Liu Seong Gung Fu
This system is based on a combination of Chinese and Indonesian martial arts as taught by Grandmaster Willem Reeders (Liu Seong). Liu Seong Gung Fu is a combination of Liu Seong Royal Chuan Fa and Pentjak Silat. Chuan Fa is a Mandarin Chinese term meaning “Fist Method,” and can refer to any number of Chinese martial arts. Pentjak Silat refers to Indonesian martial arts, and the term does not have a simple, direct English translation. Although it is unclear precisely what the historical components of Liu Seong Gung Fu are, it’s clear that it includes aspects of Hokkien White Crane boxing and Bagua Zhang along with a number of other Gung Fu and Silat systems.
Students in the Chinese-Indonesian Martial Arts Club study the various aspects of this art. Along with empty hand training, students learn to use a variety of weapons, including the short stick, knife (pisau), staff, machete (parang), broadsword (dao), straight sword (jian), titjiu (also known as tjabang or sai) and three-section staff. The training also includes hard and soft Qigong, various movement drills, constant hands-on technique practice, and forms training. The system’s focus is on combative effectiveness against one or more opponents, and does not have a sport aspect to it.
For those who are interested in names and dates, Erik Harris is the head instructor for the Chinese-Indonesian Martial Arts Club. Erik began studying this art in June 1990 under Sifu George Reyngoudt, and became a student of Mr. Joe Salomone in March 2005. Sifu Reyngoudt learned this art from a number of teachers. He was a student of John Furey from 1980 to 1987. In 1985, he began training informally with Gary Galvin, a Chuan Fa student of Grandmaster Reeders. In 1998, he became a student of Mr. Joe Salomone, a student of Grandmaster Arthur Sikes (alternately “Sykes.” He changed the spelling at some point from Sykes to Sikes). In 1999, he began training informally with Jerry Bradigan, who inhereted the Royal Chuan Fa system from Grandmaster Reeders.
Grandmaster Willem Reeders
There are many stories about Grandmaster Willem Reeders. Some are no doubt true, while some may be exaggerations based on his “legendary” status. Grandmaster Reeders shared many stories about his family and life with his students. He gave each person a part of his martial arts and his life. Either by design or just the path of his life, these people have pieces of an elaborate puzzle. It has been said by his students that Grandmaster Reeders created a
broken mirror system. He gave each of his students a piece of the mirror. Some of them were given more of the puzzle and others received a small but unique part.
Grandmaster Reeders was given the Chinese name “Liu Siong” by his teacher and great uncle, Liu Leong Siong. Grandmaster Reeders changed the Liu Siong name to Liu Seong at some point later in his life. Beside the instruction that Grandmaster Reeders had with his great uncle in Chuan Fa and Kun Tao, he also studied with multiple Silat teachers and practitioners of various other arts. Aside from being well known in the Silat community, he is also said to have held a 7th degree black belt in Budozen Soundje Kempo, a 5th degree black belt in Shotokan Karate, and a 10th degree black beld in Kodokan Judo and Jui Jitsu. His students assert that he had working knowledge of 81 weapons. It is not totally clear what aspects of his training he incorporated into this art, but this art appears to be a combination of what Grandmaster Reeders learned from his great uncle and the Silat arts that he learned.
Reeders Family History
Willem Reeders’ grandfather Karl Lodewygk was related to Willem the IV, prince of Orange and King of the Netherlands. As most royalty of the Dutch, Karl was related to English royalty and was the Earl of the House of Wiedling. In the early 1800’s, Karl went on a trip to China as an emissary of Holland and to secure trading agreements on tea. During a visit to Peking (now called Beijing), he met with the emperor and the royal court of China.
While in the court, his eye caught sight of the princess Hap Kiem. The princess Hap Keim’s mother was from the Royal Liu Family of southern China. The two met and fell in love. The Dutch nobleman asked the emperor and the Liu family elders for the hand of the princess in marriage and was basically laughed out of the royal court. The princess Hap Kiem went to her younger brother, Liu Leong Siong. Liu Siong, as he was often called, was a Shaolin priest and a great master of the martial arts. He was well respected for his skills as a warrior and was seen as one who would in time become one of the Liu family elders.
Liu Leong Siong was a master of the family Kuntao system, a deadly fighting system that is said to be the highest level of the martial arts. It was only taught to Royalty and the emperor’s family. A second style of Gung Fu that was derived from Kuntao was taught to the emperor’s elite guards. The family’s Kuntao was not shared completely with all of its members, but with only the first adult male child of each generation. To this day, it may have never been shared in its entirety outside the family. Individuals outside of the family had to be adopted into the family to continue training to advanced ranks and the adoption had to be approved by the family elders.
Liu Siong adored his sister and liked the Dutch nobleman so he spoke with the family elders but had no success with convincing them to allow the marriage. Liu Siong decided to help his sister and arranged for her and Karl to secretly leave China. Shortly after their departure, the Chinese royal court found out that Liu Siong had helped the couple to leave. Liu Siong had many friends and was notified that the court was going have him arrested. Liu Siong caught up with his sister and the Earl in Indonesia and lived with the newly married couple at the Wiedling family plantation in Java.
The Earl and princess had a daughter named Christine, who grew up and married a wealthy civil engineer named Charles M. Reeders who lived in Indonesia. Charles Reeders and Christine moved into the Wiedling estate in Java and had several children. The oldest was a daughter named Adriana Engelina and the second born, Willem, was the first-born son of the house of Wiedling. Liu Siong decided that Earl and his extended relatives were his family now and Willem was going to be the one to learn the family martial arts.
Grandmaster Reeders’ Life and Training
At the age of four, Willem began his martial arts training as well as his formal education in a private school for the wealthy Dutch families living in Indonesia. Being Dutch and part Chinese, he got into a number of fights with both the Dutch students at the school and with the Indonesian children that would pick fights with him on the way home. His older sister was given the task of mending his clothes after he returned from school, which she had to do almost daily. She was glad when her younger brother started to get more efficient at defending himself.
When Willem reached the age of 12, his great uncle began taking his nephew to a Shaolin Temple in China. Willem would train at the temple for 100 days then return back to Indonesia to continue his academic schooling. He would return every year for 100 days of training at the temple until he was 21 years old. While at the temple he was taught the Shaolin fighting arts, Buddhism, and Chinese medicine. He also was one of only a few students to be taught an ancient healing/combat exercise that was much like Taiji Quan. This exercise originally came from a Tibetan Buddhist temple. Master Reeders was the only one among the group of students that completed the training. Master Reeders had to go to Tibet to perform the exercise to finish his training. In later years Master Reeders taught this exercise to his students. (They call it Tibetan Tai Chi for lack of a better term, but the true name and history of the art is unclear).
Liu Leong Siong was a renowned master of the martial arts and well-known in Indonesia for his Kuntao. He was blinded in his later years when he was attacked by a number of assailants. One of the attackers threw broken glass in his eyes (an act that was no doubt done to minimize Master Liu Siong’s abilities to defend himself) and blinded Master Liu Siong. This only made the situation more deadly, and Liu Siong killed all of the attackers in flurry of lethal techniques.
During these years, Willem’s uncle, Liu Siong trained his nephew in both Shaolin Chuan Fa and Kuntao. Liu Siong told his nephew Willem, if a practitioner of another system confronts you, it is best to know that system so you can fight against it. Liu Leong Siong also encouraged his nephew to learn all the martial arts that were available to him. Master Reeders had met Ernest “Nes” De Vries in Siam during World War Two and became good friends. Nes De Vries was a student of Mas Djut, who was a Poekoelan Master and Willem and Nes De Vries started sharing some fighting techniques. According to Grandmaster Reeders, Nes De Vries was a fierce fighter and few could match his skills. Nes De Vries taught Master Reeders much of the Poekoelan Pak Serak fighting system. Nes then introduced Master Reeders to his teacher, Mas Djut and the two studied together with the Poekoelan master. Also during this time, Master Reeders learned a number of the other another Indonesian fighting systems of Pentjak Silat from several other masters. Some of the masters were Leo Sjel, Lion De Riearere, Theo Schrijn, the Soverbier brothers, Puk and Mancho, Tji Petjut, Abu Saman, and Suro Djawan. Master Reeders later studied Shotokan Karate, Judo, and Shorinji Kempo at the Budokan in Japan.
Liu Siong and Master Reeders stopped going to the Shaolin Temple at the time the Japanese invasion of China. At that time, Master Reeders joined the Dutch Navy and was assigned to a naval ship to defend the coast of Java. While he was in the Dutch Navy, he did some boxing. He won all his bouts except one. He was fighting a boxer that was known for fighting “dirty.” During the match, while in a clinch, the boxer elbowed Master Reeder in the side of his head and knocked him out. Master Reeders demanded a rematch. The boxer, knowing of Master Reeder’s martial skill, initially refused. Master Reeders assured the boxer and his manager the he was not out for revenge, so they agreed to a rematch. In the first round of the second fight, Master Reeders traded several punches with his advisory then stepped back and side kicked the boxer in the throat, dropping him to the mat. Master Reeders was disqualified but was smiling as he left the ring.
After WWII, he was involved in the Indonesian fight for independence. Being Dutch/Chinese, he was on the Dutch government side and after Indonesia got its independence, he returned to Holland for a period time then left the family wealth behind and moved to Toronto, Canada. This was in the late 1950’s, when very few people publicly shared the martial arts. At that time, Master Reeders was well known in the Chinese and Indonesian martial arts circle as a master of the arts. He met Master Sam Wong and started working out at his Mu Dong Martial Arts school in Toronto. Grandmaster Wong and Grandmaster Reeders became good friends and together developed a Chinese martial art federation called Chunghwa Kung Fu Hui.
Grandmaster Reeders as a Teacher
For a personal account of what training with Master Reeders was like, see An Interview With Gary Galvin.
At that time in the 1950’s, the non-Chinese were taught one aspect of the martial arts and the Chinese were taught the “real stuff.” Master Reeders did not care for that type of treatment of people wanting to learn the martial arts and began teaching to who ever he felt deserved to learn whether they were Chinese or not. He left Toronto and opened a school in Erie, PA. He then later moved to Jamestown, NY and opened a school there.
During Master Reeders’ years in Western NY, many advanced Gung Fu Sifu and Karate Sensei would go to Master Reeders for special training. Because of Master Reeders’ in-depth knowledge of Chinese and Japanese martial arts, he could break down the karate into its Chinese roots and give a more clear and deeper understanding of its techniques.
Master Reeders taught mostly fighting techniques from Gung Fu and Silat. He also taught a number of forms to his students. Early on, he taught a form called the Point Form that consisted of four shorter forms that were put together to make one longer form. The form was believed to be a Pentjak Silat form but it is unknown what system it came from. It also seems that he taught different variations of this form to different students. In the later 1960’s, Master Reeders taught several forms that were the bases of the self-defense techniques of the system. One was called Hok Chan, a bil gee form that emphasized one finger strikes in a whipping motion and simultaneous blocks and strikes. Another bil gee form called Ho Chan (or Ho Jian), emphasizing spear hand techniques with a low crescent kick that attacks the legs. A third form called Kwitang (or Kweetang) was taught. Kwitang was a form that came from the Mustika Kwitang Silat system. It is believed that the form is a number of shorter fighting techniques from the system, and not a form taken directly from Mustika Kwitang Silat. There were several other forms that Master Reeders taught to different individuals that were from different Chinese and Indonesian martial arts. Pak Soy, which is also called Bok Sai by some, is a short form that was often referred to as a family form. From his years of training in different martial arts, Master Reeders knew hundreds of different forms and each student got something a little different from Master Reeders.
By 1972, Master Reeders was plagued with sinus problems and was told by his doctor that if he wanted any relief from the infections, he should move somewhere with a more arid environment. Without much notice, Master Reeders and his family moved to Albuquerque, NM. At that time, he left the school to one of his senior students and promoted several others to continue teaching in Western New York. To several of his senior students he gave the right to teach to what he called the “Liu Seong Royal Gung Fu” system. A few of his senior students found out that he was moving to New Mexico and packed up and moved also. They felt that wherever their teacher went, they went too.
Master Reeders settled into his new home in Albuquerque and start teaching Gung Fu, Silat, and what he called Tibetan Tai Chi out of his home. In the 1980’s, Master Reeders opened a school in Albuquerque, where he taught up until his passing in 1990.