This is a story about a bookshop and its two owners. The reason why I am sharing it here is because I do not want them to be forgotten. Ten years from now, or even twenty years from now, I want to be able to read this again and go, “Ah, such a place once existed. I used to go there.”
It all began approximately thirty years ago, when a friend and I went on an expedition to find martial art manuals and, by extension, a way to deal with my school bullies. Back in the day, there was no internet, so we had to rely on our feet and hearsay. Eventually, our search led us to Bras Basah Complex, the City of Books (书城).
We found a couple of shops on the first floor that carried martial art publications, but they were different from what we were expecting to find. We wanted something out of a wuxia novel, something like the Depository of Scriptures (藏经阁) at Shaolin Temple! You know, the chamber where all the martial art manuals of Shaolin were supposedly kept.
So we kept looking. And on the second floor, we found what we were looking for.
Zhong Lian Shu Dian (中联书店) was situated among a row of shops facing the site where the National Library building now stands. Unlike other Chinese bookshops at Bras Basah Complex, Zhong Lian sold only martial art publications, along with a modest selection of martial art training equipment. So the moment my friend and I entered the shop, we were greeted by the sight of rows and rows of martial art manuals lining the shelves and tables.
At that moment, I felt like I was a character in some wuxia novel.
During the nineties, Zhong Lian was about the size of an average 7-11. Then, when business grew slow, the owners rented out half of the shop space to another business, and Zhong Lian became smaller still. Even in its heyday, it was a pixie compared to behemoths like Popular and Kinokuniya. But when it came to the number of martial art titles, Zhong Lian probably had no equal in Singapore. As far as I know, it was Singapore’s one and only martial art specialist bookshop, truly deserving of my nickname for it: 藏经阁 (Depository of Scriptures).
Zhong Lian imported their books and magazines from China, the birthplace of Chinese martial arts. And, through those publications, I got to know about a myriad of martial styles, such as Eight Extremities Fist (八极拳), Eight Immortals Drunken Fist (醉八仙拳）, Labyrinth Boxing (迷踪拳), Tiger Subduing Fist (伏虎拳) and so on and so forth. These boxing forms, along with many others that I found in the books and magazines at Zhong Lian, were relatively unknown in Singapore at that time. And since the internet, as we know today, did not exist back then, it is no exaggeration to say that it was solely thanks to Zhong Lian that I was able to catch a glimpse of the wider world of Chinese martial arts.
But with just boxing forms, a martial artist’s education cannot be said to be complete. A well-known saying within the Chinese martial arts community goes like this: “练拳不练功，到老一场空。”
It can be translated as: “If one neglects to condition his body, then his skills will be for naught in his old age.”
And, in truth, other traditional martial arts, such as Japanese and Korean ones, have also incorporated body conditioning into their training methods. Here, you can read a short description of how North Korean Special Force soldiers condition their fists for unarmed combat. But if you wish to delve deeper into this subject, then you are out of luck. Because Zhong Lian is no longer around. Back when the shop was still operational, it sold comprehensive manuals that not only contained descriptions of body conditioning methods, but also instructions for the accompanying breathing exercises and recipes for liniments needed to help one recover from the rigors of body conditioning training. Read the rest of this entry
Christmas has arrived, so our friends in Altair would like to wish us all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Go on, wave back at them! Although the Dragon Project game server was shut down on the 30th of September this year, I like to think that our friends in Altair are still carrying on as usual. They are drinking, laughing and adventuring, just like they have always done.
So, Merry Christmas and keep on adventuring, my friends.
Guards Gone Wild is about a security guard’s experiences in the private security industry in Singapore.
Before anyone chips in at this point and asserts that the politically correct term “security officer” should be used, let me assure you that the author Teck Yong has clarified this issue in his book.
After all, he is a veteran who has worked there since 1999 and has seen the various policy changes taking place within the industry over the years.
His clarification in the book confirms my own realisation that there is no real difference between “security guard” and “security officer”.
When I first picked up his book, I must confess that I already have some preconceived ideas about security guards.
My perception of them is shaped by my personal encounters, some of which are less than positive.
For instance, I had my bicycle wheel-clamped by a security guard some years ago…
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Earlier this year, I did an interview with the Long Kang Kitties, a podcast group based in Singapore. The following is the blurb written for the interview.
While some people view security guards as low class people not fit to socialise with, we at the LongKang hold no such illusions! This week we invite Loh Teck Yong, author of “Guards gone wild!” as a guest. The ex-security guard/wordsmith spills the beans on what it is REALLY like working in the security industry in Singapore, from getting threatened with a knife to being almost literally thrown under a truck, this old guard had plenty of stories to tell!
We also covered the new law that will penalises guards who fall asleep on the job. How will this affect the industry and more importantly, the already cash-strapped guards whose livelihoods are wholly dependent on their security licenses?
If you wish to listen to the podcast, you can visit the Long Kang Kitties’ soundcloud site.
Loh Teck Yong
* I grabbed the above image from the Long Kang Kitties’ Facebook page. It’s their work, not mine.
Guest Review: The Art of Self Defense – bears a striking resemblance to a real life martial arts cult
GUEST REVIEW by Russell Johnson
Writer/Director: Riley Stearns
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, Imogen Poots, David Zellner
Synopsis: A man is attacked at random on the street. He enlists at a local dojo, led by a charismatic and mysterious sensei, in an effort to learn how to defend himself.
I met Jesse Eisenberg when I was an extra on the film End of the Tour when it was filming in Minnesota along with Jason Segel and Joan Cusack. As an extra I was instructed not to approach him, or talk to him and especially don’t ask for a picture. I stood next to him. He smiled at me, shook his head and acknowledging me, said hello. That was the extent of us meeting. There are well founded reasons for this set etiquette and overzealous celebrity worshipping fans is just one of them. That is not me. Of course, most…
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