The following is an excerpt from an article by Jack Tak Fok Ling originally title Reflections on Popular Notions of Wing Chun Kuen.
Another related and controversial aspect of Yip Man’s Wing Chun is whether he taught and emphasized his relaxed approach to all his students, considering that apparent differences in approach and practice existed even between his earliest students. Many of his students, irrespective of physical size, practiced and taught a system based on speed, technique, and muscle.
However, Leung Shueng, Yip’s first and most physically prominent student in Hong Kong propagated a powerful but relaxed approach. Which of these subsequent approaches can best explain Yip Man’s reputed ability to neutralize forceful attacks by small relaxed and economic moves? Who, in the early days, would Yip have needed to (seriously) train and transmit his system to? Did Leung Shueng, therefore, learn and inherit the essentials of Yip’s system?
By all accounts, Leung Shueng lived and studied earnestly with him on a daily basis for about five years. Being Yip’s first student in Hong Kong, and a significant conduit to future Wing Chun Kuen’s popularity, Leung presented the Grandmaster with sufficient reason(s) to train him, well. Even though, Leung was known to speak about his learning from Yip in modest terms (elevating his teacher’s martial prowess), his fighting abilities did help his teacher “launch” the system in Hong Kong or Dah Tien Hah (Fight to Take Over What’s Below Heaven). Thus, an explication of Leung’s approach may shed light on our questions about the source of power behind Yip Man’s economical and, reputed, effortless fighting maneuvers.
Leung Sheung’s Teachings
Leung, the senior most of Yip Man’s students in Hong Kong, used a traditional mnemonic device for training. This included a collection of sayings and descriptive verses he learned from Yip Man. Leung repeated them on a regular basis. Many of these iconic training guides are known to and adopted by other Wing Chun teachers. However, Leung’s framing of them may be unique. When teaching the first form, Sil Niem Tao, he used to emphasize the particular significance of ten (10) or so interrelated points for the long bridge (Tsuen Kui) Wing Chun stance (based on the recollections of several of his students):
· Turn in (Keem) the knees ( Sut )in Cantonese (with feet turned inward accordingly);
· Drop (Lok) knee-in stance (Ma) as low as possible without changing posture ;
· Keep head up (Tao) and level with eyes (Ng’an) pointing forward (Mong Tseen);
· Keep back (Eue) straight (Tingh) or Tingh Eue;
· Keep elbow (Zhang) turned in (Mai) or Mai Zhang as much as possible (with arm perpendicular to the center line);
· Keep elbow in front and away from the body about the width of a rounded fist (Cantonese: Tseung Kui Ma or Long Bridge Stance);
· Keep extended, arm (Cantonese: Tan* Sau) “relaxed” (Fong Song) and “flat” (Ping), parallel to the ground (my language);
· Relax or ease (Song) shoulder (Bok) muscles, keeping shoulders natural (not lifting in any way);
· Practice Under (Dai) Elbow (Zhang) Strength (Lik) or Zhang Dai Lik; and
· Relax breathing, and sink (Tsum) breath (Hay) i.e. don’t hold breath or hyperventilate, breathe with diaphragm (my language).
* “Tan” means to spread out or to lay out and open e.g. spreading a blanket.
Apparently, judging from a survey of books and articles, most Wing Chun teachers will talk about some of these training points. However, different interpretations and “weights” may be assigned to them. Only Leung Shueng emphasized the long bridge; and only he and his students saw an intimate connection between these training clues and the development of long bridge strength. In recent years, his student, Chung Man Nien (Ken Chung), extended the concept of Fong Song or easing muscles to another level, giving long bridge strength a Nei Gung (internal) quality. (Note: Even though Leung never talked about his powerful arm drops and thrusts as “internally” driven, his arm and upper body muscles were, paradoxically, relaxed when executing those forceful moves.)
The article in its entirety can be found at http://www.stanford.edu/group/wingchun/in_memory_of_eddie_oshins/pdf/Reflections…Wing_Chun.pdf