This time it will be a bit rough. I have been living in different parts of Hong Kong. At first I was trying to avoid English speaking community as much as I could, which brought me some deep (deep ≠ good) experiences. I realized that how I live here is a topic worth writing about.
I first moved to Hong Kong for a longer period of time as an exchange student. That was great, I used to live at a dormitory in the middle of hills, inside of a university campus. You could say in terms of living, it was easy. Then I came back to work here (and mainly train martial arts) and everything suddenly became complicated. When I look back now, it was crazy, and I don’t know how I survived that. If somebody would tell me how much I will need to sacrifice, I don’t know whether I would walk this path, but luckily, you never know how much you will need to pay, as it always comes in little bits and you are thinking, I still got this, I still can get through this…
An article I originally wrote in Czech language for the Martial Arts magazine published in Czech Republic (Bojová umění, 9, 74-75), with a bit of exaggeration about the way you may travel Hong Kong if you are a visiting kung fu lover.
For the southern China martial arts lovers Hong Kong is fatal: we all want to get there, and as soon as we arrive, our soul is lost. It all start with stepping out of the airport arrival hall, where the humid air with a mixture of scents from meals and incense sticks attacks the tourists, and kung fu being present almost everywhere – that is why Hong Kong gets under your skin so quickly. Hong Kong is one of the places of something we could call “kung fu tourism”. We could count in for example Shaolin temple, Wudang mountains or Foshan. Besides the foreigner coaches and students, who come to Hong Kong almost every year to visit their teachers, there are always numerous groups of people who lust after a bit less intense training, but the more colourful view for their eyes, the kung fu tourists.
In Hong Kong, kung fu can be seen wherever you walk. Even thought the youngsters nowadays prefer tae-kwon-do, still you can often catch a sight of some kung fu legacy in the TV advertisements (for example telling you to check the the condition of your building) or on the posters (if you are at a construction site, wear a helmet! – said the kung fu construction worker). If you turn on a TV, there will be someone fighting in almost every single TV series. In a poetic way, of course. We are no brutes!
First steps of many will lead to the legendary, but still not enough well-known performance at the Kung fu Corner. In the Kowloon Park, every Sunday afternoon, one local kung fu schools will organize two hours program, and ask their friends-masters to also join. They all will create a performance containing kung fu and lion or dragon dance. Just follow the sound of the drum or rushing people with a weapon over the shoulder. It is unknown beforehand who will perform, so the quality may vary, but if you come for the beginning (2.30 pm), you will see the lion dance and also taste today’s kung fu practice for the next two hours. The biggest masters usually sit in the audience. Yes, those old gentlemen, who record the show, use their fans and brag, that is the generation that still used to fight on the streets.
On Sunday it is closed, but after a whole day spent eating dim sum dumplings, drinking pu-erh tea and cursing the icy air-conditioning, you can head to this kung fu shop on Monday. It is called Ka Fok Sports Supplies Limited on the Kwun Tong MTR station. It is the biggest kung fu shop in Hong Kong and you will regret your visit bitterly. Clothing, shoes, weapons, drums, lions, back scratchers, punching bags… you can find anything here. Just, you won’t have enough money for all of that. The shop owners are of course practitioners themselves, too, and will probably like to take a picture with you. Later, you can find yourself on Facebook. And because they know well the misery of shopping tourists in their shop, they are able to send you a package directly to your home.
It is really difficult for anyone to get through the Tin Sum village during the festival. The streets nearby are full of lions and drums. Earplugs, good idea. Earth God, or Lord of the Soil and Ground Festival is celebrated once a year. It seems that all lions from Hong Kong arrived.
I can actually really count around 20 minimum.
This event is very very loud, it takes several hours to be able to hear again. Lion dances together with their schools march through the street to a football field, just big enough to take in all the people. It is very easy to get lost here. Well, unless you are a foreigner. You are probably the only foreigner there, to be honest.
After lions bow to each other and welcome each other, schools light the insence sticks, pay respect and find their table. It is a plastic table with plastic stools, like a garden furniture. The only food here is a big bowl on each table filled in with meat, heated by a heater underneath. There is also some rice. But the food is not the purpose of this event.
The main part is the meeting, gathering of friends, masters, lion dance and kung fu schools. Going around the tables and toasting with a beer is a custom, that even I, a foreigner is more than welcome to do so. This time I took two of my friends with me.
"You know these people?" they asked after we lifted on their feet the whole bunch of people sitting at one table, shouting cheers in Cantonese. Some groups I know, some I never saw before. But it does not make any difference.
Here everyone is connected. And this is such a special celebration in Hong Kong, far away from the city and even including crackers (otherwise not allowed in Hong Kong), that you indeed sure have some connection with these people, so you are able to know about it and be here.
I have been practicing martial arts since 1999. It became the reason for moving to Hong Kong and it guided many of my life decisions. I am addicted to hung kuen kung fu and MMA. Further blog posts are sharing of an enthusiast.
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