Wong Shun Leung lived with a total dedication to Ving Tsun since the day he met Yip Man in the mid 1950s.
WSL loved fighting, and began testing his VT in fights with other martial artists from very early on in his training. These were not sparring matches but real fights with few restrictions and no protective equipment.. people got hurt. He reportedly participated in over 90 of these challenge fights over a period of 6 years or so. He was undefeated in these fights. In Hong Kong he was known as the king of the challenge match.
WSL had a very lively intelligence, and applied this to great effect with his training. He worked with his teacher on the development of the system itself. WSL was the rare student who continued to teach in Yip Man’s school until Yip Man retired from teaching, while most others went out to teach on their own after a few years training.
WSL developed an inclusive attitude to the development and teaching of the Ving Tsun system. A crucial experience in the development of his approach was the one organised tournament he participated in, in Thailand. He had knocked his opponent down and was going to finish it when his opponent threw an illegal punch to WSLs groin. WSL stepped back in shock from the strike and surprise from the illegal move according to the rules of that tournament and stepped one foot out of the circle, thus technically losing the fight. He then stepped back in and knocked the opponent out, but then fell from the groin injury and was carried out on a stretcher. He didn’t participate in tournaments again, preferring the freedom of the no-holds-barred reality of the street fighting, where you are ready for anything, expecting the opponent to cheat or make unexpected moves.
This experience taught WSL something vital. When the low groin strike was coming up towards him from the opponent who was on his knees, WSL had tried to use jum sau, sinking the elbow to intercept the strike, but the elbow failed to reach and the strike hit through.
When WSL returned to Yip Man and asked him what could have been done, Yip Man said the gan sau action is appropriate for that situation, dropping the wrist down so the forearm intercepts the lower strike which the elbow can’t reach. Simple, but why had Yip Man not taught WSL the gan sau action? Because he thought that WSL being short wouldn’t need it, as most strikes would be coming from higher and the jum sau should be sufficient. Yip Man taught taller students the gan sau, shorter students the jum sau. These actions or ideas are presented and programmed into the student’s neuromuscular system in the Siu Lim Tao form training.
WSL learned the hard way that it is not the teacher who determines what will be needed in the fight but the situation and the opponent who ask for our responses. This is a vital component of the WSL Ving Tsun understanding. WSL decided that better teaching practice is that every student gets everything. Prior to this, the student was taught what the teacher thought suited them or what the teacher thought they would need.
In the instance of jum sau vs gan sau, WSL decided to include both in his Siu Lim Tao form, because circumstance may decide for us which idea needs to be applied. A taller opponent who is down is now a shorter opponent. A shorter opponent on a step is now a taller opponent.
Including two viable and necessary ideas is much smarter than deciding between them and only training one.
Every student gets everything.
This is not just reflected in the Siu Lim Tao form either, but even more so in the wooden dummy training. Prior to WSLs developments, the dummy was a tool used to improve aspects of the student’s Ving Tsun that may have been lacking, eg if the student is not using huen sau to change the position when it would be advantageous to do so, or if their huen wasn’t working, they would be encouraged to do lots of huen sau training on the dummy. Same goes for fook sau, kicking, tan sau, whatever. Many of Yip Man’s other students teach dummy forms which consist of fewer movements practiced often throughout the form. Wong Shun Leung wanted to teach his students a dummy form which includes everything a student may need to develop on the dummy, so he and Yip Man together designed the dummy form that WSL practiced and taught on. It is very inclusive, relative to the other forms to be seen, though as time goes by, others are developing their forms too, just as many others have included both jum sau and gan sau in their Siu Lim Tao form. This inclusive attitude is one important aspect with regard to development of the Ving Tsun system. It reflects the water logic of the systems Taoist roots.. this and that. Much of Western thought has long been governed by the rock logic of Aristotle, Socrates and Plato, which categorises everything into this or that.. a useful but extremely limited mode of thought. Consider that a rock is either in a cup or out of the cup, but water can be both in the cup and out of it when we tip a bit out. When we are considering where things flow to, rather than what they are, we can more easily see the benefit in including two seemingly similar interpretations, ideas or concepts, rather than deciding between them and only developing one. Being exclusive can be a form of stubbornness or even egotism which can be a real pain in the balls!
Another aspect of WSLs Ving Tsun is that anyone who wishes to learn, we want to teach. In the very early years of WSLs teaching career he preferred and chose students who were already fighters, because they would better represent his school. Somewhat later on he was to observe that it is not necessarily those who are already smart with fighting who go on to master the system, but those who stick with it and train consistently over years. Quite often, students who pick it up quickly are impatient and are soon off to pick something else up quickly. Some students who when they begin are so inept it may be tempting to advise them to seek life elsewhere, have transformed into a fighting machine just a year or two later! Ving Tsun will work for anyone, if they train consistently, long and hard. So, anyone who wishes to learn is one who makes a good student.
It’s like a gamble which one cannot lose.
If you want to learn, I want to teach you.
WSL was very practical minded. He disliked talk of mysterious powers and energies, preferring material that makes logical sense, that can be demonstrated to work and is repeatable. In other words, his approach was purely scientific. WSL encouraged his students to be scientific in their approach too, and urged them to get involved with the process, to cut out what doesn’t work, to find what does work, to refine or adapt what isn’t working optimally, and to always test everything. So, although he further systematised the process, he still wanted the students to think for themselves. Those of Wong Shun Leung’s students who have gone on to teach in their own right have carried this process on to varying degrees and in a multitude of ways, forming the spectrum which is and is becoming the Wong Shun Leung method.