Pai Lum White Dragon
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Pai Lum (Bai Long, White Dragon) Kung fu is a martial arts style that was established by Daniel Kane Pai. Great grandmaster – Dr. Daniel Kane Pai’s grandfather, Po Fong, left his home near a southern Shaolin Temple outside of Singapore and traveled to Hawaii in 1924 with the dream of being able to give his family a better life by using his vast martial arts knowledge.
Pai Lum is a long range style, and uses a variety of punching and kicking techniques. This does not mean, however, that we neglect close range blocks and strikes: they are of great importance and use, together with chin na, or grappling techniques. Students are taught the more spectacular spinning and jumping kicks, but you will need to remember that they are not always the best techniques! If you are not very flexible at the moment, don’t worry – your flexibility will improve with training, and while high kicks may look great, the same kick at a lower level is often much more effective.
Po Fong later adopted a Hawaiian name, Po Pai. Kane Pai, the son of Po Pai, was one of six children and had a son, Daniel Kane Pai, born in Kamuela, Hawaii. Grandmaster – Po Pai taught his grandson the family martial art style which contained mainly elements of the crane and dragon movements as well as other animal styles which were later contained within a larger martial arts system called Pai Lum.
His grandmother was a master of the white crane system and his father was a Judo expert. During this time of training, it is said that Po Pai sent his grandson to the White Lotus Monastery, Byakurenji, on the northern coast of Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands, to study Kobayashi-ryu karate-do, White Lotus Kenpo and he received his black belt.
After the end of World War II, Daniel Pai went to work on the Parker Ranch on the “Big Island ” herding cattle. During this time, Daniel Pai and Ed Parker, who would become a famous kenpo master, worked and trained together. Pai studied the art of Judo/Jujitsu and massage with Professor Osakis and Richard Takamora. He was also involved with the Hawaiian Kenpo Association.
He retired from active duty in December 1955 and in May 1962 he was given an honorable discharge after completing his military obligation. During his service to his country, Daniel Pai was awarded 4 Bronze Stars, Korean Service Medal, U. N. Service Medal, and the National Defense Medal. Dr. Daniel Pai graduated from the Chicago Medical College, Calcutta India on June 29, 1960 with a degree in Homeopathic Medicine and during the 1960’s he worked at 20th Century Fox as a stuntman.
Throughout the mid-sixties and early seventies, he opened schools throughout the United States, with instructors in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania,Tennessee, Connecticut, Colorado, California, Canada and Hawaii. During this time he was operating a school in Daytona Beach and assisting with the operations across the country.
This era peaked with fifty plus Pai Lum and Fire Dragon schools operating in North America. Over the next two decades some of these students, who trained mostly in kenpo, stayed close to Great Grandmaster – Pai as he trained new students in Kung Fu and Tai Chi disciplines. Great Grandmaster Pai’s martial arts system became known as the White Dragon.
In 1951, Daniel Pai joined the U. S. Army and was stationed on the Mainland. He opened his first school in the back of his Sunset Boulevard home just before leaving to fight in the Korean War. He reenlisted in 1953, and spoke of being in Vietnam in 1954.
Pai Lum History: According to his training manual, Daniel Kane Pai was born in a poor family in Hawaii and brought up by his grandfather, Pai Po Feng.
The Pai family, being Chinese, was mistreated by the locals and held very little respect. At the age of twelve, Pai Po Feng sent his grandson to the “White Lotus Temple” in northern Okinawa to study “kenpo” with some relatives.
After five years of intense training, Daniel returned to Hawaii and became the prominent fighter of the islands, winning trophies and respect for his family name. Filled with pride for his grandson, Pai Po Feng taught Daniel the Pai Family style, Pai Lum. Determined to share his new-found knowledge, Pai traveled to the mainland and established the White Dragon Association in New England. The training manual does not go into much detail as to how or why he established the association, but goes on to several teaching traits he exhibited.
Curriculum: The first student in Pai Lum Kung Fu was Kalaii Griffin. At that time the curriculum within Pai Lum was Goju Ryu Karate. Shortly thereafter, in the early 1970’s, Daniel Pai opened a school (“Fire Dragon”) in Hartford Cnnecticut and began teaching people such as Thomas D. St. Charles, Peter Genero, Charlie Hatchett, Robert Schoolnick, David Everett, Marcia L. Pickands and others. It was at this time that kung fu forms were first introduced, adding Kung Fu forms from various styles, including Hung Gar and White Eyebrow from Lee Chun Pai in Ontario, Canada, as well as Choy Li Fut, Lau Gar, and northern style Chang Chuan forms.
Certain Pai family forms were introduced, as well, and taught alongside of the Kempo methods. The Fire Dragon school, fueled by heightened interest in the Chinese Martial arts via the Bruce Lee craze, was a commercial success for a few short years. Afterward, Daniel Pai retreated to less visible locations in the Hartford area, such as a 33 room house in a historical district and later, an apartment complex. During these years the Pai Lum curriculum was refined and taught through travel to Pai Lum association schools in Pennsylvania, Nova Scotia, North Carolina, Florida, and Missouri. Tao Chi Pai was Pai Lum chief instructor at this time, later maintaining the Pai Lum presence in the Hartford area at his White Lotus Martial Arts Center.
Daniel Pai personally never taught his students a set curriculum and in fact what he taught had changed over the years. Many attempts were made, via his personal students, to develop a set curriculum, with good success coming during the Hartford years, however. This resulted in confusion among Pai Lum instructors who would occasionally compare what they had learned. Today, this continues to be the case as instructors broaden their martial arts experience through cross-training.
Many of the practice forms (or katas, to use the Japanese equivalent term) in Pai Lum closely resemble those of the Hung Gar system, but tend to be longer and more drawn out, purportedly for the purposes of building endurance. For example, Pai Lum’s ‘Outer Tiger’ form doubles many of the 90-degree, 4-direction movements found in the original Hung Gar form into 45-degree, 8-direction movements.
Seemingly no two of Daniel Pai’s high-level black belt students got there via the same curriculum. The test for first level black belt was, however, very brutal in the early days of his stateside teachings. When one of his students did earn a black belt, it was many times said to be as much a rite of pain as of skill.
Controversy: The historical legend as told above has never been substantiated and is even considered dubious by many within Pai Lum. Issues arise when one finds that there has never been a “White Lotus Temple” in Okinawa and that the Okamura mentioned within the legend’s text is more likely to have been the founder of the “Okinawa Kenpo Karate” system, namely Shigeru Nakamura. It also raises the question as to why a master of a Chinese martial art would send his grandson half a world away to study an Okinawan martial art system when he could have taught him. Moreover, the date of Pai’s alleged travel to Okinawa seems highly improbable, since according to the legend he would have travelled there in 1942, after the Second World War in the Pacific began, which is clearly very improbable, given that Okinawa was one of the Japanese home islands. Another controversy is that Daniel Pai was often called “Dr. Pai” by his students but to date, there is no record of Daniel Pai going to medical school or achieving a doctorate from any academic institution.
Daniel Pai died in 1993. For many years he had told many students of Pai Lum that his successor would be his senior adopted grandson, Pai Li Lung (John Weninger). Other adopted grandsons who were more senior to Pai Li Lung had left Pai Lum over the years preceding his death. (Daniel Pai was married in the 1950’s to the former Betsy M. Mullins and this union produced two children, a daughter, Pualei, now living in Florida and a son named Daniel who resides in Virginia. Dr. Pai is also survived by 4 granddaughters, 1 grandson, 2 great granddaughters and 2 great grandsons.) This too has raised some issues. Depending on the school and location, you will get different responses as to who exactly should be named the head of the system. Some contend that no one should be the head of the system since each succeeding master develops something new. Besides the few non-aligned instructors, such as former chief instructor, Pai Tao Chi (David Everett), two competing factions exist within Pai Lum, namely the World White Dragon Society and the White Dragon Warrior Society.
The World White Dragon Society made up of early students of Daniel K. Pai including Pai Shao Li (Steve Mathews), Pai Li Lung (John Weninger), Pai Shinzan (Thomas D. St. Charles), Pai Ching-Lin (David Smith), and Pai Hsin-Lung (Philip Hunter), Pai Ying Lung (Robert L. Skaling-Pai), and Pai Bok Hok (Marcia Pickands), and others. The other competing faction is The White Dragon Warrior Society, which is headed by Glen C. Wilson supported by his wife Hilda Guerrero Wilson, and students. Considering there is no set curriculum, central authority, or standard within Pai Lum, there seems little point to naming anyone the head of the system.
Despite the ongoing controversies regarding the origin and authenticity of Pai Lum Kung Fu, it remains that Daniel Pai was an enigma, both as a man and a martial arts master. Those who spent significant time with him may all agree that his charisma and personal energy were unmistakable and left a lasting impression upon those who met him, even briefly. One never walked away unchanged, and either loved him or hated him, with few feeling ambivalent.You might also like: