. To this day, he continues training in both of their systems, having earned an 8th Dan in the Superfoot System and the Joe Lewis System. He is a Director on the Superfoot Board of Directors, and an Executive Director on the Joe Lewis Board of Directors. He facilitates cooperation and goodwill as the organizations continue to grow.
Honors and Promotions
Grandmaster Graham has served as the 11th President of the International Nan Shaolin Wuzuquan Association. He travels to China at least once a year to maintain the good relationship with the Quanzhou Wuzuquan Association and the Nine Dragons Temple. He is a Delegate of the International Wuzuquan Association.
Grandmaster Graham has an 8th Dan in the Superfoot System and Joe Lewis Fighting System. He has an 8th Dan from the Chee Kim Thong Organization, and was appointed Chief Instructor of the USA by Chee Kim Thong in 1990.
He has a 9th Dan in the Kong Han Wuzuquan system from Grandmaster Henry Lo.
Essence of the Martial Arts Family
GM Graham says that the essence of a school and a system isn’t the kicking and punching. It is about family. “When you need something, you call on me. When I need something, I call you. It is a chosen family environment, where we take care of each other as brothers and sisters in this organization that we have. My goal is to lift each and every one of my students up to their highest potential. In return, they support the organization and each other.”