What is the Chinese Physical Culture Association of Fullerton?
The CPCA of Fullerton is a non-commercial martial-arts organization that currently offers kung fu classes to students, faculty, staff, and alumni of California State University, Fullerton. It is also the parent organization of CSUF Kung Fu Club and also offers classes to the public.
When was the CPCA of Fullerton first established?
The CPCA of Fullerton has existed in various forms in Southern California since the 1960s. It became an official group at California State University, Fullerton, in 1971 when the college hired our founder, Master Ted Lai, to teach kung fu classes through the campus’ experimental college program, which aimed to diversify the school's class offerings.
Eventually, the CPCA of Fullerton came under the supervision of the campus' Titan Recreation Department, but Master Lai and his senior instructors' goal remained the same: share Chinese kung fu with any students, faculty, staff or the public who wanted to learn. In an effort to offer a wider array of practices and to develop a relationship with the student body, the CPCA of Fullerton helped form in the fall of 2003 the CSUF Kung Fu Club, which remains one of the college’s largest and most popular student groups.
Today, Sigung Lai's tradition is carried on by Sifu Hal Weiss, our head instructor who is an original Lai student and began training in 1973. With more than three decades of experience, he carries on the knowledge, traditions and open-mindedness of our founder and enjoys passing them onto anyone willing to learn.
Who was Sigung (Master) Ted Lai?
The late Master Ted Lai was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and began his martial-arts career at a young age, studying judo for many years at Professor Henry Okazaki's gym and Wally Jay's Club in Honolulu. He also studied Shotokan karate. After developing a tumor on his ribs from performing repeated breakfalls, Ted was forced to stop practicing judo, which emphasized throwing, rolling and falling -- much to his disappointment.
Still, Ted was in love with martial arts, so he started to learn Hung Gar kung fu at the Chinese Physical Culture Association (also known as Jeng Moo Tai Yuk Oui) in Honolulu -- under the tutelage of Loy Sing Lau, Yak Lee and Richard Seu. He loved Hung Gar's no nonsense approach to self-defense and its solid stances and footwork. Within years, he became an expert and enjoyed performing in the CPCA's lion and dragon dancing (a traditional part of kung fu training).
In the 1960s, Sigung Lai moved to the Los Angeles area, where he joined the Hop Sing Tong (a Chinese benevolent society) and participated annually in Los Angeles' Chinatown's lion and dragon dancing. He performed in the annual Bok Kai Festival in Marysville, California, and was called upon to perform with the San Francisco Dragon. Though an expert of Hung Gar, Sigung Lai sought out more martial knowledge. He began studying the Choy Li Fut system under Sifu Share Lew in North Hollywood; the class was a select one, for black belts only. He also learned Choy Li Fut under Sifu Wayne Yee and became affiliated with the Chinese Martial Arts Association.
After several years of teaching in various Mormon churches, Sigung Lai limited his teaching to the Cal State Fullerton branch. It was during this time that Sigung Lai slowly combined his diverse knowledge into a fluid system, with Hung Gar and Choy Li Fut as its foundation.
What's your style of kung fu?
For much of the CPCA’s first 35 years of existence, Sigung Lai’s system was simply called "Kung Fu." That term was quick for beginners to grasp and more widely recognized. For students and visitors who knew enough about the martial arts to ask further, they would often receive a longer explanation about how this style of kung fu was actually an eclectic mix of systems with Hung Gar as its base.
Years after Sigung Lai’s death, his active senior students (now the current chief instructors of the CPCA) recognized a need to both honor their teacher's inclusive nature and to distinguish how his style of kung fu has evolved from his original art of Hung Gar. In 2007, the current instructors rechristened his style Lai Chung Ch’uan Fa as a tribute to their founder.
Lai Chung Ch’uan Fa is a modern mix of Hung Gar and Choy Li Fut, two traditional Southern Shaolin styles of kung fu that are both very different but also very complementary. Generally speaking, Hung Gar employs deep, powerful stances with aggressive linear attacks while Choy Li Fut emphasizes mobility and power through circular movements. The mix provides a solid yin-yang balance.
However, our style has come to incorporate elements from kickboxing, kenpo karate, Filipino combatives and other Southeast Asian arts. It encompasses everything from blocking and striking, to weapons training and empty-hand forms called kuens. It also has “exotic strikes” from Shaolin’s animal styles and drills such as chi sao.
What does Lai Chung Ch’uan Fa mean?
Lai Chung was the Chinese name of our late founder, Master Ted Lai. Ch’uan Fa is the Chinese term for “Fist Law” or “Way of the Fist.”
Therefore, Lai Chung Ch’uan Fa means Ted Lai’s Way of Fighting.
What is your ranking system like?
We do not have a colored belt-ranking system as other schools might have adopted from the Japanese martial arts. Instead, we follow a modified ranking structure based on Chinese martial-arts traditions, which utilize uniforms and sashes to denote rank.
- Beginners: They must wear black athletic pants and a white T-shirt with no large graphics or distracting text. Students do not wear sashes.
- Intermediate students: After passing three cumulative basics tests, intermediate students wear black pants and are awarded with the white intermediate student T-shirt — signaling their ascent into the higher levels of the kung fu curriculum. At this stage, they begin learning kuens (forms) and sparring.
- Advanced students: Students are awarded the gray advanced student T-shirt. At this stage, they begin learning advanced weapons forms and apprentice in teaching.
- Gold-Sash Instructors: After an intense cumulative test, these assistant instructors are awarded a gold sash and the black instructors' T-shirt. Worn like belts, the sashes are often adorned only during formal occasions, such as tests or demonstrations.
- Black-Sash Instructors: These senior instructors wear their black sashes with the black instructors' T-shirt and pants. There are four degrees of the black-sash rank.
- Red-Sash Head Instructor: The red sash is not another rank; it is worn by the current head instructor to signify that he has not only mastered the entire Lai Chung Ch'uan Fa system, but that he is also the most senior sifu in the CPCA.