Author(s): David Peterson
Edited by: Eric Lilleør
Publisher: Mui Fa Publishing (2016)
Edition: Full-colour Casewrap Hardcover
In this issue, I have the great pleasure of reviewing a long-awaited and highly anticipated book by the man I refer to respectfully as “the Professor”. Sifu David Peterson is, in my opinion, the greatest communicator to ever teach the Wing Chun/Ving Tsun system in the English language.
First, I would like to suggest a change of the subtitle for future printings of this book. Instead of “An Overview in the Form of Essays” it should be changed to “The Definitive Textbook on the Wong Shun Leung Combat System” because that is exactly what it is. Short of sitting at the feet of Sifu Wong himself, I cannot imagine one being exposed to a more thorough education in the principles, concepts and practices of the WSL Ving Tsun Kuen Hok method than is presented in this book.
In his Foreword in the book, Wong Shun Leung student and movie star, Philip Ng, states that David Peterson is, “a person my Sifu had attested as someone who most accurately transmitted his ideas.” Wong Shun Leung’s son, John Wong Hong Chung, states that David was a foreign student of his father’s who made a huge impression due to his grasp of the Chinese language. Not only could he speak Chinese, which made it possible for him to converse directly with his teacher without the need of a translator, but David could read and write the language as well, and in John Wong’s words, “His thinking was just like a Chinese—in fact, in many ways he was even more traditional than some Chinese.”
These statements alone are reason enough for anyone interested in Wing Chun in general, and more importantly in the WSL Ving Tsun Kuen Hok method, to rush to their computer and order the book, which is available in three print versions and as I am writing this review, is about to launch digitally for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire!
The book itself is extremely impressive in its initial presentation. The edition I have for review is the full-colour casewrap hardcover edition, but I will purchase the black-and-white paperback edition, which I intend to attack with my trusty highlighter and a pen for notes—I cannot do that with the full-colour edition, as I am sure there is a law somewhere prohibiting defacing a book of this stature and beauty with a highlighter!
When I first opened the book, I was impressed by the number of historical photos of Wong Shun Leung. Many I had seen before, but not with such clarity, while others I saw for the first time. The quality of the paper and the printing are both outstanding. This is definitely the highest-quality martial arts book I have ever seen, and I have quite a collection!
The book begins with several Forewords. There is an old saying that states, “A man can be judged by the company he keeps.” You can get a good impression of a man’s character by looking at those who stand with him. The names of those who have written Forewords for this book is an impressive list of very well-respected men from the martial arts community; their insights into David’s background, knowledge, skill and character lay a solid foundation upon which this great book is built.
After the Forewords, the book is divided into four parts. “Part One: The Forms”, is a deeply focused examination of each of the forms that comprise the WSL Ving Tsun Kuen Hok method. In his dissertation on the first form, Siu Nim Tau, David makes a statement, which I believe is one of the most important things any Wing Chun student can hear: “…rather than seeing the form as the novice/White Belt level of the system, I consider the Siu Nim Tau form as the Black Belt level of Ving Tsun!”
The depth of knowledge and clarity with which David explained the details of the Siu Nim Tau form helps the reader to understand his assertion that this is the equivalent of a Black Belt form. I would take that a step further, and state that the Siu Nim Tau, as presented here is the equivalent of a complete training system; White Belt through Black Belt, not just a Black Belt form. Having earned Black Belt rank in several systems, when I say this, it is not an empty comparison! If the reader can understand and put into practice even half of what David reveals about this form, it will generate years of training and growth.
The book follows the dissertation on the first form with essays on Cham Kiu, Biu Ji, the Wooden Dummy, the Pole, and the Knives, each as rich in detail and clarity as the first. Wing Chun, being a concept and principle-based system, makes a book of this magnitude an absolute treasure trove for the student of the system.
In “Part Two: Concepts”, David goes into great detail explaining what sets Wing Chun apart from other systems. This section will bring great understanding to the reader who thoroughly researches the material presented.
“Part Three: Drills and Skills” describes various ways to train the skills of the system. Here, David explains, in the detail and clarity he is known for, how to develop the skills of the Wing Chun system. He goes into great detail on such subjects as Chi Sau, Chi Geuk, kicks, footwork, and much, much more.
“Part Four: Biographical Essays” covers the life and history of Ip Man and Wong Shun Leung. Here you will find some interesting information on Bruce Lee, his training under both of these great masters, and the influence each had on his personal development. The historical information and accompanying photos in this section are an absolute treasure!
Next is a section called “Photo Gallery,” which shows the reach and depth of influence that David has had on the Wing Chun world. I am honoured to have been included in this section. David Peterson has been extremely influential in my personal growth in the Wing Chun system, in his writing, which I have followed from his first published article to his encouraging support in some of the trials and tribulations I have endured in my personal Wing Chun journey, to his personal instruction, which has taught me a great deal.
The book concludes with the “Appendices”, with an essay written by Wong Shun Leung himself on the lessons he learned from his famous fights. There is also an overview of the key points of the three empty-hand forms, terminology, and a suggested reading list.
I give this book my highest recommendation! I cannot imagine a serious student of Wing Chun who would not profit greatly from owning this book.