My father and me in the 1940s

This was how it happened. My beloved father, Wong York Sang (黄育生), was a clerk at Soon Tuck Wooi Koon, and he often brought me, a small boy of ten, to his office. At that time Sifu Lai Chin Wah (黎振华) taught kungfu at Soon Tuck Wooi Koon every night. “Sifu” (师父) meaning “Master” is a polite address for kungfu instructors.

Whenever my father worked night shift, I would follow him to Soon Tuck Wooi Koon and sat on the threshold of the back-hall and watched entranced, as Sifu Lai Chin Wah taught his students kungfu. I was at the threshold every night, fascinated by the beautiful kungfu movements, observing without obtruding the students and without making any noise. Yet my nightly presence was soon felt. One momentous night Sifu Lai Chin Wah asked his disciples.

“Who’s this little boy? He’s so interested that he sits here and watches us every night. In fact, he is more consistent in his attendance than many of you!”

“Oh, he’s the son of our clerk, Mr. Wong,” answered Chiew Shi Khern (招树裉), one of his senior students who was also my father’s friend.

“Boy!” Sifu Lai Chin Wah said to me, “What’s your name?”

“I’m called Kit Chye (杰仔).” Cantonese people often add the word “Chye”, which means “Boy”, to their male children’s names.

“Well, Kit Chye,” Sifu Lai Chin Wah said kindly, “wouldn’t you like to learn kungfu?”

“Sure!” I answered promptly. “But I have no money.”

“Doesn’t matter! Come and learn here. I’ll teach you free of charge,” said Sifu Lai benevolently.

I can’t remember the exact date of that night. If I could, I would have celebrated the thirtieth anniversary (in 1985 when this was written) of my kungfu initiation over caviar and champagne. And nobody would have guessed at that time that I would one day become one of Sifu Lai’s best and proudest disciples.

The little boy on the right in front was me. The master standing was Uncle Righteousness

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