Interview GM Yee

29/05/2013 20:00

Interview given in October 2012

WORLD KUNG FU LEAGUE:
Grand Master Frank Yee (Yee Chi Wai) is in Brazil and the World Kung Fu League is honored to interview him and to share his experience and his knowledge with all our affiliates.         

Grand Master, first of all, it is an honor and a privilege having you here and thank you for sharing this interview with our affiliates. This is a special occasion for us, to be able to hear your ideas about Kung Fu.

GRAND MASTER FRANK YEE:
It is a pleasure to answer your questions. I always believed that a martial art must be like a family. I hope our association will always consider The World Kung Fu League as a friend.

WORLD KUNG FU LEAGUE:
The last Olympic Games took place in London and we ask ourselves why Kung Fu is not part of the Olympic Games. Hung Ga has taken part in many international competitions. Do you wish and think it possible for Kung Fu to take part in the Olympic Games?

GRAND MASTER FRANK YEE:
There were other martial arts in the Olympic Games before Kung Fu tried to enroll, like Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Greek-Roman and Boxing. As they started before and were well promoted, they have been well received.

Chinese Wu Shu is similar to Olympic gymnastics regarding the forms. San Da, on the other hand, is similar to Judo, Boxing and Tae Kwon Do. That is why it is so difficult for these modalities to become part of the Olympic Games.

In my opinion, if Kung Fu is to be included, I suggest that it should be the Tai Chi Chuan style. Tai Chi Chuan has the advantage of being practiced not only as a form but also as an exercise. It is soft in comparison with other Olympic martial arts. Besides, it can be practiced by people of all ages and is more popular than Wu Shu.

Nowadays everybody trains Tai Chi Chuan for its health benefits but we must not forget its martiality.

I have myself spoken with the man in charge of the Wu Shu Council to let Tai Chi Chuan in and they were receptive to my proposal but they said that they would include San Da also.

WORLD KUNG FU LEAGUE:
You started practicing Kung Fu very young with your father. How did it influence your future?

GRAND MASTER FRANK YEE:
Since the beginning of my training I had in mind that I wanted to be a martial artist. After graduating as a mechanical engineer at George Brown University, I followed the martial path.

My father already practiced Kung Fu when I was a boy and this no doubt has influenced me. One day I saw my father (Yee Yuin) defend himself against more than 10 people in one go and he did so without getting hurt. From that day on I wanted to be like him and to become a martial artist.

However, my father was always busy with his work and had no time to train me. He was practicing Hung Ga and he took me to a famous master in that style, Yuen Ling. This was a special day for me and I trained with my master until his death.

WORLD KUNG FU LEAGUE:
When you see a country so different from China, such as Brazil or the USA, practicing Kung Fu and learning the culture and history of China, how do you feel?

GRAND MASTER FRANK YEE:
In 2003 I made a TV program where I taught Hung Ga 6 months a year, nearly every day. This was one of the most popular TV programs of Canton TV. Later on this program was also sold to some Asian countries such as Korea and Japan.

In my opinion, Chinese Kung Fu has been used as a business. They use the name Shao Lin to open up schools. Of those, some teach the true martial art, but not many.

In Europe and in the USA Kung Fu is practiced for self- defense. In Brazil I suppose that people have enjoyed Kung Fu for some time and I am happy that this remains the case until now. 

WORLD KUNG FU LEAGUE:
How was your experience when you moved to Canada? Why did you decide to go to the USA? How did that influence the expansion of Kung Fu?

GRAND MASTER FRANK YEE:
When I was 16 years old (in 1968), I immigrated to Canada with my parents. In order to have an extra income I taught Kung Fu there in the famous Hung Moon Association, at the Chinese Community Center and in the George Brown University. The Chinese Community Centre of New York invited us to run a Seminar representing Canada in the Chinese New Year. During that time I realized that I would have a better opportunity to promote my art in the USA. So I went to New York to teach Kung Fu.

WORLD KUNG FU LEAGUE:
You have an Association where your top disciples can train Kung Fu and live free of charge. Can you tell us more about it?

GRAND MASTER FRANK YEE:
In 1984 I was invited by the Chinese government to exchange martial arts knowledge in that country. I found out that they were only promoting Wu Shu (Modern) and were not giving importance to traditional Kung Fu.

About 20 years ago, despite giving seminars around the world, I decided to go back to China to teach traditional Kung Fu.

I teach Kung Fu in China 9 months a year. Twenty years ago people in China were poor and had no money to pay the monthly fees. I used the money I gained from Martial Arts to teach in Taishan (Canton province) for free. Many people there like traditional Martial Arts and therefore each class had an average of 100 students.

I choose about 10 serious students; I pay them a salary and rent them a place to live. All they have to do is to train Kung Fu under my guidance. The agreement is: you have to teach and promote Hung Ga for the next generation.

After many years teaching in China, we took part in the first Traditional Kung Fu Championship. We got first place in the categories of Free Hands, Long Weapons, Short Weapons, and Group Forms. We also got first place in the traditional Lion Dance.

Today many of my disciples are Sifus and the majority have their own school or teach in renowned institutions in China.  

WORLD KUNG FU LEAGUE:
You have also studied Chinese Medicine, Dit Da. What is your opinion about the benefits of this art for the health of body and mind?

GRAND MASTER FRANK YEE:
When I learned Kung Fu with my Master many years ago, he also taught me Chinese medicine. This is because when we trained Kung Fu we used to get hurt a lot. By learning Dit Da, you can treat yourself and look after your students.

In those days we also practiced Chinese medicine to gain a bit of extra money.

In my opinion, there are 3 requisites for a martial artist:

         - Martial Knowledge (Wen)

         - Martial Virtue (Wu De)

         - Chinese Medicine (Dit Da)

         - Chinese Philosophy (Dao)

If you only know how to fight, you are a fighter but not a martial artist. 

WORLD KUNG FU LEAGUE:
You are the only disciple of Master Yuen Ling who dedicated your life to teach Traditional Kung Fu. Can you tell us about this and the importance of teaching this martial art?

GRAND MASTER FRANK YEE:
My Sifu Yuen Ling had many successful disciples. The majority of my Si Hings (brothers) has their own jobs and businesses. In Hong Kong, where I learned Kung Fu, rent is very expensive. That is why the majority of the teachers only teach part-time.

I am the only one, to my knowledge, to teach full-time, because I am in the USA. But I still train with my brothers every year in Hong Kong. 

WORLD KUNG FU LEAGUE:
Grand Master Frank Yee, thank you very much for this interview.


Interview and translation into English: Lucia Hungria
Translation from Chinese: Alex Lo (Lo Hsiang Chi)

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