To understand the history of Ngo Cho Kun or “Wuzuquan” we need to go back to the Ming dynasty, in 1368 under the 1st Ming Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋 southern martial arts will expand and evolved into a history and purpose of its own with the development of Ming Hung Tai Zu Fist (明洪太祖拳, Great Ming Ancestor Fist) in honor of Zhu Yuanzhang this is different from the early Taizuquan that was develop during the 8th century Song dynasty by Emperor Zhao Kuangyin. Both Taizuquan will carry the same representation of what Taizuquan embodies and that is the greatness of the emperors their success in expanding China during their reign. The Ming- Hung Taizuquan will be considered as southern Taizuquan while the Song Taizuquan will be regarded as northern Taizuquan. In 10th century the Song dynasty will be defeated by the Mongols and the Mongols will establish the Yuan dynasty until the 12th century when Zhu Yuanzhang will defeat the Mongols and replace the Yuan with the Ming dynasty.
Zhu Yuanzhang who was a great warrior and leader will successfully liberate China from the Mongols (Yuan dynasty) and established the Ming dynasty. Because of this he will be honor as the Tai “Great” Emperor of China and the Ming Hung Tai Zu (Cho) martial art system will be in his honor.
Thus Taizuquan will be revive but this time it will be related to the Ming especially in its relation to the birth of Ngo Cho Kun “wuzuquan” the Taizuquan in this history will be referring to Ming-Hung Taizuquan or simply Taizuquan.
Taizuquan is a straightforward and direct martial art system that combines all the well known martial art styles during that time it is design to develop an individual’s total well being and to train them to become effective warriors.
It will be during the Qing dynasty 1661 - 1910 that Taizuquan will reach its zenith with many former Ming royal family members, military leaders and martial art masters who were force to retreat to Fujian and other southern provinces against the Manchu invasion, started aggressively to prepare themselves to defend what is left of their empire by recruiting and training thousands of southerners to be ready to fight the invading Manchu. It will take the Manchu another 7 years to defeat the Ming and fully subjugate southern China and establish the Qing dynasty.
Even though the Ming dynasty was defeated many southern Chinese never gave up, the struggle to overthrow the Qing continue through guerilla tactics, Taizuquan masters will hide their anti Qing sentiments by adding several coded hand movement into their martial art system coded movements and symbolism that were used as a means to communicate with fellow rebels. Their continued training and expansion will include adding new materials adapting to the new political and social environment that would eventually lead to the development of Ngo Cho Kun “Wuzuquan”.
Taizuquan would eventually spread and be taught to the general public part of the reason is to preserve local sense of nationalism and patriotism, another main reason was to encourage the people to train not only for self defense or for national pride but to stay healthy and strong to give them a choice, an alternative from indulging in opium consumption because from 1850s to the early 1900s opium that was introduced by the early British has become the root cause of many Chinese especially in the south of becoming addicts and sickly.
The expansion of Taizuquan will produce many great masters; many of these masters are the ones that will be instrumental in adding new materials to Taizuquan that will eventually evolved into Ngo Cho Kun “Wuzuquan”.
One of the first well known southern Tai Zu martial art master was Wu Xin (悟心, 1691-1758) it is said that he studied Tai Zu from a former Ming royal family member who in order to escape the Qing authorities converted to become a monk, both reside in Dongchan Temple in Quanzhou (东禅寺, Eastern Zen Temple) and it is in this temple that Wu Xin will become an expert Tai Zu master and teach it to many lay people.
Wuzuquan “Five Ancestors Fist”, when Taizuquan masters started to experiment by combining the monkey fist, Yong Chun-white crane that was develop in the 1700s at Yong Chun district Fujian China, Lo Han boxing the 172 boxing technique that was expanded by the late GM Bai Yufeng in the mid 1300s and Da Mo breathing exercise of Shaolin, those masters seeing the effectiveness of combining those five will start to refer it to as Ngo Cho Kun “Wuzuquan”.
Taizuquan will be the core element in the development of Wuzuquan; these two systems will become interrelated or interchangeable in many cases it will sometimes be express as Taizu-Wuzuquan. Wuzuquan will become the mainstream martial art term in Fujian province with heavy presence at Zhangzhou, Quanzhou and Xiamen.
Five Ancestors Fist Origin
After the invasion of Qing army 1661 AD, there have been ceaseless movement against the Qing authorities in order to revive the Ming Dynasty. When it came to Qianlong’s reign 1735 AD the Qing government started literary and cultural inquisition one of the extreme implementation was an edict forcing all males to shave their foreheads leave the back hair long curl into a pigtail as a sign of submission any Han (term for Chinese back then) who refuse to comply risk of being arrested and beheaded. In order to solve the ongoing resistance that were mainly being carry out by kung fu groups the Qing government devise a plan to agitate conflicts among the different Kung Fu sects to let them fight against each other. This plan work, the Bakmei and Wumei kung fu sect under the command of Qing generals launch an attack on the Shaolin Temple over whelming the warrior monks the Temple was destroyed and the massacre of hundreds of monks.
Only Five warrior monks survive and escape to the general population and they started teaching anonymously afterwards. These five were honoured with the title `Five Ancestors Fist and the kung fu style they taught was called Five Ancestors Fist.
Recently in Taozhou Village located on the border between Anxi and Yongchun Counties, relics of Wuyan Temple were discovered. It was the place were the Five Ancestors monks taught South Shaolin Kung fu.
These Five Ancestors monks’ martial skills is believe to consisted mainly of Yong Chun White Crane Kung Fu, Monkey Fist, Lo Han boxing, Southern Tai Cho Fist and Da Mo breathing exercise including some small percentage of other elements of kung fu styles such as Eagle Claw, Tiger Fist, Dragon, Snake and Mantis.
It is no surprise that at times the Five Ancestors Fist is also refer to the five prominent kung fu styles that existed at that time in South China they are Yong Chun White Crane, Monkey Fist, Tai Cho kung fu, Lo Han boxing and Da Mo breathing technique it is believe that this was to protect the true identities of the five kung fu masters.
Some of the outstanding masters of Taizu-Wuzuquan of that time were Li Jun Ren 李俊仁, Lim Kiu Lu 林九如, Kong Po Cham (公婆詹), Zhuang Dan (庄胆), Cai Yu Ming (蔡玉鳴), Lo Yan Chiu (卢言秋) and many others.
Li Junren (李俊仁, 1849-1933 ) who was a master of Taizuquan will introduce his version of wuzuquan with strong emphasis on the white crane element from Yong Chun district, Fujian province it will be known as Yong Chun-Wuzuquan.
Another Taizu-Wuzuquan master will be Cai Yu Ming (Chua Giok Beng 1853 -1910) that sometime in 1880 after training extensively in Taizuquan he will introduce new theories, formulation and expanded application of Taizuquan that would later become his version of Wuzuquan, Cai Yu Ming’s Wuzuquan will be called Wuzuquan-Ho Yang Pai; Wuzuquan in honor and recognition of the early Taizuquan masters that first develop and put Wuzuquan together the name Ho Yong, in honor of Cai Yu Ming’s best teacher Master Ho Yang and Pai means sect or group it is to identify his group is that of his lineage thus Wuzuquan-Ho Yang Pai.
Lu Yanqiu "Lo Yan Chiu" (卢言秋, 1878-1944) disciple of Gong Po Chan (公婆詹) of Taizu-Wuzuquan, Lo Yan Chiu will continue to expand the Taizu-Wuzuquan lineage he would be active in community and nation building especially during the early years of the new Republic of China from 1911 to 1935. His martial art prowess reputation would be wide spread all over Quanzhou he will be known as "Ho Bu Chiu" Tiger's hand or Tiger Chiu" for his ferocity in actual combat against pirates and manchu soldiers his weapon of choice was the sang te pi 雙短鞭 and nine sectional whip. In 1937 Lo yan Chiu will relocate to Manila Philippines and open Kong Han Martial Art Club 光漢國術館, It will later also be known as Dr. Lo Yan Chiu Memorial Institute.
Both the Taizuquan and Wuzuquan share the same roots and core elements especially in the development of the ngo ki lat (five powers) which are: (1) legs for rooting and mobility, (2) hip for generating torque power, (3) the shoulder for amplifying the power, (4) the arms to make contact with the target and (5) breathing or qi to generate that extra boost of energy and increase ones fighting spirit these five if properly cultivated will result in a powerful technique plus the four principle of (1) poo “float”, (2) tim “sink”, (3) tuhn “swallow” and (4) puwee “spit” their adherence to the sam chien principle, their weapons and empty hand form system, techniques, applications and philosophy are so interrelated that Taizuquan will be regarded by many as the grand father of wuzuquan, wuzuquan will also have significant influence in the history of Okinawa karate as well.
All those great master; Li Jun Ren 李俊仁, Lim Kiu Lu 林九如, Kong Po Cham (公婆詹), Zhuang Dan (庄胆), Cai Yu Ming (蔡玉鳴), Lo Yan Chiu (卢言秋) and many others will have interaction with each other they will share their theories and concept in the development and expansion of Taizuquan. Eventually, the development of Ngo Cho Kun will move into three directions:
Li Jun Ren will expand his version of Ngo Cho Kun he will be credited as the founder of Yong Chun-Ngo Cho Kun.
Cai Yu Ming will also expand his version of Ngo Cho Kun and he will become the founder of Ngo Cho Kun-Ho Yang Pai.
Lo Yan Chiu disciple of Gong Po Chan will follow the path and legacy of Taizu-Wuzuquan or simply Ngo Cho Kun “Wuzuquan”.
Sometime in the early 1960s the late GM Chee Kim Thong of Malaysia will reveal the existence of another Wuzuquan history, according to the Chee Kim Thong Pugilistic Society, Wuzuquan was founded sometime in the 1300s by the great GM Bai Yu Feng of northern Shaolin temple and that he combined the following to create another version of Wuzuquan they are:
1. Song or northern Taizu kung fu, this kung fu was created by the 1st Song emperor Zhang Kuanying (趙匡 960 -1279)
2.White crane kung fu
3. Monkey kung fu,
4. Lo Han boxing and
5. Da Ma breathing exercise.
6. Mysterious Lady in Green
According to Shaolin history Bai Yufeng was a great Shaolin master who formulated the Five Animal Fist 五形拳 they are (1) Tiger (2) Leopard (3) Crane (4) Snake and (5) Dragon and the Five Elemental fist he was also instrumental in expanding Shaolin “Lo Han” boxing from 18 to 172 principle sets.
GM Lin Xian was the only known inheritor of Bai Yufeng-wuzuquan, according to the writtings of the Chee Kim Thong society, was that GM Lin Xian kept their lineage very secret and only taught very few students one of the students was the late GM Chee Kim Thong who learn wuzuquan from Lin Xian sometime in the 1930s. The secrecy of the Bai Yufeng-wuzuquan will be so tight that there will be no known interaction between Lin Xian with any of the famouse wuzuquan masters during that time (1850 – 1940). Thus Wuzuquan can be classify as northern-Wuzuquan of Bai Yufeng and southern-Wuzuquan, after the revelation of the existance of the Bai Yufeng-wuzuquan, it will be accepted as another part of the history of Wuzuquan.
In 1987 all the known wuzuquan masters and lienages from the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and Fujian China will gather at Quanzhou City China to plan, discuss means and ways to preserve, expand the heritage, history and tradition of wuzuquan and to try to unite all wuzuquan lineages in one umbrella organization.
In 1990 the hard work of those masters will finally bare fruit with the creation of the International South Shaolin Wuzuquan Federation headquarter at Quanzhou Fujian China but most of all the South Shaolin Temple in Quanzhou has been rebuild and wuzuquan has become the official martial art fitness and self defense program for the temple residences thanks to the united efforts of all the wuzuquan masters this display of unity was a result of mutual understanding, respect and coopartion for the preservation and advancment of wuzuquan as one united martial family.
Today, the legacy of Wuzuquan has now expanded worldwide in Asia, Europe, Central America, USA and Canada represented by the different Wuzuquan lineages such as the Lo Ban Teng Ho Yang Pai, Beng Kiam Ngo Cho Kun Club, Kong Han Ngo Cho Kun, Chee Kim Thong Pugilistic Society, Beng Seng Wuzuquan, Wuzuquan schools in Quanzhou, Xiamen, Zhangzhou, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
The Origin of the Ngo Cho Kun “Wuzuquan” Hand Salute
After the Qing have fully conquered China in 1661 many Ming loyalists, family members and military officials that have retreated to the south, would seek refuge inside the south Shaolin temple in Quanzhou, they started to train in martial arts and use the Shaolin temple as a base to conduct anti Qing movements. In 1760 the Qing decided to attack and destroy the temple killing almost all of the inhabitants of the monastery, five Shaolin masters was said to have survived the massacre and eventually these five will scatter all over south China and start teaching their martial art skill to the general public.
As martial art started to spread to the general population the Qing made sure that all martial art schools will be strictly regulated. In order to escaped the prying eyes of the Qing and from getting shut down or attacked by the Qing, many martial art schools started to hide their anti-Qing sentiments and started to develop coded hand signals and symbolism that only fellow patriots will be able to decipher. One of the hand codes is the hand salute, the right back fist resting on the hand of the left palm.
This hand salute symbolizes the struggle to restore Ming dynasty back to power; the close fist is the sun and the open palm the moon together it translates to the Chinese characters Ming, which literally means that in day and night the emperor rules, it will later become the standard hand salute of Ngo Cho Kun. This salutation was to allow all Ngo Cho Kun warriors to be able to identify each other and an indication that they share the same cause which is to overthrow the Qing and restore the Ming or to liberate China from the Qing dynasty which they consider as foreign rulers.
Another part of Ngo Cho Kun history is the green lion青狮 ritual which was adopted from the southern Taizuquan martial art tradition, unlike all other lion dances, the green lion is neither a dance nor a ceremonial lion it is a ritual, the green lion with its fierce face and sharp saber tooth symbolizes the Qing dynasty清朝 for their brutality and harsh rule, the color green of the lion is because the word green in Fujian dialect minnan hua 閩南語 is pronounce as “tsi” which sound the same as Qing or Ching thus camouflaging the real representation of the green lion also the green representing the Qing’s Green Standard Army “Lüying 綠營” which are deployed in local civilian population acting as constabulary to enforce Qing laws, quell small scale disturbances and minor rebellion. The Ngo Cho Kun warrior that fights the green lion with a martial art weapon symbolizes and reminds them of the struggle of the Han people for freedom. The green lion ritual ends with the green lion being slain that is why up to this day it is very rare to see the green lion performing in ceremonial festivities such as weddings or birthdays.
Today, the green lion no longer represent any form of political or social rebellion; it now represents hope, peace, and unity it is slowly being introduced in festivals and special events as a ceremonial lion.
This art has been passed down to a select few instructors.