SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
AUGUST 2010 PART 3
Sigung, a Wing Choon master has suggested that because there are no written historical records of Yim Wing Choon and Ng Mui, therefore neither existed. Can you please tell us your views on his claim?
— Sifu Tim Franklin, England
Editorial Note This and other questions on Wing Choon Kungfu were asked by Sifu Tim Franklin and answered by Grandmaster Wong before the Special Wing Choon Course in Penang from 29th to 5th April 2010, but they are posted here only now because of a long list of questions and answers in line for posting. The illustrations in this issue are taken from the Special Wing Choon Course .
All lineages of Wing Choon Kungfu, with the exception of this master, recognize Yim Wing Choon as the First Patriarch. They also recognize Ng Mui, the female Shaolin grandmaster, as Yim Wing Choon's teacher.
This fact, i.e. recognizing Yim Wing Choon as the First Patriarch of Wing Choon Kungfu, is based on oral traditions. Indeed, in the history of Chinese martial arts, most things that are generally accepted as facts are based on oral traditions, though sometimes written records exist. For example, we believe that Bodhidharma taught the Eighteen Lohan Hands, the great Song general Yue Fei practiced Shaolin Kungfu, Zhang San Feng cultivated on the Wudang Mountain, Wang Lang founded Praying Mantis Kungfu, and Yang Deng Fu was the grandson of Yang Lu Chan because we trust oral traditions.
If someone, like this master, were to ask me, "How do you know that Yang Deng Fu was the grandson of Yang Lu Chan? Do you have any proof?" I would answer that I base my belief on oral traditions, which I trust to be true. I don't have any proof, and I am not going to waste my time investigating the proof even if it exists.
Many things we accept as facts are also based on oral traditions. For example, I believe that Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire, and that our earth is round. If this master were to ask me how I knew, and whether I had any proof, I would give the same answer, that I regarded these statements as facts based on oral traditions, and that I would not waste time investigating the proof even when it existed. I may add that he can choose to believe otherwise if he likes, and that is not my business.
Actually it is not easy to prove to people who refuse to accept established facts, that Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire, the earth is round, Yim Wing Choon was the First Patriarch of Wing Choon Kungfu, or Yang Deng Fu was the grandson of Yang Lu Chan. We may show some ancient maps and scientific calculations to prove that Rome was the capital of the Roman Empire and the earth is round. But if they do not accept when we point to Wing Choon lineages that recognize Yim Wing Choon as the First Patriarch, and show kungfu literature that records Yang Deng Fu as the grandson of Yang Lu Chan, by the same principles they would also not accept our historical maps and scientific calculations.
This master claims that there are a lot of misconceptions regarding the origin of Wing Choon Kungfu leading to controversies about its forms, training methods, and combat applications. He also claims that his latest research shows this style was taught in a hall called Chi Sim in the Shaolin Temple, and that "Yim", which means "secretive", was added to make it "Yim Wing Chun" to indicate its secretive nature, and it was directly connected to the revolutionary societies, or the Hung Fa Yi.
I find the following reasoning about the origin of Wing Choon Kungfu interesting. Look at my Wing Choon lineage.
Yim Wing Choon -> Leong Phok Khow -> Leong Yi Tai -> Yik Kam -> Choe Soon -> Choe Tak Seng -> Choe Chun -> Choe Onn -> Choe Hoong Choy -> Wong Kiew Kit.
I know from direct experience that my sifu was Choe Hoong Choy. I did not ask him for proof. When people refered to him as Choe Hoong Choy, he did not say that was not his name. This was sufficent for me to accept it as fact that his name was Choe Hoong Choy. This was following oral tradition.
My sifu also knew that his sifu was Choe Onn. In this way we can trace to Yim Wing Choon. This reasoning is not a proof. It is an oral tradition, with each generation telling the next who the previous generation was.
I did not ask my sifu for proof that his sifu was Choe Onn. I just accepted what my sifu said as fact, which again was based on oral tradition. I believe my sifu did not ask his sifu for proof too.
The master you mention is probably sincere in his views. He honestly thinks that what most Wing Choon lineages accept as history, is not true in reality. What he does not realize is that he himself, not established Wing Choon history, is at fault.
There are many flaws in his claims. And these flaws are probably due to his not knowing that there are actually a few different types of kungfu called "Wing Choon".
First, but not the earliest, is the Wing Choon Kungfu from Yim Wing Choon. This Wing Choon Kungfu later branched out into many styles, like Yip Man Wing Choon, Opera House Wing Choon, Red Boat Wing Choon, Yip Kin Wing Choon, and Choe Family Wing Choon.
Next, there is White Crane Kungfu popularly practiced in the Wing Choon District of Fujian Province. This style of kungfu is sometimes called White Crane, sometimes called Wing Choon, but usually called Wing Choon White Crane.
Please note that the Chinese characters are different. "Wing Choon" in Wing Choon White Crane means "Ever Spring", whereas "Wing Choon" in Wing Choon from Yim Wing Choon means "Poetic Spring".
Also note that there are other styles of White Crane Kungfu besides Wing Choon White Crane. There is a style of White Crane Kungfu similar to Lama Kungfu of Tibet, where practitioners use their long arms like wings of a huge crane.
Thirdly, there is a type of Shaolin Kungfu originated from the Ever Spring Hall of the southern Shaolin Temple. The Chinese (Cantonese) pronunciation of Ever Spring Hall is "Wing Choon Thien". The set taught in this hall was the Flower Set. Hence this style of kungfu is sometimes called Wing Choon Flower Kungfu.
Ng Mui and Miu Hein, the most senior and the most junior of the five Shaolin Elders, specialized in Wing Choon Flower Set. Yim Wing Choon learned this set from Ng Mui, from which she developed her Wing Choon Kungfu. Foong Sei Yoke and Wu Wei Thein, two young Shaolin masters, also specialized in this set.
I learned the Flower Set from Uncle Righteousness, and also from Sifu Choe Hoong Choy. The two sets, however, are quite different though having the same name. When a good opportunity arises, I shall teach this very special set in our school.
Hence, when one mentions Wing Choon Kungfu, it may refer to the Wing Choon Kungfu of Yim Wing Choon, or Wing Choon White Crane Kungfu or Wing Choon Flower Kungfu. Many issues which the said master is confused about, become clear when we understand that there are different types of Wing Choon Kungfu.
The master is also mistaken about "Chee Seen" (spelt as "Chi Sim" by him), "Yim" and the main style of kungfu practiced by members of Hoong Fa Wooi. "Chee Seen" was not the name of a hall in the southern Shaolin Temple. He was the abbot. "Chee Seen Wing Choon" refers to Wing Choon Flower Set taught by him at the Wing Choon or Ever Spring Hall of the Shaolin Temple.
"Yim" does not mean "secret". It is a surname. The main style of kungfu practiced by members of Hoong Fa Wooi, or Red Flower (Secret) Society who contributed much to Dr Sen Yet Sen's Chinese Revolution, was Choy-Li-Fatt, and not Wing Choon Kungfu.
Was Wing Choon developed as the ultimate system to beat all others as suggested by this master, or was it first developed in the Southern Shaolin Temple as another specialty, and later further developed by Yim Wing Choon to suit her own needs?
None of the various types of Wing Choon Kungfu was developed with the sole aim to beat all other styles. The masters who practiced these various Wing Choon styles were not that egoistic. They also knew very well that it was skills, not techniques, that were more important in deciding victory.
The evolution of Wing Choon White Crane was due to local geographical and historical factors as well as expedient needs of the practitioners, just like any other styles. Wing Choon Flower Set was a legacy passed down by generations of Shaolin masters. Wing Choon Kungfu from Yim Wing Choon was evolved from the Flower Set according to her particular needs. She did not purposely set out to invent a new style.
How do the various Wing Choon styles differ?
While there are differences amongst the various types of Wing Choon, they are also similar in many ways. This was because of historical and geographical factors. All of them were from Shaolin, and were mainly practiced in Fujian Province.
Both Wing Choon White Crane and Wing Choon Kungfu from Yim Wing Choon use short stances, like the Goat Stance and the Four-Six Stance. Both also use the palms extensively. The stances in Wing Choon Flower Set are longer, with a lot of Bow-Arrow Stance. The Flower Set uses the cup-fist extensively..
It is interesting to note that Wing Choon White Crane is similar in many ways to Wuzu or Five-Ancestor Kungfu. This is no surprise because Wing Choon White Crane forms one and the most important of the five styles that made up Five-Ancestor Kungfu, the other four being First Emperor Style, Bodhidharma Style, Lohan Style and Monkey Style. Both Wing Choon White Crane and Five-Ancestor Kungfu were popularly practiced in Fujian Province. The Fujianese pronunciation of Five-Ancestor Kungfu is Goh Chor Kun.
Hence, in force training methods, Wing Choon White Crane is similar to Five-Ancestor Kungfu, where chi flow is crucial. The force training of Wing Choon Kungfu from Yim Wing Choon is akin to that in Wing Choon Flower Set. It is "harder" and focuses on "jing".
Amongst the various styles of Wing Choon Kungfu from Yim Wing Choon, the differences are most noticeable between Yip Man Wing Choon on one hand, and all the other styles on the other hand.
While all the other Wing Choon styles have a wide range of unarmed and weapon sets, Yip Man Wing Choon is limited to the three sets of Siu Lim Tou, Cham Kiew and Phew Chee, and the two sets of long staff and Butterfly Knives. In Choe Family Wing Choon, for example, besides Siu Lin Tou which includes Cham Kiew and Phew Chee, there are also Flower Set, Essence of Combat, Battle-Palm, Choy-Li-Fatt, and Drunken Eight Immortals. Besides the long staff and the Butterfly Knives, there are also saber, spear, trident, Guan Dao, soft whip and kungfu bench.
Another noticeable difference is the stances. Yip Man Wing Choon mainly uses short stances, like the Goat Stance and the Four-Six Stance, whereas the stances in the other Wing Choon styles are extensive.
A third difference is the hand-forms. Yip Man Wing Choon uses mainly the cup fist, the palm, the finger-thrust and the elbow. The hand-forms in the other Wing Choon styles are more extensive.
In Choe Family Wing Choon, for example, the eagle-claw and the sword-finger are also found, indicating that chin-na and dim mark are also employed in Wing Choon. Wing Choon practitioners would be pleased to know that there is more in Wing Choon than what they initially thought.
The phoenix-eye fist and the leopard fist are extensively used. As the phoenix-eye fist and the leopard fist are excellent for using minimal force to cause serious damage, this is quite expected in a style that is noted for small-sized exponents against bigger-sized opponents.
On the other hand, the cup fist is not so frequently used. This may be a surprise to some people who have associated the cup fist as a typical Wing Choon hand form. It is used only once in Siu Lin Tou and Cham Kiew, but not at all in Phew Chee.
I want to learn Chi Kung for self healing, and to improve my eyesight. I injured my left eye 29 years ago. One year later, my right eye became affected. Today, my eyesight is very poor.
— Dermot, Ireland
I am sorry to hear about your eye problems. We have a wonderful set of Shaolin Eight Exercises for the Eyes, which you can perform on your own. Please do a search on my Question-Answer Series to find out more information and how to perform the exercises.
Do you provide distant healing? If you do, I would be very grateful if you would send me some healing Chi.
I do not provide distant healing, though I sometimes transmit chi over great distance to save lives. After receiving chi from me, the student still has to perform his chi kung exercises.
Thank you for coming to Ireland to teach Chi Kung. I hope you come to Ireland again next year. I will be there to do your course.
We have some excellent teachers in Ireland, including Sifu Joan Browne who is the Chief Instructor. Please see List of Instructors in Ireland for their contact particulars.
I teach in Ireland every year around Valentine Day, and the courses are organized by Sifu Joan Browne. Many people have benefited from our courses. I hope you will enjoy these benefits too.
You told me in a past correspondence that: "You don't have to intellectualize on what exercises are best for your results, or what would happen if you choose certain exercises over others."
I've been living up to this teaching as best I know how. I find Flicking Fingers is both more efficient (takes less time) and more enjoyable than doing Small Universe, or Medical/Spiritual Big Universe as we learned in the Small Universe Course. In fact it almost seems to combine the best of all three in one exercise!
I feel a little guilty or worried that I may miss something very important by not practicing these. I guess I would like to know that it is alright.
— Alex, USA
You are not only alright, you are actually doing very well. I am very glad of your results.
You have attained the formless level, which is a master's level. It does not mean that you have become a master, but it means that many masters would like to achieve what you have achieved but may still can't.
First there is no form. Then there is form. At the highest level there is no form. Before you learn any art you do not know any techniques. Then you learn techniques. When you have become very skillful, you can do away with the techniques.
This corresponds to the Zen story that before a monk practices Zen, mountains are mountains. In the process of his Zen training, mountains are not mountains. After he has attained a high level of Zen, mountains are again mountains.
The third level where there is no form is different from the first level where there is no form, just as the third level where mountains are mountains is different from the first level where mountains are mountains.
When I say that you have attained a master's level, I do not just consider that your practice can be formless. I refer more to the results that you get from your practice. Not only you are healthy and full of vitality but when you can open your heart and feel joy in simple things, you surpass many masters who are still angry and stressful despite many years of training and teaching.
Now, let us look at some intellectual answer to satisfy some intellectual curiosity.
"Flicking Fingers", or to give it a poetic name "Golden Dragon Taps on Earth" as Piti has suggested, is a very advanced, powerful exercise. When performed correctly at a high level, it activates all the twelve primary meridians.
As you first flick your fingers, you start the flow of the three hand yin meridians down your arms. These three hand yin meridians push the three hand yang meridians up the arm to the head. From here your three leg yang meridians flow though your body down your legs. They then push the three leg yin meridians up to your body to continue the flow of the three hand yin meridians.
Hence, by flicking your fingers you activate your medical or phenomenal Big Universe, which then activates your Small Universe. As you are at a very high level state of mind, the phenomenal Big Universe transforms into the spiritual or transcendental Big Universe.
It was Jeffrey who first commented on the marvel of "Flicking Fingers", or "Golden Dragon Taps on Earth". "There is no visualization and no breath regulation, yet the result obtained is so fantastic," he said. It is so fantastic because it operates at the mind level. Visualization is not necessary because it operates at no-mind.
As you can have the results of the Small Universe and the Big Universe by just performing "Golden Dragon Taps on Earth", does that mean the time spent in learning the Small Universe and the Big Universe has been wasted. Of course, not. You are able to achieve these wonderful results precisely because you have spent time learning the Small Universe and the Big Universe. You are able to attain the formless level because you have gone through the form level.
- Coming Back to the Phenomental World
- Get the Form Correct and be Relaxed
- Discovering the Secrets of Past Masters
- Don't Become a Slave to Intellectualization
- Mountains and Water