Jie Kon Sieuw
Pak Mei Pai Grandmaster Lee Sai Keung 李世強
Li Ga Cyun (李家拳 Lijiaquan)
The famous Wai Chow Lee Ga Cyun (惠州李家拳 Huizhou Lijiaquan) was founded by master Lee Yi (李義 1794-1884). Wai Chow Lee Ga Gaau (惠州李家教 Lijiajiao) is beside his Fukien Nam Siu Lam (福建南少林) heritage very well-known for his staff forms and fighting.
The three Lee Ga brothers
In the 1920’s three Lee Ga masters were well-known for their staff fighting. They regularly participated in staff fighting’s. They were Lee Fat To (李發佗), Lee Ah Pow (李阿朴) and Lee Ping Yi (李平一). It is said that Lee Ping Yi was the absolute expert in this group. Although Li Fat To (李發佗 Li Fatuo) he was more well-known (notorious) for staff fighting. Lee Fat To was regularly asked to ‘settle’ problems in his community. In one event, Lee Fat To was again asked to settle a problem. Lee Fat To involvement ended in a staff fight. Very unfortunately for this opponent he didn't only lost the fight but also his life. Due to the death of his opponent Lee Fat To had to escape from the Lung Gong Jyun district ( 龍岡縣 Longgang xian) to avoid being arrested by the police. He jumped into a passing wagon of a train that was just passing by. He had no clue where the train would bring him. Eventually the train brought him to Gwong Zau (廣州 Guangzhou). There he had to make a living again. After some time, he came in touch with the famous Pak Mei master Cheung Lai Chun who had opened a school. He became one of Cheung Lai Chun's first students.
Lee Sai Keung 李世強
Lee Sai Keung (1899-1974) was Hakka born in San Tun village in Bo On county (寶安縣新屯 Bao’anxian Xintuncun) in the Gwong Dung Province (廣東省 Guangdong). Now called the Lung Gong Jyun district ( 龍岡縣 Longgang xian). He was original a sifu in his family style Lee Ga Cyun (李家拳 Lijiaquan), but also had trained Praying Mantis (蹚螂拳術). He particular became an expert and known for his skills in Lee Ga Ng Hang Chong Lan Gun (李家五行中欄棍 Lijia Wuxing Zhonglan Gun) and in the art of Dit Da medicine (跌打 Dieda). As a "Lee" and a Hakka (客家) Chinese this is what he learned in his home village.
Introduction to Pak Mei (白眉派)
Lee Sai Keung was one of the earliest students of Cheung Lai Chun. Lee Sai Keung and his sihing (師兄 elder Kungfu brother) Lee Kei Sin (李其仙 Li Qixian) were introduced to Cheung Lai Chun by their Lee Ga elder Lee Fat To (李法陀) in the early 1930’s. The friendship with Lee Fat To and because Lee Sai Keung was famous for his traditional medicine helped him and Lee Kei Sin to be accepted by Cheung Lai Chun. In the next coming years Lee Sai Keung would follow and learn from Cheung Lai Chun.
Besides training Kungfu he would also cook, make tea, etc. for his master Cheung Lai Chun. Many times, when Cheung Lai Chun was teaching at his schools, Lee Sai Keung was looking after the young children of Cheung Lai Chun. When the students in Surinam ones asked Lee Sai Keung why he was always so alert and jumpy. He told them that in the time when he was trained by Cheung Lai Chun the training lasted 24 hours a day (probably in the time they were teaching at the Whampoa Military Academy (黃埔軍校 Huangpu Junxiao). At any moment he could expected an attack of his master. He had to be constantly alert. Even when he was washing his face, he looked with one eye to see of his master wasn't attacking him. After he completed his training in Pak Mei, he accompanied Cheung Lai Chun to the Whampoa Military Academy (黃埔軍校 Huangpu Junxiao) on Ceong Zau Island (長洲島 Changzhoudao). There he became instructor under the supervision of Cheung Lai Chun.
Centre: Lee Sai Keung (李世強), to his left Cheung Bing Sam (張炳森) and second to his left Cheung Bing Lam (張炳林)
and to his right Chan Jik Soeng (陳績常).
Challenged at the Military Academy
Once, at the Whampoa Military Academy, while he was giving a group of soldier’s instructions, a soldier with a bayonet questioned why they should learn Kungfu and made a sort of challenge to Lee Sai Keung. Lee Sai Keung accepted and was very willing to show. The soldier prepared his rifle with bayonet and within a wink of the eye Lee Sai Keung rushed forward with the Pak Mei Tiger Step and closed in on the soldier. Before he could make a movement, the soldier noticed that Lee Sai Keung had him under control. Still these days footwork and fast stepping is a significant part of the training.
During the civil war Lee Sai Keung returned to his home village and stayed in the Lung Gong Waang (龍岡橫 Longgangheng) area. There he opened a school with the name ‘San Tun Pak Mei Gwok Seot Gun’ (新屯白眉國術館 Xintun Baimei Guoshuguan). Since 1946 he taught Pak Mei to members of the Lee family like Lee Lap San (李立新) in San Tun Tsuen. In this period Lee Sai Keung had training halls in: San Tun Tsuen (新屯村 Xin Tun Cun), Lung Kong (龍崗 Longgang), Wang Kong (橫崗 Henggang), Jim Tin (鹽田 Yantian) and Shataukok (沙頭角 Shatoujiao). After the civil war in 1949 he settled in Hong Kong, like his master Cheung Lai Chun and many other Pak Mei masters. In Hongkong/New Territory he opened training halls in Yuen Long (元朗 Yuanlang) and in San Po Kong (新蒲崗 Xinpugang).
Lee Sai Keung Pak Mei characteristic
Lee Sai Keung Family Pak Mei is specially known for its:
Lee Sai Keung schools 李世強武館 (see map)
1. Lung Kong (龍崗 Longgang)
2. San Tun Tsuen (新屯村 Xin Tun Cun)
3. Wang Kong (橫崗 Henggang)
4. Jim Tin (鹽田 Yantian)
5. Sha Tau Kok (沙頭角 Shatoujiao)
6. Yuen Long (元朗 Yuanlang)
7. San Po Kong (新蒲崗 Xinpugang)
Lee Sai Keung was as many Hakka short of body and very strong build. After the decease of Cheung Lai Chun in 1964 Lee Sai Keung became one of the head teachers of Pak Mei Pai in Hong Kong. In the training hall of the Hakka village Tai Kei Leng Yuen Long (大旗嶺元朗香港) there are still two panorama pictures from 1962 and 1964 of the Pak Mei society and in the middle sits Lee Sai Keung. Other well-known sifu’s on the picture are Un Ho Bun (院浩 Ruan Hao Bin) writer of Pak Mei (nine step push) book and Ng Yiu (吳耀 Wu Yao) writer of the Pak Mei tiger fork book.
1st from L to R: Ng Nam Ging (伍南經), 2nd Kwok Tsi Cheong (郭熾昌), 3th Cheung Bing Lam (張炳林),
4th Cheung Bing Fat (張炳發), 5th Ng Yiu (吳 耀), 6th Lee Sai Keung(李世強), 7th Un Ho Bun (阮浩斌)
Pak Mei to Surinam
In 1853 the first group of Chinese immigrants started with 18 Chinese that came to Surinam (蘇利南) (South America 南美洲) and the last group arrived in 1869. By then the Chinese community had grown up to 2.514 Chinese. This first group of mainly Hakka came mainly from China, Guangdong province and from or through Hongkong. And later on, the majority of the Chinese were also Hakka, so Hakka languages (客家話 Kejia hua) became the general language between the Chinese in Surinam. Not long after the first group started to work on the Government sugar plantation Catharina-Sophia, they established their Chinese society ‘Kong Ngie Tong’ (廣義堂) on April 16th 1880. Kong Ngie Tong can be translated as ‘ Chinese Society Hall’. Later in 1888 a building for the society was opened at the Steenbakkersgracht Noordzijde (now Dr. Sophie Redmondstraat). Later, due to illegal gambling (Piauw lottery-Pak Hap Piauw 白鴿票) in the 1920’s, the society was closed in June 1930. Piauw (票) or Piao translates in Hakka as ‘ticket’. One year later the society was bought by a wealthy Chinese businessman and he revived the society as Kong Ngie Tong Sang (廣義堂生). Sang (生) means in this name ‘reborn’. The Kong Ngie Tong Sang stil has had many social activities like dance, music and sports. Even before 1911 there were boxing lessons. Later on, other Chinese societies were established like, Chung Fa Foei Kon (中華會館) in 1928 and the Fa Tjauw Song Foei (華僑商會) in 1943.
Kungfu for self-defense
The Chinese community in Surinam thought during the sixties that a Kungfu master was needed for them to make them less vulnerable. For the Chinese community there was at that time no fitting martial arts available. It was possible for them to learn Toi Kyun Dou (跆拳道), but this Korean art didn't fit their ethnic background of the Hakka's. In those day's many Chinese shop and restaurants were robbed or extorted by non-Chinese. These robbers were usually physical much bigger and stronger.
Seated in the middle Lee Sai Keung, stand behind his chair left Kong Mien Ho (江啟鳴)
and last row highest in the picture Jie Kon Sieuw (余官秀).
A delegation left from Surinam to Hong Kong in search for a master. Many masters presented themselves in Hong Kong. But the interest of the delegation was in a Hakka sifu of the Chu Ga Nam Tong Long Pai (朱家螳螂派 Zhu Jia Tang Lang Pai). Unfortunately, this sifu was not available. The name of Pak Mei Pai had also crossed their way and after a demonstration of sifu Lee Sai Keung (he did some break- tests) they were impressed. The delegation offered him a large amount of money to teach in Surinam for a few years. The offer was too good to refuse. For master Lee Sai Keung this was a good opportunity to save money for his ‘old days’.
At that time Lee Sai Keung was the head teacher of the village Tai Kei Leng Yuen Long. On request of the Chinese society "Kong Ngie Tong Sang" (廣義堂生) Lee Sai Keung left in 1968 for Surinam. His eldest son Lee Man Tat (李文達 Li Wenda) would take over his schools in Hongkong/New Territory. The Kong Ngie Tong Sang was in those days the largest and oldest society in the capital city Paramaribo (首都帕拉马里博) of Surinam.
1969 Lee Sai Keung demonstrating. Holding the chair is Jie Kon Sieuw (余官秀) and
4th from left (with the glasses) Kong Mien Ho (江啟鳴).
Pak Mei lessons at the Kong Ngie Tong
With great enthusiasm Lee Sai Keung was being received there and many took part of his lessons. In the training hall, in the building of the Kong Ngie Tong Sang, where he taught, there were two levels. The beginning student trained downstairs and the seniors could also have lessons upstairs. Like many very traditional masters Lee Sai Keung was reluctant to teach non-Chinese (often half Chinese weren't taught). Also, because the problem was that Lee Sai Keung only spoke Hakka Chinese. The school was a great success and many attended. After some time when the level of the students was high enough, master Lee Sai Keung appointed some assistant-instructors. Now it was also possible for even larger groups to be trained in Pak Mei Pai outside the main building of the Kong Ngie Tong Sang. Small schools were made in suburbs of the capitol city Paramaribo, in other towns like Meerzorg and after some time even in the neighboring country of French Guyana (法屬圭亞那).
He made his students train for many hours and he wasn't very open-handed in teaching new techniques or forms. Before the student started his training, he had to pay his respect to the ancestors at the altar by burning 2 incense sticks and making 3 bows to the altar. Lee Sai Keung never held any exams, only if the student's level was good enough, he could learn more. During practice of the students, Lee Sai Keung came into the hall for some adjustments and then he disappeared again to his room to return later again. A not unknown way of traditional teaching. After the students learned two forms, they asked their sifu Lee Sai Keung if there were more forms to learn? The old master was smart, laughed a little and said nothing. After a long period of practice of the first two forms and doing a lot of basic exercises, someone new came to join the lessons. This student had learned some Pak Mei in Hong Kong. When the old master wasn't around, he showed the other students some movements of the form Kou Bo Toi (九步推 nine step push). Aha, the students thought, so there is more to learn. They had to let their sifu know that they knew there was more to learn. But the strict etiquettes permitted them from asking this direct to their master.
Soon the opportunity came when they took master Lee Sai Keung on a trip to French Guyana. After the journey they invited their master on a banquette and during the meal they asked again about the other forms. Now the old sifu could no longer keep the other forms secret for his students and learned them all. On his 70th birthday in 1969 he gave a demonstration and everybody that attended was full of praise of Lee Sai Keung's speed and power in the forms. In the same year that Lee Sai Keung became 70 years old, he decided that after only 3 years he had to leave Surinam and go back to his home village. This was due to a "fortune teller" who told him he would die in a country far overseas. In 1970/71 Lee Sai Keung returned to Hongkong. In December 1974 Lee Sai Keung got sick, so serious that one of his senior students didn’t hesitated and carried his master to the hospital. Not much later in the same month of December he deceased in Hong Kong aged 75. His funeral was paid with contributions of his students from all over the world. In Surinam a large amount of money was collected and send to Hong Kong to give their respected master the funeral he deserved.
Sons of Lee Sai Keung
Lee Sai Keung had two sons to whom he passed on all his knowledge and skills. He had trained them from an early age on in their family art of Lee family Pak Mei.
Lee Man Tat (李文達 Li Wenda) (1936-1996)
Lee Man Tat was the oldest son of Lee Sai Keung. He assisted his father in teaching at the many schools his father had. When in 1968 his father left for Surinam, Lee Man Tat took over his schools.
1981 Pak Mei delegation from Holland visit Lee Man Tat.
From left to right: Albert Verhaegen, Jos van Tilburg, ?,
Lee Man Tat and Jie Kon Sieuw
Through the years Jie Kon Sieuw made several trips from Holland to Lee Man Tat in Hong Kong to increase his skills and to collect medical herbs for the Dit Da medicine (跌打 Dieda).
Lee Man Hing (李文慶 Li Wenqing)
After Lee Sai Keung left Surinam for Hongkong, the school had no master to teach them, some senior students gave lessons. Because the students wanted to continue their study, they invited Lee Man Hing, the second son of Lee Sai Keung, to teach them. After many request Lee Man Hing decided to take his father’s place and travelled to Suriname. There he taught Pak Mei over the coming years.
When in 1975 students like Jie Kon Sieuw and Kong Mien Ho left Surinam for Holland and started their Pak Mei schools there, he travelled several times to Holland to teach them. In the ’70 and ’80 he visited the school to improve the level of master Jie Kon Sieuw and his students. And in later years, after 2001, to teach students of Jie Kon Sieuw and Kong Mien Ho in the details of Lee family Pak Mei.
Lee Man Hing demonstrating a kick technique, in the background Jie Kon Sieuw (late ‘70’s)
2005 Lee Man Hing visiting the Jie Kon Sieuw Students Association in Amsterdam.