NORTHERN SHAOLIN, SOUTHERN SHAOLIN, AND WING CHOON KICKS
I'm studying the Wing Choon system. I read on the internet about Bruce Lee saying that during the secret combat which took place between him and a grandmaster in Northern Shaolin, the Wing Choon system as a typical Southern Shaolin style, gave him very few kicking techniques while the other Northern Shaolin master although armed with devastating kicks, had very little emphasis on hand techniques. This was the main reason Bruce Lee developed Jeet Kune Do, to use all the tools of his body to maximum efficiency. Hence, if I want to be a complete Shaolin fighter who can use his hands and legs to the maximum in combat, which style would you advise me to learn (northern, southern or both)?
— Sherief, Egypt
In my opinion, Bruce Lee was incorrect in his judgment. Unlike most of the non-Chinese martial arts, such as Karate, Taekwondo, KickBoxing, Western Boxing, and Wrestling, which are actually martial sports, all kungfu styles are complete by themselves. When you learn kungfu — any style of kungfu — there is no need to supplement it with techniques from other kungfu styles or from other martial arts. If a kungfu exponent finds a particular kungfu style lacking in certain techniques, the fault is with the exponent and not with the style. In other words, the fault is not that there are no such techniques in the style, but that the exponent does not know about the techniques.
Both Northern Shaolin and Southern Shaolin are extremely rich in kicking and hand techniques as well as in felling and gripping techniques. In fact, there are more hand techniques in Northern Shaolin Kungfu and more kicking technques in Southern Kungfu than all the hand techniques and kicking techniques in all the other martial arts put together! You name a hand technique or a kicking technique from any other martial arts or any other kungfu styles, and you can find it in both Northern and Southern Shaolin Kungfu.
For example, the continuous jabs and hooks in Western Boxing, and the neck grabs and jumping downward elbow strikes in Muay Thai are also found in both Northern and Southern Shaolin as continuous punches (sometimes called comet punches), horn punches, double dragon claws and double tiger claws, and standing elbows. The frontal thrust kicks and reverse round-house kicks of Taekwondo, and the sweeping kicks and sideway knee strikes of Kick-Boxing are also found in both Northern and Southern Shaolin as testing kicks, hanging kicks, whirlwind kicks, and shuttle kicks.
On the other hands, there are many hand and kicking techniques in Northern and Southern Shaolin that are not found in other martial arts. Some examples of these hand techniques are monkey grips to the groins, praying mantis hooks to trap the opponent's arm, crane beaks to the throat, reverse leopard punches to the spine, Some examples of these exotic kicking techniques are swaying lotus kicks, dragonfly kicks, the deadly organ-seeking kicks and the famous tiger-tail kicks.
Hence, if you wish to practice a complete martial art that enables you to use both your hands and kicks effectively in fighting, you can practice any style of kungfu, including Northern or Southern Shaolin. Of course you have to practice genuine, traditonal kungfu. If you merely practice external kungfu forms as gymnastics or dance, you would be unable to use them for combat even though they contain hand and kicking techniques.
It is true that flashy kicks like the ones Bruce Lee demonstrated in his celebrated movies are not used in Wing Choon, but this does not mean Wing Choon Kungfu is lacking in kicks. These falshy kicks are not used partly because Yim Wing Choon, the founder of the style, found them unbecoming for a lady, and mainly because although these kicks may be spectacular to watch in movies, they put the attacker in great risk in real combat. If someone were to use such flashy kicks on a Wing Choon master like Sifu Yip Mann, who was Bruce Lee's Wing Choon teacher, the kicker would be in serious trouble.
Kicks are effectively used in Wing Choon Kungfu. The thrust kick, for example, is often a combat-decisive technique. Leong Chan, the sigung (teacher's teacher) of Yip Mann, and who was known as the Wing Choon Kungfu King during his time, was famous for his kicks. Once he was to fight another famous master in a public match, and Leong Chan, in a rare occasion, was unsure of victory.
His sisook (teacher's junior kunfu brother), Leong Yi Thai (who was the First Patriarch in the lineage of Choe Family Wing Choon, the style of Wing Choon I practice), happened to pass that place on his opera tour. Leong Yi Thai told Leong Chan that he would show him during his opera acts a combat-ending kick to defeat the other master, which Leong Chan did. This combat-ending kick is “Lin Wan Thuei”, or “Continuous Kicks”, executed by giving a false kick (which could be real if the opponent fails to defend) for the opponent to respond to, and when he does, followed by a second kick. This “Continuous Kicks” is a signature technique in the Shaolin Flower Set.
Yim Wing Choon herself was famous for her kicks. Her favourite kick, which was often her combat-ending technique, was called “Kheun Lui Thuei”, or “Inside-Skirt Kick”, so called because the kick was executed inside her skirt. A local bully wanted to marry her, and brought his whole troop of bandits to her house to force marriage.
Yim Wing Choon made a deal with him. If he won in a public fight, she would willingly become his wife, if he lose he would call her god-mother. In the combat, Yim Wing Choon tricked him to close in to attack, and in his unexpected moment, executed the “Inside-Skirt Kick” which broke his shin, with him not knowing where the kick came from. He kept his promise and frequently brought gifts to his god-mother, way after Yim Wing Choon married Leong Phok Khow, who learned Wing Choon Kungfu from his wife and taught it to Wong Wah Poh and Leong Yi Thai.
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