Master Ang took up training in the Tiger-Crane art when only eight years old. His master was Tee Hong Yew, a member of the Tee family, through which the art had been passed down for many generations, ever since its development by Tee Eng Choon and Hung Ee Kan. Tee Hong Yew was known as ‘the secretive old man’ due to his habit of coming and going without a word.
As well as the Tiger-Crane Combination, Master Ang learned several other styles. He was born in Quemoy, an island off the coast of Fukien province, China. Quemoy was heavily fortified; an island fortress guarding the Fukienese coast. His second master was Tan Kew Leong. He was the chief of the herbal medicine peddlers in the Chuan Chew district of China. These medicine peddlers were usually highly accomplished martial artists and were often challenged to fights in the towns and villages they visited. For this reason, their Kung Fu had to be good. Tan Kew Leong specialized in the Tai Chor (tiger) style and was also a master of the Shaolin weapons system.
Master Ang’s third master was Mioa Sian Meng, a monk from the Chuan Chew Shaolin Temple. From him Master Ang learned the full Shuang Yang Pei Ho (Sun/Frost White Crane) soft art and external Chinese medicine.
Master Ang’s family were quite wealthy – which was why he could afford the very best Kung Fu teachers available. Kung fu was an all consuming interest for him and he did little else. His father was a timber merchant but unfortunately he died whilst Master Ang was still young. His brother took over the business and moved it to Singapore – a place which at the time, was attracting many Chinese immigrants. In 1947, Master Ang emigrated to Singapore to take part in the family business. He was so hot tempered, however, that he quarreled with his uncle to the extent that he was excluded from the business.
Since arriving in Singapore, Master Ang had continued to practise his Kung Fu – at which he was now extremely accomplished. He took a job as a ‘bouncer’ at a gambling den. During the second world war and in the years after, Singapore was quite a rough, dangerous place – in total contrast to what it is today. Martial arts experts were highly favored as doormen and were often greatly feared.
It was in 1954 that Master Ang founded the Nam Yang Pugilistic Association. Here he taught the Tiger-Crane Combination, Shuang Yang Pei Ho, Tai Chor, Lohon and Monkey and Shaolin weapon arts as well as Chi Kung and Lion Dance.
Master Ang was greatly respected throughout the Singapore martial arts community. He was known as being strong willed, quick tempered and an exceptionally good fighter. He disliked men who set themselves up as Kung Fu masters without really knowing the art and would challenge anyone who he suspected of being such an imposter.
When Mass Oyama, the founder of the Kyokushinkai Karate, visited Singapore he came to Nam Yang. Karate styles also practise the Sum Chien form. Oyama was sufficiently impressed to offer him a karate black belt. Master Ang refused, saying that he could only accept a grading from someone he considered his senior.
Master Ang presided over Nam Yang for the rest of his life and trained many students. He was still teaching keenly even in the last few weeks of his life, trying to impart as much of his vast knowledge as he could. He died in 1984 at the age of 60. He had suffered for some time with diabetes.
Master Ang had a great depth of understanding of Kung Fu. He was a master of the ‘touch’ system and stressed the use of a straight counter for a side attack and a side counter for a straight attack – dash against wave and wave against dash. He maintained that to every move there is a counter and to every counter there is a counter, etc. He emphasised the importance of concentration and awareness, having been beaten in his youth by an opponent who spat in his face then hit him whilst he was distracted.
Despite knowing so many styles and several hundred patterns, Master Ang stressed that this was not really important compared to the depth of one’s knowledge and the strength of one’s basics. The key to success is the mastery of the Sum Chien form.