Kung fu master Ho Eng Hui doesn’t need any fancy weapons, because nature has given him a pretty awesome one – his index finger. His incredibly powerful finger can pierce coconut shells, releasing a burst of sweet water from inside. He proudly declares: “This finger of mine actually helps me raise my family.”
Ho has been performing his amazing ‘finger feats’ twice a week at a special spot on Jonker Street, in the Malaysian State of Malacca. The government assigned him this spot in the year 2000, and he has been entertaining tourists and locals alike, ever since. Every Friday and Saturday, he travels to the spot from his home in Johor Baru city, to perform between 8 and 9 pm. Prior to his gig at Jonker Street, between the years 1991 and 1995, he performed at Bugis Street in Singapore.
Over the years Ho has been setting records and breaking them himself. On Feb 2, 2001, he made it to the Malaysia Book of Records, by piercing three coconuts in 1 minute and 10 seconds. In June 2009, he pierced four coconuts in 30.81 seconds – a feat that earned him a Guinness World Record. And in 2011, he broke his own record by piercing four coconuts in 12.15 seconds flat. Ho is mentioned as one of the highlights of the Jonker Walk Night Market, in the Lonely Planet guide.
Photo: The Star
Ho began his unusual profession when he was only 17 years old. He was inspired by his Singaporean kung fu master, Choo Kong Leong. “In the 1970’s, I started learning from my guru the skill of piercing things with the finger,” he said. “Choo told me to train in one-finger kung fu. At first, I was not very successful but I trained hard as I wanted to succeed.” He practiced by frantically jabbing at banana tree trunks in his hometown of Pontian, in Johor. “I did it every time I passed a banana tree. People said I was mad.”
But Ho kept going, because he believed that there was no gain without pain. When he was done with the trees, he switched to cardboard boxes, before finally testing his skill on a tender coconut. After two long years of practice, he was able to pierce his first coconut, a feat that earned him a swollen, painful finger. He continued to train after that, and soon perfected the process.
The secret of Ho’s success lies in the ancient Chinese practice of qi gong, which involves aligning the body, breath, and mind. He learnt qi gong from Choo, who himself used to perform kung fu stunts such as swallowing metal balls and spitting them out again. Choo could also smash coconuts with his head and perform as a human punching bag.
Being a human one-finger-coconut-smasher is no easy job; Ho keeps himself in form by walking almost 20 kilometers a day. He is careful about his diet too – he prefers to eat fish and vegetables over meat and oily foods. As an extra source of income, Ho also sells medicated oils for aches and pains, that he makes himself. He learnt the art of making these oils from his master, Choo.
His finger might seem indestructible, but Ho has broken it a few times in the past. Twice in Singapore, in 1992 and 1994, after which he took a six-year break. And then again in 2009, in Beijing. “It was winter and I broke my index finger after piercing two out of five coconuts. I had to stop the performance due to excruciating pain and took a year off to rest,” he said. Two years later, he returned in top form to break his own record in Milan, Italy.
Although his finger has seen much wear-and-tear, the 58-year-old wants to set another record before he retires. “I want to pierce four coconuts in 10 seconds and hope to get a sponsor before attempting the feat,” he said. “Some people think I’m crazy, but I’m fine with that. I wanted to achieve something and I did so.”