A site honoring the teachings of Kuo Lien Ying and the magical time that we were able to learn from Si Fu
Portsmouth Square 1965-1985
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Robert Bergman-Bio and Martial Arts history
Born in 1955 , raised in NY.
Was part of the psychedelic 60’s and that is where my search for higher consciousness and the seeds of inspiration for my interest in Chinese Gung Fu , spirituality, meditation and energy healing started.
I used to go with my childhood friend, [sifu] Donald Rubbo and other friends to the Sun Sing movie theater in lower Manhattan and take over rows of the theater watching and screaming at the old original Shaw Bros Shao-Lin movies………That is where I found my true inspiration to follow the “Path of Spiritual boxing”
I had several other friend s who were some of the first non Asian’s to learn Chinese Gung Fu from Chinese teachers. Their Gung Fu was good but their attitudes, tempers and behaviors were not and there was only so much I could learn from them , due to their lack of spiritual and energetic focus[ from my point of view , anyway]
Came to San Francisco in the early 70’s and met Sifu Bing Gong in the panhandle … and that was it !
He was an amazing man with excellent skills ,incredible flexibility and his focus was energetic yet calm. He was kind and had one of the most generous and humble spirits’ that I have witnessed, still to this day. Right then , I knew I had found what I was looking for and my real journey on the path of spiritual boxing began.
I studied Northern Shao- Lin with him for a few years in the Panhandle at GG Park and then he decided it was time for me to meet Grandmaster Kuo Lien Ying, lineage holder, his teacher and the source of all our Gung Fu knowledge. I continued my Shao-Lin training , pushing hands and Jan Juang “standing” with Master Kuo at 5 am every morning in Portsmouth square park in Chinatown, and after a few years I shaved my head and became his Monkey disciple. He made me practice rolling in the basement on hard , cold concrete , almost in the dark and had to hold difficult postures and stances with the monkey “spirit” and monkey characteristics on my face. If you could have seen him when he did it, there was no doubt he would go into a quick little trance and “pooof”...he was enveloped in the Monkey Spirit.
He used to always tell me to “become” the monkey and then your actions and movements would flow out of him…..not you !
During that time I did a lot of sparring , two man exercises and plenty of “push hands” with my fellow brothers and sisters and especially my senior gung fu brothers……and truth be told ….i got my ass kicked…….but it was awesome.. And I loved every second of it and came back for more with a smile on my face. In all honesty, that is where I got a chance to feel real energy , work on practical application and cultivate my “fighting” spirit.
Right around then, I also started training with one of the teachers who came to see Kuo sifu when he first came to SF, Master Gene Chen…and he was badass. I became his Chu Gar `Southern Praying Mantis student with several others [ a group of hardcore enthusiasts] and he really took the roots of Kuo Sifu’s teachings and foundation and turned them into the “Flowers” of practical application and understanding. I also started learning Chen’s family Tai Chi, as well, at the request of Chen sifu.
He always emphasized that the highest level of skill was “sensitivity” and it was what separated the men from the boys , as far as he was concerned and if you ever saw him practice it was a thing of beauty. His continuity and integration of power was flawless ! Plus his classes were no nonsense training sessions and I learned a lot of fighting apps and thru partner practice, dissolved my fear….I gained amazing confidence at his classes and he was a living example .
He was a hands on teacher who would show you, right then and there. That’s a rare thing these days : to have some one who really knows his stuff and be willing to give up his knowledge to a student who deserves it, with direct personal instruction . I was blessed by both Master Kuo and Master Chen.
Soon after that, I moved to Taiwan and went to the university to learn Chinese and at that time I found lineage holder and grand master of the Taiwanese “5 Claw Golden Eagle” system, Master Chen Jiao Miao. A really skilled teacher, but very humble. I learned in his home for two years. He was especially skilled at Chin Na & his grasping and seizing ability was , well…..scary !
He could grab you and with just a little twist and your arm would go numb and then a few seconds later he would release you and rub it a certain way…. And the circulation would come back.
Whew. …i used to always think “ man, that was close”….and of course, with grasping and seizing knowledge, herbal Chinese medicine and its application was part of his teaching. He stressed that if you hurt your gung fu brother you better be able to heal him ! So he would instruct us to go in his backyard pick specific herbs from specific leaves and then come back and apply them to our partners’ injury.