Jeong Yim 張炎 is known for being the founder of the Hung Sing 鴻勝 branch of Choy Li Fut 蔡李佛 in Futsan (Fóshān 佛山), and one of the best fighters of his time.
Jeong Yim was born in a village in the district of San Woi 新會 and had been orphaned at an early age, so his uncle had taken care of him. As a child, he began his martial arts training with Li Yau-San 李友山, the same who had been Chan Heung's 陳享 second master.
In 1836, his uncle had to move to another locality and, without being able to take his nephew with him, he asked his friend Chan Heung, who had just returned to his village of King Mui 京梅, to take care of the young man. Chan Heung took him to his village and Jeong Yim began to work there as a gardener.
Image of Jeong Yim being preserved in the Hung Sing Gwoon 鴻勝舘 in Fóshān 佛山
In those days it was not allowed to learn a Kung Fu style for those who were not members of the clan and carried the family name, so Jeong Yim could not attend the classes in which the new style, Choy Li Fut, was taught. However, Jeong Yim was not a novice in the martial arts and was able to copy the movements he saw the members of the Chan clan practiced. Thus, he trained secretly at night when no one saw him.
But one night, Chan Heung himself, who had gone for a walk, discovered Jeong Yim practicing the same movements he taught. Chan Heung was surprised by the great skill of the young man, and decided to teach him secretly, behind the elders of the clan.
Several years passed in which this training was kept secret; Chan Heung met with his young pupil at night to teach him without anyone else knowing. But one day, with Chan Heung out of the village, the students belonging to the family clan rebuked Jeong Yim and the dispute ended in a fight. It seems that Jeong Yim emerged victorious from the encounter, but seeing him use the movements that Chan Heung had taught him, it was revealed that he had been receiving training. The elders of the clan forced Chan Heung to expel Jeong Yim from the village.
Chan Heung had to comply with the order, but sent his disciple to continue his training with a monk whose Buddhist name was Ching Cho 青草, 'Green Grass', who lived somewhere in the Guǎngxī 广西 province. It is said that Jeong Yim found the monk and for eight years, from 1841 to 1849, learned from him the Fut Ga 佛家 style of the Buddha's Palm.
Different versions of the story:
After learning with Ching Cho, Jeong Yim returned to Fóshān where he was training fighters to feed the Tài Píng 太平 rebellion. According to some sources, it was Jeong Yim himself who founded Fóshān's Hung Sing school. It is also said that in those years, Chan Heung and Jeong Yim met again, and that he shared with his former master the techniques he had learned from monk Ching Cho. According to this version, it would be in 1850 when Chan Heung and Jeong Yim, jointly, systematized the Choy Li Fut style, and that is why the Fóshān branch considers both masters as the founders.
Master Wong Zan Gong 黄振江 of the Hung Sing Gwoon 鴻勝舘 in Fóshān 佛山
practicing a staff form
According to another version, Chan Heung was based only on the Li Ga 李家 and the Choy Ga 蔡家 to create his style, and Jeong Yim would add to this the Fut Ga style of the Buddha's Palm. Thus, the word 'Fut' included in the name of the style would have its origin in the intention of honouring the teachings of Ching Cho. This would explain the profusion of palm techniques in the Futsan branch of Choy Li Fut, but also supposes that Chan Heung's uncle, Yuen-Woo 陳遠護, would not have been master of Fut Ga but of a different style of Kung Fu...
Finally, there are those who identify monk Ching Cho with Choy Fok 蔡褔 himself...
There are very few written documents in which there is evidence of Jeong Yim's existence; his story has been transmitted orally and the popular narrative is mixed with legend. In fact, it is the only master in our lineage of which no portrait is available. It seems that during the years of the revolution some fictitious stories were created in order to increase the popularity of the style in the nearby provinces. In any case, his legacy is well alive in the Hung Sing Gwoon 鴻勝舘 of Futsan.
Thus things, each branch of the style has its own version of how Choy Li Fut was founded. The truth is that we'll never be able to find out. We limit ourselves to telling the story as we were taught and to offer other versions so that the reader can form his own opinion.
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