Southern Crane Kungfu met Master Qiu, one of the leading proponents of the Five Ancestor Kungfu of Xin An Village near Xiamen City, Fujian Province, China, in October 2007. The team from Southern Crane Kungfu was led by Chief Instructor, Darren Trottman, and performed on stage at a Festival of Chinese Culture alongside Master Qiu’s students.
This interview with Master Qiu was conducted by Assistant Instructor at Southern Crane Kungfu, Heather McLean.
HM: “What is the history of your style of Five Ancestor Kungfu in Xin An Village, Master Qiu?”
MQ: “The Five Ancestor Kungfu was born in Fujian Province, and was founded by our late Master, Master Cai Yu Ming, who combined the styles and integrated them into one system.
There are two differing opinions as to the lineage of Five Ancestor Kungfu. One is ours, which is based on the combination of five different styles; White Crane, Emperor, DaMo Boxing, Monkey Boxing and the Woman’s kungfu. Our Five Ancestors kungfu is a totally new martial system, which has been added to also with elements from the Chinese Northern Style that Grandmaster YuMing Cai learnt later.
There is an another version which defines Five Ancestor Kungfu as the combination of the five styles of; White Crane, Monkey, Lo Han Boxing, DaMo Boxing and Emperor Boxing. But when we refer to Five Ancestor Kungfu today, we mean that style with the lineage of the former group, as we believe Da Mo and Lo han Styles are the same thing.
After Master Cai had attained a high level of Five Ancestor Kungfu, he trained under the Northern Master, Master Lin He Yan in Shandong Province. Master Lin taught leg techniques in Northern boxing.
Later, he got another Master, a woman, in Zhang Zhou City in the South. We only know she was called Dao Tai Lady. Her real name was unknown. From her, Master Cai learned boxing fighting skills on the ground only; sweeping, grappling, like Dog Boxing, but not. This kind of Kungfu enables the practitioner to turn a weak point into a strong point.
So all together, combining the Northern Kungfu and the Woman’s Kungfu with our Five Ancester Kungfu, gives our Five Ancestor Kunfgu its true name, ‘Wuzhu He Yang Quan’.”
HM: “How does your pattern system work, as your style must be quite vast thanks to its seven Masters?”
MQ: “In our Five Ancestor Kungfu we have seven War patterns. In any other Southern Kungfu there are three War patterns, but we have seven, one dedicated to each Master. Each of these War patterns features the principles and strategies that each Master taught. These seven War patterns are used to memorise the teachings of the great seven Masters.
We normally teach our students four patterns for their foundation training. After this, they can decide which style they would like as their focus as there are so many patterns in Five Ancestor style. Because of this, you rarely see a Master that knows all seven systems, which is why the Grand Master of our style was so great, as he knew them all.
In my opinion I think these are all different styles and these styles make up one single system, where they are dependent on each other, and cannot be separated from each other, so make a whole.”
HM: “What of your styles is your main focus at the moment?”
“The Women’s techniques are in our patterns but they are not very clear or easy to see. The Five Ancestor Kungfu in Singapore makes it very clear, as they harmonise it with White Crane. We also rarely see the Monkey element in our Kungfu, but we keep the Monkey fighting technique and skills; Monkey and Women’s style are in our style, but they are subtle.”
HM: “When you meet Masters from other styles, do you ever see similarities between their styles and your own?”
MQ: “When we talk to Tai Chor (Emperor) Masters and White Crane Masters, we see many similarities between our Kungfu and theirs. Tai Chor features the hard power which we also have, and in White Crane we see many similar fighting skills, and sometimes even the patterns can look the same.”
HM: “What do you think the true meaning of Kungfu is?”
“Kungfu is like something scattered everywhere. I personally think of myself as a stream that binds all these things together.”
HM: “How has traditional Kungfu fared against modern wushu?”
“Over the past 20 years modern wushu took over from traditional Kungfu, totally. Now our task is to shake off the cover and this tactic is closely linked to the Chinese economy.
Actually, we have a saying, ‘Rich people study martial arts and the poor will go to school to study to become a scholar’. Kungfu is for the rich and to be a scholar is for the poor. Nowadays the local economy is becoming much stronger, so we can also pay attention to our local heritage as well as being a scholar.
Nowadays, Kungfu also has another meaning, which is cultural heritage. Over the past 10 years the Chinese economy has developed very fast, so as a result the government and people did not pay enough attention to Chinese folk (traditional) kungfu. Yet now, the Chinese government is starting to pay more attention to Five Ancestor Kungfu and Five Ancestor Kungfu in Xing An is graded as non-material cultural heritage in Fujian Province. That is why we set up our Sing An Kungfu gym, as we wanted to pass our Kungfu onto the next generation and future generations.”
HM: “How does the government help you publicise your Kungfu?”
MQ: “Most of the time, the government asks our Kungfu team to do demonstrations. But on stage we have to do beautiful movements to please the audience, but the simplest movement that is the real one is not pleasing to see. This leaves us with a dilemma. The government makes promotion of kungfu too commercialised. As a result of commercial promotion, the real side of Kungfu is lost somewhere. But without the money from commercial promotion we cannot survive very well.”
HM: “Lastly, Master Qiu, can you tell me what you think about the Western interest in Chinese Kungfu?”
MQ: “I think the Western interest in Kungfu is great. Only very good things can attract the attention of many people. Once Westerners learn traditional Kungfu, they can be competitors and because there is competition, we can improve our art. This will make us work harder in our Kungfu.”
HM: “Thank you, Master Qiu.”