Jow Ga Kuen (Jow Ga) is one of the most popular and practical fighting styles of Chinese Kung Fu. It has practitioners all over the world, including in the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, England, Canada, Malaysia, Poland, Germany and Australia. Like many effective kung fu styles, Jow Ga is a hybrid system combining techniques from both Southern and Northern styles of Chinese martial arts. Speed and power is combined with the grace and beauty of flowing circular movements. Its Northern influence can be seen in its full range of kicking techniques, sweeps, and swift footwork. Its Southern influence can be seen in a wide variety of long and short range hand techniques including open hand strikes, as well as animal techniques imitating tiger, crane, leopard, snake and dragon. Jow Ga also includes the use of a wide range of traditional Chinese martial arts weapons such as staff, spear, sword, chain whip, double weapons and many more.
Jow Ga’s principal founder is Jow Lung (周龍), whose original name was Jow Ming Lam (周名林), and was born in 1891 on the eleventh day of the third lunar month in Sa‐Fu village of Guangdong Province. Jow Lung, the fifth son in the Jow family; Jow Hip, the sixth son; Jow Biu and Jow Hoy, the eighth and ninth sons who were twins; and Jow Teen, the tenth son. His father was Jow Fong Hoy; his mother’s maiden name was Li. Finding love and security in the warmth of his parents’ home, Jow Lung grew up nurturing ambitious goals. As a youth, he liked practicing Kung Fu and learned the art from village masters. With strong determination and perseverance he perfected the Choy Ga and Hung Ga systems (two of the best known Southern Shaolin Kung Fu styles). Choy Ga is noted for its complex kicking, footwork and stances, while Hung Ga is renowned for its powerful hand techniques and stable stances. In 1910, Jow Lung went to Indochina with his brother, Jow Hip, on business, but soon began the study of Northern Shaolin system with abbot Chian Yi in a small monastery named “Gi Leu”. After five years of intense practice, Jow Lung mastered the Northern Shaolin system just as he had perfected the Southern Shaolin system in his youth. Jow Lung decided that he would combine the best of the Southern and Northern systems of Kung Fu. The system (which was later renamed Jow Ga in honor of its founder), was called Hung Tao Choy Mei, which literally translates as “having the head of Hung and the tail of Choy.” This name recognizes that the Jow Ga’s upper body or hand techniques derive from Hung Ga and its lower body techniques and footwork Choy Ga. Due to the system’s effectiveness and the fame of their fighting abilities, the five Jow Ga brothers were honored with the title “Five Tigers of Jow Ga” (周家五虎).
In 1919, Jow Lung died prematurely of pneumonia at the age of 28. Jow Biu became the chief promoter of Jow Lung’s achievements after his brother’s death, and was primarily responsible for spreading the Jow Ga system to the rest of the world. Jow Biu opened the first Jow Ga school in Hong Kong. During this early period, Jow Biu was assisted in China and later in Hong Kong by Chan Man Cheung, a Grandmaster of the Jow Ga System. Grandmaster Chan started training when he was just four years old and became a student of Jow Biu when he was eleven. Grandmaster Chan opened his first Kung Fu School in Hong Kong when he was 24. He had roles in many Kung Fu movies and worked for a time as a martial arts coordinator in the Hong Kong’s film industry. He resided in Hong Kong and was Chairman of the Chinese and Foreign Jow Ga Martial Arts Federation.
In 1964 Master Dean Chin, a top disciple of Chan Man Cheung, introduced Jow Ga to the United States, giving the American public access a martial art that previously was taught exclusively to Chinese. Master Chin, in partnership with Sifu Hoy Lee (who is the first person learning Jow Ga from Master Chin in the United States) established the first Jow Ga school in the U.S. (which also was the first Kung Fu school in Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown). Master Chin was a founding member of the Eastern U.S. Chinese Martial Arts Federation. He organized a full-contact tournament in 1974, the first competition of its kind open to all styles. In addition to Jow Ga, Master Chin, a well-rounded and highly skilled martial artist, was also adept in other famous Kung Fu styles, including the White Eyebrow, White Crane, Eagle Claw and Hung Ga systems.