The Rare Drunken Form of Choy Lay Fut Kung Fu

By Joe Keit

There have been a great number of articles written on the subject of drunken forms from different styles, each trying to put into words an explanation of one of the most provocative yet misunderstood types of kung fu training. There are many myths and legends that surround the Drunken style that intrigue even people who don't practice kung fu. And still there are movies, like Drunken Master, that continue to excite audiences and keep people wondering about the true meaning behind the Drunken style.

Despite its popularity, it is very hard to find a good teacher who really knows this form of Chinese kung fu. Moreover, most people have a hard time learning it, especially with a lot of made up Drunken forms with little or no technique for combat. In this article the exploration of the Drunken form of the Choy Lay Fut kung fu system will shed some light on the essential concepts of this unique, enigmatic, and most definitely traditional, form.

Choy Lay Fut Drunken Form

Choy Lay Fut is a traditional southern style which is known for its efficiency as a complete fighting system, and also for containing a large amount of hand and weapon forms. Being a unique system, Choy Lay Fut has influences from the northern kung fu systems as well as the strong hand techniques characteristic of southern kung fu. The Choy Lay Fut Drunken form is a rare form, not as popular as the wushu version, and not even known by many Choy Lay Fut practitioners. Even though it's not as popular, the form is very dynamic, powerful and has many effective self-defense techniques.

The form is called "Joi Baat Seen Kuen" or in English, "The 8 Drunken Immortals." Master Li Siu Hung, one of the world's top masters in the Choy Lay Fut system today, relocated from Hong Kong to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in 1994 and is one of the very few Choy Lay Fut sifu alive today who knows this form. This article is based upon his teachings.

In Hong Kong when Grandmaster Lee Koon Hung was teaching kung fu from 1968-1993, many of his Hong Kong students lacked the desire to learn the Drunken form. He taught very few people not only because it is a high level form, but also because no one showed an interest in learning it. Most of the Hong Kong stylists had only seen the wushu contemporary sets and thought that learning the form would be more for show and not for fighting. Grandmaster Lee Koon Hung's students were mostly full-contact fighters. Then, upon arriving in America, both Grandmaster Lee Koon Hung and his brother Master Li Siu Hung were asked countless times by American students about the Drunken form. With this renewed interest, Master Li has since been teaching the form in seminars and has released a video for everyone to learn.


Most believe that people performing the drunken form are trying to act drunk, and this conception is correct. A common misunderstanding still remains, however, that you need to be drunk to perform this style, and that is far from true. It could even be dangerous.

One key concept of this style is to imitate a drunkard's movements to fool your opponent into believing you are drunk, and therefore your opponent becomes confused when and where you will strike. This is done first by dragging the feet and using false steps, confusing your opponent as to where you are moving. After training these false steps for some time, you can become very precise with your movement. Low stances are not used much in this form, but your stance must be relaxed so that you can kick or move quickly at any given time.

Choy Lay Fut Drunken style also incorporates different swaying movements of the body and arms. In some cases rolling and falling on the floor distracts the opponent, and training in this helps you learn to fall properly. Many animals use a similar strategy when faced with an opponent in their everyday survival.

The body must work in precise unity, even though the form should outwardly look like an uncoordinated drunkard's. The upper body and lower body together play a large part in helping you generate power and move from one movement to the next. Similar to internal styles, the body moves first and the hands follow with explosive moves generated from the waist. The Drunken style has many internal elements within the form and is considered one of Choy Lay Fut's "internal forms."

Another important aspect of this Drunken style is to remain relaxed. Students all too often in kung fu training have a difficult time relaxing while practicing forms and most perform their movements too tight. To a beginner relaxing can be a very difficult thing to do, but when you are more relaxed you can become more flexible, fast, agile and your reflexes quicken as well. The Drunken form is performed in a semi-relaxed state, but don't be fooled because at any given time the movements can become instantly explosive and pack a lot of power. All of the strikes in the form -- hand strikes, kicks and jump kicks -- are done with great precision and must express this explosive power.


The Drunken Form concentrates on using the whole body for generating power with each movement being precise. Being more precise begins with your eyes always watching your movements. Generally your eyes should follow your hands, but keep your main center of vision in the area where your opponent is. Make sure your eyes move with your movements, not your whole head.

Even though this form imitates one being drunk you must be completely aware of yourself and your surroundings. Never let your head move and sway too much, and never drop your head. Keep your back straight, eyes focused and your movements relaxed. This should be practiced with all Choy Lay Fut forms, not just the drunken form.

By being relaxed you are able to release even more power. For example, if you use your shoulder when you punch and your muscle tightens too much and you don't use your whole body from the legs all the way out to your arm, then you are only using a small percentage of the force you have.

The Drunken form helps you use your body in a relaxed state. By imitating a drunkard you don't concentrate on the fighting techniques at first; you try to get the movements to be looser, and then try to understand the feeling between movements. Therefore you are becoming more relaxed and can begin using greater explosive power. You also start to feel the connection of your whole body through all of your movements. From your feet all the way up through your arms your energy should flow. This helps your training become more efficient by saving energy and using more power, and will also increase the amount of speed you develop.

Devastating Drunken Hand Techniques
The Choy Lay Fut Drunken form is also very popular for its devastating hand techniques. In traditional kung fu styles, self-defense techniques are valued more than the acrobatic and entertainment type of movements. It is very important for a traditional kung fu stylist to always practice and apply the knowledge of the forms into real self-defense, or the techniques will be lost forever.

Techniques in the form vary, and one pattern can take on several meanings. One technique called "Bui Sao," literally translated "cup hand," imitates the shape of your hand when you're holding a cup the size of an average tea cup. This puts your hand in a good position for blocking and striking. It also keeps your hand and arm ready for a wide variety of techniques, and makes the shoulders ready for explosive movements. The wrist is in a position where it can easily strike or block, and the fingers are curled in, which helps in trapping an opponent's arms while blocking. The arms can be used for short or long range techniques combined with various feints and strikes.

These hand techniques are usually very circular and have numerous applications. The arm movements help deflect strikes from your opponent while you are counterattacking and can also be used to trap an opponent. The arms help your balance, movement and add more power to techniques such as jump crescent kicks. The arms also are used to create more force lifting you off the ground, and sending more power to the foot.

In addition, and attesting to its completeness, the Drunken form possesses movements used for take downs and grappling. All of these movements are unitary and are developed by diligent practice.

Drunken Feet
The feet are equally important in the Drunken form of Choy Lay Fut, not only for confusing the opponent but for explosive kicking techniques as well. While doing this form you are constantly shifting your weight, which makes it easier to confuse your opponent with fast kicks, without wasting too much movement. The various kicks can be used as real or fake techniques used to strike or draw your opponent in for a different technique. Some of the movements are similar to boxing; consider how a boxer feints and dodges side to side. But in the Drunken form the feet play a large role so you must know when to commit to your techniques.

Hand strikes combined with kicking techniques are done repeatedly with several strikes executed at one time. This way by throwing many techniques at your opponent, surely some will break through their guard.

Jump kicks become quicker and higher in the air from the relaxed body obtained from practicing the Drunken form. The swinging of the arms helps the practitioner get higher in the air and concentrate more power into the kick. After landing from the jump kicks, the movements are sharp and focused showing the practitioner's accuracy. But most important is the combination of hands and feet, as they work together confusing the opponent with machine gun type attacks. They both are used in various combinations attacking and retreating.

The most overlooked aspect of the Drunken style is the expression of the individual who performs it. This is a most important part to train and pay attention to in the advanced training. It is the expression of one's self that breathes life into all these techniques and helps you understand yourself, especially through your techniques and movement. After practicing for some time you want to be able to perform the movements without thought, and make them as natural as possible.

When you are expressing yourself through the movements everything flows more naturally, and you feel like the movements are part of you. When performing the form, you do not show the form, the form shows you! So you have a lot more freedom to work with. This form can be something great to really apply all you have learned and really put your all into.

The traditional Choy Lay Fut Drunken form Joi Baat Seen Kuen contains the movements used for fighting in a pattern easy for one to remember, and it has been passed on from master to master. After the movements in the form have been perfected, the practitioner can make his own pattern using the techniques of the form. It is important to always remember that everyone is different and we all have different abilities; in your advanced training you can tailor the form according to your own abilities. This ultimately frees the mind from thought, and helps you feel the movements more naturally for any situation be it training, sparring, or, in the deepest tradition of Choy Lay Fut, real-life combat.

Click here for Feature Articles from this issue and others published in 2001 .

About Joe Keit :
Joe Keit is an instructor at the Lee Koon Hung Choy Lay Fut Kung Fu Association in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He is a 2 time Grand Champion, and has trained with both Master Li Siu Hung and Grandmaster Lee Koon Hung in the Choy Lay Fut system.
Master Li Siu Hung is the current President for the World Lee Koon Hung Choy Lay Fut Kung Fu Association and head master at the Lee Koon Hung Choy Lay Fut Kung Fu Association in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He is Grandmaster Lee Koon Hung's younger brother and is an authority in the Choy Lay Fut system.
You can reach Master Li Siu Hung or Joe Keit at the:
Lee Koon Hung
Choy Lay Fut Kung Fu Association
5365 North State Rd 7 (441)
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33319 USA
(954) 730-3688

You can purchase an instructional video of the Choy Lay Fut Drunken Form
through Master Li Siu Hung's website:

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