Traditional Chinese Martial Arts

in the West of Ireland


This article is written in relation to the visit of Giada Zhao, who recently gave a workshop here about Tai Chi Chuan for improving self awareness and healing ability. It was a wonderful and spontaneous exchange, and we hope to see more exchanges happening in the future.

By Willem Akkermans, Hong Ying Ireland

The North West may well be one of Ireland’s most overlooked places, a true gem that lies hidden in plain sight. With its rugged coast line, remote beaches and Europe’s highest sea cliffs, with its many forests, lakes, islands, hills, glens, waterfalls, holy wells and megalithic sites, it is a truly magical place where nature and history continually blend in with daily life. And not to mention the weather, which has its own way of continually blending in, be it through sunshine, wind or rain.

Perhaps it is due to this rich variety and history in the landscape, that the North West also harbours an enormous cultural density. Be it music, poetry, drama, dance, the visual arts, sports, folklore or spirituality, the North West has an unexpected variety in every category.

I can surely see that reflected in my own area of expertise: the martial arts. Just in the small town of Sligo there is already a choice of boxing, kickboxing, Karate, Brasilian Jiu Jitsu, Tang Soon Do, Aikido and Tai Chi. I moved here in 2007, from my home country the Netherlands. In 2010 I started teaching Yang style Tai Chi and Choy Li Fut style Kung Fu. The main focus now is on Choy Li Fut, which is completely new to the area. I teach both kids and adults classes at different locations in the wider area.

In 2011 Adrian Kearns opened up his school in Limerick, in the West of Ireland. Together we make up the Irish branch of the worldwide Hong Ying family.

As well as teaching here in Ireland, we both continue to study in the Hong Ying centre in the Netherlands under Sifu Mark Horton, who in turn is a student of Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong. The full system of Choy Li Fut has become so extensive that it can hardly be mastered in a single lifetime. It has many hand forms, weapon forms, 2 and 3 man forms, 53 different weapons and weapon combinations, and a big arsenal of hand techniques from styles such as Buddha Palm, Long Fist, Shaolin animal styles and Drunken style. Although Choy Li Fut is generally classified as a Southern style, its strong stances and footwork come from Northern Shaolin.

Besides developing in all these different aspects, a serious student should also learn the broader context. Tai Chi Chuan teaches outstanding structure, connection, softness and fluidity, while incorporating the internal energy (chi) in the movements. Together with Qigong and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it keeps the body healthy and the energy system balanced. Historical knowledge helps to get a better understanding of our martial arts today, and can be a source of inspiration. Calligraphy teaches artistic expression, and its brush strokes are based on the same principles of handling a straight sword (Jian). 

Lion Dance is a Chinese tradition that is intrinsically linked to Kung Fu, and helps to build strength, stamina, coordination, balance and agility. Sanda is the sports competition component of Kung Fu. Wu De (martial code of conduct) promotes respect, humility, trust, virtue and honour, not only within our martial arts practise, but also in daily life.

In our modern times, traditional Chinese martial arts have a lot to offer. Far beyond just the physical self defence, it teaches one how to deal with conflict in general. Stress, health problems, spiritual poverty and loneliness are some of the areas where the real fight is happening for most of us. Discipline, self development, team bonding and respect help us grow to overcome these problems.

The Hong Ying International Association is much like an extended family, united by the same passion: the practise of traditional Chinese martial arts. We are dedicated to keeping that tradition alive and flourishing in the world of today.

We welcome any students interested in Choy Li Fut, Sanda, Lion Dance and/or Tai Chi Chuan to come training with us here at the beautiful west coast of Ireland. Also, we encourage opportunities of positive exchange with other schools. Look for more information and contact details on our website: