The Story goes that Lau Soei was already an accomplished master, and that he had been training in the martial art called ‘ma kuen’ horse fist. He was so good at this martial art that his ponytail that he and the people used to wear in those days was always in flight, due to the fact that there was much jumping and leaping in the system. Though he was well known in his village called ‘Wai Yearn’ he was not quite famous, until one day he was walking along at night, when he was suddenly set upon by a wolf (some say a wild dog), as he was attack he suddenly turned and kicked the animal in the neck, the wolf fell back in pain, then Lau Soei moved forward and hit the animal again with a stomp of the foot, which killed the animal. This event that had taken place had made him famous in the village and so many individuals wanted to learn the martial arts from him. Therefore he began teaching at Wai Yearn. He was still very young and was only in his mid twenties at this time.
Sometime later a Buddhist monk was passing through, as it was common for monks to travel from one village to another in China at that time to teach Buddhist philosophy. It so happened that the monk began to watch Lau Soei teaching a group of individuals this form of martial art. After watching this young man Lau Soei demonstration, the monk step forward and said ‘that the martial art that you are teaching merely looks goods, and has very little value”. Lau Soei replied. ‘By the way you speaking, suggests that your kung fu is of a high level’ The Buddhist monks then replied ‘If you like you can try your skill against me’. Lau Soei accepted the monk’s challenge. Both men squared off facing each other. Lau Soei then suddenly attacked the monk. The monk just moved his shoulder slightly into Lau Soei, and has contact was made Lau Soei was propelled backwards. Lau Soei knew then that this monk’s martial art was extraordinary. (According to the story Lau Soei tried to defeat the monk several times but failed each time. He eventually knelt down on his knees to the monk and became his disciple). When Lau Soei talked to the monk about his power, he had said that it was like being hit by lightening. The monk explained how he came to achieve such power through special training exercises and breath control methods. He further explained about the little mantis insect, its sharp power and reflex actions to summarize the gen power (shock power). The name of this monk was the famous Wong Fook Go. During this time, it was the end of the Ching Dynasty; the monk Wong Fook Go grew his hair, as not to be noticed by government officials that were cracking down on Buddhist teachings and their followers. Lau Soei had learnt everything from the monk in a short time of three and a half years, which include the herbal fall and hit medicine. Lau Soei had lived along side Wong Fook Go and was the first non-monk to have been taught this system of kung fu. Wong Fook was a lover of nature and a travelling monk, though he had stayed at Wai Yearn for sometime teaching Lau Soei. He decided to part and travel onto different parts of the country. Although Wong Fook go taught only to one student at this time namely Lau Soei, it has now been established that he taught others both prior and after Lau Soei.
Lau Soei teaches in Hong Kong
It is said that Lau Soei was the first to teach Southern Praying Mantis kung fu in Hong Kong, roughly about 4 or 5 years after he arrived in Hong Kong in 1913. He began teaching in a district area of Hong Kong called Hum Hong. Though in the early part of his arrival in Hong Kong he did not teach anyone and kept very quite about his martial arts, but later he started to teach a select few that was due to some people who were pleading to learn from him, this then later expanded to teaching more people. Of the earliest students and most famous were Chu Gung Wa, Shu Hing, Tam Wa, Yip Shui, Yip Hay, Cheung Chung, Lum Wa. However though he was teaching this art openly in Hum Hong he was never happy being in Hong Kong and he yearned to go back to China to his home village Wai Yearn. During his time in Hong Kong he was very fond of poetry, and in a very small book he wrote down the medicine formulas and poems and his encounters of his life. The writing is so superb that its looks like its been printed artistically. (I have therefore decided to release one of his writings about himself wanting to go back to China).
‘ I have travelled everywhere to make a living, my whole life I did not do what I wanted to do. My home is now here in Hong Kong, but I want to return to China. My family and relatives are all far away and stay away. Even now my homeland (China) has no peace, always there are wars. From this moment I am not thinking of anything else but my return, my mind is empty and just feels like a dream’
Lau Soei was truly homesick, and yearned to return to China, as he was not happy in Hong Kong. At onetime he was going to return, shortly before the Second World War. But a misfortune happened with his money, and so the trip was cancelled. Lau Soei had no family or children, but he did adopt a young child a few years before he died in the 1942. When he died, Grandmaster Yip Shui and Chu Gung Wa buried him, and on the gravestone it said Lau Soei of Chow Gar Praying Mantis kung fu. In 1952 ten years after the death of Lau Soei, his bones were removed and placed at Diamond Hill graveyard, as space in Hong Kong is limited. For some reason in 1990 the gravestone was removed and was replaced by another with only Lau Soei’s name written on it.
1952 year, the bones were gathered for reburial
Lau Soei had trained many individuals, throughout his life and this includes people in China before he came to Hong Kong. The reason why he had come to Hong Kong was because of the political turmoil in China, he himself joined a political party that was against the government of that day. He most noted and famous students are Chu Gung Wa, Yip Shui, Cheung Chung, Yip hay, Tam Wah, Lum Wah, Shu Hing. Even the famous Shek Kin trained for a small period of 6 months, but found the training too arduous, and not suitable in films because no flashy techniques were used.

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Paul Whitrod UK Representative Chow Gar Southern Praying Mantis
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