That Cho Gar Wing Chun is largely or should I say nearly completely displaced by Ip Man Wing Chun in Penang is one of the disturbing trends in the Wing Chun world today.
What is even more disturbing is how many are importing internal arts elements into Wing Chun, modifying it and then calling it Wing Chun. I mean do they even know what doing this means?
Let me spell it out what this means – it means that the art that they originally learned is deficient, that the chest pounding talk about proud tradition and lineage is meaningless, if they have to modify what they were handed down from the generation before. In short, the transmission is incomplete and broken once it has been modified and its characteristics changed. OK, you can say you improved on it but if something is already optimal how do you optimize it further? If you could then it was not optimal to begin with.
Don’t get me wrong – if there is something wrong with your art and you need to tinker with it to fix it fine but don’t claim that its been traditionally handed down when it is no longer the case. Some of course get it right by labelling the style as Master X style Wing Chun which means that though Master X learned from say, Grandmaster Z, the style transmitted by Master X is no longer what Grandmaster Z passed down but has been changed by Master X.
Which of course leads to the interesting question – do they even know what are the unique characteristics of their style of Wing Chun? What sets their Wing Chun apart from other arts in terms of theories, principles and applications?
Every style of Wing Chun share common elements but they also have their own differences. The common elements are what make Wing Chun stand apart as a style in its own right. Writing a lot of theories and giving long video talks do not an art make. The thing that long video explanations are good for is as a solution for insomnia. If you want to demonstrate your understanding of Wing Chun don’t post long, boring, rambling explanations. Instead, show how you do it cause action speaks louder than words.
If you spend enough time researching Wing Chun you will find that it has a set of principles that define how the movements are articulated which in turn define how they are applied. You don’t need to write a book, make that not even a long chapter, to explain it. A good model can be explained in less than 1 minute but will take a lot of time to put into practice. Today this has been turned on its head by the tons of videos out there professing to offer explanations on the true art. As we Chinese put it “saliva more than tea”.
Some masters like to say that Wing Chun is internal and give long winded explanations that don’t always hit the mark. I’d say all the explanations are meaningless unless you know what internal really means. The problem is most masters don’t know what they don’t know with regards to internal.
For example, if a Wing Chun master’s mastery of internal is the same as say Grandmaster Wei Shuren’s then he would be able to demonstrate the type of power that GM Wei has. However, I have to say that I have not seen any Wing Chun master, not even GM Tsui Seung Tin (who had superb power), who can exhibit a similar mastery. So in this respect the internal of Wing Chun is clearly not the same as the internal of Tai Chi. If you don’t believe me all you have to do is read the book on the 22-form by GM Wei and compare it to the Wing Chun Treasured Texts by GM Tsui. Its like comparing an A-level book to a doctorate level book. Or watch the videos of both grandmasters and you can see that both approaches are as different as day and night.
Wing Chun is Wing Chun. It has “yau” (soft) and “kong” (hard) but these are meaningless terms without understanding the actual feel. Many “kong” becomes what we term as “ngaang kok kok” (硬搉搉). I had one teacher who had the fighting techniques but his sticking hands felt “ngaang kok kok” (maybe that’s why he hated doing sticking hands which is a first for a Wing Chun master cause most Wing Chun masters would happily touch hands). By comparison, his teacher (whom I also learned from later) had the soft touch which can turn hard suddenly on contact and back to soft.
The hands of my teachers in Tai Chi felt different from the hands of my teachers in Wing Chun. Sometimes you see them apply techniques in a similar manner but the feel is different. One of my Wing Chun teachers sometimes used a neutralizing method that is similar to what we do in Ngok Gar Kuen but though the outer appearance looks similar the feel is not the same.
When you learn an art you’d want to know what makes it unique, not just know that Ip Man the pseudo fictional movie character could beat down a room full of Japanese martial artists. If you know anything about the style you would know that Wing Chun the art doesn’t work that way against more than one opponent. In fact, the way the movie Ip Man depicted that fight is just wishful thinking though it is an enjoyable action scene.
The traditional arts are dying in two ways – (1) lack of interest to learn (2) transformation to something it was not, losing its physical identity and possibly the characteristics that made it effective. If you love the traditional arts do something to arrest and possibly reverse the decline. Otherwise, in the future the “premium” art that you thought you are learning could well be just the “McD” burger served on expensive porcelain plate.