My brother Sifu Jen Sam went from teenage runaway to master Kung Fu Teacher, inspirational speaker and renowned healer. He shared parts of his life story – from life on the streets, incarceration and becoming ordained as a Buddhist monk to his new mission to help resurrect the ancient tradition of the Barefoot Doctors.
When did you start practicing martial arts?
I started Martial Arts when I was just 6 yrs old. As a teenager I fell in love with the discipline, training and the whole deadly actions that involve the art of fighting.
Why did you run away from home?
I was always looking for adventure and excitement. I started running away from home…I joined a local gang and went looking and challenging people for fights and doing all sorts of wild and crazy things that gave hell to authority and my parents.
I stopped going to school preferring to take on any challenge or dare that the gang required instead, from breaking and entering to vandalism, you name it we did it.
I was also under a lot of pressure at home as my genetic Dad was sick so I had to take care of my brothers and sisters… be the man of the house. I was fighting with my mother over my responsibilities and it became too much for me to bear.
So I decided to leave home at just 14 years old to find my own destiny. I left my home with only five dollars, a small suitcase and hitchhiked to Sydney
When I got to Sydney I went to Kings Cross…just like all other runaways and street kids do. I was living for day to day, eating when I got lucky and sleeping in toilets and cars. Living on the streets teaches you one thing – it’s either do or die in order to survive.
How did you meet Dad?
I was washing and parking cars in Kings Cross and I used to see this flamboyant Asian man – Dad – driving this big American car. He saw me practicing my martial arts in the car park everyday and told me to wash his car. Eventually he asked me to see him in his shop – Ecstasy – and offered me a job and a home. I quickly took the offer.
Little did I know then, that he would become a major Mentor, Teacher and my Family. He changed my life and shaped the way that I think. Dad taught me how to live, thrive (rather than survive) and do business.
How did martial arts help you flourish during your teens?
It was well known that many Masters had immigrated from China and Hong Kong to Australian in the 1970’s. After training in numerous styles of martial arts from Double Dragon to Choy Lee Fut, I went looking for a Kung Fu Teacher in Chinatown hoping to find one that suited my temperament.
I came across a small sign that said The Australian Shaolin Yau Kung Mun Martial Arts Academy. The school had all the usual displays of weapons and equipment that a good school should have, but the teacher had this great warmth and a kind smile which made me feel as though I had found a finally found a Master that I could really learn from.
Master Leung was small but strong. I asked him if he would please accept me as a student and teach me. I promised that I would follow everything he said and that one day, with his blessing, I would teach.
He accepted me – a foreigner – as his student. To this day I am honoured to have learnt from such a distinguished Herbalist Bone Setting Doctor & Kung Fu Master.
When I trained alone with Master Leung, he would teach me special movement patterns and intricate techniques so I could become more advanced at the inner secrets of the forms themselves. He explained to me that you must truly have Kung Fu in your heart to be passionate enough to train and become a Sifu (a teacher).
I trained day and night for years and I advanced in all levels of Yau Kung Mun, but my real test was representing our school during the yearly tournaments.
Fighters are only allowed to wear limited protective gear that limits the attack to their vital organs, the rest is full body combat. This was my opportunity to show myself that I was a true YKM brother and a good fighter to be respected.
I won my first fight and I became a 7-times world champion.
What other jobs did you have?
I was a jack-of-all-trades. I have trained and worked as a carpenter, pizza cook, waiter, bartender, salesman, spray painter, panel beater, store man, courier, security guard, assistant mechanic, professional cleaner, bodyguard, and private investigator.
Eventually I settled down and was working as a projectionist, teaching Kung Fu and opening my own martial arts school in Sydney.
Tell me about your time in the monastery?
It was my calling in life to become a Buddhist Monk.
I was ordained and lived in the Thai forest monastery for 3 years. Never before have I felt so mentally free and physically light. It brought me closer to my spirit.
I was completely dedicated to my spiritual practice. I spent all day and night doing long meditation retreats and fasting whilst staying in caves and forest trees.
What did you do when you left the monastery?
I travelled the world studying the ancient medicinal arts with Masters, training and doing stunts in movies.
What else are you trained in?
Chinese medicine; Acupuncture, Nutrition and Bone Setting.
What took you to the Philippines?
The country was aligned with my mission to create a Foundation for promoting Shaolin Yau Kung Mun and to continue the tradition of a Sifu – keeping the martial arts alive.
How did you end up in prison?
I was charged with adultery. As a young man in the Philippines I got involved with a women who was married. I didn’t understand the customs of the country (the Philippines is a strict Catholic country) which got me involved in what they call a ‘Love Triangle’.
What did you learn during incarceration?
That you should respect a countries culture and don’t get involved in another mans wife!
…I was incarcerated for 3 years. The jails where unbearable to live in with no place to sleep and over crowded. I had to endure smokers, suicides, numerous knife attacks and death threats all of which I survived.
They would continuously move me and change my location as I was deemed a danger and ‘armed’ because I was a Kung Fu Teacher. 3 armed guards had to escort when I was shuttled to cases or moved between prisons.
Even though my life had been turned upside down I continued to train in martial arts, meditated and treated people with Chinese Medicine who needed medical attention. I healed many people in jail and saved lives which made me feel good.
In what ways were you transformed?
I’ve been studying and teaching Martial Arts for over 40 years and practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine for 30 years.
But it was here that I truly learnt humility and understanding.
How are your combining your knowledge of martial arts and healing to help the world?
That’s easy, I’m working to resurrect the tradition of the Barefoot Doctor and to help pass on the knowledge of the ancient masters as they have taught it before.
I’ve have written books and filmed videos so that you can learn everything that I know and by attending my workshops and seminars and that’s just the BEGINNING.
I help people learn and train in –
- Kung Fu and Tai Chi
- Chiropractic therapy
- Nutritional cooking and juicing
- Weight loss and detox therapy
- Natural health
- Chinese herbal medicine
- Chinese bone setting
What 3 things should people do / implement to help them live healthier and happier lives?
- Stop eating fast food. Fast death
- Don’t take any medication unless in an emergency
- Eat organic food and drink pure distilled water. If you are healthy you are happy but if you are unhealthy it’s obvious that you will be unhappy.