By Adam McLean
With a recent visit out of town, I wanted to explore the chance to see more Wing Chun outside of the system that I study. One has only to hit the internet to see how much is out there and how different each system of Wing Chun can be. I knew, since it was quite a large city that I was in, that there would literally be a smorgasborg of Wing Chun in the area. So I checked the listings for the city, and made a few phone calls. It made me want to drool in anticipation that I might actually have the opportunity to visit one of these schools and see what else is out there.
I thought that since all Wing Chun seems to stand out amidst the other martial arts (even Chinese) due to it's unique nature, that students of Wing Chun would be willing and open to see and accept other Wing Chun students readily. Apparently, in one particular case, I was wrong.
One man that I spoke to on the phone was very considerate and polite. I let him know that I was from out of town on a trip and if it was okay if I stopped by to watch. I let him know that I was not here to confront him or be confrontational in any way. I was just here to learn. He said that was fine and to come on by. His demeanor on the phone was pleasant and inspired me to visit his school as opposed to some others. We set the appointment and I patiently waited to go.
I knew that I would see something different, and did not expect to see the same thing that I studied. However, I did not expect to be condescended to and picked apart with the harsh subtlety of ego and insecurity that I was faced with.
Upon my arrival to his school, he welcomed me in to watch and asked if I would like to participate. I told him I would just watch. His class resumed into the two man drills and the students went back to their diligent practice. The drills were interesting and were left open-ended to encourage the student to think for himself. After the drills were over, the instructor asked if we could trade some information. He knew the lineage I was from and was very aware of the differences between our systems, as was I. We both demonstrated our second forms, Chum Kil.
Upon completion of my form, the instructor began to pick apart my version of the form using his system as a basis of comparison. I attempted to explain that the differences in footwork, stance, etc. was not detrimental, but they are just that: different. I would ask why he did things differently, and he offered up sound and reasonable explanations for everything. His view was unique and interesting. He would then ask about my differences, and instead of listening to an explanation, he would immediately begin to say how ineffective it was without even trying to understand the difference. It was if he could not see anything other than what he did! He was right and I was wrong!
He continued to say that the system of Wing Chun that I study is flawed and that I could do better than to study that system. He went on to say that his system was better and more effective. He sighted the masters of each of our lineages and even said that they are both masters of their crafts, but yet, my system was still flawed!
I was amazed! This man actually took the beauty in Wing Chun and turned it into a contest of insecurity and ego! He stood in violation of many principles inherent in the system that help you deal with life in general, let alone an opponent. I was not an opponent. I am a student that was in search of knowledge and walked away with a fuller understanding of Wing Chun. He walked away with nothing but his own wall of inflated insecurities.
I left his kwoon thanking him for sharing information with me. I was somewhat impressed with his knowledge, but left feeling fundamentally disappointed in his attitude. He was arrogant, close minded, and very high on himself to the point of outright nausea. He manages to disguise this with a facade of humbleness and meekness while offering up a shell of superiority. I was disheartened by our encounter and left very sure of what it is I do and study. I understand being sure of what it is that you do, but not walking around with your eyes closed and your mind full of your own ego.
It seems to me it does not matter what system you study, as long as you do it diligently. Take a discipline, be effective, and grow; that is the point. There are concepts that are universal throughout all Wing Chun systems, and there are teachers in each system that are masters. No Wing Chun system has the monopoly on effectiveness over another Wing Chun system. If you practice your Wing Chun craft, it comes down to the effectiveness of the individual.
Wing Chun was designed to produce good, efficient fighters, fast. There are attributes to young practitioners which will make them effective, such as speed and endurance. To not capitalize on these while you have them is a disservice to you and the system. You do not rely on these attributes exclusively, but they are tools just as a pak-sao is. Don't misunderstand me, I am in no way implying that you violate fundamental principles/concepts of Wing Chun such as sensitivity or nonresistance.
When you train to develop skills that an old man possesses while you are still young, eventually, you will have all that you desire when you are old. However, between then and now, you will have little or nothing. You must train both. Offer up to the student a way to make him effective now, while he is young. Then critique and polish his skill over time to temper and refine it so he may grow into an effective and dedicated practitioner. Offer him a way to master the self and the skill, but most of all, make him effective with his youth, so he can grow into an effective old man. If you practice to "eventually grow into combativeness," while denying a combative edge that you can utilize now, then you are not being combative. To say so is wrong. You are practicing for other reasons (which is fine), just don't deceive yourself as to why you are doing it. There are many reasons to practice martial arts and Wing Chun. Combativeness is not the end-all and be-all of Wing Chun. But if a Wing Chun system is combative from the get-go, that is not a reason to shun it in the stead of waiting years to achieve the same thing.
All I can say is train well...