Great Grandmaster Toh Yit Choon

Grandmaster Chee’s First Master

Dr Sun Yat Sen

Dr Sun Yat Sen

It so happened that the master he had been apprenticed to one day received a famous visitor, Toh Yit Choon, a renowned master-exponent of the Northern Shaolin Boxing System, and former Chief of the Household Bodyguard of the First President of the Republic of China (Dr Sun Yat Sen).

The Chief Inspector of Xiamen, a good friend of young Chee’s employer, learning of this great grandmaster’s presence in his city, requested him to teach his son the art of Gong Fu.

Young Chee, ever eager to learn, managed to be present – on the pretext of serving tea - when the lessons were given to the son of the Chief Inspector, but secretly kept note of the details of all he witnessed (something the grandmaster was aware of!).

The son was often absent from these lessons, and on one such occasion Master Toh asked the young Chee, who was present at the time, if he wished to learn. It is most likely that the offer was made through seeing Chee involved in a fight and easily defeating his opponent through a very natural and accomplished mastery of application of Great Grandmaster Toh’s own arts, which it was clear the young boy had been diligently observing and practicing!

Master Toh’s offer was of course accepted with great delight, yet since Chee was poor and had no means of paying for this precious tuition, it was doubted he would be able to study for long.  Here, he was helped by the kindness of his employer, the owner of the rickshaw repair shop: he kindly acted as a patron, and sponsored the young boy’s tuition.

The knowledge and mastery of the Northern Systems taught to the young Chee by this famous grandmaster during the course of the two years he taught him, was as great as the satisfaction that the Master took in teaching them to such a sincere, humble, and naturally gifted student.  Towards the end of that time, the young boy in addition to his daytime training, studied every night the arts he was taught.

Great grandmaster Toh instilled the following important words of counsel concerning the young boy’s future development in the art of Gong Fu:

“Don’t forget anything I teach you.  Memorise every detail, even though you may not understand it now.” On his own acknowledgement, it took Master Chee many years to understand what he meant: “…What he taught me was the essence of all Schools of Gong Fu.”  

[Straits Times  ‘Sunday Style’ article 12/04/98]

Finally, Great Grandmaster Toh, already in his 70’s had to leave for his home, in the Northern city of Tienjin.