Biography of Master Ho Yi from the Futsan Hung Sing Kwoon (First Part)

Alumnos del Maestro Ho Yi


In this article we have translated a text first appeared in the 2001 book published on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Futsan’s Hung Sing Kwoon. It chronicles the life of Sifu Ho Yi, who taught Choy Lee Fut to many of the temple’s current Masters and whose lineage is one of the most enduring today in Futsan. Among his students was Sifu Wong Zam Gong (the one in the center in the photo above) , current Headmaster of Hung Sing Kwoon and the author of this text.

Because the article contains quite a lot of cultural, social and political references, we have marked them with an asterisk and explained them at the end of the text.


Ho Yi (1990-1976) was from Shishan, Nanhai, the people of that place are honest. As a teenager, Ho Yi made the “bai shi“* to the second-generation master Wong Sai, and learned Choy Lee Fut’s fist and weapons from the Hung Sing Kwoon.

Puerta de Nanhai
Shishan Mountain,  Nanhai (Foshan)

Regarding Wong Sai, he took care of him in life and honored him in death (because Wong Sai never married) and tried his best to be a good disciple.

When I was very young, I heard people from the former generation say that Sigung Wong Sai was one of Jeong Hung Sing’s most beloved disciples, and his fist and foot movements were very good, especially his palm strokes, soft and hard.
His kung fu of legs and feet, when it came to fighting, was unrivaled. He was also especially skilled with the staff. Foshan’s houses had thick and solid mud walls, when Wong Sai practiced nailing the staff in a horse stance, he was able to insert its end into the wall, when releasing his hands, the stick remained inside, and the wall was still shaking.
Sigung Wong Sai’s “die da” medicine was of a high level. When my mother was young she fell and broke her hands, Master Wong Sai helped her heal them and for the next few decades she never had a relapse.
Sifu Ho Yi was wong Sai’s disciple, he respected the “dao“* and practiced very hard, so his master passed on to him both the knowledge of kung fu and the medicine “die da”.
After Wong Sai’s death every year on the “Qing Ming” holiday, Master Ho Yi and his martial brother Fuo Hong went to Shiwan Cemetery to pay their respects to the master and ancestors of the Hung Sing Kwoon. His younger son, Ho Gam Wah, was quite sensible, so he took him with him to visit the tomb until the Cultural Revolution, when the cemetery was destroyed.

Throughout his life Master Ho Yi, spared no effort in teaching the Hung Sing Choy Lee Fut, weapons and empty hand,he taught countless disciples, who were deeply praised by their own peers and by the following generations of students.

Alumnos de Ho Yi
Master Ho Yi´s students that nowadays still linked to the Hung Sing Kwoon
Since he was a teenager Master Ho Yi acted as an assistant to Master Wong Sai helping him in the teaching of the Hung Sing Choy Lee Fut.
In the early twentieth century, Master Wong Sai’s brother Chan Sing, the Headmaster of the Hung Sing Kwoon, disagreed with the “Yi Zi“*  schools that followed the official government at the time, Whenever the Hung Sing Kwoon Lion Dance team and the lion team from the “Yi Zi” schools met at any holiday, a birthday, New Year’s Eve, the spring festival… fore sure they were engaged in a good fight.
At the beginning of the decade of the 20s, there was a period in which Chan Sing thought that the Lion Dance team caused problems to the kwoon* so, temporarily, he stopped teaching the lion dance in all the schools of the Hung Sing Kwoon.
Master Wong Sai thought that a martial arts kwoon could not be without learning Lion Dance, so he created the “Luo Chong” association to teach there and took Ho Yi as his apprentice.
The “Luo Chong” association was very prosperous, it had more than three thousand students. On the streets there was a saying “In heaven the God of Thunder and on earth Luo Chong.”
Not long after, in the main Kwoon the lion dance activities resumed, thus allowing the hung Sing Kwoon lion team to continue devoloping.

In the 1920s and 1930s, in addition to helping sigung Wong Sai’s disciples, Master Ho Yi also held the position of head coach in the “Futsan Sheng Gong”, the “Xing Tai Gong” and the “Luo Chong” association, teaching numerous disciples.

On April 12, 1927, the Kuomintang assassinated several members of the Communist Party in Shanghai and founded a counterrevolutionary party in Shanghai to wipe out the Communists*. On April 15, the Kuomintang authorities came to Futsan to investigate the city workers’ congress, the Peasants’ Association, the Hung Sing Kwoon and other associations, and Master Ho Yi was forced to stop his activities and return to the countryside to continue teaching Choy Li Fut on Nanhai Shishan Mountain,  later at the invitation of the village itself, he went to Nanhai to teach, there he had more than ninety disciples.

It was not until 1937, after the Lugou Bridge incident,* that he returned to Futsan to publicly resume activities at the Hung Sing Kwoon to recruit pupils. In October 1938 Guangzhou and Futsan fell one after another, and during that period of chaos Master Ho Yi was invited by a disciple of Chan Sing nicknamed “Pi Dan Mian“* (the master never said his real name) to help him teach Choy Lee Fut until the outbreak of the Pacific War.
Anti-japanese saber at the Futsan Hung Sing Kwoon
There was then a period when Master Chui Zhang opened several Choy Lee Fut schools in Guangzhou, and a single person could not take care of all of them, so he invited Sifu Ho Yi to Guangzhou to help him teach. This led to a deep friendship between the two.
After the liberation*, Master Ho Yi was working at the fish post of the Futsan State Fishing Company, in the mid-1950s the Provincial Sports Bureau had invited Master Ho Yi to come and teach many times.
The Wushu Provincial Association was in operation, and Chan Sing’s disciple Chan Ngai Lam brought official letters to Sifu Ho Yi’s gate three times. But because at that time he had to take care of his family, it was very difficult for him to travel alone so he refused the invitation.

My maternal grandfather and Master Wong Sai were old friends, my grandfather was almost thirty years younger than Master Wong Sai so he also had a deep relationship with Master Ho Yi and Master Fok Hong.

At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1967, through the relationship with my maternal grandfather, I first became a student of Fok Hong* together with Wong Man Kai, we studied the biu ma che kyun* of the Hung Sing Choy Li Fut, in my house, then came Fok Hong’s son Fok Hou Lam, his adopted son Sam Zyu, Ng Bak Kyun and Tam Tim Gaa and we studied all together.

There were a lot of people and the place was really narrow, so we took advantage of the night shift at the Pujun market of Master Fok Hong and in the evening we went there to continue our learning. .After we finished learning the biu ma che kyun, Master Fok Hong’s martial brother Ho Yi came to my house with his son Ho Gam Wak, so Wong Man Kai, Ng Bak Kyun and I did the baishi to Master Ho Yi, and together with Ho Gam Wak, we began to systematically learn the traditional technique of Hung Sing Choy Li Fut.

* “Bai shi”拜师: Student Acceptance Ceremony
* “Dao”道 : Concept of Taoism with multiple meanings that can be translated very simplistically as “the way” or “the important”
* Yizi” 义字派 : It refers to a group of schools which all bore the name “Yi”, (e.g. Gong Yi Tong, Ying Yi Tong, Hui Yi Tong…). These schools were akin to the government of the time that Chan Sing opposed on the grounds that they harassed the poorest and weakest.
* Chan Sing was of the opinion that the Lion Dance attracted too much attention to the Hung Sing Kwoon, which was already in the spotlight for its revolutionary activities.
* In 1927 after the death of Sun Yat Sen China entered in a Civil War, which was originated with a strong campaign of extermination of the communists by Chiang Kai Sek, the leader of the Kuomitang.

* The Lugou Bridge Incident (also known as the Marco Polo Bridge Incident) is the event that marks the beginning of the total invasion of China by the Japanese. This meant a truce between the Communists and the Kuomitang to fight a common enemy.

* “Pi Dan Mian” 皮蛋面 (Literally, preserved egg noodles), was the nickname of this master, in China it´s quite usual to be known by different names and during the war, not giving the real one could help not to be caught and not to endanger others.

* Refers to the victory of the Communist Party over the Kuomitang.

Fok Hong 霍康 was Master Wong Sai´s disciple and therefore a “younger martial brother” (si dai 师弟)  of Ho Yi 

* “Biu Ma Che Kyun” is the basic form of Hung Sing Choy Li Fut and the first to be learned in Futsan


Translated by María Arias

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