In August 1973, a big martial arts tournament was held in Kuching, Sarawak to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of independence from Britain. (Sarawak joined Malaysia in 1963.) A favourite to win the tournament was a Karate and Kungfu star from Hong Kong. He and his two brothers were competing in separate divisions. They were the grandsons of the chief martial arts instructor of the former Chinese Imperial Army.” They had all won many tournaments, and this heavyweight had once challenged Mohammad Ali.
He would strike fear into his opponents as soon as he entered the arena, punching and kicking, his muscles rippling through his sleeveless upper torso, it was an intimidating sight sending fears through the opponents, Wan said. So much so that ‘Mr Hong Kong’ received a walkover each time he entered the ring, right up to the semi-final round.
There was a lot of money on this event, and no one expected the Hong Kong star to be taken down in mere seconds by a 34-year-old school teacher from Penang. He was known in Singapore for his tai chi, and was asked to represent them in the absence of a team from Penang.
It was to be an open contest, full contact, any styles, only boxing gloves were worn.
When Wan Kean Chew knocked out the widely hyped star from Hong Kong in the final heavy weight division and won the championship, it caused an unbelievable shock-wave through the martial arts community. It also caused a shockwave through the opponent. It was over in the first few seconds. Wan issued an explosive internal power which damaged the Hong Kong heavyweight’s internal organs. He threw in the towel.
Wan immediately fled to the airport and returned to Penang. The team officials received his trophy for the Singapore team. With odds in the opponent’s favour, Wan had received threats from gangsters and officials. He had no desire to stick around. But he did squeeze in time to win the tai chi tuishou (pushing hands) and nei-gong competitions.
Thirteen years later, Wan decided to test himself again by entering the fierce National Heavyweight Taijiquan Tuishou Championships. He was 47 years old at the time. With more than 5 million RM bet in underground betting and with bookies offering 10-3 odds against him, and with daily threats from Triads, Wan persevered, fighting as many as 4 bouts per day. Then the final bout was delayed so the opponents could study his strategy from videos. Wan was able to adapt his strategy and won the match, in spite of death threats from the Triads. Wan credits the support of friends, including a police detective who stood by him.
Wan Kean Chew was a much loved teacher who, aside from the aforementioned adventures, seems to have kept a very low profile. He was not very well known internationally, unless you count the visitors at the Golden Sands Hotel, Tanjung Bungah, where he would give tai chi lessons to the guests.
He was the founder of the Penang Taiji Association, Malaysia.
A special tribute to Grandmaster Wan Kean Chew PJK: http://www.scribd.com/doc/53023118/A-special-tribute-to-Grandmaster-Wan-Kean-Chew-PJK
Immortal Master Wan Kean Chew – martial arts exponent extraordinary : http://kimgooi.blogspot.com/
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