By: M. Mikhail
With Mississauga 2014 elections coming soon and the preparation for the federal elections, politicians’ eyes are on the Chinese community leaders seeking their support.
Augustine Ngu, a well respected Chinese community leader- he is the president of Kung Fu Canada, president of All Masters kung fu school and a level nine Grandmaster with disciples and students across Canada. The school has recently celebrated its 35th anniversary in Canada.
All Masters’ students are world champions in Kung Fu and the school’s Lion Dancing team is always sought out. In fact, they performed in front of Queen Elizabeth during her visit to Canada.
When we went to interview Sifu Ngu at All Masters school in Mississauga, the Shaolin class had just ended and students were warming up for the white crane and wing chun classes. Despite the hubbub and din of the transitioning classes, we were able to make our way through to speak with the Grand master. Typical of the Chinese, he offered us a seat in his office and had his secretary pour us piping hot green tea in small traditional cups.
I began the interview with Sifu thanking him for being my first kung fu master, as well as my daughter’s.
AN INTERVIEW WITH GRAND MASTER NGU
Well, I grew up in Malaysia in a very vibrant Chinese community. During the time I grew up, Chinese kung-fu was very popular. As a kid, I was very fascinated with kung-fu just like my friends were. It was always a dream that I would like to learn kung-fu one day since I was a kid. No different than some of the kids from South America the way they are so passionate about soccer. I formally started kung-fu training at the age of 8 or 9 years old.
I hold the position of being the President of the Kung-fu Canada Federation. Furthermore, I’m also certified by the World Kung-fu Federation to Grandmaster 9th degree. I was also certified by Wushu Canada as Grandmaster 9th degree. I’m very honoured that I’m the only Sifu in Canada that is certified by both federations as a Grandmaster. For about eight or nine years, I have attended international Sanshou (full contact sparring) Judge training. I am very honoured that I was appointed for eight years in a row by the International Wushu Federation to be an International Judge in the World Wushu Championships. I was also certified as a Class A Sanshou Judge at the International level. I’m the first judge in Canada that was certified at this A level.
What made you want to become a Sifu (martial arts master)?
Strangely enough, unlike many martial artists, they had a dream to become a movie star or teacher at a very early age of their training. As for myself, when I first came to Canada, my first mission was to continue my education, mainly to complete my university education and obtain an engineering degree. However, when I first came to Canada, I quickly realized it was very difficult for me to find a kung-fu school to continue my training. There was no one that could teach me White Crane kung-fu that I had been training in for a number of years. So instead, I thought while I was at college, why not train some friends so I could myself continue my own training. That was my first taste in becoming an instructor. After I started teaching for the duration of the semester, things got more organized. My own students approached the Athletic Department to organize a kung-fu course which could be formalized at the university. So throughout the many years of teaching since then- I first started teaching in 1977, it was not until about 1987 or 1988 that ideas about pursuing a career as a full-time Sifu came to me.
How did you start up your own school?
It was during my second year of teaching at the university that I began to realize that teaching kung-fu at the college was problematic because it was stop and go. As the school was scheduling exams, they began to cancel extra-curricular activities like kung-fu for several weeks. We found that it was really difficult for us to stop and go. I believe it was in 1978 that I got into a joint partnership to establish my first club in old Montreal with a Tai-Chi Instructor.
How long have you been teaching kung-fu?
I started teaching in 1977, so I’ve been teaching kung-fu for 37 years in Canada.
What styles do you teach and what is your style of teaching?
I specialize in three system of kung fu: Shaolin White Crane kung-fu, Wing Chun kung-fu, and Northern Shaolin kung-fu. For that, I’d also like to honour the six masters that I studied under. My style of teaching is based on the students’ age groups and what their level is. When the student is very young or novice, I use a very hands-on approach. I’m like a coach to them. However, as the students get older or progress to a higher level, I tend to use a different approach by giving them different expectations and different disciplines.
What do you think makes All Masters Martial Arts Centre so special?
I think there are several factors. Being in Canada for 37 years, I really have spent a lot of time with some students. Some have been with me for over 20 years. There is a great sense of family. That in itself, to me, makes our kung-fu school unique and special. Secondly, I feel that it’s the experience we have. We are one of the few unique traditional kung-fu schools in North America with a very enriched knowledge.
What memorable events has All Masters Martial Arts Centre been involved in?
During the 37 years we’ve been in Canada, we’ve seen our school go through a lot of changes. Many of our students have also branched out to begin to form their own branch schools in various locations. We have a branch club in Sudbury, Cambridge, the Buddhist Temple and Community Centres in Mississauga. Every five years, our school has a huge celebration for our anniversary like our 25th, 30th, and most recently, our 35th anniversary. These were very emotional and memorable events. We have also performed some big shows such as New Year’s Eve shows at the Rogers Centre, Massey Hall, Roy Thompson Hall, Mississauga and Toronto City Hall. I myself performed lion dance for the Queen of England, and my students performed lion dance beside Jackie Chan. We’ve also been involved with Carassauga performances and charitable events such as World Vision to help out the community. Those were unique memories that we cherished. We also organized and ran kung-fu tournaments through the Kung-Fu Association with great effort and heart.
What are the benefits of studying kung-fu?
The first thing that comes to my mind is health. When I was younger, I always got sick almost every month. I noticed that since I started kung-fu training, that as I got older, I hardly ever got sick. I always like to promote health. I remember that some of my old masters lived until the age of 90 years old. I really admired their stage of health. Even in their 80s, they were still so healthy and had such a high quality lifestyle. Kung-fu is a very healthy and positive hobby. No different than the way that people play golf, or fish, or play soccer. Also, the discipline and art itself always amazes the students and me.
You are very famous in the kung fu community worldwide and especially here in North America. How do you see yourself as a leader?
Since I quit my engineering job in 1994 and decided to teach kung-fu full time, I had only one very simple goal. My desire was to build a strong kung fu community in Canada and I hoped that my students would continue to enjoy learning kung-fu. Many of them will continue to excel the best they can be and learn the complete art of kung-fu. I also wish that there will be a group of about ten of my students who will be excellent kung-fu instructors who will represent kung-fu for the next generation.