Jow Ga (or Zhou Jia) is one of the most popular and practical fighting styles of Kung Fu. It has practitioners all over the world, including the U.S., Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, England, Canada, Malaysia, Poland, Germany and Australia. Like so many popular styles, Jow Ga is a hybrid system combining both Southern and Northern styles of Chinese Martial Arts.
Speed and power are 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 fast moving 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.
History of Jow Ga
There were five Jow Ga founders known as the Five Tigers: 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. Jow Lung, the principal founder, was born in 1891 on the eleventh day of the third lunar month in Sa-Fu village of Guangdong Province. 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 study of the Northern Shaolin system with a high priest who was a martial arts master at a Buddhist temple. 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 Jow Ga’s upper body or hand techniques derive from Hung Ga and its lower body techniques and footwork from Choy Ga.
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 (see bio below), who later became 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 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 (see bio below), a top disciple of Chan Man Cheung, introduced Jow Ga to the United States, giving the American public access to 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.
Sifu Reza Momenan (see bio below) started his Jow Ga training under the supervision of Master Dean Chin in 1979. As a result of his dedication to the system and, in particular, to Master Chin, he became one of Master Chin’s closest students. After Master Chin’s untimely death in 1985, Sifu Momenan continued his training with well known Jow Ga instructors such as Sifu Deric Mims and Sifu Raymond Wong. Sifu Momenan has been an instructor of Jow Ga Kung Fu since 1982. In 1986, he founded the Chinese Boxing Academy at George Washington University, and went on to found the Jow Ga Kung Fu Academy in 1989. In the year 2000 the Academy was transformed into the Jow Ga Shaolin Institute of Herndon, Virginia, where he continues to share the knowledge accumulated over four decades of kung fu training with his students.
Grandmaster Chan Man CheungGrandmaster Chan Man Cheung was born November 5, 1929 in Guangdong, China. He began kung fu training with his father when he was just four years old. At age 11, he joined a Jow Ga school located near his home. The school belonged to Jow Biu, one of the founders and “Five Tigers.” It was the first Jow Ga school reestablished after the Japanese invaded China. He trained for three hours a day, everyday, to perfect his martial skills. When Jow Biu later moved to Hong Kong to open a school, Chan Man Cheung, at age 20, became his assistant instructor there. He conducted classes in the evenings while earning a living by day in the seafood industry. One of his managers asked him to teach his god-daughter. Because she wanted to be in the movies, Chan Man Cheung used his martial arts connections with movie stuntmen to help her. Due to his great skill in kung fu, he eventually became a martial arts coordinator for the movie industry and landed parts in several films.
In the early 1960’s, he was advisor to the US-Hong Kong Friendship Association. One of his top students was Dean Chin, who would later introduce Jow Ga Kung Fu to the U.S. One of Dean Chin’s kung fu classmates was Wong Jing Kwok, better known by the stage name Wang Yu (he later became one of Asia’s most popular action stars). When Queen Elizabeth visited Hong Kong, Grandmaster Chan was chosen to perform the welcoming lion dance because of his unparalleled expertise in making the animal come alive. He became known in martial arts circles as the “King of Lion.”
Among his many accomplishments, he served as Chief Instructor of the Jow Biu Association in Hong Kong for four years, and was its Vice-Chairman. He has traveled widely to promote Jow Ga including participating in a Kung Fu masters tour of the U.S. In addition to several return visits to various martial arts schools in the U.S., he has been invited to Singapore repeatedly, as well as to Germany, to perform and give seminars. Even at age 70, his movements were still quick and agile. He was generous in sharing his knowledge, and was well liked due to his affable personality. He treated juniors and seniors alike, regardless of their status, with equal courtesy and respect. He truly led by example.
Grandmaster Chan Man Cheung passed away peacefully around 11am, Friday, Oct 4th, 2013, Hong Kong time (11pm, Thursday, Oct 3rd, US Eastern time). A well respected martial artist with prominent students across the globe and particularly the USA, Grandmaster Chan was 84 years old.
Master Dean ChinThe following is an excerpt from an article by Sifu Reza Momenan in the October 1987 issue of a newsletter of the Jow Ga Kung Fu Association, in honor and memory of Master Dean Chin.
Master Dean Chin took up martial arts at the early age of seven. His first instructors were his uncles who taught him the White Eyebrow, White Crane and Hung-Ga systems of Kung Fu. At age nine, he joined the Jow Ga system. Four years later, he became a member of the Eagle Claw system. The “King of Eagles”, Sifu Fu Liu, taught him Northern Shaolin and Eagle boxing forms. Besides being a master of these Kung Fu methods, Sifu Chin excelled in grappling and dim-mark (striking at pulse points). It is not surprising then that at the age of fourteen, he lent his assistance to the Jow Ga system and began teaching. From this period on, in the course of his teaching, he met many other Kung Fu masters and learned much from them while exchanging system techniques. Among some of these systems were Wing Chun, Choy Li Fut, Jow Ga Praying Mantis and Thai boxing.
Master Chin was well-liked by his many instructors because of his superior qualifications and extensive knowledge of the profession. As a result, they freely imparted to him their best techniques as well as their system secrets. With so many years of study and practical experience in the martial arts, he could have easily developed his own Kung Fu system. However, he preferred to remain with Jow Ga because he felt that it had the most potential in that it combines the best of the Northern and the Southern Shaolin schools.
After immigrating to the United States in 1966, Master Chin began forming his Kung Fu schools in 1968; in 1972, he established the Jow Ga Association. Sifu Chin was the Overseas Coach for the Jow-Biu branch of the Jow Ga Kung Fu Association; Eastern United States Representative of the Hong Kong Chinese Martial Arts Association; member and qualified Sifu of Liu Fat Man’s (King of the Eagles) Faan Tzi Eagle Claw School (a Northern Shaolin system); Advisor for the Presidential Cup (held annually in Taiwan — the world’s largest Kung Fu tournament); and Vice-Chairman of the Eastern United States Kung Fu Federation.
Unfortunately Master Dean Chin died on August 10, 1985, at the age of 38. He left his disciples and students stunned with grief as Master Chin was very close to them. While everybody respected him for his abilities and knowledge of Kung Fu, he never allowed his superiority to build a wall between him and his students. Sifu Dean Chin, as his credentials show, was very open minded about other styles. He sought to learn or understand those aspects that he felt to be useful to the Jow Ga system. While he was progressive in outlook, however, he led the school and his students in a very traditional manner. Master Dean Chin is greatly missed by all of his students.
Sifu Reza MomenanSifu Reza Momenan is Chief Instructor of the Jow Ga Shaolin Institute. Sifu Momenan started his martial arts training in the mid 1970’s by taking classes in Shotokan Karate, which was one of the more popular martial arts in his homeland of Iran. Soon after, his interest turned to Kung Fu. He was first introduced to Kung Fu in the early 70’s through a style known as To’A. Two years later he moved to the United States to pursue his academic education. Sifu Momenan started his Jow Ga training under the supervision of Master Dean Chin in 1979. As a result of his dedication to the system and, in particular, to Master Chin, he became one of Master Chin’s closest students. After Master Chin’s untimely death in 1985, Sifu Momenan continued his training with well known Jow Ga instructors such as Sifu Deric Mims and Sifu Raymond Wong. Sifu Momenan has been an instructor of Jow Ga Kung Fu since 1982. In 1986, he founded the Chinese Boxing Academy at George Washington University, where he was a Ph.D. candidate in Medical Engineering. He continued teaching at GWU until 1990, when he graduated.
A founding member and official of the Northern America Chinese Martial Arts Federation (NACMAF), Sifu Momenan served as co-chair of the Certification Committee. In 1996, Sifu Momenan founded the Chinese Martial Arts Club of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Sifu Momenan has competed in national tournaments and judged martial arts competitions at both the national and international levels. Sifu Momenan was the first person in this area to perform a “non-assisted” two-story lion dance.
Starting in 1993 he was introduced to other Shaolin systems such as Cha, Mizong and Qingping Sword through the generosity of his elder Jow Ga Brother, Sifu Hon Lee. In June 2000 Sifu Momenan met Sifu Lee’s teacher, 6th-generation Grandmaster of Mizong and 9th-generation Grandmaster of Qingping Sword Lu Jun Hai, in London. During that short period Sifu Momenan impressed Grandmaster Lu so much that Grandmaster Lu took Sifu Momenan under his tutelage, training him in both Shaolin Mizong and Qingping Sword. Recognizing his talent and dedication, Grandmaster Lu subsequently made Sifu Momenan his disciple and thus a 7th-generation Shaolin Mizong heir and a 10th-generation Qingping Sword heir. During the same year Sifu Reza Momenan transformed the original Jow Ga Chinese Boxing academy into the Jow Ga Shaolin Institute, co-founded with Sifu Hon Lee. Sifu Hon Lee remains the Honorary Advisor to the Institute after his retirement from teaching in December of 2012. Over the past decades Sifu Momenan has trained many high caliber martial artists and instructors, some of whom are now training their own students. Sifu Momenan stated once in the 1990’s that his “quest to advance the knowledge of Chinese martial arts continues today with the same enthusiasm that started over 30 years ago”.