We’re talking about using this for fighting, not for a game or sport…it’s designed for the street.”
Sifu John Smith
There is a great four part interview with Hawkins Cheung by Robert Chu, first published in Inside Kung-Fu magazine starting in November of 1991.
I was pointed to it by an article on Kung Fu Tea, where it was hosted on the USADojo site. It appears that Inside Kung Fu went out of business in 2011. It doesn’t seem as if anyone is offering its backlog of articles and it made me think I better backup the USADojo site’s hosting of this really important article. If Robert Chu or any representative of Inside Kung Fu would like me to take this down, I will do so – my principal aim is preservation.
In this article, an interview with Sisuk Gung Hawkins, many interesting points are made about Wing Chun. Hawkins asks many questions that cut to the heart of the system and bring to light certain questions with the system with which we all contend, and the approaches to answering these questions that were tried by both Hawkins and Bruce Lee (i.e., Jeet Kune Do). One question being how to bridge against opponents who do not “stay” but zip in and out with either/both their body or their strikes. Boxers come immediately to mind, with their jabs and quick footwork.
A system like Wing Chun, which seeks a bridge and uses relatively slow footwork (to preserve the potential for structure), will naturally have to contend with this feature of such fighting styles and every WC practitioner needs to work on their response to attacks such as the jab used by the “outside fighter.” I’ve heard many discussions over the years about how one should handle this issue. The fundamental Wing Chun approach is that we Jeet once we get close enough. But its a high level skill to work against a skilled opponent. Some people take the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach and incorporate jabs into their fighting repertoire. While, as Wong Shun Leung said, Wing Chun is what works, I think people sometimes try to incorporate elements from other systems before becoming competent at the Wing Chun approach, and that sometimes the non-Wing Chun element is brought in to try and plug a hole in the person’s understanding of Wing Chun. This patchworking of systems is a feature of the post-MMA world, but I think with Wing Chun we have a pretty integrated system and we need to truly understand it before starting to cobble together a Frankenstein’s monster of our own devising. We are standing on the shoulders of Giants and they thought a lot of this stuff through. But, once you have become truly competent, then there are some valid discussions to be had about ground game and closing the distance and other aspects of dealing with the strengths of other systems and customizing the system to your own physical idiosyncrasies, such as we find in these interviews.
Beginning in November 1991, Inside Kung-Fu published the following four-part interview with Hawkins Cheung, reprinted below.
“You’re having the opportunity to develop the instinct to use full power.”
When I first started studying Wing Chun (back in 1999), it was almost impossible to get any information about this fighting method. There were a couple of books available (J. Yimm Lee’s book with Bruce Lee was about it) and you could find articles here and there in the magazines of the day, like Black Belt Magazine or Inside Kung Fu. So Westerners who got excited about this style (often because of the Bruce Lee connection) would often travel very far to get training. Some went so far as to travel to Hong Kong. Back then, there was no real way to even find out if a city near near you had a school, unless you went there and they had an ad in the Yellow Pages. The internet has changed all of this,
Now we have a glut of information, most of it bad, but some of it for free and of the highest quality. 80% (or more probably) of the information on web sites and Youtube is from beginners or hustlers trying to make a buck.
I started this site mainly because when I started it, there was little good, proven information and I had spent a lot of time training with poor results. After 9 years of training with modest improvement in my fighting skills (in my opinion, based on my skills comparisons with people outside the system), I was fortunate enough to have Greg LeBlanc move into my city (Oakland).
In my experience (which is all this site contains , my opinions and experiences and my recommendations out of what is available out there), the Wong Shun Lineage has a degree of street legitimacy not found in some of the other Wing Chun lineages. The information that has come down to us through Wong Shun Leung students like Gary Lam, David Peterson, and Philipp Bayer has a certain quality that I might call street credibility. Because of Sifu Wong’s testing of the system in his challenge matches and his subsequent tweaks and modifications of the system and most especially the resulting mindset (feeling the need to keep testing and questioning the system), the method we’ve been given by these men is a truly pared down, logical, and effective system of fighting.
And the amazing thing these days is how much of it is just out there for free on the internet, just waiting to be learned! For instance, my Sifu Greg LeBlanc is currently putting up videos regularly on his Youtube channel (LeBlanc Wing Chun) that is a master class in the system. He has taken the system taught to him by Sifu Gary Lam and really thought about it and boiled it down to its essence. He has found the language with which to clearly describe it. Being able to explain what are essentially abstract concepts and body feelings is not easy. The qualities that distinguish good Wing Chun from malfunctioning Wing Chun are often indiscernible to the untrained eye. So you NEED proper explanations and demonstrations to understand it. Then getting it into your own body is a whole other thing! But, take it from me, if you aren’t watching his videos and listening to his little mini-lectures (given out free), you my friend are missing out!
For instance, he has recently added another tool to the toolbox by adopting a new piece of equipment called Predator Armor (designed by Bill Kipp) to add an adrenal-stress training element to the curriculum. Sifu Gary Lam calls tools like the pole and the dummy “second coaches.” This armor is another “second coach.” I’ve been out of class rehabilitating my shoulder, but I am very excited to get in and try out this new wrinkle on getting the system fully into my nervous system. In Hong Kong, they had beimo. Or they might go into the ring with Muay Thai, like Gary Lam. But we modern city dwellers who want a degree of the skill, but don’t want to be professionals, can use this training to get that one step closer and develop the skill to that one additional level of realism.