Jeremy Roadruck is currently a third degree Black Sash in the Ving Tsun Museum grading curriculum under the guidance of his Sifu, Master Benny Meng. Jeremy performed his Baai Si under Master Meng on June 28, 1997. Jeremy was in the first group of students to complete the Ip Man system of Wing Chun in 2000 along with 4 other classmates: Loewenhagen, Mike Mathews, Rick Howard, and Dan Wells. Moy Yat International recognized him as a First Degree Instructor in 2000. Jeremy is also recognized as a 7th level Senior Instructor certified by the Ving Tsun Athletic Association in Hong Kong, having participated in the VTAA Senior Instructor Certification Program hosted at the VTM in October, 1999. Jeremy was accepted as a 10th Generation Disciple in the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kung Fu system on September 8, 2001 under Sifu Meng, granted by Gee. Jeremy is also a certified Instructor in Krav Maga. Through VTM sponsorship and workshops, in May of 2003 Jeremy completed the Base Level Instructor Course in the Chi Sim Weng Chun Kung Fu System under the direct guidance of Grand Master Andreas Hoffmann.
Articles By Jeremy Roadruck
First World Ving Tsun Conference
First World Ving Tsun Conference
By Jeremy Roadruck
Continuing its quest to document the history of Ving Tsun Kung Fu, past and present, the Ving Tsun Museum (VTM) led an American contingent of martial arts practitioners and teachers to the First World Ving Tsun Conference and made a few historic side trips along the way. Master Benny Meng, the Curator of the VTM and the American representative for the 1st World Ving Tsun Conference, led the American participants through 20 major events in 10 days of travel through China and Hong Kong. The events included martial arts demonstrations by the VTM and the Ving Tsun Athletic Association (VTAA) both in Hong Kong and at the birthplace of Ving Tsun Kung Fu, in Fut Shan, China. Also included were World Conference activities and seminars focused on moving the most popular martial arts system on the planet into the next century for even greater growth and improvement. Finally, Sifu Meng and the museum staff visited both Sifu William Cheung and Sifu Leung Ting for the purpose of soliciting their views and support for unifying and advancing the art of Ving Tsun Kung Fu.
Over 30 years ago late Grand Master Yip Man, the century’s most influential teacher of Ving Tsun Kung Fu, predicted a gathering of Ving Tsun Kung Fu practitioners from around the world. On 3-13 November, 1999, that prediction finally came true. Yip Man’s legacy to the martial arts world, the VTAA in Hong Kong, hosted the first ever World Ving Tsun Kung Fu Conference with events scheduled in both Hong Kong and on mainland China stemming all the way to Fut Shan, the legendary birthplace of Ving Tsun Kung Fu. In attendance were more than 700 renowned martial artists from around the globe. To facilitate participants further, the conference was scheduled to coincide with the events of the 5th World Wushu Championships occurring simultaneously in Hong Kong.
In tribute to the man who brought Ving Tsun from its secret roots to the light of the world stage, the conference opened with a visit to Yip Man’s tomb on a hilltop in Fung Ling, the New Territories of Hong Kong. Seminar participants trekked over a quarter of a mile up the hill, passing hundreds of gravesites enroute. When seminar participants arrived at the tomb to pay their respects to the late grand master, they found Sifus Chu Shong Tin, Yip Ching, Yip Chun, William Cheung, Lee Wai Chi, Siu Yuk Men, and Ma Hang Lum, all direct students of Yip Man, waiting to greet them. As it is customary in Chinese memorial ceremonies to offer incense and share food and drink at the tomb, the air was filled with the combined aromas of incense and roast pig. All shared in the feast at the tomb, while many formal photos were taken to document history for the next millenium.
Following the trip to Yip Man’s tomb, participants proceeded to Wa Ying College where the World Conference seminar activities were hosted. Sifu Chu Shong Tin, the current President of the VTAA, opened the proceedings with the following statement: “Grand Master Yip Man predicted that Ving Tsun would have such a profound influence on the world at large and that a world-wide conference would take place. It just took 30 years or so – better late than never!”
Following his inspirational comments, an impressive presentation of banners from schools of the Yip Man lineage spread across the world preceded welcoming addresses by Mr. Lam Kin Wong, honorary President of the Hong Kong Chinese Martial Arts Association, and Mr Ian Fok Esquire, Chairman of the Hong Kong Wushu Union and the 5th World Wushu Championships. Both speakers highlighted the importance of Ving Tsun Kung Fu to the world of martial arts and acknowledged the impressive accomplishments of Yip Man and his extensive lineage.
The first day’s events were highlighted by a landmark presentation delivered by Yip Man’s eldest son, Yip Chun, calling for development of competitive sporting events in Ving Tsun Kung Fu by expanding the use of its Chi Sao training methodology. Traditional Ving Tsun practitioners have long argued that Ving Tsun is strictly a combat art and, as such, cannot be rendered useful for sporting events. Sifu Yip Chun emphasized that Ving Tsun’s growing popularity mandates its employment in sporting events as well. He proposed to use Chi Sao for this purpose and demonstrated scoring concepts to support his position. Evolutionary debate and development on this subject will most certainly grow over the next decade now that the subject has been opened at a World Conference level.
The remainder of the first day’s activities was taken up with actual Ving Tsun demonstrations by direct students of Grand Master Yip Man. Sifu Chu Shong Tin opened the demonstrations with a discussion on Siu Nim Tao level training. He placed strong emphasis on body unity and chi energy development, as well as the need to understand and embrace Ving Tsun’s key concepts involving use of centerline orientation and straight line movement. He was followed by Sifu Siu Yuk Man demonstrating Chum Kiu level skills and discussions of form, theory, and kicking applications.
Yip Man’s second son, Sifu Yip Ching tackled Biu Je level skill demonstrations with an emphasis on three specific types of power generation: 1) Reactional Power – generated from the movement of opposing extremities, 2) Explosive Power – generated from the body in up/down motion, and 3) Momentum Power – generated from bracing and stepping motions.
Ving Tsun weapons demonstrations followed. The Luk Dim Boon Kwan (long pole) was closely examined by Sifus Chiu Hok Yin and Sifu An Yeung Kim Man of the Wong Shun Leung family. Sifu An brought a rarely seen and unique 12 foot pole to use for his demonstration. Sifu Francis Wong concluded with a Bot Jom Doa demonstration, a discussion of lethal applications, and a historical story of the last group of students to learn Ving Tsun’s butterfly swords directly from Grand Master Yip Man.
The first day’s conference events closed with an original home video of Yip Man demonstrating the Siu Nim Tao, Chum Kiu, and Muk Yan Johng forms 16 days before his death. The purpose of showing this video was obvious to all conference participants. Over the last 30 years, some less scrupulous teachers have altered the Ving Tsun forms and then informed the world that they were the only persons taught how to perform them correctly by the late Grand Master. These same unscrupulous teachers then offered copies of this home video, after extensive “editing” to remove key segments that differed from their claims, as proof of their own authenticity. Unfortunately, the changes these well-known figures made to the forms (and the video) actually violate some of the key principles and concepts of the art itself. For this reason, the original video was presented here at the World Conference to show all participants the precise way that Yip Man practiced these crucial forms. As proof of the original video’s authenticity and “unedited” condition, a baby, the son of Sifu Yip Ching, walking across the screen during Yip Man’s practice was not edited out of the video. The screening of this video was one of the highlights of the conference as it finally put to rest many contentious issues surrounding competing claims of how Yip Man performed his forms.
The second day’s conference events were highlighted by four hallmark presentations that will almost certainly have an evolutionary impact on the direction of Ving Tsun Kung Fu in the 21st Century. The first was a presentation by Sifu Lewis Luk of a proposed instructor grading system put forth by the Ving Tsun Athletic Association. The historical significance is not in the system itself, but rather in the widespread acknowledgement that one is needed. For years many of Yip Man’s descendents have argued that only their respective lineage was qualified to fully teach and pass on the art (to the exclusion of all others). Widespread consideration of an instructor grading system by a central organization that owes allegiance only to the art itself is long overdue. Perhaps the next century will entail widespread identification of such an organization and acceptance as well.
The second landmark presentation was an impassioned plea by Sifu William Cheung for unity in the art. Sifu Cheung went so far as to state that he and his representatives made a last minute decision to attend the conference, and only became involved for the sake of unity. Sifu Cheung noted that Ving Tsun was revealed to the world in Hong Kong 50 years ago, and since that time, it has spread across the globe. People everywhere have heard of it and want to know more. He emphasized that the time has come for unity of purpose and progression in the art.
The third history-making presentation was delivered by Sifu Benny Meng in his capacity as the Curator of the Ving Tsun Museum. Meng reminded participants that the museum’s purpose is to research Ving Tsun’s true history and archive and store its treasures. To that end, it was necessary to share at this conference the results of the museum’s research to date, regardless of impact. In a room filled with hundreds of martial artists who long ago accepted the legend of a Buddhist monk and a young woman named “Yim Ving Tsun” as the originators of the art, it took great courage to debunk that myth with the results of research. Yet, that is precisely what Sifu Meng and the museum staff attempted. The museum’s position on the roots of Ving Tsun are paraphrased as follows for the sake of brevity in this article.
According to the museum, Ving Tsun represents the culmination of Shaolin Kung Fu as practiced in the Northern and Southern monasteries. The Shaolin temples remained loyal to the Ming dynasty which was overrun by the Manchu, a northern minority, in 1644. This loyalty resulted in the Shaolin coming together with revolutionary groups for a common cause – the restoration of the Ming Family to the throne of China. Two particular monks have been identified as key players in the initial development of Ving Tsun: Chu Ming and Da Jung. Chu Ming is credited with founding the first secret society in the Shaolin temples. Da Jung has been identified as a fighting monk who was sent south to establish fighting skills at the southern temple in Fukien – out of sight of the Manchu whose political and military attentions were focused on the Northern Temple.
In support of the revolutionaries engaged in continuous physical struggle with the Manchu, the monks did not have the luxury of training hand-to-hand combat fighters for 10 to 15 years. They needed to train competent fighters in a much shorter period of time. Consequently, they took the best of their Shaolin and improved it with a focus on human physiology and the science of employing natural human motion.
The Northern Temple monks traveled south to form a secret society that met in a place called the Hung Fa Ting. In the Southern Temple, the meeting place was called Weng Chun Tong. At that time, Weng Chun had a coded meaning – Rebirth of Spring – implying the rebirth of the Ming dynasty. Development of their new fighting art continued and took on the name “Ving Tsun.” The development itself was directed by the head monks of the Southern Temple. One of the most important of those monks was named Yat Chum Dai Si. Yat Chum was one of the first to receive the total fighting knowledge of Ving Tsun. He passed this knowledge on to another monk named Cheung Ng. This occurred approximately 80 years after the fall of the Ming Dynasty. Around this same time, the Manchu, now entrenched as the Qing Dynasty in China, began to take serious notice of the revolutionary groups activities in the South and their closeness to the Southern Temple. Imperial troops were sent to destroy the Southern Temple. This caused the surviving monks and revolutionaries to move underground. They changed the Chinese characters in Ving Tsun’s name from “Everlasting” to “Praise.” Their actions were consistent with Chan Buddhism, whose practitioners traditionally passed on customs orally. At this time in history, the revolutionaries could not afford to write anything down, but they had to keep talking about revolution to keep the struggle alive. The word Yim, meaning “keep secret,” was added to the name Ving Tsun as a reminder to keep teaching the art in secret. Chinese history is colorful and filled with the use of secret or veiled phrases. These conclusions are all consistent with centuries of Chinese culture and history.
Museum research reveals there are no written or physical records of any kind validating the existence of the legendary nun, Ng Mui, or her legendary student, Yim Ving Tsun. However, the name “Ng Mui” translates to “Five Plums,” and the monk who received the Ving Tsun art, Cheung Ng has a similar name. Evidence can validate that Cheung Ng went to Fut Shan and established the Precious Jade Opera Company. This is the history of Ving Tsun according to the research conducted by the Ving Tsun Museum and its is based on certain written facts and consistency with other documented histories. What is most important is that Ving Tsun does come from Shaolin Kung Fu, and it was passed down through the secret societies. Wong Wah Bo and Hung Gun Biu were known to be involved with these secret societies, and there is a style alive today called Hung Fa Yi that came directly from Hung Gun Biu, who was in a direct line of succession from Cheung Ng. These are facts, not historical interpretations. Today you can identify 7 or 8 main lineages, with over 90% of all known practitioners stemming from one family – that of Yip Man.
The final landmark presentation of the second day of the conference was delivered by Professor Kham representing the China Athletic Association, an office of the Chinese Government responsible for the preservation and advancement of Chinese Martial Arts. Professor Kham acknowledged meeting with Yip Chun, Chu Shong Tin, and Siu Yuk Man with the specific intent of reintroducing and developing Ving Tsun Kung Fu in mainland China. Professor Kham noted that Ving Tsun is a true combat art, based on a complete system of development, that develops character as well as skill. As such, he called it one of the best martial arts in the world.
This day’s events concluded with the Ving Tsun Museum group and Sifu William Cheung’s group sharing dinner and discussing Ving Tsun history and the need for unity in the art. These discussions were fully documented for museum records.
The following day, many of the conference participants attended the 5th World Wushu Championships at the Tai Yuk Wui Physical Fitness Association to witness the San Shou (full-contact fighting) competitions and the final forms competitions.
The remaining 5 days encompassed extensive travel in mainland China. The first stop on the trip was a visit to Bruce Lee’s ancestral home in Shunde, China, where members of the Ving Tsun Athletic Association and the Ving Tsun Museum performed Ving Tsun demonstrations for the local citizens. The Ving Tsun Museum also met with current Sifus of the Chan Wah Shun lineage lineage to document differences in their forms and training methodologies. The interviews were recorded for museum records.
The next stop on the mainland journey was Fut Shan’s Jou Miu – Ancestor’s Park. Located in the park are two historical artifacts pertaining to Ving Tsun history. The first was an old historic photo featuring two members of the Red Boat Opera playing the Muk Yan Jong (Wooden Man Dummy) form on a Chinese Junk. This photo is part of a two-panel display in Ancestor’s Park on the history of Ving Tsun. A replica is available for view on the Ving Tsun Museum web page. The history contained on those two pages fully supports the Museum’s current research. The second artifact is an actual stage used by the Red Boat Opera members during the 19th Century. The stage itself was built during the Ming Dynasty, making it over 350 years old. For this special tour, participants were allowed onto the stage for photos and to play Chi Sao where their ancestors had played. For many, this profound experience was the finest highlight of the tour.
The third stop on the journey was Leung Jan’s home in Fut Shan, followed by a visit to Yip Man’s ancestral home. There participants visited the building that housed the school run by Chan Wah Shun in which Yip Man learned his Kung Fu. The agenda continued with more Ving Tsun demonstrations, including Ving Tsun Museum staff demonstrations of Chum Kiu level skills and Chi Sao progression.
Following four days of touring and demonstrating Ving Tsun Kung Fu, the conference participants returned to Hong Kong. The American contingent, under the leadership of Sifu Meng and the Ving Tsun Museum proceeded to Sifu Yip Ching’s home for private discussions of Yip Man’s life and history. These discussions were fully documented for Museum records.
A visit to the Ving Tsun Athletic Association Head Quarters came next, as well as a formal museum staff visit to Sifu Leung Ting’s world Head Quarters in Hong Kong. Sifu Meng and his staff shared dinner and private discussions with Sifu Leung Ting concerning the history and direction of Ving Tsun Kung Fu in the coming millenium. A final visit was paid to Sifu Lee Hoi Sang, first Sifu of Benny Meng, in Hong Kong for the same purpose. Again, all of these discussions were fully documented for historical purposes in museum archives.
During their short stay of 10 days in Hong Kong and mainland China, the Ving Tsun Museum staff and the American contingent participated in over 20 major activities coordinated by the Ving Tsun Athletic Association and the Ving Tsun Museum. Each activity constituted a unique opportunity to make new connections in the greater Ving Tsun global community, establish new friendships and strengthen old ones, while exchanging fresh ideas with practitioners from around the world.
To briefly summarize this whirlwind journey, the total of the combined activities represented an event of truly global proportions for Ving Tsun practitioners and teachers. Participants agreed that the Ving Tsun Athletic Association created a top-rate event, the ramifications of which will be felt throughout the martial arts world for many years to come. The staff of the Ving Tsun Museum and the American participants offer their most sincere congratulations and deepest thanks to the Ving Tsun Athletic Association for dedication and foresight shown in putting together this historic First World Ving Tsun Conference.
Sifu Benny Meng may be contacted at (937) 236-6485 for further information on Conference results and future Ving Tsun Athletic Association and Ving Tsun Museum agendas.
International Sifu participating in the Ving Tsun Athletic Assocaition World Ving Tsun conference
Levels of Learning
By Jeremy Roadruck
Ving Tsun is a highly scientific art form centered on the principles of simplicity, efficiency, and directness. To learn it and pass it on properly requires “System Thinking.” The nature of any system, or haih túng meaning “connected pieces” in Cantonese, is to yield an output greater than the sum of its parts. In the system of Ving Tsun Gùng Fuh, the principles, techniques, attributes, strategies, tactics, and methodologies used to train and employ them are intricately interrelated. Together they produce a result that is far greater than the sum of its individual components. The practitioner must understand this system as a whole and the relationships between each of its components in order to progress efficiently.As a system, Ving Tsun builds upon itself. It begins with a scientific base of principles and concepts. Upon this base rest layers of core processes and sub-processes that constitute a methodology for developing and employing the art. The system is most efficient when optimal use of these processes is mapped out and viewed as a proper sequence of learning and developing. If the practitioner violates this sequence, learning is impeded, and inefficiency and confusion begin to take over training time. The final output product will eventually be flawed.Ving Tsun’s sequence of learning and developing lends itself to a modern description of education and self-development on four distinct levels: Textbook, Laboratory, Intern, and Real Life. This brief treatise describes each of these levels of growth.
Kyùhn Tou – Textbook Level
Any course of study in a professional learning environment begins with a standardized text. Textbooks form the foundation of a formal learning program; they contain a progression from general information in the earlier chapters to specific information in latter chapters. Lesson plans, tests and quizzes, homework, and laboratory work all build from a course textbook. The phrase Kyùhn Tou, meaning “fist set” is used to describe this level of information.In learning a physical activity such as Ving Tsun, the textbook exists as a physical activity often called forms. Forms serve as a repository of physical techniques and mental concepts. Forms serve as textbooks detailing the principles, techniques, body mechanics, fundamental attributes, concepts, and providing guidelines for the application of techniques for each stage of training. As an individual progresses through the training system, he or she is introduced to more complex concepts and body mechanics through the introduction to new and more complex forms.Physically, the use of forms introduce techniques (motions) and develop body structure. In this discussion, forms can mean body mechanics or a sequence of movements. There are two processes to developing body mechanics. One process has the individual train motions first. As an individual becomes more accustomed to the motion, details are pointed out to develop alignment and structure. The other process develops body structure with details from the beginning. After an individual has developed foundational body structure, he or she will train various, specific motions utilizing the developed body structure.In Ving Tsun, as one’s physical foundation is developing, an individual is introduced to the basic tools of the training system. When first introduced, these tools are simple motions that serve to introduce general concepts. Eventually these motions are given specific meanings in relation to use, forms, and function. It is at that point that the motions become techniques. A technique is initially learned in pieces – a fist and a stance, and it is eventually connected into one unit – a punch. The Ving Tsun Museum defines a technique as “a motion with a purpose, supported by body structure and applied with tactics.”A novice is introduced to a selection of fundamental body positions and movements. The introduction can be through the use of a few simple movements as evidenced in the Gú Lòuh (often written into english as Gu Lao) lineages, Yún Kèih Sàan (Yuen Kay-San) lineages, Jéung Bóu (Cheung Bo) lineages, and others. The introduction can also be through the use of a more complicated collection of movements such as the Síu Nihm Tàuh (little idea in the beginning) form used by the Yihp Mahn (Yip Man) lineage and others. Regardless of format, the goal of this training remains the same. The novice begins to develop the most basic body mechanics that are reinforced throughout the rest of the training system. Each motion serves a purpose at some point in the training. Once an established foundation is developed, the novice is introduced to more complex body movements through the coordination of the body and the hands through movement in multiple directions. Using the Yip Man model of training as a reference, this represents the Chàhm Kìuh (searching the bridge) level of training. While more complicated than the Síu Nihm Tàuh level of training, the goal of the form remains the same – to teach specific body mechanics and make the student capable at performing them. Chàhm Kìuh is built upon the foundation of Síu Nihm Tàuh. If an individual’s Síu Nihm Tàuh skill and understanding is low, future development of Chàhm Kìuh must also be low. If an individual’s Síu Nihm Tàuh is high, the potential for Chàhm Kìuh is also high. There is a direct relationship between one’s ability at one stage of training in comparison to the previous stage of training. Bìu Jí (thrusting fingers) training serves to take the structure developed in Síu Nihm Tàuh and the body coordination in movement developed in Chàhm Kìuh and increase speed to one’s maximum potential. Bìu Jí requires a strong foundation in both Chàhm Kìuh and Síu Nihm Tàuh.Forms serve as a tool for instructing a novice. A set of concepts and related techniques are presented to the novice in a format that is easily practiced and understood. Once a basic understanding and ability is developed, an additional set of concepts and techniques are presented. Forms also serve as a method of training. Through effort and consistent practice, the novice developed the proper mechanics to perform the appropriate techniques and, at the same time, developed the necessary attributes to make the techniques successful.
Chï Sáu – Laboratory Level
This level of training serves as a laboratory to develop structure, attributes and concepts while also experimenting with techniques and an introduction to tactics. Activities at this level in Ving Tsun are classified as Saan Sáu (separate hands) or Chï Sáu (stick hands). Saan Sáu and Chï Sáu reinforce the knowledge gained from the Textbook level through various drills and exercises. Of primary importance is the reinforcement of the concepts previously introduced.Saan Sáu trains body structure and develops attributes using inconsistent contact and various ranges. Chï Sáu trains body structure and develops attributes using constant contact and stays in relatively the same range. Two processes are employed at this stage of training. One process starts with Chï Sáu to develop fine motor control and reaction skills. After the individual has developed the necessary attributes and reflexes, he or she progresses to Saan Sáu, focusing on the introduction of tactics. The other process starts with Saan Sáu to develop the individual’s reactions and gross motor control and then proceeds to Chï Sáu to develop refined motor control and introduce tactics. This second process is then followed by extended range Chï Sáu to focus on ranges and angles. Both Saan Sáu and Chï Sáu serve as training devices.The use of contact with another person serves to strengthen the developed body structure of an individual. When practicing forms, the individual has no truly clear concept of how the structures being developed are put into application. Once introduced to Saan Sáu or Chï Sáu training, the individual is given a platform with which to test his or her body structure. Once that experience has been gained, the individual takes on a new understanding when playing forms; this process gives an understanding of the use of body structure in application, giving new depth and meaning to the forms.Skill is developed through the development of mental and physical attributes supported by an understanding of position and energy. The training environment at this stage begins as a cooperation. As the junior begins to gain proficiency, the senior begins to cooperate less and less. Towards the end of this stage the individuals involved do not cooperate and begin to compete with each other while staying within the confines of the training exercise and principles.
Màaih Sàn Jòng – Intern/Residency/Fieldwork Level
After developing a certain standard of techniques, body structure, attributes, and general tactics, the individual is introduced to the next training component. The goal of this component is to develop application of technical and tactical ability. This part of the training process is analogous to field work or working as an intern. The goal of the individual is to experience something approaching real life. This process is often called Màaih Sàn Jòng or free sparring.At this point, training is more intense and follows the same progression as the previous component with respect to cooperation/competition. If any deficiencies are discovered at this stage, the individual can identify what needs work and return to previous training exercises to develop the missing component. The primary focus of this component is the application of tactics in a near-combat environment. This can be accomplished though free sparring or participation at various tournaments. The goal is to simulate real life.The use of contact with another person through less controlled circumstances such as Saan Sáu and Chï Sáu serves to develop the tactical and technical ability of an individual. When practicing Saan Sáu or Chï Sáu, one is not put into a situation that approaches the reality of combat in the same manner as Màaih Sàn Jòng training. As experience is gained in sparring and similar activities, an individual is given a new understanding as to the applicability of Saan Sáu and Chï Sáu training. With more experience, Saan Sáu / Chï Sáu training and Forms training is approached from a different viewpoint.Also included at this point in the training is exposure to learning situations outside of the classroom setting. The individual is introduced to other concepts of fighting outside of Ving Tsun as a reference point. This introduction can take the form of Seminars, Workshops, Competitions, Tournaments, and more. Contact with different viewpoints also occurs in sparring and competition both within and without the individual’s standard learning environment. The individual also gains experience at this stage through instruction of junior students.
Jáu Gòng Wùh – Real World Level
The last level of the Ving Tsun System deals with psychological development. This occurs as the individual is faced with challenges and obstacles to training both internally and externally generated. The individual is “tested” in his or her Gùng Fuh outside the confines of an organized, structured environment. This “test” can take the form of physical confrontation at one extreme and range through emotional to psychological to a philosophical response to life at the other extreme. In essence, this is where a finalized comprehension of “efficiency, directness, and economy of motion and resources” is developed. This level represents a significant portion of our lives spent dealing with the “other interests” and challenges to learning and teaching Ving Tsun. It takes long term persistence and staying power to truly master Ving Tsun Gùng Fuh; this makes the journey a lifetime one. Many other aspects of life will compete directly and indirectly with this lifetime journey. Invariably, life brings challenges and opportunities to practice Ving Tsun on a physical, mental, and spiritual level. Examples include a change in job, a promotion, a new baby, the objections of spouses to training time, etc. Learning how to balance these competing interests while obtaining the most efficient results from training is one example of comprehending a mental and spiritual meaning of efficiency, directness and economy of motion. As with each of the preceding levels, this level of training builds on the foundation developed through the other levels of the training system.
Ving Tsun functions as a system made up of several parts. Each part serves a purpose in and of itself and also functions in concert with additional parts to create a whole greater than the sum of the parts. While the precise organization and process varies from lineage to lineage and instructor to instructor, the same four general levels exist in all Ving Tsun lineages. The Textbook level sets the stage for later development, physically through techniques, mentally through principles and concepts, and spiritually though the experience of reality. The Laboratory level adds a dynamic element to the information presented at the Textbook level. The Intern level puts the dynamic element introduced at the Laboratory level into a less structured format. The Real World level removes all constraints placed by the previous training levels and methodologies, allowing the developed martial artist to experience all of reality as it is – through the viewpoint of the Ving Tsun System.This article identified the major levels of training. Each of these areas is dependent on the others. As one gets better in one level of training, the other levels of training will also improve. Each serves a necessary part of the training program yet cannot be completed without experience from the other levels.
The Origins and History of Shaolin Weng Chun
New Discoveries In Unique Wing Chun Lineage link Southern Styles
By Benny Meng and Jeremy Roadruck
Developed in the Southern Shaolin Temple and spread by anti-Qing revolutionaries down to members of the Red Boat Opera, Chi Sim Weng Chun represents a unique lineage in the history of Wing Chun. Chi Sim Weng Chun makes use of the “everlasting” character for Weng, a connection to Shaolin Chan (Zen) thought.
In researching the roots of Wing Chun, the Ving Tsun Museum has repeatedly come into contact with members of the Chi Sim (ji sihn) Weng Chun family. They trace their roots directly to the Southern Shaolin Temple (naahm síu làhm jih) from where it was passed to members of the anti-Qing secret society rebels and ultimately to members of the Red Boat Opera. Upon categorizing this lineage under the umbrella of classical arts that refer to themselves as Wing Chun, Chi Sim Weng Chun becomes another bridge from Shaolin martial arts during the anti-Qing revolution to the modern Wing Chun that has spread from the Red Boat Opera. Chi Sim Weng Chun body structures share a similarity with Southern Shaolin Hung Ga (hùhng gà), lending credence to the assertion that both arts descended from the same origin. Chi Sim Weng Chun contains a unique training progression and philosophy that is the foundation to modern Wing Chun lineages.
From accounts of Chi Sim Weng Chun historical traditions, Daaht Mo (dá mo in Mandarin) established the foundation of Shaolin gung fu around 520 AD when he brought Chan Buddhism to the Shaolin Temple. Daaht Mo, also known as Bodhidharma, was an Indian prince that had renounced his family’s wealth to become a Buddhist monk. He traveled to China to teach the ways of Buddha. After a favorable audience with the emperor, Daaht Mo traveled to the Shaolin temple in Hunan Province. Seeking ways to develop as a holistic human being aware of body, mind and spirit – the way to flow with energy, and maintain harmony when addressing power and aggression – Daaht Mo established the connection between physical practice and mental training on which Shaolin martial art training is based. To this day, members of the Shaolin Chi Sim Weng Chun lineage celebrate his birthday.
Martial arts were practiced in China for many centuries before the arrival of Daaht Mo. It was through his introduction of Chan Buddhist thought, with its emphasis on practical, direct experience of reality in its entirety, spontaneous action, mental training, and connection to physical cultivation, Shaolin was poised to become a martial arts training ground and study center. The goal of this training system was for the Shaolin monks to directly experience reality as a means to learn what was simple and natural. This approach of connecting moral and physical cultivation to experience life and the possibility of death stood in stark contrast to military and most civilian martial art methodologies outside the temple. Most practices outside the temple often focused only on physical skill in combat and the technical skills of killing.
During the time of struggle and transition between the Ming and Qing dynasties, experts from the Shaolin Temple in Honan province fled south. They settled in a Buddhist temple not previously known for martial arts training. Survivors of its destruction later referred to this temple as the Southern Shaolin Temple. With the expansion of the Qing Dynasty and the future of the Northern Shaolin Temple in Honan province uncertain, the Southern temple became a stronghold for anti-Qing revolutionaries. Inside this temple, a hall was established called the Everlasting Spring Hall (wihng cheùn tòhng). The focus of this hall was to collect and preserve the essence of Shaolin training and thought into one system under secrecy. The three treasures of Shaolin are Chan Buddhism, Health and Hei gung (qi gong)practice, and martial arts. The system of Chan practices, fighting theories and health exercises taught in this hall became known as Everlasting Spring Fist (wihng cheùn kyùhn), today referred to as Chi Sim Weng Chun.
The focus inside the Buddhist Everlasting Spring Hall was to discover what was simple, efficient and immediately applicable to dealing with reality, based at that time on fighting against the Qing Dynasty. Fighting concepts and techniques were developed based on understanding the nature of life, rather than being merely new ways to fell an opponent or a collection of combat techniques. This knowledge created a synthesis between living and fighting, giving rise to the attitude of seeking to understand life by understanding death. By focusing on martial skills for moral cultivation in addition to self-defense, the Shaolin system grew wide appeal and support throughout China after the time of the revolution.
The Southern Shaolin temple was destroyed in the latter half of the 17th century. The destruction of this temple was due to the anti-Qing activities taking place – not because it was a Buddhist temple. Although they were Confucionists, the Qing were tolerant of Buddhism. Many historical references confirm this tolerance. The following quote from a Chinese history text provides a typical example.
In studying the history of China, the Qing of the 18th century were supportive of both Buddhism and the Northern Shaolin Temple. The Emperor Kangxi even hand-painted a sign that reads the name Shaolin for one of the buildings inside the Honan Temple complex.
Wing Chun, being one of the martial arts used for combat, is surrounded in secrecy and misinformation due to secret society activities. During the 1700s, the anti-Qing revolutionary groups were most active and much of Wing Chun’s history is shrouded in myths and legends from that time. This may explain why most Wing Chun lineages trace their origins from the legendary Five Elders through one or two generations to the Red Boat. The Red Boat Opera Troupe was a traveling group of entertainers in the Cantonese operatic tradition active in southern China. They traveled the rivers of southern China in large junks painted bright red to attract attention. While early Wing Chun history was shrouded in secrecy, after the Red Boat several Wing Chun lineages were opened up to the public and no longer had a need for secrecy. According to Chi Sim oral legends, a Shaolin abbot named Chi Sim Sim Si, along with other members of the temple, escaped the destruction of the Southern Shaolin. Chi Sim means “Extreme Compassion”, a Buddhist concept, while Sim Si means “Chan teacher”. It is held in the Chi Sim legends that he eventually ended up at the Red Boat Opera Troupe (hùhng syùhn hei bàan).
From the time of the Red Boat opera, the system of Chi Sim Weng Chun was preserved by two separate lineages. Inside the Opera, Wong Wah Bou is credited as the first person to learn Chi Sim Weng Chun. Sum Kam, a.k.a. “Painted Face” Kam (daaih fà mihn gám) is credited as the second person to learn the entire system; he passed the art from the first to the second generation. Fung Siu Ching, Sum Kam’s apprentice, learned the system as a member of the Red Boat Opera and taught the art on to three main families in the third generation, the Dung, the Lo, and the Tang.
Outside the Opera at the Ching Yuen Fei Loih temple, the Tang family also practiced and preserved the Chi Sim Weng Chun system. Tang Bun was the first generation, Tang Jauh was the second generation and Tang Seun was the third generation. Tang Seun also learned from Fung Siu Chin, thus uniting the two lineages into one family.
In the third generation, Dung Jik of the Dung family taught Tam Kong and Chu Chong Man. In the Lo family, Lo Yam Nam taught his son Lo Chiu Woon while Lo Kai Tung taught his son Lo Hong Tai. Lo Yam Nam and Lo Kai Tung also shared information and training with their nephews. In the Tang family, Tang Seun taught Tang Yick and Pak Cheung. In the fifth generation, a wealthy business man and devoted student of Chi Sim Weng Chun, Grand Master Wai Yan, brought together five members of the fourth generation in one location to research and develop Chi Sim Weng Chun. Located in Dai Duk Lan in Hong Kong, Tam Kong, Chu Chung Man, Lo Chiu Woon, Lo Hong Tai, and Tang Yick spent more than 10 years training, sharing information and developing Chi Sim Weng Chun. Grand Master Way Yan was the first person to unify all three main lines in Chi Sim Weng Chun.
Among Way Yan’s students was Cheng Kwong. Cheng Kwong passed the art on to Andreas Hoffmann of Bamberg, Germany. With his Sifu’s approval, Hoffman later went on to research Chi Sim Weng Chun with his Si Gung, Way Yan and Way Yan’s Si Suk, Pak Cheung. Pak Cheung lived outside of Fatsaan. In 1995, Andreas Hoffman was given a certificate recognizing him as the successor of Chi Sim Weng Chun/ Jee Shim Ving Tsun martial arts from Siu Lum. In more recent times, Sifu Hoffmann has contacted and trained with the successor of the Tang family, uniting all three main families in much the same way as Grand Master Way Yan. Hoffman today preserves the art of his teachers and ancestors throughout Europe with a strong organization of over 3000 members.
A detailed family tree is available at http://home.vtmuseum.org/genealogy/chi_sim/family_tree.php. This area of the VTM website is being developed through the support of Sifu Andreas Hoffmann and the support of his extended gung fu family.
In Chi Sim Weng Chun, the foundations of the art were based upon Chan (Zen) teachings at the Shaolin Temple, handed down from Daaht Mo. The essence of Chan teaches its followers to trust in their own experience and the understanding of nature rather than doctrine or history. Any fighting system based on Chan must have three key components. It must be complete, taking all factors into account. For example, it must address all ranges of combat from kicking to striking, trapping, grappling, or employment of weapons. It must be based on reality rather than theory. It must be spontaneous, existing in the “here and now” rather than past or future. In Chan, there is no ego or body, no past or future. By focusing on the moment, not being distracted by thoughts or emotions outside the immediate task at hand, by being in the “here-and-now” practitioners are free to be aware of the total situation and react accordingly.
The technical components of Weng Chun are likened to a 5-pedaled flower.
The first petal consists of the Saan Sik (separate motions) and the Kuen Tou (fist sets) consisting of seven core training sets.
The first set is called the Fa Kuen, meaning Blossoming Fist. In this set, the student learns all the basic energy training to open all the energy gates of the body, with special emphasis on spiraling energy. The student also learns to use the whole body in each movement. The set introduces all the hands and footwork for short and long distance combat. This set is known as the Weng Chun Kuen, meaning Everlasting Spring Fist. The motions in this form are based on the movements and concepts of double knife fighting. In the Chi Sim system, the weapons are taught at the same time as the empty hands because of the reality of the time when this art originated. In the late 1600’s, the most common method of fighting was with weapons. Therefore, practitioners had to learn to protect themselves from weapon attacks immediately. Additionally, one of the core concepts in Chi Sim is to subdue an opponent definitely. This task is far easier to undertake with the added power and length of a weapon.
The second set is called the Sahp Yat Kuen, meaning eleven fists. This set is also referred to as the Weng Chun Kuen, also meaning Everlasting Spring Fist. In this set, the student focuses on developing economy of movement and connecting the body in short motions. This type of power is often called shocking power or inch power. This energy is used in the Saam Ching Kuen, meaning Three Battle Fist, also called the Lin Wan Kuen, meaning Linking Fist. The motions in this set are based on the movements and concepts of the long pole. There are 11 empty hands motions; the set is organized into 11 learning sections.
The progression in training for Chi Sim Weng Chun is from weapon to weaponless. Without a weapon, it is much more difficult to subdue an opponent. This is the reason for the next two sets.
The third set is called Saam Baai Fuht, meaning Three Bows to Buddha. This is the heart of Chi Sim Weng Chun; it is the shadow of the Sahp Yat Kuen, consisting of 11 sections and was a secret set in the traditions of the Lo family. In this set, the student learns to multiply his/her energy through the waist as in bowing. Every technique in Weng Chun has a special bow to add power and structure. This set is called Saam Baai Fuht because the student bows once for the dharma (teaching), once for his/her fellow students, and once to the Buddha nature within him/herself. It is in this set that the student is introduced to the concept of thinking vertically (Heaven, Man, and Earth) as well as horizontally and laterally. It teaches the practitioner the concepts of time and space.
The fourth set is called Jong Kuen, meaning Structure Fist. This set was taught at the highest levels of training and combines everything (the other empty-hand sets, dummy training, and weapons) together into one format. This set moves through multiple directions and ranges of combat with emphasis on kicking, striking, locking and throwing. One of the primary focuses at this stage of training is the development of Seung Gung (Double Skill). This refers to the abilities that are developed through its practice; the student doubles his previous skill and power for self-defense through a combination of lihk (muscle), yih (intent), and hei (energy). This set represents the harmonies of long/short and external/internal.
The fifth set, the Muk Yahn Jong meaning Wooden Person Post, is actually a collection of 3 sets. In Chi Sim Weng Chun history, the dummy training came from the Muk Yan Hall in the Southern Shaolin Temple. The sets of empty-hand dummy are taught in addition to a concept of Tin Yahn Deih, or Heaven, Human, Earth. Each set on the Jong teaches one of three levels. The heaven dummy focuses on developing reactions and awareness against attacks to the upper gate and trains the student to fight at the long range. The human dummy focuses on the middle gate with emphasis on training striking, locking and throwing. The earth dummy focuses on close range distances at the lower gate with emphasis on grappling, anti-grappling, throwing and ground fighting.
The sixth set and seventh set are the pole and the knife. In Chi Sim Weng Chun, the pole is considered the teacher. This set is the longest in the system and teaches the student fighting in the long range with emphasis on being alive and responsive to changing situations. The pole training introduces the 6½ point concepts of Chi Sim Weng Chun, use of the whole body for power, and “springing” footwork. A fourth dummy training set, Gwan Jong, was a secret set and a specialty of Chi Sim Weng Chun. This set teaches a practitioner to bridge from long to short distance as well as short to long distance both with the long pole and weaponless. The Fuh Mouh Seung Dou set, meaning Father-Mother Double Knives, are thought of as the father and mother of the system and represent the Yin and Yang concept and training of combat spirit. The knives teach the student the ultimate subduing method.
The second petal in the flower of Chi Sim Weng Chin consists the exercises to teach the student to flow freely from one technique to another and to react intuitively to changing situations. Chi Sim Weng Chun makes use of a three line reference on the limbs to train and coordinate the body. These lines consist of the Wrist/Ankle, Elbow/Knee, and Shoulder/Hip. One of the primary exercises for training at the Wrist/Ankle line is known as Kiuh Sau, meaning Bridge Hand. This exercise only slightly resembles the more widely known Wing Chun exercise of Chi Sau. In Kiuh Sau, the partners engage each other with both hands at the same time. Each hand resembles a taan sau with the palm turned up. The hands can meet with one partner outside the other partner’s hands or each partner with one hand inside and one hand outside the other. From the initial touch, both partners react to the openings felt in the other’s structure. These reactions can flow from kicking to striking to kuhm nah (joint-locking) to takedowns.
As the student learns, Kiuh Sau incorporates reaction development in all three lines. There are 14 concepts that are taught to the student as they progress in their training. These concepts, translated by Sifu Tang Chung Pak are:
1 Tiu (Pick up “with a stick”)
2 Buot (push aside)
3 Da (hit)
4 Pun (fold)
5 Juar (grasp)
6 Lai (pull)
7 See (shear)
8 Tshai (quick pull)
9 Bik Force (cornering someone)
10 Hup (continue to put pressure on – “overpowering”)
11 Taan (swallow)
12 Tuo (spit)
13 Buort (taking change – “gamble”)
14 Saat (stop – “kill/subdue totally”)
The Kahm Nah exercise is similar to the often seen Laahp Sau exercise in other Wing Chun lineages and trains for the Elbow/Knee line. Kahm Nam training is specifically for flowing from one range to another and begins with strikes first and then progresses into basic locks, chokes, and traps. Another exercise, known as Tip Sau, has both partners moving into shoulder-to-shoulder contact for training and developing reactions on the third line. This exercise focuses on training for throws, locks, and close range body weapons such as the head, knee and hip. As the student progresses, this exercise moves into a free flow format and training for ground fighting as well as escaping from locks, holds, and strikes. Another exercise known as Taan Tou, meaning Push Pull, is one of several exercises focusing on bridging from long to short distance by a) Moh Kiu, touching the bridge or b) Kou Kiu, not touching the bridge.
The third petal in the Chi Sim Weng Chun flower is training to Fuhk, meaning Subdue. Every engagement in Chi Sim Weng Chun seeks to subdue an opponent and prevent further struggle. All attacks are aimed at destroying an opponent’s center of balance. Each attack also has a finishing movement to pin or incapacitate the opponent.
The fourth petal in Chi Sim Weng Chun is Saan Sau training, meaning Separate Hand. In Saan Sau, or sparring, training the student comes to understand what fighting is all about. The student will experience all the emotions that result from fighting as well as training to push him/herself to the limit. It is only though extensive experience with sparring and fighting that a student can understand the reality of combat.
The fifth petal of Chi Sim Weng Chun is the Principles, Poems, Chan Buddhism, History, and Hei Gung. The Ng Jong Hei Gong serves as the core hei gung training in the Chi Sim Weng Chun lineage. It helps to develop the small and large Universal Hei circles and balances the hei for ultimate health. These aspects provide the setting against which Chi Sim Weng Chun was developed and serve to connect the fighting skills developed in training to the moral cultivation of a better individual and a better society.
Many southern styles claim a connection to the Southern Shaolin Temple, and most are technically, tactically, and philosophically similar. In examining the sets of Chi Sim Weng Chun, it is possible that each set is the pre-cursor to several southern styles. The Fa Kuen set, with its flowing motions, connected movements and being the first set taught, could be the precursor to many of the family systems in Southern China. The Sahp Yat Kuen, with its emphasis on economy of movement and short bridge power could have been the foundation for further refinement into what is known as today’s Wing Chun with the three forms of Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu, and Biu Ji. The Saam Baai Fuht and Jong Kuen, with emphases on whole body energy and all ranges of combat could have been the precursor to modern Hung Ga. In several oral legends of Hung Ga, Chi Sim is credited as being the creator of the style. It is possible that the legends refer to the art of Chi Sim Weng Chun rather than Chi Sim as a person. The existence of Chi Sim as an individual is open to historical debate. No explanation is given in Chi Sim oral legends for Chi Sim Sim Si’s abnormally long lifespan, of up to or over 180 years. (Destruction of the Southern Temple occurred in the late 17th Century, while the Red Boat Opera arose in the mid-19th Century; yet legends reflect Chi Sim Si as a man playing roles in both environments.)
Whatever the possible connections from the Southern Shaolin to today’s modern martial arts, strong evidence exists to support the hypothesis that Chi Sim Weng Chun was directly involved in the evolution of modern Wing Chun. The core of the Chi Sim system is the weapon sets of long pole and double knife along with the dummy sets. Throughout the martial arts community, the unique hallmark of all Wing Chun lineages is the long pole, the double knives, and the dummy. The hypothesis that Wing Chun was a series of loose movements that later added the dummy and weapons does not match the evidence presented in Chi Sim Weng Chun. This system was founded on the pole and knife, using the dummy as an integral part of the training. In ancient China, priority was placed on weapons training due to the reality of combat in those times. A warrior did not have years to learn empty hand sets before uniting body and mind through weapons training. Chi Sim Weng Chun’s philosophy and technical knowledge constitute credible evidence that it was most likely the foundation for modern Wing Chun some time before the advent of the Red Boat Opera Troupe.
While many styles lay claim to a direct connection with the Shaolin temples, Chi Sim Weng Chun backs up its claims with a training system based on Chan teachings and training methods that support Chan philosophy. A complete system that trains in all ranges of combat in addition to long and short weapons, the Chi Sim system of Weng Chun is a complete system preserved for the benefit of all martial arts. Perhaps with more communication and closer ties between martial art families, more people will come to know this lineage and appreciate the roots, depth and breadth of Chinese martial arts.
The Ving Tsun Museum would like to extend special thanks to Sifu Andreas Hoffmann for his extensive knowledge, willing attitude to share, and open heart to trust. He is a living example of his art and a credit to the martial arts community. Sifu Hoffmann is currently writing a book to share the unique aspects of his art to the martial arts community. The Ving Tsun Museum and its staff are currently working on a detailed report on its historical research to date. Keep an eye on the VTM website at http://www.vtmuseum.org for more details on these two exciting books.