The Cultural Translation of Wing Chun: Addition, Deletion, Adoption and Distortion

Discussion in 'Wing Chun' started by TMA17, Jan 31, 2018.

  1. TMA17

    TMA17 Black Belt

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    The Cultural Translation of Wing Chun: Addition, Deletion, Adoption and Distortion


    Ip Man’s photo is displayed prominently on the walls of martial arts schools across North America. If he were to look out through the eyes of these icons, what would he see? Would he recognize the Wing Chun being performed in his name?

    I suspect that he would be very surprised with some aspects of the scene below. He would recognize the colored belts, but would probably find them out of place. The highly structured format of our classes would also seem alien to him. He could not help but wonder why his picture so often hangs next to that of Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto.

    Yet I doubt that he would be confused by the purposes of the changes that he saw. After all, Ip Man guided his branch of Wing Chun through an important period of “cultural translation” as it went from being one kind of martial art in Republican Foshan, and became something notably different in the Crown Colony of Hong Kong.

    Those with previous training in the system were surprised to see how differently Ip Man’s post-1950 classes were structured. A curriculum had been added, traditional concepts were deleted, the local culture of youth fighting was “adopted” (or at least tolerated) and the practice of chi sao had been elevated and made a central aspect of daily training. Translation and change was the price of making Wing Chun legible to a new generation of Hong Kong students.

    While Ip Man might at first be mystified by some of the details, he would understand the basic processes at work in our own era. He knew that it would take work and flexibility to maintain Wing Chun as a modern fighting system. Mostly, I suspect, he would just be happy to have another generation of students to practice his chi sao on.
     
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  2. KPM

    KPM Senior Master

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    What I find somewhat silly is when western Gung Fu instructors try to be more "traditional Chinese" than the Chinese!
     
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  3. Snark

    Snark Orange Belt

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    being the proud traditionalist and nationalist he was, I wonder whether he would be disappointed at the number of westerners who have adopted the art let alone the modernisations they have introduced. I love wing chun but I can't help but think that Ip Man would not be too keen on it, once the Chinese aspect of the lineage ends. I have no doubt this is not a popular view though.
     
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  4. jlq

    jlq Green Belt

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    TMA17,

    do you actually know how different what YM taught in HK is to what he taught in Fatsaan?

    And do you know how he actually taught the students there? You said the people who had learned from YM previously were surprised to see how YM' post 1950 classes had changed... I wonder where this comes from, afte all, the only ones of YM's early students who promoted/taught Wing Chun were sifus Lun Gai and Kwok Fu - and none of them ever saw YM again after he fled to HK.

    And YM having a curriculum... Really?

    How come he taught everybody differently and let us not forget that he let his senior students do much of the training.

    If he was indeed anything like a genuine traditional Chinese martial arts master, he would have a very different idea about a curriculum than what we Western people understand it.

    Ayone learning from a typical Chinese Sifu will know what I am talking about...

    ;)

    br
     
  5. Snark

    Snark Orange Belt

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    The difference is actually mentioned in the very well researched book by Ben Judkins, who has quoted a number of references who witnessed this change including his sons, who followed their father later to Hong Kong. (Ip Ching of course having been taught by his father in Faatshan). Accordingly to Mr Judkins book and the references therein the difference between traditional wing chun and the version Ip Man taught in Hong Kong was also noted by Lee Shing and Jiu Wan who had also learnt more traditional wing chun before moving to Hong Kong.

    I had a Chinese Sifu who taught in the traditional style before he passed away, and he had a curriculum. But he also taught according to the ability and understanding of the student. You don't teach a student advanced algebra if they cannot do basic addition. I do not see why Ip Man not teaching every student the same thing suggests he did not have a curriculum... unless of course he was teaching dance. Which he wasn't (as far as I am aware).
     
  6. TMA17

    TMA17 Black Belt

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    Sorry what I posted should have been in quotes as it was taken from the article. :)
     
  7. jlq

    jlq Green Belt

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    Snark,

    I don't think that the work you refer to is particularly well referenced, nor particularly authoritative when it comes to details about who learned what from whom, where and when...

    For the Wing Chun part it relies heavily on three works only which are... well... not exactly reliable.

    Lei Sing - I will disregard for the time being -Jiu Wan was not a formal student of Yip Man in Fatsaan, but learning from Jiu Chao, so they were not formal students of YM and as such didn't go to any of his classes.

    As was the case with Pan Nam, and even Sam Nang, they might have gotten pointers from YM as a "gong fu uncle", but students they were not.

    In Fatsaan YM only taught a few forstudents, and no one here (Gongjaau/Fatsaan) counts Lei Sing, Jiu Wan nor any of the others among them.
     
  8. Snark

    Snark Orange Belt

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    Hello JLQ

    I am sorry for not putting my view better, and must apologise for my disservice to the very good book, as I was recounting the books contents from memory as opposed to accurately reciting the references. I am at home now and have the book before me.

    You are absolutely correct that Jiu Wan did not learn from Ip Man in Fatsaan. But Jiu Wan did learn wing chun in the traditional format, from Jiu Chao, who learnt from Chan Yiu Min who was a student and son of Chan Wah Shun. So Ip Mans wing chun comes from the same source.

    With regard to Lee Shing from Hoxan who moved to England and then Canada, this may be a different person to the Lei Shing who was also a student of Ip Man. Sorry for any confusion I was referring to the former.

    So.... back to the book, the references about Ip Man changing his teaching, to a less traditional more streamline approach from faatsan to Hong Kong is from an interview with Ip Ching in December 2012. Certainly in the introduction of Ip Chuns 1985 book he states that his father was still developing the 108/116 dummy form in his later life. So changes were afoot.

    Anyways, I am not aware of many of Ip Mans students from Hong Kong whose wing chun incorporates, eight trigrams, five elements, five element footwork, the plum blossom poles, the poetic sayings for particular techniques etc. Many of which are found in other branches, YKS for example.

    Maybe I misunderstood and maybe you are saying Ip Man never taught these in Faatsan in the first place, and if that's your point you may well be right and I apologise for my misunderstanding.
     
  9. jlq

    jlq Green Belt

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    The book - while definately the best of its kind and I would recommend anyone interested in Wing Chun to add to his/her library - does not really bring anything new to the table if one has researched things a bit oneself.

    The source material (wrt Wing Chun) is readily availabe and should be in any enthusiast's library.

    So nothing new, really.

    What might be unaccessible to most people is the "Foshan Martial Culture" book which is one of the sources mainly drown upon, but it is noy exactly a very trustworthy book - as I indicated in my earlier post.

    The essential problem is that many of the sources make statements which are accepted as "truth" or authoritative and then parroted by enthusiasts through the ages. But they have not bothered to really look into the matter to see how sense a given statement makes.

    The same applies when you quote a statement in a book...

    Let's take a look at some issues you brought up.

    Yip Ching has surely told people that his father streamlined and changed stuff since teaching in Fatsaan. But what does that really mean?

    Looking at this objectively we know that Yip Ching started learning Wing Chun started learning Wing Chun at 13 years of age from his father. Now, born in 1936 he would have startes learning in 1949, the very year YM fled Fatsaan.

    Other of Yi Ching's students say he started learning "at very young age along with his brother Yip Chun"...

    But according to Yip Chun himself:

    He began studying Wing Chun with his father when he was 7 years old, however he admits that he did not really want to learn at that time and that he remembers relatively little from that early tuition.

    Given that Yip Chun was born in 1926, he would then have received his first lessons in 1933. If Yip Ching had started learning Wing Chun as a four year old (1940), his brother would already have been learning for 7 years - not easy to learn a little or to forget all, I'd say.

    Either way, neither of the sons of Yip Man did much training in Fatsaan and couldn't have had much knowledge about what their father taught and how he taught the system to his Fatsaan era students.

    Yip Chun is often quoted as having said that Yip Man changed the style to become "scientific" by elininating certain traditional terms.

    But this statement should be seen in the light of him admitting that he didn't learn much and forgot most of what he had learned (as a 7 year old?) and that his exposure to what people like Lun and Fu had learned from his father was, well... very little at best.

    As far as the traditional terms you say you are not aware of being uses by students in HK, the term "Mui Fa", the plum blossom is used by many (in reference to various things) and I know of at least one school which uses a Mui Fa Chong.

    Incidentally, Kwok Fu's son does not teach this as a part of the curriculum passed on to himby his father, nor does he seem to use the term Mui Fa for anything at all.

    He does use the term Baat Gua to describe a few things, but it is nothing particularly profound.

    But there is no "5 elements" nor are there any particularly "poetic sayings" to name the techniques.

    The only poetic sayings are the various Kuen Kuit, but they are no more "mystical" or cryptic than what was passed on to Yip Man's students in HK.

    This kind of thing is easy to find out if you do some research of your own instead of forming opinions on quotes of statements which aren't really clearly contextualized.

    Given the facts, one can only wonder what Yip Chun was talking about...

    Or maybe not.

    ;)

    As far as "traditional" Wing Chun goes, it needs to be understood that there is no such thing. I.e. there were many kinds of Wing Chun, and some quite different from another.

    Your reasoning about YM having changed some supposed "traditional" format of Wing Chun is off for this very reason.

    More precisely, you seem to think that Jiu Wan learned some traditional format of Wing Chun which was different from what YM taught in HK.

    First of all, if that were true, YM would already have made modifications in Fatsaan - not in HK.

    Secondly, there is a big difference between what Chan Wah Shun taught his other students and what his son, Chan Yu Min passed on to his descendants, such as Jiu Chao. So the same root? Not quite...

    Chan Yu Min's Siulam Weng Chun is more of a village style "Hong Kuen" Gong Fu.

    So, what Jiu Wan learned from his uncle was most likely quite different what YM had learned from Chan Wah Shun and Ng Chun So.

    No wonder he would find what YM taught in HK quite another thing than what his uncle had taught him.

    The "Lee Shing" you talk about is the same person I am referring to, born in Hoksaan, etc. I am just using a different romanization which sounds closer to how they pronounce the character 李 in Fatsaan/Gongjaau. He did not learn from YM in Fatsaan, but learned Gulao Wing Chun and from various other people. Who exactly depends on who of his students you ask... But YM's Wing Chun he learned in HK, so while he could compare that with what he had learned from, say Fung Sang, he could not compare YM's HK style and teaching method with YM's Fatsaan ditto - which this discussion is about.

    :)

    br
     
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  10. Snark

    Snark Orange Belt

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    Thank you very much for your very thorough and excellent response.

    I do not have and have not seen a copy of the Foshan Martial Culture book you have referred to so I am in no position to agree or disagree with your summary of its contents. However, I readily accept that often whilst footnotes and references in books may look impressive, they may equally be doors to nowhere.

    I completely accept everything you have written about Ip Ching, those points are clear and succinct.

    With regard to the traditional content, I can only go from what I was taught which included the 5 elements , the mui fa chong, the Baat Gua, a short stick form very similar to the Yuen Kay San (sub-set), and we were given names for technique such as taming/subduing the tiger etc. which seemed poetic to me anyway.

    My reasoning (which is only speculation, I admit) for Yip Man (possibly) changing the style in Hong Kong as opposed to Faatsan is purely for commercial purposes. Yip Man fled to Hong Kong and would have found himself amongst many other economic migrants striving to make a living. At this time Hong Kong is recorded as being overcrowded, which leads to high unemployment and "delinquent" youths, or groups of young men with nothing to do and a sudden rise of the Beimo.
    If you or I were in that position, with no money, and in need of an income what would we do?
    I could... make an income from the young men by teaching them my martial arts and if they were sufficiently successful in the Beimo's more students would come and more money.... but how to make my martial art stand out above the other martial arts being taught at the time.
    Many traditional gong fu schools spend a very long time on footwork before handwork... if I were to simplify the footwork, or strip some out, and concentrate on hand work my student of 1 year would easily beat someone else's 1 year student. If I take out the many angles of the applications and only apply on front facing application, that again would save time etc. etc.

    From a cold commercial view this approach would make a lot of sense.

    Whilst I appreciate the fair points you made regarding Ip Ching and the Foshan Martial Culture, I think there may be a risk of creating a Wittgenstien's ladder argument with regard to Chan Wah Shun's teaching... as there is no way of knowing apart from speculating what he taught to his students and whether it was different to what he taught his son.

    Thank you for clearing up your reference to Lee Shing... yes, there appears to be some internal family disputes over the facts there.... but when are there not internal family disputes, nowadays.

    Anyway, thank you for your very comprehensive and enlightening response, it was a real pleasure to read your comments.
     
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  11. KPM

    KPM Senior Master

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    No, not exactly true. Chan Wah Shun taught both Chan Yui Min and Ng Chung So. Both Chan Yui Min and Ng Chung So have students that have videos up in various places. What the Chan Yiu Min lineage teaches looks very different from Ng Chung So lineage (through Yiu Choi). Chan Yiu Min lineage teaching makes many "departures" from what most people consider Wing Chun thru Leung Jan.
     
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  12. jlq

    jlq Green Belt

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    Snark,

    you are most welcome.

    :)

    Foshan Martial Culture is a book published here in China (it is only available Chinese), and not easy to get a copy of because it seems to be a sort of "academic publication" which was never intended for public consumption.

    It is badly written and internally inconsistent and mainly about Choi Li Fat. The Wing Chun part is miniscule and the referencing where existant is very bad.

    As far as what Chan Wah Shun taught, it is not to difficult to ascertain what he seems to have taught his students as there are still descendants of some of these people around. So utilizing triangulation it is possible to make an educated guess on what Chan Wah Shun taught his students (other than his son). one can also compare that material with, say, the Wong Waah Saam material through Fung Chun Sifu. That, too is nothing like Chan Yu Min's Weng Chun.

    I have been in Shunde to see it live and also at some martial art festivals over the years. VERY different from what the others learned.

    So there is no question that Chan Yu Min's stuff is different from that of the others.

    Anyway, the point remains - Jiu Chow could not possibly have seen/know what and how YM taught his students in Fatsaan, thus he couldn't have said there was a difference. Al he could say was that YM's teaching and style in HK was in some ways different from what he learned from his uncle.

    So...

    In the other Fatsaan Wing Chun styles descending from Ng Chun So (Yiu Choi, Yuen Kei Saan) there is very little "poetic language" and Chinese metaphysics used to name stuff, so I am wondering what you have learned...

    What branch/lineage is it?

    The short "double headed pole" in Wing Chun is usually found in Sum Nung Wing Chun. Some people said he learned this from Wai Yuk Sang (the guy who taught him Heigong). In the Mai Gei Wong school they also have this double ended pole, but theirs is a different one and comes from Wong Jing, who had many different sifus.

    As far as Yip Man being the shrewd businessman changing his curriculum and way of teaching to attract more students and making it famous through what was essentially young teenagers fighting other teenagers?

    While you make good points and this would indeed make sense from a business perspective, personally I doubt that.

    It is well-known that YM was a reluctant teacher and did not really take the teacher role too seriously. This is what one of his most senior students had to say:

    Yip Man quickly proved to be a most unusual instructor. For example, William Cheung recalls that during the seven years he spent with his teacher, he never once saw Yip Man actually teach a wing chun class. Yip Man was usually present in the back of the room, supervising the assistant instructors and correcting his favorite students, but the actual tasks of instruction were left to Leung Sheung, Lok Yiu, Tsui Sung Ting, Wong Shun Leung and William Cheung.

    Also:

    “He never taught classes himself,” William Cheung says. “Well, only in some situations … with the big clients, the ones who could pay very heavily for a private session. At those times, he would often take me along. Then, suppose he was going to teach a wooden-dummy technique, he would show the technique once. After that, I would help the person.” Yip Man’s regular classes generally consisted of forms practice, chi sao (trapping hands) drills, wooden dummy techniques and free sparring. There was no set pattern to the sessions. Each assistant instructor was allowed to exercise some personal discretion.

    At rare times, the grandmaster might touch hands with one of his favorite students in chi sao practice. But those occasions would last only for a few seconds at a time. Yip Man feared that by doing chi sao with a junior, his own technique would deteriorate. He would have to slow down to create openings for him.

    Yip Man had a soft-spoken style that taught more by example and suggestion than by the spoken word. He urged his students not to bully people or to act in a rude or arrogant manner. And he tried to keep them from fighting in the street gangs of Hong Kong, though he did encourage organized competition."

    If there is any truth to this, it doesn't seem that YM man made an effort to become a better teacher and to "streamline" a system to attract new students and pass on the skills to them more efficiently than he had done in Fatsaan.

    ;)
     
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  13. Snark

    Snark Orange Belt

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    Again thank you very much for your response, it is greatly appreciated.

    I happily bow to your superior explanations and understanding.

    My lineage is Ip Man, Lee Shing, Joseph Man. I came to Joseph Man a few years ago, so I readily appreciate that I have many Si-Hings... and my view of the disputes between my Sifu and his Si-Dai are formed from how people were reacting at the time I came across their statements and responses.

    With regard to the poetic language, Joseph Man was the only student of Lee Shing to be given Wing Chun literature (a claim which has never been previously made by Lee Shing's other students), some of which is said to have come directly from Ip Man, which is where the poetic language comes from.
     
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  14. jlq

    jlq Green Belt

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    Snark,

    again... you are most welcome.

    I do not know know much about Lei Sing's art, unfortunately, but I am aware that there have been some ugly feuds amongs some of his students. A shame, really, but all to common in every family...

    :(

    Lei Shing's gong fu seems to be a very comprehensive art, comprising of a lot of elements he picked up during his martial arts journey and he has a lot of stuff which is definitely not from YM.

    Not that it matters...

    YM's way was/is not the only one.

    :)

    At the end of the day it doesn't really matter where things come from - if they are in the system, they are probably there for a reason.

    br
     
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  15. Snark

    Snark Orange Belt

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    Thank you.

    I feel lucky to have made your acquaintance.

    can I ask your lineage?
     
  16. wckf92

    wckf92 Master Black Belt

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    Hi Snark. So, you mentioned "many"...but are you aware of one or two that you can list or mention? Thanks.
     
  17. wckf92

    wckf92 Master Black Belt

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    is the school from the YM family? Or do you mean outside of YM...like YKS etc? Thx.
     
  18. Snark

    Snark Orange Belt

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    Well the Joseph Man lineage wing chun which I learnt, strongly identifies itself with Ip Man and it practices Mui Fa Chong... I have seen what looks like similar principles in some of the videos of mainland Wing Chun, but I cannot say whether they call their Chong work Mui Fa or not, let alone whether they consider themselves YM or not.

    All the examples of Plum Blossom piles I have seen on youtube etc. are where they practice on four stumps placed in a square.
     
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  19. wckf92

    wckf92 Master Black Belt

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    Interesting. Thanks Snark.
    The little I've seen aligns with what you said. Though, I disagree with the four pattern. Doesn't make sense to me. :)
     
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  20. Cephalopod

    Cephalopod Green Belt

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    Sheesh...
    All this goodwill and positive energy. Somebody should invite Guy b. and LFJ back to the forum. My popcorn is getting stale.
     
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