More Wing Chun In-Fighting – the Sad Kind

Chinese kung fu masters battle over inheritance of Yip Man’s Wing Chun legacy
“A controversy has erupted in Chinese martial arts circles over who will be chosen as the officially sanctioned inheritor of the legacy of Wing Chun-style kung fu.

Nine martial arts groups from Guangdong province have signed a letter contesting a suggestion by the provincial department of culture to list Ip Chun, the son of kung fu legend Yip Man, as an official standard bearer of the martial art.”
South China Morning Post

Its “beside the point” politics and bickering like this that give our art a bad name.

While what we need to be doing is refining and developing ourselves and our individual abilities, people who are more concerned about the financial bottom line and reputation fight these political battles.

How about putting your school on the map by being awesome and training your students to be amazing?

Wing Chun Dummy

Wong-Shun-Leung-wooden-dummy-214x300“They misunderstanding their using. For learning the wooden dummy, most people they think they will practice their arm very strong…I can break the opponent’s arm!
Its wrong.
In Wing Chun all the touching is angle…you won’t be using force against force of your opponent’s….no matter you are young, you are old, you are girl, if your angle is correct…even I’m an old man but my angle is correct I can push you out very easy. I can take your position and hit you out very easy.”
Sifu Gary Lam, Complete Wooden Dummy DVD

The Wing Chun Wooden Dummy (or  Muk Yan Jong) is an object of fascination to many people interested in kung fu.   The Dummy is synonymous with Wing Chun and lends our art a certain mystique.

If nothing else, it always looks pretty badass in the movies, for instance, when Donnie Yen  did it in Ip Man.

My favorite dummy sequence is in the Jackie Chan movie Wheel for Meals, because he mocks it.  I think we all will do well to have a sense of humor about out training and our art.

There were 108 movements in the classic dummy, probably developed or collected by Chan Wah Shun.  It has been modified and added to over the years, like most of the Wing Chun forms.  Depending on your school and lineage, you’ll find the dummy played in various ways.Jackie Chan Wooden Dummy

For instance, when Wong Shun Leung taught it to Gary Lam, the Po Pai section was only done on one side.  Gary Lam had his students do both sides: this was how my teacher learned it and this is how I learned it.

Some lineages don’t have the kicking section.  Some schools have movements in different orders.  It doesn’t really matter – the movements, like those in the other forms, are to be considered separately – they are not “combinations.”  The only way they are to be seen as “combinations” is in the way we move from one action to another; this is called “changing.”

The Wing Chun way is to fight like a Jazz musician.  We are playing the same melody, but it’s always different.  It is very dependent on what the other player is doing.  We riff off what the other player (the opponent) does – we improvise.  The Wing Chun principles are the melody – our interpretation in the moment is the improvisation.

The dummy is what Gary Lam calls a “second coach.”   It gives you feedback on your technique.  It teaches you things.  It teaches you structure, control, and angle.
[Read more...]

Jackie Chan on The Incredibly Strange Film Show

In 1988, I was visiting my brother in California – he was stationed at a military base near Merced.

We stumbled across this TV show on PBS (public broadcasting).

It was an English show by Jonathan Ross, who later became kind of a big deal over there, sort of like the UK’s Jimmy Fallon. It was a show about Jackie Chan.  This was way before Shanghai Noon or Rush Hour.

I’d only seen Jackie Chan in the really old Hong Kong movies from the late seventies like Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (interestingly, he did one called Snake and Crane Arts of Shaolin).  

They were OK and the acrobatic stuff was good, but the humor was that really broad kid’s stuff — like people getting their faces shoved into horse manure.  With the big double take, the cartoon sound effects, and the silly music.

I somehow missed The Big Brawl in 1980 – a lot was happening with me that year so I’m not surprised – it wasn’t a hit anyway.

But then I saw this documentary and couldn’t believe my eyes.  I recorded it and later showed it to anyone who would watch it.

I was amazed at the speed and the multiple opponents and the crazy falls and the effortless athleticism of it all.

Later, after Jackie made it big in the states with Rush Hour (1998) and Shanghai Noon (2000), we started to see some of his old Hong Kong movies showing up with decent dubbing.

Meanwhile, I moved to the Bay Area, where the combination of being in the “big city” and the high Asian population made it a place where many of the films of Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, and Jet Lee (not to mention Chow Yun Fat and the rest of the HK film revolution of the 1990s) were available.

I joyfully soaked it all in and it helped to energize my kung fu training.  If you haven’t seen Police StoryArmour of GodDragons ForeverSupercopThe Legend of Drunken Master (or Drunken Master 2), or Who Am I? then you are in for a treat.  Nodoby does Kung Fu comedy like Jackie and his serious fight choreography is second to none and paved the way for the high quality stuff we see today in movies like the Bourne films and Captain America: The Winter Solider.

Hey! My hometown Oakland #2 Most Dangerous City for 2013

“There is no there there.”
Gertrude Stein on Oakland

An article in the Huffington Post on the “Ten Most Dangerous Cities in America for 2013″ lists my hometown for the last 15 years, Oakland, as second only to Detroit.

Well, we always wanted to win something!

O-town is frequently in the top ten for murder and violence. We always have at least 80 murders every year. In 2006, we had 147!

Luckily I’ve never been physically attacked, although I did have my car stolen and three car break-ins.  No house burglaries yet, though, knock on wood!

And, as usual, most of the violence is concentrated in a small area and is associated with the drug trade in those areas. Watch The Wire and you’ll know the whole sad story.  Baltimore, Oakland, LA, its all the same.

Oddly, if you look at the statistics, crime overall in the U.S. is way down from the highs in the 1970s (although you would never know it from checking the news).

But we have the best weather in the world! Everything balances out I guess.


Wing Chun Fighting Distance

“A fighting distance is considered to be a distance within reach of your opponent. No direct techniques can be delivered at a distance of more than 5 feet between individuals of average height. The attacker must first take a step in the direction of his opponent … The opponent, however, can avoid the fight by taking one step to the back or moving to the side.”
Muay Thai Basics by Christoph Delp

“I’m just trying to find the bridge… Has anybody seen the bridge?
(Have you seen the bridge?)
I ain’t seen the bridge!
(Where’s that confounded bridge?)”
Led Zeppelin, “The Crunge”

You have one or more weapons.

If you have developed your striking skills at all, then your strike is one weapon.  If you’ve developed your kicks, this is another set of weapons.  Each of these weapons have their range.

I think of a Wing Chun fighter as being like a battleship.  In the old days, a battleship had cannon which had a certain range, say five miles.  If the ship wanted to target a defensive position, such as a fort, on land, they had to get within range in order to strike.

Often there was an arms race between the distance a ship could fire and a fort could fire – whoever could fire furthest had the advantage, because they could hit without being hit back for the time it took to bridge the distance between the respective ranges of the weapons.

Say a ship could only hit a target accurately if it was less than five miles away.  This was the weapon’s functional distance.

Your weapons also have a functional distance and you need to develop an instinct for it.


Steven Moody and Chukwuebuka Nweke

[Read more...]