There are many stories about Grandmaster Willem Reeders, some no doubt true, some could be true but are unverifiable and some stories probably have some truth in them but are legendary creations. There are many people who have been touched by this man and each person has stories about Grandmaster Reeders unique abilities. Grandmaster Reeders shared many stories about his family and life with his students. He gave each person a part of his martial arts and his life. Either by design or just the path of his life, these people, grandmaster Reeders shared his life with, have pieces of an elaborate puzzle. It has been stated by his students that grandmaster Reeders created the broken mirror system. He gave to each of his students a piece of the mirror. Some of them were given more of the puzzle and others just a small unique part that is different than everyone else. Be that as it may, here is the story of Willem Reeders.
Willem Reeders’ grandfather Karl Lodewygk was related to Willem the V, prince of Orange and King of the Netherlands. As most royalty of the Dutch, Karl had relations to English royalty and was the Earl of the House of Wieling. In the early 1800’s, Karl went on a trip to China as an emissary of Holland and to secure trading agreements on tea. While he was in Peking (now called Beijing), he met with the emperor and the royal court of China.
While in the court, his eye caught sight of a beautiful young woman, who was the princess Hap Kiem. She was related to the emperor. The princess Hap Keim’s mother was from the Royal Liu Family of southern China. The two met and fall in love. The Dutch nobleman asked the emperor and the Liu family elders for the hand of the princess in marriage and was basically laughed out of the royal court. The princess Hap Kiem went to her younger brother, Liu Leong Siong. Liu Siong, as he was often referred to, was a Shaolin priest and a great master of the martial arts. He was well respected from his skills as a warrior and was seen as one who would in time become one of the Liu family elders.
It was also noted that the Liu family was descendants from one of the five southern Shaolin masters that survived the destruction of the Shaolin temple system. Liu Siong was a master of the family Kuntao system, a deadly fighting system that is believed to be the highest level of the martial arts. It was only taught to Royalty and the emperor’s family. A second style of Gung Fu that was derived from Kuntao was taught to the emperor’s elite guards. Kuntao was stated as more of an attitude and spiritual power than a particular technique or system of techniques. Others say that it is a fighting system of lethal techniques comparable to no other martial arts. The emperor’s Kuntao was not shared completely with its entire members but for each royal family only the first adult male child of that generation learned the complete system. It was never share in its entirety outside the family even to this day. Individuals outside of the family had to be adopted into the family to continue training to advanced rank and the adoption had to be approved by the family elders.
Liu Siong adored his sister and liked the Dutch nobleman so he spoke with the family elders but made no headway with convincing them to allow the marriage. The princess Hap Kiem told her brother that she was going to marry Karl anyway. In the end, Liu Siong decided to help his sister and arranged for her and Karl to secretly leave China. Shortly after their departure, the Chinese royal court found out that Liu Siong had helped the couple to leave. Liu Siong had many friends and was notified that the court was going have him arrested. Some say that Liu Siong dove in the South China Sea and swam several days to catch up with the ship that his sister and Karl was on. Whether that was fact or legend, Liu Siong caught up with his sister and the Earl in Indonesia. Liu Siong resided with the newly married couple at the Wiedling family plantation in Java.
The Earl and princess settled in and began a family. They had a daughter who they named Christine. Christine later married to a wealthy civil engineer named Charles M. Reeders who lived in Indonesia. Their wedding was at the Wiedling estate and Christine wore a wedding gown hand-woven from a single thread at a cost of $10,000. The formal affair had a 1,000 guest.
Charles Reeders and Christine moved into the Wieling estate in Java. They had several children, the oldest was a daughter named Adriana Engelina and the second born was the first-born son of the house of Wieling. He was named Willem. Liu Siong decided that Earl and his extend relatives was his family now and Willem was going to be the one to learn the family martial arts. While at the Wieling’s family plantation, Liu Siong saw the inefficiency of the compound guards and began teaching them Shaolin martial arts. He taught them the martial arts possible to reciprocate the Earl and his sister’s generosity or to help keep out unwanted intruders that may be assassin of the Chinese courts, probably a little of both. Needless too say, Liu Siong taught to the guards a very efficient and effective combination of Shaolin Chuan Fa and a lower level of the Liu family martial arts. Some refer to that fighting system as the lower system of the Royal Gung Fu that Grandmaster Reeders taught in later years.
At the age of four, young Willem began his martial arts training as well as his formal education in private school for the wealthy Dutch families living in Indonesia. Being Dutch and part Chinese, he got into a number of fights with both the Dutch students at the school and on the way home with the other Indonesian children that would pick fights with him. His older sister was given charge of mending his clothes after he returned from school. Sister would have to repair his clothes almost daily. She was glad when her younger brother started to get more efficient at defending himself.
When master Reeders reached the age of 12; his great uncle began taking his nephew to a Shaolin Temple in China. Young Willem would train at the temple for 100 days then return back to Indonesia to continue his academic schooling. He would return every year for a 100-days of training at the temple until he was 21 years old. While at the temple he was taught the Shaolin fighting arts, Buddhism, and Chinese medicine.
He also was one of 6 students (some say it was 11 students) to be taught an ancient healing/combat exercise that was much like Tai Chi Chuan. This exercise originally came from a Tibetan Buddhist temple and was taught at the Azure Cloud Temple on Shan (mountain) Tai one of the five sacred Mountains of China. To get to the Tai Mountain Temple area you have to go up 7200 steps to the summit of the mountain. It takes approximately 2 to 3 hour to walk up the steps. Young master Reeders transversed the step in less than an hour and the Temple masters asked him how he had did it, his rely was, “I took two steps at a time.” Master Reeders was the only one among the group of students that completed the training. Master Reeders had to go to Tibet to perform the exercise to finish his training and was approved by the temple masters. In later years master Reeders taught this exercise to his students. (Some call it Tibetan Tai Chi for lack of a better term. But it is probably an ancient Nata (Kata) of Indian Warrior Class that was used in martial training.
Master Reeders learned empty hand fighting techniques and then was taught the Chinese weapons of martial arts. His favorite weapon was the titjiu, which is the same weapon that is called the Sai in Okinawan Karate.
Liu Siong was a renowned master of the martial arts and well-known in Indonesia for his Kuntao. He was blinded in his later years when he was attacked by a number of assailants (possible assassins from China but other say they were a group of Silat masters). One of the attackers threw broken glass in his eyes (a low deceitful act that was no doubt done to minimize master Liu Siong’s abilities to defend himself) and blinded master Siong. This only made the situation deadly and it is stated that Master Liu Siong killed all of the attackers in flurry of lethal techniques (a deceitful act repaid).
During these years, young Willem’s uncle, Liu Siong trained his nephew in both Shaolin Chuan and Kuntao. Uncle Liu Siong told his nephew Willem, if a practitioner of another system confronts you, it is best to know that system so you can fight against it. Liu Siong also encouraged his nephew to learn all the martial arts that were available to him. Master Reeders had met Ernest “Nes” De Vries in Siam during World War Two and became good friends. Nes De Vries was a student of Mas Djut, who was a Pukulan Master and Willem and Nes De Vries started sharing some fight techniques. Ernest de Vries did not care much for the Forms of the system and was more interested in fighting. According to Grandmaster Reeders, Nes De Vries was a fierce fighter and few could match his skills. Grandmaster Reeders felt much the same way about Forms and loved learning useful fighting techniques. Nes De Vries taught Master Reeders much of the Pukulan Pak Serak fighting system. Nes then introduced Master Reeders to his teacher, Mas Djut and the two studied together with the Pukulan master. Through Nes De Vries, Master Reeders met the de Thouars brothers, William, Paul, Maurice, and Victor. The de Thouars brothers were the nephews to Nes De Vries. Also during this time, Master Reeders learned a number of the other another Indonesian fighting system of Penjak Silat from several other masters. Some of the masters were Leo Sjel, Lion De Riearere, Theo Schrijn, the Soverbier brothers, Puk and Mancho, Tji Petjut, Abu Saman, and Suro Djawan. Master Reeders later studied Shotokan Karate, Judo, and Shorinji Kempo at the Budokan in Japan.
Liu Siong and Master Reeders stopped going to the Shaolin Temple at the time the Japanese invasion of China. At that time, Master Reeders joined the Dutch Navy and was assigned to a naval ship to defend the coast of Java. While he was in the Dutch Navy, he did some boxing. Master Reeders used the boxing name of “Baby Marchini” because his mother did not want him fighting in his underwear. Master Reeders could not convince his mother that boxing trunks were not his underwear so the boxing name became his path around the issue. He won all his bouts except one. He was fighting a Boxer that was know for fighting “dirty” and during the match while in a clinch the boxer elbow Master Reeder in the side of his head and knock “Baby Marchini” out. Master Reeders demanded a rematch. The boxer knowing of Master Reeder’s martial skill initially refused. Master Reeder assured the boxer and his manager the he was not out for revenge. So they agreed to a rematch. In the first round of the second fight, Master Reeders traded several punches with his advisory then stepped back and side kick the boxer in the throat, dropping him to the mat. Master Reeders was disqualified but was smiling as he left the ring.
When the Japanese invaded Java, his ship was sunk in a harbor and Master Reeders, along with a number of his shipmates taken prisoners. Young Willem resisted capture and according to the story about the incident, after the ship went down, Master Reeders was picked up in the harbor by a Japanese Naval ship. Once onboard, Master Reeders started fighting with the crewmen and it took 12 Japanese soldiers to subdue Master Reeders. Before the war, Master Reeders completed his formal academic education and had a degree in civil engineering. Young Willem was transported to Burma to a Japanese work camp and force to help design and build a bridge. Master Reeders finally escaped from the work camp and then work with the underground resistance. He returned to the bridge he had helped build and destroyed it. He would help and participated in a number of covert operations during World War II blowing up other bridges. While working with the resistance, he was given the nickname of “The Red Ant” because he was such a fierce fighter. He would often go on raids to free prisoner from the work camps. It was told that master Reeders would distract prison guards and lead them away from the camp then kill them.
After WWII, he was involved in the Indonesian fight for independence. Being Dutch/Chinese, he was on the Dutch government side and after Indonesia got its independence, he returned to Holland for a period time then left the family wealth behind and moved to Toronto, Canada. This was in the late 1950’s and there were very few people that shared the martial arts in those days. At that time, Master Reeders was well known in the Chinese and Indonesian martial arts circle as a master of the arts. He met Master Sam Wong and started working out at his Mu Dong Martial Arts school in Toronto. Grandmaster Wong and Grandmaster Reeders became good friends and together developed a Chinese martial art federation called Chunghwa Kung Fu Hui.
At that time in the 1950’s, the non-Chinese were taught one aspect of the martial arts and the Chinese were taught the “real stuff.” Master Reeders did not care for that type of treatment of people who wanting to learn the martial arts and began teaching to who ever he felt deserved to learn whether they were Chinese or not. He left Toronto and opened a school in Erie, Pa. He then later moved to Jamestown, N.Y. and upon getting to Jamestown he open a school there.
During Master Reeder’s years in western New York, many advanced gung fu sifu and karate sensei would go to master Reeders for special training. Master Reeders held an advanced black belt in Shotokan karate and a black belt in judo. Because of Master Reeders’ in-depth knowledge of the Chinese martial arts, he could brake down the karate into its Chinese roots and give a more clear and deeper understanding of its techniques.
During this time, Bruce Lee contacted Master Reeders. Bruce Lee wanted to know about Master Reeders’ Gung Fu and especially his Kuntao. At the time, Bruce Lee was developing his own system of fighting of which he called Jeet Kune Do. Bruce Lee had learned about Master Reeders from his senior student, Dan Inonsanto, who knew of Master Reeders’ expertise in Chinese and Indonesian fighting arts. Master Reeders was invited to visit Bruce Lee in California. While he was visiting Bruce Lee it was believed that he showed Mr. Lee the very efficient effectiveness of Kuntao. On their first meeting, Master Reeders asked to see some of Bruce’s techniques. Mr. Lee started moving around and threw a punch at Master Reeders. To Bruce’s amazement, Master Reeders caught the punch with his hand in mid movement. Bruce asked Master Reeders, “How did you do that?” Master Reeders smiled and responded, “Oh, I learned that at Shaolin Temple when I was 12.” Bruce Lee had several meetings with Master Reeders over several months. It is unknown how much Master Reeders taught Bruce Lee about Kuntao but there are a number of similar aspects in Jeet Kune Do to Kuntao. No doubt, if Master Reeders did teach Bruce Lee Kuntao it was done in secrecy and he was probably told not to tell where he was taught it.
Master Reeders taught mostly fighting techniques, which were Chinese Gung Fu and Silat. Some individuals were taught Master Reeders’ family Kuntao in private. In the early years, there was a form taught that was called The Point Form. It consisted of four shorter forms that were put together to make one long form. The form was believed to be a Penjak Silat form but it is unknown what Silat system it came from. The first part was 4 Point Form, next was 6 Point, then 5 Point, and finally 3 Point. In the later 1960’s, Master Reeders taught several forms that were the basis of the self-defense techniques of the system. One was called Hoc Chan, a bil gee form (finger strike) that emphasized one finger whipping strikes and simultaneous blocks and strikes. Another bil gee form, called Ho Chan, emphasized spear hand techniques with multiple low crescent kicks to the leg, often called dragon’s tail kicks. A third form, called Kweetang, was also taught. Kweetang was a form that supposedly came from the Kweetang Silat system. It is believed that the Kweetang Form is composed of a number of shorter fighting techniques (or exercises/Langkas) of the Kweetang Silat system. There were several other forms that Master Reeders taught to different individuals that were from different Chinese and Indonesian martial arts. Pak Soy (Slap Block), which is also called Bok Sai by some, is a short form that was often referred to as a family form. From his years of training in different martial arts, Master Reeders knew hundreds of different katas and forms and each person got a little something different for Master Reeders.
At one point, the Hung Loc Gung Fu School came down to Master Reeders’ school to participate in a demonstration. When they saw what the students were doing, they were amazed that Master Reeders had showed them those Chinese fighting systems. The students were told that they should count themselves lucky because the level of martial arts that they were shown was not taught to just anyone, especially non-Chinese.
Master Reeders also felt strongly about what and to whom he taught, and that his students maintain a humble and respectful attitude. Master Reeders taught separate classes in Pukulan, an Indonesian fighting art. He taught two forms of Pukulan, Tjiminde (cha-min-dee) and Tjikalong (cha-kaw-loong). Tjikalong was considered the female system (yin) and Tjiminde the male system (yang).
In 1972, Master Reeders was being plague with sinus problems and was told by his doctor to move to the southwestern part of the USA if he wanted any relief from the infections. So without much notice, master Reeders and his family packed up their belonging and moved to Albuquerque, N.M. At that time, he left the school to one of his senior students and promoted several others to continue teaching in Western New York. To several of his senior students, he gave the right to teach what Master Reeders called the “Liu Seong Royal Gung Fu.” When a couple of his senior students found out that he was moving to New Mexico, they packed up and moved also. They felt that wherever their teacher went, they went too.
Master Reeders settled into his new home in Albuquerque, N.M. and start teaching Gung Fu, Silat, and what was called Tibetan Tai Chi out of his home from many years. In the 1980’s master Reeders opened a school in Albuquerque. Master Reeders lived in Albuquerque up until his passing into the next life in 1990. Some say he still is here, influencing his teachings, visiting his students and family, and teaching us all the lessons of life.