Wing Chun Academy of Thailand
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.