by Leon Dogan
Chung Wai Hung, my dearest big brother and one of Grandmaster Lam Cho’s most loyal students unexpectedly passed away on Thursday the 15th of March 2018, at the age of 60. His passing has been a real shock to everyone who knew him. Personally I am still finding it difficult to come to terms with his early departure. You see he was more than just a best friend, he was like a brother to me. I feel honoured to write about him for this newsletter but at the same time it is so very strange to now refer to him in the past tense.
Chung Wai Hung, was one of a kind, a truly selfless man with a heart of gold. A rare individual, one in a million, and this is by no means an exaggeration. In fact, I would go as far as to say he was a perfect example of what a good human being should be. He always had the most genuine smile on his face. He was always very kind, humble, forever helpful, caring and very generous towards everyone. He treated people with respect, love and helped everyone in any way he possibly could. He was loved and respected by everyone that knew him.
People in Kung Fu often talk about Martial Virtues/ Mou-Duk (武 德), Chung was a prime example of what Mou-Duk is all about. He never talked about it, he simply lived it and displayed real Martial Virtues with his everyday actions. Personally, it was one of many qualities that I truly admired about Chung. He was not just a brother to me he was a role model in so many ways.
“Haak-Jai” was the nick-name Lam Family and close friends used to call him. He was one of the most loyal and dedicated students of Lam Cho sigung. He loved and respected Lam Cho sigung beyond comprehension and did anything and everything to help Sigung and all members of the Lam Family. Always behind the scenes, out of the lime light, Chung had been a true devoted disciple of Lam Family Hung Kuen for decades.
My dear brother originally started learning kung fu at a young age from his father. Eager to learn more, Chung looked for esteemed kung fu sifu’s in Hong Kong. He visited many Kwoon’s (Kung Fu Schools) and met many renowned masters of different styles but found his true kung fu home after his first meeting with Lam Cho sigung. He became a disciple of Lam Cho sigung and was a true, devoted student of Lam Family all his life.
I first met Chung in the late nineties during my first visit to Lam Cho sigung’s legendary kung fu studio in Mong Kok. At the time, my Cantonese was limited to kung fu vocabulary only, so Chung, being fluent in English, helped me talk to Sigung and relayed Sigung’s instructions and corrections in English. He was there at the studio every day helping me with my training and keeping me company outside the studio. Needless to say we became good friends over the next couple of years. Later, when I moved to live in Hong Kong we became even closer, like brothers. We spent so much time together that we got to know each other really well. We trained together, we ate and drank together, we did pretty much most things together. For those of you who did not have the pleasure to know Chung that well, I will share some personal stories which I hope gives some insight into Chung as a person.
Chung loved Lam Family Hung Kuen, practiced and trained it exactly to Lam Cho Sigung’s instructions. Realising this, I would ask Chung thousands of questions about Hung Kuen and often get him to get Sigung to explain things in detail and in depth. Even as my Cantonese got better Chung would always help me get the finer details of training from sigung. What I used to love about Chung was that he did not just sit there and talk about it, he would roll up his sleeves and do it with you. He would sweat with you and struggle to get the techniques right with you. Even when we went for Yum Cha with Lam Cho sigung, we would get Sigung fired up about kung fu techniques where sigung would often roll up his sleeves and proceed with how we should be doing it correctly there and then. Always hands on, like master like student.
Haak Jai was a great friend and no matter what you asked of him he always did the best he could to help, no matter how reluctant he may have been. One day, at the kung fu studio I asked Chung that if he could teach me Chinese Chess (象棋). Reluctant at first, claiming that it was very difficult to learn but seeing I was genuinely interested, Chung walked over to sigung and asked if they could play together so that I can watch and learn. What I anticipated would be crash learning of Chinese Chess soon turned into a lesson in kung fu strategy for weeks.
He used to love to rest and sleep. He could sleep anywhere at any time. No matter what the circumstances were, Chung could sleep. I remember one year we went to the International Lion Dance Competition in Hong Kong. The whole stadium was roaring with the sound of the lion dancers, the drums, the cymbals and the gongs. It was loud beyond imagination but none of it bothered Chung. Twenty minutes into the show, he was fast asleep. All the way through the competition he was sound asleep on the chair next to me. He woke up just before the end of the show and said “ That was great but you know what else is great? There is a really nice place where they do the best Shanghainese dumplings in Hong Kong. We should go and try it now.” And as always he was right, the dumplings were amazing. On the way back home, he fell asleep on the bus, standing up!
Chung used to love dining out, loved trying different food. We would often travel all over Hong Kong to dine at places off the beaten track that you would never know that existed. And no matter where we were in Hong Kong, he always knew a place that specialised in certain type of dish. On one of many occasions, one day Sigung was invited to a kung fu banquet and we were asked to accompany Sigung and Sije to this party. So after training at the studio, Chung and I decided to take public transport. On the way he turns to me and says “Are you hungry?” which to I say “Always.” Chung says “I know this great noodle place.” So we go out of our way to try these exceptionally tasty noodles. Afterwards, a full belly, we turned up at this kung fu banquet, we did a demo and ate everything on the table. Now, a totally full belly. As we leave the banquet, Chung looks at me smiling, says “Leon!?”, knowing what is coming I say “Yes Chung?”, to which he replies “ I know this other great noodle place, we should go and try it.” So we make our way to yet another great noodle place which turns out to be even better than the previous one. Absolutely full, but we both easily knock down a bowl of noodles each. By this time it is very late at night, limited public transport, so we walk quite a bit to the first mini bus stop. We get the bus and on our way home, all the way through talking about kung fu. Normally, I would get off the bus at my stop and Chung would continue as he lived further away. As I got up to leave, Chung follows me. I say to him“ Are you not going home? Its very late.” to which he replies ”You know what I just remembered that near your place there is this really delicious night snack stand. We should go and try it.” Absolutely stuffed, I say “ Waa, I don’t know if I can eat any more.” to which he says “ Don’t worry, we can do Gung Gee to free some room.”
I can safely say that Chung was one of the most loyal students of Lam Cho sigung that I had known. So much so that he helped the entire family with everything he could. If they needed something, Chung would be there to help, from helping the foreign students to fixing electrical stuff at sigung’s kung fu studio to arranging kung fu seminars and trips all over the world. Chung would take time off his work and we would travel all over Europe with Lam Chun Sing sifu to teach seminars, conduct private lessons and so on.
He was the point man for all the foreign students who visited Lam Cho Sigung’s studio. He would help all the foreign students with everything they needed, from picking them up from the airport to finding accommodation to arranging lessons to training kung fu. Even decades later, my own students from London would be visiting Hong Kong and Chung would be helping them every step of the way. He would never ask for anything in return, but just simply enjoy the fact that he was doing his part as a loyal student and was able to help people whenever he could.
He was always very humble and would never get involved in any of the kung fu politics. We would often hear people making claims on who is whose student, seniority, the pecking order, being the best, and so on. Chung could not care less. He would often say to me, “…who cares. So what. Just learn and practice kung fu from your heart and be the best you can be. People with real skill never make such claims.”
Chung, was pure of heart and loved kung fu with true passion. I learned so much from my big brother and not just about Hung Kuen but about life in general. For me he was an exceptional individual, a true role model and dear brother.
I am truly devastated with his passing but at the same time I feel privileged to have had him in my life. He will forever remain with me in my heart and my thoughts. I love you brother. Rest in peace.