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The Chin Woo Association Emblem

Above: This is the Chin Woo Association Emblem

The Three Principles :

  • Wisdom: Man of Wisdom cannot be misled
  • Philosophy: Man of Philosophy has no worry
  • Courage: Man of courage has no fear

The Ten Chin Woo Concepts :

1. Chinwoo concept of Man : Respect for excellence through moral, intellectual and physical training.

2. Chinwoo concept of Character : Respect for others and self respect through justice and integrity.

3. Chinwoo concept of Carriage : Humanity and equality through honesty and frankness.

4. Chinwoo concept of Words and Deeds : A person's dealing are
judged by his words and deeds.

5. Chinwoo concept of Trustworthiness : To keep every pledge and

6. Chinwoo concept of Punctuality : To be punctual in appointment with no apology.

7. Chinwoo concept of Justice : To uphold justice impartially.

8. Chinwoo concept of Service : To render service with honour.

9. Chinwoo concept of Welfare : To give and not to take.

10. Chinwoo concept of Fraternity : To love others as you love yourself and your own brothers.

The Shield :
Represents protection

The Three Inner Circles : Represent the three principles of Chin Woo to be united under,brotherhood. Red represents philosophy. Blue represents freedom.

The gold outer boundary represents equality, while the four top angles in the shield represent: Philosophy, Knowledge, Deep Thinking and Judgement. The Fifth bottom angle recognises that the previous four are reliant on the fifth that stands for Practice.

The Chin Woo () Association (formed in 1915) is a Chinese cultural association that oversees a number of sports and activities, mostly, but not entirely of Chinese origin. Since it's beginning, through to the present day, the pride that the Chinese have in their culture has been reflected by its huge membership and its striving for excellence. Like for example the British Amateur Sports association it controls, regulates and encourages the continuation of participation in the activities that it supports.

Originally based in China encouraging wushu, () - Chinese martial arts - only, it now covers many continents with branches in many parts of China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, England, Australia, U.S.A, Russia and many other countries, organising a huge spectrum of activities. Activities such as wushu, Chinese calligraphy, painting, music, dancing, cuisine, and many others of of Chinese origin are practised and taught under the Chin Woo in Asia aswell as other parts of the world. Additionally the huge variety of more Western type activities and sports in Asian countries including tennis, basketball and football are almost entirely organised by the Chin Woo, which is the case in Malaysia where the Chin Woo is particularly well established.

The Chin Woo was officially founded in 1915 by the students of a wushu shi fu (), a Master and teacher of wushu called Huo Yuan Jia (), however although officially founded by these students it was this Huo himself whose work really established it and is recognised as the true founder. The Chin Woo having been founded on the spirit of a martial art represents a great pride in all things Chinese. Martial arts as the name suggests have developed from methods of war, strategy or technique be it armed or unarmed, and war is often waged on external forces, thereby excentuating national feeling. The timing of the Chin Woo's birth is also of no coincidence, it was born out of two centuries of desperation and low moral for China, who had been humiliated, attacked, invaded and conquered by a number of foreign powers, which is immensely degrading for any country, more so for a proud one with a history of being the "Emperor of Asia".

Chin Woo founder: Master Huo Yuan Jia

Though the number of activities under the parental wing of the modern Chin Woo Association are vast, wushu or Kung fu () as it has now become popularly (though somewhat incorrectly) known, accounts for the majority of members and the general perception of the Chin Woo association is one of the encouragement of martial arts first and foremost, so a look at the Chin Woo advocates a thorough look at the Chinese martial arts.

The Chinese have infinite pride in their Confucian values, which they feel have kept their countries free from the social afflictions that have plagued the Western world, their medicine, the equal of and arguably better than Western medicine kept in the dark for so long due to Western prejudices and lack of translators in the medical field, and their overall approach to health be it through exercise or eating. These three aspects are ingrained in Kung fu and hence Chin Woo, as the martial arts are not only effective self defence systems but practised for health reasons (scientifically proved to improve health and lengthen life), and to improve one's character with its discipline and unselfish philosophies.

True Kung fu Masters know how to heal using bone setting techniques, acupuncture aswell as herbal methods, traditional Chinese techniques of healing. The exceptional ones can also heal using Qi Gong (), an energy similar to the Hindu concept of prana that is generated by the healer and used to help alleviate illness in the patient. This method is widely dismissed by Western doctors as a fairy tale, but any large reputable Chinese hospital in China will have a department especially for doctors trained in this skill, with results that indisputably prove its effectiveness. Kung fu Masters under the Chin Woo association have philosophies that follow Confucian values aswell as "knightly" type attitudes on loyalty, bravery and honour, and such Masters preach the benefits of both regular exercise and a balanced diet in traditional Chinese style.

Though the Chin Woo can claim to be founded at the beginning of this century it would be the first to admit that the roots of Kung fu go back many more centuries back, and a brief look at its history would help clarify Chin Woo's position in the Chinese community and the values it is founded upon. The history is a long and complicated one, based on fact and legend, well documented and discussed. The origin of martial arts throughout Asia are widely accepted to have come from China, be it Japanese, Korean, Thai or any other Asian martial art. Either taken directly from China or their own simple native style of combat completely changed by the Chinese influence. China being a great and ancient culture has a few millennium of experience in warfare and it is from this that much of martial art tradition comes from, especially the practises using weapons. Through the centuries these practices have been developed and improved, and form the basis of modern day martial arts.

In keeping with the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang there was a second more gentle path by which Kung fu was evolved. An Indian monk, legend has it is Bodhidharma or Ta-Mo born in Kanchipuram came to China in A.D. 520 and resided in Songshan Shaolin () monastery. Warrior monks had long been part of the temple probably having learnt from years of caring for warriors from defeated armies, or as legends suggest from observing animals fighting amongst themselves and the adjusting these movements to usable fighting techniques. TA-MO on arriving to the monastery noticed that the monks became drowsy and lethargic from the days meditation and prayers, and could not give their full commitment. He brought the monks breathing exercises, a moral guidance to make the practice of martial arts more acceptable, more emphasis on rigorous, regular exercise and the way to cultivate Qi. The knowledge of Qi was already in China as its benefits are understood through acupuncture, but its use in martial arts had not been established.

The warrior monks of the Shaolin temples became renowned for their phenomenal martial abilities and over the next thousand years were often called upon by the Emperors for assistance. The year 1672 was another turning point for martial arts as then Emperors considered such a strong independent fighting force as dangerous, and surrounded the southern Shaolin temple in Fukien with his troops, burning it to the ground. All but eighteen monks died in the fire, many of the survivors escaping by wrapping themselves in a large yellow curtain. However, the troops outside killed thirteen more, only five escaped by hiding under a bridge. The five survivors are rumoured to have split up by travelling, joining the Beijing Opera (hence its martial arts influence), accepted by other temples, but teaching what they knew where they went. Thus five styles emerged, each changed by a new student and given a new name hence the now numerous styles (over a thousand) of Kung fu in China.

Throughout China's history those practising the martial arts often had involvement with secret societies, sometimes with and other times against the government, thus many associations, societies and styles evolved under such circumstances. The birth of Chin Woo, though in times of oppression in the government and the country, was from a single honourable man with no such links or interests in political ends, other than infusing pride, patriotism, feelings of self worth and honour back into his countrymen. It is the story of his life, known by Chinese people around the world, from all walks of life, that has instilled much pride in their nation and culture.

To research the Chin Woo association and comment on the pride it has generated without a description of Huo's life, his legendary feats and humbling humility (all be it an informal one taken from Chin Woo memorial album), would mean an incomplete analysis.

Huo Yuan Jia, the founder, was born in 1868, near Tianjin, in Xiaonan village (). He was the fourth in a family of ten, his father a famous Kung fu practitioner whose job was to guard for merchant caravans travelling to Manchuria and back. His family had a long tradition of being practitioners of Kung fu, and when Huo, who was born weak and susceptible to illness (at an early age contracted yellow jaundice that was to stay with him periodically for the rest of his life), his father forbade him to practice Kung fu incase he tarnished the family by not attaining a high enough standard. So Huo was encouraged to follow scholarly pursuits. This was perhaps a blessing, as he in later life became renowned for his humility and educated judgement, however at the time it was a great hurt to his pride which was only fuelled by his continuously losing wrestling bouts with local eight and nine year old children at the age of twelve.

Refusing to accept his father's word Huo dug out a small hole in the wall of the training area where his father taught his brothers a form of Kung fu called "Labyrinth Style". Each day he quietly sat and watched, and each night he went to a date tree grove and practised secretly. This continued for ten years. In 1890 a stranger came to the house and on seeing a demonstration by Huo's younger brother, goaded him into a fight. The brother was beaten, but to the family's surprise Huo himself got up and defeated the stranger. Neighbouring practitioners also were defeated in local contests by Huo, and his name started to spread.

Working in unison with his father, they escorted a group of travelling religious men, and were affronted by a bandit who gave them a letter threatening the monks with attack from his 1,600 strong army. The following day, unpeturbed, Huo met the bandit leader's challenge, defeating him breaking both his arms in the process, and his many troops all dispersed. This feat soon became common knowledge, adding further to the growing fame of Huo. On his return he sold firewood to make a living, and was reputed to carry two hundred kilograms of wood on his back.


In 1896 he worked as a porter in medicine in a medicine shop in Tianjin, where he learned much about the world, for the shop owner, a doctor, had recently returned from Japan, and made him aware of the threat that the Japanese posed towards China. The "Boxer Rebellion" in 1898 helped to accentuate his growing realisation that China was a weak country being torn up and humiliated by foreign powers, both Western and Asian.

Huo's real fame as an expert in Wushu came when in 1901 he responded to leaflets advertising a challenge by a Russian wrestler who claimed to be unbeatable in China. On meeting Huo at the designated Xiyuan Park, where a boxing ring had been set up, the Russian wrestler took back his challenge. Overawed by Huo's humble yet indomitable spirit he said through an interpreter that he had to make such challenges in order to make a living and shortly after he openly stated this in a newspaper.

In 1909 a British boxer came to Shanghai and regularly trained in the Apollo Theatre, lifting huge weights, saying derogatory statements about the Chinese and generally attempting to intimidate anyone. Huo Yuan Jia was invited by the Wushu delefation to compete with this man. When the two men met, there could be no agreement on the rules with the Westerner used to punching only and that to be directed above the waist, as is the culture in Western boxing. Huo on the other hand believed anything should be allowed, as is the case in Eastern wushu arts. They met again and an agreement was made, that the first person to cause his opponent to fall to the floor was the winner. The day of the scheduled bout arrived, but the British boxer did not!

The teacher of the bandit that Huo defeated on behalf of the monks, Zhang Wen Dat, held a competition over the space of the month, inviting any contestants in the hope of luring Huo. Huo however, felt no need to prove himself, so did not enter. After the competition ended, Zhang who had still not attained his aim, encouraged by an entourage of friends in Shanghai, contacted Huo openly challenging him. Huo, feeling ill, allowed his top student Liu Zhengshen to meet the challenge, and the two battled it out. No decision could be reached after a considerable period, and the next day the newspapers printed the result. Huo fearing that such coverage by the papers might attract a bad element, approached Zhang to suggest an end to "shake hands", but was rebuked by Zhang.

Following further derision from Zhang, Huo finally accepted his challenge and defeated Zhang with just two moves. Huo said to Zhang that although he was Chinese he had not learnt how to act humbly, (). His disappointment in people like Zhang and his realisation that there was a new growth in the use of new technology like firearms led Huo to debate over practical uses of Kung fu, and he confided this to a friend. His friend Qi You () said to him that, as Chinese people, they should just do their best, in practice, physically and mentally therefore improving themselves spiritually, this being a timeless and most important aspect of Wushu, regardless of improving technology or unscrupulous people. These words inspired Huo, and with the encouragement of his friends, money from sponsors and the support from much of Shanghai's population he set up the Chin Woo Physical Training School at the North Gate of Shanghai.

The Chin Woo once established became very popular, and in its first summer its ranks swelled dramatically. Huo, still having bouts of Yellow jaundice started seeing a Japanese doctor for medication, and from this meeting Huo's reputation was soon known throughout the Japanese martial arts schools. Despite Huo's impressive reputation the Japanese Judo Association, based in Shanghai, remained unconvinced and invited Huo to a competition. The top ranked Judo teacher turned out to be Huo's doctor.

Huo's top student, Liu Zheng sheng () competed with a judo practitioner who could not even move him, in an example of bad sportsmanship Liu's opponent leapt to the floor feigning defeat and then attempted to kick Liu in the groin, Liu side-stepped and then defeated the competitor. This however brought shame on the club which prompted ten of the students to rush towards Liu's master, Huo. All were brought to the floor by attacks to the hand by Huo, leaving all including the Japanese teacher with broken hands.

Huo's illness had not improved, so he returned to the doctor for a new prescription. A few later on the 14th of September 1909, Huo became violently ill, and passed away. The Japanese doctor fled, and under such circumstances, Huo's medicine was brought by his students to be tested, and it was found to be a poison causing the lung tissue to break down.

Stories of such great men can be a blend of truth and overexaggerated feats, for example there is an alternative story of his death, that it was due to his yellow jaundice still so prevalent as an adult, that with his fighting prowess earned him the nicknamed "Yellow Faced Tiger" (). However despite aspects of the story that may be disputable, what cannot be understated was the degree of pride that Huo gave to the people which multiplied so much when he opened the Chin Woo and what it stands for grew today, however cannot compete with the acute intensity that Huo generated in his period.

The reasons for Huo's popularity and hence the strong feelings for the Chin Woo must attribute much to the timing, as China had probably reached a very low point in its history morale. The Manchurians had founded their dynasty in 1644, only the second foreign power to rule China ever, and the first for nearly three centuries, this was the first insult to Imperial China with the majority of its ethnicity being Han. The Manchurians were slowly assimilated into the Chinese and over the centuries this insult was becoming forgotten.

Unfortunately the ever present threat of European greed tipped the balance and in 1839 the first Opium War started, completed three years later, with China being completely outclassed, something it was not used to. This was a huge psychological blow that devastated the people's mind aswell as the country as a whole, who were under the belief that Imperial China was simply blessed by heaven and could not be defeated. Following that was the second defeat, while all the time other European powers including Russia, Germany, France, and the Netherlands were looking hungrily towards China.

China perhaps became accustomed to suffering at the hands of the intimidating Europeans, but then in 1894 China suffered ultimate humiliation, defeat at the hands of the Japanese, Asians like the Chinese, who were considered little less than "fishermen" from an island. No psychological justifications could be made, they were not ghostly white or bigger in stature, but Asians, from a country that was traditionally subservient or at least respectful to China. China though was powerless to resist, previous wars, famines, floods and harvest failures meant China was drained. 1898 saw the "Boxer Rebellion" take a grip on the country, further provoking foreign powers, and further draining its resources.

When, at the turn of the century, Japan posed a more serious threat China was unable to put up a token resistance, and with each new year China's hatred of Japan increased. Japan had designs on making China part of it's colony, these intentions were felt by the Chinese people and it played a strong part on the actions of the Chinese government, which was weak and had become subservient to the whims of the Japanese.

This presented one of the problems to setting up a martial arts school for Huo, and it is directly due to the threat of the Japanese, that then and now the Chin Woo is a "Physical Education" or "Athletic School" not a "Martial Arts School". Huo needed to disguise the fact that this school was for learning of self defence, the building up of health and mind and instilling pride and partrionism back to its members and the surrounding community. So he opened it shrouding its main intent by supporting all physical exercises and activities. Martial Arts and activities of Chinese origin that generated pride to the country, always got priority, though its was not openly obvious.

The popularity of Huo and for what he stood for, was obvious by the numerous amount of members that joined at the outset, but the numbers grew and as a statement against the Japanese, but perhaps more accurately the Chinese government knew this, and rather risk certain defeat with braver actions, tried to manoeuvre itself into a better position with more cowardly co-operative means that the Japanese could recognise for what they were. The people however, wanted to fight for their dignity, despite their desperate situation, and this in Shanghai was reflected in the numbers joining Huo's ranks.

Huo's death caused a certain amount of despair, and the numbers of members depleted, but with the Japanese's insolent "21 Demands" in 1915 the students of Huo were spurred on. They bought a new building, reorganised the school, and renamed it the "Chin Woo Athletic Association". A great deal of work was put in by the members, books and magazines published and more classes were opened. The "forms", sets of standard moves that contain martial applications, (but whose main aim is to instil conditioning, spirit and discipline) were further improved and refined. It was from this new birth of enthusiasm, that new styles of Kung fu other than what Huo taught, were accepted under the mantle of the association, and in 1918 the Chin Woo opened an association in Nathan Road in Hong Kong.

In 1920, the Shanghai Central Chin Woo sent five representatives known as the "Five Northern Dragons" () to Singapore and Malaysia. Their influence on the Chinese peoples and other Asians in Malaysia is still obvious as it has one of the most affluent Chin Woo Associations in the world. Later these same five returned to Guang Zhou () to organise another institute where this time other famous Southern Masters were invited to attend, and this is where Chin Woo extended it's excellence to cover all styles. This move helped cross the bridge to all practitioners of Kung fu, as there is often much argument about which style is most effective, so this brought unequivocal support for the Chin Woo from the people thus uniting all members pride under one association. It is arguably this one move that has kept the people's pride in the Chin Woo for so long and to such a loyalty.

The Chin Woo Association closed all its divisions during the Second World Was but resumed business soon after. Malaysia saw the most impressive growth, with many schools being built through out its lands, this may be coincidence, or this maybe is due to the presence of the British government in Malaysia. Though the country's government was not strong enough to voice its disapproval convincingly the people showed their feelings through their membership to the Chin Woo, whose ranks were far from being filled by those of not only Chinese parentage.

The instinctual aim of mankind to be part of a group is a well established psychological trait, whether that group is for the intelligent, a labour supporter, bungee jumpers or those of African heritage. This aim to be part of a group is a strong part of a person's individuality. This identity is highly valued, and efforts are made to attract new members and keep old ones.

A culture or nation is one such grouping. Such groups, especially when they feel under attack (even under scrutiny), are likely to close ranks and assert that they are special, different, or unique from other cultures or nations. This claim of distinctiveness nourishes a group and sustains the pride of its members. Groups avoid making cross-cultural comparisons and challenge any comparisons that are made.

This Chin Woo is one such group itself and it also represents what happens when a group, in this case the Chinese people, feels threatened. Whether it is from the Japanese, the British the need of the Chinese to prove their identity was fostered in the Chin Woo. Indeed, just from living in another country where the urge to establish one's country of origin, to oneself or others, becomes important, may well be the reason for the Chin Woo's popularity with Chinese living in foreign lands. Indeed this is partially supported in the Chinese idiom;

  • "A thousand days at home, peace;
  • A moment abroad, trouble."

The popularity in Malaysia alone can be assessed by just looking at the number of branches of the Chin Woo in action today: Kuala Lumpur, Penang, both have two, Perak has three, and there is one in Sarawak, Malacca and Seramban.

The popularity of the Chin Woo has always remained, but another individual better known in the west must be credited for boosting its prestige and as a result its members. Post World War II decades have seen the USA as the main power in the world, and with it much that is American has crossed cultures welcomed or begrudgingly. European countries, though not developing aswell in general still have an affluent past to fall back on, but many Asian countries have not such fortune. Western ideas, businesses, and films especially American plaguing the East, and numerous wars wrecking many countries had to an extent left many Asian countries feeling that they could not compete with the West.

Strangely it took a film star, in the 1960's to restore a tidal wave of pride back to Asians the world over. The screen and Hollywood films being so influential, meant that Bruce Lee (), a Hong Kong born Chinese actor starring in Hollywood films and Asian films, could popularise the Chin Woo again. A charismatic, highly talented martial artist, Bruce Lee, through film acquainted the West with Kung fu. His influence started the chain reaction of teaching Kung fu to westerners that had previously been covetedly taught to Chinese only. However, it was one of his films, "Fist of Fury", based loosely on the character of Liu Zhengsheng, Huo's senior student, that was the biggest film success in Asia ever.

Bruce Lee had such a positive effect on the Chinese, as they for the first time had a Chinese actor hero worship rather than a Westerner, and by him playing the part of Liu from the Chin Woo, it was brought to the attention of many who had forgotten, or never known the Association that had once before been so instrumental in the augmentation of Chinese pride. The Chin Woo's popularity soon became such that the membership once again grew, but this time to record heights.

The Chin Woo has established itself in many Western countries, the membership being overwhelmingly filled by Westerners rather than Chinese, though there are Chinese within the body. Overseas Chinese have been given the luxury in countries such as, the USA and England to see their children go to a Chin Woo class and learn under a real traditional Master of outstanding talent in his art. The pride these parents have, just exudes when they see their children perform, and when they see how Westerners show the utmost respect for Chinese customs and etiquette.

To bring to a close the legacy of the Chin Woo Association as an expression of Chinese national feeling, another look, albeit brief at the reasons for its continued popularity and how it has achieved this, should suffice. The original problem that has faced Huo at the onset and the changing world, with it's improving technology and striving for more modern interests. In the beginning the technology of firearms meant that the practicality of a fighting art without their inclusion was greatly reduced. Today with the nature of fighting even further evolved the problem is excentuated further.

At the outset, the problem was solved by elaborating on the self improvement that practice brought, to the mind, body and soul. Today the message is very much the same, in a world where the majority of people lead far from physically active lives, and a person's spirit is equally ignored the Chin Woo and its concepts are highly beneficial. Human nature is apt to appreciate the, "good old days", and Huo played on this element back then, to do your best despite modern changes, and this same feeling is alive today. The concepts and principles of the Chin Woo that have not been changed are based on timeless issues.

The Chin Woo was born at a time when the Chinese people were desperate to grasp at something to give them a sense of worth, and its principles and patriotic theme was perfect for the needs of the people. Once it had given pride to the people they were keen to remain loyal, and as the principles strongly compliment Confucian values that are held so closely in Chinese cultures, they have remained. The boost that the 1960's Bruce Lee gave the Chin Woo, has served to bring it to a new audience and keep it in the minds of the Chinese the world over. Perhaps the future will see its popularity increase further when more people realise that modern culture for all its conveniences and luxuries takes the struggle out of life that is so beneficial for their mental, physical and spiritual health. Regardless, the Chin Woo has been a celebrated association to Chinese people, one of legend aswell as reassuring fact, and is likely to remain so.

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