by Curt James
During his first visit to the United States (May 1989) Wing Chun master Ho Kam Ming provided invaluable insights which clarified numerous aspects of Wing Chun Kung Fu. During a two day seminar in Tucson, Arizona, master Ho warmly received questions for about eight hours. With more than sixty visitors in attendance, this was a remarkable feat.
Joining Ho Kam Ming was classmate and close friend Hawkins Cheung. The seminar was hosted by sifu Augustine Fong and assisted by Mr. Pak Chan. During this event, Mr. Chan translated the questions and Augustine Fong related Master Ho’s answers to literally hundreds of questions. In the transcription presented various exchanges are paraphrased and edited where necessary. A sincere attempt has been made to maintain the integrity of the discussion.
Master Ho was a past vice president of Yip Man’s Hong Kong Ving Tsun Athletic Association. On his first visit to the U.S. he lectured on many subjects including Wing Chun forms and fighting theory. Ho Kam Ming is from Macao and the Hong Kong area and studied Wing Chun with the late Yip Man for nearly twenty years. As a leader of the Wing Chun clan, it is not surprising that master Ho’s knowledge and experience excels that of the ordinary instructor. Hawkins Cheung was quick to appreciate Ho Kam Ming’s excellence in Wing Chun and remarked, “He received all the best information.”
Master Ho is in his late sixties and has spent almost forty years in studying and researching the principles of Wing Chun Kung Fu. His motivation for sharing this wisdom is summarized by him thus: “The future of Wing Chun is based upon you!” At this prestigious gathering, Ho Kam Ming demonstrated numerous fighting techniques and concepts. As inquiries were quickly answered and explained, it became apparent that he possessed a profound understanding of Wing Chun Kuen.
Augustine Fong, Master Ho’s leading student in the west, began the seminar with an intriguing and provocative statement: “This style was developed by Ng Mui; Ng Mui was a Shaolin monk!” This remark delivered a shock because Ng Mui, the legendary founder, is remembered as a Shaolin Budhist nun. (This was undoubtedly an early reference to information Yip Chun would later release concerning Cheung Ng and his new origins for Wing Chun Kuen.)
The traditional genealogy of Hong Kong Wing Chun Kuen followed: Yim Wing Chun, Leung Bok Chau, Wong Wah Bo & Leung Yee Tai, Leung Jan, Chan Wah Shun & Leung Bik and Yip Man, the Hong Kong school, etc. Wing Chun’s basic stance (Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma) was then demonstrated and explained: “The knees and toes are held inward, the spine erect, and hips pushed forward.” It is here that master Ho Kam Ming begins to accept questions:
Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma
Question: Does one use the Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma as a fighting stance?
Master Ho: It’s not necessary; use a natural fighting stance.
Question: What’s the best way to check your stance to know the correct distance between your feet?
Master Ho: The stance is based on one’s body height. A tall person has a wider stance; a shorter person’s would be smaller.
Question: Why are the toes inward in our stance?
Master Ho: If your toes point inward, when you practice turning or changing angles–it is easier. If your toes point outward–turning is inhibited.
Question: Should the spine be held straight?
Master Ho: Generally, your spine has got to be straight. If not, when you turn you’ll swing your center out. If it’s straight, when turning, everything is centered.
Question: When you practice the basic stance, are you developing energy by doing it?
Master Ho: The stance helps you to find your center of gravity. When you know how to feel your center, then you know how to move your body. As for internal energy–no matter what, if you are standing here, you already have internal energy. When you raise your hand you also have internal energy.
Question: What’s the main purpose of Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma?
Master Ho: The main purpose of Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma is to practice your stance, to find your center of gravity and to balance yourself. When you have the ability to find the center, then when you fight, you can stand in any position. When an external force comes toward you, that’s the time to use your balance–that’s when your stance comes into place. If you can’t control your balance, it doesn’t matter how good your hands are; an external force coming in will knock you down.
Question: When you practice a long first form–say a half an hour or so–and you start to shake, does this mean youare weak or are you in the wrong position?
Master Ho: If you shake that means you can’t find your center of gravity. You’re using the wrong muscles.
Question: Is there any differences or improvements that you see in the forms since you’ve come to the United States?
Master Ho: The principles are the same but maybe the teaching methods are different. The foundation is the same but people teach differently.
Question: How significant is the knee position and is there natural tension somewhere along that area? If you’re tense, is that wrong?
Master Ho: If the muscles are tight then it’s wrong. It should be natural, natural tension. Any motion, as long asit’s natural, is fine. Don’t tighten up.
Question: A question about the hip–you don’t lock the hip then?
Master Ho: The hip isn’t held inward and tight. Just stabilize the hip and motion.
Question: About the center of gravity, usually this is indicated by a vertical plane. Is there a horizontal plane for the center of gravity and does it go down?
Master Ho: The vertical center of gravity should be straight in a vertical position. Whenever you move forward the whole vertical line should move as one unit.
Question: I notice that other systems seem to utilize wider stances. Can Wing Chun be practiced with a wider stance?
Master Ho: If your stance is too wide then you lose your flexibility to move. If it’s too narrow then you can’t move quickenough. The best position is your own natural position as based on Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma. Wing Chun doesn’t use a wide stance, you lose mobility with a wider stance.
Question: How wide should the stance be?
Master Ho: The width of the stance is based upon your shoulder width. Also, in this stance your weight should be evenlydistributed.
Question: To move, one must raise the stance; correct? Does one’s height remain the same?
Master Ho: When moving don’t bounce your stance. Keep the height even and try to stay stabilized.
Question: How do you know exactly how to sink the weight? For example, how far do you sink?
Master Ho: Sink to the point that you feel natural and flexible. Sink enough but don’t sink too much.
Question: Could you explain a little about basic pyramids and how they relate to the stance?
Master Ho: The pyramid stance is based on balance. If an external force comes in, it’s dissolved accordingly. However, that’s just talking about the stance, when you use the hands–they should be utilized with the structure.
Question: About the weight distribution, if the weight is evenly distributed on the feet and a burning sensation isfelt on the bottom of the foot, how does this relate to the directweight upon the heels?
Master Ho: The weight is distributed upon the whole foot. If you feel heat then that’s a good sign for that means you’vefound your center of gravity. Later, that feeling will go away–thatis, when you learn to control better. But that’s a good start. Also, both feet should be equal; if you feel burning, then you should feel it equally on both feet.
Question: Does it matter if you practice with bare feet? Or is it better to practice with shoes on?
Master Ho: If you practice with bare feet you’ll feel your toes grab the ground better.
Question: Should you always practice a long first form?
Master Ho: It depends upon your energy level. If you feel bad that day, then you shouldn’t do it too long. For example,if you try to study a book and you don’t have the energy, it won’tgo to your mind well. Thus, it depends on your energy.
Question: So, unless your basic foundation or balance is good, anything you build on top of that is weak; correct?
Master Ho: Right.
Question: Is there a best time to practice Siu Lim Tau. For instance, before or after practice?
Master Ho: When you practice Siu Lim Tau, the best time is before you’re tired. This way you can find your center easier.
Question: Again, about practicing barefooted, is it true that it’s best to practice this way?
Master Ho: It doesn’t matter. Practice many ways, for in a fight you’ll be wearing shoes. But bare feet are better.
Question: Do you ever sink your weight more for certain techniques?
Master Ho: Don’t emphasize sinking all the time. Just try to dissolve the incoming force. You may have to brace or sinkat that moment. But don’t sink all the time.
Question: Could you elaborate on the natural curvature of the spine; as opposed to what was said about the spine being straight?
Master Ho: It should be natural, naturally straight.
Question: Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma isn’t a fighting stance, correct? What happens in a real fight? What stance do we use?
Master Ho: Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma is the foundation of all stances. When you practice, you use this stance to develop balance. But when you fight for real, you use mobile stances.
Question: How does the shoulder relate to overall balance?
Master Ho: The shoulders should be straight down; pull them down equally. If your spine’s straight then your shoulderswill be down.
Question: About punching straight or slightlyupward–you’ve stated that punching slightly upward will uproot the opponent and that punching straight will just knock the subject backward. What about the concept of explode power where the opponent should drop straight down or even forward after being hit? In this casewhat does it matter if one punches straight or upward?
Master Ho: If performed correctly, the punch should drop the subject right there. In case you’re not good enough, however,a straight punch may allow the opponent the opportunity to strikeyou. Punching slightly upward will eliminate this possibility.
Question: Is it too much to practice a thousand punches a day?
Master Ho: Do what you can do–don’t force progress. Otherwise, you won’t get good results.
Question: Should one lock the elbow out when practicing punching?
Master Ho: Yes, but when you lock the punch and release the power, don’t tighten up on the elbow.
Question: Should one practice both high and low punches?
Master Ho: You can practice high, middle, and low punches. But don’t practice too much until you can control your fist. This means you should be able to punch with a minimum of muscular tension first.
Question: Could one pick out, for example, the double punches and practice them?
Master Ho: Yes, but only up to a certain point. Actually, one could drill any motion of the form.
Question: Could you comment on the opinion that other styles seem to have on the Wing Chun punch? For instance, many believe this type of punch has little power?
Master Ho: The more force you feel or see in the punch, the more chance the power will stay in the body and not be released. The less you feel, the more release you’ll have. Like shooting an arrow–the arrow has no power; but the result is forceful. In Wing Chun, the punch is based on speed, not muscle. If you don’t feel power or muscle, then that means you can punch faster. This will promote explosive power.
Question: Could you talk about Bone Joint Power?
Master Ho: Bone Joint Power involves a minimum of muscular use. The less muscle, the more flexible the joints can react. Like a snake, the punch will be fast and quick.
Question: In the vertical punch, the little knuckle is susceptible to damage; correct? What can one do to avoid this?
Master Ho: Actually, the lower knuckles are aligned to the largest bone in the arm. This position will produce a strongerpunch. If you feel pain in the last knuckle, perhaps your structureis wrong.
Question: When punching, do you snap the wrist upward upon contact?
Master Ho: When you practice, don’t emphasize snapping. Later, this will come automatically.
Question: It’s said the knuckles are like a tack supported in cotton. Could you comment on this?
Master Ho: When you punch, focus on the knuckles. When you connect, the whole fist will sink inward. The power is in the knuckles.
Question: Could you comment on the use of the wall bag?
Master Ho: The wall bag doesn’t develop power; that’s the purpose of the empty punch. Punching in the air can developmore and more power; but the wall bag can help to develop focus. The wall bag is like a target that can help train the fist.
Question: How about a moving bag? As opposed to a stationary bag?
Master Ho: In Wing Chun we practice hand development in a different way. If you use a swinging bag, then the power is held in the arm–it won’t release. It would be better, in thiscase, if one held a wall bag and then moved around the room (to practicechasing). That’s better than using a moving bag. A moving bag isn’t practical.
Question: Is the one and three inch punch something separate or do you develop this with a regular punch?
Master Ho: According to Wing Chun, you should be able to generate power even closer. One inch is already too far.
Question: Can the Wing Chun straight punch be used with gloves on–in say a full contact setting?
Master Ho: Yes, but you have to practice for a while first. One must get used to the gloves.
Question: How does one generate power from a close distance? For example, how can one strike when one is already in contact?
Master Ho: If you use Bone Joint Power it can be done. In this way you can use explode power.
Question: Do you have to use turning to make the punch more effective?
Master Ho: Not necessarily. The elbow can still punch … But there are six main joints which may be utilized in punching: the wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle. These jointswork together to produce what is called Bone Joint Power.
Question: Is it safe to assume that since most Wing Chun practitioners only use the straight punch, that there are few advanced exponents around?
Master Ho: Perhaps they have not reached that level yet.
Question: Any comments on western boxing?
Master Ho: Boxing is a sport, not a martial art.
Question: Should one coordinate breathing with punching?
Master Ho: One should breath naturally. If you need to breath hard, then go ahead.
Siu Lim Tau
Question: From the Fok Sau position, some people perform a Taan Sau before moving to Huen and Wu Sau. Is this correct?
Master Ho: When you turn the hand over in this manner that is an application. When you do the basic form, don’t do TaanSau for it can tighten up the muscles. In the form just circle into Wu Sau.
Question: When you hold the fist at the side of the body, doesn’t this promote some tension?
Master Ho: As long as it’s natural, it’s all right.
Question: If one wished to teach someone that was well built the Siu Lim Tau, how would you go about it?
Master Ho: Tell him not to use excessive tension, just do the motions–don’t force it.
Question: What’s the application for the downward Cross Hand (Sup Jee Sau) position at the beginning of the form?
Master Ho: This motion is useful for when you’re losing your balance and falling forward. If someone is kicking up whileI’m falling, this motion is useful.
Question: Could you talk about the elbow line?
Master Ho: The elbow line is close, but don’t force the position. Just bring it in as close as it’s naturally possible. Some people with larger muscles can’t bring the elbow in too far–that’s all right. Bring it in as much as you can. It really depends upon the build of the individual.
Question: There seem to be two schools of thought on the Taan Sau position. Could you comment on the true positionof Taan Sau?
Master Ho: If the Taan Sau is held pointing upward, you have no control of the motion, it’s weak. If it’s held horizontallyit is braced–it’s like a bridge. A Taan Sau position which points upward is wrong.
Question: Could you comment on Chi Kung practice. Wing Chun is a Buddhist style, correct? Also, what do you think about Taoist Chi Kung as practiced in Siu Lim Tau?
Master Ho: When you do the form, don’t worry about Chi Kung. Just work on the position; worry about the technique.
Question: After Pak Sau, why does one bring the hand back to the center before executing the straight palm?
Master Ho: Basically, one learns one motion at a time. When you get used to the technique you can execute the palm strikefrom Pak Sau. Like the basic punches, you bring the punch to the center first. But once you know this, it’s not necessary–just punch out. The form teaches one step at a time. Later, one can edit the motions. At the beginning it’s important to learn the correct line.
Question: What’s the significance of going in and out in the first part of Siu Lim Tau?
Master Ho: Well, Taan Sau is executed once because it’s a strong position. Fok Sau is performed three times to allowmore practice. Fok Sau develops the elbow by bringing it inward–thisneeds to be practiced more.
Question: After the Cross Hand position at the beginning of the form, some people come straight up while we “roll” up and out slightly. Why is this?
Master Ho: If you come straight up, when people trap you, you have no way out. If you roll from the inside out (Quan Sau) you can easily get away. This is better than coming straight up.
Question: I understand Fok Sau develops the wrist. Are there other applications?
Master Ho: The Fok Sau motion stabilizes the arm. This promotes a strong motion.
Question: What’s the proper height for Taan Sau motion?
Master Ho: The perfect position for Taan Sau is the palm flat and the forearm slightly upward. Taan Sau should be on the centerline, not too high or too low. If it’s too high it will make the shoulder muscles tight. However, if your arm is larger, it may be higher, if you have a shorter arm, it may be lower.
Question: What’s the relationship between Siu Lim Tau and the practice of mental clarity?
Master Ho: If you clear your mind when you practice it’s much better. You can concentrate on what you’re doing; nothingwill bother you.
Master Hawkins Cheung noted: “Ho Kam Ming began trainingwhen he was about 29 or 30 and therefore concentrated on theory. This is what he’s best at. He received all the best information.” Cheung questioned the listeners, “The Wing Chun style is based on what? It’s based on feeling, sensitivity. And what do I mean by sensitivity? Information. Do you have the correct information or not? Wing Chun (boxing) uses what? Unity. Earlier today stances were mentioned … We don’t fight with separate movements, we fight with unity. That’s the key. And yet, theory is very important. You can’t copy anyone … Ho Kam Ming will teach you the correct motions, theory. This is better than learning a lot of movements. If you start good, you learn good. If you start no good, you learn no good, understand?”
Question: What’s the main thing that Chum Kiu develops? What is it’s purpose?
Master Ho: Chum Kiu teaches you how to control your motions while turning. Siu Lim Tau develops techniques in a stationary position. In Chum Kiu, even though you’re turning, you still can control that motion–much like a stationary position. This will develop turning, balance and unity. Chum Kiu means “Searching for the Bridge.” The bridge refers to the person’s hand or arm. When you face an opponent and go in, you go in the center. When his hands come into play, you can touch or feel for the hands; then you can control him–that’s “Searching for the Bridge.” Remember, if the opponent doesn’t block you, or bring his hands up–just go in the centerline.
Question: If you have a powerful opponent and he comes after you with wide swinging motions–how would you handle this? How would you end the fight?
Master Ho: If your opponent attacks you in this way–according to theory you should be able to use a straight line punch to beat the wide motion. This is because the timing is longer. But if he’s already in, you may be able to deflect his power. If he’s too strong then just step away. (Master Ho demonstrated how to deflect power left or right by using Bong Sau or Taan Sau).
Question: How do you deal with a flicking attack or a fake?
Master Ho: Just attack, go right in. (Master Ho demonstrated how one may simply attack when faked). Also, some people try to scare you by stomping on the floor, etc; just strike out withyour fist.
Question: If confronted, do you look at the eyes or the hands?
Master Ho: If you look at the hand, you lose everything. Look at the eyes.
Question: So moving inward can effectively jam a technique?
Master Ho: Don’t just run into the opponent. You must adjust the distance. If the distance allows you to go in–do so; don’t go in blind. If you can’t control the opponent, don’t go in. Close the gap and strike when you should–don’t when you shouldn’t. (Master Ho demonstrated an “inside facing” punch). Some people duck when punched. In Wing Chun you can attack by changing the angle–without ducking.
Question: Could you comment on the concept of “Sinking the Bridge.” Doesn’t Chum Kiu also mean this?
Master Ho: Sinking the Bridge is an application. (Master Ho demonstrated how to drop the elbow in defense of a body punch). Searching for the Bridge is the name of the form. “Chum” Kiu, or “sinking” bridge, is a technique. But the meaning of the form is “Searching for the Bridge.” Don’t confuse this.
Question: Why does the Wing Chun style always teach one to look at the eyes? Other styles teach to look elsewhere.
Master Ho: For example, if you look down while I punch, you’ll miss what’s coming. By looking at the eyes you’llsee the whole picture.
Question: What’s the difference between the Pai Jong (Hacking Elbow) and Lon Sau (Bar Arm)?
Master Ho: Lon Sau can help you to get out from a grab. By turning, you use the whole body to bring your hand up. (A demonstration followed in which master Ho easily brought his hand back from a double grab position).
Question: Where does the power originate in the turning position? Is it the knees?
Master Ho: It’s not just the knees; the whole body assists in the turn. If you turn the whole body as a unit–you can get more power. This is better then using just the hip or knees, etc. The idea here is unity.
Question: But where does the turn originate? How do you turn?
Master Ho: You can’t say exactly where the turn originates, for the whole body turns. The feet, knees, hip, and body all work together. You can’t say, that’s where the turn originates. This is why you have to practice. In order to know exactly how to generate power, you need to practice in order to feel your motion. This is the only way to know these things.
Question: Is the Turning Elbow (Pai Jong) technique lower than the same technique in Siu Lim Tau?
Master Ho: No, it’s about the same. But, when you perform the Turning Elbows, it’s important to learn how to turn the technique with the body. In application you need to control your motion.You see how close the subject is and therefore how much to turn. This you need to adjust, you can tell how much by experience.
Question: Toward the end of Chum Kiu, are there not two circle side kicks executed?
Sifu Fong: In the beginning, we use all front kicks. If you can’t do a front kick right, you can’t do a side kick. The front kick is the basic kick for the Wing Chun style. At the end of the form there is a “left” circle front kick.
Master Ho: According to human behavior, everyone uses the right leg automatically. In Wing Chun we develop the left leg. If you concentrate on the left leg, you’ll be able to use both legs equally. It’s the same principle behind developing the punches: left, right, left in the forms. Develop the left more than the right.
Question: In Chum Kiu set, why does the Drilling Punch go upward, like an “Uppercut?”
Master Ho: Has everyone seen Mike Tyson fight? Well, I feel he’s the first fighter to effectively use the Uppercut. Yet, in Wing Chun, we already had this punch a couple hundred years ago. You see, under the chin is a point and, when hit, causes an immediate knock out–the brain is sent to the top of the head. It can even kill.
Question: How many triangles are there in the structure? And does that change with the movement of the opponent?
Master Ho: (Here, master Ho demonstrated how to use triangles in group fighting).
Question: How many triangles are there in one’s own structure?
Master Ho: (Master Ho demonstrated how changing the line also changes the triangle.) No matter how many triangles there are, they all focus or lay on the centerline.
Question: How do you get power in your front kick? Other arts use a kind of wind up to generate force.
Master Ho: The Wing Chun kick uses Bone Joint Power. It comes directly from the floor and goes forward. If you bring the leg up first and then kick, there are two motions. Anyway, the Wing Chun kick is not used all the time, only when necessary. This is because when you use a kicking technique, you have only one leg on the ground. You can be attacked easily. If you kick me, I can avoid the kick by moving one inch. When you miss, I can get you; I can go in.
Question: What’s the purpose of the Fok Sau technique in Chum Kiu?
Master Ho: From an outside position, Fok Sau will cover your opening. The purpose is first to bring the elbow in to cover oneself. If you bring the hand in only, you will miss the block. Learn how to control your elbow. Also, Fun Sau (which is applied before) is executed toward the side in the form. But this technique can be applied to the front.
Question: Wing Chun doesn’t advocate ducking. Many styles know this and use this against us. Is there a reason for this? How can you fight against other styles if you don’t duck?
Master Ho: According to Wing Chun theory, we don’t duck, we keep our position. If your position is right, no one can get into your area. In Wing Chun, the whole structure is protecting your body; that is, as long as you play your own game. In Wing Chun we have a saying, “Glass head, tofu chest, and iron bridge.” The bridge protects the head and body–the glass head and tofu chest. If you get hit in the head, it’s like glass; in the chest and it’s like tofu–smashed. The hand is like an iron bridge–the hand is the guard.
Question: But don’t you think it’s a disadvantage that other styles know our methods? Shouldn’t one do something different?
Master Ho: No matter what system you are facing, just play your own game. Your own game is to adjust your distance, timing, etc. You will win.
Question: At the beginning of the second section of Chum Kiu, you turn with Lon Sau and form a fist. Is this for attacking? Is this a punch?
Master Ho: It is a fist, but it is not for striking. This motion allows one to stick and follow the opponent’s hand.
Question: Is the Arm Catching (Jip Sau) motion for breaking an arm, controlling, or what?
Master Ho: This is an arm break, but the way you are demonstrating it is lousy. If I do it like you, with the elbow down and in, the punch will get through. (Here master Ho discussed the hand closest to the body.) The elbow has to be out; this way you can catch the arm. In Wing Chun not all the techniques have the elbow in. You have to know this.
Question: What’s the best way to fight a group of people?
Master Ho: When you fight, use hand techniques more than kicks. Use the hands 80% of the time; especially when you fight more than one person. Use the legs to move the center, adjust the angle.
Question: How does the eye power of Chum Kiu differ from that of Siu Lim Tau?
Master Ho: In both forms, learn how to control the eyes. Look straight forward, that is the main idea. Learn to develop periphery vision.
Question: If one initiates an attack first in a fight, where is the best place to strike?
Master Ho: Strike the weakest point–the chest. If you attack the head you may cause a cut, but if you attack the chest it involves the heart. This is a killing point. No matter how big you are–one good punch here and you can not take it.
Question: When’s the best time to strike? When the subject is breathing in or out?
Master Ho: This kind of timing doesn’t matter, you can go in anytime.
Question: In the proverbs it states, “Use escaping hand to turn around the situation.” What’s this mean?
Master Ho: If you can’t do it, don’t worry. For example, books say you can jump ten feet high! But this is only writing; can I do it? That’s a different story. If you want to understand a thing, learn to do it. If you can apply the theory, that’s good, that’s what you should concentrate on.
Question: Again, what’s the fist for in the Lon Sau technique? Is this a grab?
Master Ho: This allows one to stabilize the bridge. If it’s open here, it won’t be correct or stabilized.
Question: So it’s not a grab?
Master Ho: No, and when you grab someone you must be careful–it’s very dangerous. If you grab my hand, I’ll break your wrist. In China, these locking techniques were quite popular. Today theypractice Tiger Claw or Wu Shu but won’t allow the citizens to practice Wing Chun and such. This is because they don’t want ordinary people better than those in the government. This is one reason why Wing Chun is being lost in the Chinese mainland.
Question: Could you explain the application of the Low Wing Block (Bong Sau)?
Master Ho: (Master Ho demonstrated how a punch is deflected downward from a regular Bong Sau position, thus forming a low Bong Sau). The low Bong Sau follows the power. If the force is too heavy, just go with it. Don’t block the punch upward; you should flow down. Also, in the form, two low Bong Sau’s are applied together. But by the time you apply the Bong Sau, use only one hand. Remember, when you apply this, never use two Bong Sau’s at the same time.
Question: Why does the “Inside Line” punch (from Lon Sau) come from the elbow rather than the centerline?
Master Ho: From a slight sideways position, the centerline is here. (Master Ho indicated one must use this motion to regain the centerline). If one punches from the center, there’s no control–the opponent’s punch gets in. Use this motion to clear the line of attack.
Question: What’s the meaning behind the “Step Forward” Double Palm technique in the third section of Chum Kiu?
Master Ho: This push allows the whole body to move together. This develops unity; it teaches one how to move the entire body forward.
Question: Should the Front Kick be practiced more than any other kick?
Master Ho: The Front Kick is the most important kick in Wing Chun. When you fight, your opponent is facing you. The kick to use is the front kick. If you turn or use a side kick, you may lose everything.
Question: Could you explain the difference between Siu Lim Tau and Chum Kiu techniques in relation to distance in fighting?
Master Ho: When you’re talking about forms, since there’s no subject before you, it’s difficult to speak of distance. Distance only applies when you have an opponent in front of you.
Question: After the Stepping Bong Sau, you “drop” the hands (Chum Kiu) crossing them. Do you maintain the same line?
Master Ho: Yes, when you drop, since you’re turned, it looks like you’re off the centerline. But really the centerline is still here (toward the center). In this motion the elbows should be slightly out. Don’t squeeze them inward. But yes, the intersection of the hands is on the centerline.
Question: What’s the correct angle for the Brush Hand (Tuit Sau). How far away from the body should the hand be?
Master Ho: Go straight down. The hand should be close to the body. You can use this motion to dissolve a grab. If you go forward you can not dissolve the technique.
Question: Could you talk about Huen Sau (Circle Hand)? Is this a grab?
Master Ho: In Wing Chun forms you see inside circling, but not outside grabbing. The circle is inside, we don’t use an outside circle (Grab Hand) too much. If you use an outside circle (Grab), your opponent can just snap down and break your wrist. But Huen Sau is really for regaining your position or line. (Master Ho demonstrated a Huen Sau followed by a low side palm).
Question: What’s the application for the dropping Chum Kiu (Cross Hand) technique which follows Stepping Bong Sau?
Master Ho: When you apply Bong Sau, your lower gate is all open. This motion allows you to drop the hands to protect the body.
Question: Could you explain a little about the Backward Step (Toi Ma) in the Chum Kiu?
Master Ho: When you step Backward here, it allows you to regain your balance easier than by going forward. Remember, Chum Kiu teaches one how to control the balance in movement.
Question: Do you snap both wrists when you execute the Jip Sau (Arm Catching) motion?
Master Ho: Yes, both hands snap at the same time. The timing must be right.
Question: What’s the application for Gum Sau (Pinning Hand) near the end of Chum Kiu form?
Master Ho: Gum Sau teaches you to block. When you use it, though, don’t just use the hand, use the entire arm. Remember to bend the elbow; don’t lock the arm.
Question: When you execute the Double Palm and push both feet together, it doesn’t seem to be a strong base, does it?
Master Ho: The purpose of this technique is first, to practice moving forward while maintaining the center of gravity. Second, so you can execute a turn kick. For example, the legs must be close together to perform the kick. In the form you practice the basics, in fighting you can do whatever you wish.
Question: Could you explain the application of the Rising Punch from the Gum Sau position?
Master Ho: (A demonstration was presented in which a Rising Punch follows a blocked kick–Gum Sau). Remember, the elbow should be bent. Also, after the block, you should punch immediately–attack right away.
Question: Where does the gate end for the hands and the legs take over? Does it end where the Gum Sau position is?
Master Ho: If a kick comes into your hand area, fine. But don’t chase the leg. Keep your hands in position. If the attack is lower than the waist, use the your legs. Don’t follow the kick with your hands. Also, if the knee is used to block a kick, don’t bring it straight up–use a circular knee technique.
Question: In Searching for the Bridge is the idea to destroy and control the bridge? Or perhaps just to feel for it?
Master Ho: In the real meaning for Chum Kiu, it’s not breaking or controlling; that’s the application. Searching for the Bridge is the name and meaning of the form.
Question: Is there a meaning and application for the double Taan Sau before and after the Stepping Low Bong Sau?
Master Ho: Not really, this is only to set up for the next Bong Sau. (Here master Ho indicated nobody has asked about the main point of Chum Kiu. He asked, “What’s the main technique in the form?”)
Question: Is it the control of the center of gravity; maintaining the centerline?
Master Ho: That’s been discussed already. What’s the main motion Chum Kiu develops? That has not been brought up as yet.
Question: Is it the Bong Sau motion?
Master Ho: Which one.
Question: The Stepping Bong Sau (Tor Ma Bong Sau, replied Dan M.)?
Master Ho: Yes, right (applause). This motion uses a side position and goes sideways. But in application you go forward. The purpose for going sideways is to develop and maintain your center of gravity while moving. If you practice going forward in the beginning, you lose your balance; so you step sideways. Remember, in application, you go forward.
Question: Could you talk some more about Bong Sau? I’ve never heard that idea before.
Master Ho: When you’re attacked, it’s difficult to tell where the attack is coming from. The Bong Sau only protects your body. When the punch comes in, that’s the time to use it. Other then that, you can use Taan Sau or Pak Sau. Bong Sau is applied after touching; when you feel something, then you use Bong Sau. Bong Sau and the “elbow up” is used for close fighting–to save your position. You use Bong Sau after the hand is already in. Don’t use it if the attack is still outside.
Question: Then is Bong Sau considered an “emergency” block?
Master Ho: In a way, yes; when you’re in danger. Also, Bong Sau controls the force of others.
Question: Could you show how Bong Sau is used moving forward?
Master Ho: When your opponent attempts to change attacks, you can jam his motion. (Master Ho demonstrated.) Use the body to step in; it’s not the hands so much as the body moving forward.
Question: For a high punch, how would you block?
Master Ho: In Wing Chun, “offense is defense.” (Master Ho demonstrated an Inside Rising punch to deflect a punch. He then executed a strike over a low blow controlling the attack. These are examples of Searching for the Bridge.) Also, a lot of people step back in defense of an attack. In real Wing Chun, we go in–get the right structure, position. One should attack, don’t move away–move in–go forward. If you don’t do it right–you will miss the block and you may get hit. If your timing and position are right then you will be alright. That’s why you need someone always around, pointing out your mistakes.
Question: Besides Bong Sau (Wing Block), are there other motions that are important?
Master Ho: All techniques are important; each can counter one another. But it’s vital to touch and then apply the techniques. This is why we have Sticky Hands; you touch and apply. This is called application after touching.
Question: How can you get away from an outside grab besides applying Biu Sau (Shooting Fingers)?
Master Ho: You don’t need a big motion–just turn the hand over and apply Taan Sau. (Ho Kam Ming demonstrated how Taan Sau can easily break an outside grab).
Question: About a Step/Slide (Tor Ma)–Do you drag the back leg?
Master Ho: Slide the back leg.
Question: Are you pushing off also?
Master Ho: Yes, when you push yourself forward, you also control your center of gravity. If you push two inches–you step two inches. Keep the distance constant between the feet.
Question: Could you talk about mobility. For example, in application, when’s the right time to change your stance?
Master Ho: Mobility depends upon the opponent–try to adjust to his movement. If you do it by yourself–you can’t develop any kind of ability. You need a target to really develop mobility.
Question: Could you show some examples?
Master Ho: Yes. (Master Ho demonstrated some angling steps, Saam Gok Ma, etc.)
Question: Could you comment on “front body” versus “side body” fighting?
Master Ho: Wing Chun is a natural system. If two birds are fighting, and one bird faces away, he will get it. Better yet, if two dogs fight and one turns away, the one turning will get bitten. It’s the same for two boxers–if you turn sideways then you’ll lose–you lose one side, one hand. When you punch with that hand, you have to change your center. When you move, I can punch you right then. Or if I want, I can just control you by holding your shoulder, keeping you from turning toward me. Because of this, Wing Chun doesn’t fight sideways. Basically, Wing Chun fights front on (one leg forward). This way both hands can be used equally.
Question: If I’m like this (Side Body Stance–Juk Sun Ma), is this considered Pin Sun (Side Body)?
Master Ho: No, this is still Front Body (Jing Sun).
Question: Should we combine horizontal and vertical leg positioning in fighting?
Master Ho: (Master Ho moved forward and backward and had sifu Fong execute combination stances). When you’re beginning, you can use a flat stance (Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma) in practice. If you can not control your stances (if you can’t do it), don’t fight with one leg forward. This way you can move to both sides equally. If you can’t be flexible with your stances, when you stand this way (forward leg), you may have only one way to go–you can’t develop equally.
Question: Does height matter? If I fight a taller person, do I have to angle out more?
Master Ho: No matter–tall or short–they have to come into your position. Just play your own game.
Question: But, do I need more footwork for a bigger person?
Master Ho: When you fight, it’s better to stabilize your movement. The more you move around, the more room you give to the opponent to attack.
Question: Could you talk about the Wing Chun principle, “If you move, I move faster.”
Master Ho: Well, in order to move faster–the first thing you need is correct structure. If your structure is right, you can attack right away. But if your structure isn’t good, even if you are faster, your opponent will get in.
Question: As a beginner, I don’t understand the pivot (turning stance). When would I use it?
Master Ho: Turning allows you to get your center of gravity. If you turn too much you lose the position–not enough and you lose your balance. Correct turning allows you to be strong–the structure will be perfect; then no one can move you so easy.
Question: Why is it that so many exponents turn incorrectly? They put all the weight on their rear leg and move the vertical axis line “to and fro?”
Master Ho: It’s because that person or the person who taught him didn’t know how to find his center of gravity. It’s really like spelling a word; if it’s spelled incorrectly you don’t pay attention, you keep making the same mistake. You keep spelling the word wrong.
After demonstrating the Biu Jee set master Ho inquired, “Does anybody perceive any difference in this Biu Jee set?” After a few moments the discussion shifted to questions concerning the “Buddha Palms” at the end of Biu Jee. In this movement both hands form a prayer and dip down; as the hands press upward the body rises. The hands then open over the head and swing back returning to the prayer position. This is repeated three times and the set closes. There were no kicking techniques at the end of this Biu Jee set. Sifu Fong interjected–these are the basic forms and certain details have been omitted.
Question: Because of the Wu Sau’s or single Buddha Palms in Siu Lim Tau, I thought the first form was once known as Saam Bai Fut or Three Bows to Buddha. Could you comment on this?
Master Ho: It’s the Three Buddha Palms at the end of Biu Jee which are Saam Bai Fut. Saam Bai Fut is not associated with Siu Lim Tau; it’s a technique of Biu Jee.
Question: What’s the meaning of this motion?
Master Ho: Let’s assume you’re falling forward, losing your balance and someone is trying to strike you from above. Your hands go up first to regain your balance; this motion then opens above the head to deflect incoming attacks. Remember, when you learn the forms, don’t practice them too fast. Perform them slowly, one by one. Learn to control your motion, control your center of gravity. It’s best to practice slowly and to be aware of your moves. At the beginning, if you practice the movements too quickly, you’ll lose everything, you won’t develop correctly. In the Buddha Palm technique, if you perform it incorrectly, if you don’t think about where the hands are placed, when and how the body comes up, if you miss the timing of this motion–instead of blocking you may get hit on the head. In order to time this correctly you open the hands after you are up. You must feel and control the motion; practice it slowly. When you get used to the motions, you can perform them faster.
Question: Is there some relation between the Saam Bai Fut and a Buddhist element here?
Master Ho: That’s only the name for the motion. People say, ah, it looks like you’re worshipping the Buddha. But there’s nothing significant in this.
Question: Near the beginning of the Biu Jee set, you wiggle the fingers after the Huen Sau and before you close thefist. What is the purpose of this?
Master Ho: This allows you to relax your muscles and wrist. When you turn the hand (Huen) and squeeze, you tighten up the muscles of the arm. Thus, you never have a chance to relax the muscles. This motion allows you to relax the whole hand before going on to the next move. I bet you’ve never seen anyone perform Biu Jee with this motion. This particular motion, Yip Man taught me only. I doubt if you will see this motion elsewhere.
Question: What’s the meaning for the snapping hand (Jut Sau) at the beginning of the set?
Master Ho: This develops wrist power. In this way you can generate snapping power from only a short distance. (Here master Ho asked why in the Buddha Palm, at the end of the set, the hands actually come a little behind the body?) You see, the purpose for this is to regain you center of gravity. The main thing is to keep your balance.
Question: What’s the application for Fak Sau (Whisking Hand)?
Master Ho: Fak Sau can be used as a type of “asking hand.” When someone’s hand is in the way, you can use this motion to break open the centerline. In the form, Fak Sau is performed sideways, but in application it is executed forward.
Question: At the beginning of the Buddha Palm motion, what’s the purpose of leaning and dipping the hands forward?
Master Ho: This motion assumes you’re losing balance. That’s why you make yourself go down in this manner.
Question: What’s the meaning of the term Biu Jee?
Master Ho: A lot of people think Biu Jee (Shooting Fingers) is for attacking people. But the real meaning behind Biu Jee is not really attacking. Biu Jee promotes and develops many emergency techniques.
Question: Is one of the main purposes of Biu Jee for close fighting? Many of the motions seem to be quite large.
Master Ho: For example, Gwai Jong (Diagonal Elbow) is used like this–you feel and then use it. Like Bong Sau, you don’t use it from the outside.
Question: So are most of the motions of Biu Jee for in-close fighting?
Master Ho: They are mostly for emergency use.
Question: After you execute the Biu Sau technique, you turn and chop. Here, you execute the chop with the elbow bent. Why is this?
Master Ho: If the elbow is down, the hand will be solid. For example, with the hand fully extended, the hand is weak. If you keep the elbow in, it’s stronger and you can cover yourself.
Question: What’s the correct position of this chop? Is it like the Taan Sau?
Master Ho: It’s a little bit higher, but according to your own structure. The flowing power from this technique is chopping in, it’s not going outward like a Taan Sau. Do you know why you use this kind of motion? Say you’re fighting someone in front of you and you’re attacked also from the side. Here, you turn and chop to cover yourself. That’s called an “emergency technique.” If you turn and face the attacker, it’s too late. You simply turn and strike. In application, wherever your hand is, that’s where you attack from. If it’s up or out here, that’s where you start your attack; don’t come back to the center and then punch. In the beginning, when you practice the basics, you come from the center. But in application, if your hand is here, that’s where you start from. If your hand is down, you punch from there; don’t bring it back up and then punch. If my hands are down like this, and you punch me, it’s too late to bring my hands up–just block from there. (Master Ho executed a long hand wrist snap–Ding Sau.) In this way you save time.
Question: Why are there Fok Sau techniques in Chum Kiu and then Jaam Sau techniques in Biu Jee? These motions look similar, why is this?
Master Ho: Any motion that comes from below is Fok Sau; but from the top is Jaam Sau. For example, from Fak Sau (Wisking Hand), you execute Jaam Sau, etc.
Question: Why in Chum Kiu set, from Fun Sau (Horizontal Chop), do you execute a Fok Sau technique? Fun Sau is a high position and then you execute a Fok Sau. Why is this?
Master Ho: In Fak Sau (in Biu Jee set), the elbow is up, therefore you simply go down into Jaam Sau. In the Fun Sau motion, the elbow is already down, it’s low, so you just bring it in–Fok Sau.
Question: If the Biu Jee set makes your fingers strong, why loosen them up in the way you described earlier? Wouldn’t it be best to develop iron fingers?
Master Ho: Remember, Biu Jee (Shooting Fingers) is not really for hitting people. Many people think this. This motion you are asking about loosens up the wrist–not the fingers. Anyway, if you think Biu Jee is that way, it’s already like that in Siu Lim Tau.
Question: Developmentally, don’t you want the wrist strong and tight. Why loosen the wrist?
Master Ho: When you try to make it strong like that, it’s not strong–it’s stiff. If you want it strong you need to be flexible. If the wrist is stiff, it will break easily; you may break your hand if you hit something. Do you know why when practicing Wing Chun forms we don’t use much muscle? In the beginning, if you can control your muscles and motion, if you can develop that ability, this is good. If you can control your power and motion, later you can weight lift with good results. But if you lift weights before you can control your muscles, then you become too stiff, you become like a robot. You won’t really be able to apply power.
Question: So, just to make sure I understand this correctly, you never strike with the finger tips?
Master Ho: This is not for hitting, this is for emergency use.
Question: Can you use finger techniques once you are already close?
Master Ho: For example, (from Gwai Jong), if you just use the hand to shoot out, it’s not enough. After you touch your opponent’s hand, you shoot your hand in and step forward–slide the fingers to the throat. This technique you can apply to the throat. (Master Ho demonstrated a Biu Jee to the throat from a Gwai Jong position). Before, I wasn’t allowed to teach this technique. But now, I let this information out, but this isn’t so you can go out and fight with people.
Question: What’s the right time to applysuch finger strikes?
Master Ho: The timing is based on your opponent and his movement and position.
Question: Are there any knee techniques in the Biu Jee?
Master Ho: The leg and knee techniques come after the Dummy form. Right now, we’re studying Siu Lim Tau, Chum Kiu, and Biu Jee. This is still the basic foundation. Until you can do this right, you can’t improve your level.
Question: What’s the correct position of Gaan Jaam Sau (Upper/Lower Chop)?
Master Ho: Gaan Jaam is applied with the turn of the body, just go with the body–don’t emphasize power. Gaan Jaam Sau is an emergency motion. This clears the area from the head to the groin. Sometimes you don’t know where you’re being attacked–what section, the head, chest, etc. Use the Gaan Jaam technique. By the time you touch the hand and block, then you know what to do next.
Question: So, is using a punch in most cases better than using a Biu Sau?
Master Ho: A straight punch is for attacking on the line. Just punch. But Biu Jee Sau (Shooting Fingers) is for regaining the line. If I have you trapped, you have to regain your line to attack. Here, you can use Biu Sau to regain the line first.
Question: After Turning Elbows, at the beginning of the form, you then repeat almost the same motion omitting the Stepping-In Elbow (Tor Ma Gwai Jong). Why is this?
Master Ho: The first set of turning elbows develops flowing from one elbow to another. In the second, your elbow drops and you immediately get away from that situation.
Question: What’s the application of the Huen Sau/Pak Sau motion in Biu Jee?
Master Ho: If the power is coming in too strong, I can’t block it. (Master Ho showed how to deflect a punch with a hooking Huen Sau). So, I just hook the punch away; this is an emergency technique. For example, if the punch is too close, if you can’t block, you can use your body to circle the attack out. Use your structure to deflect the punch. It’s just like a bullfight; you move slightly and the bull passes you by. That’s why in Wing Chun, you use technique. If a stronger force comes in, use your technique to deflect the opponent. Don’t use muscle.
Question: What’s the correct order to learn the forms? Do you learn the Biu Jee first and then Mok Yan Jong? How should one learn the sets?
Master Ho: The right way to learn is this: after the three forms, then you learn the Wooden Dummy set. You learn step by step–after the three forms, you learn Mok Yan Jong.
Question: What’s the application of Biu Jee Ma or circle stance (Seung Ma)?
Master Ho: When your opponent moves toward you, then you can circle around his leg. Also remember this, if you’re standing forward and you punch out–this is only “hand power.” If you use your stance when you attack, you can discharge the opponent more effectively. The stance and hand technique, when combined, is much better. In ordinary technique, people just use the hands. People don’t know how to employ the stance to destroy an attackers center. In Wing Chun Kuen, if you can use the stance and hands together, you can destroy the opponent and his center of gravity.
Question: If the opponent’s foot is not in the way, do we still use the circle stance (Seung Ma)?
Master Ho: It’s not necessary.
Question: Why does the circle stance in Biu Jee return to the Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma position? Why doesn’t it move forward?
Master Ho: The idea is that the foundation is built step by step. Before you perform moving stances, you must be able to find your center of gravity. It’s the same as learning the ABC’s before being expected to write a composition.
Question: If there’s a Gaan Jaam Sau in Biu Jee, why is there no Quan Sau (Rolling Hand)?
Master Ho: You already have that at the beginning of the form, when you roll up from the cross hand position. That’s a rolling hand (Quan Sau). You already have that principle; there’s no need to repeat it.
Question: What’s the most important motion in Biu Jee?
Master Ho: All the motions in Biu Jee are important.
Question: What’s the most important concept in Biu Jee?
Master Ho: The main thing is that Biu Jee is for emergency use.
Question: What’s the correct position for the Gwai Jong (Vertical Elbow) technique? Exactly what is the line of attack?
Master Ho: The elbow should come straight down.
Question: Does the back of the hand touch the chest?
Master Ho: It should barely touch, don’t press the hand against the chest.
Question: Why is the hand open and in this position?
Master Ho: The hand is open for protection. Also, if you don’t loosen and open the hand, you can’t use the elbow. If you make a fist, you can’t swing the elbow down.
Question: Is there any thumb techniques hidden in Biu Jee set?
Master Ho: No, I’ve never learned anything like that. If you know some perhaps you’d like to teach me.
Question: What’s the rising Pushing Hand (Pow Sau) for in Biu Jee?
Master Ho: This motion is executed upward in the form, but in application, you use it low–a low palm. This motion stretches the muscles and teaches one to generate elbow power.
Master Ho asked, “Do you know why you have to swing the Fak Sau technique all the way down and then up?” Fak Sau, when necessary, clears one’s entire area. This is an emergency technique. In the old days, martial artists usually fought very low to the ground. (Master Ho showed how a fighter, crouching low, attacks inward using a low blow). If you shorten the Fak Sau motion, you miss the block; you miss the lower section. Fak Sau swings down and then up. In this way, everything is cleared.
Principles and Techniques
Master Ho demonstrated techniques against a straight punch. He executed circle step Pak/Low Palm. He showed the correct position for blocking with Taan Sau. He stated, “If the angle is incorrect, I won’t be able to block the strike. The angle should be braced out, toward the line of attack.” He used the “blocking line” to deflect the blow while punching. This is called the central line by some. This was followed by Bong Sau Low Side Kick; Quan Sau Low Side Kick; Guide Bridge Low Front Kick; Guide Bridge while throwing the opponent; Bong Sau Chor Ma; Taan Da with a slight angle change. Master Ho then retreated out of distance as a response to a strike. He executed Quan Sau Chor Ma; Inside Facing Jaam Sau, followed by a chop; beginning from Lop Sau, advancing Bong Sau, etc.
Master Ho: When practicing, one partner should be active and the other passive; retreat and change angles, then go in after adjusting. You have to get the right timing. For example, while the opponent is still coming in, that’s when you attack. Learn to avoid the “power point” first–then strike. When an opponent punches you, when you retreat or angle out, he has a tendency to continue to come forward, that’s when you get him. By practicing the stance, you know the correct moment to step. Wait until the punch comes all the way to you before you move. You must practice this kind of timing. Also, if the opponent comes in too fast, and you can’t step back–use turning. (Master Ho showed how to adjust angles and slip punches.)
Question: Is this Boy Lay Ying Faat or Glass Body technique you are describing?
Master Ho: The term Boy Lay Ying is the title for this. But the principle idea is to learn how to adjust your distance when fighting. Learn how to avoid the opponent’s power point.
Question: Is this also applicable to “chasing the shadow?”
Master Ho: Yes. When two fighters are facing each other, you “face the shadow.” This is called Chew Ying. If the opponent turns sideways, I’m Chew Ying, he’s Bai Ying. He is losing his structure. Front-on facing (Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma) isn’t necessary (to be the Chew Ying concept). If your opponent is in front of you and you’re looking at him–that’s Chew Ying. It doesn’t matter as long as you face the opponent. But you don’t have to face front-on each time with the basic stance. You can rotate slightly, chasing the shadow (punching the opponent). That’s Chew Ying. Many martial artists jump around like boxers, but in Wing Chun we stay in one point and “face the line.”
Question: What about when your opponent flanks you and goes beyond your shift limit?
Sifu Fong moved quickly right, but was easily cut off by master Ho’s punches.
Question: Besides chasing the shadow, how about “striking the shadow?”
Master Ho: This isn’t quite right. What happens if you turn around and see a shadow and punch a tree? You still have to focus and know what you’re doing. Let me ask you, why do we practice punching a wall bag? The wall bag is just like a target for shooting arrows. This develops focus for the fist. When you see the opponent, his whole body is the target. When he attacks, it is basic Wing Chun technique which protects you. The main idea is that you learn to see the opponent’s opening and how to get in. When you close the gap, it isn’t with techniques but with your stance–then your attack comes. Don’t strike when you’re closing. If you use hand techniques to close the gap, you’ll lose when the opponent moves–it’s easy to get hit at that time. It’s best to close first and then to trap the opponent as he tries to attack you. (Master Ho showed how to slip and withdraw and then attack using Wing Chun closing techniques.)
Question: So, you make the opponent react to you?
Master Ho: Yes. Also, in Wing Chun we never duck our head around. When you duck, it’s easy to get hit. It’s best to use structure to dissolve an attack. If an opponent ducks a lot, I can easily get him. I can hit him anytime I please. He can’t defend himself for he is too busy ducking. When he comes back up, that’s when I’ll get him. The key word is to learn to adjust your timing and structure.
Question: Which is better–to close the gap and attack, or to wait until the opponent commits to something and comes into your area?
Master Ho: Closing and setting up the opponent is superior to waiting. If you wait until the opponent is attacking you, he may be applying this theory and therefore you will be in trouble. Also, when closing the gap, if an opponent doesn’t react, if he doesn’t move at all, then you can strike him anytime. Don’t wait for a reaction–just strike.
Question: When an opponent attacks, he will usually attack with three punches or a combination. How would you adjust this concept for this type of opponent?
Master Ho: If you catch the opponent on the first punch, he won’t have a chance to throw a second and a third.
Question: Should we then continue with combinations of our own? For example, should we use just one punch at a time or concentrate on landing combinations?
Master Ho: The principle is like this: If you get in with one punch, that might not be a killing blow. If you have a chance to strike a second time, fine. But if not, don’t do it. Don’t try to hit too much. Try to use the right timing.
Question: Should we then go back out and start again?
Master Ho: That’s not necessary. You just don’t have to hit, continue to chase, control.
Question: So, it’s better to punch one, two, three, watching the opponent than to try to throw three punches at thesame time?
Master Ho: In a real fight, you rarely have a chance to punch the opponent three times quickly like that. When you punch, at that moment, you are stationary–your hands are faster than your stance. But if you advance and land solid blows on the opponent, one by one, this is superior.
Question: For systems that use great power like Choi Lee Fut, do you attempt to get out of the way or what?
Master Ho: Sure. If you understand the distance, it doesn’t matter how strong an opponent’s power is. As long as you’re just one paper distance away, you won’t accept any force. Learn to adjust your distance and move properly. Like a gun which shoots a mile–as long as you’re a mile and an inch away, you’re safe. Also, in Wing Chun, we don’t put our hands above our shoulders. (Master Ho demonstrated a boxing posture.) If you think this will protect your head against a strong punch, you’re wrong. It will blow right through your hands. If your guard is high, you can’t balance your hands and technique. Also, for a roundhouse kick, when the opponent executes this kick, all of his weight is supported over one leg. When you kick like this, you can’t easily change your position. I can move to the other side and in. Don’t use your kicks too much. But if you have the chance, go ahead.
Question: In contrast to hard power like in Choi Li Fut and Hung Gar, what about soft power? Do you use soft against soft or hard against soft like Tai Chi Chuan?
Master Ho: In Tai Chi Chuan the center of gravity changes all the time. When you shift your center like this, it’s not good; you’re in a poor position to launch an attack. This may be good for health but not for fighting. Also, Wu Shu from China; such moves are enjoyable to watch. We can’t do this type of movement. For fighting, the moves we use, they can’t apply this either. So, we can’t copy them and they can’t copy us. (Master Ho performed a Wu Shu pose.) These motions have no meaning, like saluting, there’s no fighting aspect. Also, running around and performing splits have nothing to do with fighting. This may be good for health and movies, it’s wonderful to watch, but that type of martial art is different that what we practice.
Question: Wing Chun employs the Plum Blossom symbol. Could you comment on the significance of the Plum Blossom withinthe Wing Chun system?
Master Ho: The Plum Blossom defines the prime attacking areas for the front body: the center of the chest, face, higher ribs, lower ribs, etc.
Question: Does the Plum Flower relate to footwork also?
Master Ho: Yes.
Question: May I ask about the application for the Wing Chun hook punch?
Master Ho: (Master Ho demonstrated guiding the opponent and then striking.) This punch is best used to the body; there’s more protection in this. But you can use these techniques any way you wish. Like writing, after you learn how to write, you can write anything you like. But you should use some common sense. When practicing, if you just punch any old way, after ten years you won’t improve. But if you pay attention to acquiring the right foundation, correct timing, after ten years you’ll improve greatly.
Question: Can you explain how we can develop our Sticky Hands from the basics so we can improve?
Master Ho: In the basic rolling motion the forearm in Taan Sau should be pointing upward; Bong Sau must be at the correct angle (135 degrees). Your arms touch at one single point; the rest of the arm and shoulder is relaxed. You should control your own motion. The power should equalize. If one is not balanced, then you’ll be hit by your partner. Also, rolling too fast is not good for there’s no inner control. If there’s no control, there’s no power–just the motion. Do not waste your time practicing like this. When practicing, you roll “one by one.” If your partner presses in too hard, that’s when you attack–go in, use your feeling. Also, if your partner withdraws his power, attack right away. In a passive position (Taan/Fok Sau), dissolve the attack by using Bong Sau. Deflect the punch first before you attack. The main thing in Sticky Hands is to learn how to control your motion. Learn to feel the equalization point–equalize with both hands. When you feel something uneven, that’s when you know to attack.
Question: Is it a good idea to practice the basic positions Taan/Bong and Double Fok in the beginning before combining the other two positions Taan/Fok, Bong/Fok, etc.?
Master Ho: They’re all important–all four positions. You should practice them all.
Question: Could you please comment on whether the palm in Taan Sau is flat or upward?
Master Ho: It should be flat. Have you ever seen a bridge connecting two land masses that point upward?
Question: I notice when you execute Bong Sau, and too much pressure comes inward, you adjust and guide the force away. Is it a bad habit to perform Lop Sau at this time?
Master Ho: You have to know whether the incoming force is in the center, up, low, or to the side. That’s why you practice for feeling, so you know which way the force is coming. The technique is applied according to the direction of force. From Bong Sau, if the force is coming down, you can use Lop Sau. Now, if the force is coming straight in, pressing your Bong Sau, don’t use Lop Sau. Use your elbow (Gwai Jong). If the power goes to the other side, use Taan Sau. That’s why it’s important to have an instructor to point these things out to you when you practice.
Question: Could you comment on the use of light and heavy power Sticky Hands?
Master Ho: Light Sticky Hands isn’t good; too much force is also not good. If you can apply the correct power and equalize perfectly, this is excellent.
Question: When you apply an elbow strike, does it come down or across?
Master Ho: If executed sideways it’s called Pai Jong. If an elbow is applied downward it’s Gwai Jong. Pai Jong is introduced in Chum Kiu set and Gwai Jong is found in Biu Jee.
Question: Could you demonstrate the correct Lop Sau exercise? Master Ho demonstrated with Sifu Fong and stated, “Don’t emphasize the trapping motion too large; also don’t stick constantly while applying Lop Sau. These are both wrong.”
Question: When you apply Lop Sau and you meet, are you just touching or do you hit hard?
Master Ho: You’re going to hit down, but when you touch, you release the power and relax. (Master Ho demonstrated Lop Sau with power and then added a few techniques.) If you’re good at the basics, you can do whatever you like. If not, forget it.
Question: If I understand correctly, the purpose for Sticky Hands is to develop feeling, what’s the purpose of Lop Sau?
Master Ho: Also to practice your feeling.
Question: Will you comment on the development of internal energy within the Wing Chun system?
Master Ho: If you practice correctly and with a good foundation, clear your mind, emptiness, natural breathing, automatically the Ch’i will run down to your Tan Tien. That’s the foundation of Chi Kung.
Question: Do you have any views about the future of Wing Chun Kung Fu and of the many branches which are spreading?
Master Ho: It doesn’t matter when speaking about the branches of Wing Chun, as long as you carry on the correct principles–that’s all that counts. The future of Wing Chun is based upon you.
Question: I’ve heard that in Chinese astrology there’s something significant about the number nine, which 108 adds up to. For example, all the forms have 108 motions. Could you comment on this?
Master Ho: Before, in the history, it’s said there were 108 fighters who ascended the mountain to train their students to rebel against the Ch’ing government. However, the real principle is lost, no one today knows why the number 108 is so important. Actually, the number is not important.
Question: I have a history question about Leung Lan Kwai. Is he considered part of our genealogy?
Master Ho: The father of Leung Lan Kwai was Leung Lan Chin. Leung Lan Chin learned from Yim Wing Chun’s husband, Leung Bok Chau. Some historians include Leung Lan Kwai in the genealogy while others do not. However, in the Wing Chun clan, Leung Lan Kwai is considered to be above Wong Wah Bo and Leung Yee Tai in the history; Leung Lan Kwai and his father are part of an earlier generation.
Question: Do you know of any other Wing Chun lineages, besides Yip Man, which exist today?
Master Ho: In his generation, including Yip man, there were sixteen students (si-hing dai). However, they’ve all passed away.
Question: Did Leung Bik, Yip Man’s other sifu, teach anyone else?
Master Ho: No.
Question: Who is Fong Wing Chun of the Hung Gar legend and is there a connection between this person and Yim Wing Chun?
Master Ho: Fong Wing Chun is a different person and not considered part of our lineage.
Question: What’s the difference between the Taoist concept of controlling power and the Buddhist, and does this relate to Wing Chun?
Master Ho: Taoist and Buddhist control of energy is based on Ch’i–how to breath in order to generate internal development. Wing Chun control is based on the physical. How to control an opponent, etc. This is a different thing. Taoism and Buddhism are religions. Wing Chun is not a religion.
Question: How much did the Wing Chun art change after Yip Man studied with master Leung Bik. Was there a modification of the style?
Master Ho: There was actually no change. Yip Man learned from Chan Wah Shun before. But master Chan died early. Later, Yip Man was introduced to Leung Bik and discovered he was Leung Jan’s son. So he kept learning Wing Chun. Master Leung Bik is the one who taught Yip Man the details of Wing Chun–more theory, etc.
Question: I’ve heard that Wing Chun was developed from Ng Mui by watching a snake and a crane or a fox and a crane. Do you have any comment about this?
Master Ho: The credit for this system doesn’t go to Ng Mui but to Yim Wing Chun because the art was improved by her. Ng Mui was Yim Wing Chun’s instructor. Ng Mui developed the Wing Chun art but Yim Wing Chun improved it. What we practice today is based on the ideas and improvements of Yim Wing Chun. This is why it’s called Wing Chun.
Question: What about the weapons? Are they important?
Master Ho: Before there were guns, the weapons were important. Now weapons training is not that essential. Today, the hands are more important. But it’s the same concept. Whether it’s the hands or weapons, it’s the same structure and position.
Question: How is it you speak so clearly about Wing Chun?
Master Ho: Well, I’ve studied Wing Chun and its theory for over thirty years. I’ve spent my whole life researching the theory and principles of this system.
Question: Concerning Wing Chun being just a fighting system, how can we call Wing Chun a complete system without the religious elements?
Master Ho: Now, if you’re talking about a spiritual level like in religion, then no. But if you speak of a spiritual part of Wing Chun–then yes. For both the physical and spiritual must improve together. But if you try to place Wing Chun in the category of religion, with that type of development, then no. You shouldn’t think that Wing Chun is religious and spiritual. In another way these two elements are balanced within the art.
Question: Besides natural breathing when you are practicing, do you have different types of breathing exercises for developing your Ch’i?
Master Ho: We don’t use any special forms or techniques of breathing. Everything should be natural to make your Ch’i flow.
Question: Did grandmaster Yip Man teach the students at the beginning of his teaching career differently than near the end?
Master Ho: Of course there’s a difference in the way of his teaching. For example, when you just graduate from college and begin to teach, you have little experience. But from then onward, you learn better. Just like teaching Kung Fu; at the beginning you’re less experienced. Your way of teaching will improve.
Question: Did Yip Man teach anybody else besides you the complete system of Wing Chun?
Master Ho: Everyone learned the whole system, but it depends upon the individual whether he can digest the system or not. That’s a different story. If I give all of you a subject and ask you to write a composition, you’ll write your own way. Some will write differently than others. It’s the same idea. Also, it depends how long you learn the system. If one learns the three forms in two weeks and someone else learns the forms in three years–the difference is already there. In the Wing Chun system, there’s only three forms, one dummy form, Six and a half point Staff, and Bot Jaam Do set. If you want to learn the motions, it’ll take you a half year. But if a good student takes his time and learns the forms correctly, a little is better than one who learns too much.
Question: Master Ho, we appreciate your efforts in speaking to us and setting the record straight. I’d like to thank you on behalf of everyone for answering these questions.
Master Ho: Thank You.