Food for Thought


WING CHUN is firmly based in the pursuit and study of  THE IDEA, the SIU NIM TAO, weirdly in many ways this turns Wing Chun into an imaginary Martial Art, a mental construct, perhaps not a genuine, useable reality.

As a result of this weirdness a great deal of what we do, the physical bits of our training if you wish, is simply a distraction that keeps our bodies occupied while our mind interprets the IDEA and in time extracts the knowledge that many confuse as the IDEA.   Once understanding of the IDEA reaches a certain level there is no distinction between Chi Sau, ironing a shirt or mowing the lawn.

If this epiphany has not yet happened for you yet I can well understand people thinking “What is this guy smoking”?

The IDEA is not the knowledge the IDEA is simply the key.

If someone were to read back through all of my Blog Posts they would notice a sudden and quite dramatic change in the overall feel of my posts from about 5 years back and more acutely about 2 years back, I quite simply reached a place of no doubt.   I am not trying to say that I now know all there is to know, that is of course impossible, but I had reached a place that no longer needed sustained improvement, there was and still is plenty of room for improvement, just no pressing need, the impetus now is mostly maintenance.

What is it that I no longer have any doubt about?  What knowledge has the key unlocked?

The answer is so simple….. ME {or in your own case YOU}.

If I get in trouble  I”  will use Wing Chun and not the other way around, it is I” that does any Form and not the other way around, it is  I” that plays Chi Sau and not the other way around.  It just took me a long time to understand.

My own Sifu, Jim Fung once said to me that “the first 20 years are the hardest”, it may be coincidence but it turned out to be that was the timeline in my case.

The Great Leap Forwards was not understanding what goes where, when and why but rather identifying what was surplus in my practice, a little like the parable of the uncarved block.  If you FOCUS on taking away what is not the carving you will be left with only the carving.

And of course accidental perfection.

This is very clear to me now but what is not clear is can I teach this, is the passage of time all that is really required, on a different occasion I asked my Sifu …………

Q.   “What does it take to become a Master”?

A.    “Turn up to training and pay attention, one day you will just wake up a Master”.

My Sigung, my Sifu’s Sifu, Chou Sheung Tin, realising his time was coming to a close radically changed his teaching methods in 2000, he did it to pass on what he believed was the core knowledge of Wing Chun to as many people as possible so they could learn as quickly as possible, and in doing so preserve the style.  In the rear of his book there are testimonials from his closest and long standing students that basically say that after 10 years hands on training none of them achieved the goal before his passing.

His way was just for him.

Many of us humans do not really know why we do things in the manner we do them, but we will always try to find a way to explain it to make it appear that we do, that it was us all along and not some cosmic hiccup, we seem to be adverse to the IDEA of it just being inherently easy for someone, the ubiquitous “natural”, we like to think they had a major hand in bringing it to be, when in most cases they did not.  We like to think we can be as good as others that have gone before, when most cases we can’t.

When Bruce Lee died so did Jeet Kuen Do.

One time I was really struggling with some of the IDEAS from Biu Gee and my Sifu said “Stop trying so hard, no-one every gets it anyway, when I was training  I often did not understand what my own Sifu was telling me to do, never mind what I was doing”. 

None of us can follow, none of us can lead, we can only hope to find our own way and learn our own Wing Chun.  This does not in any way imply that we do not need assistance, but we should seek guidance and not instruction.

A way to turn IDEA’s into action.

As a final reference to my Sifu, I once complained to him about the quality of the instruction I was receiving when I turned up to training, he calmly looked me in the eye and said “Derek, when you come to see me you should not come as an infant needing to be spoon fed, but as a student looking to have his homework marked”!


This was always the way with Kung Fu, at least before it became a business.


Food for Thought



When people first approach me to teach them I enquire why they wish to embark on training, very few say “I wish to be a more effective fighter”, mostly it is some strange mix of T.V. Hippy Culture and Kung Fu Hero Worship, so I tell them “I am the wrong Teacher for you, I teach people how to become more effective fighters, Wing Chun is the vehicle I choose because it works, I do not teach Culture.

Some leave there and then some stay for a week or a month but leave soon after, it is not that me and my people train hard physically, I teach like most Wing Chun teachers, but mentally and emotionally we are very tough, we do not let ourselves slip into denial about the very real dangers that encouraged us to seek training in the first place.  We do not play the  “I think it is good to have some skill IF I ever need it, but I hope I don’t” game, we play the “Training to be ready for WHEN I need it because I know I WILL need it someday” game.


This dichotomy exists in most Martial Arts, but it appears to be more common in Wing Chun than any of the other styles I have trained in, students would rather spend years doing Forms and Chi Sau than learning how to really hurt someone, they are in denial that they will ever need their training.

Gavin de Becker puts it like this in his book Fear Less.

“..denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn’t so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling. Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level.”

Lt. Col.Dave Grossman writes ..

“Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: You didn’t bring your gun; you didn’t train. Your only defence was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by fear, helplessness, horror and shame at your moment of truth”.

Denial is not just about thinking the Brown will not become Airborne, it is also in the delusion that what you do in training in and of itself will be enough to save the day, usually it will not be..

Just last night {Thursday 8 / 6 / 2017} at training one of my guys said “I have a question I would like to hear your thoughts on. In a f*#ked up thing like the attack in London, what would we do in that situation”?

Everyone was ears and eyes wide open, “We get stabbed to death” was my reply, we spent a few minutes talking about what had happened and if there was any chance of any martial artist suddenly becoming Chuck Norris, we then spoke of violence in general and what to expect and not expect, what to do and what not to do, we spoke of violence and survival, of awareness and escape.

At my Sifu’s School there was an Instructor that talked the talk that Wing Chun was bulletproof, went on the Wing Chun Haj to Hong Kong went to every seminar, he lived on a diet of pure Nim Tao, one evening in Darling Harbour he was challenged by some guys and thought “Bring it on”, they did and he got hammered.

Denial is really just not being honest.


We are Martial Artists, it is what we do.

Articles, Food for Thought


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In the mid 1980’s I was employed by a large corporation in a Managerial position, this corporation was very forward thinking and all of the managers across all of the divisions were sent to Melbourne for a weekend seminar by Edward De Bono to be coached in Lateral Thinking, this became a regular work experience for the next few years either going to Melbourne for a weekend or having someone come “in house”, at first I was sceptical of the whole idea, after all I was a Chef in charge of a number of Catering operations how could Lateral Thinking help me, but I soon understood that  thinking is just thinking, it is not task specific, it is a method, once my method of thinking changed everything I did changed, especially how I trained my staff.

You may think what has Lateral Thinking got to do with Martial Arts?

All thinking is just thinking, and all training is just training, be it training apprentices to become Chefs or training I.T. Consultants to do Wing Chun.

Fighting is not really a Physical experience as much as it is a Mental / Emotional experience, in any chaotic situation the worse way to deal with the the problem is to try to do what has always been done, that has already failed or we would not be in the position we find ourselves, the solution is to innovate, to change things up, to be creative.

Creativity is a mental quality not a physical act.

What really changed everything about how I trained people, what made me understand the failings of the traditional Table Top / Building Block Thinking approach to training was the concept of Learning Backwards.

Traditionally when we are taught something we start at step 1, everything is new and unknown, everything is difficult to relate to because it is new and unknown, this is always “the hardest step”, then we move on to step 2 and then onwards 3,4,5 and so on, because this is the way we have all been taught everything, we think this is the only and correct way to proceed.  But when we move from step 1 to step 2 we are once again breaking new ground, everything is new and unknown, everything is difficult to relate to because it is new and unknown, this is just another “the hardest step”, and then we progress to another “the hardest step”.

The premise behind Learning Backwards is that it makes no difference what the first step actually is it will always be difficult, new, alien, so if we begin by teaching step 5 the experience is no worse than the original step 1, no one anywhere gets step 1, so when we begin at step 5 then move on by going backwards to step 4 we know where we are headed, we know what everything is for and what is expected, we know what comes next, it is no longer a leap into the unknown.  Step 3, 2, 1 are easier still because the path ahead becomes longer and clearer.

If we apply this thinking to Wing Chun the difficulty we face learning the Sil Lim Tao Form does not make it any easier for us to understand the Chum Kiu Form, which itself does not help us to understand the Biu Gee Form because we cannot relate to why we need the movements.

In fact I can honestly say that I only understood the Forms when looking backwards anyway.

We all learn backwards.

Traditional Martial Arts thinking, including Wing Chun’s thinking, is full of out dated Table Top Methods, how often does someone roll out the old chestnut that “to build a good house you need strong foundations”?

Houses evolved out of the need for shelter, before we built them we found them, Caves, the we decided we needed shelter closer to where we hunted so we built a basic roof to keep off the Sun and Rain, then we added walls to keep out the Wind and Dust, then we added a floor, to this day there a many wonderful majestic houses across the world that do not have foundations.

If we start teaching from Biu Gee then once we look at Chum Kiu it becomes a refinement and not an expansion, we are looking inside at what we already have and not outside to what we may think we need, the same goes for S.L.T.

I have had a number of Private Students that I  started off with the Knife Form, and they did really well really quickly.  When difficulties arose I would introduce tiny sections from the other Forms to help illuminate what we were trying to achieve, when we ran scenarios based on real incidents they transferred the Knife information seamlessly into empty hand use.  Obviously these students main aim was to learn how to be better fighters TODAY and their personal investment was serious, I fully realise that many students are not interested in becoming better fighters as quickly as possible so they do not see the fault with becoming a disciple and spending years learning the craft, the thing is we all love and enjoy the things we are good at, Learning Backwards would help everyone reach a level of personal enjoyment in their Wing Chun much sooner as well.

Quick Art is still Art.

Thinking is just Thinking.

Articles, Food for Thought


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In my M.A. Lifetime I have studied Boxing with an English Coach, studied Judo with a Japanese Sensei and studied Wing Chun Kung Fu with a Chinese Sifu, in many ways I was able to at first hand observe the cultural differences in passing on information, in teaching between these 3 very different Nationalities, a peek into the mind set of the average British, Japanese and Chinese M.A. Training developed along lines that the average British, Japanese and Chinese M.A. Student would understand and feel at home with.

My Boxing Coach worked diligently to fix my faults and improve my ability, if I failed at anything he felt that he had failed as a coach, he offered encouragement and always had a second way to do everything, he would always find different ways to answer the same question until it made sense.

This is what COACHES do.

My Japanese Sensei would show us the correct way to perform an action, down to the smallest detail and then be disdainful if we did not get it correct, if I failed at anything he acted as if I was making him look like a bad Sensei and would treat me accordingly. There was only one way and if I did not get it it was my fault. There were not many situations where I could ask a question, I had been told all I needed to know and now I was to achieve the objective.

This is what SENSEI do.

My Chinese Sifu would take care teaching me something for the first time, show how it related to the various Forms, show a useable application, after that it was down to osmosis, any questions I asked would be answered Yes or No, in that enigmatic Chinese way he would say “When you properly understand the question you will already have the answer and no longer need to ask”. 

This is what SIFU do.

These are Cultural traits that I imagine are perfectly normal and understood by their own people, even if we cannot see it these traits are the biggest obstacle to a Westerner learning an Eastern M.A. If you maintain Western thinking you will always misunderstand Eastern teaching, but being Westerners we will think we understand perfectly while all the time getting it wrong.

More often than not by putting the emphasis in the wrong place completely.

In the BASIC training of Wing Chun just about everything that is done is an attempt to create some kind of “Feedback Loop” that will approximate a Physical Explanation of a Mental Concept.

As wild and out there as it may sound, nothing that is shown is what you are expected to do, hence my Sifu’s statement that “When you properly understand the question you will already have the answer and no longer need to ask” 

There is a Western precedent for this way of thinking, “The composer Stravinsky had written a new piece with a difficult violin passage.  After it had been in rehearsal for several weeks, the solo violinist came to Stravinsky and said he was sorry, he had tried his best, the passage was too difficult, no violinist could play it.  Stravinsky said, ‘I understand that.  What I am after is the sound of someone trying to play it.’ ”

If you are not reminding yourself of this constantly then before you know it you believe the opposite that what we are shown is what we do, and like Stravinsky’s Violinist you will be filled with Self Doubt.

After almost 60 years in the Martial Arts, and most of the last 25 years studying Wing Chun I am of the opinion that we are all getting it wrong, but being Westerners we cannot see this.

In my own School I stay as close as I can to the Spirit and the IDEA of Wing Chun, after all I think the CONCEPT is flawless, but I teach from the perspective of personal experience, most of what is taught in Wing Chun today will not work, and more than likely was never meant to.

People stick with bad idea’s like paint sticks to a blanket, it is just a whole lot easier to leave it be than possibly damaging the Blanket.

When talking Culture think about this question… Can Blue Men sing the Whites?

Food for Thought, My Own Opinion


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I run a class for my senior Guys on a Saturday morning, this is something I sent out to them some time ago, more than likely forgotten by now.

I hope not.

I post it today so it may be of use to any that follow my thinking.


This is for me is the corner stone of everything we are doing, and the sooner we find a way to get comfortable with the idea, the sooner we can align ourselves in this direction the sooner and the quicker we will move forward.

If you honestly believe that you can transcend from one level of Wing Chun to another by physically training the shit out of what you know now then you will be where you are now for ever.

I am sure you are all well aware that what I do in Wing Chun is “different” from what you do in Wing Chun.

“Different”, let me repeat that

“Different”, one more time for the slow Guys,


What I do is not better than what you do, better implies that we are doing the same thing but that I am doing it closer to the way it should be done {and by extension it means that you should be able to get there from here}, what I do gets better results there is absolutely no question about that, but what I am not doing, ………….  is doing what you are doing, ……………. and just doing it better.

If what I am doing is different than what you do, do you really think that getting better at what you are doing is going to help you catch up with me?


Each and everyone of us lives in a Universe of our own making, once we have made that Universe it is there forever and cannot be changed from that present viewpoint, as Albert Einstein noted

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”

if something comes into our Universe that is not a part of it then we simply do not understand it, in many ways it does not exist.

If it does not exist how can you understand it?

And if you do not understand it how can you learn it?

If “Soft Focus Wing Chun” does not exist in your Universe it does not matter how hard you train, how hard you look or how much you want it you will never find it because it is not there, it does not exist.

What is our Universe?

Our Universe is nothing more than our Perceptions manifested in to what we think is Reality.

How we move and interact with our Universe is nothing more than us co-existing with a Universe that contains all the things we can already do, what I mean by this is that if your Universe contains mediocre Wing Chun Skills then you will be able to do Mediocre Wing Chun because it is part of your Universe and not something you trained.

Training for a thousand years in a Universe that only contains Mediocre Wing Chun will result in nothing more than Mediocre Wing Chun.

How could it do anything else?

There is nothing else there?

What we are really involved with through ongoing practice is learning how to change from the Universe we inhabit now to another Universe that has different values, different values will bring different perceptions and of course different perceptions will create a different Reality.

Wing Chun is nothing more than the Vehicle that we have chosen to travel to our new Universe.

How well and how quickly you move forward depends on how you connect with this idea.

What I do now in Wing Chun is almost unrelated to what I used to do 5 years ago, is this because my Skill base has changed?

I personally do not think that this is so, how can a Skill Base change anyway, how can an Arm movement change how can a Bong Sau change, no I believe that I am doing the same Shit that I had been doing for the previous 20 Years, in fact in many respects my Physical ability has gone down hill, I do not use many of the tools I used in the past at all.

Same Skills, Different Person, no I do not go for this either, I am definitely still me.

Quantum Mechanics postulates that every time you make a decision a new Universe comes into existence that continues the time Line with the other choice being the deciding factor.

We just live in the version with our current decision.

Same Person, same Skills, different Universe.

Changing Universes is a simple as making a choice, you decide what you want in your Universe and it appears. It is the deciding that is the tricky part, some people refuse to change, some out of Fear, some out of misplaced self importance and they hope that they can force change by hard work and effort.

If you think that you can get better at Wing Chun without changing to a Universe that has that possibility, that has that type of thinking as the normal thought all I can say is…

You can’t get there from here.