I present you here an article from Black Belt magazine from January 1975, entitled Wing Chun: Hong Kong’s Scientific Art, Yip Man leaves a link in Kowloon – Leung Ting, written by Douglas Lam.
In the 1970s, Wing Chun gained great popularity in Hong Kong, thanks to the teaching of Ip Man who promoted Wing Chun for nearly 20 years and later his direct students who took over from him. Leung Ting is one of them. The 1970s also mark the beginning of a worldwide expansion of Wing Chun, Leung Ting will play a decisive role there by spreading Wing Chun (or Wing Tsun, as he calls his system) particularly in Europe.
In this article from 1975, we go back to the beginnings of Leung Ting as a Wing Tsun teacher, but already very famous in Kowloon. In it he explains the system as a scientific combat art.
Wing Chun: Hong Kong’s Scientific Art
Ip Man leaves a link in Kowloon – Leung Ting
If you hail a cab in Hong Kong’s sister city of Kowloon and tell the driver, “Wing Tsun Leung Ting”, chances are he’ll deliver you to Sifu Leung Ting’s kwoon* without additional directions. In Kowloon, Leung Ting’s name is synonymous with Wing Tsun Kung Fu* (known as Wing Chung* outside Hong Kong). The vertical-shaped signboard just outside his kwoon, located high above the busy sidewaks, is almost lost among the maze of the others signs. But in this city it is a widely-known landmark.
The spacious (by local standards) knoon is comfortably nestled in a high-rise block of flats at the junction of two congested thoroughfares, Nathan and Gascoigne roads, in Kowloon. In a relatively short span of time, Sifu Leung Ting has emerged as the yougest and most successful Kung Fu instructor in Hong Kong.
Leung Ting was the last chosen student of the late Ip Man* and one of a select few ever to receive complete instruction of the system from the master himself. He began studying Wing Tsun when he was 13, often spending as much time learning Kung Fu as he did preparing for his schoolwork. It was about the time of his graduation from secondary school that, by chance, he met Ip Man, the Grand Master of the system. Ip Man, long since retired from teaching, was impressed by the budding young martial artist’s perception and potential. It was then that he decided to make Leung Ting his “closed door” (no longer open to outsiders) student.
Leung Ting no doubt realized how fortunate he was to take advantage of Ip Man’s Kung Fu knowledge, wich spanned more than 60 years. There were a number of Ip Man followers eager to learn the entire system of Wing Tsun, but the master was extremely selective. He chose Leung Ting – a mild-mannered, bespectacled, articulate man, a graduate in literature from Hong Kong Baptist College and a devotee of poetry.
Leung Ting characterizes Wing Tsun as “a very direct and scientific form of self-defense. Its emphasis”, he says, “is on simple movements such a punch or a kick to defeat an enemy. The system also avoids the contention of forces in combat.”
He explains it as being something arithmetic. “To learn that one plus one equals two,” he says, “we cannot depend solely on memorization. We must know why it is so. In other words, the system is not bound by classicl movements, it is not a pre-arranged style in which two practitionners spar in a predictable, repetitive, memorized routine. Although Wing Tsun has the classical boxing forms, we can only describe them as the main divisions of the mathematics of Wing Tsun. The grouping of movements and techniques in each form is an array of signs and numbers. When these signs and numbers are bought into practical uses, as in combat, they instantaneously become meaningful equations and expressions.”
“Wing Tsun is a very direct and scientific form of self-defense.” Leung Ting
To Leung Ting, Wing Tsun is much like chess in almost every respect. Just as chess is played within the confines of a board, he explains, “in Wing Tsun there also exists a rational limit. Every piece of the chess set corresponds to a technique or movement of the system, each one being a separate entity with its own particular function in attack and defense. When two or more movements are integrated, they form a new function. And there is no limit to what we can create.”
Practicing Chi Sau (clinging arms and sparring) is like refining one’s abilities in chess, according to Leung Ting. “The more we practice Chi Sau,” he says, “the more sensitive the hands become to outside forces. Chi Sau can be developped to stage in wich we fight in subconsciousness of our movements. It is also a game of extraordinary strategy in that we seek victory and defend at the same time. And like a true game of chess, the pieces are not sacrificed needlessly in blind clashes.”
A, good Wing Tsun exponent, Leung ting claims, can toy with his opponent and anticipate his next move, much like an accomplished chess player can control a game if he masters his opponent. There are no hard and fast rules to follow. “An old chinese proverb which says [Worldly affairs are likened to games of chess ; every game varies], seems to sum up Wing Tsun very well.” he states. “Although we have all the techniques and movements, it’s not possible to apply them in a certain set sequence.”
In college, Leung Ting studied Chinese literature and philosophy and became particularly intrigued by Taoism and science. He claims there exists a correlation of Taoism to Wing Tsun in its rigid external force and soft internal force. As an example, he borrows from the teachings of Laozi*, a contemporary of confucius : “… There is nothing in the world more supple and pliant than water. Yet even the most hard and stiff cannot overcom it. That the meek can overcome tje strong, and the supple can overcome the hard, is known to all people. Only they fail to practice it.”
In his teachings, Leung Ting describes the qualities of a coiled spring and a length of rattan (bamboo stick) in relation to Wing Tsun. “A coiled spring,” he says “can be suppressed, yet there is a persistent force pushing back. When the pressure is lifted suddenly, the spring would hit back instantaneously without prompting. Similarly, a length of rattan would bent under pressure and return to its normal position when the pressure is no longer applied.”
Bruce Lee, once a student of Ip Man and founder of Jeet Kune Do, called his style fluid, like water enters through any opening and fills any void. JKD, he sais, is simple, direct and non-classical. Not surprisingly, much of Lee’s philosophy is taken from Wing Tsun. In his relatively short period of training under Ip Man, Lee was able to quickly grasp the principles and later incorporate into JKD. There are some differences between the two, however. Lee stressed that JKD is free from the beginnin, while Leung Ting teaches that Wing Tsun is very restrictive in the beginning. JKD is considered styleless ; Leung Ting demnands that the practitionner and Wing Tsun be bound as one.
Despite pressure for a tighter schedule, Leung Ting insists on following his own training regimen. He sets aside three days each week and only six hours a day for teaching. He feels that to over-exert himself would be to deny his students the personal attention they require. He owns two branch gyms in addition to his main kwoon, both run by his personal assistants.
Away from his kwoon, Leung Ting refrains from boisterous gatherings and refuses to hold offices in the various Kung fu clubs, associations and societies. Instead, his free time is spent with his hobbies, photography, writing and drawing.
In recent years, Wing Tsun enjoyed an extraordinary rise in public popularity, due primarily to Ip Man, who pioneered the teaching of the art more than a quarter of a century ago. But some credit might also go to Leung Ting, who was the first person to give public demonstrations to large audiences. And today it is Leung Ting who continues to teach in his spacious kwoon, a landmark in the crowded city of Kowloon.
kwoon > it is the term used in Chinese to indicate the place where martial arts are practiced ; a martial arts school. Here the term kwoon 館 is romanized from Cantonese. It is synonymous with dojo in Japanese martial arts, however the two terms do not mean the same thing.
Wing Chung, Wing Tsun > Wing Tsun is the romanization of 詠春 used by Leung Ting to differentiate his system from other students of Ip Man. I have already covered this in a previous post.
Ip Man > in the original article, it is written Yip Man, writing which I find more correct in terms of phonetic transcription. That said, I transcribed the article using Ip Man writing, out of pure pragmatism because it is more popular these days.
Laozi > he is the Chinese philosopher considered the founding father of Taoism. In the original article it says Lao Tzyy.