Sigung - NPC World Headquarters Golders Green, London (UK)
Having been born in Malaysia and spending my first few years there until I came to England for my studies, martial arts was not the main factor in my life.
This is a little surprising given the large and, in fact, major part that the doing and teaching of martial arts now plays in my daily life and aspirations.
I first encountered the nature of martial arts when I took Kodokan Judo sessions at a club in Kuala Lumpur – where I trained for about one-and-a-half years. The club was located in an external dojo located in the grounds of one of the mansions in Conlay Road of the town I lived in. I did not realise until much later that I was in fact being taught and trained with some of the most senior Judo practitioners in Malaysia, many of whom eventually also became high ranked Aikido players. I enjoyed my training and came to an early understanding that the skill and strategy of martial arts did not depend on brute force or size but on guile and the ability to think and reason and the need to remain mindful. I did not grade and was content to remain a mere trainee.
When I first came to England for my studies, I continued training at a Judo Centre in South Kensington known as the Gilston Centre. I enjoyed this somewhat less as the much larger trainees were inclined to ignore Judo principles and to resort to force – and I was not skilled enough to counter force with skill and strategy.
I did now feel the constant need to do martial arts training and joined a Wado-Ryu Karate dojo in Kings Cross. I was taught by Hanshi Tatsuo Suzuki and his team of very dedicated and skilled instructors including Sensei Shimizu, Hayakawa, and Watanabe. I believe that I was fortunate and one of the earlier students of Master Suzuki. Wado-Ryu techniques are economical and pragmatic and does not reply on showy techniques.
When I returned to Malaysia after my studies I began to train with Master Quek in the Shaolin Style (then known as Fatt Gar Kuen and now known as Gao Can Mun). I trained with Master Quek for over 40 years until his demise in 2010. The training was arduous, full contact and involved much arm, fist, finger and shin conditioning. It was pretty painful alleviated by vigorous massaging of the bruised parts by a fellow trainee with the Chinese Dit-Tat Medicine – a medicine which smelt strongly and was a guarantee at a non-social life.
I helped my master to formulate a training syllabus for the traditional Shaolin style to equip the group for acceptance under the martial arts ordinances of Malaysia.
Later on I also studied with Master Leow Cheng Koon, at that time the chief instructor of the Taekwondo Systems in Malaysia having been made by Master Lee Byong Moo of Korea as his nominated and very successful successor. I assisted Master Leow. Master Leow has a breadth of martial arts knowledge – extending far beyond WTF Taekwondo and I believe that he has immense knowledge of the other Korean and Chinese arts and Japanese weapons styles. I found my studies with Master Leow as rewarding as my studies with Master Quek and the two of them have been the major influences in my development of the Nam Pai Chuan style.
I was privileged to have been able to help Master Leow in the formation of the first national body for WTF Taekwondo – and it had 13 member states in West and East Malaysia as well as the Malaysian Armed Forces Taekwondo group – which included some of the special forces of that time.
Master Leow remains a firm friend of mine today and I still acknowledge him as my teacher.
Returning to England in 1979 to live here I began the teaching of Shaolin Nam Pai Chuan in a modest manner – sponsoring two Malaysian instructors with a Taekwondo background to whom I had taught basic Nam Pai Chuan-style techniques.
Over the many intervening years Nam Pai Chuan has grown exponentially and now has numerous training locations in England, Wales, Belgium, France, The Czech Republic, New Zealand, Australia and Japan.
I have always considered that the culture of Nam Pai Chuan development should not be “growth at any cost” but rather mindful growth with good and sincere teachers to pass the correct message that Nam Pai Chuan is about tradition, respect and skill and not about aggression or power.
My dream is to make the Nam Pai Chuan understanding and message available as widely as possible to those who will welcome it
Some will cleave to it and some may not. That is well and is very much the nature of life and living.
We all seek and find our own levels of endeavour.
Instructor - King's College London (UK)
Steve Leppard is a sixth degree black belt in Shaolin Gao Can Mun Nam Pai Chuan, and is the instructor of the King’s College London centre. Sifu Leppard first started training in Nam Pai Chuan as an undergraduate Mathematics student at Imperial College London, and he started the King’s College centre in 1992 when he began his PhD in Mathematics there.
As a child Steve was always fascinated by traditional martial arts, and he first had the opportunity to study martial arts in 1981 when he started practising Karate at his local club in East London. Unlike the other kids who were into Bruce Lee, Steve secretly wanted to be David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine from the 1970s Kung Fu TV series – he kept that pretty quiet though, and still feels a bit embarrassed about it today. Despite aiming lower than the other kids he still feels he missed his target by a long way.
Throughout the 1980s he continued his studies of Karate, as well as studying a number of softer styles such as Aikido and Tai Chi. Upon discovering Nam Pai Chuan he felt like he had “come home” to a style that combined all elements of the martial arts that interested him in a consistent, traditional and pragmatic manner.
Over the years Dr Leppard has combined his practice and regular teaching of Nam Pai Chuan with a career as a commodity structurer, quantitative analyst, and investment banker. His work in such high-pressure and demanding environments helped him to appreciate the centredness, focus and discipline that the study of a traditional martial art such as Nam Pai Chuan can bring. He integrates the practice of meditation and mindfulness into his Kung Fu teaching, as well as teaching the skills as a standalone discipline outside of the martial arts context.
Steve’s greatest passion is in teaching the art to people of all backgrounds and abilities, and he is at his happiest when in a sweaty training hall.
Instructor - Brunel University/ULU, London (UK)
Our instructor, Grahame Tinsley, is a fourth degree black belt who has over 30 years of martial arts experience. He became interested in martial arts after watching a school friend practicing Karate Katas in his garden.
He joined a local Karate club and after training in various Japanese and Korean martial arts found Kung Fu whilst studying at University. He has been teaching us for over 10 years and also teaches at sister clubs at both Brunel University and Student Central (formerly the University of London Union).
During his training he has travelled to Kuala Lumpur to train with our system’s late Grandmaster, Quek Heng Choon, and has visited our founder’s (Shi Gao Can) Shaolin Temple in Singapore. He has also participated in numerous Kung Fu demonstrations, notably in Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square in London.
He is skilled in various animal styles though specialises in the Leopard. He is also skilled in various traditional weapons, including the staff, sword, spear, halberd, trident and three section staff. He is also a qualified competition referee, first aid and Chi Gong practitioner.
Instructor - Chiswick, London (UK)
I started Nam Pai Chuan as a teenager after being introduced by my cousin who was training at that time. I had always been interested in martial arts from a very young age which stemmed from my father who taught me the basics of combat.
When I first started NPC I did not realise at the time that my teacher Master Lai was the founder and head of the system. Going on nearly three decades later he is still my Sifu, mentor and someone who I owe a lot to. I have been very fortunate throughout my training to have been taught by other senior students, two of which had a profound effect on my development and understanding of the art.
During the earlier stages of my training I was involved in numerous demonstrations and competitions around the country representing my club and system. I also feel that one of the biggest highlights for me was training with Master Quek in Malaysia and the UK in traditional Shaolin Gao Can, and Master Leow in Malaysia who taught myself and a few other seniors his unique brand and insight in to combat arts. In addition to training in NPC I have also studied boxing, wrestling and more recently Tai Chi, all of which have given me a much better insight and helped underpin certain elements of my training.
Working at the “sharp end” of the security industry for the past 21 years, I have had to deal with stressful, violent and dangerous situations throughout, where people’s and my own safety has been threatened. I have experienced these at all levels, from the individual to the crowd/mob/gang. I have learnt to manage these and react appropriately and proportionally. This has given unique insight and experience in the behaviour of people under different circumstances and has taught me how to deal with difficult situations with and without the use of force. It has also taught me how to protect others as well as myself.
For years I have studied with members of UK Special Forces the science and practice of human behaviour and conflict, from individual fighting to strategic operations. I have been taught to view the matter from an overall perspective of both defensive (security, intelligence, deterrence) and offensive (fighting with and without weapons, operations) methods. With this experience I now also advise on, devise and plan relevant training for Police and Military Special Operations members in various countries.
From all the experience I have gained over the years, I teach my students with the same dedication and passion that I was taught, and endeavour to bring them to a level of being Martial Complete, which in my mind is a balance of traditional principles, precepts, values and art, coupled with the pragmatism and the understanding of applying their skills.
Instructor - London (UK)
I started training with Master Lai at the tender age of 11, after my dad met Sifu. It became a bit of a family affair with my brother and sister also training when I did. We had all learnt a bit of Judo before meeting Sifu, but I think that being Chinese, we felt more of an affinity with Nam Pai Chuan, it being traditional Chinese Kung Fu.
Studying martial arts allowed us to learn good discipline, and it’s an important part of my cultural background. I thoroughly enjoy my time in training and socialising with my Kung Fu family – training has helped to give me confidence, develop my physical and mental fitness, and has allowed me to meet many people I might never otherwise have met.
Over the years I have developed my skills as a teacher through training with a partner, leading small groups, and whole class teaching. My own teaching skills have been greatly influenced by the support, passion and experience of Sifu and my Siheng, to whom I am indebted, and I strive to improve my teaching skills for the benefit of my students and to assist other instructors.
What we have is an intangible thing, the perpetuity of which will only be maintained by sharing it with like-minded people. I take great delight seeing my students thrive – observing their progress over time, and the enthusiasm demonstrated by their commitment. I hope to instil in my students the same desire to share our knowledge and passion as they will be the instructors of the future.
Instructor - Ealing, London (UK)
For me, traditional martial arts are a precious way of life, and I’ve changed my lifestyle so that training and teaching are always present. This involves compromises but the rewards consistently make it worthwhile. I am a student who teaches, my students are my training partners.
My personal approach is train hard, but don’t strain. Meaning that balance is essential in order for any practice to be sustainable long-term. We must devote equal emphasis to all aspects of training. Whatever you’re doing, it should make you feel happy and not destroy you. This is common sense, but we all need a guide to help us avoid losing our way. There are many paths up the mountain, and choosing the right path requires experience.
This is why finding the right teacher is so important. A year with the right person can be equivalent to many years with the wrong one. It isn’t complicated, just look for someone who has attributes you like, and want. Then don’t hesitate, just train.
I’m a traditionalist in that I’m loyal and respect the experience of my ancestors, while not being afraid to discard outdated beliefs. In the age of modern combat sports, I believe classical systems are more important than ever, preserving tenets and precepts which are worth upholding. Avoid the road to personal glory, which ultimately leads to disappointment and failure. Instead choose commitment to your health and longevity, self-confidence, creativity, and martial skill.
In Nam Pai Chuan there is always positive progression, with training methods that adapt and evolve with us over time. We never need to retire.
I like precision, and although life can be chaotic, our training should not be. It should be very clear with well-defined goals. I enjoy helping people who have passion and are willing to learn.
Don’t make excuses, prepare for now, practise for the moment, the future does not exist.
Instructor - Kensington, London (UK)
Kristin Lopez-Vito is currently a nurse therapist specialising in child and adolescent mental health. With permission, she began a Nam Pai Chuan young people’s class at Aquilla Health Club South Kensington in 2012 for those aged 5-17 years of age and has also run self-defence workshops for adolescent girls.
Kristin’s journey in Kung Fu started relatively recently whilst embarking on her nurse training at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery KCL, under the direction of Sifu Steven Leppard. Kristin has also benefitted from Sifu De Silva and Sigung Lai’s guidance successfully participating in a national qingda fighting competition winning a gold medal in her weight category.
Prior to Kung Fu Kristin has had six years practice experience in Iyengar and Ashtanga yoga giving her a foundation in meditation, body alignment, posture and dynamic movement. However, the training of internal energies left her wanting in the external projection and practical applications to changing life circumstances.
As a lone parent, it was her duty to secure her own safety for the well-being of her young family at home. In particular, whilst commuting through inner city areas at night after shifts on acute psychiatric hospital wards. Training in Nam Pai Chuan classes ensured the fulfilment of her physical fitness, flexibility, conditioning and self-defence needs as well as supporting her affinity towards meditative practice.
Embedded in her instruction is a strengths approach towards the teaching of young people, building on what works well for their individual body, fostering both physical and mental resilience and nurturing the development of their self efficacy. Kristin also has a special interest in mindfulness practices and concentration training for children and adolescents.