Along the walls and around the open central room at Kung Fu Kwoon on Main Street in Monroe, 4,000 years of tradition are on display.
Butterfly swords are used in Wing Chun, a system that was, according to legend, developed by a woman who wished to rebuff a royal suitor. Tasseled spears called qiang appeared on Chinese battlefields at least 3,700 years ago.
A wooden dummy that looks like the trunk and branches of a debarked tree reflects those in use at the legendary Shoaolin Temple, where 108 of the dummies were once in use.
And a small altar containing fruit, figurines and photographs honors the ancestors of the martial arts who passed the traditions through the ages.
At the center of the Kwoon is the South African-born, multinational Bois family, including sifu (master) Jacque Bois, who has studied Chinese martial arts for 40 years, his wife Sue Lin, whose Chinese family has practiced meditation for generations, and their son Kenji, who has studied kung fu all his life and who assists at the new kwoon, or kung fu studio.
Now they are offering the Sky Valley an opportunity to learn a variety of systems such as tai chi, wing chun, Shaolin boxing and seven star mantis at the new studio, Kung Fu Kwoon, where students of all ages can learn Chinese martial arts from a family deeply rooted in the ancient traditions of kung fu.
The Bois family left South Africa 15 years ago, concerned about growing violence there, and came to the Pacific Northwest because Jacque also works in the computer industry.
They moved to Monroe from Kirkland three years ago, and once they were established, the family decided to carry on the family business; teaching kung fu.
Jacque, who like the rest of his family speaks with a pronounced British accent, has practiced martial arts since he was 5, when an uncle enrolled him in judo and karate. He became very serious about it, and after a stint in the merchant navy, he and wife Sue Lin started their family and opened their own martial arts school in Johannesburg.
Jacque traveled to China many times in the next years, studying kung fu, or wu shu as it is more commonly known in China, at such iconic places as the Shaolin Monastery in Zhengzhou. He learned from people whose style of kung fu had come down through families for centuries, or who were expert in a style associated with a particular master.
The Bois’ South African school was also specific to a particular style of kung fu, as many studios are, but when they decided to open in Monroe, they wanted to be independent, teaching traditional kung fu.
“Martial art is a science based on generations of teachers trying to find the best way to defend themselves to fight,” said Sue Lin.
But there is a philosophical element that is just as important, she said.
“We don’t only teach the martial aspect of it, we teach the meditation, history and philosophy associated with it,” she said.
The kwoon is open six days a week, and each day Jacque emphasizes a different form of kung fu. Some nights it’s the spectacular and demanding seven star mantis. Some nights it’s the slow and contemplative Tai Chi, including the sword form. Some nights it’s the powerful and rapid Shaolin boxing form. And some nights it’s wing chun.
Wing chun is very effective at close range and in confined spaces and also develops excellent tactile senses; Jacque demonstrated by donning an eye mask, then engaging in a lightning-fast sparring match with Kenji, perfectly deflecting each blow as it came.
There are classes offered Monday-Thursday, and members can attend as many as they like. Students are also welcome to come in any time the gym is open to work on the punching bag, the wooden dummy or other training.
There are classes for youth and classes for families.
And beginning in June, Sue Lin will begin teaching meditation at the kwoon.
Kung Fu Kwoon is located at 115 1/2 W. Main St. and is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
To learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.kungfukwoon.net, or call (360) 863-6723.