ALAN ORR SHOULD NEED NO INTRODUCTION IN A WING CHUN PUBLICATION. HE HAS BEEN AT THE FOREFRONT OF WING CHUN AND MMA FOR MANY YEARS NOW AND HE HAS TRAINED MANY TOP FIGHTERS.
The Chu Sau Lei Wing Chun System was taught to Alan by his Sifu Robert Chu, and since then it has brought a more structured approach to Wing Chun training, which in turn has allowed Alan and his team (The Iron Wolves) to have a great level of success in the fighting arena.
In this interview, we discuss self-defence, the Chinese internal methods, and why some people may still have a lot to learn.
Can Wing Chun be trained just for art/skill or does it have to be entirely about fighting?
It’s an interesting point that always comes up when people can’t use Wing Chun! In my mind martial arts is just that—it’s the art of fighting. To have a fight is easy. But to overcome physical odds with your skill, that is where the art comes into play. Of course, some people are not ever going to be great fighters, but the art should allow them to hold their own and, at the very least, play the game i.e. be able to defend themselves on the street and in a controlled environment, thus be able to give a better fighter a workout, as such.
If you train to fight or you train for the joy of learning a martial art, it is no different—it must work well. Wing Chun is not just learning about form and doing drills, and then Chi Sau and chain punching! That is not the art at all.
It pains me to see so many Wing Chun clubs with people teaching who are simply not good enough to teach others. It may not be what people want to hear, but we have a lot of teachers (that may be good themselves) that are going around giving out black belts of teaching certifications, just so they can have a bigger school or more money. The level is then justified by saying, “Well they are just teaching the art.” No, they are teaching poor Wing Chun, which in turn only destroys the reputation of the art!
In order to learn an art, it must have various levels of skill, which come from understanding body structure, good mechanics and some sound fighting principles. People ask me, how long does it take to be able to teach—I answer, as long as it takes.
Do you believe Wing Chun is a good “self-defence” system?
I don’t think there is such a thing as self-defence training. You either can fight, or you cannot. You win or you lose. I’m so tired of hearing people ranting on forums that have never met me or trained with me. They say what I am doing is not pure Wing Chun, as Wing Chun is a self-defence art that would simply not work in the cage or ring. It is a deadly street style. They say MMA fighters are just tough young guys. Please! Most of these types of Wing Chun practitioners would not last even 20 seconds with a semi-skilled MMA fighter. MMA means Mixed Martial Arts— it just means mixing it up so you have standing and ground fighting techniques, throws, striking and submission—like in a fight?
In order to beat a good grappler, you first need to know what they are trying to do in order to stop it. Everyone should be looking at testing his or her art in order to encompass a deeper understanding of how to use it. Testing it does not mean you have to fight. It means your training must be geared towards contact training and mixing it up.
It seems to me that there is a huge deficit of quality Wing Chun out there, and most of it seems to be because of a lack of understanding of structure. Why do you think that is?
My teacher Robert Chu was the first to coin and push the idea that Wing Chun was based on Body Structure. He developed structural tests, which most people could not pass, nor understand. So, what do they tell their students? They make up other nonsensical reasons like, “We don’t use power, we deflect, we redirect” and so on. This would be fine if that even worked. But it doesn’t! It only works with stagnant one-step applications. It has nothing to do with the clash of a real fight.
Structure is not just holding pressure; structure is not just your body mechanics. It does have both of these things, but much more. The basic understanding comes from the first form when you start learning about your own unique structure and should teach not just power development, but also, more importantly, power control. You can’t just willfully yield if you can’t control what you are yielding from. Redirecting power when you have no control ends up with us collapsing in the real world.
The problem is, people are telling other people what to do, but as it’s not under any pressure—it is not tested efficiently. I see many applications taught with one person punching one slow punch when they say they are, and the other person then applying the necessary application. That’s okay for a real beginner. But you still see this with the same guys 10 years later! Put the gloves on and spar. Learning will start much quicker.
So does that make Wing Chun a training method or fighting skill?
A method is a way of doing something. That’s not defined as a martial art to me. A martial art should be a system. A system is based on sound, tested principles. Then from these tested principles, a student can use different concepts based on the situation. The key is to understand the correct body structure principles, which are: balance, timing, alignment, power development and so on. So the fighting skill comes from the martial art.
A martial art must always be progressing and growing. It doesn’t mean the principles change. In fact, in good martial arts, the principles should have been sound in the first place. Teachers sometimes have great skills, but they don’t always know why that’s the case. The key to being a great student is to work out the principles first and then further develop the art to meet one’s specific needs. A great teacher can teach the principles and guide a student to develop the ideas that work best for the individual. I’m lucky to have a great teacher.
People in the Wing Chun world seem to think you have strong views and are close-minded. Why do you think that is?
The people who are often making comments have absolutely no idea. When I ask them about this, they say, “Well everyone has their own point of view.” Well, yes they do, but not all views count or mean anything. That is not being me arrogant—it’s a simple fact.
I’m also not a lazy student. I have travelled the world and have trained and learnt from the very best in all the arts I have trained in. I have trained for 25 years now and have had my butt kicked by the very best from then until now.
I train Wing Chun with Robert Chu and have met and trained with the top people in many branches of Wing Chun. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I hold a Brown Belt under the World Champion Leo Negao, in Eskrima with Mark Wiley (a real master of the art), MMA with Eddy Millis (top fight trainer)—I was one of the first people in the UK to fully learn Catch Wrestling.
I spar all of the time. I get punched, kicked and grappled by some very good guys. I’m a student—I learn something new every week. I still have private lessons weekly, and I do still travel to see my teachers and always will. If I see something I don’t know, I learn it and try it and see if it fits in. If I meet someone with skill, I listen carefully and I learn. This year I have added Coach Scott Sonnon’s Sambo training to my grappling techniques.
Besides the martial arts, I also practice and teach Chinese Medicine and have been a personal trainer for over 15 years. I never even taught martial arts, until I had trained for about 10 years, as I wanted to learn more all the time.
How do you implement the Chinese internal methods into your training?
The Chu Sau Lei Wing Chun system is very balanced. We train just as much internally as we do externally. The Siu Nim Tau is a standing Qigong set where we develop our breathing skills, Fa Jing striking and Iron Shirt/Iron Forearms. Each of our forms open further channels and thus develop different levels of skill. The balance is between the Qigong (Internal Training) Gung Lik (Trained Strength).
Many try to put out that what we are doing is all about fighting as if they are deeper than us or something. It is very funny when I see these same people lack the basic understanding of the Chinese martial arts. The Chu Sau Lei Wing Chun system is battle tested, but it is also 100% sound and perfect in its principles of use and development.
My teacher is a scholar of the arts, thus I’m honoured to have a very deep source to my martial arts training. I hope more people start to look at what they are taught and use more common sense and logical thinking to the ideas that are presented to them. If it doesn’t work now, it’s definitely not going to work later! Of course, when you learn something new it takes some time to make it work, but it should be similar to a power car. It takes time to learn to handle it. So, if the car is falling apart when you first get it, then it’s never going to last the journey.