There’s an ill wind blowing at a time of great sadness. I experienced this wind years ago when Grand Master Lum Wing Fay died in 1991. Before his death his inner circle of students was well known and undisputed. His lineage was clear. Immediately following his death the vultures descended claiming to be his chosen ones with the ‘real’ style. They claimed backroom promises and secret lessons. Now that Lum Wing Fay Sifu was no longer there to confirm or refute their stories they could boldly assert their claims. Before his death they made no such claims and afterwards they shouted it to the world. There are many schools that have arisen from these fellows even though the true descendants of Sifu Lum have disavowed their validity. This is not unique to Jook Lum. It has occured in many Wing Tsun and other schools when a master has passed. Even in my Zen studies it happened after the death of a great teacher; suddenly someone came forward claiming to being his chosen successor. It's always after the teacher is silenced this happens.
Now, unfortunately, Sifu Jack Man Louie is gravely ill, and again you can hear the flap of the vulture’s wings. Sifu Louie is one of the most honest and forthright men I have ever known. He has never bragged or promoted himself in anyway. He never got involved in politics and was heartbroken with what happened after Lum Wing Fay’s death. He spoke often about his dismay over the braggarts in this style and how much he disdained their grand standing and posturing. He knew there would be those that claimed his legacy too and spoke to those of us in Philadelphia about it. He entrusted only one student here in Philadelphia with his personal artifacts so that his intentions would be clear. He told his Philadelphia kwoon often whom he considered his true students and warned of others who would make that claim. Though many visited Sifu only a few students actually spent years with him and it was these students whom he respected the most. Once at a meal with Sifu Mark Foon, myself and several members of his Philadelphia kwoon, he openly lamented over the state of Jook Lum today and how there were those claiming to be his students who had only used him for status as they did with Sifu Lum. He could hear the wings flapping even back then.
Now that he can no longer speak there are those that are suddenly speaking for him. There will be more. They will make claims about their descendancy though they have never featured him outright at their schools or on their web sites. They did not help him financially over the years nor did they represent him in his New Year demonstrations. They will make many outrageous claims about Sifu Louie’s intentions though he never voiced them to his closest students here. What they dared not say before they will now say with impunity for they can hide behind Sifu’s illness. How terrible this is to happen to such a good man of honor and dignity. Now the dust will rise from their wings and they will get louder and louder as this dear man grows more silent. They already gather overhead awaiting their time to make their proclamations loudly.
Those who have been with Sifu Louie for decades, have shared their homes and meals with him and who have sat at his bedside know the truth regardless of what will be claimed in the coming days. We hope for a miracle that Sifu Louie survives this and will set the record straight but the chances are small. We honor him by our loyalty and friendship but mainly by being like him and not entering into the fray of the impending vulture’s wings.
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