Inducted into the W.K.U.H.O.F. for 2013
Life-Time Achievement – Kung Fu
Johnny Koay, who was born in Penang in 1940, started messing around with Kung Fu at a very early age, around 7 years old. Not that he had much choice, seeing that there were 3 different Kung Fu schools within a quarter of a mile of his home in Penang. At that time, not all Kung Fu schools were on cordial terms with each other. Often there would be skirmishes between the exponents of rival schools.
It was not until a few years later at middle school, after suffering several incidences of bloody noses and black eyes, that Johnny began training in earnest to “avenge” his often beltings from bigger and older boys. Not a very good and acceptable reason to start learning the Martial Arts really, but that was the reality.
To avoid offending the 3 nearby schools and risk further antagonistic meetings, he secretly begun taking lessons from the family butcher, who had often seen Johnny with black eyes and occasional bloody nose. He had felt sorry for Johnny and on a few occasions, had shown Johnny some defensive moves and counter attacking techniques, which had worked. Unknown to Johnny then, Sinseh Li, is the son and only child of Li Senior, the Grand Master of the Loong Choo style. So with a few other boys who had already been training under Sinseh Li, Johnny began his life long journey in the world of Kung Fu and later on, in the real world of Martial Arts.
I began to seriously train in the Loong Choo style of Kung Fu and became quite proficient in the style, but Karate was then becoming very popular, even more so then Kung Fu. So I started to visit a Karate School which had it’s dojo in the Penang Chinese Swimming Club, of which I was a Life Member. I was later to find out that it was the Penang Branch of the Shotokan Karate Club, hence my later close affiliation to this Karate style. I joined the school and later represented that school very successfully in many non-contact tournaments.
I must have been reasonably proficient in Kung Fu to have been selected in a team to travel to Thailand to take on the Muay Thai exponents. Not a glorious initiation and to say the least, we got our “butts well and truly kicked”. One lesson I got out of that was never take part in any contest or competition unless you are totally familiar with the rules and that lesson has been the cornerstone of later preparations of all my students for all types of competitions.
I was so frustrated with our rout. It was very deflating for the ego, especially being so young and so sure of my abilities, but knees and elbow techniques had never been my strong point. Then I remembered a Thai temple a few hundred metres from our new home, where we had moved to. I had often seen this old guy doing his movements and training so I decided to “camp” on the temple grounds and observe. Priest Pratappong noticed my almost twice daily ritual of sitting under the tree and looking at him going through his training routine so approached me one day to enquire why I was there. I explained why and he just nodded, smiled and went on his training. After a few more days he motioned me forward, and began to show me several Muay Thai fighting techniques, especially the different Knee and Elbow strike techniques, etc. I then went on to win my next 2 fights in Thailand. My initiation into Muay Thai was inglorious but in hind sight, was the best thing that had happened to my Martial Arts world.
I then went on to learn a few other styles, including Malaysia’s Bersilat, (Penjak Silat in Indonesia), notably Silat Harimau, which is a very elegant style of Martial Arts, a bit of Filipino Escrima Stick Fighting, Tae Kwon Do and other Kung Fu styles that my other friends had been practising. For 3 years, I practised the 108 movement Yang Style of Tai Chi, being taught by Master Lim at the Penang Rubber Trade Association clubhouse. That was my exposure to Martial Arts back in Malaysia.
It would seem that I was preordained to be involved in the Martial Arts. There were so many styles of Kung Fu being practised in Penang, Choy Li Fut, Hung Gar, Wing Chun, Shaolin Long Fist Style, Pa Kua, etc. My own uncle, on my mother’s side, Grandmaster Chew Choo Soot, was the founder and Grandmaster of the famous Budokan Karate International, based in Kuala Lumpur. Johnny’s high school teacher, Sensei Teoh Cheng Hai, of Penang’s most famous and iconic school, the Penang Free School, was the acknowledged 3rd Dan Black Belt in Judo way back in the 1950s, when few people outside of Japan held the coveted Black belt status. Thus I was exposed to Japanese and other styles in my formative years. That had been a great influence on my perceptions and respect for all Martial Arts styles.
In 1960, having arrived in Australia, I continued to practise the Loong Choo style of Kung Fu. However it was not until 1966 when I was elevated to the 4th Quadrant Upper level, that I was permitted to open a very closed school, limited to very close friends and Chinese students from Malaysia. In 1974 with the constant encouragement of some Senior Students, we finally opened our school to the general public. In the meantime, I had kept my close association with the Shotokan Karate style and had been instrumental in opening the first Karate dojo in the University of Tasmania which later became the Shotokan Karate Association of Tasmania, under the late Frank Nowak Sensei. I became its first Life Member , and was later instrumental in organising seminars for such great Karate Masters as Kanazawa Sensei of Shotokan Karate International, Sensei Tadashi Hibio, Principal of the Federation of All Japan Karatedo Organisations, and its National Coach Sensei Sadaharu Fujimoto, and also Kenshu H Watanabe, Principal Instructor Goju Ryu Karate Shubu-Kai.
After 1966, I became very active in the Australian martial Arts scene and had either very close association with or had assisted in the setting up of many other schools of Martial Arts in Tasmania. My belief was and still is that all true Martial Arts benefit not only the community and but also the exponents practising the Arts. Irrespective of styles, all Martial Artists belong to the same family and diversity is the key to progress. I am proud to say that many of the heads of the schools listed in the summary at the end of this article are still personal friends. I deeply regret and miss the retirements of some and the passing of other dear friends.
On the world scene, the Loong Choo Kung Fu Society became affiliated with many International Organisations, eg Grand Sifu Jorge Mandez of the Puerto Rico Kung Fu, Sifu Richard Dean of the Toado Monkey Boxing Academy of Austria, Sifu Harms of the Harms Akademie of Europe, and a host of other Kung Fu and allied organisations in Hong Kong , Malaysia, Singapore and other countries.
On the Australasian scene, I had been very privileged to have close associations of many Martial Arts Organisations, including great exponents like Sifu David Crook of Bak Fu Kung Fu, the Lacey Brothers of Wing Chung, Sifu Jim Fung and Karen Armstrong also of Wing Chung Academy, Sifu Phillip Lam of the Ghost Fist Kung Fu of New Zealand, and many, many more great personalities and great Martial Arts schools in Australia.
At that time I was also the Chief Instructor and Chief Referee for Federation of Australian Karate-Do Organisations, Tasmania Division, now renamed the Australian Karate Federation. I was greatly honoured to be a consultant to the late Frank Nowak Sensei, as well as to the then President of FAKO, the late Sensei John Newman. I was also on the FAKO Board of National Selectors for the National Karate Team. I was then also the Senior Vice President of the World Kung Fu Federation, the Vice President of the Federation of Australian Kung Fu Organisations, as well as Level One Lecturer for Martial Arts Accreditation in Australia.
In 1980, I was the Convening Chairman of the Tasmanian Martial Arts Council which was being formed with the input of the Tasmanian Department Sport & Recreation, with the aim of providing advice to the State Government and the Police Department on all matters concerning Martial Arts in Tasmania, and became it’s Inaugurating Chairman, with Sifu Jim Paradisis of Loong Choo Kung Fu Society being elected as our Delegate to the Council. In 2006, Upon Sifu Jim’s retirement from active teaching, Sifu Darren Jones has now assumed the role of Chief Instructor.
In 1985, I organised the very first and only 2 DAY, All Styles Training Seminar that was held in Hobart, with over 18 clubs from all over the state participating. In the years that followed, I also arranged for the first Muay Thai Seminar to be conducted in Tasmania by the then Number One Muay Thai Teacher, Master Surachai Chai Sirisute. It was also a tremendously successful seminar, with over 100 exponents from many styles of Martial Arts taking part. Then we had Master Jin Lian from China, Master of the Buddha Hand style giving a demonstration in Hobart and then I recommended and supported the late Master TF Yong’s application for residency, to teach the relatively new style of Tai Chi Chi Kung and Tai Chi Shibashi, a new form of therapeutic Tal Chi, sweeping the world then.
I had always been an advocate of respecting the various styles of Martial Arts and have always tried to lead by example. I had assisted in the establishment of many styles in Hobart, or at least in trying to promote the understanding for the need for diversity of styles, which in my opinion will always lead to the betterment and true understanding of true Martial Arts. No Style is ever the Best, only the exponents make the difference, and as my ascension Upper Level quotation in Loong Choo says,
“The ultimate usefulness of a cup is its emptiness”
1960: Arrived in Hobart and continued training in the Loong Choo Kung Fu style with close friends and some Malaysian Chinese Students.
1966: Conferred the top status of 4th Quadrant Upper Level and opened a private school training selectively close friends and other students recommended by personal friends.
Received the University of Tasmania half BLUE for badminton. Organising Chairman for the Inter-varsity Games and represented the successful Inter-varsity Team against the Tasmanian State Team.
Started closer association with and aiding in the teaching of the Shotokan style of Karate. Because of my Fighting Black Belt status, was invited by the University of Tasmania to open its first Karate Dojo, which evolved to being the Shotokan Karate Association of Australia, Tasmanian Branch, under Sensei Frank Nowak and Kanazawa Sensei of the Shotokan Karate International.
1978: Conferred the Shotokan Karate Association of Tasmania’s first Life Membership for services rendered to Karate.
Instrumental in the training of Robert Ashbolt to become the first Tasmanian to receive Shotokan’s Black Belt status, followed by Dr Terry Walker and Sensei Steve Xepapas, etc
1980: Organised the very successful First & only All Styles Training Session in Hobart, with 18 different schools of Martial Arts participating. The success of this event led to the formation of the Tasmanian Martial Arts Council of Tasmania later in the year.
Convening Chairman at the Meeting to form the Tasmanian Martial Arts Council established to assist and advise the Tasmanian Government and Police Department with all things relating to Martial Arts in Tasmania.
1982: Elected Senior Vice President of the World Kung Fu Federation
Was principally involved in conducting seminars by Great Karate Masters such as Sensei Tadashi Hibio, Principal of the Federation of All Japan Karatedo Organisations, the National Coach, Sadaharu Fujimoto Sensei of the same Organisation, Kenshu H Watanabe Shihan, Principal Instructor Goju Ryu Karate Shybu-Kai, Sensei Frank Nowak & Kanazawa Sensei of Shotokan, Master Jin Liang of the China Buddha Palm style of Kung Fu, etc. Sifu David Crook of the Bak Fu Style of Kung Fu, Dr Tan of the Praying Mantis Style of Kung Fu, Sifu Lawrance Lee of Lee’s Kung Fu school, etc
1994: Organised the First Muay Thai Seminar to be held in Tasmania by the World Famous Muay Thai Master, Surachai Chai Sirisute with over 100 participants from all over Tasmania.
Won several Gold and Bronze Medals in the World Masters Games held in Brisbane, Australia
1996: Elected Vice President of the Federation of Australian Kung Fu Organisations Limited
In the years that followed, I was privileged to have had very close association with and had assisted in the formation of some of the Tasmanian Branches of some of many Martial Arts styles that had been well established on the mainland. I also had been very privileged to have met and trained with some of the world famous Masters and some exponents of the various schools, viz
Judo: Taka Nakjima Sensei of the Police Academy Howrah, Pat Rafferty
Shotokan Karate: Sensei Frank Nowak, Kanazawa Sensei, Robert Ashbolt (first Tasmania to be graded to the Black Belt status Shotokan style), followed in 1979 by Dr Terry Walker, then Stephen Xepapas, now 6th Dan Principal of Toro Shotokan Karate, etc. etc.
Goju Karate: Tino Cerberano Shihan, Peter Baxter, Christine McNab, Noel Peters, etc.
Kyokushinkai Karate: Stephan Mulcahy, Steve Cherry etc
Fujiryu Aikido: Sensei Tim Waters, Bronlyn Smith
Kendo: Michael Deck
Australian TaeKwonDo: Steve Weston
Bujinkan Ninjitsu: Duncan Stewart
Yang Style 108 Movements Tai Chi: Betty Ross, the late SS Yoong etc
Tai Chi Tai Mantis: Master Raymond Chan
Tai Chi Chi Kung Shibashi: supported the residency application and certification of the credentials of the late Master TF Yong
Bugeido Shotokan Karate: Sensei Mark & Linda Reddish
Kei Shin Kan Karate: Kevin Schramm
San Chi Kai Karate: “Ned” Michael Kelly
Zen Do Kai Karate: Rob Woolley
Zen Goshu Goju Kai Karate: David Nejman
Rhee Tae Kwon Do: John Warncken
ATF Taekwondo: Dale Eagling
ATA Tae Kwon Do: Michael Adey
Viet Vo Dao: Tri Tri Tran, Andrew Fulton, Michael Maple
Hang Sau Do (Lama)Kung Fu: Shane Burton
Held the position of Senior Vice President of the Chinese Community Association of Tasmania for several years until my resignation in 2009.
In December 2012, International Master Johnny Koay announced his retirement from regular active teaching, after more than 65 years of Martial arts active