by Derek Vernon
Sifu Augustine Fong (Fong Chi Wing)
Up close and personal
The Following interview was conducted by Derek Vernon on the 6th May 1998.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong, Can you tell us about your early days in Hong Kong and how did you get started in Wing Chun?
Sifu Fong: Yes, I started my Wing Chun training when I was about 11 years old, that’s when I became interested in Kung Fu. Actually, my mother didn’t like me doing martial arts because she thought it was violent She was afraid that I would become a gangster and fight all the time. However, my interest was very strong and they say ” where there’s a will, there’s a way “. So the way was that I saved all my own money and went to learn, keeping it a secret from my mother all the time until I immigrated to the United States.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong, Can you tell us, was Wing Chun the first martial art that you learnt?
Sifu Fong: Yes there was no other martial arts in Macao, until I meet Sifu Ho Kam Ming. Therefore, I went to start Wing Chun straight away.
D.Vernon: How did you get to meet Ho Kam Ming? Did anyone introduce you?
Sifu Fong: Yes I was introduced by one of my classmates at School.
D.Vernon: Does your classmate still train today?
Sifu Fong: No, at that time you see a lot of people come and go, he lost interest soon after I started.
D.Vernon: Can you tell us, how the Wing Chun was taught back in Hong Kong, is it taught the same as it is taught today?
Sifu Fong: No back then it was very hard to learn, because the teachers were very traditional in their approach to teaching. Nowadays the teachers are a lot more flexible with the students. At that time the teacher’s skills were very high, so the standard was also very high. But nowadays most of the good teachers have moved away from Hong Kong.
D.Vernon: So you know many of the Wing Chun people coming to America?
Sifu Fong: Yes that is the people who were around at the same time as me.
D.Vernon: I understand Sifu Fong, you were one of the first to teach Wing Chun in America.
Sifu Fong: Yes you can say so, actually Bruce Lee was before me, he started teaching Wing Chun but then started teaching his own style Jeet Kuen Do.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong , when you came to the United States, was it hard to get students at first
Sifu Fong: At that time I did not pay attention to getting students, I just looked for some one to be a dummy, someone to practice with. I did not think of teaching Wing Chun to make money then.
D.Vernon: So it was important to have someone to train with then?
Sifu Fong: Yes that was my main purpose, just to keep up my training.
D.Vernon: When you opened a school did you have to get permission from Ho Kam Ming?
Sifu Fong: Yes before I came to the United States, the last thing I did was to go to Ho Kam Ming’s house. He told me to get someone to train with. To keep up my Chi Sau and open a school when I was ready to teach. Because teaching is the only way to improve learning
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong how many years did you train with Ho Kam Ming in Hong Kong?
Sifu Fong: Since 1960 when my Sifu opened the School, But the school was not registered until 1964. Just a hand full of us used to train back then.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong I have seen you in a photo with Ho Kam Ming sitting next do Si-Jo Yip Man and you stood behind them. So you actually got to meet Si-Jo Yip Man?
Sifu Fong: Yes I got to meet him.
D.Vernon: Did you do any of your training with Si-Jo Yip Man?
Sifu Fong: No at that time Si-Jo Yip Man did not teach just anyone, especially kids. Why do you think he does not teach? He did not teach you if you were poor and had no money because he thought you should be working hard at making a living first. If you were a women or too forward he would not teach you.
D.Vernon: I understand that Si-Jo Yip Man held your Sifu Ho Kam Ming in high regard.
Sifu Fong: Yes Sifu Ho Kam Ming was a lucky guy he was so rich that he did not need to work, so he spent a lot of his time with Si-Jo Yip Man. When Si-Jo Yip Man was sick he took him to hospital, just like his own father, because he was his Sifu.
D.Vernon: So Ho Kam Ming was a true Bi-ser of Si-Jo Yip Man?
Sifu Fong: Yes.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong, is the Wing Chun you teach the same as SI-Jo Ho Kam Mina’s.
Sifu Fong: Yes.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong I see that your dummy form is different to the form that we see most of in the U.K, can you tell us why this is so?
Sifu Fong: All I can tell you is what I learnt from my Sifu and that is what he learnt from his Sifu. Many people have a different second half to the dummy form. The way I teach, is Siu Nim Tao then Chum Kiu followed by the first half of the Muk Yan Jong (dummy form) because the first half of the dummy form has the movements from the fist two-hand forms. Then I teach the Biu Jee form and on to the second half of the dummy form, as that has the movements of the Bui Jee form. Then we do the Luk Dim Boon Gwan ( Pole form ) and on to the Bat Jam Dao ( Knife form ).
D.Vernon: I understand that there is a saying that Bui Jee does not go out the door. What does this mean to you.
Sifu Fong: You can say that Bui Gee does not go out the door, because a lot of people lose interest at this time or they think they already know how do Wing Chun then they can never go up to the Bui Gee Level. In addition, the teacher may see that they do not have that kind of ability to go on to Bui Jee Level. You see if do not know Biu Gee, then you can not know the second half of the dummy form. This is another reson why there are many ways of doing the dummy forms around.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong what would you say is the most important form in the Wing Chun System?
Sifu Fong: The most important form is the Siu Lim Tau because that develops your Chi Gong, your Chi power, develops your spiritual power, physical power and your fighting power all in the one form.
D.Vernon: And how long would it take a good student to learn the Siu Lim Tau, with all it’s theory and applications in one of your schools?
Sifu Fong: To learn the form is easy, every one can learn it in one day, but to understand the form and digest the form takes a very long time. But depending on the person some can pick it up in a shorter time scale, some take longer. But you have to understand why you do the form, people think it is easy, but they do not see the important parts of the form and then they just drop the form and move on to the Chum Kiu form.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong can you tell us the main points of the Chum Kiu form?
Sifu Fong: Chum Kiu’s main purpose is to practice body unity, your whole hand motion, is based on the body. So body is the foundation of the hand, if you have a strong foundation then you can execute your hand technique better than just using your hand, then you have a body behind the hand. The body is just like a hammer, the hand is just like a nail. If you have a hammer behind a nail then you can nail the technique in.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong I understand that Chum Kiu has two meanings, searching bridge and sinking bridge, which is right.?
Sifu Fong: Both, are O.K depending on which Chum Kiu you mean. The name of the form is searching bridge, but the name of the hand technique is sinking the bridge in the Chum Kiu form. They are different words in Chinese, but they are pronouns the same.
D.Vernon: Do you think that this has caused a lot of confusion between the interpretation of different teachers?
Sifu Fong: It has, because it depends on the teacher and how much they know of the system. If they do not know the system then they have to make up a story or something like that.
D.Vernon Sifu Fong some people say that Biu Gee is for attack and some say its for emergency. Which is the right way?
Sifu Fong: The Bui Gee form is based on the Siu Nim Tao and Chum Kiu forms. You see Siu Nim Tao develops your steady power to control your balance and Chum Kiu is to control your steady power when you are moving. Bui Gee conbines the two concepts, when you have to give up your hand position you will still be able to save your self, this is why it is sometimes called emergency hand. All the Bui Gee techniques are in the Siu Nim Tao and Chum Kiu forms already, they are only applied differently in the Biu Gee form, like from a different angle.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong can you tell us about the Mok Jong ( Wooden Dummy Form ) Please ?
Sifu Fong: Yes, the Mok Jong is used to find the correct line. As I said before it incorporates the three hand forms. When you reach this level of training one understands more about the theory and applications of structure, Centre line, gates, triangles, timing, etc. As most Wing Chun people will tell you the Mok Jong is the next best thing to a live training partner.
D.Vernon: Do you use the dummy to condition with?
Sifu Fong: When you start to use the Mok Jong you do not hit it hard because you will hurt your hands and legs. Just tap the dummy lightly at first because the force used is not the same as brute strength. As you train you can increase the amount of force used, but do not go over the top.
D.Vernon: This morning we were training with the Luk Dim Boom Gwan ( six and a half point pole ) and you were telling us about the way in which you learnt back in Hong Kong?
Sifu Fong: Yes that’s right, when we learnt the pole we were given the techniques and how to use the Wing Chun theory. This is the way it was taught, so different students put the techniques together and now teach the form differently. If you think of just the order of the techniques in the form, then you are missing the point.
D.Vernon: Talking of points, what is the six and a half point about in the name of the form?
Sifu Fong: Actually the six and half does not mean the amount of techniques, what it refers to is the way in which you strike the target. As you bring the force to the tip of the pole, the vibration will cause the tip to leave a sixth and a half mark of the pole on the target area.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong, moving on to the Bat Jam Do ( Eight Slash Knives Form ), can you tell us why the form has this name? , Is it about using eight directions or eight techniques?
Sifu Fong: Well you can say about eight directions, but this is not the reson for the eight. It is because the Chinese for the number eight looks like two lines coming down to a point, which is the same as the shape of the chopping motions you use with the knives. It does not mean eight motions or techniques. It is the mark that is made by the knives when you slash with them.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong, I would like to ask you some questions about Chi Sau ( Sticky Hands ). Do you have a direct relationship between the forms and Chi Sau practice.
Sifu Fong: Yes I do because all the Chi Sau motions are what make’s the forms in the first place. The forms are just like textbooks with the right ways of doing the motions, this is the study and Chi Sau practice is just like the lab work to test the application.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong, is there a direct relationship between the forms and the applications?
Sifu Fong: No there is not, in applications you must make adjustments to the line and hand positions. You move high or low, it all depends on the situation. Take the movement in Chum Kiu when you shift your line to the side with the Bong Sau motion, maybe in the application you move in at 45 degrees to use the Bong Sau. You see in the form you turn by yourself, but in the application you can not do this. You only turn if it is needed and your opponent will determine this with the amount of force he gives you.
D.Vernon: How do you teach your Chi Sau?
Sifu Fong: First, I teach you how to make the right structure for each of the moves ( Tan Sau, Bong Sau and Fook Sau ). Then with the structure you learn to control the point of contact. From then on, you can learn to control the point between the motions. Then you can create an equalisation of force, you make yourself a strong structure just like a wall . When another force comes in to push , you just maintain a wall, you do not push back but no force can move you. In that way, they just bounce back and that’s the way to control your energy. Chi Dan Sau teaches you how to use the horizontal and vertical mother lines and how to get the inside Centre line.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong, you teach eight types of energy in Wing Chun and Chi Sau?
Sifu Fong: Yes that’s right, so far, I have taught eight types of energy in Chi Sau:
- Bau Ja ging ( Explode Power )Ging is your internal power that is executed outwardly; people can see how much power you have. This is when they can see Ging externally.
- Chi Ging ( Sticking Power ) In Wing Chun, we stick to everything so that we make our energy and our opponents energy one. Therefore, when he tries to move I can control him by using his force this is now my force.
- Keng Ging ( listening Power ) listening means feeling your opponents energy and body talk, so you trap him by counter moving before him.
- Juun Ging ( Drilling Power ) Drilling Power is the force that goes forward, it is like a circle, every straight line has a circle. This does not mean a circle motion, the straight line is drilling like a spiral. Just like a bullet as it turns, as it goes through the air.
- Jek Jip Ging ( Direct Power ) Direct Power means I use the power to go from point to point by bouncing off the first point and going straight to the second point. Like hitting one opponent’s head and using that point to start a technique to hit the second opponent.
- Yaan Ging ( Guiding Power ) Guiding force is the one you use when your opponent’s incoming force is on its way. You just turn the force a way to the side and carry on in a circle back to the starting point of the attack. Just like a wheel.
- Lin Jip Ging ( Connecting Power ) Connecting Power is like Direct Power from one motion move to the next motion without stopping. Like if you do a Pak Sau use the same hand to do Tan Sau or a Punch straight away without stopping, just learn to feel what’s going on.
- Choung Ging ( Aggressive Power ) Aggressive Power is used outwardly, you must be very mentally calm. However, you must not be out of control. If you do not train this, in the right way you will be out of control.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong how do you know which one of the eight powers to use?
Sifu Fong: Simple, all of the eight Ging’s are used in all of the techniques and motions. What . I mean is, that they are all adjustable and interchangeable.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong do you have any tips for us in the U.K.
Sifu Fong: Well if you want to do well in Wing Chun, just keep to doing one thing and try not to do all things. If you put other ideas into Wing Chun, then you will not be doing Wing Chun.
D.Vernon: Sifu Fong I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your time and sharing your thoughts with us.
Sifu Fong: your very welcome.