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Martial artistry

In The Classroom

June 15, 2010

Kung fu master Buck Sam Kong, 70, has been practicing martial arts since he was 6.

His kung fu studio at 1021 S. Brand Blvd. in Glendale has been in town for almost two years after moving from Los Feliz. He also has a studio in Honolulu, which opened in 1963.

Kong comes from a lineage of martial arts instructors whose teachings can be traced to the late 1800s, which include Kong's master, or sifu, Lam Cho, a grandmaster in the hung gar style of kung fu.

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From there it falls to Cho's master and uncle, Lam Sai Wing, an early pioneer of kung fu in the 1860s; and then his master, Wong Fai-hung, born in 1847 and considered an expert and developer of the tiger and crane style of Chinese martial arts.

It is this version of kung fu that Kong teaches, along with tai chi and chi-gung, a form of physical and mental training. Kong has been teaching for almost 50 years, has published several books and appeared in martial arts magazines.

"My purpose to teach kung fu is to spread out the Chinese culture so people [will be] honest and humble and always have respect," Kong said as he sat in his studio Thursday evening, nursing a knee that had recently undergone surgery. "That is my goal. For me, [and] my teachers, they always teach us martial arts to use it for physical and mental exercise and to get good health."

For Kong, teaching his students comes down to one philosophical contradiction: teach his students to fight so that they won't have to. At the end of the day, the only thing a student ends up breaking is a sweat. And the discipline students learn can be used in everyday life.

"One of the things you learn here is that you start out learning very simple things, and it gets more and more complicated," said student Alan Narmore. "That builds your confidence, when you finally learn to do something you saw someone years ahead of you doing."

Kong's second-floor studio is by no means large. The temperature increased at least 10 degrees by the time Kong's kung fu class began at 8 p.m. Thursday. Students took up almost every piece of the floor to practice their routines.

Kong's students are used to it, said student Liza Vicencio of Glendale. The cramped quarters allow them to easily gauge one another's moves and seek guidance.

"That's part of the intimacy," Vicencio said as students practiced their moves mere feet from where she was sitting. "It's important to practice with other students. You can use it for self-defense or fighting, [or] learning other people's energies."

For Kong's students, training at the end of the day brings much-needed relief from the stress of their day jobs.

"It's great. It's always a good thing to do something opposite of your job, so you're more balanced. It's calming, and you're not stressed out," said student and financial analyst Danny Wong of Atwater Village.

Kong teaches mixed-level kung fu classes from 7 to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to noon Tuesdays through Thursdays. Tai chi classes are held from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Sundays, and include basic weapons training. Private lessons are also available by appointment.

For more information on Buck Sam Kong Kung Fu, call (818) 244-8748 or visit www.bucksamkongkung fu.com.

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