My Way of Wing Chun

The Learning Curve

Category Archives: Hawkins Cheung

Notes on Hard/Soft Hawkins Cheung Wing Chun

I am a student of Hawkins Cheung, and as this is a forum on my sifu’s site. I have some thoughts on his teachings that may be of interest to some of you. I have been with Sifu for 14 years, and he has been a great influence on me. I enjoy sharing dialogue with others that are on a true path. Here are some thoughts on the “hard way” and the “soft way” in Sifu Hawkins Cheung’s system:To consider the whole of Wing Chun, beyond the various techniques, we must look at the two sides of the W.C. character; the “hard” and the “soft”. The yin-yang, the black-white, sun-moon, etc. . . characters of the system.

From the waist up, most W.C. practitioners are relatively the same. The elbows are in more with one system than another, or leg positioning changes slightly, but basically the tan sao is the tan sao, the lop is the lop, and the bong is the bong. However, how we apply them is important to understand. Why? Because if we are not trying to understand how to apply our art more and more, we are just spinning our wheels.

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Bruce’s Classical Mess

Bruce’s sudden death left behind a classical mess. We can’t deny the impact that Bruce had. Eighteen years since Bruce’s passing, and hundreds of martial artists are still trying to copy Bruce’s movements, punches and kicks. Some learn wing chun simply because wing chun was his mother system. There are now many jeet kune do instructors teaching “his methods.” Eighteen years and many are teaching jeet kune do, but many still don’t know what jeet kune do is, Many of these so called instructors make their art mimic Bruce’s movements. Some instructors have nothing to do with Bruce, but try to relate their teachings to him.

Some of Bruce’s first-generation students came to study from me when I first immigrated here. When I told Bruce of my intent to immigrate to the U.S. before his death, Bruce thought it would be great to have me help out his students, but whether they came to learn or not was another thing.

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Bruce Lee’s Mother Art

To understand Bruce and his martial art, you have to look at his mother art, wing chun. Wing chun in the 1950s was a popular fighting system because of its reputation in challenge fights with other gung-fu Systems. Wing chun was noted for its simple, direct, economical movement and non-classical style.

Many joined and wanted to learn how to fight. Because of the reputation of wing chun, Bruce and I joined. The thing about wing chun is once you start the first form, you feel frustrated. We questioned, “Why do we have to learn this? How can you fight like this?” Everyone wanted to learn the siu nim tao quickly, so they could move onto the sticking hands exercise. The dan chi sao (single sticking hand) exercise was no fun, so the younger students wanted to get through that even quicker. When you finally learned the double sticking hands exercise, we felt excited and thought, “I can fight now! I know wing chun now!” We liked to copy the seniors. If you could land a punch on your opponent, you felt very excited. “I can beat him now,” was our first thought. So everyone wanted to beat his partner first so he could be the top dog.

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Bruce Lee Discovers Jeet Kuen Do

Bruce Lee went back to Hong Kong to learn more from his teacher, the great Yip Man. He returned to the United States with a new art called Jeet Kune Do.

After Bruce left Hong Kong, I went to Australia to attend college. We still stayed in touch by writing to each other. He told me he was working part time at Ruby Chow’s restaurant in Seattle and teaching a few students wing chun as well as some of Uncle Shiu’s northern style kung-fu high kicks. He wrote that he loved wing chun very much and he wanted to go back to Hong Kong to learn the rest of the system.

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Bruce Lee’s Hong Kong Years

A couple of “juvenile delinquents” named Bruce Lee and Hawkins Cheung roamed the streets of Hong Kong, picking fights, having fun and refining their martial arts techniques.

Hawkins Cheung began his training in 1953 under the late grandmaster Yip Man. He attended high school with the legendary Bruce Lee and during evenings, the two would diligently practice wing chun together. To gain combat experience, they would engage in challenge matches; when they didn’t have opponents to fight, they fought each other. They were later separated when Bruce went to college in the U.S. and Hawkins attended college in Australia. Throughout the years, the two kept in touch through letters and phone calls. Bruce would detail his martial arts development through their conversations and correspondence using Cheung as a sounding board. Hawkins Cheung is one of the few individuals who experienced the progression that Lee went through in his martial art development from wing chun to Jun Fan to jeet kune do.

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The Wing Chun Mind: Learn to Think Like a True Fighter

Many have heard of the wing chun system of martial arts. Most articles deal with the techniques, the chi sao, the forms, the politics, and the variations, but I believe this may be the first article that deals with the wing chun mind. Master Hawkins Cheung, who has taught in Los Angeles since the late 1970s, outlines the concepts of wing chun in combat. An early student of grandmaster Yip Man, Cheung has practiced wing chun for over 30 years. Hawkins was also Bruce Lee’s training partner in the early 1950s and together they explored fighting concepts. Master Cheung stands 5-feet-5 and weighs 105 pounds. He is every inch a skilled fighter and excellent teacher.

Cheung explains the wing chun mind and the “how” and “why” of wing chun. He also explains where many wing chun men are incorrect Cheung states that the principles discussed here could be used by any system of martial arts to be applied in combat, regardless of the tools delivered. He considers stylistic differences, postures, techniques, forms and drills secondary to wing chun’s application in combat. Master Cheung’s advice here is reminiscent of Sun Tzu’s Art of War. He offers practical, straight forward advice on combat, very much like his style of fighting.

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