Jow Ga (aka Chow Gar, Chow Ka, Chau Ka, Zhou Jia, Chou Gar, and Jow Gar) was founded by Jow Lung who was born in 1891, on the eleventh day of the third lunar month in Sa-Fu Village of the Canton Province. His father was Jow Fong Hoy and his mother’s maiden name was Li. At the time of its inception, the particular style of Kung Fu was labeled as having the head of Hung, the tail of Choy and the patterns of the tiger and leopard, or simply Hung Tao Choy Mei. It was so labeled because the essential techniques incorporated the muscular and mighty movements of Hung Gar and the swift footwork and complex kicking of Choy Gar Kung Fu, making it a very effective form of self defense with emphasis on simultaneous attack and defense.
The Jows were farmers native to Sa Fu Village. Jow Lung had an uncle named Jow Hung, who had been taught Hung Gar Kung Fu many years ago, and was unofficially acclaimed as the top fighter in Sun Wui County. Jow Lung and his brothers Jow Hip, Jow Bill, Jow Hoy and Jow Tin practiced Hung Gar with their uncle. Jow Lung never uttered a word of complaint about the arduous training and soon proved to be the best student. Jow Hung thought of him as a possible successor to his teachings. One day Jow Hung summoned his nephew and told him that there was not much time left for him as his chronic illness had returned. While there was still time, he would teach him the remaining techniques and the Pa Kua staff fighting techniques. Only a month later Jow Hung died.
The death of his uncle did not mean Jow Lung had to stop learning Kung Fu. He traveled to Siu Hing County where Choy Kau of Choy Ga Kung Fu was to be found. From Choy Kau, he mastered Choy Ga Kung Fu. Jow Lung felt that it would be more beneficial to him to absorb the essence of the two styles of Kung Fu he learned so far. He preferred the hard driving power of Hung Gar and the swift footwork of Choy Ga. He combined the best of both systems.
When Jow Lung was 19 years old, because of family hardships, he left home for Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to find work. While there, he was involved in a fight with and fatally wounded a gangster. Though he really had nothing to run away from, Jow Lung thought that he had reason to hide. For several days he lived on wild fruits and berries and was on the verge of collapse when he came to a monastery and asked for help. The Abbot was most sympathetic to the ordeal Jow Lung had gone through and said he was welcome to stay if he could take the simple, frugal, hard style of monastery life. After several months of keen observation, the Abbot had no doubt as to Jow Lung’s character and began teaching him Northern Shaolin Kung Fu. Jow Lung’s misunderstanding regarding the death of the gangster lead to the chance encounter with a Shaolin Kung Fu master. Encouraged by the Abbot, Jow Lung combined all of the Kung Fu systems he had mastered into a single style and stayed in the monastery for over three years before he was ready to leave.
In 1915 General Lee Fook Lam of Canton was in need of a chief trainer for the army. He issued an open invitation for anyone to apply for the post. Over 100 applications were received. General Lee divided the men into 10 groups and held an elimination tournament. Jow Lung defeated all of his opponents and was appointed to the position. Jow Lung sent for his brothers Jow Hip, Jow Bill, Jow Hoy and Jow Tin to assist with the training of the soldiers and with them perfected his new system. The brothers decided to call the new system Jow Ga Kung Fu. Due to the system’s effectiveness and their fighting abilities, the brothers became known as the “Five Tigers of Jow Ga”.
In 1919, misfortune befell the family. Jow Lung caught a cold, but due to his excellent health he did not seek medical attention and continued performing the demanding duties of his work. The cold developed rapidly and in his deteriorated condition Jow Lung contracted pneumonia. By the time he sought treatment he was beyond medical help, and died at the age of only 29.
After the death of Jow Lung the family met and elected Jow Bill to assume leadership of the system. Grandmaster Jow Bill resigned his position with the army and began promoting the Jow Ga system of Kung Fu. Within one year he had established 14 Jow Ga schools throughout China and within a few years the number had grown to more than eighty. In 1936 the first school was established in Kowloon, Hong Kong. The Hong Kong school produced several notable masters. Among them, Grandmaster Chan Man Cheung. In 1968 two of Grandmaster Chan’s disciple students, Master Hoy K. Lee and Master Dean Chin, brought the Jow Ga System to the United States.