Jow Ga Returns Home

On Sunday, July 8, 2018, we began our journey from Virginia to southern China. Students of Grandmaster Hoy K. Lee, a well-respected man of the Jow Ga Kung Fu system, we had fairly straightforward objectives. We were to compete in a tournament, meet and spend some time with our Jow Ga brothers and sisters in China, learn about our school's lineage, and visit historical landmarks and tourist attractions across the country.

We were on a plane for several hours and arrived absolutely exhausted. We were now in the future – twelve hours in the future, to be exact – and what was our night had become day. We disembarked at Guangzhou airport and were greeted by another sifu in the Jow Ga family. With the exception of our sifu and simo, no one could understand Cantonese or Mandarin. But we immediately recognized the symbols on the sign that he was carrying.


Instantly invigorated, we made our way outside to find that we had our own bus. Loading up, we headed to our hotel. After check-in and freshening up a bit, we took a short walk to a restaurant nearly connected to the hotel. The building was massive, with an enormous foyer. We were ushered upstairs to a gigantic banquet hall, the sort that would typically host weddings, and were seated at a large round table with an equally impressive lazy susan. We chatted with our beloved simo and the wait staff while being served tea. Our group knew better than to drink any water or have ice while here. It was a bit of a culture shock because, as martial artists, we were accustomed to drink only water. In China, tea is served with every meal and is a fascinating culture all to itself. After a few moments of recalling events of the flight, layovers, and such, the wait staff started to bring out dim sum. I'm rather experienced in a lot of Chinese customs, practices and food, and I most certainly am no stranger to dim sum; but I was absolutely floored by the quality of the ingredients, and the flavors were out of this world. Every meal we had in Guangzhou was of equal caliber.

​Dim Sum in Guangzhou

With our minds freshly blown by the contrast between what we had thought was authentic Chinese food back in the US and the delicious meal we had just consumed, we headed off to a rice wine brewery and museum. This place must have catered to a lot of English-speaking tourists as the signs and posters had English on them. We were then offered samples of some of their favorite products – quite a treat after all the traveling and the large meal. It was really interesting to learn the processes and some history on rice wine. Our quick tourist moment was soon over as we retired to the hotel to rest up for a spell.

Five Tigers Memorial HallWe spent the rest of the week visiting Kung Fu schools. There were so many that I actually lost count. At every school our Kung Fu family increased in size as we made new friends and shared our cultures with one another. Of the many amazing experiences we had in South China, what stands out is visiting the 5 Tigers Museum and the Memorial.

The first school we visited set the precedent for every school we visited after. We would be greeted by the entourage of the school's very best Lion Dance Team, including instruments and rapid explosions of firecrackers. Then there would be a meet and greet session, followed by the host school demonstrating some hand forms and weapons forms. Lastly were the photos – scores of them taken at every location we went to. As it turned out, people in China were as eager to meet us as we were to meet them. It was quite the contrast to the way things generally are in the United States.

First school visited in Guangzhou

In our travels in southern China we had the unique opportunity to visit a training hall purported to be well over 700 years old: Si Cheng Tang (思成堂). It was majestic and brought back many memories of watching old Kung Fu movies, which were the catalyst for most of us getting into martial arts.

After we visited our last school, we headed to our next destination. We were to compete in a Kung Fu tournament. Anxiety ran high throughout our entire group, with the exception of our Sihing Sam Lee. The son of Master Lee, Samson has quite an impressive reputation throughout the Kung Fu community (as does Tammy Lee, who was not able to join us on this trip). We all nervously performed our forms to the best of our abilities and our efforts were rewarded as we brought home an incredible amount of medals for our school.

Post tournament photo with all of our medals

Post tournament photo with all of our medals.


Absolutely drained from that long day of traveling and competing, we headed into the city to attend a ceremony honoring one of the founders. We again met a great many people and networked with them. Just as in our visits to Kung Fu schools, we were greeted by top notch Lion Dance teams. A feast followed, after which we were asked to perform some of our Kung Fu for the event. Though there were several hundred people at this event, performing for them was less nerve-wracking than for the tournament, which I failed to mention was nationally televised. Each one of us was gifted the most generous applause and congratulatory yells. We did not get to spend a lot of time in Hong Kong, but I can tell you that the subway system there is what I wish it was back here in the states. It was clean, efficient and safe. I cannot rave enough about the experience with the subway.

Concluding the Kung Fu portion of our trip, we were privileged to spend an entire week doing touristy things – like climbing one of the wonders of the world, The Great Wall; riding rickshaws in Beijing, walking on glass bridges in ZhangJiaJie; visiting the actual mountain where Avatar was filmed; and so much more. Our days were packed full of activities and experiences. While on the mountain and waiting for our turn to enter the glass trestle part of the tour, Grandmaster Lee showed us some practical applications for some of the forms, quickly disarming one of our fellow students who had found a training sword oddly for sale in a small bazaar on the mountain side.

During our traveling, we were able to stop by the headquarters for our lineage and spend some time with our brothers and sisters there.

During our traveling we were able to stop by the Headquarters for our lineage and spend some time with our brothers and sisters there.

I started my Kung Fu journey not knowing anything about Grandmaster Lee. After training under him for a while, I realized he was the real deal – and regretted not having started training at his school many years before I did. Though I have spent many years training in different martial arts – Aikido, BJJ, Muay Thai, Karate, Escrima – I have never seen anyone paid so much respect as my teacher get everywhere we go. It's surreal. You would never imagine that he is as world-renowned as he actually is. Every day I train at his school, I know without hesitation that this is the best decision I have ever made – not only for me but my children, who also go to the school.

As you can tell from the pictures, I am a big fella. In the US I've acquired the nickname General Po. I was named after the panda from the Kung Fu Panda films. Without having to tell anyone in China, I was nicknamed the Kung Fu Panda, and on departing I was told that China will miss their panda. That really hit home for me. I have never felt so welcomed to a place in my entire life. The people we met were genuine and kind. I hope this article will convince anyone who has considered a China trip to actually follow through with it.

The Author and his Kung Fu Brother at the Jow Biu Headquarters in Hong Kong

The Author and his Kung Fu Brother at the Jow Biu Headquarters in Hong Kong.


There were over 2000 pictures taken by me alone. China is beyond picturesque. I have been asked so many times about my trip, and I always answer the same thing: “China is everything I wanted it to be and everything I needed it to be.”

Discuss this article online

About Will Bailey :
Find us on facebook February 2019 will be author Will Bailey’s 4th anniversary studying directly under Grandmaster Hoy K. Lee in the Jow Ga Kung Fu system.

Print Friendly VersionPrint Friendly Version of This Article