My Journey Thus Far
by Alan Lau
(Written on 21 August 2004)
I was first introduced to Sifu NG Chun-hong in March 1998 when a colleague overheard me asking around for a good Wing Chun teacher. My criteria were simple: he had to be a genuine master, he would teach at the standard that I was capable of and there¡¦d be no politics at the school. My colleague introduced me to his Si-hing from Master WONG Shun-leung ¡V Mr. NG Chun-hong.
I had been introduced to Wing Chun Kungfu in my teens through my cousins in the UK. They had been studying Wing Chun from a close family friend ¡V Mr. Michael Cheung. Through the introduction to Wing Chun from my first teacher, Michael, and my cousins, I practiced on a 'part-time' basis. This continued for several years and after my studies, I returned to Hong Kong. My skill level at the time was superseded by what I had known to be quality Wing Chun.
So in March 1998, my association with Wing Chun resumed under the guidance of my Sifu - Mr. NG Chun-hong.
The pedigree of any Master/Sifu/Instructor is perhaps the initial thing a prospective student would look for. People with existing knowledge would rely heavily on their ability to judge on sight. Based on my limited experience, I saw something very impressive - and this was only from my seniors at the time when I joined. I remember seeing this unlikely man for a master and wanted to see what he¡¦s really like. In my first several lessons, all I saw were my seniors in action and they were very impressive. I would see Sifu demonstrate a technique to my seniors from the corners of my eyes and he would literally blast them away with a combination of skill, timing and devastating power. I was convinced there and then that I had found my Sifu.
During these six years, I have progressed steadily. But I am far from being the level that I¡¦m aspiring to ¡V my Sifu¡¦s. Reading this, I know Sifu would criticize me. He would say that I should aim to be better than him otherwise the art would filter away from generation to generation. This I understand, but Sifu is one of those rare geniuses that appear in any discipline of study and set the pinnacle of standard for others to attain.
Over the six years, I have heard and seen many practitioners progress onto teaching. From a student they have become an instructor in a matter of a few years! In my early years as a naive student, I looked at myself and my seniors and we were nowhere at the ability of Sifu and dared not contemplate of becoming an instructor. Were we somehow of lesser abilities? Here I am having trained very hard for six years and I read up on so-called Masters/Sifus who had learned from their masters for a few years (albeit private students and training up to six hours a day seven days a week!) and later becoming a masters of Wing Chun! Are these people geniuses also? Did people like Yip Man have such magical powers that could make otherwise normal human beings into masters of Wing Chun? Sadly this was not the case and I am left with a bitter and sweet feeling of realising these people are falsely seen as the true representatives of Wing Chun; yet extremely proud and fortunate that I am on a right path to attaining what these people would never will.
One of the ways I like to describe the ability of my Sifu, and to differentiate him from others, is the thickness of a book. Sifu¡¦s book of knowledge is so great in volume that I have only managed to read through half (I hope) over the six years of study. Not only is the volume vast, but the content rich in knowledge also. Compared to other Masters/Sifus I¡¦ve seen over the years, I would say that their books are neither richer in knowledge (and dare I say - inaccurate) nor greater in volume.
My strongest memories of the early days were the very strict and high demand to details. The stance had to be just right, positioning of each techniques had to be perfect and the motion (and energies) of the techniques precise. Initially, I was a bit frustrated by this. Must the elbow be dead centre? Must the wrist be such positioned? Must the bong-sau be so aligned? Sifu said it is these small things that determine whether your technique is effective or have created openings to be exploited by your opponent. How did Sifu convinced us? Simple. He would use the same techniques we knew and applied them on us in deadly cleanliness and accuracy, and say, ¡§See, the techniques I just used are those that you know.¡¨ With that, any ambitious thoughts of learning something new would vanish instantly and we would eagerly return to perfect our foundations. This is what I mean by ¡¥rich in knowledge¡¦. We thought we had understood what we¡¦d read, but there was a far deeper meaning.
Having worked as a detective in the Hong Kong Police Force in his entire career before retiring, Sifu has had the best of training available in Hong Kong to prepare him for the investigative work against organised crimes and serious triad offences. Many people nowadays talk about the need to test the techniques on the street ¡V to find out what works and what doesn¡¦t (the so-called take what is useful and discard what's not). Though he doesn¡¦t like to divulge the occasions in which his Wing Chun skills had meant the success of a raid or the saving of his and his colleagues¡¦ lives, Sifu¡¦s colleagues in the Police Force frequently visit the gym and tell of these occasions. They would talk of bewilderment when, at the crunch time, Sifu would dart forward and subdue the suspect with majestic grace and efficiency. He preferred not to use his firearms unless absolutely necessary for his limbs were more deadly that any firearms, save, of course, in an emblazing gun battle. Back at the police station, the events would be the talking point for weeks to come. In the canteen, Sifu would be treated like a celebrity. His response? He would play it down by saying it's just a fluke and overly exaggerated. People talk about cage fights, etc., but how many people have fought desperate men who would not hesitate to kill or seriously injure so as to escape imprisonment? For these fights, there are no rules and no referees. These were Sifu's 'beimo'; a way of life during his 30 years as a Police detective in Hong Kong.
Sifu never categorises a technique as ineffective in combat because he could use all the techniques in the Wing Chun system to their full effectiveness. Again, as I¡¦ve mentioned above, it is the small attention to details that determines whether the technique works or not. Sadly, there are too many people openly brand certain techniques as ineffective and ¡¥would never use it on the street¡¦. These people blame the techniques but in actual fact it is their limited knowledge that is to blame.
Based on the training received from the Police Force, Sifu has devised a system of teaching method that is unique to our gym. The teaching method, and the discipline mirrored from the Police Force, has enabled the student to apply the techniques found in the forms to gor-sau successfully. This, dare I say, has produced high quality students that have surpassed the skills and abilities of the modern day so-called Masters of Wing Chun. How dare I make such claim? For those who have seen our footage clips, the prove is there for all to see. We, as Sifu's students, have urged Sifu to allow us to post a few clips of him in action - to set the record straight as to the real and authentic Yip Man Wing Chun. Sifu¡¦s reply has been for us, his proud products, to do so for him. If the students are of such ability then no one would doubt the ability of their Sifu. However, we all feel we have not done him justice.
I have searched the Internet and all over Hong Kong (and anywhere I happen to travel) and have not seen anyone apply their skills in such high standard as my seniors. Yes, there are some very impressive demonstrations on the Internet but you have to ask the questions, ¡§Were the opponents in the clips of equal standard or engaging to win?¡¨ and ¡§How strong was the Wing Chun flavour?¡¨
Six years on and I have no plan of stopping my tutelage under Sifu. For as long as Sifu is willing to teach this sometimes lazy and sometimes forgetful student then I¡¦d continue my goal to be as good as him. Sifu justly deserves the recognition for his achievement in Wing Chun but due to his commitment in the Hong Kong Police Force, he has been sacrificing it for the career he had chosen. Now that he has retired, he sees it more important to restore the Wing Chun system from the present day ¡¥diluted¡¦ and ¡¥polluted¡¦ state back to the traditional and authentic Wing Chun Kungfu as taught by Grandmaster Yip Man.
Lastly, I would like to express my immense gratitude to my Sifu for his generosity and patience in passing on his knowledge of this treasured art. I am extremely honoured to be his student.