February 28, 2024

Beauty Arts

The Arts Authority

Madison County Kung Fu school focuses on ‘beautiful art physically’

Madison County Kung Fu school focuses on ‘beautiful art physically’

ALTON — Do you want to learn the style of Kung Fu you see in the movies? Then look to the Milton Schoolhouse in Alton, where the Iron Dragon Hung Kuen, a Southern Shaolin Kung Fu school, holds classes in this ancient, disciplined and often beautiful martial art.

“The primary style we teach is Hung Gar Kuen and that translates literally into ‘Hung clan fist’ or ‘Hung family fist,’” said Sifu Wayne Judge, Iron Dragon’s owner and instructor. “It’s Shaolin Kung Fu just like you see in the movies.”

Judge is a direct disciple of Grand Master Chiu Chi Ling, who has been in more than 80 movies including the well-known 2004 film “Kung Fu Hustle,” and has starred in several movies with international Kung Fu star Jackie Chan.

“The style we teach is characterized by strong, low stances and a majority of hand techniques,” Judge said. “We imitate five animals, the tiger, crane, leopard, snake and dragon.

“We also practice a lot of weaponry,” he said. “There are 18 weapons in the classical Chinese arsenal, and we do all of them.”

Iron Dragon students also learn the traditional Chinese Lion Dance that is used at weddings, business openings and other events to drive away bad luck and usher in good luck to the viewer. Iron Dragon has four of the dance lions that are used during classes.

Judge said that traditional Kung Fu is a discipline, so Iron Dragon is not sport-oriented. It is a true martial art, he said, so they don’t just teach the fighting; they also teach the history related to the style and its Buddhist philosophy.

“Our style is very good for self defense and self-confidence,” Judge said. “It’s a beautiful art physically if you just watch it.”

Most Iron Dragon students are teenage or older because the style being taught is very physically demanding, but Judge tailors instruction for all age levels, including children.

“Here in the Midwest I like to call it Tae Kwon Do country; that’s what everyone is familiar with,” Judge said. “I have a lot of people from that come in, try a class, and almost invariably they are like, ‘This is hard!’ It does require a lot of discipline but that can be taught and gained through practicing the style.”

Judge has been teaching Southern Shaolin Kung Fu for 25 years and has been practicing the martial art for much longer than that. Those interested in taking the a class can watch one in action or try one out at no charge, and there are no contracts so people aren’t “stuck” in something they decide isn’t for them. Just don’t expect to earn a belt in this Kung Fu school.

“Traditional Chinese styles don’t really use a belt system. I look at that as a sign of vanity,” Judge said. “Our class is divided into a sort of hierarchy, more like a family. You know what skill level you’re at. I know what skill level you’re at. So who else needs to know?”

Iron Dragon is located in the Milton Schoolhouse at 1320 Milton Road in Alton. Classes are held there on Mondays at 7 p.m., Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 11 a.m. Judge also holds outdoor classes at noon on Sundays in a St. Louis location, usually Forest Park. Visit the Iron Dragon Hung Gar Kuen Facebook page for more information.