Ti Lung [Tommy Tam Fu-Wing], a martial art movie actor, is the student of Chu Wan Sifu, a respected elder of Wing Chun. Ti Lung has been popular for a long time and, like all movie stars, his story has created a lot of gossip. But there are few articles about how he learned Kung Fu. Readers may know that both Bruce Lee and Ti Lung practiced the Wing Chun style. In fact, before he entered the movie business, Ti Lung was already a favored student of Chu Wan. Although now a celebrity, he still respects Chu Wan as a teacher and continues to practice and visit with him.
Chu Wan Sifu is very humble and never talks about himself, therefore very few newspaper and magazine articles have been written about him. So who is Chu Wan and what kind of person is he?
Chu Wan, in his youth in Fatshan, China, studied Wing Chun from his cousin [Editorās note: literally his fatherās elder brotherās son] Jiu Tong, who is in the same lineage as Wing Chun Master Yip Man. Later, because he was quick to understand the martial arts, Chu Wan established his own Wing Chun school in Fatshan. He developed a friendly relationship with Yip Man at this time, and became his personal student.
After the Communists took over China, Chu Wan left Fatshan for Hong Kong where he met with Master Yip for continued advanced study. Since, as it is said, "There can be no two teachers in the same style" or in other words no two teachers equal in skill, in his twenty years of following Yip Man Chu Wan has always treated Yip Man as his master.
Chu Wan Sifu never tires of improving his skill. Whenever he has time during the day he goes to learn about his Chi Sao techniques from Master Yip, sometimes practicing until very late at night. Therefore his skill is always improving and his dedication should be a model for the younger generation.
Recently Chu Wan established a school to teach Wing Chun and spends a lot of energy training new students. Very seldom does he openly demonstrate his Kung Fu techniques to the public. Only once, years ago at Master Yipās birthday party, Master Yip asked him to demonstrate the Chum Kiu form of Wing Chun and everyone in the audience was very impressed.
Chu Wan, when talking about his movie star student Ti Lung, says, "He is a very good student of the martial arts. He has the advantages of a strong body, intelligence, good footwork and he also practices diligently." Although lately seldom able to attend the school, Ti Lung always strives to improve his martial arts skill and Chu Wan has already given him his certification.
"Being a teacher is not that simple. Teaching should be like a parent and child relationship, with constant attention to the studentās conduct. When a mistake is made it should be corrected. That is the real meaning of teaching a martial art, and is good for both teacher and student."
"The young are always full of energy, and rebel against traditional thinking. I also had the same feelings, but young people often react emotionally and cause themselves problems."
"I absolutely disapprove of fighting," Chu Wan Sifu also says, "because whatever method you try to find for a solution, fighting only makes things worse and is not the way to get results. But when a mistake is made, donāt blame yourself too harshly, just treat it as a learning experience and strive to do better in the future."
"This is very easy to say, but hard to do--but being a teacher is a big responsibility."
Chu Wan Sifu thinks the Wing Chun style is like a puzzle--hard to understand even over a lifetime of study. Noone should say they are successful, and he says, "As for myself, I only understand a little bit."
When Chu Wan teaches he emphasizes practice sparring. He explained that Wing Chun doesnāt have many forms and, in general, doesnāt take too long to finish learning the system. But when you study the martial arts it should be practical, and young people in particular get easily bored. Sparring trains the reactions, and Chi Sao too can help students understand the main points of the system. Diligently practicing these drills gets better results than any complicated explanation.
With sparring, a student can both increase their confidence to face an attack and give themselves a chance to use the offensive and defensive movements they have learned in order to protect themselves.
Master Yip Man, before he passed away, presented Chu Wan with a plaque on which was written the four words "Wing Chun Jing Tung" which means "Wing Chun the Pure Tradition." With his skills thus recognized, and teaching his students in a dignified manner, Chu Wan Sifu has no regrets.
Though a teacher to the stars and a martial arts senior, Chu Wan is humble and polite. He does not depend on his own high skills but joins with the young as both teacher and friend. His skill and thoughts should be a model for the modern martial art practitioner.
From "Martial Magazine" no.21 (circa1972)
Written by Gai Hak
Translated by Chow Hung-Yuen
English version edited by Dan Lucas