CHAPTER 10 -- CONCLUSION: MISCELLANEOUS QUESTIONS
An old picture showing Grandmaster Wong demonstrating the pattern, "Thrusting-Fingers" in a Wing Choon Kungfu Set
In this concluding chapter I answer some questions that John Malone and other people have asked me regarding Wing Choon Kungfu as well as kungfu in general. There are questions that martial artists often ponder on, and they concern aspects that have not been explained in other parts of this book.
Wing Choon, Wing Chun, Wing Tsun?
Q1. Why do you use "Wing Choon" and not "Wing Chun" or "Wing Tsun" as used by some publications?
Ans: I choose to spell it "Wing Choon" because it is least likely to be mispronounced. While "Wing Chun" is pronounced like "Wing Choon", it can also be mispronounced as "Wing Chan" -- "un" in "Chun" mispronounced as "an" instead of "oon". Similarly the "sun" in "Tsun" may be mispronounced as "sun" instead of "soon".
When was Wing Choon Kungfu founded?
Q2. I have read somewhere that Wing Choon Kungfu was founded by Yim Wing Choon about four hundred years ago, but you mention that it was founded only about one hundred and fifty years ago. Which is correct?
Ans: That Wing Choon Kungfu was founded about a hundred and fifty years ago, is correct. (In about 1975 when I wrote the manuscript.) The date corresponds to historical backgroud.
The founder, Yim Wing Choon, lived in the Qing (Manchurian) Dynasty, CE 1644-1911. She learned Shaolin Kungfu from the famous nun, Ng Mooi (pronounced as "Wu Mei" in Mandarin) during the reign of Emperor Chien Lung, and evolved her Wing Choon style probably during the reign of Emperor Chia Ching (1796-1820). The Shaolin Monastery was burnt by the Manchurian Army under imperial order of Chia Ching, and this event indirectly actuated the emergence of many Southern Shaolin styles, such as Hoong Ka, Mok Ka and Choy-Li-Fatt, besides Wing Choon Kungfu.
It is historically inconsistent that Wing Choon Kungfu was founded about four hundred years ago, because it was then the Ming Dynasty, and Yim Wing Choon herself was not even born.
Length of Training for Combat Competence
Q3. For how long must one learn kungfu before he can be competent enough to defend himself?
Ans: Presuming that he learns kungfu correctly, a person with six months of kungfu training should be able to defend himself competently against any opponent who has no martial art background, irrespective of how big, strong or fierce the opponent may be. After two years of correct, daily training, he should attain a level approximating to the black belt level of Judo, Karate or Taekwondo.
There is no end to kungfu training -- the more one practices, the better he becomes. Old age is no barrier or handicap to acquiring kungfu proficiency. In fact the amount a person achieves in kungfu is directly proportionate to the amount of time and effort he puts in.
However, if one's training methods are wrong -- and many people are not practicing kungfu the way it should be done -- he may not acquire any combative skill for self-defence. For example, if he merely performs kungfu patterns, and does not learn how to fight nor to develop force, he will probably not be able to handle a street-fighter proficiently, even if he has learnt "shadow boxing" (no matter what its style) for ten years.
Q4. Are there any coloured belts in kungfu to denote different levels of achievement?
Unlike some oriental martial arts like Judo, Karate and Taekwondo, where one proceeds from beginner's white to advanced black, there are no coloured belt systems in kungfu to indicate different levels of achievement or seniority. A brief outline of the historical and structrual background of kungfu training may be helpful in explaining why coloured belt systems are not applicable.
In the past, kungfu was normally taught in a personal, teacher-apprentice manner. A kungfu teacher usually had only a few disciples, who would follow him and no one else, for many years. Granting coloured belts to only a few students was therefore irrelevant. Moreover, kungfu was then strictly for fighting, not for sports nor demonstration.
Later, it became the practice of rich families or village headmen to invite kungfu instructors to teach members of their families or villages. An instructor would stay at one place for some time, and moved to other places, and his teaching post would be taken by other instructors. In such circumstances, coloured belts were also not applicable.
Then, especially in the Qing Dynasty, kungfu was taught in kungfu schools. Known as "kwoon" in Cantonese, or "kwan" in Mandarin (and "kan" in Japanese), these schools were owned by instructors who normally stayed there permanently. Unlike their Japanese and Korean counterparts with national or international connections, these kungfu schools were individual units without any structural affilation to other schools or central organizations. The quality and style of kungfu taught often varried greatly between schools. It was therefore not practical to have coloured belt systems.
Nowadays, as the general mode of kungfu instruction has changed, with some kungfu schools having branches and sub-branches, some instructors have adapted the Judo system of belt differentiation. These coloured belts, however, are valid only internally, because the standards and conditions stipulated for the belts vary greatly between different schools and organizations. Moreover, that there are so many different styles of kungfu, makes it improbable to have any meaningful uniform system of belt colours for kungfu of all styles.
Sex and Kungfu
Q5. Is it necessary to abstain from sex in kungfu training?
Ans: Despite some American experiments reporting that sex has no adverse effects on the performance of athletes; in kungfu, sex does have some adverse effects, particvularly in force training. There is some difference between the athletes' and the kungfu exponents' situation in relation to sex. While sex may or may not affect one's endurance, speed and stamina (as in the case of the athletes), it does effect the "chi" (intrinsic energy) and the "jing" (inner force) in kungfu training.
In order to get the best results in kungfu force training, as in Iron Palm of Shaolin Kungfu or "chi-kung" of Tai Chi Chuan, a student has to abstain from sex during the course of his training. If this is not feasible, he is advised to abstain from sex during the first hundred days when the foundation of the desired force is built up. After this foundation-laying period, he may have sex sparsely. If this sex-abstinance rule is not followed, he will take double or triple the time normally required to achieve the desired force. However, after he has acquired the force, he can revert to his normal sex life. Normal sex, nevertheless, does not effect the ordinary performance of kungfu patterns or their applications.
Learning Kungfu from Books
Q6. Can one learn kungfu from a book?
Ans: If a one-word answer is demanded, with no qualifications nor explanations, the answer is yes. But this can be misleading, because the question can be interpreted and correctly answered in different ways.
A meaningful answer depends much on such factors as the student involved, the kind of kungfu he proposes to learn, and the nature of the book itself.
A student who is a complete beginner will have great difficulty learning from a book, unless it is specially and methodically written for beginners and contains sufficient illustrations. Even so, he may still make mistakes while trying to learn from the book, and if these mistakes are not detacted and corrected in time, he will be learning wrongly. On the other hand, a student with kungfu background should be able to follow a well-written book easily, while an expert can speedily benefit from reading it.
If kungfu is interpreted as patterns, sets and combative techniques, one can learn these from a good kungfu book, as these kungfu features can be clearly explained in words and illustrated in pictures. However, there are other features in kungfu that cannot be adequately described (like some subtle kungfu movements) nor satisfactorily illustrated (like force control). Hence, unless the reader has some previous knowledge, it is near impossible for him to learn from a book such aspects of kungfu as inner force, chi training and advanced meditation.
The third important factor is whether the book is suitable. Some kungfu books, like those hand-written by old masters, are not meant for the general public; rather they serve as records or guidelines for their own successions of disciples. Other books are too technically written; it required a good knowledge of kungfu terms to understand these books. On the other hand, those written by thoughtful, systemmatic masters are very helpful; those books sometimes teach the reader useful points which he may not ordinary learn from a kungfu class.
Advice for Book-Leaning Kungfu Students
Q7. I practice kungfu from books. Please give some advice as how to off-set the disadvantages of not havig a personal instructor.
Ans: There are many disadvantages of learning kungfu without an instructor. It ius helpful firstly to recognize what these disadvantages are, and then take appropriate steps to overcome them.
The reader, partivcularly one without previous kungfu training, may not perform correctly the form of kungfu patterns shown in the book. Here are some helpful points to remember. If these points are followed carefully, one would eliminate most of the mistakes beginning students normally make (in any style of kungfu).
- The head and the body generally should be upright. Unless under specvial conditions, do not tilt the head nor bend the body to one side.
- Always keep the sholders down and be relaxed, and keep the elbows fairly close to the body. Raised shoulders and protruding elbows are very common errors among beginners.
- Always maintain proper balance. When one leg is lifted, as in executing a kick or in shifting position, the body should be temporily supported by the other leg.
Another disadvantage is that many students tend to learn kungfu at the rate of reading the book, and not at the rate of their own progress. Thus, they may know numerous kungfu patterns and applications from their reading, but they cannot execute these patterns and applications proficiently because of insufficient practice. To off-set this problem, one has to practice each item adequately before proceeding to the next item decribed in the book. It is worthwhile to remind oneself often that the onus of kungfu training is acquiring skills and not accumulating facts.
When one learns from an instructor, there is a proper time-table for practice. But when he trains on his own. he may practice whenever he likes. Such haphazard training is not condusive to kungfu progress. Therefore, one must set himself a rigid time-table, say an hour before breakfast everyday, and stick to it rigorously. Unless one is already proficient in kungfu skills and therefore practices occasionally to maintain standard, a student who practices spasmodically cannot expect good results because the intervals between practice sessions are not regular nor close enough for kungfu skills to be accumulated and developed. Further more, in every practice session, the student must be very strick to himself, as if supervisor by an unbending slave-driver.
It really demands great endurance, self-discipline and patience from the student training on his own. Without explanations, demonstrations and encouragements from an instructor, the self-practicing student often feels lost in times of uncertainities, or frustrated when progress seems inaccessible. Unknown to him at first, very often these depressing momonts occur just before some remarkable progress is about to be realized. To overcome these setbacks, it is helpful to set himself a relevant objective to achieve within a certain time. For example, he may aim to perfect the outward form of kungfu patterns in three months. After this, he may aim to develop force in the execution of these patterns within four months, and so on. If one sets a reasonable objectives and sees himself realizing it within the stipulated time, he will find practicing kungfu less boring and more meaningful.
Learning kungfu from books also has its advantages. Even at the initial stage, the student has an over-all picture of what he is going to learn, and therefore can set his aims and plan his time-table accordingly. This is not always possible if he learns from an instructor. The self-practicing student can also select to practice whatever he wishes, and as there is a great range of kungfu books, he has a wide choice. If he learns from an instructor, he normally has to contect himself with what the instructor chooses to teach him. Moreover, his kungfu books serve as permanent records which he can refer to whenever he likes, whereas an instructor may not be so conveniently available. And is he has an excellent book by a great master who may live at a different place or time, the student can still benefit tremendously from the master's teaching, though he may not have the opportunity to learn from the master personally.
Side-Kicks in Wing Choon Kungfu
Q8. You say that the side-kick is not used in Wing Choon Kungfu, but I find it demonstrated by some Wing Choon practitioners.
Ans: My statement regarding the side-kick is made with direct reference to the Wing Choon Kungfu I practice. Moreover, basing on Wing Choon principles, such as economy of movement and body balance, it is logical to conclude that the side-kick is inconsistent with classical Wing Choon Kungfu. Thirdly. the side-kick is not found in any of the three standard Wing Choon sets, universally regarded by Wing Choon practitioners as the foundation and fountain of Wing Choon patterns.
There are many possibe reasons why some Wing Choon practitioners use the side-kick. One possibility is that they may have found the side-kick, despite certain setbacks, suitable for their particular needs, and therefore have incorporated it into their kungfu patterns.
An old picture showing Grandmaster Wong in the Goat-Riding Stance with the pattern, "Buddha Palm".
The Goat-Riding Stance in Combat
Q9. The goat-riding stance is clumsy. Moreover it offers the opponent much target. Why then is this goat-riding stance used when facing an opponent about to attack? Isn't the false-leg stance, the bow-arrow stance or the four-six stance a better choice?
Ans: Using a frontal goat-riding stance to face an opponent will offer the opponent more target than using the relatively sideway false-leg stance, bow-arrow stance or four-six stance. Moreover, many people find it easier to move from the other three stances than from the relatively stable goat-riding stance.
However, there is one tremendous advantage the goat-riding stance has over the other stances. If one stands with one foot in front of the other, as in the false-leg stance, bow-arrow stance or four-six stance, moving to certain directions -- like moving to the right side with the right leg, or to the left side with the left leg -- is generally easier than, and therefore unconsciously preferred to, moving to other directions. An experienced master, by observing how the opponent stands, can often guess correctly which direction the opponent will move to, when the master attacks.
This is not so with the frontal goat-riding stance. Because both feet are in line (not one in front of the other), the proponent can move to any direction using either leg with equal ease. There are no preferred directions which can be detacted by a skillful opponent. Moreover, it is easier to rotate the body to either direction.
A beginner may find the goat-riding stance easily exposed to attack, but a master can use it as a deceptive and highly mobile stance for combat.
Only Three Kungfu Sets in Wing Choon
Q10. Since there are only three sets (or katas) in Wing Choon Kungfu -- compared to ten or twenty in other martial systems -- is it true that one can learn all of Wing Choon Kungfu in two years?
Ans: There are only three classical Wing Choon sets. Personally I consider this an asset, and not a setback, because it motivates Wing Choon exponents to concentrate on mastering selected skills and techniques, rather than learning more and more sets and patterns. In the final analysis, the superiority of one's kungfu is generally decided by his mastery of skills rather than his range of techniques.
To master skills, it is necessary to select some techniques and practice them over, over and over again. All the techniques in the three Wing Choon sets are selected techniques; any attempt, therefore, to increase the number of techniques or sets contradict the basic purpose of Wing Choon Kungfu. If there are too many kungfu sets to learn, the student will have less time for mastering skills; consequently he may not be able to execute flawlessly the extensive range of techniques he may have learnt.
If one merely learns the outward form of the three Wing Choon sets, he can do so within two years. But knowing how to perform the sets, is only the first stage in kungfu training. After this, he must learn the principles, and practice the applications of the patterns of the sets. He also needs time to develop force and sensing skill to enhance his fighting ability.
Besides the three unarmed kungfu sets, there are also weapon sets. The student not only has to learn the form of these weapon sets, but also has to improve the skill in using the weapons. Thus, one needs at least six years to master Wing Choon Kungfu.
Even for a master, there is no end to his learning and practicing. He may know all the content-material of Wing Choon Kungfu, and has the necessary skill to perform them expertly. Yet he can continue to experiment with and practice endless combinations and variations of basic techniques, and to deepen and enhance his skills to perfection.
Here we refer to the popular style of Wing Choon Kungfu. In Choe Family Wing Choon, the style of Wing Choon Kungfu I practice, there are many more kungfu sets.
Without a Sparring Partner
Q11. Is a sparring partner important in Wing Choon Kungfu? I do not have a partner to practice the techniques I have learnt in kungfu sets. How do I overcome this problem?
Ans: While having a partner is indeed very helpful, it is not indispensible in kungfu training! In fact, in advanced kungfu training, masters generally achieved excellence by training alone.
But one must practice the combative applications of the patterns he has learnt in kungfu sets, even though he has no partner to match with. In practicing applications, one must always imagine an opponent in his mind. Visualize the imagined opponent attacking, then respond accordingly. At the next stage, attack the imagined opponent and visualize the defensive movements he makes, then neutralize the imagined defence and continue attacking him.
These combative techniques against the imagined opponent should be performed slowly at first; when one is sure of his movements and responses, he can gradually increase his speed.
The wooden dummy in Wing Choon Kungfu serves as an opponent, against which the student can practice various combative techniques. If a wooden dummy is not available, an appropriate figure drawn on a wall can act as an opponent. In addition to this, one can suspend a short stick or a light bean-bag in the air, and use it as a mobile opponent for combat practice.
Q12. Is Wing Choon Kungfu suitable for a big-sized person?
Ans: While Wing Choon Kungfu is befitting the small-sized exponent, it is, nevertheless, not a setback for a big-sized person to practice Wing Choon Kungfu, or to use it for combat.
In this respect, it is different from some other styles of kungfu specially meant for the small size, like Monkey Kungfu. In Monkey Kungfu, one may find his big size and heavy weight disadvantageous in the frequent jumping and agile movements.
In Wing Choon Kungfu, ones size or weight can sometimes be used to his advantage, although the lack of it is not a handicap. For example, in the attack-cum-defence tactic of the straight attack, while in blocking he can dispense with co-ordinating body movement. My Wing Choon teacher, Sifu Choe Hoong Choy, incidentally is a big-sized master weighing over two hundred pounds.
Limitations and Good Points
Q13. Would you consider Wing Choon Kungfu the most complete and perfect system of martial art?
Ans: It will be unfair to many other worthy martial arts if one singles out Wing Choon Kungfu as the most complete and perfect system. Every form of martial arts (including martial arts of other countries) must have some salient good points about it if it can last the test of time, otherwise it would have been eliminated through lack of followers.
While there are many good points about Wing Choon Kungfu. there are some limitations too. For example, with its ascendency on close-combat and emphasis on economy of movements, Wing Choon Kungfu is generally not as expedient as Choy-Li-Fatt Kungfu for fighting one's way out of a surrounded ambush. In Wing Choon Kungfu, there are few holding or locking techniques, because these techniques are normally not advisable for a small-sized exponent against a bigger opponent. thus, those who do not wish to maim their opponents with decisive strikes, but prefer to catch or capture their opponents without hurting them badly, may find Wing Choon Kungfu inadequate. They may find Eagle-Claw Kungfu, with its emphasis on holds and locks, more suitable for their particular purpose.
There are, therefore, certain particular objectives or needs that can be realized more easily in other martial arts than in Wing Choon Kungfu. For example, a devoted stylist interested in the demonstrative beauty of kungfu forms as much as their combat effectiveness, may find Hoong Ka Kungfu with its ferocious tiger and elegant crane patterns more appropriate for his particular need. On the other hand, an eldery gentleman too weak for vigorous training but desirous of some gentle kungfu to enhance health, may find Tai Chi Chuan with its breathing exercises, more useful to him.
But if a scholarly-looking gentleman, or lady, particularly one without muscular strenght or towering height, wishes to learn within a relative short time, some effective techniques for self-defence, and he, or she, is not prepared to undergo strenuous, painstaking exercises characteristic of some "hard" kungfu, nor keen to wear the rough tell-tale marks of an orthrodox martial artist such as callous hands, then Wing Choon Kungfu is probably the best choice.
An old picture showing Grandmaster Wong applying a pattern from the Flower Set on an old student, Wong Weng Tuck
Chinese Medicine and Kungfu Training
Q14. Is Chinese medicine necessary in Wing Choon Kungfu training?
Ans: In many styles of kungfu, Chinese medicine is often used supplementarily:
- to heal damaged tissues and relieve pain, as in hard-force training and accidental injuries sustained in sparring;
- to redress fatigue and regenerate energy, as in prolonged, vigorous training;
- to build up and strength the body, as in "iron-shirt" art whereby the proponent can take nodily strikes without being hurt;
- to facilate or accelerate training process, as in "chi kuung" (or mediative-respiratory exercises).
Such kungfu medicine are available in various forms.such as medicated wine, medicinal pills, medicinal powder, medicated solution (for external use) and medicated soup (for internal use).
In some form of kungfu training, as in hard-force training like iron-palm and iron-fist, Chinese medicine is indispensible, otherwise those bodily parts undergoing training may be permanently damaged or deformed.
In Wing Choon Kungfu, where soft-force is prominent, Chinese medicine is not essential. Nevertheless, for those who wish to prepare some kungfu medicine and can obtain the necessary ingredients, I list below two medical prescriptions, one for external and the other for internal use. Needless to say, their application is voluntary and I shall not take any responsibility. The Mandarine pronunciation and scientific names of the ingredients are given.
Kungfu Medicated Wine
yu hseong -- Pistacia lentiscus
mok yow -- Commiphora
tang kwei -- Ligusticum acutilobum
che cheok -- Paeonia albifloria
fang foong -- Siler divanicutum
chuan kung -- Coniselinum unvittatum
pai tze -- Angelica glabrai
tao jen -- Prunus persica
chuan hoong hwa -- Carthamus tinctorius
wu chia pei -- Acantho panax
Preparation: Obtain five "chien" (about 20 grams or 0.8 oz) of each ingredients and completely soak the mixture in four "kati" (about 4 pints) of seasoned rice wine for at least two months. Seal he container throughout the period of soakiong. Use earthern or glass container, but not plastic nor metal one.
Usage: Apply some medicated wine to the affected parts and rub in vigorously. The medicated winw is useful for bruises, spraina and internal blood clot, and is essential for hard-force training like punching sand bags and striking wooden poles.
Kungfu Medicinal Soup
hou phok -- Magnolia officinalis
su khen -- Perilla frutescens
tze kher -- Poncirus trifoliuata
sa jen -- Hedychium coronarium
hoong hwa -- Carthamus tinctorius
tang kwei -- Ligusticum acutilobum
muk hseong -- Inula Helenium
che cheak -- Paeonia albifloria
tao jen -- Prunus persica
hseong fu -- Cyperua rotundus
Preparation: Obtain three "chien" (about 12 grams or 0.5 oz) of each ingredient. Brew the mixture with three bowls of water over a small fire until about one bowl of soup remains. Drink the soup when lurkwarm. Keep the residue for a repeated brewing like above on the next day. Drink the soup and discard the residue.
Usage: This medicinal soup is useful for internal injury. It promotes circulation of "chi" (or energy) and blood. If free sparring in practiced, it is recommended to take this medicinal soup once a month to take precaution against undetected injury. This medicinal soup must not be taken by expecting mothers.
Wing Choon Weapons
Q15. Can one learn Wing Choon Kungfu without learning weapon sets?
Ans: The butterfly knives and the Six-and-Half-Point Staff are traditionally regarded as classical Wing Choon weapons. In the past, one's Wing Choon training was not complete until he had learnt these two weapons. This was because fights involving weapons were not uncommon.
Nowadays the situation is different. Since carrying a weapon is illegal, actual fighting with weapons is virtually absent. Moreover, the invention of firearms has caused these weapons lose much of their original martial significance.
Although practicing classical weapons still has its functional value, most people today learn these weapons out of interest rather than for their combative purposes. Hence, if one's aim in learning kungfu is for self-defence (generally against unarmed opponents), health and better bodily co-ordination, he can realize his aim adequately by learning Wing Choon Kungfu without its weapon sets. He can achieve remarkable proficiency in unarmed combat without having to learn any weapon. In fact, many people nowadays practice only unarmed kungfu or any martial art, and have virtually discarded classical weapons, partly because classical weapons are not easily or conveniently available, and mainly because they feel these weapons are now absolete.
However, for those who indulge in kungfu for its fascination, weapon sets can offer much insight and gratification. One who has learnt classical weapons satisfactorily will not only be more competent in facing an opponent who uses an improvised weapon (like a broken bottle or a sharpened pole), but also find weapon sets illustrate more emphatically than unarmed sets certain kungfu principles that can be very helpful to him in unarmed fighting. Of all the Wing Choon sets, personally I find Siu Lin Tou the most important in teaching Wing Choon forms, Six-and-Half-Point Staff the most enlightening in illustrating Wing Choon applications.
Philosophy and Morality
Q16. Are there any philosophical or moral teachings in kungfu?
Ans: One beautiful aspect of kungfu is that it teaches not only fighting skills and techniques, but also philosophical and moral values. Since there are so many styles and sub-styles of kungfu, it is not easy to particularize a singular pattern of kungfu philosophy. Nevertheless, certain philosophical, moral or spiritual teachings can be recognized in all styles. Probably the most esteemed principle is "Respect the Master and Honour Righteousness".
In the Shaolin Monastery, in order to provide disciples with some definite guidelines on righteousness, there were, and still are in the Shaolin tradition, Twelve Shaolin Ethics, Ten Forbidden Acts and Ten Obligations. Listed below are some quotations from these moral principles or rules:
Kungfu and Violence
- Respect the Master, honour the Moral Code, and love fellow disciples. (1st Ethical Rule)
- Practice kungfu devotedly and build up a strong, healthy body. (2nd Ethical Rule)
- Forbidden to molest or rape. (!st Forbidden Act)
- Forbidden to torture, or to be cruel. (6th Forbidden Act)
- Obliged to save lives, and to contribute to humanity. (4th Obligation)
- obliged to pass on the Arts unselfishly to selected, good disciples. (10th Obligation)
Q17. What does kungfu teach regarding violence?
Ans: Kungfu teaches non-violencd, or abstinence from violence. Superficially it appears paradoxical that a martial art teaching its followers to fight well, also teaches non-violence. The underlying philosophical eplanation is that one often needs to be martially strong to preserve respectable peace -- a principle that is frequemntly manifested in daily life.
This feature of non-violence is clearly reflected in Wing Choon training. One can appreciate this feature better if he compares the training methods, techniques, emphasis, movements, principles, etc of Wing Choon Kungfu with those of other martial arts like Taekwondo and Karate.
Frequently a vkiolence-inclinded individual becomes less impetuous after he has learnt kungfu for some time. This is because the patience, humility and pre-requisite calmness demanded of a student in kungfu training and tradition, often have a sobering effect on him.
Kungfu and Politics
Q18. Did kungfu play any significant part in the politics of old China?
Ans: Politics in old China was understandably very different from politics today. Centuries of autocratic rule had conditioned the political thoughts and feelings of the people. Democracy was unknown, and monachy was the matter of course. Kungfu as an institution was quite detached from politics, but generally the political attitude of kungfu exponents was support of a good government, and rebellion against a bad one, while the mass, with no strength, physical as well as moral, could only await their fate.
During the Tang Dynasty, for example, a group of five hundred monks from the Shaolin Monastery subdued a notorous rebellion for the popular govenment, whereas in the Qing Dynasty the monastery became a centre of revolutionary activities. Exponents of Choy-Li-Fatt Kungfu played a leading role in the Taiping Rebellion. Though they failed to overthrow the corrupt Qing Dynasty, they paved the way for the Chinese Revolution of 1911 where many kungfu exponents took part heroically. Thus, although Confucius has never been a revered figure in kungfu, this political attitude is rather Confucianistic.
Since the Tang Dynasty in the seventh century, there were publci selections (parallel to the Civil Service Examination) to recruit kungfu experts into military services. Many famous warriors, like the Song general, Yue Fei, who founded Eagle-Claw Kungfu and Shing Yi Kungfu, and the Ming general, Chit Chuet Kwang, who led successful naval expeditions to Japan, were Shaolin disciples. Kungfu experts were always invovled in the rise and fall of dynasties; during peacetime, however, it was the scholar class that ruled the country.
Kungfu, Religion and Monasteries
Q19. Must one be a Buddhist in order to be accepted to train kungfu in the Shaolin Monastery? Are there any monasteries today teaching kungfu the way it was taught in Shaolin?
Ans: Although the Shaolin Monastery was a Buddhist institution, not all its kungfu disciples were Buddhist. At first kungfu was taught only to monks at the Monastery, but secular discipes were accepted later on. The concept of having one personal religion was alien to the Chinese; it was introduced by the West only recently. Thus the question whether a disciple was Buhhist or not, was irrelevant at that time. A typical Chinese could (and still can) be a Buddhist, Taoist, Confucianist and free-thinker all at the same time.
Besides the Shaolin Monastery, there were also other monasteries or temples in China teaching kungfu. Many of these taught Shaolin Kungfu and followed the Shaolin tradition. Yim Wing Choon, for example, learned Shaolin Kungfu from the Venerable Ng Mooi at the Forest-of-Laughing-Buddha Buddhist Chamber, which was not far from the Shaolin Monastery in Fujian Province. The Long Thian Monastery of Shangtung Province in North China, and the Hoi Tong Temple of Kwantung Province in South China were two other famous Shaolin institions.
I think there are now (about 1975) no monasteries nor temples teaching kungfu the way it was taught at the Shaolin Monastery. Shaolin disciples stayed at the monastery. Before they were accepted for kungfu training proper, they spent many months as temple-servants. Unknown to them, this was the time their character was observed, and also kungfu force was unconsciously developed while performing stipulated laborours jobs. Those who passed this probabtion would be allowed to train in the general hall.
Their kungfu training was vigorous and demanding, training in the morning, afternoon and at night -- for at least seven hours a day, compared to seven hours a week of the average modern student. The Shaolin disciples had no distractions, no financial worries, and were taught in senic environment by some of the best kungfu masters of the time. Under such ideal conditions, it became a conservative estimate to say that a year of kungfu training at the Shaolin Monastery was better than five years of training at a commercial kungfu school today.
Curriculum for Wing Choon Training
Q20. Can you please suggest a complete curriculum for Wing Choon Kungfu from beginners' to masters' level? Please specify the average length of time for each stage of training.
Ans: The following plan is helpful to the general student in his Wing Choon training. He many, of course, have to modify it to suit his individual needs or situations. Factor like environmental conditions, previous martial art background, and the type and quality of supervision he gets from instructors, is any, also influence the rate of his progress. The plan is based on the premise that the student trains for at least an hour a day. For convenience, the training programme is divided into stages and parts, and each part requires about three months of training.
Beginners' Stage (6 months)
Part 1: Learn Siu Lin Tou, with empphasis on accuracy of form.
Part 2: (a) Practice Siu Lin Tou;
(b) Learn applications of Siu Lin Tou;
(c) Practice pinning-hand process and circling-hand process of Sticking Hands.
Intermediate Stage (1 year)
Part 1: (a) Practice Siu Lin Tou with emphasis on forceful execution of its patterns where force is needed;
(b) Practice applications of Siu Lin Tou;
(c) Learn Cham Kiew:
(d) Learn Stationary-Footwork-Sticking-Hands.
Part 2: (a) Practice Siu Lin Tou with form-accuracy, force and speed;
(b) Practice Chiam Kiew;
(c) Learn application of Chiam Kiew;
(d) Practice Stationar-Footwork-Sticking-Hands;
(e) Learn Inch-force.
Part 3: (a) Practice Siu Lin Tou and Chiam Kiew -- both sets to be performed one immdiately after the other;
(b) Practice applications of Siu Lin Tou and Chiam Kiew;
(c) Learn Mobile-Footwork-Sticking-Hands;
(d) Develop Inch-Force.
Part 4: (a) Practice Siu Lin Tou and Chiam Kiew together;
(b) Practice prearranged sparring;
(c) Learn Piu Chee;
(d) Practice Sticking-Hands;
(e) Develop Inch-Force.
Advanced Stage (1.5 years)
Part 1: (a) Practice Siu Lin Tou, Chiam Kiew and Piu Chee -- the three sets to be performed continuously as if they were one long set;
(b) Learn applications of Piu Chee;
(c) Practice Sticking-Hands and force development;
(d) Practice prearranged sparring.
Part 2: (a) Practice the three classical sets;
(b) Practice Sticking-Hands and force development;
(c) Learn and practice free sparring.
Part 3: (a) Practice the three classical sets;
(b) Practice Sticking-Hands and force development;
(c) Free sparring;
(d) Learn the butterfly knives set.
Part 4: (a) Practice the three classical sets;
(b) Practice Sticking-Hands and force development;
(c) Free sparring;
(d) Learn the applications of the butterfly knives.
Part 5: (a) Practice selections from the three classical sets, with emphasis on
combinations and variations;
(b) Practice Sticking-Hands and force development;
(c) Free sparring (unarmed);
(d) Prearranged sparring using butterfly knives;
(e) Learn wooden dummy exercises.
Part 6: (a) Practice selections fron the three classical sets:
(b) Practice Sticking-Hands and force development;
(c) Free sparring (unarmed);
(d) Practice free sparring using butterfly knives;
(e) Practice wooden dummy exercises.
Masters' Stage (3 years)
(a) Practice to master splecially selected Wing Choon techniques for combat -- 1 year.
(b) Lean, practice and master the Six-and-Half-Point Staff -- 2 years.
Listed below is a summary of the Wing Choon items in the usual order of training them:
- Siu Lin Tou
- Chiam Kiew
- Piu Chee
- Butterfly Knives
- Wooden Dummy Techniques
- Six-and-Half-Point Staff
For those who use this book as a self-taught manuel to learn Wing Choon Kungfu, they can following this plan with some appropriate modifications.
Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit,
20th July 2019.
An old picture showing Grandmaster Wong being blind-folded engaging in Sticking Hands with a Wing Choon schoolmate, Sifu Koay
Introduction to Wing Choon Kungfu
Courses and Classes