Nick Hurst was working in London when he threw in his job in advertising to train for four years in Malaysia and China with a kung fu grandmaster, Sugong. This book is a mix of Nick's experiences in South-East Asia and the story of Sugong's extraordinary life.
Initiated into kung fu by an opium-addicted master, Sugong was expelled from school, kidnapped, and nearly killed in a family feud. All by the age of sixteen.
He fled army conscription in China, only to be engulfed in a world of gangsters and blood-brothers in Singapore.
Saved by a Shaolin warrior monk, his penance was eight years of fiercely-enforced temple training.
A near-fatal fall-out with his master, love affairs, race riots and gangland vendettas all followed as he travelled through South-East Asia.
Throughout, he struggled to adhere to martial arts ethics in an imperfect world.
His story spanned fascinating periods of history of four Asian countries in Asia: war-torn 1930s China; instability in post-war Singapore; racial tension in the newly independent Malaysia; and a gangster-led Taiwan in the aftermath of its Chinese breakaway.
The origins of Shaolin kung fu and triad organised crime are explored to provide a context to his life.
See the dedicated Sugong website at
Kung fu memoir charts a lifetime's journey to mastery
...a rip-roaring adventure yarn - except that it is all true - that kept this reader up until the small hours, such is Hurst's easy style and his ability to tell such a remarkable story. This is a fascinating book - part biography, part social history, part memoir as Hurst's own relationship with Sugong is explored.
an extraordinary story
David Carradine's role as a Shaolin warrior monk in the early-Seventies American TV series Kung Fu sparked an interest in martial arts in the West, but few had the discipline to keep going. Nick Hurst is an exception: tiring of life in a London advertising agency, he went to Kuala Lumpur to train for four years with a real Chinese kung fu legend taught by Shaolin monks. Sugong ? or 'grandmaster' ? stood just over 5ft but had a swagger and well-muscled presence that belied his stature. Aged nearly 80, he could still hammer six-inch nails into a plank of wood with his bare hands. Hurst's account reveals the brutal training regime he suffered at Sugong's hands, at times literally, before winning grudging respect. But when the Englishman asked to write about his master's life, the response was initially hostile. It is an extraordinary story. Sugong paid for his early lessons by stealing opium from an uncle. Expelled from school, kidnapped and nearly killed in a family feud, he avoided army conscription by fleeing to Singapore, only to be dragged into life as a drug-runner to pay for his passage. To escape, he spent eight years at a Shaolin temple. Always restless, he left to live on his wits and fists in triad-dominated Taiwan, then founded martial arts schools and enjoyed peace and prosperity back in Malaysia before dying aged 83 in 2009. By bringing his dramatic tale to a wider audience the English pupil has amply repaid his debt to his master.