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VING TSUN GUNG-FU: the science of in-fighting

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There are, it seems, many interpretations or “styles” of the Chinese martial art known as Ving Tsun (Wing Chun) Gung-fu being taught throughout the world.  Within these variations, like in all martial systems, there are inherent strengths and weaknesses, good and bad points, subtle and not so subtle differences.  If what a particular school or instructor teaches is to meet the requirements of what is generally considered to be authentic Ving Tsun, a system whose origins are said to be an amalgamation of the most effective combat theories and techniques of several Chinese systems some two centuries ago, then it must meet certain criteria, namely it must reflect three distinct qualities - SIMPLICITY, DIRECTNESS and EFFICIENCY.

VING TSUN GUNG-FU: the science of in-fightingAt ‘WSL Ving Tsun Combat Science - Malaysia’ (超塵詠春拳學), all aspects of our training emphasise and refine these three qualities.  Our basic philosophy is that if something requires excessive movement, strength or effort, then it is not something we wish to waste time practising if a more practical method exists.  In the words of our late Hong Kong-based leader, Sifu Wong Shun Leung (黃淳樑), whose personal interpretation of the art that he learnt from the legendary grandmaster of the system, Ip Man (葉問), he named Ving Tsun Kuen Hok (詠春拳學 – Scientific Ving Tsun), "You can always replace money, but you can't replace time."  Sifu Wong believed that if a student is allowed to, or worse, made to spend time on something which is unlikely to be of any use, the instructor is not only deceiving his/her students, but also him or herself as well.

Ving Tsun Kuen Hok is a system based upon logic and science.  It requires neither great strength nor great athletic ability.  What it does require, however, is a very precise understanding of some very basic combat principles and unless the instructor can get these across to the students, the likelihood is that the students will never fully realise their potential, no matter how skilful the instructor may be.  In Ving Tsun, it is not just a matter of copying movements, one has to know precisely why something is being done, when to apply it and, most importantly, how to develop and perfect such skills.

img_sifu_david_sifu_darrenThis being the case, we at ‘WSL Ving Tsun Combat Science - Malaysia’ (‘WSLVTCSM’) do not spend the majority of our training time alone in lines, punching the air, or engaged in make believe combat routines, but in contact with many partners, constantly testing and refining the principles and concepts gleaned from the three basic training patterns or forms of the Ving Tsun system, namely (i) Siu Nim Tau, (ii) Cham Kiu, and (iii) Biu Ji. Training on the Muk Yan Jong, or "wooden dummy" also provides a means developing good positioning and accurate techniques and allows for the practise of techniques in a way which would not be appropriate on a "live" training partner.  As well as a variety of training drills and reflex exercises done with partners, we at ‘WSLVTCSM’ also place a great deal of emphasis on the Chi Sau or "sticky hands" exercise to further develop instant reactions and technical precision and to provide us with a linking device for all of the above-mentioned concepts, forms and techniques.

Chi Sau has, in recent years, become a very misunderstood part of the Ving Tsun training regime.  There are those who say it has no application to combat and dismiss it as a useless exercise, and there are those who do nothing but Chi Sau, but for all the wrong reasons.  Chi Sau is quite simply a means of developing practical reflexes and of refining them to the point where conscious thought is eliminated.  It is not fighting per se, but it does provide the perfect environment in which to acquire and develop the skills and responses necessary for fighting an opponent at the worst possible range, ie. extreme close-range, a position where many other fighting systems do not have effective responses, and more importantly, the very range at which real self-protection situations actually take place!

Chi Sau's main purpose is to enable the Ving Tsun fighter to develop the means by which they can instinctively find or create gaps in the opponent's defences.  The sensitivity developed through Chi Sau is such that whenever the path of an attack (by the Ving Tsun fighter) is blocked, he or she automatically redirects the enemy's hands and continues the attack. Should the enemy not put up an effective defence, there is no need for the Chi Sau to be applied.  In other words, Ving Tsun does not fight by doing Chi Sau with the opponent, but if the Ving Tsun fighter's own techniques are trapped, jammed or blocked by the opponent, Chi Sau training has provided him or her with the means to overcome the problem.  By its very nature, Ving Tsun is an attacking system, the belief being that the best form of defence is attack.

The other great advantage of Chi Sau training over the sparring normally seen in other martial art systems is the fact that it is totally spontaneous, virtually anything can and does happen so that the practitioners are constantly forced to react to very real attacks without the luxury of standing back to think about it. Instead of becoming a session of trading blows, "tit for tat" so to speak, Chi Sau training encourages the student of Ving Tsun to treat every threat as a real one and to totally overwhelm the opponent at the first opportunity so as to render them unable to offer any kind of defence. In other words, through Chi Sau the Ving Tsun student learns to dominate the situation with skill and controlled aggression, never being afraid to go forward and never making the mistake of trying to trade blows with the enemy.

Ving Tsun in fact trains in reverse order compared to many other systems of combat.  The first range to be developed is close-range, the theory being that as most situations end up at this range, one must excel at fighting there.  From there, Ving Tsun devotees work outwards, realising as they do that the greater the distance becomes, the more time one has at one's disposal and, consequently, the easier things become.  After just a short time training at the In-fighting range, the Ving Tsun student begins to realise the effectiveness of getting in close and tends to develop a distinct preference for this range.  Contrary to what the many critics of Ving Tsun may say, Ving Tsun does indeed have medium- and long-distance techniques/strategies, and it does utilise kicking and ground-fighting, but it requires these so rarely that many people think that these skills don't exist within the system. Because of its efficient and subtle nature, Ving Tsun trains these techniques and concepts in such a way that even some Ving Tsun practitioners fail to appreciate their existence and potential.

VING TSUN GUNG-FU: the science of in-fightingSifu Wong Shun Leung was a man who believed wholeheartedly in the importance of practical experience and practical training, having himself many times put his fighting skills to the test for the sake of improving himself as well as proving Ving Tsun's effectiveness under real conditions.  He preferred to refer to Ving Tsun as a martial “skill”, rather than a martial “art”, simply because a skill is something which can be tested, proven and improved upon, whereas art is purely subjective.  Like a piece of music or a painting, you can't "prove" whether it's good or bad, it's more a question of taste, but if you think that "A" can defeat "B" then it can be put to the test, their skill levels compared.

 

This then is the ‘WSLVTCSM’ approach to the training of Ving Tsun, being as it is drawn from the training philosophy of my teacher, Sifu Wong Shun Leung, the man who almost single-handedly put Ving Tsun on the martial arts map in Hong Kong in the 'fifties and 'sixties when he engaged in countless challenge matches against practitioners of all styles, including western boxing and fencing, emerging undefeated each time.  The late Bruce Lee (李小龍) drew many of his fighting concepts from what he had learnt from Sifu Wong during those early days and applied that line of thinking to his own training, the result of course being his own expression of combat, Jeet Kune Do (截拳道).  We at ‘WSLVTCSM’ believe that not all Ving Tsun is the same and that if one examines his or her own training by asking if it is truly SIMPLE, DIRECT and EFFICIENT, it may well be that it just doesn't measure up. Put quite simply, if you’re not attacking your opponent's attack, it's not Ving Tsun; if you have to think, it's already too late!  That is the essence of the “Wong Shun Leung Way” of Ving Tsun Gung-fu.

 

VING TSUN GUNG-FU: the science of in-fightingSifu David Peterson (丁超塵) was a personal student of Sifu Wong Shun Leung from 1983 until Sifu Wong’s untimely death in 1997, regularly travelling to Hong Kong to study under his instruction. Having been involved in the martial arts since 1973, Sifu Peterson established the ‘Melbourne Chinese Martial Arts Club’ (‘MCMAC’) in 1983, at which he was the Principal Instructor until the end of 2010. As often as possible during that time, the ‘MCMAC’ invited Sifu Wong to Australia to conduct classes and seminars while he was alive, maintaining the highest possible standards of instruction and expertise. This tradition now continues here in Malaysia where Sifu Peterson established classes at the start of 2011. We at ‘WSLVTCSM’ are constantly striving to pass on the very best Ving Tsun skills possible and take great pleasure in sharing Sifu Wong’s teachings with anyone willing to put aside pride and ego in order to journey down what we believe to be a more rewarding path to combat proficiency.  You just may find that Ving Tsun the “Wong Shun Leung Way” can answer questions for which you have been unable to find a satisfactory solution in other martial systems.  We are very confident that we have something of value to share with you.

 

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