Where the VTK comes from is irrelevant.
Lineage is important.
These two statements seem contradictory, yet both hold true.
Wong Shun Leung advised that it doesn’t matter where it comes from, that if it works, use it. Yet he didn’t source his material from other teachers besides Yip Man, or mix in techniques or ideas from other systems.
Where we make our start in Ving Tsun affects much of our later development with regard to attitudes to training and fighting, to how open we are to sourcing material and to change, to how we relate to the ideas the system asks us to analyse and use.
My introduction to Ving Tsun was within the Barry Lee schools, Wong Shun Leung lineage. Very little of my VTK understanding has come from outside the WSL lineage. Much of it however has come from the 8 years of teaching and training since then, thousands of hours of hard work and with a group of smart guys, some with many years of training and experience behind them.
This work was not just doing what I had been taught, or practicing one aspect eg chi sau ad infinitum. The scientific process of observation, thought and discussion, testing, accepting, refining or rejecting the current hypothesis and practicing the movements according to the current understanding to make them natural and the responses automatic. Applying this to the entire system, taking it apart and putting it back together and with the study of biomechanics as pertains to Ving Tsun to enhance this process.
Wong Shun Leung’s approach regarding the idea that every student gets everything, and that the system is a scientific process has guided me to and through the entire ongoing project.
Even to this day the only book I have read on the subject of VTK is Sifu David Peterson’s book on Wong Shun Leung. This is not an instruction manual and never was intended as such. It is however a very interesting read on the great man’s life and ideas and I thoroughly recommend anyone read it.
I’m not saying books are a bad source, just that I haven’t used them as a source for any of my VTK.
Discussion with other sifus on the open forum has been invaluable when there was some answer I hadn’t found and wasn’t getting from asking those I could in person. A couple of these answers did come from sifus outside the WSL lineage, after I had exhausted all sources available to me and was still dissatisfied.
Around 2008 I did source 2 of Sifu Gary Lam’s DVDs and found them to be an excellent breakdown of the Biu Ji and Wooden Dummy forms. Of course since then and through analysing these forms, working them for thousands of hours and teaching them to many students, my understanding has deepened somewhat and the forms developed beyond the point of it even being relevant where they came from. The Biu Ji form has proven very robust while the dummy form has changed through the process in many ways.
There was one instance where I resorted to YouTube footage of Yip Man to successfully find an answer that no-one had been able to provide, and which myself and my students had worked for over a year to find. When I presented my finding to the students one of them said “Why didn’t someone here think of that?” It still seems odd to me that the best practice regarding this movement is there for everyone to see, and everyone has seen it, yet everyone still practices different and, to my understanding inferior movements. Anyway, knowing that most other VT practitioners don’t have this answer helps to ease my guilt in using such a suspect source! This is kung fu though, and regardless of source, I have put in the work required for me to have the understanding as well as the self respect to continue. It’s funny being criticised for using these sources by people who have inferior practices, stuck and bound by their beliefs.
WSL and Barry Lee lineage, learning in class and workshops, supplemented by a little video material years ago is my background but by now though very much the bulk of my VTK comes from the teaching and the training. Ving Tsun is a process which we immerse ourselves in, always looking to improve any part of the system and of course our way of using it.
The further we go with this process, the less our lineage and other sources are relevant to our Ving Tsun’s development. Of course this doesn’t mean we are less grateful for the work our predecessors did in sourcing and developing their Ving Tsun, or for our teachers for sharing so generously their hard won knowledge without which we couldn’t possibly be in a position to be able to think ving tsun and work it out for ourselves. Lineage is important. But we are not bound by it either.
The statement regarding the source being irrelevant points to the need to keep an open, enquiring mind. We dismiss nothing out of hand. Everything observed is analysed and milked for what it’s worth before being accepted, modified or rejected.
Much has changed in my Ving Tsun, yet the way I see it the method has come closer to the theory of my lineage than drifted from it. The process is everything. The source is everywhere. We are open to change, yet don’t seek nor want change. Change is hard work. It took years to develop our air dummy form. Months to just sort out the optimal pivot points. Change can eat up a lot of good training time! Neither do we wish to keep it the same. Change is only allowed when the system demands it.. but without change the system is dead. Without the possibility of progression and development at its core, VTK degenerates. With openness to change at its core, VTK expands and improves.. if we think, and put in the necessary work.