July 22, 2007 was a very special day for me. I had the opportunity of meeting and spending a good part of the day with Sifu Melvin Armstrong and his family. Sifu Armstrong is one of the elder students of Grandmaster Ark Y. Wong and one of his closest. He spent over 10 years of intense training and of friendship with Grandmaster Wong. During that time, Sifu Melvin saw GM Wong on an almost daily basis, training with him at his regular classes and then taking private lessons with him at night. This led to a very close relationship between them and Sifu Melvin has literally hundreds of stories and anecdotes of his personal, one on one time with GM Wong. He tells of taking trips with GM Wong to San Francisco Chinatown, at a time when outsiders were not welcome by the Chinese. Still, GM Wong would speak for him and he was then received without any incident. This happened many times such that he was recognized as GM Wong's confidant, companion and assistant.
We spent time speaking but being kung fu fanatics, it soon turned into a spur of the moment training session and that is when the fun began! Sifu Armstrong is strong and elegant in his movements, hallmarks of his many years of training. Basics, basics, basics, he repeated are the only way to true kung fu mastery. Horse training, walking horse training, proper fist, proper leg positioning, proper arm angles... precision and detail exude from his teaching.
When discussing the way he was taught and the curriculum he learned, I asked about forms such as the horse, the bull and the elephant. He never heard of them except for the elephant form which he saw performed on one of his visits with GM Wong to see GM Lau Bun, of the Hung Sing Gwoon Choy Lee Fut style. GM Wong and GM Lau Bun were great friends he says, and that is where he saw the elephant form. Mok Gar, the 5 family forms, the 5 animals he says are the style that GM Wong taught.
Demonstrating Fu Jow from the movements of the Tiger
Master Melvin Armstrong has a wonderful family, all of whom were very kind and accepting, even though I took time away from their vacation. I could have spent many hours with Sifu Melvin and he and his family would have more than likely accomodated me but I realized that I could not be selfish and that there would be more time in the future.
From Left: Sifu's wife Linda, Grandson Dennis, Sifu Melvin, his daughter Kathy, and Kathy's husband Harry.
Sifu Melvin and I remain in constant contact via email and telephone. I am learning more and more about how things were when GM Wong was alive and many things are now making sense. I am fortunate to have met him and to be in his confidence.
Thank you Master Melvin Armstrong.