In Chinese, the ‘Hap’ in Hapkune-do means ‘everything’ which reflects the gymnasium’s firm belief in giving the student a full and comprehensive cultural experience. Thus, Hapkune-do does not adhere to just one school of martial arts but teaches all major types: Shaolin, Wushu, Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
Hapkune-do students are regulars in the competitive circuit, entering and winning international competitions for martial arts throughout the ‘90s <more info from Chris>.
The gymnasium has also established itself outside of Malaysia with several branches located in UK, Sweden, USA, Australia and Italy. Besides conducting martial arts classes for the local population, Hapkune-do teams in US are also stuntmen for Hollywood movies such as Mission Impossible 2 and Wild Wild West while in the team in Sweden gives training to the Swedish Army Group. Indeed, whether at home or abroad, the name Hapkune-do has become synonymous with accomplished, highly-disciplined martial artists.
Altogether, Hapkune-do has more than 500 students ranging from seven years of age to 65. The Malaysian Hapkune-do chapter conducts <how many> classes and is located in Kepong in the Klang Valley. For more information on Hapkune-do and their classes, please click here.
The gymnasium is also recognised for the prowess of their lion dance troupe, the Hapkune-do Lion Dance Troupe. The Lion Dance is used as an avenue for higher level students to hone their martial art skills and is considered an extension of their training.
THE LION DANCE
The Lion Dance is a unique and colourful artform that not only requires the grace and coordination of a dancer but also the strength and training of a martial artist. Indeed, the Lion Dance is often seen as an extension of the martial arts training and almost all Lion Dance performers are also practitioners in one or more forms of martial arts.
Although the lion is not native to China, most Chinese associate this magnificent animal with the attributes of courage, wisdom and strength while believing it possesses the ability to ward of evil spirits. Traditionally regarded as a symbol of good luck, the Lion Dance is today popularly performed at auspicious celebrations like the Chinese Lunar New Year, birthdays and opening ceremonies.
The Hapkune-do Lion Dance Troupe is active player in the local Lion Dance scene. Although the Troupe does not compete professionally, they are frequently invited to perform at high profile events – most recently.
Origins of the Lion Dance
There are several folk legends which tell of how the Lion Dance came about. One of the most popular stories is of the Emperor who dreamed that he was separated from his army and, lost and hungry, began to despair. In the dream, a strange creature suddenly appeared and guided him back to his palace. Upon waking, the Emperor described the creature to one of his advisors, who told him that the creature of his dream resembled a beast found in the West, a lion.
Thus the lion as we see it during a Dance today was born: a stylised version of the actual animal combined in ancient Chinese’ imaginations with features of the mythical dragon and phoenix.
Types of Lion
There are two styles of Lion Dance – the older Southern style and the Northern style. The Northern style features a lion with a shaggy mane that generally looks like a giant Pekingese while the Southern lion uses a cloth drape as its body and has a head which looks more like a dragon. The Hapkune-do Lion Dance Troupe is a practitioner of the Southern style.
The head of the Lion is usually made out of lightweight material like bamboo and paper Mache while the body and tail is made out of multicoloured cloth. The Lion is played by two performers: the first carries the head and controls the movements of the Lion’s eyes, ears and mouth while the second is stooped and hidden beneath the cloth drape behind the first, forming the tail.
With the frontman moving the head in high-energy thrusts and the tailman jumping and kicking, these two performers work together to bring the lion to life in a vibrant, lively dance that brings gaiety and festivity to any event.
There are several kinds of Lions used in the dances, each with special markings denoting different characters and personalities.
- Black Lion: a fighting Lion which symbolises youth and playfulness.
- Black Lion with black beard: a fighting Lion who is a personification of General Chang Fi, a fearless warrior in ancient Chinese history.
- Red Lion with black beard: a representation of the famed Chinese general, Kwan Kung, a warrior renowned for his righteousness and courage.
- Yellow Lion: a personification of General Liu Pi, a man of bravery and kindness, who is Kwan Kung’s older brother.
- Flower-faced Lion with white beard: this Lion depicts maturity, wisdom, calmness and peace.
The Narrative of the Lion Dance
The Lion Dance has a several stock routines but different troupes bring with them an individual brand of style and choreography that adds to the variety of the Lion Dance. Common routines include:
The Lion emerges from a Cave: The Lion is awakened from sleep and emerges slowly from a ‘cave’. He squints because the sun is bright and curiously inspects any strange objects he finds.
The Drowsy Lion: The Lion begins in a playful mood but soon tires and lies down.
The Lion Eats the Greens (Choy Ching): A favourite routine where the Lion ‘eats’ a head of lettuce with money or scroll written with a prosperous message hidden inside. This denotes good luck for the establishment who offers the lettuce.
General Kwan Kung Fights the Lion: General Kwan Kung uses the kwan do or long-handled sword to fight the Lion.
The Lion is usually accompanied by two ‘monks’ who tease the Lion and provide comic relief.
Lion Dances are accompanied by traditional percussion instruments like drums, gongs and cymbals.
For more information on the Hapkune-do Gymnasium’s Lion Dance troupe, please click here.