At the end of the performance, the lion bows three times before the dancers remove the costume and return to the mundane world. However, at the end of the dance, the lion's bows are interrupted by a scuffle in the crowd, and Wong Fei-hong, appearing from under the lion's head, intervenes. As Wong clears the chaos, a new recruit Leung Foon emerges and asks to become one of Master Wong's pupils. With Leung Foon (Walter Cho Tat Wah), the film goes behind the lion's mask and into the world of the martial artist. Initiation into Po Chi Lam, Wong's martial arts studio, medical clinic, and guest hall, does not involve any elaborate ceremonies. The film does not even present the traditional serving of a cup of tea to the master as the pupil submits to the authority of his teacher. Rather, Foon's initiation involves an introduction to Hong Gar's history and forms.
Prominently displayed on the wall is a picture of the Shaolin monk Gee See/Chi Sim (Zin)/Gee Sim Sum See, who taught the founder of the Hung Gar system, Hung Hei Goon (Gung)/Hung Hsi Kuan. Both the monk and his pupils came from the Southern Shaolin temple in Fujian Province —an offshoot of the main temple in Hunan. Although not pictured, legend has it that Hung's wife, Wing Chun (not to be confused with the founder of the Wing Chun kung fu system), taught her husband and son crane style which Hung combined with Southern Shaolin tiger style into what evolved into Hung Gar. [In Shaw Brothers ' The Executioners From Shaolin (1977), Hung Gar practitioner/director Lau Kar Leung (Liu Chia Liang), who can trace his kung fu lineage back to Wong Fei-Hung, tells the story of the destruction of the Shaolin Temple in Fujian and the pursuit of survivors by Bak Mei—the traitor monk, who gave his name to a system of kung fu “White Eyebrow”-- in league with the Qing conquerors to root out Ming supporters among the rebel monks' followers. The film also features the marriage between Hung Hei-Goon and Wing Chun that evolved into Hung Gar. In fact, Lau Kar-Leung made several features on Hung Gar, including sketches of historical figures like Wong Fei-Hung .] Another practitioner of the style, Luk Ah Choy, taught Wong Tai and his son Wong Kai-Ying, who became one of the famous Ten Tigers of Guangdong. His son was Wong Fei-Hung (1847-1925). Wong's disciple Lam Sai-Wing (1861 - 1942), a butcher by profession, popularized the style in Hong Kong , and Wong Fei-Hung became a figure known within martial arts circles as well as among the general public.
In Confucian China, lineage is extremely important. The pupil needs to respect those who came before in the kung fu system, and the master gains authority through the reputation of these kung fu ancestors. Foon needs to feel a part of an established kung fu “family,” and bowing to the system's ancestors forms an important part of his initiation so that he can know his own “place” within the system. He must call Wong “si fu”—teacher-father and the masters' other pupils become his kung fu siblings. The film viewer receives the same authentication of the system with this display of the founders' portraits and visual documentation of the line of descent. Again, Kwan Tak-Hing establishes his authority as Master (“Si-Fu”) Wong Fei-Hung by appearing in the same frame as Wong's Hung Gar ancestors. This scene also provides a condensed moral lesson. Given that martial arts can be used to intimidate others and may be linked to various underground activities (from political rebellion to criminal behavior), the film needs to reiterate Wong's links to Buddhism as well as Confucianism, so that his moral righteousness remains above question.
The next stage of the initiation involves an introduction to the art through a demonstration of one of its most characteristic sets--the Tiger-Crane form, which celebrates the incorporation of the Tiger and Crane systems into a whole greater than the sum of its respective parts. Kwan Tak-Hing was a White Crane aficionado and not a practitioner of Hung Gar, so he does not do the demonstration. Rather, one of the older members of the academy—also, clearly a senior practitioner of Hung Gar in his own right--demonstrates the form for Foon and for the camera. While the incorporation of martial arts forms into the kung fu film genre is not rare, this rendition of Tiger-Crane stands out for several reasons. Not only is it practiced by a non-actor who plays no significant role in the narrative, it is presented as part of an initiation into the academy as a student. Rather than offering a flamboyant version of the form, the master-teacher sticks to a speed used for pedagogical purposes—not for competition, formal demonstrations, or even advanced training. The moves are deliberate, and the camera lingers on the performance that clearly displays the tiger footwork, tiger claw hand postures, crane stances, and use of the crane's beak hand movements.
Beyond the aesthetic beauty of the movements, the form may be of little interest to the uninitiated, since, like all martial arts forms, the fighting applications remain embedded in what appear to be a series of dance-like exercises. However, for the initiated and those being initiated into the system like Foon (and, perhaps, some of the film's viewers), the form provides a wealth of information on grappling in close quarters, countering kicks and punches, blocking and evading blows, and counter-attacking with eye gouges, take downs, chokes, and joint locks. By imagining an opponent, the shadow-boxing form provides a compendium of fighting techniques without directly stating their actual combat applications. The form encapsulates a history of the system, which needed to be occult to survive, but organized into movements that could be memorized and mastered efficiently. By lingering on this performance, the film imaginatively draws the viewers into the martial arts world. The master presents the movements to be imitated and appreciated, not questioned, and their applications may not be readily apparent, but emerge as the practitioner gains proficiency as a fighter or the film viewer recognizes movements in the staged combats.