Ark Yuey Wong (1900-1987) Great Grandmaster of the Five Family Five Animal System
Grandmaster Ark Yuey Wong (Wong Ark-Yuey) was born in the large village of Toysun Tien Sum Chien, Canton, Southern China, in 1899/1900 into a moderately wealthy family. Early on, he was exposed to the ancient fighting arts as a need to defend himself from articulated or actual threats of harm. In those days bandits roamed the countryside. A younger jealous brother, in order to weaken the older man and obtain his wealth, attacked his great-grandfather. Upon recovering from the attack, the old man decreed that all his male descendants were obligated to learn Kung Fu when they started school at the age of seven if they were to receive any inheritance. It was at that age that Ark Wong began his training under 14 masters within a Shao Lin Temple (Sifu Wong explained that the Cantonese pronunciation of "Siu Lam", sometimes seen as Sil Lum is the same as the more popular term Shao Lin). His first Shifu was the well- respected master, Lam Ark Fun. Master Lam was rather old at this time but still highly revered as a great teacher of the art of Choy Li Fut. At the age of twelve, Ark Wong was taught the art of Chinese Herbal Medicine, a skill that he would employ extensively later in life from Master Lam. Ark Wong studied under another well-respected master, Ho Ark Yeng from whom he learned Mawk Gar Kung Fu. Both Master Lam and Master Ho were hired by a representative of the great-grandfather to teach the Wong family exclusively. In his later teens, Ark Wong went to college and gave private Kung-fu lessons in Canton. It was during this time that he met Pung/Pang, the chief monk of the Canton area and one of the greatest Kung-fu fighters in China.
He studied under this master for a year and a half. Previously, all of Wong's training was of the external aspects of Kung Fu. It was from Pung that he began to learn the internal aspects. Master Pung invited Wong to his ascetic quarters and told him to place a lighted candle at the end of the room. According to Wong, Pung was able to chop the candle in half from yards away, merely with a flick of the finger. “I had heard of power like that, but I had never seen it demonstrated”, Wong recalled years ago. When civil unrest occurred in Canton, Wong returned to his village.
Here in Lin Chuan Yuan, Putien County, he opened a Kung Fu school for his family and the younger children of the area. One New Year's, as was the custom, all the Kung Fu schools gathered to put on the "Lion Dancing" demonstration. On the basis of these demonstrations by the different schools the masters were chosen. Only the best demonstrators would receive the title "Master." At the remarkable age, of nineteen, Wong Ark Yuey was made Master.
Master Wong immigrated to the United States in his early twenties, around 1921. His uncle taught him Chinese herbal healing and acupuncture. At that time, kung fu was taught among Chinese and mostly in Chinese tongs and associations. Since Chinese have many festivities and cultural beliefs, the art of lion and dragon dance were taught to accommodate the celebration ritual. Many Chinese benefited from Wong's martial art lessons during the 40's and 50's when he stayed in San Francisco, Stockton and Oakland. This was the birth of Ng Ga Kuen and Ng Ying Ga in the United States. In 1929, he moved to the Los Angeles area, where he taught exclusively for the Wong family the first two years. He then opened his Chinese Herb shop and Kung Fu school, called Wah Que (War Kyu) or Overseas Chinese Martial Arts Association. In 1931, Wong went to china to instruct the Wong family in the Martial Arts. In 1934, he returned to Los Angeles and resumed his teaching. At the young age of 31, Master Wong was given the title of Grandmaster.
In 1959, Wong opened his doors to the public, to any sincere student who wanted to learn from a Master. Previously, as mentioned, all Chinese Kung Fu was taught to Chinese only, as it was kept a secret. He taught the Five Family styles of Cho Li, Fut, Mok, and Hung and the five animals of the Tiger, Dragon, Crane, Leopard and Snake. Master Wong taught Tai Chi Chuan, five element fist, natural fist and the Hop Gar Lama fist. He also taught the 18 traditional Shaolin weapons, Lion and Dragon dancing, Chinese Acupuncture, Massage, and Herbal medicine. During his last 30 years, many people entered the school. Especially during and after the Bruce Lee kung fu movie era. But only very few had completed the entire course.
Master Wong was also a traditional Chinese herb doctor and helped many people with arthritis because of his special herb liniment called Dit Da Jow, a special Shaolin temple recipe handed down to only those students who were loyal and sincere.
Master Wong was in the original pilot movie of the television series "Kung Fu", with actor David Carridine, who played the part of "Kuai Chang Caine," (Grasshopper). Master Wong was the greatest Master of our century and the true "Pioneer" of Chinese Kung Fu in America. Master Wong was on the front cover of the 1965 issue of "Black Belt Magazine" and has had numerous articles about him in "Inside Kung Fu Magazine."
Due to the destruction of the Temple and all of its artists, only a small handful of students inherited a system with its complete information. It is a fact that Grandmaster Wong was the only man in this country with the entire Five Family Fist Southern Shaolin system. After the destruction of the temple only a few survived and migrated to Hong Kong and are now deceased. It is an unfortunate fact that this system almost died with the destruction of the temple in 1927. Were it not for Grandmaster Wong Ark-Yuey, the system would probably not exist today.