In 1960 an 8-year-old boy from Skerries started his journey in Kung Fu in Dublin city center, the victim of childhood bullying and struggling to get over his mother dying at such a young age, martial arts and Kung Fu we’re a great outlet to help this boy on his way to finding a focus and purpose
For the next 12 years the boy studied hard and spend 4 evenings a week in the city center sometimes missing the last bus home and having to hitch a lift and then walk part of the way back to Skerries that boy who grew into a man, and that man was my father Jon Fanning
In 1972 he opened his first school in a little hall in the back garden of his house. The classes grew to between 15 and 20 people training in a very small room with one light and an open fire for heat on the winter nights.
1973 the cinema was alive with Bruce Lee movies and suddenly everybody knew what Kung Fu was or at least a version of it. My father always said the Bruce Lee movies were like a double-edged sword, on one hand they gave great recognition to the martial arts and help people recognize kung fu unfortunately on the other side he also said that because of the hype and the noises that Bruce Lee made it also gave people a lot to slag kung fu over, however throughout the years he maintained a strong no-nonsense approach to his kung fu and his teaching. He gained a lot of notoriety for being outspoken, sometimes aggressive, and always willing to take a challenge. Times were much different back then!
I was born in 1976 and was brought home to a house in Skerries where we had 12 students living and training on a full-time basis in the house, the back garden was full of broken blocks and bricks, the shed was full of equipment for training, the front garden was well worn from people training and practicing daily
The late 70s and 80s my father’s club and students were making a name for themselves on the full contact kickboxing circuit, his main focus was still Kung Fu but he wanted his students to have an outlet and to be able to practice what they were learning alongside my father’s club you had names like Dennis Davis travelling from Birmingham teaching kickboxing and Lau Gar then you also had Wally Dillon who had trained in Manchester and was teaching Ching Wu and Wing Chun, we also had the likes of Terrence Kinsella who was practicing and teaching shaolin, these are some of the more predominant names that I can remember from my childhood as I grew up on the circuits with my dad and his club. Kung Fu itself had increased in popularity with my father’s club growing and having 80 students in Mountjoy square in the mid to late 70s and spreading to villages like Tallaght, Lusk and even as far as Galway.
There are still clubs today who you can trace back their lineage to my father’s club at one point in the 70s or 80s.
Kung fu has always been a huge part of my life and still is today, even my daughter’s train with me and I try to make sure I remain disciplined enough that I get my own training done daily.
Kung fu has a huge history and is steeped in tradition, mystery, ancient beliefs and best of all has stood the test of time, it is battle-tested throughout the centuries and is still alive and well today!
The style of Kung Fu my father learned and taught was a bodyguard system designed as the last line of defense for the emperor. It was a no-nonsense direct attack, it had very little sporting application, it was designed to be brutal and to make a good offense your best defense. we still had forms that we had to learn inside the system but as soon as you would learn them you were told to forget them
That’s one thing I always found very strange because I spent so much time learning them only to have to forget them only the Chinese could come up with that one.
I suppose when you look at kung fu as a whole and not just one style or system its very complex and you can see how it can become a way of life for so many.
I have been blessed enough to travel and compete with some of the world’s leading exponents and breakers through my kung fu journey. I have a great appreciation for martial arts of all forms and styles and have tried quite a few, with that said kung fu remains my true love and mother art.
Since my father’s sudden death in 2013 I have had a lot of time to train and connect with masters and grand masters who all knew him and some even trained with him to try learning some of his iron body skills and apply it to their own styles.
Every day I try to learn one new thing from kung fu and am fascinated at the amount there is to learn. It’s not a small system with a limited number of techniques!
Kung fu has always and will always be a way of life and a daily routine for me!
Sifu Keith Fanning.