During this trip to England, somebody in one of my seminars asked me when the best time in my life was. I said, “Now, this moment is the best time”. If he asks me the same question next year, I will answer the same.
By this I mean that every year I am happier and happier. I started giving seminars abroad in 1981 so I have been doing them for about seventeen years. Now I am seventy four. I am still happy and healthy and am still able to travel all over the world giving seminars about Wing Chun. I don’t think about retirement if I am still able to teach.
Every year the number of seminars I give gets more and more. The first few times I came over to Engalnd to give seminars I only gave two or three a trip. Now, this year, there are seventeen seminars. I think in the future there will probably be even more. So the reason I am so happy is that the work I have done and am doing is being accepted by more and more people.
From all of these seminars I have given, there are some things I find that many people do not concentrate enough on. Wing Chun basically covers three purposes. The first is self defence and almost every one is doing this. The other two, however, people are missing. The second purpose of training Wing Chun is to have good health and the third is have a good nature. The last two points many people miss developing because they are concentrating more on developing fighting skill. If Wing Chun just concentrates on fighting, within twenty years, the skill will become extinct because fighting in society is becoming unnecessary. Fighting is against the law so the more you fight with other people, the more trouble you will get into.
This does not mean that we should not develop fighting. We should learn the skill for self defence instead of just to go out and fight with other people. But the other two purposes are also very important and that is what has kept Wing Chun alive up until today. Do you notice, if you practise Wing Chun a lot, you begin to become healthier? I remember some of my Wing Chun brothers had heart attacks and even had operations. After they got out of hospital, because of their Wing Chun training, they recovered much more quickly and were able to go back to normal.
I remember even myself, when I was going out for a walk one evening there were some children playing soccer and they accidentally hit the ball in my direction. I went to stop the ball with my foot but my ankle twisted and broke. However, I was able to walk again very quickly. This only happened a few years ago, so for my age, the recovery was quite remarkable. I know that this is because of my many years of practising Wing Chun, which has helped me keep my joints and muscles flexible.
The third thing is about a person’s nature. I find that the more you practise Wing Chun properly, then the more healthy and balanced you will be. Particularly, the first form, Siu Lim Tao, will make your mind calm and body healthy. Not aggressive or tense. It will help to relieve your stress, therefore, it is easy to change your nature to be more balanced.
Many people ask me how to develop good health through Wing Chun. I know today many people spend their money and time studying a lot of health exercises like yoga and taiji or running. They all want to be healthy. I find the way to be healthy is when you do the exercise, forget everything else. Empty your mind and don’t think of other things. I know that this helps us to be healthier because today our society is very stressful. Whoever can reduce his or her stress can be more healthy. Everybody is looking for something to reduce stress and empty their minds.
When practising Wing Chun, there is one part of training that can make you empty your mind and this is Chi Sau. When you practise Chi Sau, you have no time to think about other things. You have to concentrate on the movements you are doing, otherwise you get ‘beaten up’. People who practise Wing Chun but do not do Chi Sau, are actually wasting a lot of time because it is in Chi Sau that you have the chance to apply all the applications and techniques that you have learnt. By doing Chi Sau, even if your skill is not very good, you can empty your mind, so for health it is very important and very good.
Chi Sau also talks about whole body movement, not just the hands. Many people doing Chi Sau only repeat the same skill and techniques over and over again. But when these people come to do Gor Sau (irregular pretend fighting/attack and defence), then they will have problems. This is because everyone is different and they may use a different skill to attack you. They may be smaller than you, they may be taller than you and the distance between you may be different. Therefore, the same skill may not always work on other people because you are missing how to judge the distance between yourself and your partner. Therefore, you need to use footwork to get the right distance, i.e. Tsun Ma (forward step) and Toi Ma (backward step), and for defence, use Juen Ma (Turning left and right).
In Chi Sau you have to concentrate. By touching hands together, you sense your opponent’s energy. This will show you which way you should move and whether you should attack or defend. However, in Chi Sau, footwork is actually more important, so you should not only concentrate on the hands. Sometimes a simple technique will work much easier when you use the right footwork with it. Sometimes when your opponent attacks you with a powerful punch, if you use footwork it is much easier to defend against it. Therefore, footwork can determine the standard of Chi Sau.
Wing Chun considers how to use energy. I remember somebody asked me, “If you relax during Chi Sau, how can you attack people?” I think many people confuse relaxation with being weak. Relaxation does not mean weak or no energy. Equally, stiffness does not mean strong. Wing Chun uses relaxation to sense your opponent’s energy and to use power more quickly. In Wing Chun, you only use power when you need it. When you don’t need it, you don’t use it.
During Chi Sau, relaxation means you do not use energy, but that you relax to sense your opponent’s energy. So if your opponent attacks you when you are relaxed, you can sense his movements much more quickly and respond by changing your position. You can even tell when the energy is finished and then you can attack back. But when attacking you must also relax in case you need to change your position. You should remember you only use energy at the time of impact.
Often people will want to develop a more powerful Wing Chun punch. Actually this is very easy. All you need to do is punch everyday, doing what we call “empty punching”, punching into the air. Do it 300-400 times a day and after a few months you will definitely have a strong punch. Then when you use the attack, all your joints and body should be concentrated in the punch. Punching does not just use the energy of your arm, but your whole body, so the punching will be very powerful. Relaxing when training Wing Chun does not mean not using energy, it means using energy at the right time. For the beginner it is best to relax when doing Chi Sau and build up good sensitivity, position and technique, and then slowly build up the strength. This is the best way. If you develop strength first, it is very hard to tell you to relax again.
Therefore when you practise Wing Chun you should consider the whole system not just concentrate on fighting. Also consider good health, having a good nature and you will earn more respect from others than being just a fighter (by Grandmaster Ip Chun)
 Ip Chun, The Best Times (translated by Michael Tse), Qi Magazine no. 38, pp. 22-27 (Jul/Aug 1998)