Jet Li’s latest film is tremendous! Dealing the T’ai Ping Kuo (Taiping Revolt–sometimes also known as the Boxer Rebellion) which rocked the corrupt Qing Dynasty struggling to hold on to power in China in the 1860s, ‘Warlords!’ shows the Taiping Rebels’ threat to China’s long-term stability was greater than even that of the wicked Qing–the despised Manchu Government of China at that time.
Jet Li plays General Pang, Leader of the Shan Army, striving to bring stability to the Lower Yangtze Basin against a background of Qing intrigue. True to character, Li Lin-Jie’s Chaquan, aka the Kung Fu of The Muslims or, known to some even more familiarly, as Tan Tui (Spring Leg), is displayed forcefully in ways typical of Nothern Shaoiin Kung Fu. Pang’s vision and his deep long-range understanding of battlefield tactics and strategy is also conveyed authentically.
The Changchuan style of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu we practice in Hoan Lung Quan (part of Shaolin Fists International) comes from contemporary sources. At’a was Warlord General of The Ever Victorious Army–known as such because they were always successful in getting their pay!’ Warlords!’ makes clear that this was the most problematic area imaginable at that time! They were only successful in this as they were paid by the British Government, being led (nominally) by Captain (later General) Charles Gordon, the faintly smiling darling of Victorian Britain (1) who was to die later at Khartoum.
After the Taipings were defeated the Ever Victorious Army was disbanded and most members returned to their ‘home’–many came fron Malaya. Leong Fu, born in Malaysia, was the son of Chinese immigrants and in the 1950,’s he met Si Gung Rex Jones, serving with the SAS (Special Air Service) who became Si Jo (Founder of Style) Leong Fu’s student, learning Ao Tai Dao (Atado), Jern Jing Khuen Fat (Elephant Fist Way) Changquan & much more, eventually becoming Fei Lung (Flying Dragon). In 1972 (approximately) back in the U.K. he founded Fei Lung Quan (Flying dragon Society).Hence the dragon tattoo on my left forearm with the single dot above its head (No 1 Student Mark) Si Gung Rex Jones (and Sifu John Gunning- the inspiration behind Hoan Lung Quan) transferred some of the content to me– and I’ve taught some of this!
Grandmaster Yap Leong (currently my most esteemed Teacher) was raised in an Ipoh (Malaysia) street immediately adjacent to Leong Fu’s Kung Fu Quan and knows many interesting anecdotes about him. Few realise that Grandmaster Leong Fu was also World Middleweight Wrestling Champion for 3 consecutive years, retiring undefeated in1963. Grandmaster Yap Leong clearly remembers his fight with King Kong (Asian Wrestling Champion at that time) in Kuala Lumpur, when he was young. It is almost certain that Si Jo Leong Fu was known to Si Jo Chee Kim Thong the amazingly talented teacher (Champion of 5 of China’s 22 Provinces) (2) of Grandmaster Yap Leong, Grandmaster Chan See Meng and a host of modern-day kung fu luminaries.
So, congratulations to Li Lin Jie for his fine performance as General Pang and the insight “Warlords!” provides into the background influences and powerful dynamics shaping Shaolin Kung Fu in 19th Century China and for making clear its battlefield origins and applications.
Notes and References:
(1) Rodzinski, W A History of China Vol 1 p.303
(2) See Kung Fu Secrets Magazine Vols 2 (2003) and 3 (2006) for fuller details of the astounding skills and abilities of Grandmaster Chee Kim Thong.