• A Note About History and Lineage
• The Founder Wu Mei
• Grandmaster Xia Peng
• Sifu Ken Lo
• Sifu David Berman
• Lineage Chart

Grandmaster Xia Peng

In 1910-11, terrible floods devastated southern China, leaving an 11-year-old boy of the Peng family orphaned and homeless. He had heard of the “Wu Mei” Temple—anyone in that region interested in martial arts would have heard of it—and with nowhere else to go, he set off on foot, determined to find the temple, to be accepted, and to learn the legendary martial art he had heard about, but never seen.

What the boy didn’t know, and would not know until years later, was that his appearance at the Temple gate would fulfill a prophesy. It had been foretold that someone would come, an outsider, a troublemaker, with a strange mark on his nose, and that he would rescue the lineage of Wu Mei Pai from extinction. This was why his admission to the monastery was even considered, and why he was accepted as the disciple of the Abbot himself.

Peng was now taken to the Guanyin Temple in neighboring Guangxi, and trained intensively under the supervision of the Abbot, fifth-generation Master Hoi Chan. The Master was already close to ninety years old, but his breath power was such that he could spit a stone into a tree trunk; his vitality was so great that he heated a caldron of bath-water with his hands. Peng learned quickly, and loved fighting, and earned the name Peng Xia (Paang Hap), Peng the heroic, for the eagerness with which he met the challenges of martial training. (He was never ordained, but remained a lay student, for it was clear both from the prophesy and from observation that his vocation was martial art, but not religion.)

Peng Xia completed his training and received the lineage of Wu Mei Pai, and spent the next decade traveling all over China, challenging local champions, and defeating them. This was the chaotic China of the early Republic—there were no rules, no weight divisions, no gloves, only the ancient martial traditions, in which the line between friendly contests and death matches was often easily blurred. Paang Sifu was a small man, never more than a lightweight, but he never lost a match.

Eventually Sigung (Grandmaster) retired from this sort of competition to devote himself to more serious efforts. He became a well-known herbalist and bone-setter, as well as an accomplished poet, painter, and calligrapher, and served as family physician to Dr. Sun Yat Sen, the father of the Chinese Republic. In 1937 war broke out between China and Japan, and Sigung spent the rest of the war training Chinese Republican troops to fight the Japanese; he became an agent for Gen. Chiang Kai-shek, and fled with him to Taiwan when Mao’s revolutionary forces overthrew the Republic in 1949.

In 1973 Sigung brought his family to New York. His arrival caused a stir in the martial arts community in Chinatown—the Five Tigers school offered him a space in which to teach, prominent families sent their sons to study with him, and businessmen vied to become his disciples, just for the honor of being associated with him. Sigung opened an herbal shop on Baxter Street, and began teaching Wu Mei Pai to a small group of disciples, marking the first time the system had ever been made available outside the monastery.