In this article, Grandmaster Ip Chun refers to certain controversial individuals in Wing Chun, ex-students of Grandmaster Ip Man, that after leaving Hing Kong, have said some things over the time that were not true regarding their learning experience under Grandmaster Ip Man in order to make a better living. (Path Seeker)
Ip Man starting teaching Wing Chun in the 1950s in Hong Hong and he died in 1972. In just over twenty years of teaching he made Wing Chun very popular and it spread throughout the world.
Whether they are just beginners or more experienced people, I would estimate that there are about 1 million people practising Wing Chun. In the 20 years that my father taught, he relied on his own resources and received no outside support. So the fact that Wing Chun became so popular is quite remarkable. In fact, there are actually some Wing Chun practitioners who are investigating why Wing Chun is so popular. In this article, I will express my ideas of why this is so and why it is still spreading.
In Wing Chun, or in fact anything you do, to be successful depends on two things. The first is yourself, whether you have the talent and determination to reach your goal. The second is the support you receive from the people around you. So one is an internal factor and the other is an external factor.
Wing Chun is not only for self defence or fighting, it is also for self development and health. Wing Chun is well known for its skills of self defence. Since it is a martial art, this part should be quite obvious and has been spoken about many times, so I do not want to repeat this.
Instead I would like to concentrate on the elements that have made Wing Chun so appealing to students and how it has become so wide spread.
In Wing Chun we have an exercise called Chi Sau that is very good. If you don’t know how to fight, then this exercise helps to teach you how to fight. If you only studied the forms of Wing Chun, then you would still not know how to fight. Without Chi Sau, the only way to learn the fighting skill would be to fight with other people. This process is quite long and hard. At the beginning you will get beaten up and possibly suffer many injuries before you learnt the skill. Before you reach that level you might even give up. However, with Chi Sau the learning curve is much quicker and you will not have to suffer as much. For this reason people like Chi Sau since it helps them to learn self defence much more quickly and safely.
Another reason Chi Sau is good is that it is good for your health and your body. How is Chi Sau good for your health?
Today many people are concerned about their health as they lead very stressful and busy lives. As a result things like Qigong, Yoga, Taiji and other exercises are very popular as people want to learn how to relax. When you can let go your mind and relax then automatically this will benefit your health. However, to be able to do this is not easy. If I asked ten people to relax and think of nothing, then out of these ten people only one or two would be able to do this. However when you practise Chi Sau you dare not think about anything else, otherwise your opponent will hit you. Also when you are doing Chi Sau you must relax or else again you will be defeated.
In Chi Sau you are also constantly moving and so this constantly exercises your body. Therefore practising Chi Sau in the correct way will definitely improve your health.
People can be very easily excited or become nervous. When they are at this stage, they are easily prone to making mistakes. When you are excited, you will not be able to think clearly as your mind will not be calm. A Wing Chun practitioner should be able to empty his or her mind. An experienced practitioner of Wing Chun will be able to accomplish this and can control their mind. So another beneficial side to Wing Chun training is it changes your everyday attitude, making you calmer when dealing with people in general. So Wing Chun is good for your health and your character and this is most important. Personally I have found Wing Chun and Chi Sau very beneficial. I am well in to my seventies, but I am still very fit and active.
These are some of the main elements that have made Wing Chun so appealing. However to understand why Wing Chun is so popular we need to also understand how Wing Chun spread out.
In the 1950s, there was only one University in Hong Kong and places there were very few. As a result many students had to go abroad to further their education. Hong Kong was a British colony and so they usually went to places like, England, America, Canada and Australia, places where they spoke English.
Ip Man found that some of the best people to teach were students who were at the age when they would be going to university, as they were able to understand the concept and methods he was teaching, and were very enthusiastic. On leaving, these students found it hard to keep up their Wing Chun training, as they did not have anyone to Chi Sau with. So they would go to my father and ask him what to they should do. He would tell them they should find a few friends, teach them how to do ChiSau and so they could continue their training with them. This the students would do, and at the beginning there would be only two or three friends who they taught and they would not charge them.
At the time Chinese martial arts were getting more popular and after a while, more and more people would that some one was teaching. Then more people wanted to learn. The student would then start to charge for the classes. After the student graduated from university, he could have up to one hundred people training under him. Because of this the student would start to think about making a living from teaching rather than getting a job using their university degree. So a lot of them stayed in the countries where they studied and taught Kung Fu and many of them went on to become famous teachers. Bruce Lee went on this very same route.
The spread of Wing Chun in English speaking countries is due to these reasons, due to the university students. The fact that Wing Chun could spread so easily through this route is a very positive point, but there is also a bad point to this.
When the student went abroad, it was likely he would not have completed the whole Wing Chun system. There were some people who had completed the system and were more experienced. They would take the whole Wing Chun system to the country they went to, but there were many others who had barely learnt half the system. Some had only just started studying Tsum Kui (the second form), so they would go abroad with only half the system. That is why there is such a contrast between different teachers of Wing Chun.
Like today, everyone knew that there were three forms, one dummy form and one Baat Jam Dao form in Wing Chun. So those students who had not completed the system would add things themselves try and complete their system. The first two forms, especially the first form Siu Lim Tao, most had completed, and so these would all be the same. However, since they did not know the later forms like Biu Jee and the knives they had to create their own forms rather than admit that they did not know them. So the differences in teachers are due to their own making and so that is why we have so many “styles” of Wing Chun.
When teaching, the worst thing that happens is when someone asks why is your Wing Chun different from another teacher’s Wing Chun. However, the teacher will never say that he made this part up himself and so would say that Ip Man personally taught them these different forms in secret. In saying this, the teacher does not realise that he is in fact ruining the reputation of his own Sifu, Ip Man and his attitude to teaching.
When Ip Man was teaching, he would never teach one person a special technique and not teach the others. He thought to do this was immoral and so he treated everyone the same. I hope that in future people will not continue on this path and keep saying these things, as it damages my father’s image and is morally wrong. (by Grandmaster Ip Chun)
 Ip Chun, The Spread of Wing Chun, Qi Magazine no. 56, pp. 40-41 (Jul/Aug 2001)