It is only proper for us to recognize our teachers, friends and benefactors first and thank them for their invaluable wisdom, assistance and generosity. Thank you all for leaving the lights on and for your precious contributions great and small. Without you we’d be nothing.
In alphabetical order they are:
Jeff Chan, Sifu Bryant Fong, Dr. William C. Hu, David Lei, Calvin Li, Liu Xing Jiu, Sifu Ernest Loo, Danton Mok, Sifu Wilson Ng, Sifu Jin Han Wu, Yao Yong, Sifu Gobert Yeung, Phil Young, Maestro Ruben Zahra.
Kei Lun Martial Arts is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the cultural legacies of the lion dance, dragon dance, and martial arts in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 1994, Sifu Wilson Ng renamed his ongoing classes Kei Lun Martial Arts. Shortly afterwards, he left the group to oversee burgeoning business interests. Since then, the class has been run by his students. The Chinese name of our group, Kei Lun Ngaih Suht, was chosen to mean more than just “martial arts”. The kei lun is a benevolent mythical creature from Asian folklore. As an adjective, kei lun can be loosely translated as "talented". Ngaih suht means arts in general. The original intent was for members to practice and teach not only martial arts, but other arts as well.
Charged with this ongoing challenge, members also perform traditional lion and dragon dances. Some members practice healing arts, painting, calligraphy, and making/restoring lions. Their work can be seen on the equipment we create and perform with.
Making Lions and Equipment
Modern, successful business principles know no industry-specific boundaries. These maxims even apply to the business of making lions. In this age of “maximizing profits and minimizing costs” most lion makers would rather make more money than make the finest lions they possibly can. Understandably so. Most artists who eschewed making the most profit in favor of making the best product are no longer in business. Traditional craftsmanship has been replaced by assembly line style production. While lions are still hand made, the quality of workmanship has noticeably suffered. Rare indeed is the lion that is worked on by a single, caring artist.
In 2000, several of our members took a special trip to China to learn the art (as opposed to the business) of making lions. The trip included stops in three cities, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. In each of the cities we spent time with different people learning various aspects of the art. We gained a profoundly deeper respect and admiration for the master craftspersons who still make this intricate art form their livelihood. Their numbers are rapidly dwindling. As much as we can, we are trying to use the skills we learned to make new lions to share with our audiences. Since we’re not a lion-making factory, we take our time to make each lion we touch a unique labor of love to be treasured by future generations. Some of our works can be seen in this website. Our adult members are keenly interested in teaching what we've learned to young students who will carry on and make further improvements to the tradition of making and performing with dragons and lions.
Restoration and Preservation
Our passion to preserve and restore old lions has saved many of them from utter destruction, enabling new audiences to continually enjoy the spectacle of these dancing beasts. The Lion Rescue Squad, as we’ve been called, continues to acquire donated and unwanted lions and dragons that are no longer used to fascinate people. Just a temporary state of hibernation, we like to think.
The Chinese Historical Society of America sought our advice and thoughts about restoring an enormous antique dragon in its possession. A feasibility study was conducted and our findings were presented, bringing the museum one step closer to its long-term goal of restoring the dragon to its former glory and rightful place in the museum’s permanent display.
The New York Historical Society Museum & Library also invited us to share our recommendations about repairing and stabilizing Moo Lung, which is believed to be the nation’s oldest dragon. The goal was to transform the fragile and priceless symbol of Marysville, California into the proud centerpiece of their exhibit, Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion. We convinced the NYHS, the Head of Conservation from San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum, and the dragon’s owners (the Marysville Chinese Community) that we indeed possessed the passion and experience to rescue the decaying dragon’s head. We were awarded the job, and on a bittersweet day months later, we sent the majestic Moo Lung on the first leg of its cross-country tour.
The dragon is regarded as the king of the beasts in Chinese culture. Our 50-foot dragon follows the mesmerizing dragon’s pearl, twisting through complex and beautiful routines. A stunning opener or breathtaking climax to any important gathering or production. The dragon dance can be performed in a parade or as a stand-alone stage act. Absolutely unforgettable.
Kei Lun Dance
The kei lun is regarded as an extremely benevolent creature associated with the coming of great fortune. It is just below the dragon in the mythical animal pecking order. The kei lun dance is seen at the same kinds of occasions as the lion dance, and the two are often used interchangeably.
Chinese lion dancing is believed to bring good fortune and blessings to every happy occasion. Besides during the Lunar New Year, the lion dance can often be seen at birthday parties, grand openings, ground-breaking ceremonies, and of course, weddings. History buffs will tell you the dance has been performed in various forms for over two thousand years.
Traditionally speaking, the dance symbolically invites prosperity, health and longevity. Past generations believed the dance also dispelled so-called “evil spirits” and negative influences. While we can’t vouch for the dance's efficacy in exorcising demons, we can confidently state that a lion dance definitely adds a festive atmosphere to joyous events with its parade of colors and thunderous percussion instrument accompaniment. We perform the Cantonese, or southern lion, and the northern lion.
Peih Yau Dance
The rarely-seen peih yau dance brings another legendary creature to life. The peih yau is considered to be the most ferocious land animal; its roar strikes fear into the hearts of every other earthly animal. On ancient battlefields, some Chinese generals actually had some of their soldiers outfit themselves in peih yau costumes to frighten enemies and embolden their own troops.
We perform our martial arts to stirring, specially-composed Chinese music that brings out the true flavor and spirit of chinese martial arts. Attired in traditional costume, the athletes demonstrate a variety of bare-handed routines as well as ancient weapons. Swords, spears, staffs, tridents – you name it. Our athletes are experienced in performing on stage and in the midst of intimate crowds. It's the perfect way to fill out longer shows.