Nam Pai Chuan

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The name Nam Pai Chuan was devised by Sifu Lai and means ‘Northern Southern Fist’, in recognition of the fact that the style incorporates attributes of both Northern and Southern Chinese martial arts.

The technical aspects of Nam Pai Chuan were devised by Master Leow and Sifu Lai, with the combat and set-piece sparring sequences largely devised by Master Leow. The traditional forms, sequences and weapons techniques were devised by Sifu Lai.

Nam Pai Chuan is a Shaolin kung fu style with centres in the UK, Belgium, France, New Zealand, Canada, Japan and Malaysia. The name means “North-South fist” and indicates its origin in the central Chinese style called “Fat Gar Kuen”.

This style was brought to Malaysia by Cho-Si Seh Koh San, who became abbot of the Siong Lim temple in Singapore, and died in 1960 at the age of 74. One of his students was Quek Hen Choon, is famous for his demonstrations of Ying Qigong (hard Chi Gung).

The style was brought to London in 1979 by one of his students and founder of Nam Pai Chuan, Sifu Christopher Lai, and has since expanded to include many centres around the UK and other countries.

Nam Pai Chuan is a very broad style, and includes kicking, punching, locking (chin na), take-downs, throwing, pressure points (dim mak), weapons and many other techniques, as well as Chi Gung (breathing energy exercises).

Nam Pai Chuan Symbol

The Shaolin System Nam Pai Chuan has its roots and origins in the traditional Martial Arts practiced by the Shaolin Monks of China over 200 years ago. Though much of martial arts history could be told in the form of legends and stories of martial arts heroes, it is widely accepted that Shaolin Kung Fu was brought into China and Japan/Korea in the year 525AD by a travelling Buddhist monk known to the Chinese as ‘Da Moh’ (Bodhidharma).

He arrived at the Shaolin Temple of Sung Shan in Honan province northern China and organized the monks at the monastery to carry out solitary meditation, but became frustrated when the monks frequently fell asleep. He introduced the monks to an exercise regime which was to improve their stamina and therefore their mental capabilities. These eighteen basic exercises are deemed to be the beginnings of the Shaolin Martial Arts.

He is credited with having taught Kung Fu to the monks in order to strengthen them for meditation and prayer. It is hard to believe that war-like nations like the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans did not possess a martial arts skill of their own. The truth is probably that Da Moh consolidated these skills and had the organisational ability to propound it to his students. Through the years, the art has grown and developed into many diverse forms and schools but regardless of the style, they can all be traced back to Da Moh.

The Nam Pai Chuan tradition can trace its line far back to Great Grandmaster Hui Cheng of the Chek Chian Nan Hai Pooi Chee Temple in China. Master Hui was a direct descendant of the Southern Shaolin tradition taught by Buddhist monks in the tradition of Da Moh. One of Master Hui Cheng’s students was Grand Master Seh Koh San.

Cho Si Seh Koh San was a legendary figure in martial arts of the Far East. The Nam Pai Chuan school and style owe its origin largely to his teachings. He is the great grandmaster of the Nam Pai Chuan System. He belonged to the 2nd chamber 48th generation of Shaolin and was the Abbot of the Siong Lim Temple in Singapore until his death in 1960 at the age of 74.

The art taught by Cho Si Seh Koh San was known as ‘Shaolin Kuen’ or ‘Shaolin Martial Arts’. It was also commonly referred to in the Far East as ‘Fatt Gar Kuen’ or “Buddhist Fist”. The School of Cho Si Seh Koh San still flourishes today and the students taught by him belong to the 2nd chamber 49th generation of Shaolin. One of his students was Grandmaster Quek Hen Choon.

Grandmaster Quek Hen Choon studied and trained under Cho Si Seh Koh San until his master’s death, after which he returned to Malaysia to teach. Master Quek is particularly renowned for his demonstrations of Hard Chi Kung. In the sixties, examples of which included breaking marble table tops on his back and with his hands causing a sensation.

He represents the original 50th generation of Shaolin and his students come from Malaysia, Singapore and China. In 1971 he started his first own school Quek Heng Choon Martial Arts Sport School. In 1977 he initiated the Kuala Lumpur Song Shan Shaolin Wushu Association.

Master Quek is the permanent Chief Instructor in this school. He still resides in Malaysia and to date, he is considered to be one of the oldest, important and most influential students of Cho Si Seh Koh San still alive. Master Christopher Lai Khee Choong, the chief instructor of the Shaolin System Nam Pai Chuan in Europe was a student of Grandmaster Quek.

Sifu Lai, 2nd chamber 50th generation of Shaolin has studied martial arts since 1959 and in particular Shaolin Kung Fu from 1967 to 1979. In those years, training was intense in the traditional manner and was undertaken on a daily basis, often twice a day. Sifu Lai also trained with Master Leow Cheng Koon, who was the chief instructor of the Taekwondo Federation. Master Leow Cheng Koon’s brand of martial arts transcended Taekwondo and had incorporated other arts he had learnt, some of which include Chinese Kung Fu, Hapkido and Hwarang-Do.

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Master Lai found there was much to be gained by using modern Taekwondo training and teaching techniques in teaching and unlocking of the traditions of Chinese martial arts. He helped in the formation of the Malaysian Taekwondo Association (WTF) in 1974 and was its first Secretary-General from 1974 until his departure in 1979. In 1977, Sifu Lai decided to emigrate to United Kingdom (UK), where he had undertaken his legal education.

Since martial arts were part of his life, he felt the need to bring his school with him. Prior to his departure, he asked Grandmaster Quek to clarify the name of the style he had been taught. Grandmaster Quek gave his permission and stated that the style would be called ‘Shaolin Nam Pai Chuan’, or ‘North South Fist’ in recognition of the fact that it contained elements of Northern and Southern Chinese kung fu.

The first ever martial arts of this form to be taught in Europe were taught in Swiss Cottage, London. The system became a member of the British Council for Chinese Martial Arts (BCCMA), the national governing body for Chinese Martial Arts in UK. The system has grown and progressed smoothly with classes in many cities in the UK and abroad.

Master Christopher Lai Khee Choon is the chief instructor of the system and Grandmaster Quek still remains the technical adviser of the system. Today, the system has finally become of age and is being taught in the sincere and dedicated manner as seen by Sifu Lai and his predecessors.