Thursday, March 07, 2013

BLT, not the sandwich, Bok Lei Tat!

If this place is not familiar with you, then you are either new, or have never been on the NYC Chinatown martial arts scene. The building with the big sign featuring Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris, is the old martial arts store, which was called Bal Lei Tat. This place was huge, and carried all kinds of martial arts goodies, and specialized in Kung Fu supplies. This was a great place to run into others of like interest, compatriots and enemies. Down stairs was the book department that was a variable who's who and what's what, as to the status quo of martial arts related media. Back in the day, media was not so advanced as now. You couldn't read about it on the internet like you are doing.

Many, many years ago, while in the process of building a Mook Yan Jong "wooden man dummy," I stopped in at Bak Lei Tat, knowing that they carried the book, 108 Mok Yan Jong, which besides being a fully illustrated guide book, had a schematic of the dummy = the instructions.

As I was purchasing the book, and shooting the breeze with the book guy, as I had done on a regular for years, he asked if I wanted to meet the author. It just so happened that for some reason, the author, GMstr. Moy Yat, direct student of Yip Man, was upstairs. Like I said, this was a good place to run into people of like interests. Anyway, long story shorter, I got to be introduced to Moy Yat, who, seeing my serious interest in the subject of the jong, suggests that I come and see what the moves in the book really look like. Yes folks, this place was full of surprises.

The building next door has a history that legends are made from. It was owned by Mr. Tam, a prominent figure in the Chinese community, an accomplished Chinese Opera singer, and a personal student of the world renown Tai Chi Chuan Master, Cheng Man Ching. Tam brought Cheng Man Ching in as the teacher at the Tai Chi school on the first floor. The second floor is the Bak Hok Pai, White Crane Kung Fu school of Chin Hak Fu. The third floor is the Chinese FreeMason Athletic Club. Gok Sai Jook Lum Tong Long Pai, International Bamboo Curtain Southern Praying Mantis.

In closing, I simply could not end this glance at the past, without the mention, albeit edited, of the fact that Master Tam, the building's owner, was challenged by a strapping young Hong Kong Chop Socky movie star, and surprised the chi out of him. The name has been omitted, because I was not present, and I trust the word of the elder who told me.