Godfather to Two Generations
By Roger D. Hagood
When I first moved to San Francisco almost three years ago, Grandmaster Ming Lum was among the first of the local kungfu masters who came to welcome me. Although I recognized he was a kungfu gentleman at that time, I didn?t realize to what degree until now.
Avoiding any publicity, he, on more than one occasion, considered but never acquiesced to this article. Perhaps it?s because he didn?t really know me or my intentions. After all, the Chinese proverb says, ?The first three years, the teacher watches the student; the second three years, the student watches the teacher.?
In San Francisco, Grandmaster Ming Lum is known as the Godfather. At least two generations of young masters have benefited from his introductions, advice and guidance. Sifting through scores of old photos with Ming Lum and such notables as Masters Wong Jak Man, C.C. Chen, Chris Chan, Arthur Lee, David Louie, Y.C. Wong, William Chow, Adriano Emperado (and a host of Kenpo and Kajukenpo masters), Ed Parker, Lee Koon Hong, Clarence Lee, Bruce Lee and the Beijing Wushu Team, to photos of the movie stars of his generation such as Shek Kin of Hong Kong and Rick Jason of the USA, I got an idea of the dedication and devotion that this gentleman has expended for our art.
After a pleasant and warm interview in my office, a picture of martial arts development and growth in the USA since 1950 began to take shape and in my opinion, it is clear that it wouldn?t have been the same without this Goodwill Ambassador known as Master Ming Lum. After all, Clifford Kamaka, a Judo expert from Hawaii, was the first non-Chinese to learn martial arts in San Francisco in 1962 (under the legendary Lau Bun), but only at Ming Lum?s referral. With this, Ming Lum opened the door and welcomed other non-Chinese to the traditional world of kungfu. Following is a small portion of the interview that occurred on 3/22/93:
KFM (Kungfu Magazine): Where were you born?
ML (Ming Lum): I was born in Chung San, Canton, China, although I grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii. So I consider myself Hawaiian-Chinese.
KFM: Where did you study kungfu and why?
ML: I began training kungfu as a grade school kid. At that time in Hawaii there were three of the best: Lam Dai Yung, Wong Kuk Fat and Ma Kin. It was at the Chungsan Language school in Honolulu that I trained Fut Gar (Buddha Family) with Professor Lam Dai Yung. He also taught at the Honolulu Ching Wu Physical Culture School (started in Shanghai by the late Huo Yuan Jia).
KFM: But your training was not only kungfu?
ML: I also trained jiujitsu with Professor Okazaki (the first to teach non-Japanese) and Judo with Professor Kenny Kawatachi during the 1940-41 years.
KFM: This was just before WWII began. What happened to martial arts in Hawaii during that time?
ML: When WWII began, everything stopped. Martial arts were replaced with martial law, black outs, curfews, etc. It was during my military service that I lost my arm due to an explosive accident. Afterwards in 1948, I went back to China and got married.
KFM: When did you come to San Francisco?
ML: My brother had a Chinese restaurant in Livermore, CA and asked me to come over and help in 1955. So, I bought a house for $9,000. The payment was $66 a month. Imagine that! In 1957, I began to study with the late Choy Li Fut Grandmaster Lau Bun. I learned three important things!
- Respect others no matter what art they practice.
- Never condemn anyone.
- Every art has something good.
KFM: Why did you go learn kungfu from Lau Bun?
ML: I didn?t want to learn kungfu for fighting, but to learn how a handicapped person could become handi-capable! At that time I also befriended Jimmy Lee (Wing Chun) and Wong Jak Man (Northern Shaolin).
KFM: How did you bring out Kungfu to the public?
ML: During the sixties in the San Fran area, a martial arts friend named Charlie Among and I began to show Shaw Bros. Kungfu films for the public at a Catholic High School Auditorium. The response was good and we made a profit. Wong Jak Man?s students also gave live demos. Also during the sixties, I began to bring Wong Jak Man?s students to compete in the Karate tournaments. This was the first time the Chinese stylists began to compete and perform. During this time, I introduced Robert Kawakami, Chairman of the Board of the Kajukenbo Association of Hawaii to all the San Francisco-based teachers. Professors Chow and Emperado also came over during this time and I introduced Professor Chow to Master Lau Bun. This was the beginning of my friendship with all schools, and kungfu really began to come out for the public eye!
KFM: What can you tell me about Kenpo Professor William Chow and Choy Li Fut Master Lau Bun?s meeting?
ML: I introduced Prof. Chow to Master Lau Bun and it was the only time they met. Both had great respect for the other and they exchanged techniques. At that time there were three great teachers in San Francisco ? Lau Bun, T.Y. Wong and Gee Yung.
KFM: As San Francisco Chinatown?s public relations man, what philosophy did you ascribe to?
ML: Never look too deep into a person?s past ? everyone has something not too good, which is better not to see.
KFM: You were the first to open the door for a non-Chinese to learn Kungfu in San Francisco. Why was it so closed?
ML: In the old days, most Chinese were illegal immigrants and didn?t want to teach something violent or for fighting, for fear of legalities.
More on this kungfu gentleman in future issues and watch for his fascinating book to come!
My old friend Ming Lum and I trained together back in the early 40?s. Today, he has continued to act as liaison officer for the Hawaiian and Chinese Martial Arts community. He is THE Ambassador of Goodwill, with martial arts friends throughout the world who all think very highly of him. He is an optimist. I love him for his cheerfulness and friendliness. He is still the same Ming Lum I knew in the 1940?s.
--Professor Wally Jay
I met Mr. Lum during the late 60s and early 70s when I was first starting out and he served as an inspiration to me and many others at that time. I have the highest respect for him and like to think of him as my kungfu Godfather. It would truly be fortunate if all other martial artists could find such a mentor.
---Sifu Al Dacascos
Ming Lum is a man of words and deeds. His character is impeccable, his integrity beyond reproach. Truly, he is a man to be looked up to and admired in the martial arts world. It is a great honor to have him as a friend and advisor.
Mr. Lum and I are close friends and have traveled extensively throughout the world together. Because of him I have been able to study under many high-level masters and teachers and he has helped many other people within the martial arts community become established and prosper. He?s a wonderful person, a great teacher and he constantly inspires me to this day.
--Master Clarence Tai Lee
Profile: Grandmaster Ming Lum
- Name: Ming Gun Lum
- Age: 65
- Native: Hawaii
- Residence: San Francisco
- Kungfu Styles: Choy Li Fut, Fut Gar
-Honorable Member of Kajukenbo, State of Hawaii
-Chairman of the U.S. Division, U.S.-Phils. Martial Arts Federation
-Shorinji Ryu International, USA Advisor
-Chief Arbitrator, TC 2000 Alliance Tournaments
- Awards: 1992 AMAPA Hall of Fame
- Recreation: Mah Jong and TV
- Favorite Food: Steak
- Favorite Drink: Coffee
- Last Book Read: Martial Arts Magazine
- Strong Point: Respect Everyone
- Weak Point: Never Say No
- Philosophy in Life: They to get along with everyone regardless of race, sex, etc.
- How has martial arts helped in life: Taught me confidence and self-respect.
- What do you think about martial arts today: Good to keep young people out of trouble.
- How to improve martial arts: More emphasis on discipline and hard training.
Click here for Feature Articles from this issue and others published in 1993 .
Written by Roger D. Hagood for KUNGFUMAGAZINE.COM