The Legacy of a Choy Lay Fut Patriot
Since his much publicized 1961 bare-knuckle challenge fight match in Hong Kong at the age of 20 with a 28 year old kung fu master, Dave Lacey has become not only one of the most celebrated figures in Choy Lay Fut but also one of the most well known figures in the Hong Kong Chinese Martial Arts circles and that of Far East Asia where many still remember him as the renowned "Black Panther of Choy Lay Fut." His many years of dedication to kung fu training and teaching and propagating Choy Lay Fut has spanned over 42 years but even with his worldwide reputation, Master Lacey says he is still learning and finding ways to improve his skills and techniques to impeccable heights and has over the last 10 years been a devoted innovator of the Choy Lay Fut fighting arts.
Born in Hong Kong, Master Lacey began his martial arts training in 1958 with Bruce Lee and several other schoolmates of St. Francis Xavier's College on the rooftop of a nearby apartment block. They practiced the Wing Chun style of kung fu. It was during his close friendship with Bruce that Dave first heard him talk about another very popular kung fu fighting style called Choy Lay Fut and of a guy whom Bruce had a lot of respect for as a fighter. The name of the guy was Leung Yum Gung (Richard Leung) whom Bruce had befriended. Bruce told Dave that Richard's hard forearms were so powerful that both he (Bruce) and his fellow Si-hing (Senior student in kung fu) could not stop Richard's heavy swinging punches and were both knocked to the ground in a sparring/fight match. It was obvious to Dave that whenever Bruce talked about Richard or Choy Lay Fut, he was in awe of the style.
(Bruce's comments on Choy Lay Fut and Richard Leung is mentioned in the book "BRUCE LEE" published in 1976 by Jesse Glover- one of Bruce's first students in America in the early 1960's).
Dave and Bruce
At the begining of 1959 Bruce left Hong Kong for the United States but on the night before he boarded the liner for a new life in America, the 18 year old Bruce visited Dave at his home in Kimberly Rd. Kowloon to bid farewell to his friend. Bruce talked of finding fame in America and Dave remembers clearly Bruce's words that night when he said,"When I get to America I will become famous with my kung fu." Although only 18, Bruce Lee was full of ambition and determination to succeed in his quest for recognition and fame in America.
By the end of 1959 Richard Leung also left Hong Kong to further his studies in America in Washington DC but after much persuasion from Bruce, he later moved to Seattle where the two got together to train martial arts and exchange kung fu knowledge. Towards the later part of the 1960's Bruce became disorientated with his kung fu style Wing Chun and set about to develop his own fighting style comprising of several oriental martial arts styles (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, etc.) and western boxing. He named his martial arts system "Jeet Kuen Do".
Master Lai Hung
In 1959, filled with the desire to learn a more dynamic and exciting fighting style Master Lacey decided to take up the reputable fighting art of Choy Lay Fut under Master Lai Hung, a renowned young master fighter whose fierce reputation earned him the nicknames of "Crazy Hung" and "Daredevil Hung". As part of a Hong Kong team of martial arts fighters sent to Taiwan for the "1957 Far East Asia Full Contact Championships", Lai Hung and his Si-Hing (fellow senior student) Chan Woo Leung representing the Choy Lay Fut school returned home to a hero's welcome after defeating Taiwan's top fighters in a 4 day Tournament described as a "bloodbath" (contestants fought with fingerless leather mitts).
In 1959 there was still a strong resentment towards the foreigners (arising from the 1900 Boxer Rebellion which was crushed by the armed forces of the Foreign Legations stationed in Peking and the nearby regions) amongst the many kung fu masters in the British Colony of Hong Kong, who for decades vowed not to teach their secret fighting arts to non-pure Chinese. Therefore it was unheard of for anyone other than of pure Chinese origin to be officially or legitimately learning martial arts from a Chinese Kung Fu master in the 1950's.
Master Lai Hung however took a keen interest in Dave who was of British-Chinese parentage (and could speak fluent Cantonese) and accepted him as a disciple. From the first time he saw Lai Hung's amazing speed and power Dave knew he had found the teacher and martial arts style he was searching for. The strenuous training was a grueling new experience for Dave whose tired aching body left him exhausted for days after his private day training sessions with Master Lai Hung, but he knew he had to keep persevering under the watchful eye of his teacher who was very persistent and strict in the disciplines of Choy Lay Fut Training.