Saturday, March 14, 2015

My Teacher, Mr Kwek Lee Hwa

Not many people know this, but my teacher, Mr Kwek Lee Hwa, has been teaching taiji at community centres since 1965, when he was 21 years old.

He started teaching taiji at Boon Teck Community Centre in 1965, and was probably the first person to teach taiji in community centres in Singapore. He was 21 years old then, having learnt taiji from Grandmaster Lim Bo Yen for 10 years. For 10 years, he went to Grandmaster Lim's place twice each day, practising 2 hours each time (that's 4 hours in a day). After 10 years, Grandmaster Lim gave him the go-ahead to start teaching, and Mr Kwek has been teaching taiji ever since.

Two years later, in 1967, he started teaching taiji at another community centre, Kreta Ayer Community Centre. He has been teaching there up until 7 Mar 2015, when we had our last taiji lesson at Kreta Ayer CC because it was closing for major renovations. That's 48 years of teaching at a single location. It's a pity that he has to stop his classes there because of renovations, but it can't be helped. The classes at Kreta Ayer CC has shifted to Toa Payoh East Community Centre.

Why Toa Payoh East CC? Because Toa Payoh East CC used to be called Boon Teck CC. The same community centre that Mr Kwek started his taiji teaching journey back in 1965. He has since been teaching there for the past 50 years.

This is passion. This is commitment. This is my inspiration. I only hope I have the passion and commitment to live up to being his student.

See here for a list of classes by Mr Kwek.

Mr Kwek's Facebook page (maintained by a group of students)


Anonymous said...

Hi, i am interested to contact Mr Kwek for lessons, may i know how to do so? Thank you. Please email me @

Teck said...

Hi, I tried to email you but it seems the email address doesn't exist. You can call the CCs that Mr Kwek teaches at to get his contact number, or give your contact number to the CC, who will then pass it to Mr Kwek.

panzerphil said...

Hi Teck,

chanced upon your blog and yes, Master Kwek is still teaching pushing hands here:

Originally, I wanted to learn Yiquan/Dachengquan for the push hands sensitivity. I am currently training panantukan or Filipino empty hands which is very similar to wing chun. I would love to improve my hand sensitivity, structure and stability, which is why i was looking for a teacher who is good at zhan zhuang or tuishou in Singapore but there is none.

Then i chanced upon your blog, and am impressed by Master Kwek's credentials, but would i need to learn Yang Taiji as well? My goal is just to complement my panantukan with good structure and sensitivity derived from pushing hands. I'm not sure if he would be open to me training in other arts.

As a senior practitioner of the art, maybe you can offer me your 2 cents? All advice from an experienced elder is much welcome.

Thanks and regards, Phil

Teck said...

Hi Phil,

Thanks for your comment. I think Master Kwek is more than willing to teach you, as long as you are willing to commit to learning something new. One of the issues we have seen with people (especially those who have learnt other martial arts) is that they are not the "empty cup" that Zen says we need to be when learning. They come with their own knowledge, and that existing knowledge hinders them from accepting new knowledge that Master Kwek is trying to pass down.

On the technical side, no, Master Kwek does not require you to learn taiji routines if you are just going to learn pushing hands. But at the end of the day, taiji routines and pushing hands are part of an overall system. Personally, I think that both needs to be practised in order to reap the full rewards.

Finally, my own opinion. Stick with what you are learning. If you have time to spend pursuing pushing hands, you probably will improve in panantukan more if you spend that same time training in panantukan. This is my own experience, having been distracted every once in a while, but always coming to realize that distractions only slow my progress along my main path.

Good luck!

panzerphil said...

Hi Teck,

Thank you for your advice, I've taken up push hands and indeed Master Kwek is a solid tai chi teacher...i never knew such a master existed because i thought most of the traditional masters in Singapore were all wushu (focused on performance only) types.

After push hands class ends, I'm keen to study Sun Taiji under him but i have two questions, i hope you could help me with them

1) Who is Master Kwek's teacher? He mentioned his teacher learnt under Sun Lutang but i couldn't hear properly the last lesson (was slightly unwell) so just curious if you know.

2) Is his Sun Taiji the earlier version or the competition version (Men Hui Feng 73 movements version)? This is because another Taiji teacher in Singapore claims to be teaching the 'original' version and everyone else apart from him is teaching the competition version.

Thanks, and sorry if i come across as direct because i am really passionate about learning from Master Kwek and i have great interest in the Sun style.

Thanks and regards, Phil

Teck said...

Hi Phil,

Glad to hear you are learning under Master Kwek. Maybe I will see you when I next go back to Singapore.

1) Master Kwek's Sun style teacher is Master Hu Yunhua, who trained under Sun Lutang.

2) His style is not the competition style. I guess you can probably say it is the earlier version. Anyone in Singapore who claims to be teaching the "original" version probably trained under Master Hu Yunhua in the past, or can trace their lineage back to her.

panzerphil said...
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