Many of Mr Yip Man’s students only learned for a short time before teaching the system. Is modern Wing Chun today very different to what Mr Yip Man taught you back in those days because of this?
In the 1950s, we actually trained very hard; 6 days a week, resting only on Sundays. Since we trained at the Restaurant Workers Union at that time and many of the students were members or Bus Company Workers who were given only 2 rostered days off each month, they were always around to train whenever they had some free time.
I was the last student accepted to train at the Restaurant Workers Union before we moved to another venue on Lee Tat Street located in Yau Ma Tei, where Bruce Lee joined.
With intensive training, you could learn the system in four years. When I joined in 1954, Si Hing Leung Sheung and Si Hing Lok Yiu had already opened their own schools. They had started around 1950. As Mr Yip Man voiced no objection to this, it indicated he was satisfied.
But the question today is do people still have the perseverance to truly live-and-breathe their Wing Chun in order to thoroughly understand Wing Chun’s underlying mechanics (拳理 Kuen Lei) and concepts in order to be able to apply their Wing Chun in actual combat? The only way to achieve this is through hard training.
Bruce Lee had a big impact on the popularity of Wing Chun. His fame as a movie star and a martial artist who had studied Wing Chun caused many people to want to learn Wing Chun. During that time, Wing Chun went through a period of explosive growth driven by the commercialisation of the art with lots of people profiting from this.
My view is that during that period of time, some Wing Chun was watered-down. But I leave it to the reader to look at the facts and make up their own mind.
By focusing the weight on the front Two-Thirds of the foot and the Instep, it becomes possible to generate a lot of power quite easily.
What tips would you give WC practitioners regarding execution of the stance?
I remember back to when I returned to Hong Kong to visit Mr Yip Man, he gave me one piece of advice. One which I will pass on to readers. He said to me the most important thing is to train hard in Siu Nim Tau. The more you train, the better.
Could you please elaborate on the weight distribution in WC?
Many advocate placing the weight on the balls of the feet. Others prefer the whole foot. Is there a “correct” method?
In the Yee Gee Kim Yeung Maa, the weight must be maintained on the front two-thirds of the foot. To achieve this, the Instep also plays a vital role. There is much Gung Fu involved in these two areas. The hip must also be upright. By focusing the weight on the front Two-Thirds of the foot and the Instep, it becomes possible to generate a lot of power quite easily. This must be developed through hard training in Siu Nim Tau. The stance does not move in Siu Nim Tau, so it is slightly easier to develop it there.
After much practice and time, Inertia Energy can be felt. When Inertia Energy has developed throughout your entire structure, it will compliment your stance and adapt to your needs. The most important thing in the Stance is this Energy. If you focus the weight on the whole foot, the weight will be focused on the ground.
If you focus the weight just on the balls of the feet, it is possible to be too far forward and you may be easily pulled. The key to countering this is in training the Instep.
Are there any differences in the pivoting methods of Chum Kiu and Biu Jee?
Neither Chum Kiu nor Biu Tze use pivoting. By pivoting I mean turning the left foot towards the right foot or turning the right foot towards the left foot. Chum Kiu involves mainly turning. Turning the Stance is like turning an entire car. The whole vehicle must turn. To compare this analogy to pivoting, pivoting would be akin to turning by twisting on a single tyre of a unicycle.
Biu Tze uses a method that requires 扭力 (Nau Lik). In English, this is called Torsion.
Torsion can also be found in Chum Kiu in conjunction with turning. It appears many people have been misled by the word pivoting (in context of Chum Kiu and Biu Tze) as pivoting is done about a point only.
Hence, I do not share the view that pivoting is carried out in Chum Kiu and Biu Tze.
In learning Gung Fu, first you must be able to focus on your training. You must also have a genuine interest in it.
Please tell us about the wooden dummy. What benefits can practitioners derive from training the Muk Yan Jong?
In the Muk Yan Jong, firstly you must thoroughly understand the three forms as I explained earlier. You must have all of the different energies, including 扭力 Nau Lik (Torsion) and Inertia Energy.
After this, when training the Muk Yan Jong, while you are sticking to the arms of the dummy, you are training to project your stance’s power. Following this, one can use the wooden dummy to turn their own stance, since the dummy is bolted to the wall and cannot move.
This will allow you to develop 黐勁 Chi Ging. Chi Ging does not mean to do Chi Sau with your opponent. It means to develop sensitivity so you can upset your opponents balance immediately upon first contact. As soon as you touch, it’s there. This is most important.
Another benefit is that sometimes when you are training Gung Fu you might ask yourself, why is this particular hand not that good?
You can go to the wooden dummy and work it out. I call the wooden dummy the blind- eyed teacher. It does not say anything and it cannot see. But you can use the dummy to feel and adjust yourself into the optimum position to maximise your power. When you have done this, you will realise that there is so much you can train using the wooden dummy. If a person has not learnt Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu and Biu Tze, they will not derive benefit from the Muk Yan Jong. Some students really like the dummy, so you might let them learn the form a little earlier. But then they can only demonstrate its appearance on the surface.
Some clash with the dummy to toughen heir arms. But you could achieve that with other objects instead of a wooden dummy.
Yes, our Kiu Sau (bridge hands) appear to be hard. But what is the reason? Because they are developed through the training of Chi Sau every day. Just like how children naturally develop firm palms by touching things all the time. That is how it is built up. It is not necessary to purposely hit the dummy to toughen your arms. You might as well lift weights, or clash with other objects.
What message would you like to leave for our readers?
In learning Gung Fu, first you must be able to focus on your training. You must also have a genuine interest in it. If you are not genuinely interested and are only aiming for particular goals, once you reach that goal you will have lost your interest, and hence your Gung Fu will be limited.
Sometimes, it comes down to whether it is your fate to continue down the Wing Chun path.
My hope is, as my Sifu wrote, that Wing Chun can continue to flourish and grow. It is most important to always think of the source of water you drink from, to never forget that our Gung Fu came from our forerunners and to respect and honour them.
Finally, the most important concept in Wing Chun is that the Stance must be very active and adaptable. It is like a car, it can go anywhere.