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EARLE'S ACADEMY VING CHUN KUEN

CAFFEINE HIGH

Official Newsletter Australasian Ving Chun Kuen Instructors Association

Volume 1 Issue 4

November 2014

Welcome to this the 3rd edition of our official Instructors newsletter.

And ‘Thank You’ to those who gave us feedback on previous issues.

My article on the health benefits of Kung Fu training – in particular the health benefits of training on Ving Chun’s Wooden Dummy – has created considerable interest, with requests for more information and explanation. I am currently working on an article concerning the why and how those health benefits can be achieved. Meanwhile, if you continue to create regular training habits the benefits will accrue.

 

“Everyone has a doctor in him; we just have to help him in his work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well...” - Hippocrates

Beginning this issue I will define Earle's Ving Chun - Your lineage - and analyse the importance of what I believe are the fundamental Ving Chun principles

From time to time we may come across published versions of Wing Chun Kuen Kit - "martial sayings" or "words of wisdom" described as being "truly intrinsic" to Wing Chun Kungfu - however most are imported from other systems of kungfu and are open to wide interpretation while some are plainly incorrect for the Wing Chun practitioner and will set him or her on the wrong path. Here are three examples, each followed by some explanation of why I believe they are wrong and probably detrimental to ones Wing Chun training. These three are;

 

Pull in the chest, push out the upper back, and bring in the tail bone.

To maintain good balance of strength, grip the ground with the toes

A weak body must start with strength improvement

 

Pull in the chest, push out the upper back, and bring in the tail bone. Seen in some schools of Shaolin this posture is not suited to Wing Chun as it mis-aligns ones spine and creates tension.

 

It looks good in the movies, but while we might gain inspiration from the movements and actions of animals and birds, or mythical creatures, your Wing Chun posture and movements should be based on the physiology of the body you were born with.

 

So rather than adopt postures that a contortionist would struggle with, simply present the chest then relax and sink the upper back, shoulders, chest and elbows, while gently lifting the perineum.

 

To maintain good balance of strength, grip the ground with the toes. No! No! No! Another import from Shaolin Kungfu. Think about it. (1) Try to "grip the ground" through a pair of Nike's, Kungfu shoes, or New Rocks with a three-inch sole. Can't be done. (2) Attempting to "grip the ground" with your toes creates tension in the muscles of the feet, ankles and the calf muscles, culminating in a rigid posture that will make you less stable and not at all well-balanced from a Wing Chun perspective. (3) Conservation of Energy is a Wing Chun principle. Building up tension and rigidity trying to "grip the ground" does the opposite. It burns up energy. (4) Relaxation. Since one purpose of Siu Nim Tao is to develop power through relaxation as well as to conserve energy, what sense does it make to create tension?

Instead, one should keep ones feet relaxed, flat and pressed evenly against the ground. That is the key to developing explosive power! Combat can be fast and furious and calls for the dynamic explosive power of an Olympian exploding out of the starting blocks; not the constriction that comes from building up tension in the suspension while trying to grip the ground.

 

A weak body must start with strength improvement. Really? Wing Chun as I understand it is suitable for the small, the weak, and the vulnerable. If that is true, and I believe it is, then developed strength is not necessary. While there are a number of benefits to be had as a result of strength training, it can be detrimental to your Wing Chun development. And injuries are common in strength training.

 

Enhancement of ones natural strength will be a natural by-product of your Wing Chun training. In my opinion if you want to improve your Wing Chun you will make greater improvements if you spend less time in the gym lifting weights and more time practising Siu Nim Tao. And Siu Nim Tao is injury free.

 

I recall a training session when one of our members asked me which move in Siu Nim Tao was the most important one. I put his question to the class, and the general agreement was that all the moves were equally important, and that the most important one was the one that you are performing ‘in the moment’.

 

These are correct answers, but I believe that there is one move ‘in the moment’ that stands out above all others in order of importance – the very first move. Why do I consider it to be more important? The answer is, if the first movement is not correctly understood, how is it possible to correctly perform the second movement, the third movement, and so on; shouldn’t it be best to get the first movement correct before moving on to the second movement?

 

I believe it should, but it seems to me that the first movement is the most neglected and misunderstood movement in the entire form. I wrote in the previous issue “.. we have Siu Nim Tao as a blueprint for ‘Control of Force’, whereby we begin to build and embed neurological pathways uniting the mind and body.” To build secure neural pathways requires repetition; it requires that all movement follows the same pathway or pattern if we are to maximize our potential. Obviously that includes the first movement, and on that note I repeat here one of my favourite Ving Chun quotes of all time;

"Impeccability begins with a single act that has to be deliberate, precise and sustained. If that act is repeated long enough,

one acquires a sense of unbending intent which can be applied to anything else. If that is accomplished the road is clear.

One thing will lead to another until the warrior realizes his full potential". - Don Juan, Carlos Castaneda

INVINCIBLE VING CHUN

("Invincible Ving Chun", or, as I describe it "Earle's Ving Chun Kuen; The Art Of Invincibility" is subject to copyright. I ask that you do not publish this material elsewhere, but respect that I am presenting this information to you the Instructor for your own use in your personal Wing Chun journey. The ideas as presented are not complete and may not be fully understood without some hands on guidance to accompany the idea). 

It is only natural that in each generation of martial art a teacher will stamp his DNA upon his lineage. This may vary from a mark so small that only those in the system might recognize it, to changes so great that it is named a new style. For many years I have promoted the art of Wing Chun Kungfu as taught at Earle's Academy as "Ving Chun Kuen: The Art Of Invincibility". Ving Chun Kuen is the English spelling my teacher favored so I honour my lineage, while the terms "invincible" and "invincibility" describe how I understand Wing Chun, and best describe the unique training methodologies I have developed. As none others describe their wing chun as being invincible or use the methodologies that I employ, it can be said that it is unique to Earle's Academy Ving Chun. Regardless, I have arrived at my present understanding and teaching methods as a direct result of my personal training over some 45 years.

I don't wish to dwell on other methods of Wing Chun or draw comparison with other martial arts. Suffice it to say that from my own observation I believe that the majority of Wing Chun Instructors have a limited understanding of what constitutes Wing Chun. If one does not understand the subject, it is difficult to find the path. So what does constitute Wing Chun - and what is Earle's Ving Chun Kuen? It is here we should start, with a definition of Ving Chun.

 

"Training in Siu Nim Tao, and ultimately Chi Sau, to develop skillful action without though is quite a complex matter. It is more than muscles acting involuntarily, voluntarily, or subconsciously, but about developing the superconscious mind..." "...to take thought, which is pure energy, and give it shape in the material world." Ving Chun Kuen: The Art Of Invincibility", Part 2; by Kevin Earle. (As published in Volume 9, Issue 3, of Fight Times magazine (June/July 2002).

Ving Chun: A system of Chinese Wu Shu (Kungfu). Wu Shu means "To stop the spear" (to stop the fight).

 

Definition of Ving Chun: Force. Specifically, "The Control of Force".

 

Earle's Ving Chun Kuen "The Art of Invincibility": Invincible Wing Chun. The Force of Idea - the Idea being to create an "Invincible Force".

 

Anyone can fight, and the skills developed through Ving Chun training will be used in fighting if to fight is the last resort, however it can be seen that Ving Chun being a system of Kungfu is not a fighting art, rather it is an art of "not fighting".

 

The Path:. If one can develop an invincible force one can control force, and therefore there is no fight. Ving Chun is an art of fighting without fighting. It is not for competition, since It is not a fighting art. Developing invincibility does not mean that one will become an invincible fighter, since "invincible" and "fighter" are not synonymous. Fighting arts train people to fight, thus by definition fighting arts cannot develop invincibility. Only by "not fighting" can the state of Invincibility be achieved.

 

I believe that my idea of The Path (to invincibility) as I have outlined above is unique to Earle's Academy. Some might choose to believe that invincibility is impossible to attain - in which case they will never attain it. However the idea of invincibility is not just my idea. For further insight into the subject of invincibility Read Here.

Body, Mind, and Emotion

 

To achieve Invincibility one must unite the body, mind, and emotion.

 

We begin with Body; by learning (memorizing) the movements of the form; we might then develop an understanding of how the individual movements that make up the form might be used; then we might begin to work on relaxation of musculature, and the unlocking of joints.

STRENGTH TRAINING

Introduction

I have often said that anyone who says that size doesn’t matter has never been in a fight with a big mean motherfucker who is hell bent on ripping of your arms and legs. Rather a small mean motherfucker any day. (Well so long as their name isn’t Anthony or Beau!). Anyway, in this regard I was recently contacted by a Ving Chun student who had been in a confrontation with a person he described as being ‘twice his size’. One question he posed was, “... size would have extreme advantage over wing chun no matter what?”

While I can agree that by a purely physical comparison the advantage would appear to lay with the larger person, history gives numerous examples of smaller men overcoming larger men and of small military forces being victorious over seemingly insurmountable odds. One need look no further than the victory of Korean Admiral Yi Sun-sin with 13 ships under his command defeating an invading Japanese fleet of 330 ships; the success of 120 Indian army personnel with one jeep, against a Pakistani force consisting of 2,800 soldiers, 65 tanks and more than 130 other military vehicles at the battle of Longewala; the battle of Gate Pa, in which some 230 Maori warriors were victorious against a British force 0f 1,700 soldiers armed with 17 artillery pieces which rained down some 17,000lbs of explosives on the beleaguered warriors;

I endeavoured to point out that the size of one’s assailant is irrelevant; that the only limits we have are those we impose on ourselves. It is our mind that imposes the limits - or not.

 

Occasionally at Saj Minhas & Anthony Burke on the topic of weight training.... I believe Wing Chun only requires ones natural strength (as acquired through genetics and lifestyle) and not on 'developed' strength. Since one of the basic tenets is 'relaxation', muscular strength should make no difference to ones application of the method.

I also believe it is a misunderstanding to develop ones punching (extensor) muscles solely, since this will create an imbalance in ones musculature, in affect altering the point at which the triceps & biceps are in harmony.... this can also affect the linear positioning of tahn sau and fook sau by creating tension in the biceps and deltoids... all factors which have a detrimental affect on ones chi sau.

If one wishes to improve their Wing Chun then I suggest that their time would be better spent practising SNT and chi sau - however if one enjoys weight training then I suggest one should focus on developing all-over symmetry, harmony, and balance in musculature to best avoid the problems I have mentioned.

Kevin EarleTechnical Advisor at Earle's Academy

Hi Saj. Re your question arising from my comments on weight training "Can strength be complimentary to wing chun but not primary. for example when a good grappler may get you to the floor and who is 5 stone heavier!?".

First let me say that I believe I understand where you are coming from. I have often said that "those who say that size doesn't matter have never been in a fight with a big powerful man". However I don't believe that one should focus on the variables of size, strength, skill, or 'style' etcetera that one may be confronted with, since such variables are to numerous to possibly quantify and prepare for.

I believe one should focus on developing themselves to their fullest potential in the skill sets they enjoy.

Personally I enjoy the obvious benefits associated with weight training; maintaining cardio health, muscle tone, and bone density, as well as a little stroking of the ego. However apart from those general benefits I am of the very firm opinion that weight training will not improve ones Wing Chun skill one iota, and more than likely will be detrimental.

Kevin EarleTechnical Advisor at Earle's Academy

Interesting Anthony. It will possibly make one stronger and better able to lift a weight, but less likely to make one a better fighter, Wing Chun or otherwise. Weight training may make one more capable of playing chess, but may do little to improve ones game.

It is a basic Wing Chun tenet, (at least as I understand it - others may take a different view) that one should not build on a foundation of 'developed' strength, since such is a foundation of shifting sand....

Hi Saj, Hi Anthony. I agree with both of you re your comments on strength training. The benefits of weight training as a supplement to all sporting activities is well understood by the majority of sports coaches today, and I myself enjoy weight training for the associated health benefits I mentioned earlier. As well as those obvious health benefits it can also help with mental clarity, focus, and discipline. In that regard (health) weight training is a great stand-alone activity as well as a being a supplement to other sports. 

'Supplemental to' means secondary to - meaning that ultimately the best exercise for any activity is the activity itself, another training principle well understood by sports coaches and athletes, and Wing Chun training has many health benefits including those mentioned.

 

I will begin by pointing out here that punching is the opposite to pushing or pulling which are the two main actions of weight lifting, and that power is not derived from muscle size.

 

Nor are 'Skill' and 'Strength' synonymous - yet they are easily confused.

 

'Developed strength' is that strength gained through the lifting of weights. Weight training is resistance training, which is the antithesis of Wing Chun since it creates automatic reflexive resistance tension of the muscles when meeting a force.

 

Once trained a neurological reflexive action is not easily overcome. Although one can learn to suppress reflexive tension the reflex might resurface under certain conditions, for example during extreme startle reaction. Such tension is a common problem observable in many chi sau practitioners.

 

Developed strength is lost very quickly - I believe it drops by about 60% in 90 days. Similar declines are seen for all types of fitness training including flexibility and endurance. (According to ACE Fitness " In the most drastic scenario, you can lose up to 80 percent of your fitness level in as few as two weeks if you're new to exercise. If you are incredibly fit and have been training for years, you'll hang onto your fitness level for about three months,) - so if one has built their 'skill' on a foundation of 'developed strength' their skill level also declines as their strength declines. (One may need to stop working out for any number of reasons; social commitments, illness, injury, holidays, work, and travel, may all interfere with training routines.)

 

The above, coupled with my earlier examples (altering the point at which the triceps & biceps are in harmony which can affect the linear positioning of tahn sau and fook sau by creating tension in the biceps and deltoids...) should be food for thought for those having an honest analysis of their understanding and training of Wing Chun... however I have been exposed to the wider Wing Chun community long enough to be aware that there is a huge diversity in method and understanding, much of it far removed from my own understanding of what is Wing Chun, so please, take it as you will...

Kevin Earle Technical Advisor at Earle's Academy

Hi Justin. I appreciate your input to this discussion.

 

I believe that Wing Chun is a perfect system, and as such it needs no addition, and neither can it be enhanced (since it is already perfect).

As individuals, however, we can (as required) enhance our physical attributes; maintain or improve our body mechanics, our posture, our muscle tonus, and anything else that may improve our quality of life.

 

Naturally being in a healthy physical condition enhances our ability to perform.

 

As to the Shaolin monks training with weights, I believe Wing Chun is the opposite of other martial arts, therefore the training methods which are required for those systems to be effective are largely irrelevant. For example I do not adopt a regime of hanging weights from my testicles. 

There is no doubting Bruce Lee's physical attributes. He was a superb physical specimen. However whether those attributes improved his Wing Chun is a matter of unresolvable debate. I recall one of the Elder Wing Chun masters stating "Bruce Lee? Could have got quite good if he'd have kept training (Wing Chun)".

You ask: "How about you, do you not include fitness as part of your training routine?"

Regularity of Siu Nim Tau and Chi sau, for example, develop a type of fitness supportive of Wing Chun. Therefore other supplementary fitness training is not part of any Wing Chun training I personally participate in. In my opinion any Wing Chun practitioner who believes he/she will “improve” their Wing Chun by undertaking strength or fitness training has a misunderstanding, and will set themselves on the wrong path.

Therefore since all the physical strength that the “average” individual requires to excel at Wing Chun is their “natural” strength, as in the strength to move their arm, I believe their training time should be better spent practising their forms, chi sau, etc., rather than spending such time developing strength, fitness, or endurance which may in fact hinder their progress in developing skill in Wing Chun.

I see Wing Chun as being ideal for the small, the weak, the vulnerable, whereas I see an art like Karate as being better suited for the big, the strong, and the athletic individual. By this, I do not mean that big strong athletic types cannot be good at Wing Chun; on the contrary, such individuals can excel at Wing Chun if they apply themselves correctly. On the other hand small weak persons would fare better turning away from Karate and learning Wing Chun.

However, some may be “warriors”, and wish to enter the competitive arena. Having first developed some basic skills such individuals should, in my opinion, (although it is my further opinion that such endeavours are the antithesis of Wing Chun) most definitely invest the greater part of their training effort into developing their overall combat toughness by undertaking rigorous strength, endurance, and fitness training, repetitive drilling, and sparring. Having said that, I reinforce the idea that serious Wing Chun practitioners need be aware and study carefully the contra affect strength and fitness training may have on their Wing Chun development.

Finally, there is no harm and every advantage for any person to maintain their health and longevity through a personally tailored health program. Certainly ones skill in Wing Chun is conducive to (and will be supported, not hurt by), living a healthy lifestyle.

 

If you are a beginner when it comes to fighting, that concept itself for you is likely no more than throwing a punch here or giving off a kick there. However, if you manage to have someone who cares to explain to you the essence of Wing Chun, it is highly likely that within 5 minutes, you’ll learn about the unique way in which a Wing Chun practitioner pushes enemies back. You will also learn about the standards used in Chi Sao(“sticking hands”), and the secret behind defeating enemies using the shortest path and the fastest of speed.

That is what Wing Chun is all about- using simple, practical moves to defeat enemies. Over a mere 23 years, the aging Master Yip Man has made Wing Chun hugely popular in Hong Kong, and has recruited many enthusiasts under his wing. Surely there’s ample reason behind the popularity of the sport and the diligence of many of his students.

To introduce the art of Wing Chun, I have conducted a special interview with Master Yip Man. The 76-year-old is still in his physical prime; he is sharp, energetic, and offered a response to every single one of my questions. I have learnt much from this interview.

Those who are avid readers of martial arts novels are surely familiar with the story of “Fong Sai Yuk” challenges the defender of the ring”. One of the most notable characters in the story is the monk Zhi Sin; the nun Ng Mui trained under the same master as Zhi Sin, and she was actually proclaimed as the founder of Wing Chun. Looking back, this story takes us back some two hundred years. If Wing Chun was founded by a woman, surely the style will be notably smoother and more subdued. Contrary to such popular belief, however, Wing Chun is actually much more aggressive than other martial arts styles. This stemmed from the fact that the founder is a woman, whose stamina is no match if she opposes a man in a fight; if she is not able to take down him down right at the start of the match, it will be impossible for her to continue on.

Along that same tangent, the first rule of Wing Chun is therefore focused on aggression and speed; one must be able to inflict harm on an enemy at the wave of a hand, so that the enemy will know that he must retreat. Wu Mei passed on her skills to yet another woman, whose name gave birth to this particular school of martial arts. Her name was Yim Wing Chun, and she then taught what she had learned to her husband, Leung Bac Chou. When it was Leung’s turn to teach his disciples, since the art itself was yet to be named, Leung named it in memory of his wife and aptly called it Wing Chun.

Wong Wa Bo, one of Leung’s student and who worked in a performance troop, then taught the art to Leung Yi Tai. Yi Tai then taught Leung Zan. We all now familiar with the fact that Leung Zan rose to fame in the city of Foshan (in the province of Guangdong, China). His star disciple, Chan Wa Shun (whose nickname was “Loose change Wa”), eventually became the Master of Master Yip Man himself. Chan operated his martial arts school for thirty-two years, but only taught sixteen disciples; Yip Man was the last of his students.

Yip Man is presently 76 years of age. He started practicing Chinese martial arts at thirteen years of age, and moved to Hong Kong from Mainland China in 1949. Few residents of Hong Kong knew of Wing Chun back then; after twenty-three years of hard work, the result of Yip Man’s work is now visible. Master Yip has stopped taking on new students years ago. Leung Ting, an instructor who hosts Wing Chun classes in various schools such as Baptist College, Zhuhai College and Chinese Baptist Student centre is one of the last of his closed-door students.

When talking to Master Yip Man, it was clear that he acted nothing like his age. He spoke with a clear, strong voice, and was not at all boastful. To satisfy our readers’ curiosity, I asked Master Yip to speak of his heroic acts back in the day, but was curtly refused. Master Yip was not willing to boast about his past, which frankly was a lost on our part.

From what I had heard, however, Master Yip is known for two major acts back in the city of Foshan. Many residents back then were well aware of the tale. It was said that the master, in the prime of his hot-headed youth, had an argument with a military officer while attending a Piaose event (“Parade of Children’s Float”). The officer took out a pistol and pointed it at Yip Man, all the while attempting to shoot him. Seeing the danger in front of him, Yip lunged forward and grabbed hold of the pistol. He then gave it a strong shove and the barrel actually broke under his force. It hit the ground and had everyone at the scene utterly shocked. To this story, Master Yip’s explanation was that the axis within the barrel was already a bit loose, and it was no thicker than a toothpick. For this reason he could easily dismantle the part with force, and that this incident should really be heard with a grain of salt. He was being very modest indeed.

Another story recounted Master Yip standing on the ground in a “standing asana” pose (where one folds one leg and the entire body is supported by one leg rooted to the ground). Several people pushed him with force at the same time but were not able to make him budget. It can be seen that he has some very strong stamina. When asked about this story, Master Yip responded with a smile: “I don’t have the same kind of strength anymore.“

In Master Yips school I saw an oddly-shaped wooden post. the post is surrounded by a square frame, and on the post three planks are affixed horizontally. Under the actual post a crooked piece of plank can be seen. I asked what this structure is all about and was told that this is the Muk Yan Jong (木人樁)(“wooden dummy”). The four planks act as the four limbs of the human body ; when practicing, fists or kicks land on these “limbs” to simulate an actual fight.

To start practicing Wing Chun implies practicing “routines” or forms. The most basic routine is Siu Lim Tao (小念頭) (“little idea/thought”), and it’s the start to all training. It is then followed by Chum Kiu (尋橋) (“search for the bridge”), an intermediate routine which focuses on sidelong and shoulder close-range attacks. The last routine is Biu Jee (鏢指) (“darting fingers”), the most advanced routine of all. One fixates itself to the ground by spreading legs to a bit less than shoulder width and then sits down on an “invisible chair”. This form takes up little space, but the tip of the toes of both feet turn inwards, which marks its uniqueness in pose. This is to accompany routines which do not require lots of jumping, but ones where one glides along the ground. However, while the limbs are focused on “gliding”, one is able to firmly root itself to the ground and do not appear to be afloat.

Chi Sao (詠春) (“sticking hands”) is one of the key learning to practicing Wing Chun. Chi Sao is useful for a variety of reasons; other than strengthening and one’s elbow and increasing its stamina in attacks, one can also use it to train oneself in defensive moves. These are inclusive of freestyle boxing moves. Chi Sao is, in essence, key to any self-defense practice!

When we speak of the variety of routines Wing Chun, we are essentially looking at three forms: Fuk Sao, Tan Sao and Bong Sao. Compared to your regular martial arts routine (“punches and kicks”), you are essentially looking at three types of defense acts. According to Master Yip, these three routines have merged all of the multiple formations of Wing Chun within. Essentially, all of Wing Chun’s movements are combinations of three types of movements made by the arms, the flipping of the forearm, and the lowering of arms. Regular defense moves used in other martial arts routines are typically characterized by the move where, when someone throws a punch at you or delivers a kick, one defends oneself by blocking the move with one arm, and then striking back with the other arm or using both legs to launch an attack. In terms of the order of movement, the blockage always occurs before the actual attack; similarly, the defense and the attack usually cannot occur at the same time. Wing Chun, on the other hand, is entirely different; when one faces a punch, upon receiving that punch, a Wing Chun practitioner is able to attack at the same time. Simultaneous dissolution of an attack, or turning an oncoming attack into a defense, is the most unique concept of Wing Chun. This effectively calls for the slogan (in memorizing and practicing the move), whereby “an attack is a defense”.

Master Yip Man demonstrates Tan Sao, Fuk Sao and Bong Sao during the interview. The person whose back is facing the camera is his student, Leung Ting.

One more thing to note is the concept of “centerline”. What does it entail, exactly? Master Yip mentions that all moves targets the “core center”; in other words, turning one’s “bridge hands” into a core, so that when an opponent strikes, one is too always ensure that their bridging hands are outside of one’s own bridging hands, so that you may hang onto the advantage of being able to both attack and defend. Citing an example, Master Yip says that “all punches thrown are in a rectangular shape, resembling the Chinese character for the sun; we start from the heart and throws a straight-lined punch, acting in the form of the string on a bow. If the opponent throws a punch in the form of a hook or a hyperbole, that attack comes in the formation of a curve, much like the shape of the actual handle on a bow. We call these moves “riding along the bow” (anyone with a slight understanding of algebra will know that the curved line is longer than the straight line). Simultaneously, even compared to a straight punch that starts from the waistline, Wing Chun’s version is still of a shorter distance; therefore, all of our punches move strictly from the area near the heart“.

Other than using the example of a string and a bow to illustrate this example in Wing Chun movements, Master Yip also talked of Wing Chun as “bamboo” and “hammer”. In theory, a bamboo stick, a hammer and a bow string have nothing in common and are not comparable. However, what makes Wing Chun indicative of a bamboo stick is that when the opponent strikes close, if one uses Tan Sao, Fuk Sao or Bong Sao to receive the attack, that actual strike will be as if hitting on a bamboo stick – one’s defence will, at that moment of attack, becomes pushed back as a result of the force, just like bamboo. When that strike retreats, however, one immediately strikes back at top speed, much like a bamboo stick will bounce back after with great force.

In terms of the example concerning a “hammer”, this is speaking of the way one exerts force in Wing Chun movements. The force exerted should be exactly like the way one strikes a hammer into the wall. Everyone who has used a hammer to hit a nail knows that if you struck it with brute force, not only does the nail fail to penetrate the wall, it might actually becomes deformed. One must strike the nail cautiously, using the wrist as an axis and lightly hammering it in. This is what Wing Chun is all about.

Many of you might think now that Wing Chun is all about “softness”, with the focus on using flexibility and softness to overcome strength. I posed this very same question to Master Yip.

+ Master Yip Man and his student Leung Tin demonstrate Fuk Sao; when the opponent attacks with a punch, Master Yip firmly blocks the attack with Fuk Sao, then dissolute the attack and moves forward with an attack of his own, all of which aptly captured by the force of the opponent’s attack.

+ Master Yip holds onto the opponent’s wrist, and immediately raises his right leg for a kick aimed at the small of the opponent’s stomach.

Master Yip replied: “Wing Chun is in some sense a “soft” school of martial arts. However, if one equates that work as weak or without strength, then they are dead wrong. Chi Sao in Wing Chun is to maintain one’s flexibility and softness, all the while keeping in the strength to fight back, much like the flexible nature of bamboo“.

Master Yip then mentioned the slogan used in Wing Chun – “keeping in the incoming strike, sending away the strike-back; drop it all and go straight ahead“. He then points out that the use of Tan Sao, Fuk Sao, Bong Sao is not about pushing a move to the side or moving one’s arms back and forth between the right and the left. “Sending away” refers simply to sending one’s move forward; “going straight ahead” refers to, well, moving ahead, and “keeping it in” simply means receiving and elbowing onto the opponent’s punch, instead of pushing away that attack with sheer force.

Many individuals who are familiar with boxing have told me that these days crimes are on the rise. When you are on a flight of stairs you might run into robbers who grab you from behind; in public washrooms no one is immune from robbery. Likewise in restaurants, one look in the wrong direction might leave you beat up and bruised at the hands of gang members. In tight spaces as these, nothing works better to defend oneself than practicing Wing Chun.

I believe that there’s more than an ounce of truth to this declaration. With the various schools in the field of martial arts, each one boasts of an unique edge; some are more about attacks, some are particularly well-suited for defense. Some have simpler movements, some have complicated ones. Some schools require a large amount of space so you can hone your skills, but some are particularly well-suited to tight spaces. Wing Chun definitely falls into the latter category.

When asked this question, Master Yip’s response was “to each his own“.

Other than fists, Wing Chun also has the Luk Dim Boon Kwun (六點半棍)(“6.5 point pole”) and the Baat Jaam Do (八斬刀) (“Eight slash sword”). Before moving onto practicing Wing Chun with weapon, one must first learn the pole squat, then move onto nailing the pole onto the ground. It then moves onto closing in the poles, as well as darting, closing in and firing the pole. After all these moves one then is qualified to learn the actual routine. As for the Eight slash sword, its core concept comes from fists routines.

Another thing worth mentioning is that another martial arts school, the school of Yong Chun (永春)(Weng Chun) is also very apt at using the 6.5 point pole, but the moves are entirely different. Additionally, the dialect spoken in the Foshan area pronounces “Yong” and “Wing” as the same, which has led to many’s confusion and believing that these two schools are one and the same.

Master Yip has asked me to pass on the following message to our dear readers: “Yong Chun and Wing Chun both stem from Shaolin, but if you were to believe that they are one and the same, than you will be far from the truth!“

Photo Captions

  • Master Yip Man demonstrates Tan Sao, Fuk Sao and Bong Sao during the interview. The person whose back is facing the camera is his student, Leung Ting.
  • Master Yip Man and his student Leung Tin demonstrate Fuk Sao; when the opponent attacks with a punch, Master Yip firmly blocks the attack with Fuk Sao, then dissolute the attack and moves forward with an attack of his own, all of which aptly captured by the force of the opponent’s attack.
  • Master Yip holds onto the opponent’s wrist, and immediately raises his right leg for a kick aimed at the small of the opponent’s stomach.

Sources:

[1] Lixi(?),新武侠 New Martial Hero Magazine, Hong Kong, 1972(?)