Sunday
Feb082009

Siu Nim Tau tutorial

This year I have decided to teach a series of tutorials on special topics almost every month.  Each tutorial is a two hour intensive class meant to polish and intensify the training in certain areas.  This year I have already scheduled tutorials on such topics as rolling and falling (falling leaf roll in WingTsun), WT fighting with boxing gloves, chum kiu form, WT mottoes and core theory and many more.  The first tutorial I taught this year was on the topic of the Siu Nim Tau form (SNT), which is the most basic and fundamental form of WingTsun. 

In addition to correcting the form in detail I also covered the most important mottoes or theories of the SNT as well as body mechanic drills.  These special body mechanic drills help the students understand the movements in a more organic sense.

I'm very happy to teach these tutorials to a small group of my students every month.  All City WingTsun and IWTA students are invited to attend.  The next tutorial will be fun - WingTsun with boxing gloves!

Tuesday
Feb032009

Sifu Eric Oram in NYC

The WingTsun/Wing Chun wars of the past are officially over - a "Leung Ting" guy had dinner with a "William Cheung" guy!  What is the world coming to?

It was a great pleasure for me to hang out with Sifu Eric Oram of the William Cheung lineage last night. My student Mike Yahn just wrapped on the new Sherlock Holmes film where Sifu Eric was working as the fight consultant and we figured we would go out and celebrate.  So we all went down to Chinatown and ate the vegetarian versions of classic Chinese meat dishes while chatting about our favorite topic (martial arts, of course).  It was great swapping stories and hearing of Sifu Eric's adventures in Hollywood and in China.

Sifu Eric is a great guy and an exceptional martial artist.  We are all very thankful for all of his help with Mike on the set of the film.  Keep up the great work!

-Si-fu

 

Monday
Jan192009

Ip Man Movie Review....

Well, what can I say?  The new Mandarin Films picture "Ip Man" starring Donnie Yen and choreographed by my fav Sammo Hung was actually not bad.  I was convinced from the trailers that the film would be a complete turkey with the usual theatrical "wing chun" spun over some ridiculous story.  But I have to say the movie did leave me thoroughly entertained and not unsatisfied as far as the fight scenes go.  Mind you, the story was mostly a complete fabrication, but then again, would we expect more from biopic these days?  It would be difficult and daunting for anyone to try to paint a true story of the late grandmaster Yip Man with all the politics and division in our kung-fu family.  But still, it seems the producers where going for a bit of the tired old folk-hero feel that they tried with everyone from Wong Fei Hung to Fong Sai Yuk, but this time only a "bit" more subdued (no major wires!).

Aside from Donnie Yen's decent performance in the film, I have to say I was very impressed with Fan Siu Wong playing the "northerner" who comes to Fatshan to challenge all the kung-fu instructors.  Simon Yam also stars and I feel that he is such a great actor but was a bit under utilised.  It was strange having such a A-list HK celebrity playing what felt like a bit role.

Perhaps what impressed me most was Sammo's bravery to stick to more real WingTsun fighting ideas and not add flashy high kicks or spins.  His last great attempt at our style on film was "The Prodigal Son" (1983) which happens to be one of my all time favorite films due to the incredible choreography.  Prodigal Son's choreography was not very authentic to WingTsun in a purist sense - Sammo still relied on a lot of old faithful's of high kicks, spins and straight up non-WingTsun swing punches.  But with "Ip Man" it was different.  Sammo really stuck to the conventions of lower kicks, chain-punching and even some more advanced WingTsun techniques.  Like the old WT joke that we do kick to the head in WT, we just don't kick high (inside joke meaning we only kicked a downed opponent in the head...lol) was faithfully observed on a couple occasions during "Ip Man".  My only complaint stylistically would be that there were a few too many "block + block + block" combos when all WT purists know our motto of "lin siu dai da" (linking defense with offense).  However I was pleasantly surprised with some really choice pieces of choreography - the neck-pulling hand with the lifting punch from chum kiu, the WT sweeps, and some decent, almost logical elbow techniques were all particularly refreshing.

The Japanese have always been an easy target for films taking place in this period.  Despite the dark history, it would be nice if they could have focused on the more documented aspects of the late grandmaster's life, and not go for the simple backdrop of "evil Japanese".  The scene of Donnie Yen's Ip Man taking on ten Japanese martial artist seems eerily reminiscent of the Chinese Connection.  While it was the hardest hitting (in my opinion) of all the fight scenes, I just couldn't shake the feeling that I had seen it all before.

But on reflection it seems quite obvious why the story focused on the "evil Japanese".  According to the story, it would seem that grandmaster Yip Man left China for Hong Kong to escape the Japanese.  It is widely know that the late grandmaster left China in 1949 to flee the communists.  However, with "Ip Man" relying on a huge mainland Chinese market to be successful, it seems that any anti-communist tones had to be left out.  In fact most movie promotion for this film is done almost exclusively in mainland China and even the titles are done all in simplified (mainland Chinese) characters.  Oh, times are changing fast!  It's been a little over ten years since the handover of Hong Kong to mainland China and I can really start to see the takeover bleed into HK pop-culture.

With a sequel already greenlighted (about grandmaster Yip Man's later HK years) and a supposed Wong Kar Wai/Tony Leung "Yip Man" movie in the works, it seems our beloved WingTsun will be in the press for a time to come.

 

Sunday
Dec142008

"Be like water..." - a very misunderstood phrase

"Be like water..." is an oft-quoted, oft-misunderstood phrase that many newbies to the martial arts throw out in an attempt to sound informed. It's not their fault really - it sounds wonderful and is for all intents and purposes it is a great, albeit incomplete, understanding of Taoistic thought. Most novices to the martial arts mistakenly believe that this philosophy was created by Bruce Lee. But, like much of what Bruce Lee is "quoted" as saying, its roots are usually either Taoism, Krishnamurti or other philosophies that Bruce was fond of. Just like many greats, Bruce was more a disseminator of thoughts and ideas than necessarily an originator.

I'm deep in thought about this subject because i had a student come to me this week and tell me that he wanted to learn WingTsun not because he wanted to learn to fight, but because he wanted to learn to "be like water". Now I have been training in martial arts for quite some time and have even studied Taoism extensively (including Taoist Yoga with the amazing Taoist master Paulie Zink) and I honestly have no clue what it means when someone says "they just want to be like water".

Of course I know what he thinks it means in its superficial sense.  But is "being like water" a viable goal? In that case he should lay on the floor and roll down the stairs and "flow" down because even to stand upright we need more structure than water provides. Taoist thought is about balancing the five elements, not putting one on a pedestal.  None of the five elements (Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, Fire) is more important than the next.  They work with each other, not independent of.

But alas in the western world we have a tendency to "pick and choose" things from a philosophy we know nothing about and do the whole thing severe injustice as a result.

Perhaps the problem lies in that most people associate water's elemental qualities with "softness" or "flow". They forget that water actually has an extremely destructive quality to it as well. Even though Bruce Lee himself said "water can flow, or it can crash", many Lee-ophiles still focus only on the "flow". We need look no further than the destruction of a tsunami or flood to see that water can be one of the most destructive elements of the five.

Water, once it's frozen can be hard like metal.

So when someone want's to be like water what does it mean?  Crashing, destroying waves?  An icicle that can stab?  Water flowing down a river?  Boiling and scalding?

Be like water.  OK, you first ;-)

Si-fu

Friday
Dec052008

East Village Class update...

As most of you know, we moved our Chinatown location to the East Village section of Manhattan a few months ago.  My senior student Mike Yahn is in charge of teaching the classes there and we are happy to say that things are getting off to a great start.  The classes are taught in a really great space (which will be completely renovated this winter) and with Mike setting up some "WingTsun decorations" before every class, the school already has the feel of a traditional WingTsun school.  I have posted a few pics here for you all to check out.  Anybody interested in WingTsun Kung Fu classes in the East Village, please call our main branch at (212) 354-9188 for details or register online for an intro class at www.citywingtsun.com/intro.html

The class is located at Teatroiati at 64 W. 4th St on the 2nd floor between Bowery and 2nd Avenue.  As this is a class location, please call ahead for an appointment.

 -Si-fu