Grandmaster Chiu Kau
Grandmaster Chiu Kau performing Tit Sien Kuen (Iron Wire Form) in 1968.
Chiu Kau was
committed to Kung Fu

Chiu Kau is a top Hung Gar (or Hung Kuen) Kung Fu Master in Hong Kong. He came to appreciate the value of Kung Fu the hard way during the years he worked in the mines of Malaya - virtually as a slave labourer in the beginning of the century.
Now retired from teaching, the task of upholding the tradition is in the hands of his able sons and daughters Chiu Lai Fong, Chiu Kim Fung, Chiu Kim Ching, Chiu Wai and Chiu Chi Ling.

Sifu Chiu Kau is a very prominent figure of Hung Kuen Kung Fu in Hong Kong. At 80 years of age and with over 40 years of teaching Kung Fu and practising Chinese medicine to his credit, Chiu Kau is deservedly honoured as a leader of Hung Kuen.
Sam Kong County of Kwangtung Province is the home town of Chiu Kau. This famous son of Sam Kong County is not only a master of Kung Fu but also a man of principles. Discipline and generosity towards others are two virtues he always insist upon, and has set himself as an example for his children and students to look up to.

Chiu Kau left home at a very small age, under the care of his uncle, he went to Malaya to work as a miner. He was but twelve years old. There was a large number of Chinese who worked as labourers in the dangerous mines. They were enticed overseas because of poverty at home and under the pretence of good wages. The truth was revealed soon upon arrival. The Chinese labourers worked under the most appalling conditions imaginable and received only a pittance in payment. To make matters worse, they were often maltreated and bullied. Chiu Kau was then only a puny young boy, and a favourite target for taunting. The injustice seen, heard and experienced had branded an inerasable impression in young Chiu Kau's mind. A decision which decided his future was made.
The agony of seeing fellow compatriots who found no comfort in a place far away from home and the loved ones, yet had to tolerate insults and physical assaults was something that he could not comprehend. He had decided to learn Kung Fu for self-defence and teach fellow compatriots to do so.


Grandmaster Chiu Kau

Grandmaster Chiu Kau
Chiu Kau and his student Shiu Choum (1950's)

During a visit to Singapore when he was just 14 years old, Chiu Kau witnessed the sensational fight which shocked Singapore and Malaya. It was the fight between Ling Chai Yeuk, the crack Hung Kuen expert and Ha Shan Fu, a noted exponent of internal Kung Fu. For the fight, they had signed an agreement to accept any consequence as a result of the fight.
Ling Chai Yeuk was only a nickname (Ling Chai means pretty-face), his real name was forgotten by the general public. Ling Chai Yeuk was reputed to possess enormous strength, he could crush three dice in his hand without any trouble. Ha Shan Fu was not an easy opponent, he was a solidly built and powerful individual.

It was reported that he once slayed two oxen with his bare hands. It happened when he disturbed two oxen fighting in a field. One after the other, the oxen charged at him. Ha Shan Fu evaded the first charging ox and kicked with his powerful right foot at its belly. The animal dropped to the ground after struggling on its feet for two or three faltering steps. But then the full fury of the other charging beast was on its way at great speed.
Again Ha evaded the powerful charging beast, grabbed one of its horns as his right hand dealt a powerful blow to its backbone. The impact of the blow was most stunning as the beast dropped to the ground soundly. Ha Shan Fu was really someone to be reckoned with and certainly worthy of his nickname as Ha Shan Fu means "a tiger descended from the mountain".


Grandmaster Chiu Kau
Chiu Kau and his student Yau Kay Yuk (1950's)

The event attracted tremendous publicity and a huge crowd had gathered on the day of the contest. And Chiu Kau was there.
As soon as the gong was struck to signal the commencement of the fight, Ha Shan Fu began to attack and piled on the pressure. The situation was now reversed as Ling Chai Yeuk evaded the relentless attack of Ha Shan Fu just as he had done in slaying the bulls. This titanic struggle did not last long as Ling Chai Yeuk turned the tide to attack. Under the fierce onslaught, Ha Shan Fu could hardly return any resistance. In a lightning fast move, Ha Shan Fu was seen struck on the belly. With blood gushing out and a last painful cry, Ha Shan Fu fell motionless on the floor. The fierce fighting tiger that was Ha Shan Shu just moments ago was now dead.
Chi Kau learned one thing from the fight, he knew that Hung Kuen was superior, and it was also the Kung Fu he had been looking for. The young boy went immediately to Wong Sai Wing, uncle of Ling Chai Yeuk, to master Kung Fu. The road was a long and difficult one, but Chiu Kau took everything in stride. Later, Wong Sai Wing also taught Chiu Kau osteopathy, the art of healing using traditional Chinese methods of treatment and herbal medicine.


Grandmaster Chiu Kau
Peking - Chiu Kau performing Tiger and Crane form

Home longing is always in the heart of every Chinese who worked abroad. Chiu Kau was 27 years old when he finally saved enough to return to China. He was stopping on his way in Hong Kong when he became aware of the presence of the great Lam Sai Wing there. So, instead of continuing onto China, he stayed in Hong Kong so that he could go to this true great master of Hung Kuen Kung Fu for his expert tuition and for advanced studies in herbal medicine.
Lam Sai Wing was pleased to have a student who had already built a very sound foundation. According to Chiu Kau, Lam Sai Wing was then in the peak of his technical excellence, he often demonstrated his Chi during practice. His breathing rattled the house. Chiu Kau was more determined then ever to emulate his teacher.

The young Chiu Kau needed no reminder of his aims in learning Kung Fu. He used to make frequent long trips to the many towns and villages in Kwang­tung Province, giving his services to injured workers and farmers in remote villages and to teach the country youths Kung Fu. He was always welcome in any village or small town he visited.
Chiu Kau's sense of justice. One day he witnessed a gang of louts making threats to street hawkers and vendors, while extorting protection fee. The gang beat up everyone of these defenceless people. When they came to an elderly woman, and were about to give her the same rough treatment, Chiu Kau came out and intervened. He gave the gang a stern warning in no uncertain manner.


Group Photo

Grandmaster Chiu Kau
Grandmaster Chiu Kau and his wife Shiu Ying

Apparently, the gang was taken aback by the husky stranger's appearance and stopped the rampaging at once, but the leader gave a threat to Chiu Kau to "wait and see." A few days later, Chiu Kau met the same gang again, the gang was there to annoy Chiu Kau as he was having his own stall on the street, selling medicine and giving treatment to the sick. The hooligans treaded on his display, and the ring leader was the same man he met several days earlier. They came prepared to attack Chiu Kau. The tense atmosphere immediately attracted a crowd of onlookers, and the rest of the street vendors also stood behind Chiu Kau, for once they displayed unity in dealing with the blackmailers who had threaten their livelihood. The pack of cowards was scared off easily. From then on peace returned to this group of poor people who made a living as small traders.
Some incidents could not always be solved by non-violent means. Chiu Kau dislikes the use of force to solve problems, but there was one that he could not avoid. Visitors to Hong Kong would know that Hong Kong is linked to Kowloon peninsula by a tunnel under the sea and frequent ferry services.

In the days well before the cross harbour tunnel and regular ferries, commuters were dependant on haphazard services ran by the boat people. On top of the ferry charges, passengers had also to give in to the demand of extortionists who charged an embarkation fee. This was no less than daylight robbery. This gang of extortionists did not seem to know the art of gentle persuasion, it was their practice to beat up the victim first then to collect the money.
One day, Chiu Kau had occasioned to cross. the harbour. On arrival at the wharf, he heard the boat people shouting warning to passengers to get ready and pay the toll to the blackmailing gang. But the gang was already coming at Chiu Kau's direction, and beating every one on sight. One man was badly beaten as he was standing in front of Chiu Kau. The victim was in distress but he would not dare to call out in fear of reprisals.


Grandmaster Chiu Kau
Grandmaster receives a medal directly form Chinese Governement

The robbers then proceeded to demand money. The timid onlookers simply looked on in anger. Chiu Kau came out and challenged the gang, he call them despicable blood-suckers who had no place in the society. The gang had never been challenged much less being told of before. The leader wasted no time to lead his henchmen and attacked. Little did the gang leader know that he was leading his men crashing against a brick wall. In a few simple moves, Chiu Kau had them sprawling on the ground. It drew a round of applause and shouts of approval from the onlookers, who had been bullied for so long. Not only did Chiu Kau give the gang a hiding, he also got rid of them for good as they did not re-appear to bother the commuters.
These were but two of many incidents during Chiu Kau's long years in Hong Kong. Over these long years, Chiu Kau has never forgotten the resolution he made in learning Kung Fu, so many years ago in Malaya. Though he has retired for many years, his five children, all grown-ups, are now having schools of their own, to carry on the same ideal which their father fostered.

(Real Kung Fu Nr. 7, Vol. 1, March 1976, pp. 20-24)