• A Note About History and Lineage
• The Founder Wu Mei
• Grandmaster Xia Peng
• Sifu Ken Lo
• Sifu David Berman
• Lineage Chart
A Note About History
History, the study of the past, is always uncertain; Chinese history is particularly full of contradiction and politics; the history of Chinese martial art is almost entirely undocumented. It is a patchwork of stories distorted by jealousy, by secrecy, by self-aggrandisement, and by the passage of time. Very little of it can be taken for fact.
As for the stories that follow: Since 1980, I have witnessed Wu Mei’s history myself; the stories of my teacher and his teacher came to me first-hand; the stories older than that are oral tradition, and their value, like all stories, is not so much in how accurate they are, as in how true.
A Note About Lineage
It is important to understand what lineage is, and what it is not. My representing the 8th generation of Wu Mei Pai means that in 1993 my teacher believed and affirmed publicly that I was qualified to demonstrate and pass on the principles and practices of Wu Mei Pai, as he understood them. He himself had received the same affirmation from his teacher in 1983; his teacher had received the same affirmation from his teacher some time in the 1920’s, and so on back to the founder in the 17th century. The process of passing on a lineage is an attempt to maintain the integrity of a body of knowledge, especially in the case of practical arts, or spiritual practices—written records can’t contain this kind of knowledge; only living practitioners can carry it on.
Unfortunately, the process is imperfect. The only thing lineage guarantees is that the effort has been made. It certainly doesn’t guarantee quality—that’s up to each individual practitioner—and being based on the vagaries of history, it doesn’t even guarantee continuity. The lineage of Wu Mei Pai is missing the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation masters—they were Buddhist monks, practicing in secret, during a period of repression, and we don’t know their names—and even Wu Mei herself, revered as the founder, must have learned her martial art from someone. (The story says it was her father, but we know nothing about him.)
Lineage is only important for one reason—hopefully, those who have been entrusted with the lineage of a traditional art form will take it not as a credential, or as a status symbol, but as a responsibility, and will fulfill the responsibility by maintaining the practice, and passing the knowledge on.