SIFU PAUL FERNANDEZ BEGAN TRAINING WING CHUN IN 1972 UNDER THE DIRECT IP MAN LINEAGE OF GRANDMASTER CHU SHONG TIN IN AUSTRALIA, WHERE HE TRAINED WITH GREAT PASSION AND DEDICATION UNDER THE LATE SIFU JIM FUNG FROM 1972 UNTIL THE EARLY 1990s.
In 1992, Sifu Fernandez started practising the Leung Ting lineage of Wing Tsun under Sifu Stefan Fischer in Australia and remained his personal student for seven years. He later moved to Europe and became a personal student of Sifu Filippo Cuciuffo and Grandmaster Keith R. Kernspecht, and also became Grandmaster Leung Ting’s private student for about three years. During that period, Sifu Fernandez also had the opportunity to learn directly under the second highest ranked Wing Tsun master in the world, namely Sifu Cheng Chuen Fun.
In 2005, Sifu Fernandez officially founded his own system called Wing Tchun Do.
Your Wing Chun University course is over 95 hours long—the longest video set on Wing Chun ever produced. What made you want to put your entire system on video?
Well, the good news is that the course will become even bigger! I have projected many new courses, which I have entitled Evolution Wing Tchun Do. What made me do it? I realised that the Wing Chun system has never been encoded—at least not visually. So it always made me think that all the interpretations were from teachers having the art transmitted physically and verbally. To my knowledge, no one has ever decided to write everything down and use it as a permanent reference point.
It was very important to me that the make-up of the lessons would be literally as if I were teaching or lecturing in front of a live class. My mission is to create more and more videos, going deeper into the roots of how I personally feel Wing Chun should evolve. The new videos will look at the mechanical structure of the body, as well as the natural functions of muscle fibres connected with joints and nervous system.
Wing Chun will hopefully evolve and in the future, I wish for my system to stand as a reference point that represents not only my own interpretation but also a conglomeration of three lineages paying homage to Ip Man. I believe loyalty to your roots is very important.
People believe Wing Chun is a dying art, but I believe it’s stronger than it ever has been before. 100 years from now, I sincerely hope my contribution to the art would remain a positive reference point. The important thing is that people learn and see the variations I propose—that they understand my perspective from being a bouncer and security guard for many years, and how I look at the reality of fighting. Also, I feel that it is not only important on a fighting level to see my evolution and transformation from being a huge muscle bouncer with a highly explosive Wing Chun, but to how I was able to transform and recreate the person I am today. Not only do I truly believe in the fighting effectiveness of the art, but also in the internal workings, which believe me, give you much more beneficial results to the mind and body.
Do you have any advice for people learning Wing Chun by video—away from a qualified teacher?
Be real, be logical, be a good researcher, make sure that what the guy says in the video makes good sense. Make sure that you check your physical health and that you can physically follow his instructions. Find a good, reliable training partner. Get the appropriate protection. Do very controlled sparring. Film yourself and log your results, maybe upload it to YouTube and check your daily progress.
Sometimes, you would be surprised how the person who truly does his or her own research with earnest in their heart, ends up being the ones that achieve incredible levels. I have a student who blew me away when I first met him. He was a novice and he asked me if he could show me the Wooden Dummy form. I said yes and the weird thing was that he was pretty good and on average, I would have rated him 7 out of 10. To make it even weirder, there was this familiarity in his movements. He finished the form and I said, “Well done. So where did you learn the form?” And he answered, “From your online course, Sifu!” Ideally, it’s best to have a live teacher and years ago, I’d have never believed or conceived that it was possible to learn from a two-dimensional screen. Clearly, I have been proven wrong!
In your opinion, what are the most important attributes to be developed through Wing Chun training?
Beginners have little understanding of what effective self-defence is and therefore they search for martial art systems that offer a quick fix. I believe that some of the most important attributes for a beginner are to understand the principles of combat, the reality of an aggression, and the powerful reflexes at short range that Wing Chun is specialised for. Learning to move forward and developing powerful will and concentration, developing powerful punches, elbows, kicks, knees, and all the weapons necessary to survive an aggression. It’s at this stage that I believe a student can move onto a deeper understanding of the power of passiveness and start studying Chi Sau.
Please explain the meaning of Chi Sau and what the emphasis should be while practising it?
Chi Sau can be trained on many levels. Usually, I teach it with no physical force, helping the student to understand the full capacity of their body actions. After that, I integrate combat principles and start to construct the body to have bow and arrow reflexes, torsion and spiral power, and help them to transmit power through the body. Chi Sau can help you to become a better fighter, and with luck, it creates a better and deeper mindset in understanding energy and improving your strength and health. I could talk about this for hours, but it’s better to read the book I’m currently working on.
What do you believe to be the most important geometry and principles in Wing Chun?
Understanding what Grandmaster Ip Man was talking about when he was referring to the power of angles and structure. If you research that, I believe you will find your own answers. However, the geometry of body structure that is shown in the empty-hand forms, Wooden Dummy, Long Pole and Bart Chum Dao, all relate to each other and they all point to the same message in understanding deep body alignment and generating power through this so-called conglomeration of geometric angles, which generate maximum power whilst simultaneously using or diverting the power of the opponent.
How worried are you that Wing Chun is being gradually watered down?
I think it’s complete nonsense! Wing Chun is alive and well, and there are many good teachers around the world who are making Wing Chun stronger than it ever was.
What’s your opinion on the differences between the Chinese versions of Wing Chun and the Wing Chun demonstrated worldwide?
The Chinese are incredibly humble and respectful, and they work very hard for their technical progress. The Westerners are tough, arrogant and aggressive—they are worlds apart! Whereas the Chinese are very passive, they don’t see the world the way we do, so they have no need to do an art for fighting purposes—they literally do it as an art. Training for two hours with Grandmaster Leung Ting was like filtering 10 years of study with other European methodologies. People might think I’m bullshitting here, but pay the money and find out for yourself.
What’s your view on whether structure is needed?
Without understanding structure, you can’t learn how to generate power, without structure you can’t evaluate how a Taan Sau or a Bong Sau works, you can’t understand how to connect your body—so structure, for me, is absolutely everything. Through structure, I can prove scientifically how a smaller person can divert the energy of a much bigger, stronger person.
What do you think about this modern approach of developing Wing Chun as an internal style? Do you believe that Wing Chun needs internal development in order to be effective?
I hate this modern approach! It’s like they think they discovered the wheel again. Wing Chun was always an internal art. It’s when it was devised and marketed for the masses that the internal workings were removed. It’s a big problem, but since 1972, Sigung Chu Shong Tin has been teaching us Qigong with Wing Chun. He told us Ip Man taught him and that’s why he was called the “King of Siu Nim Tau”. Master Wong Shun Leung knew this—before he died, he was teaching us the internal workings of the Siu Nim Tau. So personally I get a little angry when I see this sold as a novelty. Internal work has existed in most martial arts for hundreds, if not thousands of years.