When I was a young man I was in search of this miraculous art of Wing Chun. By chance I met Master Moy Yat and became a “special student” and trained under him for about a year. His art was excellent but there was “something missing” for me. I was looking at an article by my good friend Bob Brown on a closed-door style of Wing Chun from Mainland, China called Fut Sao Buddha Hand. It told of this great master named Henry Leung. I called Bob and asked if I could meet Master Leung. He said that was impossible because Leung doesn’t take in outside students. Bob said I could ask for Peter Chow and that he would train me in the art instead. He gave me the address to the Friendship Coffee Shop and I went the next evening! I walked into a crowded coffee shop and asked the middle aged man with a slight build standing behind the counter if Peter Chow were there. He looked me up and down and smiled. “Maybe he come later,” he replied in broken English.
I waited for three hours as the crowd thinned. The man then tossed me a book titled, Wing Tsun, by Leung Ting. He said, “You want to learn this?” I shook my head yes, enthusiastically. He said to come back tomorrow morning. I arrived bright and early and the man approached me with a mop. Before I could utter a word he motioned for me to mop the floor. I started mopping, thinking to myself, What am I doing? A customer walked in and addressed the man.
“Hey, Henry, got a cup of coffee?” Henry nodded to me. With a smile on my face I served the customer. Thus began my relationship with Sifu.
This story and more is published in the late James Cama’s book, Fut Sao Wing chun.
My First Lesson
Later that day Sifu moved some tables and demonstrated the Siu Lin Tao form for me. He then told me to practice for one hour in ma bo horse stance. He then sat down, crossed his legs, and began reading the paper. Sifu sipped on his Hennesy and puffed on his cigarette. After 20 minutes I figured he wasn’t paying attention so while holding the tan sao position I dropped the fist of my opposite hand down to rest. Without lifting his head, Sifu gestured for me to lift my fist back to chamber position. Then he turned the page of his paper and continued reading. From that moment on I never slacked off in my training.
One day, Sifu asked me about my martial arts experience. I told him I was a third degree black belt. He said, “Karate has good kick?” I said, yes. He said, “Kick me.” I knew I had a very fast round kick so I thought I’d just place it next to his face. I said okay and threw it as fast as I could. The next thing I knew I was on the floor in pain, holding my groin. He counter kicked me to the groin! Sifu helped me up and said, “Karate has good grab punch?” Now I’m thinking, I have him now because the grab-punch was my favorite technique. He couldn’t possibly get away. Sifu held out his wrist, daring me to grab it. I moved swiftly and could feel the hair on his wrist. The next thing I know, I’m again on the floor choking. Sifu helps me up and I bow deeply. “Please teach me, master.”
One evening Sifu and I were in the basement of his building. I noticed that Sifu was exceptionally energized. I knew this because his color would change when he brought his chi (internal energy) up. He would turn a fading brown color and his lips would blacken. I also noticed his gait was nimble and quick. Sifu started to walk/punch vigorously toward an old piece of plywood shelving. His fist smashed the wood to bits, like an explosion. Then he grabbed a rattan pole and went over to an old metal door. Sifu whipped that pole and made inch-deep indents. Ten of them! I took the pole and swung it like Babe Ruth swung his bat. I barely made a scratch!
The Young Lion Challenges the Wolf
Sifu tells me that he has accepted the challenge of this young master of the Hung Kuen (Tiger/Crane) style. I begged Sifu to let me fight him for him, but he refuses. The young master came in and yelled, “I came to challenge your Fut Sao.” Sifu motioned for him to attack with a calmness that was unsettling. The young master leapt with incredible speed and strength. His claws were ripping ferociously at Sifu. I was about to jump up when Sifu deftly trapped the young masters hands. Sifu then returned the claw and sent him flying across the room in semi-consciousness. I then threw him out and rushed back to Sifu. He smiled and told me that like Fut Sao he reflected back the young master’s aggression without letting it touch him.
Meeting of the Grand Masters
One afternoon in New York’s Chinatown Sifu was walking and noticed the gait of a slight man coming towards him. They immediately sensed each other’s energy and smiled. They walked into a nearby coffee shop and sat down. The gentleman took his pipe out of his pocket and stuffed tobacco into it. He then rubbed the end with his forefinger and thumb. A flame rose as it lit. Sifu smiled. This is how Henry Leung met the great Lam Sang, the late grandmaster of the Kwang Sai Jook Lum Tang Lang Pai Southern Mantis Kung-fu system. I later had the great fortune of becoming a disciple of this rare art as well.
Years passed by and I became a closed-door disciple under Grandmaster Leung. Eventually I became the first student to finish the entire Fut Sao system and to be certified to teach the art of Buddha Hand Wing Chun. Sifu Leung taught the system secretly for so long and because training was difficult at times, many students never finished learning the whole system. In fear of the art becoming extinct, and with Grandmaster Leung’s blessing, I decided to open the gate and teach the art publicly. Classes are held weekly at the Hong Ching Chinese Freemasons in New York Chinatown.
Publisher’s Note: We are sad to add that Sifu James Cama passed away on the day his book was released. The legacy lives on in his children and students and in the pages of his book, Fut Sao Wing Chun: The Leung Family Buddha Hand.