My first training session in Ving Tsun was with Sifu Bill Dowding in September 1991. My initial impression was that this was real Ving Tsun, that the instructor knew his stuff and how to teach it. At this time Bill had been training with Sifu Barry Lee for about two years, but he had about 13 years of previous Ving Tsun training with some very capable people, and prior to that some training in other martial arts including some tournament fighting. Bill has said that his Ving Tsun training began when he met Barry, and he certainly worked very hard to adopt Barry’s method, which of course is that of Wong Shun Leung.
Prior to attending this first session, I had been training in Taijiquan under the auspices of Chen Xiao Wang, and had at that time about 120 students under my direct tutelage. I had during my tai chi career trained many sessions with Howard Choy, a Choy Lee Fut master who was assisting us with the tai chi and from whom I had learned the Lohan Kung Qigong system, which is 4 sets of breathing and stretching exercises designed to support the kung fu training they do.
So, I could well recognise the real thing when I saw it. I had previously heard some very good things about the Ving Tsun system, and had looked at some other schools previously but hadn’t been drawn to learn there.
After two sessions with Bill I realised that I had found a system that suited me more, that I was even more inspired to learn than tai chi. I also understood how big these systems are, what a commitment they take to learn, and that for practical purposes ie for combat effectiveness it is too much to sort out in the moment to train two separate systems, so I rapidly began to withdraw from the tai chi commitment to focus on the one art, Ving Tsun.
It took about 3 years of training in Ving Tsun for me to stop having tai chi responses in the Ving Tsun drills. After that it was all Ving Tsun, and I found that I had all but forgotten the tai chi forms.. stuff which I had believed was part of me forever. One aspect of learning Ving Tsun is that it is a process of letting go.. letting go of outmoded ideas, of tension, of trying, letting go of previous ways of doing things in order to accept and adopt better ways. This aspect of learning is a skill in itself, and one which develops throughout our Ving Tsun career. The system itself asks us to be open to change.
Training with Bill at The Ving Tsun Centre, a Barry Lee Ving Tsun Martial Arts Academy, gave me an excellent grounding in the basics. One part of the training would be worked on for months or years to reach a satisfactory standard before the next thing would be introduced. Bill’s knowledge is rich and deep.. I suggest anyone interested check out his website as listed in the links section of my website.
In 2005 Bill moved to China and I began training with Sifu Fu-Shan Yang, the Australian Representative of Barry Lee.
Fu at this time was running small classes at his place, separate from the main branch, to give his guys some extra training. The time, style and purpose of these classes suited me perfectly.
Fu had started training with Barry Lee in 1976, just after Barry returned from the intensity of his training and fighting experiences in Hong Kong. By all accounts, training in those early years with Barry were intense and demanding.
Fu has a very special understanding of some aspects of the training, and I found him to be very generous and extremely patient with regard to imparting his knowledge and getting the students to apply the fine technical details.
Prior to Bill leaving for China, I had been assisting in classes for years and then teaching, running classes in his kwoon for a couple of years, both open sessions and children’s classes. During 2006, while training with Fu, I assisted with running Bill’s school The Ving Tsun Centre in his absence and continued to run a few classes a week. In January 2007 Bill closed his kwoon and soon after that I began teaching under Fu in a kwoon at my home which was the Lake Macquarie branch of the Yang Ving Tsun Academy, also a Barry Lee Ving Tsun Martial Arts Academy.
Until mid 2009 I trained regularly with Fu and taught on to my students everything I was learning, as they became ready for it.
After that time I trained with Fu only very occasionally, being very busy with teaching about 25 hours a week, working and being a sole parent.
The study with Fu was fascinating material and to this day I am still incorporating it into my training. Fu was also instrumental in my becoming an independent instructor, encouraging me to be involved in the process and by giving me the space to discover Ving Tsun for myself. By mid 2012 my own development had brought me to some different conclusions regarding interpretation of some of the ideas within the WSL method, and certainly with regard to progression of students which was at odds with the practices within the BLVTMAA, and with no surprise to me, Fu ended my association with that school in a very professional and amicable way. A most impressive teacher in a school of impressive teachers!