Time has flown so quickly and Sung Wing Chun is now a year old. Mark, Jon and I decided to open the club so we could find like minded people to train with, to share our passion with and to spread what we know about this unique branch of wing chun. All we hoped for was a few regular students, probably local to the area, so we could cover the cost of a training hall. Although we are still only small we are holding our own with 20 regular students attending, the interesting thing being how far they travel; Bradford, Leeds, Ripon, Barnsley, Rotherham, Chesterfield, London, Holland etc. Knowing that my 5 minute drive home at the end of a class is eclipsed by the hour and a half plus journey being made by some students is very humbling and something we appreciate greatly.
What I think attracts our students is our link to Chu Shong Tin and the honest approach to passing on his teaching. We ask a lot from students but we give a lot back in return. The videos we have uploaded to Youtube have had 43,000 hits and our website has had 23,000 page views from 40 countries so I believe we are spreading Sigung's message well.
For this next year we hope to build the class further, invest in more training equipment and hopefully attract some of our friends to visit us who lived in Hong Kong and trained with Chu Shong Tin. We have already been lucky in this regard in having Mark Allanson visit us for a week and do some teaching. Ideally we would have our own training venue where we could store a dummy and punch bags, but for us the people are more important than the place we train.
I want to thank Mark and Jon for coming on the journey with me, and also those students who make the effort to train in what can be a difficult art to comprehend. The true jewel of wing chun is that it helps us understand our bodies better and in fact our whole selves better by the pursuit of optimal efficiency of movement. After 13 years I am more fascinated by this than ever, and I hope that is something Sung can spread further.
Chu Shong Tin lineage wing chun is not well known in the UK, but thanks to the Internet knowledge is spreading. This means that at our club we get a steady trickle of practitioners from other clubs interested to attend and see the difference in how we train. I have a lot of respect for those who can set aside their own conceptions of the art and potentially start again, it takes a lot of humility to accept that although you may be good at something, there may be a better way out there.
However, when I tell most other wing chun practitioners that I practice the lineage of Chu Shong Tin, I am more often than not met with blank expressions. Whilst some of his better known peers claimed secret knowledge had been passed to them by Ip Man, other wrote books and articles and proclaimed themselves kings of chi sau, Chu Shong Tin devoted himself to training and teaching from his home in Hong Kong for the whole of his adult life. During this time he had an open door, he practiced with anyone who approached him and for a period even had a monthly session at the Ving Tsun Athletic Association where anyone could ask him to demonstrate or explain his understanding of wing chun.
A martial art means different things to each of us, each person's motive is valid for their own puposes and it does not mean someone else's wing chun is bad if they do not follow the same path. My reasons for training this method are that I have found something that suits me best, not that it is necessarily the best for everyone.
I have a friend who is a 2nd dan black belt in kick boxing, he is as hard as nails and still going strong in his mid 40s. In ny youth I enjoyed the approach of hitting harder and faster, but if I had continued that path of training I know at this stage I would have had such a build up of injuries I would have given up. An art based on fitness and conditioning takes a lot of work to reach a fighting stage, and the skill can degrade quickly air your fitness dips. In a sense all of that is a young man's game, but maximum respect to anyone who can keep up at a later stage of life.
I have another friend who is a 3rd dan in jui jutsu, his focus is not based on ring fighting it is on reality training; defense against ambush, knife attacks etc. The reality of this training is drilling imaginary attacks, living a life on permanent alarm in case of attack; seeing every stranger as a theat. For me life is already too stressful for that but I do understand how useful it is for those people whose life situation bring them into regular danger.
I know others who see their wing chun as a way to show off their skills. It is easy to fall into this trap as there are enough new students around that a teacher can wow people every week with their ability, they can even write about them on the net and produce videos. Chi sau is a great way to build up a skill, especially if you are fixing your students to react in a certain way which means you always have the upper hand.
My suggestion is to understand the whole package which wing chun holds, sparing, reality and the skills are all part of it. Just because you are good at one thing, appreciate others might see it differently and respect the difference.
I do no know how good Chu Shong Tin was when he was at his prime as he was about 74 when I met him. He never showed off, proclaimed he was better than others or sought to put himself on a pedestal; he was put there by his students. The true test of a cult like group is whether the leader is the one promoting themselves to the world, but for Chu Shong Tin the devotion and respect he gained very much came from his students and grand-students. If I thought I was any good at wing chun when I touched Chu Shong Tin's hand this was not so much knocked out of me, but more a sudden realisation that not only was I powerless to stop him moving, my structure was so compromised on contact that I could not generate any power myself. Reality is a great way to teach humility.
Perhaps CST had a special talent, I like to thing though that his abilities were a result of a lifetime of devotion to training, testing and teaching; the true meaning of kung fu.
There is nothing wrong in believing you are good at something, I know that I am not bad at what I do but that is how it should be after training almost every day for 13 years. I do know that there are better fighters out there, more dangerous individuals and those with skills I do not understand. The reason I have kept returning to train to Hong Kong is to expose myself to that higher level of the art, is that training (not self proclaiming) is the only route to improvement. Many people say that relaxation is the key to wing chun, the reason I know this to be true is I have experienced it by being exposed to those much better than me and also I have seen vast improvement in students who have diligently followed the correct principles.
A great example of humility I have seen recently is from a teacher from my lineage who runs a large successful club in Prague, Sifu Dalibor Kubena. He is currently in Hong Kong where he travels every year to continue his training. Not only is he happy to take his students with him and potentially expose himself as not being infallible at the hands of instructors there (there are many sifus who will not do this), after training he has been videoing what he learned so it can be uploaded to youtube to help his students at home. By being open to his students, aknowledging he is on a journey of learning, he teaches a great lesson for us all about to commitment to improvement. The day you stop being a student is the day you stop learning.
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