Wing Chun Academy of Thailand


About the Author

I was born at the bottom of the Himalayas in India, in a hill-station town called Kalimpong, that shared borders with Tibet, China, Sikhim, Nepal and Bhutan. My father was part Tibetan and part Chinese; my mother a Vietnamese. The town, 1,250 meters above sea-level, was predominantly inhabited by Nepalese, Tibetans and Chinese, during my years there. It was a very small town (and still so). There were no cars to speak of. There were a few jeeps that took people from town to town. Every New Year, my friends and I treated ourselves for a jeep ride around the block, and I vomited every time. There was no public transportation or even rickshaws. Everyone walked. We all had hefty legs.

For entertainment, there were two cinemas that everyone went to religiously. There were nothing else. Never mind computers and video games, there weren't even televisions or telephones. What did we kids do for fun? Fight!

My elder brother and I fought so much that my father bought us boxing gloves to settle our differences. Even the schools had boxing in their curriculum to keep the fights under control.

My father, in his youth, was a fighter. We'd listen to him and our mother retell his fighting escapades, and were inspired to follow his footsteps; to prove our manhood with our fists. He was a natural fighter, so didn't have the need and patience to undergo the Taiji and Shaolin training he had enrolled himself in. When I was born, he was 51 years old. I still witnessed him taking out strong young men for the next decade.

When my family moved to the city of Calcutta, the first thing that my brother and I did was challenge the boys in the neighborhood for fights. Actually, we didn't need to as we were often teased for our rosy cheeks burnt by the sun in the high altitude. That gave us the excuse to scrap. We easily established our dominance there. We did the same in the missionary school that we went to. The pastor's son tried my brother first, being that he was the same age. After a licking, he tried me. He was lambasted as well. Every school we changed to, we did the same. In fact, a priest from the Catholic school that we went to enjoyed watching fights so much that he made sure he was invited to challeged fights. Apparently, he boxed as a youth.

In the early 60's, after the first James Bond movie, there were a string of spy movies that came out showing Judo or Jiu Jitsu action. I was fascinated by it. When I found a Judo school in the city, I urged my parents to enroll me. They were happy to do so, knowing that the regular activity would keep me off street fights.

Looking back, I see how Judo built a strong base for my total martial arts training. I learned about balance and flexibility. I was just a lad of 11 training amongst adults. I could not use my muscles against them. I went to the library and studied every Judo book it had, and learned the science behind it.

The Judo school in Calcutta was setup by Kodokan of Japan. The master who was sent to teach us found the weather and lifestyle unsuitable for him, so returned to Japan. The solution Kodokan came up was to have traveling Judo practitioners train us when they visited Calcutta. We ended up with a lot of Japanese sailors.

What we initially thought was a poor solution turned out to be a great blessing. We were exposed not only to one master's teaching and style, but to a variety of teachers and styles. I was inspired by one particular young man, who, for a shoulder throw, squatted right down, butting his hip against his opponent's shins (instead of the thighs), and using his straight arm against the opponent's whole body to tossed him overhead. This was no ordinary shoulder-throw. The victim would fly straight out, in a nose-dive manner. If you didn't know how to roll in mid-air, you would land on your face. After seeing how he toyed around with our heavies, I was determined to be like him. After intensive training for nearly four years, I was able to easily throw all but one two-hundred-pound man in the dojo. Since we did not have a regular teacher, we were not graded for belts. This was another blessing in disguise. I came to realize that it didn't matter what belt I wore, but what I had achieved for myself.

I learned later that some of the stuff they did in the movies was Karate, instead of Judo, so I wanted to learn it. There were no Karate schools in India. There weren't even any books on it in the stores or the library. I wrote my sister in Canada, and she sent me one by Bruce Tegner. I dug into it like an archaeologist. Soon, I found out that he was an expert on Judo, Jiu Jitsu, Aikido, Kendo, and etc. It wasn't until I got hold of his Judo book that I realized that he was quite poor at it. I doubted his ability in Karate, and learned the reality of commercialism that day, and became a discriminating searcher for real martial arts teachers and books.

In 1967, my family migrated to Canada. In my search for a Karate school, I was fortunate to walk into Park Jong Soo's Taekwondo Institute in the fall of 1968. I saw this superman sparring with three guys and blasting them against the walls of the school with his kicks. When he kicked the bag, it bent, jerked and bounced instead of swinging back. I had seen Bruce Lee as Kato in the Green Hornet, and read about him in the Black Belt magazines, and had much respect and admiration for him; however, Bruce's kicks were nowhere as powerful as Parks from what I saw. No one had heard of Taekwondo then. In fact, it was advertised as Korean Karate. My friends urged me to join their Karate schools. However, without hesitation, I joined Park's school.

I must have been the longest brown-belt wearer in the history of martial arts. I studied Taekwondo for severn years but never acquired a black belt. My interest was in mastering the art, not acquiring a belt. It didn't interest me to pay for the belt. For those who don't know this, students of martial arts pay for grading and tournaments. I never understood that. Boxers get paid for fighting. You acquire a University degree without paying for the exams. Anyhow, Mr. Park told me that it didn't look good that I wore a brown belt for so long and that I should take a test. I acquired a black-stripe, and quit Taekwondo.

Mr. Park is about 5'11; rather tall for an Asian. He trained in Taekwondo since he was a young boy of 14, in Korea. He was the Korean National Champion. He was groomed for international exhibition and promotion of Taekwondo by General Choi, the founder of Taekwondo, and Taekwondo International Federation. Park Jong Soo was (and probably is still) as good and tough as a martial artist could be. Although I did well in Taekwondo, I found the learning growth slow. There was a tremendous upward learning curve in the beginning but came to a screeching halt in about a year, when it began to move in a snail-like pace. The reason, I believe, is that in the first six to twelve months, you will have learned all the Taekwondo kicks, that is, front-kick, side-kick, round-house kick and their variations, front-twisting-kick, back-kick, and reverse-roundhouse-kick. That's what Taekwondo is about. The rest of the time, you spend improving and strengthening them. The hand techniques are just too few in numbers. You will notice in Taekwondo sparring or competition, how most practitioners hang their hands like dead meat, and employ their feet only.

From my experience, I found Taekwondo most effective if your legs were longer than your opponent's, and you weighed more, and you were physically stronger as well. That is, if you're fighting another Taekwondo man of the same calibre. In my prime, I could do incredible things with my legs and could take on most of my Taekwondo associates. However, the taller and bigger they were, the more difficult it became for me. I felt I needed something more than Taekwondo.

During my years of Taekwondo training, I began to notice (through the movies) how much more Bruce Lee had improved in martial arts than anybody I knew or had seen. Meanwhile, my instructor was losing his speed and power. The physical hardship of Taekwondo was taking a toll on him as he gained more years. Bruce Lee, on the other hand, was getting faster and more powerful. He was more rounded as a martial artist than a stylist. I especially liked the hand techniques he applied on Robert Baker in the Fist of Fury, and on Chuck Norris in the Way of the Dragon. I had often heard that Bruce Lee had taken Wing Chun, but never knew that the hand techniques he had applied in the movies were Wing Chun moves. The Wing Chun hands were usually overshadowed by his Taekwondo kicks which looked more spectacular on screen.

One day, I was invited by a Chinese restaurateur to visit his 11-year old son's gongfu class. It was held in a small room at the basement of a house. When the class begin, and I saw the hands in action, I immediately knew that this was what I needed and wanted. I asked the instructor for information on the classes and tuition. He told me that this was not a gongfu school, but a social club for the Hong Kong boys who had come to Canada to study or work. They only "played" gongfu for past-time. I knew it was a just polite way to reject me. I later learned from the restaurateur that I hadn't requested the master properly for acceptance to enroll. I had asked him about the tuition like I did with other martial arts schools, which usually ran a business, not a school (in a traditional sense). Wing Chun was only taught to those who ask for it, and to those who the instructor felt was of good character. I urged the restaurateur to put in a good word for me. He took me back another time, with instructions to offer tea to the master. This was the traditional way of requesting acceptance. If he refused, it meant he was not prepared to take me in. If he did, then I would ask him to please accept me as his student.

The teacher and the students drank tea during the training breaks. I offered to pour tea to the master, but he said that he had just had taken it and didn't want anymore. On the next break, I offered him again. He said his cup was still full. I hung around until the end of the class and offered tea to him again. This time, he stretched his hand out to accept it. At that point, I asked him to please accept me as his student. He reminded me that he was only running a social club for the Chinese boys who were away from home, but will accept me into the club as one of his boys.

Thus began my journey to the art of Wing Chun. My master's name was Wong Siu Leung. He was a student of Moy Yat and Wong Shun Leung, who were Master Yip Man's first generation student. My experience in this house was wonderful. I learned Wing Chun not only as an art, but a culture as well. There was no belt system nor competition amongst the practitioners. We respected each other, not because of ranking or skills, but because we were Wing Chun brothers. Those who joined before us, we called them Big Brothers. However, if someone was older than us in age, we called him Big Brother, regardless of when he joined the Wing Chun society.

One day, after a year and a half's training, an 18-year-old boy visited our class. I learned through my classmates that he was also Master Moy Yat's student; not only that, but that he was his godson. His name was Nelson Chan. He had come to study in Canada.

My classmate, Vasco Texiera (a Portuguese-Chinese), and I became friends with Nelson. We found out that he was more knowledgeable in Wing Chun than our master. He knew it down to the minute details and was willing to share them. Vasco and I requested him to teach us. Being that we were already students of his Wing Chun brother, Master Wong, he could not accept us as his students. The only way he could teach us was to make us his junior brothers. We were not to call him "Sifu" (Master), but "Sihing" (Big Brother).

I decided to dedicate the next three years strictly towards Wing Chun training. I quit work, and began studying WC under Brother Nelson Chan. I attended Taekwondo classes in the afternoon and Master Wong's classes at night. In between, I learned WC from him.

Brother Chan moved into the house Vasco bought specifically for training. He taught him at night when Vasco returned from work. He taught me from 3 to 6 p.m. when he got off school. In the weekends, the three of us trained together. In those days (1972), there were no protective gears for training. We first made chest pads out of bags stuffed with the Yellow Pages. Later, we used Kendo head and bodygear, and hockey shinpads for full contact training. Those were the best years of my training.

I was under Nelson's tutelage for three years, whereupon, I left Toronto for Vancouver. I regretted very much the discontinuation of Wing Chun training under him. I tried several Wing Chun schools and teachers; but it was a long time before I found another teacher of high standing, Master Winston Wan. He learned from Master Lok Yu, who was the second student that Yip Man accepted in Hong Kong. Master Wan had a different approach to Wing Chun that I had not experienced. The added knowledge enhanced my Wing Chun skills tremendously. I spent three years under Master Wan's tutelage. Master Wan suffered from chronic back pains, and could no longer teach WC. He handed the school to his senior-most student. I became close friends with Sifu Wan, and went to his home in the weekends to learn privately from him.I also kept up my Wing Chun by teaching a few individuals privately.

In between Wing Chun training and teaching, I also did some Taiji and Qigong. They were helpful in understanding Wing Chun holistically.

In 1994, I moved to Thailand and China. I searched for Wing Chun masters, but none were comparable to my teachers; for that matter, none were even comparable to me. So, I decided to explore Wing Chun on my own by reverse engineering it. I treated everything I knew about Wing Chun as wrong until proven right. I first took the forms and dissembled them completely, and then put each component through a test of measure for economy, efficiency, and productivity. The economy measure determined whether a certain movement was expending the minimum amount of energy to get the job done. The efficiency measure determined whether a movement was expending the minimal amount of time to get the job done. The productively measure determined whether the energy and time expended on a movement produced the best results. The 3 measuring sticks of economy, efficiency, and productivity are inherent to Wing Chun's concepts of centerline theory, duality of defense and offence, simulateous movements of 2 or 3 limbs. By testing the movements in the forms using these measuring sticks, I was able to decypher the secret messages that was encrypted in the forms by the ancient developers of Wing Chun. Once the 3 open form movements were decrypted, all the movements and techniques in Chisao, Dummy, 6.5 Pole, and Twin Swords fell into place. I understood how ingeniously, progressively, and holistically the founders had designed the system. I even felt that the spirits of the ancestors had led me to the discovery. I had now stumbled into something very deep; something untouched by others. I now felt a sense of responsibility and mission to reveal the truth about Wing Chun to the very serious seekers. Thus began the journey.

Yours Truly, July
2003By popular requests, I'm including a recent picture of myself. I guess some of the correspondents and readers feel more comfortable putting a face on who they're communicating with or who they're learning from online. I'm sorry for not doing so earlier; it's just that I'm a photo and video hobbyist, and am behind the camera most of the time. It's not often that I am photographed. And when I am, I must confess that my ego gets shattered seeing the wear and tear Time and Nature have done me. Oh well, I'm no Hollywood material like I used to be [pardon my modesty ;-)], but here I am, yours truly.

Many are interested in my Wing Chun lineage. It is a humble one. My masters are not publically known, and are not first-generation students of Yip Man; they are second generation. My masters have chosen to stay low-keyed, and so have I. I have not jumped the hoop to become a second-generation student by going to a first generation master. It's a popular thing to do. You can claim to be a second-generation student after taking a week, or a couple of months' studies with one. I believe I'm fortunate to have top second-generation students as my masters. All first-generation students are not necessarily the best or even better than the generations after, as many have found out. Even amongst your peers, you will find one who will stand out, and others who are mediocre, or plainly bad. So, here's my humble lineage chart, not including masters who I've learned from for a short time.
July 24, 2004
Updated on July 15, 2007.
Here's an updated chart done in June 15, 2013.