BEIJING VING TSUN’S MASTER WANG ZHI PENG IS KNOWN FOR HIS DIRECT, NO-NONSENSE APPROACH TO WING CHUN. AN EXPERT TECHNICIAN WHO KEEPS TRUE TO THE TRADITIONAL VALUES PASSED DOWN BY THE LATE WONG SHUN LEUNG. BUT HE IS BY NO MEANS A TRADITIONALIST STUCK IN THE PAST.
Touted as a “human weapon” wang keeps it real with free-fighting that both observes old techniques and brings them up to date to ensure that students can deal with a more modern, well-trained assailant or fighter. he lives by the saying: “Let the hands do all the talking”.
In your opinion, what are the most important attributes to be developed through Wing Chun training?
For me, the most important training to develop one’s Wing Chun is all-round actual combat training involving kicking, punching, Shuai Jiao, Qin Na, ground control and weapons. This will develop a strong core, balance and structure for techniques. If the practitioner trains all of these areas but does not use them in actual combat scenarios, they will find it very difficult against someone who does.
What is your opinion of Chi Sau competitions?
Chi Sau is only a training approach. It should not be used in competition form at all. In Chi Sau, you practise your responses in close-range fighting, understanding points of contact, receiving and releasing of pressure, understanding of angles, being able to replicate every movement on both left and right sides and the movement of one’s Horse. Internal strength, in particular, is important in order to control the opponent’s hands and accordingly control their body. If you want to compete, you should just enter into an actual fight without Chi Sau rules. No matter how good your Chi Sau is, it can’t replace actual fighting. If you have watched Wang Kun in Chi Sau competitions, you will see that it’s just a game of push and pull and beating the opponent to the punch. Not realistic at all. If it were to be used like this in actual fighting, you would not see any traces of Wing Chun as the opponent would not be adhering to the Chi Sau rules, thus making it a senseless competition.
If Chi Sau is the link between forms and free fighting, why do so many people stop their development at the Chi Sau stage?
Many Wing Chun practitioners are excessively addicted to practising Chi Sau. This is counter-productive. People who train like this have a false perception that once they are good at Chi Sau, they can engage in actual fighting and win using it. There are no rules in actual combat, no set place or circumstances in which fights occur. Chi Sau is by no means impromptu, it is very much staged to give both participants an even platform from the outset. Many people are too idealistic or traditional to face that reality. They are always under that illusion and exaggerate the effects of Chi Sau. Fighting, it’s like learning to swim, it’s no use just standing on the edge imagining what it’s like to get in, you have to actually jump into the water and experience it first hand in order to learn to swim. Chi Sau is only part of the process, almost a theory, it’s not everything. If you want to enhance your fighting ability, you have to find different opponents and fight with them using limited rules.
How worried are you that Wing Chun is being gradually watered down?
With the emergence of movies like Ip Man, Wing Chun has been pushed to another climax with the popularity of the films. However, this brings with it students that would otherwise not be interested in learning a martial art or students who are only interested in fads and fashions.
Another reason to be worried about the watering down of Wing Chun is the ease in which people are gaining certificates and merit without real skill. This happens because of the abundance of pyramid structured Wing Chun institutes—Mc’Dojos. This kind of stain on the art of Wing Chun is only designed to make money and has no intention of spreading real, historically accurate Wing Chun. The Wing Chun masters of today should get together and unite like a family with a unified organisation and regulations, only in this way can Wing Chun be better regulated so that the real essence is not lost.
Do you feel muscles are beneficial to Wing Chun?
What is important is not whether the practitioner is muscular but how they improve the elasticity of their muscles. The practitioner must coordinate every muscle group towards the same goal, focusing their strength on speed and directional force whilst staying economic in their movements. This is comparable to a company’s staff that all pull together and work as a team, if one member of the team is not working at 100 percent, the rest get affected and cannot complete their tasks.
Wing Chun has been subjected to a lot of criticism by MMA fans, how do you feel about these opinions?
The criticism by MMA fans of Wing Chun does hold water. We should not be conservative, we should learn from and cooperate with MMA practitioners, only this way can we learn from their techniques and fighting approaches in real-time combat and learn how to deal with them effectively when competing in MMA matches. People often say, “Wing Chun won’t work in the ring because of the rules.” Well, they are traditionalists and can’t think outside the box. It is also important to remember that it is you who use the styles, but not the other way around. The uniqueness of Wing Chun lies in how you perfect your own techniques with flexibility. You control the technique; the technique does not control you.
Do you consider Wing Chun to be an Internal art? If so, what does this mean and how does it affect training?
Wing Chun belongs to Ng Ga Kuen (styles that focus on inner strength). Wing Chun does not emphasise brute strength (External Force). It emphasises the small defending against the big, the weak defeating the strong, and the soft overcoming the hard, like David vs. Goliath, This meets the requirements of Ng Ga Kuen. Ng Ga Kuen is like traditional Chinese medicine, which emphasises that the coordination of the inner systems can improve the outer symptoms. If an Internal balance is achieved, the External results can be improved. Therefore, when practising Wing Chun, the practitioner should first strengthen their Internal structure and then fine-tune their External power. For example, at the beginning, the practitioner should first practise Siu Nim Tao (The Little Idea) step by step, the stance training that improves the overall core strength, and practise the Qigong to strengthen the bones and build flexibility in ones tendons so that they can coordinate their muscles and achieve a state in which “all the muscles are one”. One should perform Siu Nim Tao for no less than 45 minutes daily, as we do, to have any chance of gaining these attributes.
How would you define a complete martial artist?
An ideal martial artist should be like Bruce Lee who not only studied Eastern martial arts but also Western ones too. They should make their Gung Fu simple, direct and innovative by absorbing the good and filtering out the bad. Bruce was a truly well-rounded martial artist to which others should aspire to be like. A good martial artist should be enterprising and creative so that martial arts can pass down from generation to generation with vigour.
Have you changed how you approach your Wing Chun as you’ve gotten older?
As my age advances, I have found myself teaching more than I practise. Practising is more of a hobby but teaching is my responsibility. However, as my knowledge of Wing Chun becomes more and more profound, I realise that my work in the first ten years was like how an ignorant newly-born baby views the world and the second ten years was like a more mature grown-up teenager with plenty more room for expansion and development.
In your many years of teaching what is the most memorable moment(s)?
The most unforgettable moment came when I had the chance to spread the art of Wing Chun to the Chinese Police Academy, the largest un-militarised police force in the world. The students there had been learning Taekwondo, Karate and other foreign martial arts; however, after taking my senior students there and performing a demonstration, they understood the importance of Wing Chun as a home-grown martial art. This was of great significance to me as over time I could see a loss of interest in Chinese culture in the younger generation. It now gives me great pleasure to say that they study Beijing Ving Tsun as their sole combat defence protection.
What has the Wing Chun training taught you in life?
Practising Wing Chun not only brings me mental and physical health, a better life and more flexible psyche but also inner peace. It does not make me short tempered but enables me to learn forbearance and tolerance when dealing with people, only in this way can greater contributions be made to the whole of human civilisation.
How would you like to see Wing Chun develop in the modern world?
What’s important for the modern development of Wing Chun is not to show how fierce and strong it is but to display what benefits it brings for human mental and physical health and how it enables people to acquire new knowledge and understanding of life and the world. Wing Chun embodies our predecessors’ thoughts about human life and the universe over hundreds of years, and it interprets the ancient Chinese philosophy with perfect inner and outer movements. The spread and development of Wing Chun in the world enables us to cultivate ourselves by practising it, and enables all its practitioners to become united and live peacefully like one big family, which can be said to be a great contribution towards the peace of the human race.