Many people go to Hong Kong and come back as though they now posses secret knowledge.

I came to Wing Chun by accident.

My partner of the time wished to learn Kung Fu and she had been told of a style that was developed by a woman, Wing Chun.

 Back in 1991 I had never heard of Wing Chun.

 I was 38 years of age with over 30 years of experience in assorted, mostly Japanese, Martial Arts and fortunately for me I did not need to learn how to fight.

So I did not begin as others do, wide-eyed and hopeful.

For all of my life I have been influenced by creative and non-linear thinking, I was not the type of student that took anything at face value.

I have always required some kind of tangible, measurable proof.

So it was with a certain amount of difficulty that I listened to the seniors of the school telling me the Wing Chun story, “Invented by a woman, blah, blah, blah”.

It was all so obviously false, and I had a creeping suspicion that Wing Chun was a bogus Martial Art.

As the training progressed I was told things by my Instructors that quite simply did not make any sense, when I questioned them I was told that the problem was my level of understanding and not Wing Chun theory.

This was not the best way to win over a doubter, it reinforced my idea that Wing Chun was bogus and that my Instructors knew very little of value.

In time I became an Instructor and began training under the supervision of the Schools Master, Sifu {Jim} Fung Chuen Keung.

A genuine Hong Kong Master.

Over the years I developed a good, honest and open relationship with Sifu Jim, his English language skill was excellent so there was never any difficulty in his explaining exactly what he meant. 

After many conversations Sifu Jim said to me that it was almost impossible for non-Chinese people to understand Wing Chun correctly, firstly there was the problem of translating anything from Chinese into English, the two languages did not share any common ground, so any translation was at best a guess that depended more on the individuals understanding of the subject matter. 

 However, Sifu Jim regarded the biggest problem as the difference between the basic building blocks of Chinese Civilisation as opposed to the building blocks of  Western Civilisation.  

Chinese thinking is a result of  the influence of such thinkers as Lao Tzu, Confucius and Buddha, whereas Western thinking was based on the ideas of Greek and Arab philosophers and Judeo – Christian thinking.

This makes for a completely different World View.

Chinese people and Western people are doing completely different Martial Arts, even if we use the same words and the same moves we are not doing the same thing because we do not inhabit the same mental or emotional universe.

Pre W.W.2. Chinese thinking is very much about finding the middle ground, about accommodating diverse opinions and ideas, no such thing as being completely wrong or completely right.

In western thinking there is the great divide, it is forever and always right or wrong, Westerners truly think that the only way to the truth is by debate {argument} and that ultimately there can only be one way, this is the complete opposite of Chinese thinking. 

At the time when I was having these conversations with my Sifu, many of my contemporaries were taking the pilgrimage to Hong Kong, to train with my Sifu’s own Sifu, Choy Shong Tin.

My Sifu shared his opinion that Westerners would have a serious problem in Hong Kong because we cannot change who we are and that it is the Chinese way to tell people they are doing well when in fact they are not.

Chinese people would understand the subtleties and put in more work, westerners would take it at face value and go buy a new hat.

Later in our relationship my Sifu told me that many of his Instructors did not teach what he had taught them.

They thought they were making things easier for the students by changing the explanations, but in the end they were just making things up and getting it wrong.

When I asked why he allowed this to happen and not fix it, he told me that even though it was his school, and his teachings, when people chose not to listen it was not his place to force it.

If they asked for help he would give it, but until then….

“People lose themselves and people can find themselves”.

The normal Chinese “Kung Fu” way was to understand you were lost and make an effort to get back on track.

This creates some unintended major issues for Westerners who think that they are right until being told otherwise.

For westerners, this is how our system works, how our schools work and how our societies work.

From this point on I would wince when someone said…

 “This is what Sigung Choy said when I was in Hong Kong” implying that this is how it is.

Staying on this point for a moment did they really hear Sigung Choy say anything?

Or did they hear someone else translate what Sigung said? 

Unless the translator is a United Nations-level translator that happens to have the same level of understanding of Wing Chun that Sigung Choy has the chances of that translation being accurate are slim to non-existent.

A genuine example about the vagaries of translations.

There was a video on YouTube of the late Wong Shun Leung visiting my Sifu’s school in Adelaide, Australia in 1992, my Sifu was acting as translator, and at one point W.S.L. describes his thinking about pivoting, which happened to be quite different from my Sifu’s idea so Sifu Jim translated it to be in line what he taught himself.

By the time of this video my Sifu had passed away so I could not ask him why he did that, but his excellent knowledge of English and his natural Cantonese made an accidental mistranslation unlikely.

 Any translation is rarely what the person is saying.

Many people go to Hong Kong and come back as though they now posses secret knowledge.

Hopefully it is not deliberate, but they consider themselves favourably blessed because they have been to Hong Kong whereas others may not have been?  

Suddenly everything they say is….

Sigung showed ME this.

Sigung told ME this.

I saw this in Hong Kong.

This is such a Western way of thinking, and yet many use it to measure  Chinese thinking.

Once we Westerners think that we are following the “Right Way” we are truly lost.

But can we find our own way and if we do will it still be Wing Chun?

A question to all Westerners, do you think that Forms teach anything practical? 

 This is almost pure Plato, the diametric opposition of good and bad, it is hard to imagine any Chinese thinker choosing this path, but I have endured quite a few people that hold themselves in high esteem tell me that there is only THE FORM.

Is there any way that we Westerners can approach Wing Chun from a Chinese point of view?

My Sifu thought that this was just not possible, and now, after more than 30 years training and teaching Wing Chun, I tend to agree.

Shortly before his passing I asked my Sifu 

Me:   What is the “Little Idea”?

Sifu Jim:   It is a Concept.

Me:   But what is it about?

Sifu:   You take an IDEA, any IDEA, and you make it smaller.

If we are smart, and we are in the midst of struggle, loaded like mules on the edge of collapse, we can put down our packs for a moment and stand tall, as humans, even though we know we must soon put back our packs and donkey up the mountain.


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