Loong Fu Martial Arts, or UK Lam Family Hung Kuen has been around for over 12 years, and we are lucky enough to have a full-time Kung Fu school right in the heart of London. No-one really knows how the school came about and also no-one truly realises how much it owes to Leon sifu’s persistence and love of the art. I’d like to share with you a story of a school, which has had its fair share of challenges; one that started in a back garden, rose from the ashes (literally!) and now lies in the heart of Dalston, London for all with a willingness, or passion to learn Kung Fu.
I share with you a school, which has really grown year to year from the blood, sweat, tears and hard work of Leon sifu and his students and one that I personally hold close to my heart.
So like every story starts at the beginning, we need to go back just over a decade to the year Leon sifu returned from living and training in Hong Kong. Like any river that begins with a small trickle of water, so too did the beginnings of UK Lam Family Hung Kuen. Leon started teaching one-to-one in his back garden, until a long time loyal student (still training to this day), started hiring a church hall one night a week. One night slowly became two nights and Grandmaster Lam Chun Fai even visited there on his tour of Europe in 2005.
Now Leon sifu would tell you when he started his training, his intention was never to teach, but he had made a promise to Lam family, to pass on the tradition of their family Kung Fu and establish a school in London. Luckily for him, his school name was already picked and approved by Great Grandmaster Lam Cho and Grandmaster Lam Chun Sing, but at the time Leon sifu was missing the location.
In January 2007 the very first UK Lam Family Hung Kuen school was established. Leon changed the unit from a clothes showroom into a respectable Kung Fu school. Both Sigung Lam Chun Sing and Sigung Lam Chun Fai visited the school in the four years there, along with numerous other international Hung Gar visitors from Hong Kong, Canada, the US and all over Europe. I will always hold this school close to my heart. This was where my Kung Fu journey began. The clang of bells as you opened the door, a strong waft of incense burning, a school bearing the marks of many hours of training. Dents in the floor, holes in the ceiling and the walls… very happy memories.
We even had our fair share of Kung Fu challenges from individuals and other schools. But, never to taint the reputation of Lam Family, Leon sifu dealt with each and every one in an appropriate manner.
In late 2012, we decided to move, converting an old ware-house space into a new school, practically doubling the floor space. We were truly spoilt. Two different training rooms, new equipment recycled from the outdoors and a purpose built training floor. We had spent our Christmas holidays of 2012 renovating the school, whilst also writing/ editing/ correcting text for the Hung Kuen Fundamentals book. We were and are certainly not professional decorators or DIY enthusiasts by any stretch, but we were pleased with the results and our school began to take shape. We celebrated our 5th birthday as UK Lam Family Hung Kuen here.
Unfortunately in the space of only 12 hours the school took a dramatic turn for the worst. After being met by a faint smell of smoke and blackened glass, further worsened by billowing smoke and the sound of cracking flames… you guessed it, fire! The devastating mess that we were left with was undeniable, but Leon sifu was determined that a fire would not close his school and interrupt training, so the clean-up began. The problem with fires is not so much the damage caused by the heat of the flames, but the smoke itself. Walls that were once white were black, everything was covered in soot and the smoke itself lingered enough that for that initial few hours and certainly the first few days you had to constantly go out-side to get a breath of fresh air. Without hesitation our family, friends and students of the school were immediately there to help and we are forever grateful to them. All were quick to get their hands dirty and help turn the school back around on its feet in only a week. We even had the kind assistance of a local church group, who on hearing our situation spent their Friday night scrub-bing soot. I used to laugh when I heard training stories from Leon sifu, thinking no-one could possibly do that, but after seeing a fire trash the school, and then open again fully only a few days later, was really an insight into Leon’s passion and determination to succeed. Through further repairs and power cuts we even trained by candlelight.
Unfortunately the fire had done more damage than meets the eye, so we flexed our DIY muscles once again and set to creating our new school. We became Loong Fu Chinese Martial Arts and have had over 18 months of training bliss. Competitions in Italy and China, Master Lam visiting and blessing our lions, and of course the constant pleasure of gaining new faces to learn Kung Fu.
Our school has a unique ethos, driven from Leon sifu’s heart and is always there to support students through their growth not only as a Hung Gar practitioner, but also as a person. I have heard students remind Leon sifu that he’s known them for more than half their life and realise how many young faces have actually grown to be young adults through this school.
I have only really touched on a few things that have happened over the years, but no matter what the event/ occasion or rock which may disturb the path, our school has a solid foundation, strong roots, which all stem from one seed, Leon sifu. I am truly grateful for the opportuni-ty to learn Lam Family Hung Kuen and to be part of this Kung Fu family.
Written by Heather Paxton
Loong Fu Chinese Martial Arts www.loongfu.com