On Methods and Techniques of WingChun
By-Nguyen Ngoc Noi
It is extremely difficult to write (or say) about Methods and Techniques of WingChun. This is due to many things cannot expressed by words. They must be grasped (or "enlightened") by disciples through practice. In the article "WingChun in Vietnam – Past and Present Secrets" published in Journal "Today" (Association of UNESCO Clubs) No-23 (12/2003), I have touched on Wingchun methods and techniques under the heading "Several Special Features of WingChun Methods" : “WingChun is a kung-fu system that requires a training with the greatest efforts and patience, despite the system has only few forms. Besides some weapons forms (such as doubleknives and six-and- half-point pole), there are following bare-hand forms: Thu-dau-quyen, (basic bare hand techniques, equivalent to Siu-nim-tao, or Litlle Idea in China); Chi-kung WingChun Kuyen form; 108 (movements) form (which includes 3 sub-forms: static 108, dynamic 108, and 108 with wooden dummy. The last form is known in some countries as Dummy techniques, but they have different techniques and different number of movements); Five separate 5-animal forms (dragon, snake, tiger, panther, and crane); One synthesized 5-animal form. Besides above forms, Vietnam WingChun also has several special training methods with their unique principles.
Among the above WingChun forms, the static and dynamic 108 forms (especially the static form) have a unique characteristic that no other kung-fu system has. That is, while training, the disciple must train with the teacher one-by-one from the start until when the disciple obtained and comprehended the deepest essence of the form. This usually last many years. In order to get to that level, the disciple cannot train with anyone except the teacher who already has inner strength, i.e.“nei kung”( That is, the teacher can let the disciple strike as strong as possible directly on teacher’s body during the whole training period of the 108 form). Many people think that WingChun "Nei Kung" (inner strength) is just the ability to generate great force. It is not so. In WingChun, ability to generate force is called “inner force” (“nei li”), while “inner strength’ is the ability to endure strikes (direct strikes on body). This “inner strength” is a secretive technique ( taught by mouth only and must be under personal special instructions of teacher). “Inner strength” is the highest technique of WingChun.
To be successful in WingChun, disciples must have a strong belief, good intelligence, patience and diligence. Training in WingChun is not merely to memorize all forms, but more importantly, to comprehend the deepest spirit, essence of those forms. At the same time, disciple must master their “will”, and “chi power”. At higher level, the training in mastering “will” and “chi power” require more efforts. Therefore, WingChun is not appropriate for those people who like to use their muscle, those who want a quick achievement, and those who lacks of patience and diligence. WingChun bare-hand forms do not use much of muscle strength, and they are not eye-catching. Therefore, WingChun System is not an attracting system for demonstration. Moreover, those who got to high levels in WingChun also do not want to show their ability. As a result, WingChun was not widely understood and seems to have many secrets.”.
Therefore, WingChun does not have many forms. In some other WingChun branches, the number is even smaller. They typically consist of "Siu Nim Tau" (Little Idea"), "Chum Kiu" ("Seeking Bridge"), "Biu Tze" ("Darting Finger"), and "Muk Yan Chong" ("Wooden Dummy"). Some branches have several other forms. Here, we do not discus every forms and techniques, but focus on methods and techniques of our branch (Vietnam WingChun Noi Gia Quyen) that tought by our teacher - the late grandmaster Tran Thuc Tien.
Firstly, it should be understood that WingChun is a form of "soft boxing" ("Nhu Quyen") (hence the name "Noi Gia Quyen", which laterally means Internal Family of Boxing"). During entire process of practice from the begining, disciples must follow some fundamental principles such as "strictness", "preciseness", "smoothness", etc.
Except the 108 form (static, dynamic, and with dummy), WingChun forms were built around 5 animal forms: dragon, snake, tiger, panther, and crane. These forms were practiced from low levels to high levels. Each form has their own techniques and requirements. Disciples must grasp spirit of each form through practice at each level, and gradually formed their own essential reflexes in concrete fighting situations. These techniques are improved through practices.
The 108 form: this is the most fundamental, and also the highest boxing form in WingChun boxing techniques. This form is the concentrate of techniques with very high requirements for the close-range fighting. This form must be practiced with a teacher with "nei kung". With time, the deepest essence of the form will be gradually revealed and grasped by disciples. This process is difficult to described by words and cannot be grasped by practicing alone or with other disciples (who do not have "neikung"). To teach disciples a full set of fundamental methods, the teacher must assess the progress of disciples to teach them the next two levels of 108 form: the dynamic, and the wooden dummy's 108 form. At this stage, the disciple must practice concurently 3 forms: static, dynamic, and the wooden dummy's 108 forms. The practice to obtain these techniques requirements is a unique characteristic that the branch of the late grand master Tran Thuc Tien has, since this is a branch that has teachers with "Nei Kung". As said above, the founding father of Vietnam WingChun - Nguyen Te Cong - taught "Nei Kung" to one of his disciples - the late grandmaster Tran Thuc Tien, who taught "Nei Kung" to few of his disciples, including his two sons (Tran Thiet Con – or Sinh, and Tran Le Hoai Ngoc).
Some special methods of training: these are methods under direct instructions of teachers during practice. Some of them are taught by mouth only (i.e. one by one, separately). We can name some methods as follows \:
- Practice to generate inner force : these excercises are taught directly under supervision and directions of teacher. Through these excercises, studetns' force were enhanced. They can feel these changes during the training process and will be able to master higher techniques in the 108 form and to generate force.
- Practice "Linh giac" : This mentioned and practiced by many WingChun branches. Many had mentioned it under different name such as sticky hands, Chi sao, etc. However, there are some differences among branches. In some branches, disciples preactice Chi sao from the start under guidance of teacher. In some branches, Chi sao is practiced only after disciples botained bare-hand techniques and must be praticed with teacher under direct instruction. Each branch has their own reason for their methods, which are not discussed here. In our branch (of the grand master Tran Thuc Tien), Linh-giac must be practiced with teacher under direct instructions. We consider this is very important method during training process of WingChun.
- Practice "Chi": It can be understood simply as "breathing in the right way", and then "ability to direct Chi". This is a required practice for every disciple (although, each disciple will has different targets on different levels). It is a must, since if disciple do not practice "Chi", they cannot advance to higher levels in WingChun. Practice "Chi" is normally linked concurently with practicing "Will" ("Ý"). This is also under teacher's instruction and must be trained from the first day.
- Some methods and principles must be practiced and gradually grasped by disciples during years of training such as: Thre essences (“Tam tinh”), Three internal unifications (“Nội tam hợp”), Three external unifications (“Ngoại tam hợp”), Six unifications (“Lục hợp”), Seven attainments (“Thất ðáo”), "Will", stability ("Vững")…
- One method has a esoteric chareacteristic, is taught directly, by mouth only: it is practice of "Nei Kung".
There were many documents on WingChun techniques, especially after Bruce Lee made VingTsun famous. Lee himself also wrote many articles. For us, the most important thing in training and practice of WingChun, as our teacher Tran Thuc Tien said, is to grasp (enlighten - “ngộ” ) the spirit, essence of every method and technique. Only by doing so, through hard practicing and training, disciples can understand and achieve the highest level.
© Viet-nam Vinh-Xuan Noi-gia Quyen, 2004
INTRODUCTION TO THE FAMILY TREE OF BUDDHIST WINGCHUN
VIETNAM WINGCHUN NOI GIA KUYEN BRANCH -By Nguyen Ngoc Noi
a fact, the history of WingChun bears a range of nuances and has often been accounted differently, and even from different origins. This is certainly a serious deficiency for WingChun clan as a whole. However, one must accept this fact as historical teachings have usually been passed on from grandmasters to their followers verbally. Therefore, the interpretation and memorization of these historical teachings are very much depended on individual capacities such as their knowledge, education and even their purposes. Being Wing Chun's followers, we cannot change this fact but respect the teachings of our grandmasters.
Based on teachings of my teacher, the late grandmaster Tran Thuc Tien, which I wrote and published in the Today Journal No 23 in December 2003 an article, entitled “Wingchun in Viet Nam-Past and present secrets”, based on family trees of other related WingChun (and VingTsun) branches, based on analyses of the VingTsun clan origin in the “Genealogy of the VingTsun family” of the Grandmaster Yip Man branch in Hong-Kong; and from my own accounts, I have built this family tree of Buddhist WingChun (Viet Nam WingChun branch of Grandmaster Nguyen Te Cong). As my understanding on the previous generations as well as other present WingChun branches are limited, this family tree is centered only on my teacher’s branch, the late grandmaster Tran Thuc Tien. According to my teacher, the founding father (su-to) Nguyen Te Cong told him that my teacher was the 7th generation of WingChun. If this is true, Abbess Ng Mui was perhaps counted as the 1st generation. In addition, although trained by Yim Wing-Chun, according to the history of WingChun, the Grandmaster Luong Bac Tru (Leung Bok Chau) was also her spouse, therefore both of them (Leung and Wing-Chun) can be considered belong to the same generation in the family tree. Apart from that, due to historical conditions and age differences, relations among grandmasters can be both pupil-pupil or teacher-pupil relations at the same time. this certainly makes the separation into generations difficult and erratic. In my efforts to construct the family tree, I received invaluable inputs from Si-fu Tran Le Hoai Ngoc, son of the late Grandmaster Tran Thuc Tien. Thank to these inputs, the construction of the family tree of our branch is more complete and accurate. Nevertheless, I would sincerely ask for the forgiveness of elderly masters and my colleagues for any inaccuracy or incompleteness due to my limited knowledge. I would be sincerely thankful for any comment and input which can be provided through this website.
The Website on WingChun has been primarily designed to respect WingChun kung-fu clan and our grandmasters who dedicated their life to creation of WingChun, development of its techniques and principles. Besides, I would like to introduce a branch of WingChun which is referred to as Viet Nam WingChun and which was passed on and created by the Grandmaster Nguyen Te Cong. My teacher, the late Grandmaster Tran Thuc Tien, was one of his pupils and was taught with the techniques of WingChun, the highest of them is “inner power” (noi cong). During the teaching years of my teacher, I and some pupils, including his two sons namely Mr. Tran Thiet Con with nickname Sinh and Mr. Tran Le Hoai Ngoc, are extremely fortunate to be taught with these techniques. My kung-fu brothers and I are trying to preserve what has been passed on to us and to build up a new generation of WingChun to further WingChun. Everything we are doing here is for the clan. Please forgive any inaccuracy or mistake, I would be sincerely grateful to exchange views with everyone through this Website.
Through researches of family trees and literatures and with my personal comprehension of the principles and techniques of WingChun, I have found that the most important starting point in WingChun history are the grandmasters of Hong Hoa Hoi Quan (Hung Fa Wui Koon or Red Boat). In his writing “Researching the Origin of VingTsun” in “Genealogy of the VingTsun family”, Sifu Ip Chun wrote “Character "TWO” adduction stance is best used on boats. Looking further, the various sets of martial arts strokes and practice areas are closely related to practice on narrow boats”. Apparently, WingChun techniques are suitable for close range fighting such as in a narrow boat. Eight-cutting Double knives (Bart Cham Dao) of WingChun when used in a large area will be normal knives. However, in a narrow boat, the knives will be pulled back along two hands for striking and defending. The long pole for fighting is actually used to paddle the boat. Particularly, in WingChun techniques, the kicks are rarely used, including high kicks and this leads to a misperception that WingChun does not have kick techniques. In a restricted area such as a small boat, applying kicks, especially by two legs will be very disadvantaged, (not to say about a principle of “legs should not leave ground”. Thus, we can say that the techniques of WingChun was perfected by the grandmasters of Hung Fa Wui Koon and passed on to today. That is why, we cannot ignore Grandmaster Cheung Ng. with nickname of Tan-Sau Ng. Grandmaster Cheung Ng. was mentioned in a book on Cantonese Opera. According to Sifu Ip Chun, Grandmaster Cheung Ng. taught kung-fu to people in Red boat:
“Later, I unexpectedly unearthed some information about Tan-Sau Ng. recorded in old literature on the history of Chinese opera. This information closely connected to the origin of VingTsun. There was a book by one Mak Siu Har -“A Study on the History of Cantonese Opera” (now kept in the Hong Kong City Hall library) In it there was a paragraph, roughly as follows: before the reign of Yung Cheng (Manchu emperor, 1723-1736 ), the development of Cantonese opera was very limited. This was due to defective organization and unclear division of labor . In the years of Yung Cheng , Cheung Ng. of Wu Pak, also known as Tan-Sau Ng., brought his skills to Fat Shan and organized the Hung Fa Wui Koon. The book also records: Besides being very accomplished in Chinese opera, Cheung Ng was especially proficient in martial arts. His one Tan-Sau was peerless throughout the martial arts world. Another piece of information appears on page 631, Volume III of the book “A History of Chinese Opera” by Mang Yiu, published by Chuen Kay Literature Publishers, first printed in 1968. “For some reasons, Cheung Ng. could not stay on in the capital , so he fled and took refuge in Fat Shan. This was during the reign of Yung Cheng. This man, nicknamed Tan-Sau Ng. was a character "unsurpassed in literary and military skills, and excellent in music and drama". He was especially proficient in the techniques of Siu Lam. After settling down in Fat Shan, he passed on his knowledge in traditional opera and martial arts to the Hung Suyen (Red Boat) followers, and established the Hung Fa Wui Koon in Fat Shan. Today, Cantonese opera groups revere him as Jo-si (Founding Master), and refer to him as Master Cheung”
Thus, the martial arts of Hung Fa Wui Koon has been embedded with the techniques of Cheung Ng. However, we are not clear of the origin of his kung-fu and to what extent it is related to Abbess Ng Mui and Yim Wing Chun or it was just purely originated from Shao lin techniques. According to "Family tree of VingTsun Kuyen", and "Family tree of VingTsun Wooden Dummy, and Six point and a half pole", and Pan Nam WingChun Kuyen, the teacher of Cheung Ng was Yat Chum. We are also not clear that the grandmasters of Red Boat (as in the family tree) received training directly from Grandmaster Cheung Ng. or from whom else as Grandmaster Cheung Ng. lived at the time of Yung Cheng, 1723-1736 while the grandmasters of Red Boat lived in the middle of the 19th century. With about 100 years passed since the reign of Yung Cheng, perhaps there should be at least one more generation, which is after Grandmaster Cheung Ng. and before the grandmasters of Red Boat. Unfortunately, we do not have yet any evidence to verify this.
Tracing back to history, Grandmaster Cheung Ng. was at the time of Yung Cheng dynasty, 1723-1736, while Abbess Ng Mui was at the time of K'hanghsi dynasty, 1662-1722. Thus, with respect to the history as above described and other family trees as above quoted, I also include Grandmaster Cheung Ng and Grandmaster Yat Chum into the family tree. However, due to the uncertain origin, the two Grandmasters are grouped in a separate branch to the Buddhist WingChun created by Abbess Ng Mui. Instead of being spaced, Grandmaster Cheung Ng and Grandmasters of Red Boat are directly linked as already illustrated in other family trees.
In this family tree and in other family trees of WingChun or WingTsun, Hung Fa Wui Koon is an important period of WingChun evolution. From this time, WingChun has evolved more clearly. The development of different branches is inevitable. Even under the training of one master, his pupils may still pass on the skills differently to their teachers due to different perceptions and abilities and this will certainly lead to development of different branches.
Nevertheless, the basic principles and techniques of WingChun are preserved and passed on. Even the highest technique of WingChun such as “inner power” (noi-cong) is still well preserved. We believe that the family tree of WingChun will be prolonged with new brighten pages. To complete the history of WingChun by reconstructing the family tree will be the responsibility of each clansman. With our devotion, we, as the current generation of WingChun will make efforts to improve the understanding of history and family tree of WingChun .
Note: In this website, WingChun means “forever spring”, VingTsun means "Praise Spring".
© Viet-nam Vinh-Xuan Noi-gia Quyen, 2004
The Shaolin Wing Chun Nam Anh school teaches the Wing Chun style of Kung Fu. Its lineage goes up to the Shaolin Temple itself, craddle of Buddhist Kung Fu.
Origins of Kung Fu
The roots of Kung Fu can be found in antique writings dating back to the period of Warring States : they reveal the existence of fighting techniques, with and without arms. Battle accounts of that time illustrate the detailed organization of the armies and the dreadful efficacy of those warriors. These techniques originally developed for military purposes were taught by heteroclites, requested ad hoc by the emperors since Kung Fu schools did not yet exist. It would take many a century for the Kung Fu Schools to come into being as a structured organization whose commitment was to maintain, propagate and develop the martial arts.
Under the philosophical influence of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, two great Schools were created : that of Shaolin and Wu Tang. The first is buddhist and the second is taoist. The buddhist School dates back to the sixth century A.D., well before its taoist counterpart which appeared in the eleventh century. The arrival of the learned Indian buddhist monk Bodidharma at the Shaolin Temple marks the beginning of Shaolin Kung Fu. Born in 483 A.D., the third son of a brahman king of the Sardili clan, well educated according to his time, he was proficient in the arts, politics, sutras and warfare. He was not quite thirty when he left the princely comforts to dedicate his life to attaining enlightenment.Having become a reputable monk, he went to China to propagate the teachings of Buddha as had done many of his Indian predecessors during the era of the Three Kingdoms. Welcomed at the Kuan Temple in the province of Guangdong (Canton) toward 527 A.D., the Governor of Guangdzou recommended Bodidharma, alias Tamo, to Emperor Liang Wu. Legend reports that the Emperor did not appreciate Tamo's discourse, making but a brief stay in Nanking. So, he headed for Luoyang, his pilgrimage ending at the Shaolin monastery, a few kilometers away from the capital. As he had taught Chan Buddhism (more commonly known as the Japanese Zen) for several years, Bodidharma established that the very poor health condition the monks were in, would not allow them to raise their consciousness and attain enlightenment. Their life style emphasized meditation at the expense of the physical body. Concerned, he withdrew to a cave and meditated for several years. As legend tells it, these nine years of isolation gave him the inspiration for the three books which are still considered as the most ancient proof of a systematic body of knowledge of the martial arts in China.
These treaties dealt with the three dimensions of the human being according to the traditional concept of the Orient : the physical, the energetic and the mental planes of the body. The first such work, the Book of the transformation of muscles and tendons (Yi Kin King in Cantonese dialect), illustrated the basic exercises for reinforcing the body and increasing the suppleness as well as techniques for combat. The second, the Book on the cleansing of the marrow, concentrated on energetic exercises. And finally, the third collection was dedicated to spiritual exercises. When Bodidharma returned, he taught these techniques for training both the body and the mind. Once the monks had made this a matter of regular training, their bodily condition and health had been improved. They now had enough strenght to do their day's work and were vigorous enough to perform their spiritual exercises. Learning combat techniques allowed them to be able to defend themselves against assaults on their monasteries in times of war, and against thieves on the roads. Destroyed and often rebuilt, persecuted by some emperors and valued by others, torn between buddhist, taoist and confucianist lobbies competing for imperial favour, the Shaolin Temple not only survived centuries of political intrigues, but was able to become politically, economically and socially important. It was reknown for its powerful combatants, defenders of the poor and the oppressed. They won fame in many great battles and so instilled imperial history with their glorious deeds.
The Shaolin Temple
At the beginning of the Tang dynasty, the monks played a decisive role in the subjugation of General Wang Shichong by Li Shimin (reign from 626 to 649 A.D.). As an expression of his gratitude, the Emperor (also known as Tai Tsung) gave the monastery more land and authorized them to have their own army. The temple became more illustrious, more prosperous and ultimately a great centre for training in the martial arts during the Yuang and Ming dynasties.
At the beginning of the Ching dynasty, under the reign of Kan Shi (1661-172 A.D.), the Shaolin Temple remained a powerful center of learning. Its reknown attracted a good number of students, thanks be to an emperor who encouraged the development of all religions. Among these students, many were supporters of the demised Ming dynasty. Trained in the most efficacious combat techniques, these rebels quickly became a serious threat to the government. Emperor Kan Shi severely repressed the Shaolin Temple when it proved to be a center of resistance for the Ming dynasty. His grandson, Emperor Chian Lung (1736-1796 A.D.) organized new punitive expeditions against the temple : stories of betrayal and of the growing number of rebellious secret societies connected with the monastery contributed to the total destruction of the temple and to the massacre of the monks and nuns. Only five great masters survived the butchery, the « Invincible Five » : Jee Shin, Fung Tao Tak, Mieu Hien, Pei Mei and Ng Mui.
“The Invincible Five”
Most of the Kung Fu styles known today originate with these five and are inbued with their legendary feats. They lived out very exciting times for the martial arts, when the pressing need to train combatants quickly required the reform of traditional methods. Numerous schools came onto the scene : some claimed to offer the most effective unarmed techniques, others the quickest training or simply put more emphasis on particular techniques. Among the « Five Invincibles », Ng Mui is the main link between the Wing Chun School and the Shaolin Temple.
Yim Wing Chun
After the annihilation of the monasteries, Ng Mui escaped to the South where she sojourned from monastery to monastery in the provinces of Fujian and Yunan. One day, in a neighbouring village, she met a young girl by the name of Yim Wing Chun : although we cannot specify if this is her birth name or her martial arts name, it signifies « to sing spring » and inaugurates a new era for the martial arts. The most popular accounts report that she was the very pretty daughter of a soya merchant named Yim Shee. One day, a local officer decided he wanted to bethrothe her. His advances rejected, the officer imprisoned Yim Shee. Yim Wing Chun fled and met with Ng Mui who accepted to tutor the young girl. The wedding was delayed, allowing Yim Wing Chun the time to learn certain Kung Fu techniques. When she returned to the village, she announced that it was impossible for her to marry a man who was not her equal in combat. Amused, the officer responded to the challenge : Yim Wing Chun, although victorious in the fight, could not save her father from the officer's rage. She escaped to find her master who taught her advanced techniques of Shaolin Kung Fu. After several years, their paths separated and Yim Wing Chun became a famous warrior. She raised armies and participated in rebellions against the Ching. She married in time a former student of Shaolin, Leung Bok Chau, and passed him her arts. Lung Ba Cau preserved, developed and taught the style named Wing Chun in honor of his bride. To be continued...
- © 2002 Orthodox Wing Chun International Federation - All rights reserved.