Bizarre. But its more like cult-like behaviour.
I am talking about some of the posts on Facebook forums that I come across nowadays.
Bruce Lee inspired many to take up martial arts particularly Wing Chun. That’s a good thing.
Donnie Yen’s Ip Man movie series spurred the current interest in Wing Chun after interest in it became dormant in the wake of the rise of MMA.
The Ip Man movie series led to renewed interest in Bruce Lee since the character of Bruce Lee appeared in the last two movies in the series (if I remember correctly).
The generation that took up Wing Chun after the popularity of Bruce Lee exploded had their feet solidly on the ground when it came to training.
Maybe its because in those days there was no internet. There was scarce information then on Wing Chun. If you wanted to know more you either had to look for a teacher or read about it in magazines. Later came the instructional videos. Most of the information out there was on the Ip Man style Wing Chun which becamse synonymous with Wing Chun.
Today its different. The rise of the internet, video sharing particularly Youtube led to an explosion of information across the world.
If you had told me 20 years ago that one day you would have Wing Chun practitioners in India and Africa I would turn my eyebrow up. But today you find ardent practitioners and even teachers in India and Africa.
In the late 90s the world discovered that Ip Man Wing Chun wasn’t the only Wing Chun style out there. This was true not only in Hong Kong but more so in China which at that time we didn’t hear much about the Wing Chun scene.
I heard that some of Ip Man’s disciples had gone to China to visit the styles there but if they did they kept mum about it. I can only guess why they did so. Maybe it rocked their worldview of the art or maybe it threatened their dominance as the source of learning. Who knows.
Then one day we discovered that the approach to training Wing Chun is more diverse than we thought. Because teachers of such styles weren’t promintent outside of China their schools didn’t spread widely even in China much less to the outside world.
The Ip Man movie then hit the screen and a new generation discovered Wing Chun. But this time there was a funny problem.
The Ip Man movie fictionalized some aspects of Ip Man’s life to make it interesting to viewers. The subsequent movies in the series continued blurring the lines, turning Ip Man into a demi-god, superhuman, martial arts master.
I can see the impact of this semi-fictionalizing the life of Ip Man in how students today perceive Ip Man. Instead of a normal, hardworking, intelligent but flawed human being the grandmaster is worshipped as a deity. Many couldn’t even tell that some of the things depicted on the screen was pure fiction. For example, the scene where Ip Man fought many Karate practitioners. That never happened.
Along with Ip Man I find that Bruce Lee is also worshipped along the same lines. This is funny behaviour considering that Bruce Lee was about finding his truth in the combative arts, seeking to liberate instead of shackling one to tradition and truths that are not.
So if you are still hanging on to Bruce Lee’s every word, immortalizing it in stone, then you have not really learned anything. Instead, you are caught in a cultish behaviour, something that Bruce Lee warned about.
If you have looked into the life and practice of Ip Man you would also find a similar outlook. The difference is that Bruce Lee by not mastering a style to begin with had to look at other styles to master functional skills. On the other hand, Ip Man, being a master of Wing Chun looked within the style to liberate himself.
I suspect this is how Ip Man came to find himself using Wing Chun differently from his contemporaries in China. If you examine the other Wing Chun styles or even the style that Ip Man learned from you would find all these styles employ the use of snake hand to train the softness of the wrist-hand for use in close combat. Ip Man bucked the trend by discarding this practice from his Siu Nim Tao form and you won’t find this movement at all in the first form of any of his disciples.
We can see the remnant of the snake hand practice in the Biu Jee form where it is greatly simplified. Even then then the importance of this practice was not emphasized hence the crop of explanations (or should I say funny explanations) out there for this movement.
In the context of Wing Chun as a close quarter combat art this is puzzling. However, when we consider that Ip Man used his art as a long range kicking style then suddenly the lack of emphasis that he placed on the snake hand practice makes sense.
The learning of Wing Chun, or any other art, is meant to free you instead of imprisoning you in a mental trap whether of your own making or that of the school you joined.
The Wing Chun style like many traditional Chinese Martial Arts is designed in a certain way to teach skills. To master this skill you have to understand the core concepts and principles, what they mean, how to train them, and how they allow you to progress in your learning, shaping and reshaping your movements until you move in a manner displaying the characteristics of the style as laid out in the principles.
For example, the way you move at the Siu Nim Tao level should be different from the way you do at the Biu Jee level. Why? By the time you reach the butterfly knives level and have undergone its training the way you move will change once again.
This is how you can tell if a “master” has really mastered the butterfly knives or he is just going through the motions. One reason why it is rare to see today’s master demonstrating this type of understanding is because I suspect they have not examined carefully how the Wing Chun system is set up to teach the skills.
If you want to break free of your mental cell you should re-examine your learning, study the concepts and principles all over again, and drop the cult worship of Ip Man. Respect him as a giant of the art but not pray to him blindly as you would to a wooden deity tablet. Then you may be able to break out of your current boundary and see Wing Chun in an entirely different light.
As you can see there are no links in this post asking you to sign up for a training program or buy an eBook. I write this because within these few years Wing Chun has transformed into the MacDonald’s of the CMA world. Its mass popularity will soon obscure and eradicate in time that which is essential to that which is pushed by whichever popular master salesman is at the moment whether in line with the transmitted concepts and principles or not. If you really want to learn Wing Chun properly don’t get caught up by cult masters and other cultish truths no matter how convincing they are. Do you own independent checking and verification of what you are learning before you get trapped inside and can no longer get out because you have invested too much time and money in building your own prison.