The following article is the story of Master Fork Yuen Kap(Huo Yuan Jia) who was the founder of the Chin Woo Athletic Association. Initially, the association was primarily a martial arts school but has now developed into a massive sports organisation in the Far East and is now becoming established in this country and across Europe.
Fork Yuen Kap was born in the Xiaonanhe village on the outskirts of Tainjin. His father, Huo Endi, was a well known boxer who served as a bodyguard for caravans travelling to the Northeast.
As a young boy, Fork had, with difficulty, learnt the "no trace style" from his father. During his childhood he suffered from yellow jaundice so his father refused to teach him the family style as it would be too risky in case he lost a fight and the family lost face. Instead, his father encouraged him to be a scholar. Their father instructed all the other healthier brothers in kung fu. Fork spied on their training sessions, practised what he saw and ended up learning the complete system in secret.
Some years later a man who had received a beating from Huo Endi (Fork's father) when he was working as a guard, turned up to offer him a rematch. Huo Endi was now fifty and had a rheumatic complaint and was unable to fight, so the eldest sons fought for him. All of them were beaten and the situation became very serious and rather embarrassing. As the challenger started to gloat, the "untrained" Fork stepped up, gave him a sound thrashing and saved his family from losing face. His father was astonished at his son's skill and bravery, and from then on taught him everything he knew. Fork Yuen Kap followed in his father's footsteps and became a bodyguard and taught kung fu.
During the Ching Dynasty, the Emperor was afraid that the Han people might try and restore the Ming Dynasty. During the Emperors fifth year of reigning, he made an announcement that forbade the study of Martial Arts. He was scared of an uprising against him. All provincial governors were authorised to stop all practices of wushu, whether it was with bare hands, sticks or weapons. Anyone calling themselves a Wushu Master was open to arrest.
As many people studied martial arts to keep themselves fit and strong, this prohibition caused their health to deteriorate. Towards the end of 19th century, people's morale was low and China 's relationships with foreign powers were resulting in an inferior financial and political position. At the end of the 19th century the Ching Dynasty finally ended and the law forbidding the practice of martial arts was lifted (Hurray!).
In 1906 Martial Arts Master, Fork Yuen Kap opened the Chin Woo Physical Training School . Invading forces of the English, German, French and Japanese had labelled China as "the sick man of Asia ", so when opening his school Master Fork said, "to strengthen the country you must first strengthen the people!"
When he opened the school Master Fork wanted to create a well-rounded style, so he employed many masters of different disciplines as each of them had different objectives in their training. During the early stages of the school they had meetings to discuss and research each Master's style and qualities. These early stages were fraught with arguments and bickering between the masters. After a long period of research and discussion they agreed to the ten basic routines that form the basis of Chin Woo today. Once a student had mastered these routines they could then become a member of the Chin Woo Association and then progress to the more advanced styles of wushu e.g. Preying Mantis, Eagle's Claw etc.
Master Fork said that Chin Woo had the properties of iron and silk; soft and flowing movements along with the strong and hard Shaolin techniques. Young members who trained within the system would have the benefit of becoming healthier, fitter and stronger, with great levels of strength and suppleness. Older members who learned the style could look forward to being healthier and more active in their later years with increased strength of their internal organs.
In 1909 a strongman from Europe arrived in Shanghai and was giving performances of his power. Along with demonstrating his strength, he would issue challenges of hand to hand combat to any Chinese willing to take him on, but in Shanghai no master was strong enough to beat him. In March of 1909 Master Fork Yuen Kap prepared to take on the European. The story goes that the European ran away when he heard Fork Yuen Kap had turned up to fight him. The other story is that Master Fork fought him in a contest and won. Either way, the success of the contest convinced many people to join the school. Then disaster struck. Master Fork was poisoned and died at the end of
August 1909. Undaunted by his death, Fork Yuen Kap's senior students kept up his spirit and continued to run the Chin Woo School by employing the best Masters of the time, such as Chen Zhih-Zeng (Eagle Style), Lo Kuan-Yu (Northern Preying Mantis) and Geeng Cia-Kuan (Hsing Yi).
Five years later in 1915, the members bought a new building, reorganised the school and renamed it "The Chin Woo Athletic Association". They opened more classes, improved some of the forms and published books and magazines. Many provinces opened their own Chin Woo branches and in 1918 the Hong Kong Chin Woo Athletic Association was formed. In 1920, Shanghai sent five representatives to Singapore and Malaysia . They gave charity performances all over Malaysia and now there are 14 schools in Malaysia and Singapore alone. The fictionalised story of Chin Woo (Jing Wu) can be seen in the excellent movie,"Fist of Legend" starring Jet Li.