Master Chu Shong Tin was born in 1933 at Kwong-tung Province of Mainland China. In November 1949, he left China and settled in Hong Kong. During September 1950, he started work as a secretary for the Association of Restaurant Workers of Hong Kong at 159 Tai Nan Street, corner Wong Chuk Street, Shum Shui Po, Kowloon. It was at that time that he first met the Grandmaster Ip Man who had just started teaching Wing Chun for about four months at that Union. As Ip and himself both came to Hong Kong alone gave them a feeling of being very close to each other. After several months' observation and urging by Sihing Leung Sheung and Lok Yiu, he asked Ip to accept him as his student and on 1st January 1951, thus starting his life in Wing Chun. (Right photo: Ip Man and Chu Shong Tin on the roof of the address of the Restaurant Workers Union)
As he had been observing for several months, he could show the whole Siu Nim Tau form to Ip on the first day of his lesson. Besides working hard on his own training, he also paid attention to what Ip was teaching to the other students. After about a year, Ip started to ask him to practice pivoting. When practicing this pivoting, he insisted practicing several hours each day. It was about half year later before Ip asked him to learn the Chum Kiu. And it was just like Siu Nim Tau; he knew the movements of the whole form already without Ip showing him.
Roughly after one year, he started to learn the Wooden Dummy. Every year, he learnt about twenty to thirty movements until the whole form was finished. It was about two years after he had learnt the Chum Kiu that he started to learn the Biu Gee form. Around 1955 was the first time he started to practice the long pole. As he learnt roughly one movement of the pole each year, it took him nearly seven years to finish the Six-and-a-half Point Pole.
It was many years later after he finished all the hand forms that he started to learn the Butterfly Knives. During this time, he had started teaching Wing Chun part-time. Between the period of 1957-58, he used his leisure time to teach Wing Chun. This period could be divided into three different stages. The first one, he went to teach at the students' residences. At the second stage, when he stayed in the Hung Lau Hotel at 433 Shanghai Street, corner Dundas Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon, the owner there allowed him to teach on the roof of the hotel. At the last stage, as he changed his job to work for the Association of Textiles Workers of Hong Kong, he made use of the space there to teach his Wing Chun. It was during this period that he started to practice the first part of the Butterfly Knives and it was approximately 1963.
In the summer of 1964, it was the first time he established his own school at Four Five Six Building of Nathan Road, Kowloon to teach students officially. At the same time, he learnt the second part of the Butterfly Knives. In l965, he moved his school to 3rd Floor, 11 Cheung Sha Wan Road, Shum Shui Po, Kowloon and in the same year, he finished the whole Butterfly Knives form. In 1967, he relocated his school again and moved to a block away at Flat C, 4th Floor, 3 Cheung Sha Wan Road, where he still teaches.
When he first started to learn Wing Chun, in order to give himself more time for practicing and also suggested by Leung Sheung and Ip Man, he moved to the Restaurant Workers Union to stay with Ip. He had lived together with Ip for about five years until he moved out in 1955 to Hennessy Road, Wan Chai at the Hong Kong Island side due to work commitment at the new job working for the Association of Taxi Drivers of Hong Kong in Wan Chai. Between 1951-55, he had followed Ip moving in 1953 to Hai Tan Street, Shum Shui Po, Kowloon. Then, in 1954, they moved back to the Restaurant Workers Union and in 1955, moved to Lee Tat Street, Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon.
Within the heart of Chu, Ip was a cultivated elder. Ip never talked about Kung Fu in front of people he did not know well. In appearance, Ip was so gentle that he looked more like a scholar than a martial art teacher. Ip did not put any dominated pressure on others, as most martial art practitioners would do. Before Chu followed Ip in learning Wing Chun, he did not particularly like martial arts. However after he met Ip, due to the personality of Ip in teaching unpreservatively and the profound theories of Wing Chun, he becomes infatuated with this martial art.
Besides learning Wing Chun, he was requested by his father when he was about ten to practice Tai Chi as he was too thin and weak. At that time, he did not really know what Tai Chi was about. He just followed what his Sifu had asked him to do and copied mainly the movements. As for practicing, he needed his father to urge him before he would go to train. It was so until he migrated to Hong Kong in 1949. At that time, in order to keep up with his Tai Chi, a friend of his elder sister volunteered to teach him. It was then for the first time that he started to listen to the theories of Tai Chi. Not long after resuming training in Tai Chi, he started to work in the Restaurant Workers Union. Therefore, he listened to the Wing Chun theories during the daytime and practiced the Tai Chi at nightime. After a few months of deep thinking, he felt that Wing Chun was more suitable for him than Tai Chi. Tai Chi and Wing Chun, on the surface, the theories and the way of thinking is quite similar. But the skill on applying the power, he personally thinks that they are opposite to each other. At that time, he was five feet and eight and a half inches tall but only weighed a hundred and twelve pounds, a little bit too thin. However with the skills of Wing Chun, it can help him develop strong destructive force without using any muscular strength. From then onward, he concentrated on studying and exploring Wing Chun until the present time.
Chu Shong Tin General Overview of H.K WCK:
Over three hundred years ago, Wing Chun Kung Fu was founded by the late Abbess Ng Mui , who was recognised throughout China as one of the five top fighters of that period. As a fighter, she felt that most existing styles depended too much on the physical fitness of a person which affected one's ability as age progressed. It was said that the late Abbess Ng Mui created this system when she sighted the fight between a crane and a raccoon and discovered the principle that there is no need to depend on physical strength in fighting. The art developed power through the characteristic of human muscle, skeletal structure, the theory of force, and human thinking as well as potential power of a person. This art was named after her student, a young woman named Yim Wing Chun and was passed on through generations to the present day.
Siu Nim Tau
Siu Nim Tau is the first form and the foundation of Wing Chun Kung Fu and the whole form is performed in a stationary position with the movements in the arms only. The aim of this form is to create a unified and relaxed body which allows the free movements of the joints together with the training of mind force (correct intention). This form practices:
1. The Stance (Yee Gee Kim Yang Ma) - developing a free, relaxed and unified structure and concentrating the force of impact at the centreline or to a point through back straight and Tei Gong; 2. Theory of Centreline - using minimum movement for defense and attack; 3. Theory of Straight Line - this is the application of speed and force of impact; 4. Force from the mechanical structure - using the natural rotation of the joints to develop power; and 5. Mind Force - using the subconscious power continuously to direct, but not force, each movement. It can strengthen the movements through the infusion of spirit into every part of the body. It can induce the absorbing and rebounding effect in fighting. This is a way of thinking, but not forcing.
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Chum Kiu is the second form in the system and a method to contact with the opponent's arm(s). As the first form does not have any stepping movements, this form starts to train how to move with the body through the centre of gravity together basically with the movements in Siu Nim Tau to create the two-way force which is difficult to stop. The effectiveness of this form depends on the degree of perfection in practicing the Siu Nim Tau form. This form works on:
1. Centre of Gravity- this is the central most point of the mass. If every movement starts from this point, the body mass can be moved in a unit which also provides the main source of power for the movements. This point can be found through the surface pivoting of the body; 2. Two-way Force - applying forces deriving from more than one direction simultaneously for defense and attack. It can be two or more, e.g.. body movement together with arm(s) movement(s). The application depends mainly on the freedom of the joints and the ability of the Centre of Gravity to control the body; 3. Physical and Mental Co-ordination - the mind is always on the target, not movements, so that the force is consistent against the target while the body and the limbs attack from different angles or positions; and 4. Simultaneous attack and defense - further minimizing the movements.
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Biu Gee is the last free-hand form in the system which creates enormous destructive force. The effectiveness of this form depends on the degree of perfection in developing Siu Nim Tau's structure and Chum Kiu's body mass movements together with the infusion of Mind Force. This form trains:
1. Speedy Rotation Power - creating the internal sucking and external rebounding power that is the whirlpool effect; 2. Multi-angled Rotation - through intentions from Centre of Gravity rather than just physical movements; and 3. The Control of the Cohesive Force - the mass of the body can be directed to any position freely for the best usage of defense and attack through intention. The position includes the weakest part of the body, e.g. finger tip.
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The Wooden Dummy is regarded as the secret skill in Wing Chun, but yet it is not. Those movements are actually based on the combination of the techniques of Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu and Biu Gee. The purpose of the Wooden Dummy is to practice the theories and application of movements from the three forms as well as angles of attack up to a person's limit which one cannot apply on a real person, e.g. practicing the cohesive power. It also allows time for self-correction on any weak points which could not be easy to adjust when under pressure. On the other hand, one can also use the dummy as the opponent to invent attack and defense techniques.
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Sticking Hands (Chi Sau) is to train the application of the forms and the ingenious responses in fighting to foster the natural reflexes of the movements. The practice of Sticking Hands is divided into: single sticking hand, rolling hands (double sticking hands) and free sparring and requires learning step by step. It also practices the skill from the mottos of Wing Chun, such as: Loy Lau Hui Shun, Lut Sau Ja Chung (Attacked by someone, be able to neutralize the force. When the person retreats, keep the pressure on. If the person moves the arm(s) away, strike in.); Chiu Ying (directly facing the person); Jui Ying (chasing the person); etc.
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The Butterfly Knives is the combination of the movements of the three forms. All the theories and application are the same but the only difference is the special body movements to transfer body mass to the knives. The form also emphasizes the importance of wrist turning power. Usually, one is used to defend while the other is used in attack but when facing heavy weapons, both of them will be used to defend first before attacking back.
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Six-and-a-half Points Pole
It was said that the Six-and-a-half Points Pole was not created by the founder of Wing Chun, the late Abbess Ng Mui. It was Wong Wah Bo who exchanged the Siu Nim Tau form with Leung Yee Tai's Pole form who learnt from the late Abbot Chi Sin. Whether this is true or not, we cannot verify. The form has only six and a half techniques as it is named. The mind force and basic principles of the three forms are applied. In the past, the pole should be over 11 feet, but nowadays the pole is about 9 feet long only.