Making heroes out of villains

GEORGE TOWN: Wayward youths and former drug addicts may be involved in violence but a 66-year-old Wing Chun master is helping to instil discipline in such lads, by teaching them the martial art.

Cheong Wai Phoe, who is head of the Opera Cho Gar Wing Chun (Cho Gar Hay Ban Wing Chun), believes that learning the martial art would help youths and former addicts gain employment in security firms or earn a living as bodyguards.

"With martial arts movies making a comeback, there are jobs for martial artists to serve in the choreography department and also as stuntmen," he said, adding that he is willing to provide free lessons.

The Opera Cho Gar Wing Chun is listed in Wingchunpedia (, the online Wing Chun encyclopedia website, as one of the major branches of the Wing Chun martial arts system.

The website also mentions Cheong as the last known living student of Sam Chan, who brought the martial arts to Ipoh from Poon Yu Village in Guangzhou, China, and the oldest living Opera Cho Gar Wing Chun practitioner who is ranked.

Cheong started learning the martial arts with Sam Chan in Ipoh in 1963.

"In the 1970s, there were more people interested in learning martial arts, as kung fu movies were very popular.

"I was interested in martial arts as there was little to do during our spare time.

"But nowadays with computer games, the Internet, and Facebook, the younger generation has lost interest," he said.

Cheong now has over 20 local students who practise the art at the Prosperity God Temple in Paya Terubong, three to four times a week.

He also has foreign students from the United States, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Thailand and Singapore.

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