The Sup yee sik (twelve forms), sometimes referred to as the sup yee san sao (twelve separate techniques), descend from the Wing Chun teachings of Cheung Bo and were integrated into the Yuen Kay-San system by Grandmaster Sum Nung.
Dr. Sum Nung was born in South America in 1926 but returned to China with his family as an infant. Settling in Foshan, Sum Nung took a job at Tien Hoi restaurant in order to help support his family during the tough times preceding World War II. Sum Nung had always been interested in the martial arts and in the late 1930s began training in Wing Chun under Cheung Bo.
Cheung Bo was a large and powerful man with a great fighting reputation. His Wing Chun did not make use of any forms, but consisted solely of twelve separate techniques. The exact origin of Cheung Bo’s style remains unknown. Some have speculated that he learned from Nationalist army doctor Wai Yuk-Sang (rumored to have been a student of Fung Siu-Ching’s disciple, Au Si). Others have suggested that, due to their great similarities, the style shares ancestory with the Wing Chun passed down by Leung Jan in Gulao village (sometimes referred to as pien san, or side body Wing Chun) following his retirement.
In terms of structure, Cheung Bo’s size made it difficult for him to keep his elbows closed on the central meridian (a major consideration in Yuen Kay-San and some other Wing Chun branches). Thus, Cheung used wider arms and compensated with quick and powerful side body stance changes. Although the style was simple, it built in Sum Nung a very solid foundation.
Cheung Bo saw great potential in the young boy and so after a couple of years he arranged for Sum Nung to continue his studies under his good friend Yuen Kay-San. Yuen Kay-San was a highly skilled master who had learned Wing Chun first from Foshan Imperial marshal Fok Bo-Chuen (a student of Red Junk Opera performers Wong Wah-Bo and Painted Face Kam) and later under the famed marshal Fung Siu-Ching (a disciple of Painted Face Kam).
In the late 1940s, Sum Nung moved from Foshan to the nearby city of Guangzhou where he practiced medicine and taught Wing Chun Kuen. When teaching in Guangzhou, Dr. Sum Nung used some of the techniques as early training for his students, developing in them a powerful foundation. The remaining forms came later, serving as complementary exercises. Although the methods of Yuen Kay-San refined the sup yee sik to a great extent, a few still retain their characteristic wide detaining arms and defensive shifts, while some seem to possess hybrid qualities of both approaches.
Dr. Sum Nung also integrated some of the movements from the sup yee sik into the beginning sections of the Yuen Kay-San wooden dummy form.
The Twelve Forms
Compact in structure, yet containing many of the elements essential to a good Wing Chun foundation, the sup yee sik are ideal for early training. They can be loosely grouped into three broad categories. The first four focus on building body structure through basic punching, stance and step drills. The next four work fundamental arm cycles, firmly ingraining the cardinal tools for interception. The last four include sensitivity training and combination techniques that help bring the art to life.
Although perhaps not as detailed as the techniques of Yuen Kay-San Wing Chun proper, these same attributes make them quite valuable as a sort of crash-course in Wing Chun self-defense. For those who require simple skill, yet do not have the time or desire to delve more deeply into the art of Wing Chun, the sup yee sik can serve as great starting point.
- Jee ng choi (meridian punch) trains the fundamental yee jee kim yeung ma (trapezoid shaped groin clamping stance) and introduces the primary chung choi (thrusting punch) of the style, which pounds explosively along the central meridian. Its extensions include the concussive lien wan choi (linked chain punches) and the sam sing choi (three star punches).
- Pien choi (side punch), also known as pien san choi (side body punch) adds pien ma (side stance) turning to the thrusting punch, and works on developing the connected power of the body. Its extensions include the kwai dei pien choi (kneeling side punch).
- Duk lung choi (single dragon punch) combines elements of the previous forms, training them in a complementary manner. It alternates a side projecting punch from the front stance and a front projecting punch from the side stance. It also integrates the linked chain punch and introduces the fundamental bong sao (wing arm) movement.
- Jin choi (arrow punch) adds basic linear jin ma (arrow stepping) and side stepping to the striking work begun in the meridian punch and the turning work of the side punch and single dragon punch. This completes the training of the first group of separate techniques.
- Sam pan jeung (triangle palms) drills a simple set of tan sao (dispersing arm), chang jeung (supporting palm), gang sao (crossing arm) movements that cover basic interception inside, outside, and downward. This set is usually matched in application with a partner performing three punches.
- Loi lim yum yeung jeung (inside/outside yin & yang palms), also known as tan fook sao (dispersing & controlling arms), weaves two of the primary Wing Chun intercepting tools into a short but densely packed set.
- Noi dap (inside join) also sometimes referred to as noi lim sao (inside sickle arm), the first of two related sets, cycles a basic interior controlling arm movement with the outside circling arm. Its extensions include the noi lop (inside grasp).
- Ngoi dap (outside join), also sometimes referred to as ngoi lim sao (outside sickle arm), the complement of the inside join, combines a basic exterior controlling arm movement with the inside circling arm. The ngoi lop (outside grasp) is an extension of the outside join.
- Kao dap sao (detaining joining arm) utilizes a Cheung Bo style wide detaining arm along with a vertically dominating kwa choi (hanging punch) and suffocating structure. This form can also be extended into the kao lop sao (detaining & grasping arm)
- Po yik jeung (flapping wing palms) combines turning power with horizontal palm attacks to strike or uproot an opponent. It trained in a variety of manners, both inside and outside, and while stationary or in conjunction with yee ma (moving stance).
- Na dan kiu (sticking single bridge) cycles a chum kiu (sinking bridge) technique with a punch in a set designed to train the dissolving of heavy force. Note: Some include the Seung Huen Sao (Double Circling Arms) in this position instead.
- Bak hok kum wu (white crane seizes the fox) uses chasing steps to maintain control of an opponent and saat kiu (killing bridge) and gok ma (angle stance) like scissors to cut them down.
The twelve forms are drilled in the air or on the muk yan jong (wooden dummy) to refine positioning, alignment, and power. They must also be trained with a partner, while standing, turning, and stepping, in both bridging and sticking to develop their skills. As with all Wing Chun Kuen, the key is to understanding the underlying concepts behind the techniques and how they are combined spontaneously in application.
Over the years, teaching only those he felt were upright and trustworthy, grandmaster Sum Nung went on to train many outstanding students. Due to his tireless efforts, and those of his students and descendants, Yuen Kay-San Wing Chun Kuen has gained a great reputation in China and has spread to Hong Kong, South East Asia, the United States, Canada, South America, Australia, and around the world.
Among those fortunate enough to learn from grandmaster Sum Nung is a man named Ngo Lui-Kay (Ao Leiqi in the Mandarin dialect) who followed him from the mid 1960s until he relocated to Canada in 1982. As the twelve forms were passed from Cheung Bo to Dr. Sum Nung, and from Dr. Sum Nung to Ngo Lui-Kay and his many classmates (with apologies, far to many to list here), so has Ngo Lui-Kay employed them to train his own students. It is hoped that by introducing these techniques in the west, it will help to preserve the rare and unique style of Yuen Kay-San Wing Chun Kuen, and the teachings of grandmaster Sum Nung for future generations.