Performing powerful martial arts moves while emanating forceful shouts, disciples and committee members of the Malaysian Ngo Chor Fitness and Sports Society (Jenjarom Branch) gather on the training ground despite a blazing sun, practicing Ngo Chor drills under the guidance of Master Yap Loo Peng (transliteration). 81-year-old master Yap goes around at a steady pace, fixing his sharp eyesight on disciples, instructing and correcting their postures. Over the past 40-odd years, master Yap has been travelling between his home in Jinjang and the academy in Jenjarom to teach Ngo Chor martial arts. Even though semi-retired due to his advancing age, with older disciples in charge of the academy’s daily routine, master Yap often drops by to maintain his efforts in promoting this cultural sports activity.
Founded in the late Qing dynasty, Ngo Chor martial arts originated from Quanzhou in Hokkien, China. The initiator being master Chua Giok Beng, who created a system after decades of research, by merging principles and techniques from five martial art styles, namely Taizu, White Crane, Bodhidharma, Arhat, and Monkey. Ngo Chor is renowned in southern China for its precision, forcefulness, and practical characteristics, therefore master Chua acquired numerous disciples. As there were some disciples among swarms of southern Chinese who migrated to Malaya, they continued the tradition of Ngo Chor upon settling down.
In Jenjarom where most villagers are of Hokkien ancestry, there was no martial arts academy during its early days. Master Yap’s instructor, the late grandmaster Poh Tie (transliteration), rented a vacant space to teach Ngo Chor, founding an academy together with a bunch of seniors. However various problems such as disciples being busy with their work and the implementation of a curfew caused the classes to be held sporadically. Following master Poh’s death some years later, senior Lim Teng Kiat (transliteration) took over as instructor, both disciples and martial art skills spread rapidly. Eventually as senior Lim was preoccupied with his work, master Yap was sought out to lead in the systematic practice on Aik Kuan kindergarten premises. ‘Poh Tie Ngo Chor Martial Arts Lion Dance Club’ was officially formed in 1977. Parents sent their children to learn Ngo Chor, participate in lion dance, and ride unicycles. Back when entertainment was scarce, it was the best gathering place, even compatriots from other races joined in the expanding martial arts club.
Immense support from local villagers, and the efforts of club members, the authorities approved of the martial arts club in 1982, hence renamed to Jenjarom branch of the Malaysian Ngo Chor Fitness & Sports Society. Apart from Ngo Chor, there are also lion dance, stilts, and unicycling derived from martial art basics. These are fun to learn, and able to perform during events. The society is recognised and gained support from local villagers who donated generously to build an academy. The Ngo Chor academy building, which stood amid Jenjarom village, was inaugurated in 2006. A small temple was built in honor of the three antecessors, namely Bodhidharma, the initiator Chua Giok Beng, and grand master Poh Tie.
Ngo Chor is suitable for learners across all ages and genders, enhancing physical fitness and willpower, as well as achieving unity in a community. Despite training hard, disciples love and respect each other like a family. Senior disciples also carry on this legacy by helping master Yap to teach, such as the current team manager Soon Chin Tat (transliteration). He has been practicing Ngo Chor for 38 years, progressing from a young novice to being a senior who coordinates performances and takes care of team members. In recent years, due to young adults moving to the city for better opportunities, there is an age gap among disciples who are school children and middle-aged adults, their numbers dwindling from hundreds to merely 35.
Inscribed on the pillars of the academy is the saying: “Training for self-defense and fitness, great skills inherited from ShàoLín”, highlighting the main purpose of practicing martial arts, not for fighting with others. A century-long inheritance, not only does Ngo Chor represent Chinese culture, it also incorporates lion dance to become a folk culture, a healthy sports activity.
Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen
有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Drone : Daniel Lim
Video Editor : Amelia Lim
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Dawn of Man & Frozen In Love
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