In January of 1965, Black Belt magazine interviewed Southern Shaolin Kung Fu Grandmaster Wong Ark-Yuey. Grandmaster Wong was the first to introduce Chinese Kung Fu to the American public as well as being one of the last to complete the Shaolin Temple Five Family Fist training before the temple was burned to the ground in 1927 and most of its inhabitants and teachers were killed.
Grandmaster Wong Ark-Yuey was born in 1899 in the Toi San village near Canton, Southern China. (The previous article stated 1900, sometimes the years can vary because of the difference between the Chinese calendar and the western one). In those days bandits were roaming the country and Master Wong's Grandfather made all males in the Wong family study kung fu. Wong started at the age of seven and he became a master of kung fu before he immigrated to the United States around 1920. He first opened a school in Stockton California, and then later on moved to Los Angeles area in 1929, where Master Wong taught exclusively for the Wong family for the first two years. Then he opened his Chinese Herb shop and Kung Fu School, called War Que (“War Kyu”) Overseas Chinese Martial Arts Association. He first studied under very respected masters Lam Ark-Fun and Ho Yeng, then later under the Chief Monk of Canton, Pang.
Master Wong opened his doors to the public in 1965, to any sincere student who wanted to learn from a Master. Previously, all Chinese Kung Fu was taught to Chinese only, as it was kept a secret. He taught the Five Family styles of Tsoi (Choi), Li, Fut, Mawk (Mok), and Hung and the five animals of the Tiger, Dragon, Crane, Leopard and Snake as well as the later animals of Monkey and Praying Mantis. Master Wong also taught Tai Chi Chuan, Five Element Fist, Natural Fist, and Southern Lama Fist. He also taught the 18 traditional Shaolin weapons, Lion and Dragon dancing, Chinese Acupuncture, Massage, and Herb medicine to name a few.
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 the actor David Carradine, who played the part of “Kuai Chang Caine”, (Grasshopper). He was the greatest Master of our century and the true “Pioneer” of Chinese Kung Fu in America.
Master Wong passed away on his birthday in January of 1987 at the age of 88. He was always helping people and devoted his whole life to Kung Fu and Chinese medicine. Those who studied from him and knew him as a good friend truly miss him. He was one of the last of the old Masters but his legacy and his Association is being carried on today by a few of his old students who are now Masters themselves.
Although Grandmaster Ark Wong trained many students, only a select few received the entire system and full essence of what he had to offer. This is common practice in all martial arts systems and these select few are called direct inheritors or inheritors of a system. Master Wong had five direct inheritors of his systems and knowledge. These inheritors were Ralph Shun (deceased), John Leoning (deceased), John Davidson (deceased), Ma Se Ming, and David E. Kash.