Hong Kong – 1958
To fight well, basic technique’s have to be mastered.
I visited South East Asia for the first time in 1957. The most fruitful results of my travels was that I could met Mr. Chuan, a Kung Fu expert from Hong Kong. When I arrived in Hong Kong I began my search for this man. Having heard the rumor that a famous Kung Fu exponent had come to Hong Kong from the Kanton district of China after the Chinese revolution, I was anxious to find him and witness his Kung Fu. I mounted my search by asking every available person I met in Hong Kong. Eventually my wish to meet Mr. Chuan was fulfilled. It seemed that Chuan had also wanted to see me, and he had taken the trouble to send one of his students to the hotel I was staying at to bring me to him.
Chuan’s house was located in the middle of the mountain in Hong Kong city. It commanded a fine view down to the harbor and I cannot forget the magnificent view that greeted me on that mild night when I at last met Chuan. Chuan’s house was not large compared to those of his neighbors, however, he had a small dojo located in his house which made it most attractive to me. Chuan must have been more than 60 years old at the time, and although at one glance I could see that he had undergone heavy training in younger days, his size and strength now seemed washed away by the years. He appeared before me as a quite old man, one size smaller than myself. Bidding me only a hasty welcome, he showed me to his dojo and instructed me to fight him. Because of his age, I was surprised at such a request; however, Chuan continued to surprise me again and again throughout our meeting. Chuan again bid me to fight him and I was surprised and impressed by his quiet attitude. It is as important to read an opponent’s breathing patterns in a Karate match as it is in sword-fighting. Musashi Miyamoto, one of the greatest swords-men in Japan, also pointed to breathing as the secret to success. If one gains proficiency in reading an opponent’s breath, it should become unnecessary to move, even if the opponent attacks suddenly. I was surprised to find that I could not read Mr. Chuan’s breath – far from it – I could not even catch whether he took any breath at all!!
Eagerly putting my own breath in order, I edged forward little by little to make a short distance between us, but he had no intension of moving. He merely stood there as calmly as if he was nothing but air in the dojo. Chuan’s figure seemed half transparent while I tried to execute every technique and art that I knew. But whenever I made any kick or punch attack, Chuan’s body would flexibly draw a circle, and using this circle drawn by his body, hands and legs, – he would wipe away my attack causing me to jump back like a spring to avoid the attack which came as a continuation of his circle defense. Every time Chuan’s circle deflected my attack, it changed in to his attack to which I was hastily forced to avoid, – a situation which continued for about an hour. Karate has three fighting styles; attack, defense and a combination of the two. That is: if one blocks first, then counterattacks this is the defensive style; if one attacks first while defending with the other parts of the body, then this is the attack style. The combination, mixture style is when an attack or block is carried through without any break to perform the opposite technique. For example, a block to a kick is carried through with the same hand in a circular motion to become a strike to the temple. This is defense and attack all in one motion.
Chuan’s skill was the extreme achievement of the combination style. Of course I was superior to him in strength and power, and had I fought him with no respect like that of a madman, I could have overcome him. However, in skill I realized that I was completely defeated so I conceded victory, the first and only time I have ever done so.
Chuan, smelling sweetly of Jasmine tea, commented that my Karate was very strong indeed, containing both speed and power, but that my style was on too straight a course.
“It is the secret of Chinese Kung Fu to draw a circle centered on a dot. A line is accompanied with a circle” he said with a smile. Though it was not until later that I fully realized, understood and experienced this concept, I was able to grasp what he was trying to tell me by having just witnessed his fighting style. The circle that Chuan drew around himself would be better understood as a sphere radiating from all directions around the center of his body. Within this sphere, Chuan had mastery to defeat any opponent no matter from which direction the attack came. “Won’t you come to my dojo for a week or so, if you can spare the time, for I would like you to completely master the secret of Kung Fu. It is indeed my pleasure to teach such a talented Japanese as yourself,” Chuan said.
I bowed low and replied that I would be very grateful-and happy to attend his teachings, and thanked him very much for his attention, knowing that had he not invited me, I would have asked voluntarily. After being in Chuan’s dojo for just over a week without missing a single lesson, I felt. that I had indeed become much stronger and skillful than before, so paying due respects, I left Hong Kong for Japan. I incorporated my new learning intomy style to make it even .stronger and more proficient, and I am most grateful to Chuan for so openly and unselfishly extending his knowledge to me.