***In honor of Halloween I thought that I would dip into the archives and revisit a fun post from earlier in the year. What follows is an actual Kung Fu ghost story. I think that readers will find it both seasonally appropriate and of interest to anyone thinking about the place of the martial arts in southern China’s larger popular culture complex. This post is also a great excuse for me to use some of my own photography of the local landscape. The fall is certainly the most scenic time of the year in Western NY. Have a Happy Halloween! Also, if you have your own martial arts related ghost or monster story, drop a link in the comments.***
Once again I find myself staying up late to write my Monday morning post. I had originally planned on doing a news update, but given the hour I thought a ghost story might actually be more appropriate. The following post is something of a departure from what I normally offer, but I think that a variety of readers will still find it interesting. I don’t normally present translations, nor do I spend a lot of time discussing obituaries, but in the current case I am willing to make an exception.
Choy Li Fut students (particularly those from Canada) may be interested in reading a little more about Master Leung Kai’s life and contribution to their art in both New York City and Montreal. Others reader may be more interested in what his life’s story suggests about the globalization of the Chinese martial arts in general. Lastly, as I was doing the research for this post I became interested in the differences in how his life story was presented in local Chinese language community newspapers versus English language sources. Not only were these accounts richer and more colorful, but they painted a more more complete picture of the place of the Chinese martial arts in the local community.
Reading between the lines of these articles it seems that Leung Kai’s school occupied a slightly marginal place in the broader social structure of Montreal’s Chinese community. While the obituaries themselves are unrelenting laudatory, the life story that they tell is actually more complex than it might first appear. When Leung Kai first appeared in Montreal it was as an employee in an unremarkable local shop. While he had studied the martial arts as a child (and apparently taught them in New York City and Hong Kong) he did not at first have an outlet for those talents in Canada. It was only after the eruption of the “Kung Fu Craze” of the 1970s that Leung Kai was able to devote himself full-time to the traditional combat systems.
The “craze” attracted both overseas Chinese and other Canadian students. The Chinese language obituaries even list his senior disciple as being a French Canadian woman. They also strongly suggest that the social status that he achieved in the local community was as a result of the martial arts and cultural associations that he founded.
In that sense one may be tempted to read this as a story about “pulling oneself up by their bootstraps.” Yet even in the heady years of the 1970s, Kung Fu remained a somewhat marginal activity. Other aspects of his career also reinforce this impression of liminality. For instance, Leung Kai was not just associated with traditional modes of popular culture, but also spirituality. In some of the stories that are related in the Chinese language sources he almost takes on the aspect of a modern urban shaman.
For instance, his reputation as a martial artist was bolstered by an apparent encounter with the ghost of a murdered woman who was looking for vengeance against her killer. We are even told by one author that this was one of the main reasons for his fame and ultimate success in the martial arts.
Leung Kai also adopted the then current discourse surrounding Qigong masters and their possession of “extraordinary powers.” In one memorable incident he demonstrates that not only could he teach others to manipulate their own healing energy through qigong practice, but that his touch could directly transfer healing energy to a distressed patient. The success of the operation was “interpreted” by another of his disciples who wrote auspicious calligraphy characters in a mixture of alcohol and ink, performing what amounted to a cross between an act of divination and a Chinese language Rorschach Test.
How should we interpret such accounts of modern Chinese martial artists living in hi-tech western cities? Avron Boretz has provided us with probably our best interpretive framework for understanding the nuances of Leung Kai’s ghost story. In his volume Gods, Ghosts, and Gangsters: Ritual Violence, Martial Arts, and Masculinity on the Margins of Chinese Society, he notes that many southern Chinese martial artists are expected to deal with the supernatural realm as part of their normal public performance duties.
Of course these are not the modernized, sanitized and globally popular martial artists that we normally encounter in the west. Instead they are more marginal individuals associated with local temples, criminal brotherhoods and the world of “Rivers and Lakes.” What values are the Chinese folk martial arts seeking to express in these less savory settings? Overwhelming they are concerned with “Yang” or masculine virtue. In Chinese popular religion these are seen as the central ordering and productive forces of the universe. “Yin,” or “female” values, are not only not seen as being equally valuable, but they are often seen as a subversive representation of chaos, destruction and decay. These “Yin forces” need to be contained through strict social legislation and ritualized exorcism.
This is very different from the sublimely balance of Yin and Yang imagined in Taiji theory or discussed by so many philosophically minded American martial artists. This shouldn’t really be a surprise as the idea of “philosophical Taoism” that is often encountered in western bookstores has never been all that popular in China or Taiwan. In fact, it is basically a construction of of 19th century protestant scholarship (specifically James Legge), which was later adopted by a number of Chinese intellectuals. The world of local temples and their festivals tends to be dominated by ritual rather than learned discourse, and one of the most common rituals practiced are public exorcisms to banish the dark and misty threads of Yin from the public sphere. Beyond this ritual bias, the association of Yang with “virtue” is deeply embedded in many, maybe most, Chinese folk martial traditions.
Leung Kai’s encounter with his ghost seems to fall squarely into this tradition. Here the misty and chaotic forces of “Yin” have taken the form of a female ghost who, while ostensibly seeking justice, is bound to be a corrosive and destabilizing force on the community. Recall for instance what happened after Hamlet’s dad showed up. It was up to a priest or martial artists to project a surplus of cleansing Yang to deal with the situation. Interestingly the local Chinese community remembered Leung Kai as an individual who existed within, and could mediate the effects of, this world.
This sort of relationship between southern martial artists and the local community has been discussed by a number of anthropologists working in southern China (see Avron Bortez and Daniel Amos). Still, its not something that most western students of the martial arts ever encounter or spend much time thinking about. Its interesting to note for instance that the English language treatments of Leung Kai on his association’s webpage relates none of these more colorful stories. Evidently they did not consider this material to be a critical aspect of his memory as a martial artist. Yet the local Chinese language commentators did?
The remainder of the post presents two short obituaries of Leung Kai written after his deal on the 31st of May, 1992. The first of them is shorter and more formal. It’s focus is on biographical information. The second obituary is longer and more colorful. It attempts to remember and editorialize on Leung Kai’s place in the local community. In so doing it touches on a lot of themes (including ethnic and gender identity, social status, and the supernatural) that may be of interest to readers.
Before going on I should also note that both of these account were produced by authors in Canada and focus on the period of Leung Kai’s life when he lived in Montreal. Nevertheless, when he immigrated to the west from Hong Kong in 1967 he originally settled in New York City. He was active in the martial arts there and was the president of the “East US Chinese Martial Arts Federation.” After that he moved to Canada. The timeline of his life is a little unclear for a few years but he founded his new martial arts association in 1977. Lastly I would like to thank my bother and sister-in-law, who are currently visiting from Hong Kong, for providing a quick translation of these accounts.
Leung Kai: A Canadian Choy Li Fut Master
- The Chinese Press (Overseas Chinese Times)
- “Choy Li Fut Tung Ping Taiji Founder Leung Kai Wan”
- June 6th, 1992
Leung Kai Wan was born in China, Guangdong Province, Taishan County in San Cheung Kei Yeung Leui. He was a very clever youth who liked to learn; he studied under and was taught personally by the Taijiquan Master Wu Kam Chuen and he studied Choi Li Fut in Guangzhou under Master Fong Yuk Su and Master Tam Lap. He then added his own ideas/creativity to found Choy Li Fut Tung Ping. He traveled and took this to other countries teaching Chinese Kung Fu and Taiji, becoming well known internationally; the Chinese living abroad felt it was their honor to study under him.
In 1977 he went to Montreal and founded the Leung Kai Chinese Martial Arts Association where he taught Choi Li Fut Kung Fu and Tung Ping Taiji. He had lots of overseas Chinese students and many westerners came to learn from him as well. He was upstanding and well-respected by others, had many disciples and was known for his excellence in teaching.
Besides opening his Chinese Martial Arts Association, in 1981 Master Leung founded the Association for the Promotion of Chinese Culture (a legal charity in Canada) to help people to remember to pass along Chinese culture. By promoting Chinese Culture broadly it achieved its objective of East-West cultural exchange. Educational activities included painting, Chinese language, calligraphy, Confucian talks, various performances, exhibitions and discussions for the decade he was in Montreal. He brought great energy into the promotion of Chinese culture and pursued it its greatest extent, giving the overseas Chinese in Montreal the opportunity to learn [authentic] Chinese culture. This demonstrated that master Leung was not only good at Kung Fu, but he did not forget Chinese culture and took it upon himself to spread it.
On Sunday May 31 1992 Master Leung passed away in his home at the age of 76. The funeral was held at the Leung Kai Kwok Martial Arts Association and it illustrated his great commitment.
- Overseas New Chinese Paper
- “Chivalrous Hero: Remembering Chinese martial arts Master Leung Kai Wan”
- By Ng Wan Fung (Cantonese)
- June 13th, 1992
[Inset: A couplet for Master Leung Kai written by his student]
Appreciating Master Leung Kai
“Born of my father, taught by my teacher – I love them equally deeply.
Those who learn the martial way do it on the foundation of Confucian teachings, thus they can become a martial philosopher.”
By Ka Bei Hiu – respectfully
In martial arts novels we always hear the story of a martial arts enthusiast who loses his way and seeks out a teacher; when he returns he has become a chivalrous person. In real life there was a story sort of like this, and the protagonist was Mr. Leung Kai Wan. At the beginning of the 1970s Mr. Leung was an employ of a miscellaneous store in Chinatown. Then he vanished. When he reappeared he was a Chinese martial arts master; he opened a training hall and took on apprentices. He didn’t go to the top of a mountain, but was instead invited by the American government to be a teacher of the martial arts [missing character] to the military, and in other American cities he developed the Chinese martial arts. In Seattle the mayor gave him the key to the city. Mr. Leung once gave me an ink painting about the martial arts [missing character]. At the very least we know that he loved the fighting arts.
Mr. Leung liked the martial arts from a young age. He first learned from Master Wu Kam Chun and Fong Yuk Syu. Afterwards [he studied] with many more masters. Leung Kai Wan’s lineage is third generation Wu Ka Taijiquan and fourth generation Choy Li Fut. In this way he became a high master. He then took the important parts of various schools of Chinese martial arts and founded Tong Ping Taiji. In 1982 master Leung founded the Association for the Promotion of Chinese Culture and organized celebrations for Confucius’s birthday and received acclaim from both the overseas Chinese community and the Canadian government. For many years he was invited by the Canadian government to attend big celebrations and cultural activities. He was a well-known and respected member of the community. Through his good character and martial arts Brother Tong Ping went from being a store employ to an esteemed master in the Chinese community and respected by the local community.
Behind every successful man there is a woman. Mr. Leung had three behind him. The first was his loving and caring wife who took good care of the husband and children so that the entire household was in order and he could focus on developing his career. The second was his female French student, Ms. Ka Bei Hiu, who was more Chinese than even the Chinese people. She respected her master and earnestly studied both martial arts and Chinese philosophy. One time at Mr. Leung’s birthday celebration she won accolades for her Taiji sword performance. She not only helped with the administration of the Association for the Promotion of Chinese Culture, but also organized and assisted public relations efforts including those with the government and other cultural groups.
What of the third woman who put the Association for the Promotion of Chinese Culture and the Leung Kai Martial Arts Association on the road to success? Who was this woman? When he was in Hong Kong, on several evenings when he did not have class he went to Wan Chai’s Sau Teun Sports Field where a young woman sought him out to talk. One evening when he was teaching in the martial arts hall the three sticks of incense in front of Guan Yu’s statue all of the sudden rose up and flew at the door. At the same time a girl with the color drained from her face fled from the [entrance to the] school. Afterward Master Leung followed the person to the Sau Tuen sports field and found “Her.” She said she sought him out for help, but the deity Guang Yu refused to let her enter [the school]. She told Mr. Leung she had already found her enemy and hoped that he would avenge her…..As it turns out she was a woman who had been murdered several months before. Mr. Leung told a Hong Kong newspaper reporter about these things and the newspaper carried a detailed story about the occurrence. Because of this incident Mr. Leung deeply believed in the heavenly law of cause and effect, Guan Yu and the existence of spirits. For his whole life he was righteous and took it upon himself to help other people, he used martial arts to strengthen his body and he used truth to convince people; this was the main reasons for Mr. Leung’s success.
Besides his prowess in the martial arts he was also accomplished in medicine. For no cost he would see people, diagnose their illnesses, and distribute medicines which helped them to recover quickly. In 1982 the author of this article had pain in both of his legs and Master Tong Ping and the French student, Ms. Ka Bei Hu, went to his home and gave him a Qi Gong massage. Five minutes later his left leg was strong enough to support weight and ten minutes later he could walk with both legs. After the visit on that day the author successfully recovered from his illness. If at any point afterwards there was a problem he massaged his legs with an ointment left by Master Tong Ping and everything was ok. The author also introduced Brother Tsang Yu Tak and he was cured as well. The author was there and commemorated Tsang being healed by writing the “Yuen” character [occasionally associated with Daoism, meaning something out of the ordinary] with alcohol and ink. Afterwards when looking at the “Yuen” character many friends mistook it as “Dragon.”
Mr. Leung is gone but his martial art is in the world forever. Under the guidance and leadership of Ms. Ka Bei Hu the Leung Kai Martial Arts Association and the Association for the Promotion of Chinese Culture can prosper and his energy will always be there.
If you liked this you might also want to read: Reevaluating the “Theater of Combat”: A Critical Look at Charles Holcombe, Popular Religion and the Traditional Chinese Martial Arts.
October 29, 2013 at 1:56 am
November 18, 2015 at 10:05 pm
Hi, my brother Stewart and I were the last students personally taught by sifu (Master) Leung Kai. He would instruct my elder kung fu sister (Sidje in Cantonese) Gabrielle Boudreau (Gar Bee Elle….Ka Bei Hui is probably the Mandarin dialect), and she would teach the students and sifu would correct us and/or give us pointers. My brother and I had this opportunity because we were in the “Morning class”…their first attempt of morning classes….and Sidje were available occasionally to teach us because she was going to university. After the summer school break was over the morning classes were stopped, and only resumed about 3 years later.
I stand to be corrected. Here’s a very brief history of sifu Leung Kai. When he was a child he was very disobedient and was send to live with his aunt. Even then he was a hand-full (This was his words) and was send to “Live and Serve” the local kung fu master….to get the top of his head “Rapped” to learn discipline. He was not allowed to train in kung fu but he sneaked lots of peeks and started to practice by himself. One day the master saw him practicing and screamed, “Who taught him?”…and Leung Kai said that he watched and learnt 1/2 a form by himself. The master was very impressed and started to train him and let him join the class.
During WWII, sifu Leung Kai fought with the Republic of China (Nationalist) against the Japanese. Known for his kung fu prowess and skills he was promoted as a head instructor in kung fu techniques, which included empty-hand techniques, short knife techniques and bayonet (Knife attached to the front of a rifle….skills from spear techniques). He would explain and perform the techniques from an elevated platform, and the assistant instructors-trainers would teach those techniques to the soldiers. During those years sifu Leung Kai said he probably demostrated/taught over 20,000 soldiers.
After the war, sifu Leung Kai escaped to Hong Kong by swimming over (So did a lot of other mainland Chinese). A sidebar related to your “Ghost” story: In his first swim attempt he heard another swimmer crying for help behind him. At that point they were almost halfway across…. To go on would let the drowning man drown…but there was no way to help him and make it all the way to Hong Kong. So sifu helped the man back to mainland China. It was another month or so before sifu swam to Hong Kong. Twenty years or so, sifu happened to pass by a fortune reader in Hong Kong and decided to get his fortune read. After awhile the fortune reader turned white. Sifu asked him why and the fortune reader said he should be dead and must be a ghost. After some questions the fortune reader found out sifu Leung Kai saved someone’s life in peril to himself, and that’s why he was given “Extra” years in his life. After 20+ years in Canada and the U.S.A sifu decided to visit Hong Kong and do some business. Just for kicks (?) he went to see another fortune teller. The same thing happened and sifu had to explain the story to the trembling man. ha ha
Sifu came to Montreal, Quebec, Canada first, then went to New York city and finally back to Montreal. In the early years he taught very sparingly in the Nationalist Party in Chinatown (The Kuo Ming Tong) as working and putting money on the table was more important (He worked as a cook…as many Chinese men in the 1960s). He was very fat then….he admitted it himself ha ha….and was known at “The fat man” in Montreal’s Chinatown. Later he went to New York city as there were better opportunities. He later opened a Choy Lay Fut school in New York’s Chinatown. It was during this years that he was invited to be president of the United States East Coast Kung Fu Association/Federation. Unfortunately it did not come to a happy ending. Protection racket(s) demanded money and sifu refused to pay. The thugs began to harass and intimidate (Most likely some got beat up also) his students by standing in front of the doorway to keep the students from entering (His school/club was in the 2nd or 3rd floor). After sifu lost all his students he still didn’t pay or close his school. The thugs finally burnt his school down.
In-between jobs he was invited to work as a bouncer in a New York city Chinese gambling hall for everyone knew of his superb kung fu skills. I do not know if he ever beat anyone up for owning money….he never mentioned it. One night walking home after a few years working as a bouncer (Known as Da Siow (Hit Hand)), he saw a car with its window rolling down drive slowly by, he dashed a bit and jumped head first over the garbage into an alleyway as shots were fired at him. He got back home, slept (Probably fitfully) and the next morning looked in the mirror and saw that his hair had turned completely white (From the sudden stress and fright he said). Right away he informed his boss that he was quitting…..and he left for Montreal.
When the people in Montreal’s Chinatown saw him they were so surprised because of his whole head of white hair, and he had lost a lot of weight. When my brother and I first met him in 1978 his hair was all white. 10 or 15 years later his hair turned grayish. Another sidebar: In the early 1980s sifu Wai Hong of the Fu Jow Pai (Tiger Claw Kung Fu club) ran their first competition in New York city and sifu, sidje Gabrielle, me and about 12 other students went to see it. They rented a hotel and I went to sleep at my grandparents’ place. I didn’t witness it but some of the other students did and a few told me of an attack at sifu Leung Kai. Someone had tried to club him from behind on his head with a lead pipe….fortunately sifu’s son (A Hung Gar expert who dabbled in Choy Lay Fut) was there and blocked the attack….it was not a perfect block as the pipe hit his forearm. At that time I thing sifu was at least 20 years away from New York……Chinese have long memories!!!!!
I’ve some more little stories but I’ll end my long-winded stories of sifu Leung Kai…a righteous man from a very humble beginning.
p.s….he got the key to Chatanooga (Pretty certain) and not Seattle (Unless he got one there also…but I don’t know that story).
November 18, 2015 at 11:19 pm
Thanks so much for your very detailed comment. That is a great discussion of Sifu Leung Kai’s life. The stuff about his time in NY was particularly illuminating. Did you by any chance have an opportunity to learn his Dadao form from WWII?
July 8, 2020 at 2:58 pm
Hi Ben, I’m just notifying you that Sifu Gabrielle Boudreau had passed away recently. Apparently she was in Quebec City on a Meditation Retreat and while crossing a river she slipped on a rock and drowned. Possibly she struck her head on a rock and was knocked unconscious.
July 8, 2020 at 4:35 pm
Hi Stanley. That is unexpected and tragic news. Please accept my sincere condolences. Sorry I cannot respond to you directly but wordpress won’t let the thread go another layer down.
January 12, 2017 at 10:16 pm
Thank you SO MUCH for keeping Sifu’s memory alive by telling this story. Reading your words brought tears in my eyes and they help me better understand some of the things Sifu used to say.
I hope your life is good. And if your mom is still with us, please say hello to her for me.
Your «simuy», Natalie
PS : Thank you Ben Judkins for your VERY interesting blog and, most of all, for your articles on my Sifu.
January 17, 2017 at 10:44 am
So glad to hear from you…and surprised to have found each other thru this webpage/site. Let’s keep in touch thru email; email@example.com so we don’t use up Ben’s bandwidth. Cheers.
Many thanks Ben…your website connected two long lost Kung Fu brother and sister.
July 8, 2020 at 2:54 pm
Natalie, if you are still visiting this webpage….I’ve some very very bad as sad news. Our sidje…sifu Gabrielle Boudreau passed away, she was in Quebec City on a meditation retreat and while crossing a river slipped on a rock and drowned (Possibly knocking herself out).
July 9, 2020 at 7:27 pm
Thank you so much, Stanley and Ben, for letting me know about Sidjé. Oh it’s so sad… I’m in shock. Could you let me know if you ear there’s a ceremony or anything to commemorate her life? Thank you again.
July 10, 2020 at 5:20 am
I’ll reply to you via email so we won’t take up Ben’s webpage’s bandwidth. But, so far I’ve not been notified on anything yet.
November 18, 2015 at 11:35 pm
I assume you’re talking about the 2-handed broadsword. The one made famous by the Da Doe Troop in China. I had seen my sifu do moves and combinations with the 2-handed broadsword/saber. It was not continuous like a regular form per se….but anyone can see the moves effectiveness. Actually all moves in forms should be practiced this way…..to get the most benefit out of them
From the 8 or 10 combinations that I’ve seen, I’ve developed a form on my own by adding some moves from the Tiger Tail Broadsword form, Plum Flower Broadsword form and Horse Chopping Knife. So I guess you can call my form a Choy Lay Fut hybrid 2-handed broadsword form.
July 8, 2020 at 4:43 pm
Thanks very much Ben. Yes, we were very stunned by my sidje’s tragic and sudden accidental death.
February 24, 2021 at 4:27 am
Good morning all,
Here is my testimony, I would like to inform you that I was a student of Sifu Leung Kai Wan in the eighties. Suddenly, I was amazed to see Sifu Gabrielle with Sifu Leung Kai Wan in the hospital emergency room in the morning before leaving my job and that the same day when I started my work in the evening, I helped Sifu Leung Kai who was disoriented and that he had not even recognized me during the whole night at Jean-Talon Hospital located in the City of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Because I was working there in this health establishment in Montreal in may 1992. According to the medical report, he suffered from diabetes and a malignant brain tumor. Hoping that this will complete his story.
For more information, do not hesitate to contact me here.
My sincere saltations,
Student M. Morin
February 24, 2021 at 5:08 am
Here is some information about the death of Sifu Gabrielle.
PASSIONATE ABOUT CHINESE CULTURE LOSES THE LIFE
5 July | Gabrielle Boudreau (68 years)
Gabrielle Boudreau, master of tai chi greatly appreciated, was swept away by the current of the Rouge River in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge.
“When I think of it, it gives me the taste to yell “, drops his little brother, Daniel Boudreau.
She was accompanied by her friend Isabelle Simard, who has survived “by miracle” drowning by clinging to a rock. The two women were engulfed in the eddies of the river trying to cross it to get to a beach.
The survivor encourages holiday makers to exercise caution, recommending that you analyse the river and to consult the local people before embarking on the water.
“I’ve had feelings of shame and responsibility,” admits Isabelle Simard, who had invited his girlfriend to enjoy the area. Gabrielle Boudreau, 68 years of age, was so in shape “they thought she was going to live up to 100 years,” says Ms. Simard.
“[Gabrielle] was a strong woman and an infinite tenderness. She is irreplaceable, “adds the cultural reporter Francine Grimaldi, who is mourning the loss of” his sister, his friend.”
Expert in martial arts is involved since a long time at the Montreal chinese community, organizing each year the lion dance for the seniors of the chinese Hospital.
A buddhist, she spoke fluent cantonese and mandarin. Several the knew under the name of Sifu Gabrielle (” master ” Gabrielle). “In the past 40 years, Gabrielle has been involved in hundreds of activities and cultural exchanges with the chinese community,” stresses Howard Low, who taught him kung-fu in the 1970s.
A woman drowned after being swept into the current of Rivière Rouge on Sunday afternoon.
According to Sûreté du Québec Sergeant Marc Tessier, at approximately 1 p.m. Sunday, two women in their 60’s entered the river at a location along chemin de la Rivière Rouge in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge. Both women, who were tourists from Montréal, were swept away with the current. One of the women was rescued with minor injuries.
The other woman, 68-year-old Gabrielle Boudreau, was rescued by witnesses 700 meters from where she had gone into the water. She was taken to hospital and pronounced dead.
February 24, 2021 at 2:44 pm
Thanks Mr. Morin for the details on Sifu Kai Leung’s maladies (I knew he had diabetes but did not know he had a tumor in his brain…and the circumstances to the drowning of our Sidje-Sifu (Martial older sister-Master) Gabrielle. By the way, are you Normand Morin?
February 24, 2021 at 3:22 pm
I remember that on his birthday at the school on rue Saint-Laurent in Montreal, I gave him a terracotta teapot that he very much appreciated, he was sitting on the third floor near his table with a lady and was smoking a cigarette at the time. He rarely taught students at this time. My first name is Mario, I am registered in the register of this school and I have my membership cards that I keep preciously in memories of the good old days.
February 24, 2021 at 3:52 pm
Were you a Tai Chi student? I don’t recall you…I was an instructor in the morning kung fu classes. And yes, Sifu Kai Leung did not teach since 1977…or even earlier. He only corrected and gave pointers. I joined the club in 1977 and Sidje Gabrielle taught me 3/4 of my 1st form…then she started University and Sifu Kai Leung taught the rest of that form to my brother and I. That’s why in an earlier post I typed that my brother and I were the last students personally taught by Sifu Kai Leung…of course he continued teaching Sidje Gabrielle. In those early years Sifu’s son and Sidje Gabrielle taught the students. Later, it was only Gabrielle and Sam The Greek who taught…about 3 years later I became assistant instructor…then became an instructor.
February 24, 2021 at 3:54 pm
I forgot to write to you also that I still have the clothes of the time, a white top with long sleeves and a black bottom with the very long black belt. I had also purchased a black windbreaker with a black dragon on a yellow badge.
February 24, 2021 at 4:44 pm
I have two questions for you.
Does the school still exist today?
Who is the current teacher?
Thank you !
February 24, 2021 at 6:50 pm
I think I remember you…did you have a beard at that time? And did you join with a girlfriend or wife? The uniform you mentioned…the long sleeve must be the sweatshirt. Yes, I also have those items…except for the windbreaker, which I outgrew (Meaning got fat…) and it was very worn out…so thrown away.
The school had been closed at least 10 years ago. Sadly, one of Sifu Gabrielle’s student…who became an instructor himself…opened his own club about 10 blocks away, lowered the fee by $10 to $15 and convinced most of the student body to join him. This caused the original club to falter…and with the betrayal and heartbreak, Sifu Gabrielle closed her kung fu club about 5 years later.
February 24, 2021 at 7:42 pm
I really enjoyed your posts on this site, I found this site while researching the internet to know the end of this story. I sometimes go to visit this area a few times and have meals at the same restaurant for forty years and the waiter always recognizes me. no matter where I choose to sit. And when I leave the restaurant, I will buy the Silver Needle – Bai Hao Yin Zhen at the tea shop, an excellent tea with the taste of honey. You had to taste it, I’m sure you’ll like it.
See you soon !
February 25, 2021 at 2:43 pm
There might be some Chinese restaurants that have Chrysanthemum tea…or a mixture of it in Pu Nee tea. Sifu Kai Leung used to order the mixed tea…
I started my martial arts journey during the “Bruce Lee” craze in 1972…actually my mom wanted us kids to start earlier but we were too young. Three Tae Kwon Do schools…Chong Lee, J. C. Kim and Oh Jang (But only 2 months with Oh Jang..it was the Oylmpics in Montreal…he closed for a month and never re-opened). Then in Dawson College I had Karate with sensei Donovan and Tai Chi with another instructor. After that I joined Sifu Kai Leung…and did Jow Gar kung fu as a recreational activity at Dawson for 2 months. I learned a few Northern and Southern Shaolin forms from a few of our chefs (Very fortunate they worked with us, and were willing to teach me). And learned at least 5 Hung Gar forms from a friend.
February 24, 2021 at 8:19 pm
You know, I did not say everything, after this end of history, I was in another discipline the judo with the Sensei Hiroshi Nakamura in Montreal, indeed I also appreciate the martial arts, it gives me a good physical conditioning and we say that gives a good longevity, possibly the secret of good health.
March 3, 2021 at 9:13 pm
Official history of the existence of the KAI LEUNG INSTITUTE CHINESE CULTURAL ASSOCIATION SCHOOL LTD
According to his official government statements for his first school (1ST FLOOR, 90, RUE DE LA GAUCHETIÈRE EAST MONTREAL (QUEBEC) H2X1P5), Sifu Gabrielle made a change of seat (CHINESE CULTURAL ASSOCIATION OF THE INSTITUTE KAI LEUNG LTEE), to her name the school on August 25, 1994 and she would then have moved her school (his second school) to 24, Avenue du Mont-Royal Ouest, Montreal, QC, H2T 2S2. Finally she closed the school permanently on June 22, 2016. She has taught for 22 years with her school on her behalf. Officially the school was open since April 30, 1981 with Master Leung Kai Wan.
Ex officio deletion 2016-06-22
Notice of Default 2016-04-06
Annual declaration 2009 2010-01-15
Annual declaration 2008 2009-04-23
Annual declaration 2006 2007-01-03
Annual declaration 2005 2006-02-24
2004 Annual Declaration 2005-03-03
Annual declaration 2003 2004-01-22
Annual declaration 2002 2003-02-06
Annual declaration 2001 2002-01-28
Annual declaration 2000 2001-02-07
Annual declaration 1999 2000-02-22
Annual Declaration 1998 1999-03-09
Annual Declaration 1997 1999-03-09
Annual Declaration 1996 1999-03-09
Notice (order) of revocation of striking off 1999-03-09
Ex officio deletion 1998-05-08
Notice of Default 1997-07-30
Annual declaration 1995 1995-12-18
Declaration of registration 1995-03-23
Cancellation, liquidation, dissolution 2013-10-03
2013 ANNUAL UPDATE STATEMENT 2013-08-01
2012 ANNUAL UPDATE STATEMENT 2013-08-01
Notice of intention to liquidate or dissolve 2013-08-01
2011 ANNUAL UPDATE STATEMENT 2011-06-14
Annual declaration 2010 2011-06-09
Annual declaration 2009 2010-01-15
2008 Annual Declaration 2009-04-15
Annual declaration 2007 2009-04-15
Amending declaration 2008-03-18
2006 Annual Declaration 2007-02-07
Annual declaration 2005 2006-08-02
Notice of Default 2006-06-20
Annual declaration 2004 2005-01-19
Annual declaration 2003 2004-01-22
Annual declaration 2002 2003-02-06
Annual declaration 2001 2002-01-28
Annual declaration 2000 2001-02-12
Annual declaration 1999 2000-03-09
Annual declaration 1998 1999-01-28
Annual declaration 1997 1999-01-26
Annual declaration 1996 1999-01-26
Notice (order) of revocation of striking off 1999-01-21
Ex officio deletion 1998-05-08
Notice of Default 1997-07-30
Annual declaration 1995 1995-12-18
Initial declaration 1995-04-18
Change of seat 1994-08-25
March 4, 2021 at 2:54 pm
Sifu Kai Leung’s first kung fu school-club in Montreal was on Jean Talon blvd. near Park ave….I believe he was there for at least 5 years. He might have also taught at the Kuo Ming Tong (Republic of China) building in Chinatown. Great newspaper article on Sifu-Sidje Gabrielle Boudreau. A long time ago, some martial arts students (Don’t know which style…could be Karate or some other discipline) came to train with Gabrielle….10+ years later they were still talking about her, and how strenous our classes were ha ha.
March 3, 2021 at 11:54 pm
The lion is moved by a spirit and discipline withim
How do you make a lion dance? When the lion dances, you first hear a throbbing drum, clanging cymbals, a reverberating gong. ; Then you see the menacing, comic creature. His great head has a long black beard and thick bristles of eyelashes around bulging eyeballs. He is all clash and chaos, a riot of pattern and color with his horn, bobbing pom-poms, silver studs, fringe and ribbons. The ears flap, the mouth opens and shuts in soundless blustery roars.
The body is a shimmery extension of fabric: fuschia, lemon yellow, emerald green and scarlet chevrons delineated by white fur. – He moves with deliberate graceful jerkiness, thrusting and bowing, each step inspired by the almost deafening drum that is his heartbeat. And within, his brains, his brawn: two kung-fu artists. Last Monday night at a Chinese New Year’s fundraising gala for the Chinese Family Services at Maison Kam Fung on Clark St., the lion danced to frighten away evil spirits and bring good fortune in the coming year. Gabrielle Boudreau was his head. A few days earlier, I had gone to the Kai Leung Kung Fu Institute to visit Gabrielle Boudreau.
She is the director and the sifu, or father-teacher, having inherited the school from her sifu, Kai Leung, in 1985. (Shortly after he founded the institute in 1977, she became his dedicated disciple.) Gabrielle is the only Quebecoise to have achieved such a status. She had me hold the lion’s head as if I were going to make him dance. It’s heavy. Inside the papier mache interior was a complex honeycomb of bamboo and rattan and ropes to control the ears and mouth.
With your left hand you grasp a handle, with your right you support the head with a flat palm pointing north, bent at the wrist You keep both arms well in front of your body and the lion’s EVE McBRIDE head tilted forward and down. In this position you take the choreographed steps from bent-knee position, all the while raising, lowering, turning the lion’s head to confront the crowd. Behind you, the person in the tail is bent at the waist almost to 90 degrees, arms splayed out to “make the skin breathe,” his steps in perfect syn-chronicity with the person in the head. For centuries, the lion dance has been a traditional way for a kung-fu school to display its power. In his book The Spirit of Shaolin, David Carra-dine – of kung-fu movie fame – writes that kung fu, a martial art, is actually an ancient Chinese fitness program that has to do with “learning to set ever higher limits and standards, transcending false and rigid values and finding harmony with the laws of nature and the universe.”
It is deeply rooted in Taoist spirituality. Shaolin is the Taoist monastery in northern China where kung fu began. In the 6th century, a wandering Buddhist priest from India taught the monks to integrate physical discipline into their spiritual existence. Kung fu literally means “great skill.” There are five main kung-fu forms, all based on animals: snake, leopard, crane, tiger, dragon. “Every kung-fu movement,” Carradine writes, “contains a metaphor to lead the disciple towards comprehension of thewisdomof the ages.” Gabrielle Boudreau confirms. “Before you can do kung fu, you must work on your heart. It is about humili ty and meditation and discipline. It begins and ends with courtesy and respect. It is a way of being, a lifelong search. Kung fu is always evolving. It is not about power or competition. When people come to me and want to learn to fight, I say first wash the floor. Only the dedicated ones stay Trouble-makers never do.” Gabrielle Boudreau is a woman who has spent 400 hours in solitary meditation.
She is five feet tall, solid as the Gaspesie rock from which she comes. She has crinkly half-moon eyes and a radiant persona. And she can use her body to injure someone. “The true kung-fu master, never fights, only practices,” Carradine says. At the Kai Leung Kung Fu Institute, Gabrielle Boudreau teaches kung fu and its complementary “interior” form, tai chi, to children and adults, men and women. Many musicians come to her. A conductor. A violinist. A blind rock musi cian. Doctors come, too. Gabrielle has taught at Archambault prison with a machine gun over her head for protection. And more recently, she has taught in Iqualuit, N.W.T. She speaks Mandarin and Cantonese. She took Chinese studies at Universite de MontreaL From her sifu, Kai Leung, a man originally from the province of Canton and a martial artist for more than 60 years, she learned not only the exacting rituals of kung fu, but also the intricate and painstaking techniques of Chinese cooking. She spent six – sometimes grueling – months in northern China to extend her skills and knowledge, expand her horizons.
Chinese parents send their children to her to help them reclaim their heritage. “Gabrielle is more Chinese than I am!” said a Chinese woman I met at the school. And at the New Year’s gala, several members of the Chinese community, including a revered man whose family has been in Montreal for more than 100 years, told me of their great respect for her. “Kung fu is never finished,” Gabrielle told me. “You need many lifetimes. There are 400 styles. In just one style there are 82 forms. In one form there are 300 moves. Kung fu enhances memory, concentration, awareness, creativity, confidence, understanding. The mind and the body come together and you have strength and serenity” Gabrielle Boudreau’s life is simple, spare and dedicated. She could make a much better income as a guide and cultural liaison for tour agencies. “But I made a choice at a certain point,” she said. ”
A commitment. I am a kung-fu lady” That’s how you make a lion dance.
Newspaper: February 15, 1996, The Gazette from Montreal, page 2, Quebec, Canada
March 4, 2021 at 9:07 pm
I just received the email message from Howard Low, tea master from Montreal today, here is what he wrote to me.
As a matter of fact, I helped Sifu Kai Leung to start a martial arts school in Jean Talon and waverly, Montreal, Quebec in the middle of 1977. Sifu Kai Leung was taught Hung Shing Choi Lay fut kung fu and Tai Chi Chuen! Kai Leung, the Tai Chi Chuen is based in Wu Kum Chuen style!
Sifu Gabrielle and his young brother was the fifth and six students in the class! In the spring of 1978 , I have moved to Ottawa for the job training ! And Gabrielle was the one who help Sifu Kai Leung to develop the martial arts business in Montreal! Around 1979 and 1980,the kung fu school was moved down to Clark street, Montreal for a bigger place!
Because of Sifu Gabrielle‘s organized abilities; Kai Leung martial arts school was founded as Chinese cultural arts Centre and established two years of Confucius Cultural Activities in Montreal! It’s a first time to present Chinese dragon dance in Montréal Chinatown!
Anyway! I am very saddened that Sifu Gabrielle who passed away in this situation! There were no condolences to her during the coved 19 year! May Sifu Gabrielle Rest in Peace!
Howard Low, tea master
P.S. – Sifu Gabrielle was incremated in 2020.
March 5, 2021 at 3:53 pm
To Mr. Howard Low….thanks very much for that information… I was at the kung fu club at Jean Talon….only for about 4 months in the summer school break in 1977 or ’78. The next time I visited the club they had already moved to the corner of St. Laurent and Dorchester (Called Rene Levesque now). A small correction about the dragon dance….the first dragon we used in the 1st Confucius Festival was from the Montreal Chinese Catholic Church ran by Father Tao. My mom had seen a dragon dance many many years ago (Maybe mid-60’s)…and mentioned that to Sifu Kai Leung… Sifu Kai Leung asked his disciple Gabrielle to borrow it from the church.
Howard and Mario…If I see you guys face to face I might remember you…
Please email me… firstname.lastname@example.org I have a bit of history in magazines on Sifu-Sidje Gabrielle that you might like.
March 4, 2021 at 9:41 pm
Here is another testimony of Evelyne Abitbol on her website, a great friend of Sifu Gabrielle.
Farewell Sifu Gabrielle!
When the media announces the death of someone in tragic circumstances, our reflex is to think of the family, friends, loved ones who knew the person.
And when we are called to announce that this person unknown to the media is one of our dear friends, our world is devastated.
Even more so when we read the article about her death. So impersonal, no name, as if that person was a stranger.
It is true that she was not known to the media, nor to their friends. But she was known by an entire community.
And rarely does the media pay attention to diversity unless one of its members protests, victimizes, or blithely criticizes the society in which they live. That’s the way it is.
And while reporting is impersonal, not just anyone drowned. She is a woman who is very well known in Montreal’s Chinese community. And rightly so.
She is not just any woman! No! Not just any woman who drowned! A woman among others? No!
It has a name.
She was Sifu Gabrielle.
He was a pillar of the Chinese community! One of the rare native Quebecers to know so much about the members of the Chinese community in Montreal, the families, the children from here and elsewhere as if they were her own family!
She was in charge of the Lion Dance, among other things, you know that noisy and colorful dance that we see walking around during the festivities in Chinatown.
It is this troupe of dancers that cheers up the patients of the Montreal Chinese Hospital every year during the New Year.
And who perform a different dance on each floor to the pleasure of the patients.
She who took care of the young Chinese to help them rebalance their energy.
She who was a T’ai Chi teacher in the community.
She who spoke fluent Mandarin!
She was a great friend of Francine Grimaldi! Of Bobby Breton Parisi and many others because she was the Friend that everyone would like to have.
With whom we had the project to organize a tribute evening to Francine after my return from Spain.
To be with her was to find oneself in another dimension. The dimension of life as it should be, very gently.
For she was sweetness incarnate!
Farewell Sifu Gabrielle!
– Evelyne Abitbol
March 5, 2021 at 4:16 pm
Thank you Evelyne for so much accurate and kind words on Sifu Gabrielle.
When Gabrielle first knew Sifu Kai Leung…she almost didn’t speak any English…so she learned most of her first English words from Sifu (Which were not that great by the way ha ha)… Later on she learned Cantonese from him…then later on Gabrielle learned proper English from University. And then she learned Mandarin from University…even Sifu Kai Leung didn’t speak Mandarin. So, Sifu Gabrielle was able to speak and write French, English and Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin dialect). She went all over China by herself (Most American and Canadian born Chinese can’t do that…) at least two times. And she went to Tibet many more times.
March 7, 2021 at 11:39 am
This week I am going to look for the place of his burial (Kai Fong Leung) and I will also take pictures of his tombstone, I know it is in Montreal, since his son came to see him at the cemetery three years ago. I’ll tell you the name of the cemetery and the location. Possibly on Mount Royal where Sifu Gabrielle is cremated in this place.
See you soon,
March 7, 2021 at 1:39 pm
I know where Sifu Kai Leung is buried…about 30 steps from where my parents are buried.
Email me… email@example.com …I have some magazine articles on Sifu Gabrielle you might like.
March 8, 2021 at 10:42 am
Very well, I will write to you in this email my thoughts on Master Kai Leung.
See you soon,
March 8, 2021 at 12:58 pm
Here is the school name, address and phone number of my school in old time.
Kung Fu Institute Kai Leung
1108 St. Laurent, 4th Fl., Montreal Quebec H2Z 1J5
March 9, 2021 at 7:30 pm
These are the first photographs I see of Sifu Gabrielle at that time, she was really young.
My thanks for these beautiful photos.
March 10, 2021 at 3:32 am
Here is an obituary in Montreal, Quebec of Sifu Kai Leung in the newspaper La Presse
Death of Sifu Kai Leung
In Montreal, on May 31, 1992, passed away Kai Leung, at the age of 73. It will be on display Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Kung Fu Institute Kai Leung, 680 rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest, second floor, Montreal. Chinese ceremony and burial at 1 p.m. at the same place.
– La Presse, Tuesday June 2, 1992, page E6
– Link: https://tinyurl.com/ycyvdokf
March 10, 2021 at 5:39 am
Here is an article by Sifu Gabrielle in the newspaper La Presse.
Two rare birds
Gabrielle Boudreau and her friend the Taoist priest Ma Jie
To see them conversing in Mandarin, wielding swords and indulging in hand shooters, one would think they came from the same kung fu cuvée.
And yet, except the height, five small feet, nothing, really nothing predestined the daughter of Villeray, Gabrielle Boudreau, to become the friend of the Taoist priest of Tianjin, Ma Jie.
At the age of six, Jie was placed in a monastery by his parents who wanted to make him a monk. He remained there six years, until the war with the Japanese, was then demolished by the Communists, recovered his health and became a great master of kung fu.
At the age of six, Gabrielle, she entered the Morin school, the girls’ school in the Villeray district, at the corner of Beaubien and Saint-Denis streets, became passionate about yoga, which led her to martial arts, became the sidje or big sister of the school of Kai Leung, who bequeathed him the direction of his school when he put his hands in his pockets, to use the expression of the Chinatown.
When, in 1990, I wanted to do a big report on the Chinese community of Montreal, which is more than a century old, it was she who opened the doors of elders to me, like Arthur Lee, the patriarch born in Chinatown in 1916. Gabrielle still runs the martial arts institute, but was forced to move, for cost reasons, to avenue du Mont-Royal, at the corner of Clark, where her honorable guest lectures on longevity and runs kung fu workshops, from three weeks until mid-December.
The great lady of martial arts met Ma Jie two years ago on a trip to China to learn about internal kung fu.
We must indeed distinguish two families in kung fu, the generic name which covers a whole series of disciplines including tai chi, which the elders of Chinatown practice in the summer in the gardens of the Guy-Favreau complex.
“Bruce Lee-style, quick and hard outer kung fu comes from the Shaolin Buddhist temple in China, but has its origins in India. The internal kung fu, the energy and the discipline of the body come from the Taoist stream of Wudang Shan, China, ”Gabrielle explains.
She wanted to meet Ma Jie, but the great master was reluctant to introduce a foreigner, a woman moreover, to his art. She finally spent two months with him in Tianjin, a large metropolis of ten million inhabitants a few hours from Beijing.
“I wanted to know more about Taoist philosophy, based on nature, on the water that goes around the rock instead of stopping,” says Gabrielle, who will be officially recognized as a disciple of Ma Jie on December 7, in presence of the notables of the Chinese community.
As for Ma Jie, this is his first trip outside of China. It’s colder in Montreal than at home, but his indoor furnace allows him to enjoy his stay.
Here are the three tips he gives me to live a long life: get up on the right foot and not let bad energies unbalance the body, eat well without stuffing yourself, do not smoke and drink little alcohol, get moving. body so that it does not atrophy.
As for governments, they should make people stop fighting and crushing others, treat all humans equally, give a cup of tea to the one who does not have one.
If you want to get in touch with these rare birds, contact the Kai Leung Institute at 289-9898.
– La Presse, Monday December 2, 1996, page C 12
– Link: https://tinyurl.com/yctp8of3
March 10, 2021 at 3:59 pm
Hi Mario, thanks for posting Sifu Kai Leung’s date of death…I knew it was before 1995…but not exactly when. Suppose I could always see it on his headstone…oh, by the way, it’s all in Chinese characters. I always thought it strange as in 2 generations maybe even his descendants won’t be able to locate it.
Thanks for translating and posting the French newspaper article from La Presse…I knew Sifu Gabrielle when and stayed in China for almost 1/2 a year…I didn’t know it was to let Sifu Ma Jie know her better.
March 12, 2021 at 4:41 am
Here is the first website of the information of Master Leung that I added on the WEB, a second that I will create soon will be very complete.
See you soon !
Name: Find A Grave