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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