Buck Sing System has the Stuff Legends Are Made Of

This article appeared in BLACK BELT Jan 1993
Author: Jane Hallander

Copyright Blackbelt Magazine and Jane Hallander

Jane Hallander is a San Francisco-based freelance photojournalist and martial artist.

Chinese martial arts are characterized as much by amazing tales of strength as they are by tangible skills. No other martial arts have such a history of storytelling as do kung fu styles. Each Chinese combat system has its own legends and its own ancient heroes.

Asia's most popular kung fu system, Choy Lay fut, is no different. One branch of the style, in particular, is noted for its colorful past: Buck sing (northern style) Choy Lay fut.

According to Fremont, California-based Choy Lay fut instructor Vince Lacey, the Buck sing version of the style was shaped by two legendary Chinese martial artists: third-generation Choy Lay fut instructor Tam Sam and famed northern shaolin kung fu teacher Ku Ye Jerng. Sam was regarded as a highly talented fighter in the Hoi Ping suburb of Canton Province. When Cheung came to town, Tam Sam felt compelled to challenge him, both to satisfy his curiosity about Cheung's reputation, and to gain respect in Canton's martial arts community.

Jerng was a noted iron palm expert in southern China, and was able to break or bend just about anything. To him, a match against the relatively unknown Sam was nothing to lose sleep over. Surprisingly, however, Sam fought Jerng to a draw, and both men gained deep respect for each other's skills. They became such good friends that they exchanged knowledge about their two fighting styles. Consequently, many of Jerng's northern Shaolin techniques were incorporated into Sam's Buck sing

Buck sing Choy Lay Fut's fighting tradition continued down through the generations to present day, leaving a trail of amazing stories and martial heroes. Included in this group are brothers Vince and Dave Lacey, who made kung fu history in Hong Kong in the early 1960s. Third-generation students of Sam, the Lacey brothers were part of a select group of kung fu fighters named "The Five Black Panthers of Choy Lay Fut," who participated in weekly sparring matches against rival wing chun kung fu stylists.

People in Asia still talk about the legendary Choy Lay fut quintet.

The main differences between Buck Sing CLF and its sister styles are the long, extended hand movements that characterize Buck sing techniques. While regular Choy Lay fut is known for its long, circular arm movements, Buck sing techniques are even more extended, using the practitioner's entire range of hip action. These long, sweeping arm movements are a result of Cheung's northern Shaolin influence, according to Vince Lacey.

There are four primary long-range fist techniques in Buck sing Choy Lay fut. The most common technique is a straight thrusting punch, sometimes called a leopard punch, which is formed by folding the fingertips back underneath the knuckles. The thumb lies flat against the side of the hand, acting as a brace. This unique fist technique allows more penetrating force to a smaller target.

The back fist is another Buck sing fist technique. The back fist is delivered with a circular motion that emphasizes the practitioner's hip torque. The back of the fist strikes the target in either a vertical or horizontal manner.

The uppercut is another common Buck sing long-range circular technique, and uses the entire body mass to generate power. Unlike the short uppercuts of boxing, the power in Buck sing's version begins in the feet and moves up the body in a circular motion, until it is emitted through the practitioner's fist.

Buck sing Choy Lay fut stylists utilize a circular roundhouse strike as their knockout punch. This long-armed technique can be targeted at the upper, middle or lower parts of the opponent's body.

The aforementioned punching techniques form the foundation for Buck sing Choy Lay fur's other fist and palm strikes. The style also possesses a hammer fist strike, which is delivered in a downward manner to the opponent's head, neck or back. The hammer fist is employed with the side of the fist, as opposed to Buck Sing's "stamping" fist, which strikes downward with the knuckles.

Like Buck sing's fist techniques, the style's palm strikes are large, circular actions that utilize hip rotation to generate maximum power and penetration.

The footwork in this northern Choy Lay fut style is as extended as the hand techniques. 'The Buck sing Choy Lay fut footwork really shows the northern Shaolin influence," notes Vince Lacey.

Like regular Choy Lay fut, there are three primary stances in Buck sing. One is the "cat" or "empty" stance, in which all of the practitioner's weight rests on his rear leg. In the forward" or "bow" stance, the practitioner places 70 percent of his weight on his front leg. The "square" or "horse" stance requires the Buck sing stylist to spread his weight evenly over both legs in a posture similar to someone doing a horse. "We also have some pretty fancy footwork by Chinese martial art standards," Lacey says.

Although most kung fu styles emphasize Iow kicking techniques, Buck sing Choy Lay fut includes kicks to all levels of an opponent's body. One of the style's most common kicking techniques is a straight thrusting kick that slams into an opponent with sharp, penetrating force. Unlike most front kicks, the striking surface for this technique is the ball of the foot. Initially, the Buck sing practitioner's heel comes down on the target, similar to a short axe kick, then the ball of the foot follows, shoving the opponent backward with tremendous force.

While some Buck sing Choy Lay fut kicks are high, one of Vince Lacey's favorite techniques is a Low side kick to the opponent's knee, followed immediately by a second side kick to the opposite knee. As soon as the first kick lands, the Buck sing stylist leaps into the air and switches to a side kick with the opposite foot.

Sweeping kicks to the back of the opponent's calves or thighs are also characteristic of Buck sing Choy Lay fut. The sweep itself, however, is not the primary technique; it is always used in conjunction with a fist or palm attack. According to Lacey, one of the techniques will distract the opponent while the other finishes him off.

Because of their northern Chinese influence, Buck sing Choy Lay fut forms do not limit the practitioner to one line of attack, but rather allow him to move quickly in any direction. This makes it easier to defend against more than one assailant.

Buck sing Choy Lay fut training includes work on the wooden dummy as well as iron palm practice. The Choy Lay fut wooden dummy differs from its wing chun counterpart in that the position of the three arms is reversed; the Choy Lay fut dummy has two arms in the middle and one up high, rather than vice versa. The Choy Lay fur dummy is also used more for long-range striking practice than for the close-range "sticky hands" drills that characterize wing chun.

Buck sing Choy Lay fut iron palm training bears a str6ng resemblance to that of northern Shaolin kung fu. Such conditioning toughens the portions of the hands used in Choy Lay Fut's unique leopard-fist and open-palm strikes. Vince Lacey utilizes a sandbag for iron palm training, placing it on a waist-high table. The bag is filled with small, hard beans that give slightly with each hand thrust.

Buck sing Choy Lay fur has an essence which distinguishes it from its sister styles. The strikes in Buck sing are a little longer and the footwork is slightly more active than in other Choy Lay fut systems, making it a truly northern Chinese version of a popular southern kung fu style.

The facial resemblance is not striking, and Shane Lacey is taller and more i angular than was the legendary Bruce Lee. Yet, when it comes to background and ability, Lacey and Lee share many commonalities.
Like Lee, the 23-year-old Lacey is three-quarters Chinese; his one quarter of Irish blood accounts, perhaps, for his infectious smile and keen sense of humor. Lacey, the son of Fremont, California based Buck sing Choy Lay fut kung fu instructor Vince Lacey, is also a highly talented kung fu competitor who wants to be an actor.

Shane Lacey is well-versed in Choy Lay fut, northern Shaolin, hung gar, chow gar, wushu, wing chun and Thai boxing. His father actually trained in wing chun with Lee in 1959, on the rooftop of a Hong Kong apartment building about a mile from St. Francis Xavier's College, where Lee and Vince Lacey attended school.

Shane Lacey has also won his share of tournament acclaim. He is a two-time "four-star" forms grand champion at the International Kung Fu Championships in San Francisco, and in 1989, he was one of 10 grand champion forms finalists at Ed Parker's International Championships in Long Beach, California. Lacey has also twice won the advanced Chinese weapons division at Parker's event.

Lacey has it all--good looks, intelligence, and plenty of martial arts skills. Whether it is enough to fill the rather sizable shoes Lee left behind remains to be seen.

--Jane Hallander