As the youngest son of Chiu Kow and Shiu Ying, Chiu Chi Ling became a style heir in his lineage. The versatile grandmaster is not only a martial artist, but also an actor, race car driver and businessman. It is largely thanks to him that Hung Gar Kung Fu became known in the world. He is more open to Western students than some other kung fu masters and willingly carries his art with many trips around the world.
Chiu Chi Ling was born on January 20, 1943 in a village in Canton. He had four siblings, Chiu ‘William’ Kam Fung, Chiu Kim Ching, Chiu Lai Fong and Chiu Wai.
His early years were a war-torn time. China was fighting Japan, but most of all there was civil war, which had driven the family out of Hong Kong even before Chiu Chi Ling was born. The Chius, always assisted by their older children, worked as doctors and moved from place to place.
When Chiu Chi Ling was four years old, Chiu Kow began to train him. This apprenticeship included fighting, of course, but also healing and humanities. He was a more than strict teacher who did not spare his son. (Chiu Chi Ling bears scars to prove it.) Chiu Chi Ling, however, withstood hardship and mastered the demanding Tiger-Crane form by the age of eight. Apart from his father, he was also instructed by his mother Shiu Ying and Wong Fei Hung’s wife, Mok Gwai Lan.
Style heritage, actor, jack-of-all-trades
Although Chiu Chi Ling was the youngest of his children, Chiu Kow made him his style heir and successor in 1965. This was due to the great abilities, loyalty and sense of responsibility that the young man displayed. In 1971, at the age of twenty-eight, he opened his own school on Nathan Road in Hong Kong and quickly became successful. In 1972, he married his wife Chan Yuk Ling, with whom he soon had a son, Kevin.
Chiu Chi Ling ran his school and his legacy with great energy – but he did not limit himself to that. In the seventies, he found entrance to the world of film. He starred in over seventy films since then, with his most famous role probably being that of the tailor in ‘Kung Fu Hustle’. Even today, Chiu Chi Ling is still on film sets.
However, acting was not enough either. For a few years he drove car races. He always wore the number 54, which is the symbol of long life. (54 sounds pronounced like the Chinese words for ‘never die.’)
Hung Gar Ambassador
From my Sifu, Grandmaster Martin Sewer, I have heard stories of his first days of learning in Hong Kong. Apparently he had to hear more than once that he could not learn Kung Fu – only Chinese could. Chiu Chi Ling, not only in terms of his style heritage, disagreed.
Chiu Chi Ling made countless trips all over the world. He taught and lectured wherever he went, enabling a multitude of non-Chinese to learn Hung Gar Kung Fu. Unlike Wing Tsun, which had been opened to Western students much earlier, Hung Gar was hardly known. Today, Chiu Chi Ling has students all over the world. To facilitate access, he also produced instructional videos.
The opening culminated when, in a interview with Alfredo Tucchi, Chiu Chi Ling publicly named Martin Sewer of Switzerland as his successor in style.
Migration to America
When Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, Chiu Chi Ling migrated to America. From there, he continued his mission of spreading Hung Gar Kung Fu undeterred. Today he lives in Alameda, California.