Dear Mr. Smith,
I had written you a reply a couple of days ago but it seems to not have gone through for some reason. I will attempt to post something again.
I interviewed GM Kalaii Griffin, Master Robert Schoolnick, and GM Manuel Agrella. Please do contact them if you have any questions as to the validity of the information they supplied. Each of them were independently interviewed and without foreknowledge of verifying or contradicting the other’s version. The information that was supplied to me was through phone call or in person.
GM Pai appointed GM Agrella as the Vice President and 7th Duan of his system at Pai Lum’s inception. The first person to receive the Bai Shi from GM Pai was Kalaii Griffin. This took place in GM Agrella’s home over oysters and pasta. This information was supplied to me by GM Agrella and verified by GM Griffin who added that he presented GM Pai with a white envelope (not the usual red) and while reminiscing about the event, added that the stove had been broken some how that night. Mr. Griffin was given the name Kalaii by GM Pai and given the name of Iron Dragon by GM Agrella. This was confirmed by each of them. This was while both GM’s Pai and Agrella were in Hartford Connecticut.
Both also stated that the curriculum taught during those days was Goju Ryu Karate. Another individual present during those times was Pai Lum, Master Robert Schoolick. He too independently corroborated the fact that they learned Goju Ryu Karate in the early days. He stated that GM Pai had gotten “Praying Mantis” forms somehow but he didn’t know where they came from. GM Agrella had already told me that he taught Bamboo Forest Praying Mantis forms to Thomas D. St. Charles, Peter Genero, and Charlie Hatchet who in turn taught them to the rest of the students. Master Schoolick also stated that GM Pai sought out other Chinese forms to add to the curriculum. This too was verified by Lee Chun Pai on his website http://www.pakmei.net.
Master Schoolnick stated that the Pai Lum Kung Fu folks no longer do these original Goju or Mantis katas/forms.
GM Agrella never studied what is now known as Pai Lum Kung Fu. (The oddly placed kenjutsu found in the Chinese Kung Fu system known as Pai Lum does come from him however.) Also GM Agrella does not teach the popular 7 Star Praying Mantis system. GM Cheng Peng Weing who had been a student of several Praying Mantis systems immigrated to the United States in 1962. GM Weing then taught GM Agrella and left him as sole heir. GM Agrella teaches GM Weing's system of Praying Mantis which as you have stated looks nothing like the usual 7 Star Praying Mantis. GM Weing converted him from Kyukushin to Praying Mantis after GM Weing had thrown him to the floor with ease.
There are essentially two different systems. The first system is commonly known Pai Lum Kung Fu replete with its Hung Gar influence and forms/sets from multiple sources. There is a more elusive “Pai Family System” but many today do not know much of the latter and call the former inadvertently by the same moniker.
Dr. Pai learned the Pai Family System (for a lack of a better term) from his grandfather Pai Po Feng. Pai Po Feng was a practitioner of a Dragon style. No one really knows which one but at this time it is irrelevant. No one in the Pai Lum Kung Fu system is claiming to practice this exact style anyway and for good reason. Dr. Pai never learned this exact Dragon style and didn’t need to. The “Secret Pai Family System” as Master Schoolnick called it, displays none of the characteristics of the Pai Lum Kung Fu system.
This system is completely based upon the I Ching. This system enables one to understand and catalog all internal/external motion. Therefore, this understanding is not constrained or taught through sets/forms but can be used as the DNA to develop any system. This is how it could be passed from teacher to student and manifested as a completely new and different Martial Arts system. Master Schoolnick, who is no fan of GM Denis Decker, stated emphatically that GM Pai taught this to GM Decker before he left the Pai Lum family . He stated that a “great wealth of knowledge left Pai Lum and went with him that day.” GM Denis Decker went onto to develop the Chi Lin System(s). GM Agrella stated that he too learned this system from GM Pai although he never gave it a name. Both GM Agrella and Master Schoolnick offered this information independently, inadvertently corroborating each other’s story of a Secret Pai Family System.
I have visited GM Agrella's home and have seen his various certificates from GM Pai, Oyama, GM Hung, GM Weing and others.
I hope this clears any confusion and opens this up to more research.