1. How and when did you discover Wing Chun?
Rough neighbourhood and trouble at school, 1998, yellow pages.
2. What is Wing Chun to you? What keeps you going?
Wing Chun for me has become a way of life. Firstly, it has changed my relationship with the inner workings of my mind so that I have more understanding and control of my both thoughts and emotions, and as a result I feel that I can understand and relate to other people with empathy. This has really improved the quality of my relationships.
Secondly, it has really given me remarkable control of my body. The way we practice wing is through deep relaxation muscles and gaining access to the joints and connective tissues mindfully. This has enabled me to use my body in a much more efficient way than before, in any movement, activity or posture.
As I mentioned, I started Wing Chun for self-defence but now what keeps me going are two things. First, I’m very curious to see how far I can take it as in how much deeper can go into my own mind and body. Second, since it has helped me so much in my life I really want to dedicate my life to being able to share it with as many people as possible. These are the two reasons that not only ‘keep me going’ but they’re the fuel that make the fire bigger and bigger.
3. What would like to share with the world about Wing Chun?
Wing Chun is much more than just an efficient self-defence system, and it really is an effective martial art. I can speak from experience to say that even before I moved to Hong Kong and learnt the internal mindful aspect of it, which has at least tripled the power and speed I can produce, even before that, when I was simply applying the external mechanics and principles of Wing Chun, I was able to defend myself effectively. I was bouncing at King Cross in Sydney for a couple of years and survived.
However, I believe that the self-defence aspect is only a branch of the entire Wing Chun tree. For me, the essence of Wing Chun is the remarkable self-development and potentially life-changing aspects of it. This aspect of Wing Chun is very real and attainable if the practitioner approaches the training in the correct way and with the right intentions.
You see, Wing Chun is an art which is both very energizing and calming for the mind and body. It’s energizing for the mind because it required one pointed focus which is actually the same reason that it’s very calming and meditative.
Because once we learn to focus the mind in that way, through the correct practice of the first form Siu Nim Tao, the sharp focus means that we’re not getting trapped in the uncontrollable and overwhelming train of thoughts which Buddhists refer to as the Monkey Mind.
As for the body, it’s calming and relaxing because being able to deeply relax the muscles and gain access to the joints is one of the key aspects of the art. This in turn becomes very energizing for the body because tension acts as blockages in the body where energy cannot flow through easily similar to a hose that’s blocked. Once we open up these blockages we start to get access to what people call ‘Chi’, which is an inherent life energy in all of us. This is basically what Chinese medicine and acupuncture and some other internal arts are based on too.
So yeah Wing Chun is truly a incredible art and you can see why I’m addicted to it!
I guess my message to the Wing Chun world is ask yourself that through your practice, have you become more aggressive or calm? Do you look for more fights when you go out or the opposite? Have your relationships with others improved, and not just people you know. I’m talking about random people who you run into at the supermarket or on public transport.
Has it made you a better human being or has it only made you a better fighter?
By asking these questions, perhaps you may become more interested in reflecting on your reasons for practicing and teaching.
4. What is your favourite Wing Chun related story and could you share it?
Wow, that’s a tough question, ‘cause there are many cool stories I can tell; some transformational, some on self-defence, you know, and many other subjects. But the one I’ll share today is on the healing qualities of Wing Chun.
So I came to Hong Kong in 2005 to train with my Grandmaster CST. For those who don’t know him he was basically the longest serving student of Ip Man. He lived with Ip and was the main teacher at his school in the 1950s.
Actually, its funny cause a lot of people within the Ip Man lineage haven’t heard much about him until recently. Derek Fung, William Cheung, other later students used to actually say that he wasn’t even doing Wing Chun and he was doing ‘Chi Gong’ or ‘Tai Chi’.
So I met him in Sydney in a seminar and was absolutely blown away but both his power and his loving and non-aggressive nature. It was very appealing to me.
Anyway, so that’s who he was and I came to Hong Kong and trained under him fulltime for 9 years before he passed away.
The story is about his health and how Wing Chun sustained it to the surprise of his doctors. Despite his devastating stomach pain, dangerously low platelet count, and on top of all that, cancer in the end, he never retired and was teaching until his passing. He believed that it was his deep internal grasp of ‘Nim Lik’ that sustained him, and even put the cancer in remission in a previous bout with the disease.
5. How do you use Wing Chun concepts/ideas in day-to-day life?
I mentioned earlier about having more control and the energizing and relaxing of the mind and body. On top of that, I try to live my life with the Wing Chun philosophy of acceptance and non-resistance. The way I practice my Wing Chun, for example in ‘Chi Sau’, is to figure out how I can avoid resist the incoming force and instead have it that I can accept it without it affecting my structure, balance and state of mind.
So I find myself naturally applying that in my life too. When a person or a life situation throws challenges at me, rather than getting stuck up and resisting the problem, I can accept the situation as it is and therefor made a more calculated decision which hopefully causes the least amount of pain and suffering to myself and others and is most beneficial to everyone.
Now don’t get me wrong I’m no Dalai Lama, but my personality and view of life has shifted for the better completely thanks to Wing Chun and now I have a lifetime to practice using and developing this tool.
6. How can we contribute more to the Wing Chun community, so we can work together more easily and learn more from each-other?
I think a few factors may help.
Firstly, I think the forums should have healthy discussions rather than arguments and politics. I think this lies in the way we communicate with each other. I just recently read a book which I highly recommend to everyone and it’s called “Non-violent Communication” by Marshall Rosenberg. This guy’s a champ. He’s a psychologist and physiotherapist who has dedicated his life to great causes. He himself grew up in Detroit and was around deadly violence in his childhood. Later in his adult life he was helping people to use what he called non-violent communication to solve their disagreements. From ghetto schools to African tribes, to middle eastern warfare of Palestine and Israel.
I think if we can get our points and opinions across without disrespect and aggression then that would be a very big step in uniting the Wing Chun community.
Another thing is for people to be open to welcoming other lineages to their schools without being defensive. For example, in the last year our school here in Hong Kong had 10s of practitioners from other lineages visit and train with us.
Many of them are teachers and Sifus of Wing Chun in different parts of the world. So this would require the Sifus to be okay and in fact encourage their students to go and check out other schools. This way the gang-mentality of the school or lineage with thin down and people will become more open minded.
Grandmaster CST has never talked poorly of any other Sifus, and I think that’s a virtue to live by. I have a lot of respect for teachers that are open minded and are willing to learn more, because I think until the end, we are all students. It’s like saying that I have mastered life and no one can teach me anything! This would be very close minded and untrue of me to say right? Well in Wing Chun it’s the same. I’m not talking about just in terms of knowledge and skill, because there are many more factors than that. You might be much more knowledgeable than me but with an open mind, you might notice how my students have a lot of genuine love and respect for me and after inquiring into it you learn that I treat my students like family. So by being open minded you can learn that aspect of teaching about me.
So all in all, I think it’s up to the open mindedness of the teacher because usually the students will follow in their footsteps.
7. How do you make your training fun?
To be honest my training is my passion and a massive part of my life. Every day except Sundays I spend 30-50% of my time doing Wing Chun related things. So if it wasn’t fun I wouldn’t be doing it. I think that’s the case with anyone who has a true passion for something be it music, arts, sports, or anything. And I think that passion and fun go hand in hand naturally.
But, in the first few years of my training, I remember it being a chore, I would still do the hours but in a forced way. So during those times I would try my best to set the scene for my training to make it less of a chore.
For example, my training partners became some of my closest friends so training was just hanging out with friends. We would try and go to nice nature locations like beaches and parks (which was the good thing about training outdoors in Australia). I also remember I started practicing in swimming pools under water so it was easier to relax.
At home I would make it like a ritual by putting very relaxing instrumental music and I would even sometimes do aromatherapy so set a relaxing mood while I practiced.
But as I mentioned, these days my relationship with Wing Chun is at the point where my life would be lacking lots of fun if I stopped practicing and teaching Wing Chun.
8. If you could share only ONE lesson with your students, what would that be?
I would advise my students to ask themselves why they are practicing Wing Chun, and to see if they can come up with an answer that is not merely limited to self-defence and fighting.
Trust me when I say Wing Chun is much, much deeper than just the external self-defence movements. It’s a potential transformational tool.But don’t just believe me, seek for the correct way of practice and once you have found the right method of practice and the right teacher, then keep up their daily practice. Make it a habit.
Before we sleep we brush our teeth. We shower daily. These things are habits which have been developed over time. So obviously you don’t need to put these things into your daily schedule or diary.
So I suggest to make Wing Chun like that. Start with 15 minutes a day practicing Siu Nim Tao. Do it every day for a couple of months and by then its already a habit. But don’t miss a day in these couple of months.
During your practice, try to move as effortlessly as possible. Constantly ask yourself, how can I stand with less effort, how can I move with less effort. Maintain focus and stay in the present moment, so don’t think about other things. Gradually you will start to feel more relaxed and you will get a holistic sense in your body. After some time, you will start to experience the difference within your body and mind and by then, you’re hooked.