Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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Hong Kong = Kung Fu?

THIS guy is the reason I moved to Hong Kong

In the minds of many boys stifled by the post-industrial classrooms of Europe and America, Hong Kong equals just one thing: Kung Fu.

And I married one such boy, once he was grown up – or something like it. He convinced me to move to Hong Kong so he could fulfill his dream of studying with a Kung Fu master. I had a look around the art galleries of Central Hong Kong, got a jolt of energy from chaotic Kowloon, and took a stroll along the secluded pathways of Lamma Island. Straight away I was hooked on Hong Kong’s raw streets and cosmopolitan aspirations. Its traditions transformed into modern life.

Wan Kam Leung has created a unique form of Kung Fu. This has not endeared him to local competitors. He is (in)famous throughout Hong Kong for his unorthodox methods of training and transforming martial arts. But as you can see in the picture above, this master isn’t one to be trifled with.

When I visited his studio, he was happy to demonstrate his martial arts moves for my camera, suddenly as agile as someone four decades younger than his sixty-five years. He grasped a heavy six-foot pole and handled it as though it were light as a toothpick, balancing and stabbing it in a sequence of choreographed moves. But when he took out his knives and flayed invisible opponents like they were fillet mignon, I knew I had the right shot.

Later that year I handed him a copy of the book H is for Hong Kong, and opened it to his picture. I had illustrated it with my favorite expressions of Hong Kong’s culture. Wan Kam Leung took the book in his hand – so strong it could easily crush both of mine – and smiled.

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