After seeing the now classic film ‘Enter The Dragon’ starring the late Bruce Lee back in 1973 I thought to myself what a cool thing it would be to take up and learn the martial arts.
I was 17 years old back then and my knowledge of the fighting arts were very much limited to boxing and the such like so you can imagine how impressed I was at seeing the remarkable fighting skills of the Asian martial arts.
After visiting several martial art schools in the area I finally found one that looked suitable for me and was very impressed at the teaching standards on offer.
My selection of this martial art club was totally based on what I could see and the remarkable skills of the instructors taking the class. They were teaching Chinese Boxing, (or Kung Fu as many call it these days), but although they were not Chinese teachers it was clear to see that they had been trained by others to a very high standard.
My initial interest at learning the combat arts at that specific club were totally based on what the instructors were teaching, and back then in the early stages of my training, it never crossed my mind as to what the fighting style was called or even the history of it for that matter – only what was involved and hoping to survive to the end of the lessons. In fact at that point in time I thought all Kung Fu was the same and had no true idea that there were countless other styles of Kung Fu around that each had their own way of doing things and a history of their own.
Not thinking that knowing the history of the combat style I was doing had any true value at that point in time I did not bother to ask further on this subject until around a year later after I attended a seminar type of class in London that had students and teachers from other clubs there and a few, (less than a dozen as I recall at the time), who were Chinese. In fact I did not find out until after the seminar was over that one of them was in fact the main teacher and founder of what we were learning.
I was lucky to meet him during that seminar but it was no more than a nod and a smile and a simple hello as his English did seem somewhat limited and my understanding of Chinese was zero.
His name was Chu Sau Chong, (spoken as Chung), although I was never sure – even to this day – if I had spelt his name correctly.
He did visit the UK a second time that same year, (1974), when he oversaw events at another seminar event that was mainly to do with grading tests but that was the last time I met him.
From what I was told about him he taught an eclectic mix of fighting methods that he called ‘Golden Dragon’ and it was regarded as a family style, not a closely guarded secret style, but just limited within his own family circles before coming over to the UK in the early part of the 1960’s to show and teach others.
I was also informed that he lived in the mining town of Tangshan, China and passed away towards the end of 1974. I never found out what was the cause of death but from what I could gather he was around 90 plus years old so maybe the age factor was part of the reason. Tangshan it should be noted was hit by a massive Earthquake just two years later in 1976 – killing many thousands of people.
During my first visit to the London seminar I was somewhat puzzled as to why some were calling what we did Chin Lum while others, from other clubs, were calling it Jin Loong, so after the event I made a point of asking my own instructors what that was all about.
At first I did think that those from the other clubs in attendance were learning a different style of Kung Fu but my teachers explained that the name had been changed from Jin Loong, meaning Golden Dragon, to Chin Lum – also meaning Golden Dragon.
When I asked why was the named changed it was explained to me that it was for commercial purposes only to make it more popular in the UK but some students still called it by the original name. The change of name as I understood it back then had only came about just a couple of years beforehand. I later realised it was a breakaway version of the original system that was being spearheaded by Mick Taylor and Kevin Meredith.
Kevin was my main teacher back then along with Clive Murray who was a guest Wing Chun teacher.
Not being an expert on how to write or speak Chinese I made a point of asking others how the two names could mean the same thing. Based upon what I was told Chin was the written way of saying Jin in spoken form and Loong or Lum was the spoken way of saying Lung in writing – or something along those basic lines.
Chuan Fa, meaning Fist Way, was the more older and traditional way of saying Chinese Boxing before it became known as Kung Fu today.
By the time I had qualified as a black belt things had started to change in the way things were being done, including, teaching in English only for the most part.
Although the hard core basics remained, and the teaching of students in rows were the same, Chin Lum had now become more like a army style set up with the more elaborate aspects removed in favour of being more direct and combat effective.
To coin a common term it had become ‘westernised’.
So what does Chin Lum look like in action?
Keeping in mind that Chin Lum is based on a number of fighting methods from various other fighting styles – an eclectic mixed style – some would say it is like Hung Gar for the medium and long range way of fighting and like Wing Chun for the close ‘in-fighting’ techniques. Some would even compare it to Kenpo Karate.
Today Chin Lum is something of a rare name in the world of martial arts with only a few people still teaching it but in its day it was a very popular name and fighting style with many thousands trained in it. My own school trained over 4,000 people from 1979 to 2009
The Dragon Martial Arts School
Originally founded in Birmingham in 1979 the Dragon Martial Arts School held classes at various locations within the Midlands region until becoming based in Tamworth, (UK), in 1984. The school was closed down in December 2009 when I retired from teaching classes.
After spending 6 years as both a student and an assistant instructor within the MT Chinese Boxing Association under Mick Taylor and The British Wong Kung Fu Federation under Kevin Meredith and Clive Murray I was then given permission to open up my own classes which I called The Dragon Martial Arts School in 1979.
Thinking of a name for a new martial art club, it turned out, was a nightmare of a thing to come up with as it had to be easy to remember, for advertising purposes, and also not a copy of some other club name in the region but after a few weeks, and in desperation to find a name in time ready for the first class to open, the name Dragon Martial Arts School was reluctantly selected.
With the help of co-founder Roger Moore, who was nicknamed James Bond – 007 due to having the same name as the current actor playing that part back in those days, we opened up our very first class with just 5 new students turning up, but although something of a shaky start – within just 2 months we had 3 classes up and running with around 10 students attending per class.
Over the coming few years things more or less went fine but it was not until I moved to Tamworth, (UK), in 1984 that things began to truly take off.
With Roger now in charge of the Birmingham classes I began the job of setting up some new classes in and around the Tamworth area and by 1986 membership had risen to over a hundred students attending the various class branches, but it was not until 1988 that true results were being made for all those long hours of not only teaching and getting some students up to black belt standard and all the walking around shops to get posters up, that recognition had been truly established.
Without the help of the internet and websites back then the only means to promote what you did was through posters in shops window, adverts in newspapers, competition events or word of mouth, as the saying goes, so to get recognition in any shape or form was truly a bonus for any club trying to spread the word about what they did – and in 1988 that was exactly what happened after a hard and long first 9 years at building up a club with a good reputation.
Within just a short period of 18 months several events and promotional projects had taken place which in turn had increased the number of members joining and making the Dragon Martial Arts School not only the largest club in the region, based on the number of members, but also the most well known.
A charity fundraising event for the Birmingham Children’s Hospital, which was shortly followed by an invitation to put on a display for the Tamworth Lions Carnival and some local school open day events, resulted in a further invitation to attend Keele University to not only put on an instructional demonstration but also teach special seminars. This further resulted in becoming a technical advisor in various ways.
Other fundraising events that ranged from O.A.P. groups and nursing homes to being involved on national TV including I.T.V’s Telethon, and even a radio interview that lasted for 2 hours, resulted in widespread promotion of the school.
During the late 1980’s and early 1990’s we also produced 9 instructional and promotional videos that were given out for free to students. These videos were made on the very first generation of handheld video recording machines, but sadly, not realising that one day in many years to come the internet would become available to show such recordings they were never kept.
The club taught Kung Fu, freestyle kickboxing and also mainly focused on streetwise self defence, and at various points in time, we also had around a dozen assistant black belt instructors in attendance.