Sunday, 28 March 2010

my new blog

hi guys

here you can find a lot of information about kung fu in china, interviews with top masters and listings of kung fu school

hope you enjoy it

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Shaolin Kung Fu training

While in Xi'an, I had the opportunity of training with a completely crazy buddhist monk. He taught me some basic stances, punches, kicks and strengthening/flexibility excercises of Shaolin. He called this basic training "Wu Gong" and told me that in order to study Chinese martial arts properly, then these basic excercises must be mastered.

It was very strange how I met him, I was visiting a Buddhist temple with one of my students, Li Yi Lin (or Vivian), and we just saw this monk sat in front of a shrine. So Vivian started talking to him, and somehow kung fu got brought up, She told him that I study Wing Chun in England. The monk had never heard of it and claimed that it was not any good because it wasnt a famous style. He asked me to demonstrate a form, so I showed him Siu Lim Tau, after which he told me that I had a weak stance, and the form was useless as it contained no footwork. I humbly agreed with him, despite not believing him! So, he agreed to teach me some excercises to strengthen my stance and arm. He said he regretted that i wasnt staying longer, as he wanted to teach me "the 5 famous styles of Shaolin".

So I made an arrangement that every other afternoon I would visit him in the temple, with Vivian to translate for me. He didnt charge me, but seemed very proud of having a westerner as a student and took me to meet all the other monks. Training always began with a long period of horse stance training. After that I would have to do alternating splits and then more horse stance. Then I would learn some other stances and have to hold them for a long period. He also taught me some basic kicks and punches and I had to punch out candle flames from a distance.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Yuen Kay San Wing Chun Kuen with Kwok Wan Ping Sifu

During my stay in Hong Kong I had the honour of meeting and training with Kwok Wan Ping, who many would say was the top disciple of grandmaster Sum Nung. Master Kwok was really easy going and had a good sense of humour. He seemed to always wear just a pair of shorts and sandals, and his figure was in top condition, even for a 70 odd year old man he was still covered in muscles. The first day I met with him, I was invited to dinner and his wife cooked traditional Cantonese food which was really nice. Then after our food had digested, we went on to the rooftop to train. The rooftop of his apartment had been the sight of many Beimo (illegal challenge matches, popular amoung kung fu students in the 60s) and he told me that when he fled mainland China for Hong Kong all the people were practicing Yip Man Wing Chun. So in order to start teaching Yuen Kay San lineage he had to prove himself and fought and beat several of Yip Mans students.
His style of Wing Chun was a fairly hard style in comparison to the other stuff ive seen. Chi Sau with master Kwok was very tiring, his arms felt immovable and really heavy, but they werent tense. He also put a lot of emphasis on arm conditioning drills, which I did so much with him that my arms were swollen next day! He was critical of many people who are too soft, which is good in theory, but it doesnt work in real fights. And if you doubt that is true, Im sure he would invite you to test your skills on him! He said that his tremendous internal power came from a lot of Tai Chi and Ba Gua Zhuang training. He had even created some training drills which combined Wing Chun with Tai Chi principles.
In the Yuen Kay San lineage, there is 12 basic excercises called San Sik, which means free excercise. These can be done with a partner, or alone and are a good way of developing a strong foundation in Wing Chun. They are a condensed way of demonstrating the basic principles of the art.

In need of updating: why I changed clubs

So, I thought it was about time I updated this blog. It has been a long time since I wrote anything. Since then I have changed clubs and travelled Asia for 5 months, to China, Hong Kong, Tibet, Nepal & India. I will write about my experiences regarding martial arts in a later post. Without sounding like Im having a bash at my old club I think I should explain the reason I left. After getting my black sash and beginning to attend seminars of other Sifus I began to question my art. My Sifu had always talked about validating things, so I wanted to validate what I was doing for myself. Now in the class it is very easy to say ok, so this guy is throwing 2 punches and I can do these techniques and Im in a good position. However, when you do this same technique against someone who isnt just standing there to take it, the result is not as successful. I also began to question the reason why we always do drills. So now I had learnt the whole system and I thought "what next?"
People always say, once you reach black you start learning, but I felt like I wasnt doing anything anymore. In short I was teaching and doing warm ups, while the Sifu was in the back room drinking tea. I thought to myself, "am I really developing?" So I had got to a stage where I had become totally stagnant, and on top of that I had a closed minded attitude towards other styles. I was always fault finding when I looked at other stuff, instead of thinking, well why do they do this. Now I realise that you cant criticise one element of a different system without understanding the whole.
So anyway, I decided to go along to the Foshan Wing Chun class and to do some private tuition with the Sifu. He was able to answer my questions and restore my faith in the fact that Wing Chun was an alive, conceptual art. Suddenly, things fell into place that had previously felt scattered and awkward.
Following that I had to take a break for 5 months, while I travelled around Asia. During my time in China & Hong Kong I met a couple of Sifus there from various styles and I also had a lot of time to think through my Kung Fu. I think this time to reflect helped me find the cause of my ignorance. Basically I had been looking for someone to come along and be a master and show me the way. So I accepted the first who came along and developed a close relationship with him. I began to believe everything he said and became like a robot, I wasnt myself.
Now I have come to the realisation that I am my own master, and that in this life people will come and go, and they will show me which way to turn next and then I must decide for myself and then move on. There is no humble monk who will come along and tell me the meaning of life or whatever, I must take it into my own hands.
So now I feel that everything fits into place, whereas before things were clashing. For example I was led to believe that Wing Chun is Wing Chun and we do what our Sifu says and anything else will hinder our progress. However I now see that all things fit into it, not go against it. I now understand when Bruce Lee says about the man who goes to a Zen master and asks him questions. The master decides to serve tea and overflows it so it spills everywhere. The man says "what are you doing, the cup is full, it cant hold any more tea!"
So the master replies "see, likethis cup you are so full of your own opinions and ideas, whatever I teach you ,there is no room to take it in."
So I guess what Im saying is that in this life we should be open minded. Dont get sucked in to other peoples bullshit, and if you have a doubt in your mind, dont keep quiet. Speak up, find an answer to your doubt, however that may be. Most people become stagnant because they develop a comfort zone. They dont want to affect the status quo or whatever. Its when you step into the danger zone, and are on the edge, that you really develop. So, if you have a doubt, dont just ignore it, whats the worst that can happen, your questions are answered? What Im saying applies to life, not just martial arts. Dont allow your mind to be someone elses prisoner, conquer it, its yours after all!!
Maybe people will read this and say "oh, what disrespect to his old Sifu" or that i am talking crap. Well I dont care, coz I dont want my learning to be held back by blind respect. I think I have a little insight into Bruce Lees thinking now.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Foshan vs Hong Kong Wing Chun

Although the Wing Chun I study comes from Yip Man in his later years in Hong Kong, I have recently visited and trained at another club, who come from a very different lineage. They trace their lineage back to Lun Gai, the first student of Yip Man in Foshan, bafore he fled to Hong Kong.
The main differences I noticed was that they placed more emphasis on the physical side of training, for instance the warm up was much more intense, involving press ups and such. The Hong Kong style is much more yielding to force, whereas looking at the Foshan style you can see how a younger Yip Man would have practiced, putting much more emphasis on power and directness.
Also looking at the forms the first thing I noticed was that whereas in Hong Kong style we place most of the emphasis on correct angles and positions, their emphasis was placed on the development of power. Also their forms were more flowery, ours looks more refined.
Also I noticed that they placed more emphasis on footwork drills than we do, when we practice Chi Gurk it is a freeflowing exercise similar to Chi Sau, whereas they practiced set drills more akin to Dan Chi Sau/Lap Sau. Whereas we practice more Chi Sau and set drills to ensure correct positions, they seemed to practice more sparring and grappling type exercises. The Foshan style also used a lot of armlocks as well, which we do not.
So to conclude I feel that from attending this other class I feel it has given me a greater understanding of Wing Chun, enabling me to see how Yip Man progressed through his life. I would not like to say that either style is better, only that they both reflect different aspects of the art. It is evident how Yip Man liked to simplify things, as looking at the Foshan Wing Chun it is much more traditional, Hong Kong Wing Chun appears more practical and faster to learn. The Foshan Wing Chun however does seem to have a much larger syllabus, incorporating a larger variety of techniques and applications of things.

Friday, 19 January 2007

What is Wing Chun

What is Wing Chun
Wing Chun is a type of Chinese martial art that dates back about 400 years. It is classified as a type of Kung Fu, which is a Cantonese term used to describe a skill aquired over a long period of time. This may refer to cooking, drawin, playing a musical intrument etc. So in China someone who has worked hard and has aquired a sufficient level of skill in something is said to have good Kung Fu. The term as understood in the west is almost always used to describe Chinese martial arts, which the correct term for this would actually be either Wu Shu (martial art) or Chuan Fa (fist skills).
Wing Chun translates as Everlasting/Beautiful Springtime. This denotes a thinking mans martial art and as we know Spring is a time of growth and development and so the name suggests that with Wing Chun we are always growing and developing, never stagnant and resting on our laurels. It was started by Ng Moi, a female Shaolin Nun who survived the destruction of the temple. When she fled she took refuge in a town in Canton province where she met a man called Yim Yee who had a daughter called Yim Wing Chun. Ng Moi had developed her Shaolin to a new level, no longer confined by the temple she was free to chip away at her system until she came to the roots of it and then built it back up, with none of the previous set routines and dead techniques in it. She worked from the fact that as a woman she was not physically strong and so had to use her structure and the opponents own force to defeat them. So she taught it to Yim Wing Chun, whos husband, Leung Bok Chau, named it after her when she died.
Through the generations it got passed on to a man named Leung Jan, who was a famous herbal doctor in the town of Faatsan (Foshan). He took the art to a new level and broke it down into three levels characterised by three set patterns known as Siu Lim Tao (way of little idea), Chum Kiu (searching for the bridge) and Biu Jee (thrusting fingers); and a set on the wooden dummy (Mook Yan Jong Fat), a training device simulating an opponent. He bacame very famous for his skill in challenge matches and passed his art on to his 2 sons, Leung Chun & Leung Bik and a disciple named Chan Wah Shun.
Chan Wah Shun was a very big man who was physically strong and his art reflected that. Not being educated he explained things in the common mans simplistic language. His most famous student was a young rich kid by the name of Yip Man.
Yip Man moved to Hong Kong to attend college there and 1 day saw a policeman beating up an old lady, he helped the lady and one of his friends knew an old man who was interested in seeing what Yip Man could do. So Yip Man went ot see the old man who looked at his Kung Fu and said it was crap. Yip Man was so angry he tried to defeat the old man and couldnt. He later found out the old man was none other than Leung Bik, son of his Sigung (teachers teacher), Leung Jan. So Leung Bik was much smaller and more educated than Chan Wah Shun and taught him a more advanced and refined version of the art.
Yip Man later moved back to Faatsan for many years until the Communists took over China and persectued the people.Yip Man fled like many others to Hong Kong as it was owned by the British at least their lives were safe. At first he didnt want to teach, but then necessity caused him to do it to make a living. Many of his students were parts of gangs and went out and tested their skills on the streets against all kinds of opponents. One of his students was Li Jun Fan who moved to America and became the movie star Bruce Lee.
When Yip Man died many people tried and still try to cash in on his legacy, using the fact they were trained by him to make money. Also Yip Man taught every student differently due to build, education, character etc so Wing Chun is now so diverse that everyone argues over who has the true Wing Chun.
I personally believe that what is more important is the experiences that each master through the generations has added to the core philosophies compiled by Ng Moi. So what we practice now will look different to how it was done before, and everyone will practice differently as they have different experiences governing their art.

Friday, 5 January 2007

The 4 Elements of Chi Sau:PERT

To help with our Chi Sau training and development we tend to break it down into 4 areas of training. These are not levels which you progress through, rather they are all inter-dependant of each other and are parts of a whole. So in order of being hardest to grasp they are:

Position refers not to hand positions, but your position in relation to your opponent, eg at 45*, square on, at the side etc. This is the hardest to grasp, but once understood you can see the different options from different angles. This is very important, because without an understanding of the various angles you can utilize, you will be merely crashing in down centre and probably onto the opponents flurry of attacks. In Wing Chun we make an effort to be on the "outside", which refers to the outside of the opponents body. This is important because from the outside we have covered both the opponents arms with our one. If we stop a punch on the inside then we still have to think about the other hand which could attack us. However sometimes we must go on the inside, in which case we should stay there as it is faster to counter immediately than to move to the outside, then counter.

Energy refers to your Chi and how well you can focus it. Now this may sound a bit esoteric for some, but it is not. Chi in Chinese can be translated as several things: air, breath, energy, force, the cosmos etc. So what we are refering to here is the cultivation of correct usage of force or energy. This is developed through several means: practicing Siu Lim Tao slowly, repeatedly practicing basics, weapons and of course Chi Sau. In Chi Sau you should use energy only when needed, or you will become tense and lose the point of training. You should never meet force with resistance, but rather by yielding to it and redirecting it away. This is why a good Wing Chun person should feel soft and hard to grasp hold of, yet immensely powerful when required in Chi Sau.
Reaction is trained through Chi Sau and through various drills. In Chi Sau we train our sensitivity to touch, so that once we have got the first contact, then we can react much faster than if we rely on sight, in which case our brain must analyise the data and then react ot it. Eventually it will appear that your reations are so fast it will seem almost telepathic. This is not true, it is only because as Bruce Lee said "from your thought to your fist how much time is lost!!" What he means here is that when you decide to attack you have to think and then do it, by which time your Chi Sau partner will have already reacted because he did it out of instinct by training it over and over again. So that is why in Chi Sau we should think defensively so that we dont just charge in blindly, instead we just feel the partners movement and when a gap appears we intinctively strike through it. There is a saying in Wing Chun that goes "receive what comes, follow what goes, when the hand is free, thrust forward" or as Bruce Lee said in Enter the Dragon "When my opponent expands, I contract, when he contracts, I expand, and when there is an opportunity I do not hit, 'it' hits all by itself".
Technique is the only one that can be shown, the rest come from practice and cannot be learnt by books or DVDs. Technique refers to the correct way hold your body. Body and arm structure are vitally important to receive and to give force. If our structures are weak, then we will literally collapse under pressure, also we cannot exert as much power oursleves. We always begin by learning the correct techniques and then correct energy will develop and the nwe can learn application, when position and reaction will come into play so that the four are united as a whole.