In Memoriam: Brendan Lai-1942 to 2002

On September 23, 2002 noted Kung Fu teacher, Brendan Lai (Lai Tat-Chong) passed away. Brendan Lai, Praying Mantis Master

Shihfu Lai was an 8th generation direct lineage holder in the Praying Mantis system. A follower of the famous teacher, Wong Hon-Fun “The Mantis King”, Mr. Lai spent many years in mastering his art. In 1961 he moved from Hong Kong to the United States to attend college but continued his practice. In 1967 he began teaching publicly and opened a school in San Francisco. In a short while he grew famous as a Kung Fu teacher. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame by both Black Belt (1984) and Inside Kung Fu (1990) magazines. Numerous articles highlighted Mr. Lai’s extensive knowledge and interest in the martial arts, particularly Praying Mantis. Among his many accomplishments were the following:

Formed Brendan Lai Supply Company: a prime martial supply company

First recipient of a Ph.D. in martial arts from Eurotechnical Research University Appointed

Dean of Chinese Studies Department at Eurotechnical Research University

Formed the International Northern Praying-Mantis Federation and became its chairman (1992)

Mr. Lai was one of the top promoters of martial arts in American history. He organized major demonstrations offering the public instructors of the best quality. Considering his promotion a duty as well as an honor he brought many teachers to public notice at considerable expense to himself. Always a traditionalist he let the passing fads on the martial arts waves wash past him. But he ceaselessly invented methods for bringing pure arts to the public involving himself with seminars, chin nah courses and tai chi classes.

With the passing of Brendan Lai an era of martial history draws to a close.

Personal Note:

We considered Brandan Lai a friend. He was not just a teacher but an enthusiastic member of the martial community. He organized demonstrations and visiting instructors’ seminars. Whenever we would visit him at Brendan Lai Supply company we’d spend time talking about the martial world. He was the antithesis of the stereotyped”inscrutable” Asian. Keen witted, funny, excited, appreciative, polite and very sharp he warmed a room with his love for martial arts. I will never forget standing there beside Doc Fai Wong as Brendan demonstrated some extremely fast hand combination. As one lightning hand fell back his beautiful wrist watch flew off as sailed about ten feet into a wall behind us. Glancing back for a moment he looked at me and said, “That’s for the guy attacking from behind.” He was like that. When he was excited he never held back.

Brendan Lai will be missed.

You students of Kung Fu, hold a minute and remember one who stayed the course.

Ted Mancuso
Debbie Shayne

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