September 22-24, 2000

Ving Tsun Museum Marathon Workshop Review

The following review was written by Andy Kalish, a senior representative of the Ving Tsun Museum Rochester Branch Club, in a student-to-teacher format.


VTM Rochester Club with Sifu Meng
(l/r) Jim Sparber, Jeff Perkins, Sifu Meng, Andy Kalish, Joe Valla, Doug Rivers

The overall objective of the workshop was to strengthen the attendee's foundational knowledge and physical skill in the Yip Man lineage of Ving Tsun kung fu. The specific formal lineage referred to here is that of the Yip Man system of Ving Tsun as taught at the VTM. This objective was then complemented with some introductory concepts and training methodologies from the Hung Fa Yi lineage.

The format of the weekend was true to the name "Marathon Workshop". With roughly 4 to 5 hours of sleep per night, the entire time from late Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon was dedicated to Ving Tsun. This included the formal workshop at the VTM (over 19 hours), informal exchange between the attendees, and "Jau Gong Wuh" (kung fu life) over meals.


The nature for the weekend was a mixture of interactive lectures by Sifu Meng, hands-on demonstrations by Sifu and the VTM Si Hings followed by open practice sessions, skills assessment and feedback for the branch schools. The typical approach taken throughout the weekend was to follow each segment of Sifu's Ving Tsun system lecture with a demonstration and a practice session for the attendees. Afterwards the group would then have the opportunity for questions and discussion.


The workshop had a very large turnout, with attendees from the VTM as well as the Ving Tsun clubs from Saginaw, MI and Rochester, NY.


VTM Michigan Club with Sifu Meng
(l/r) Mary Grant, Zac Remley, Tony, Sifu Meng, Robert Hannon, Matt Remley, Yasaf Smith, Jered

The workshop started with a foundational discussion on martial arts and Ving Tsun to get everyone on the same page in terms of background and learning environment. One of the key elements discussed was the VTM's Ving Tsun teaching/learning formula. This discussion was followed by an overview of the current understanding of Ving Tsun history based on the VTM's research.

The heart of the workshop consisted of covering the Siu Nihm Tauh level form and training methods, including Chi Sau methods, complementary exercises, and Saan Sau drills. Prior to moving on to the Chahm Kiuh level, Sifu talked at length about the stages & ranges of combat. This information was very broad in nature and extended beyond the Yip Man system to focus on Hung Fa Yi strategies. Chahm Kiu level form and training methodologies were discussed next, with an emphasis on Luk Sau due to its importance. The remainder of Chahm Kiuh level information was left to be covered at a later date. Additional topics covered included Hung Fa Yi history, Hung Fa Yi concepts & training exercises, Kahn Nah (Chin Na) theory and techniques, and an academic overview of Biu Ji in relation to the system.


The workshop started on Friday evening with a lengthy session on Kahn Nah principles/concepts with direct comparison to Ving Tsun concepts. Release and control techniques for fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulders were all covered and practiced in a manner consistent with Ving Tsun concepts. This session was performed outdoors on a very nice fall evening and lasted well after dark.

Saturday morning started with a discussion of martial arts and Ving Tsun background. The mechanism or tool that Sifu used for providing a common reference and language was the VTM's School Manual. This was used to support Sifu's entire workshop. The discussion opened with background information on the VTM's roots, philosophy, Mouh Dak, martial art system components, levels of learning, teaching/training/learning formula, and terminology.

As mentioned earlier, a key topic covered was the Ving Tsun teaching/learning formula. This formula is used to view each and every component of the system, and includes

  1. System Examination of Sequence and Methods of Development
  2. Motions/Techniques
  3. Forms and Body Mechanics
  4. Mental and Physical Attributes
  5. Concepts and Tactics
  6. Applications (to combat and to life)

For example, a given training method such as Paak Sau or a given form such as Siu Nihm Tauh is taught and learned by considering each of the above aspects. Each aspect of the workshop's topics were discussed in this format.

Sifu then discussed his current (extensive) understanding of Ving Tsun history based on the VTM's research. He started with a history of the "pre-Red Boat" era, with an emphasis on Chi Sim and Hung Fa Yi systems of Ving Tsun. Following was a comparative discussion of more "modern era" lineages of Ving Tsun such as Yip Man, Pan Nam, Gu Lao and Yuen Kay-San as currently understood by the VTM.

Sifu Meng then presented the VTM's Siu Nihm Tauh Level curriculum for the Yip Man system, including foundational information, Siu Nihm Tauh form, and training methods (Paak Sau, Laahp Sau, Dahn Chi Sau, & Seung Puhn Sau). The discussion on Dahn Chi Sau was very detailed and interesting, presenting beginner and advanced levels as well as a comparison to the analogous Hung FaYi method in terms of energy flow and 3 dimensional time and space considerations. Also covered were Complementary and Saan Sau exercises involving Yaht Jih Chung Cheuih, Taan Sau, Gaan Sau, Biu Sau, Hyun Sau, Kwan Sau, and Gaan Jaam Sau techniques.

After a discussion of Hung Fa Yi history and time/space examples, Sifu Meng then moved on to discuss the Chahm Kiuh Level curriculum. He again provided the necessary foundational information prior to going through the details of the form. After a discussion on footwork, Sifu covered kyuhn faat (fighting methods), including an introduction to the stages and ranges of combat. This is a critical topic since the student must have a clear understanding of the difference between training methodology and fighting application. This is especially true in the Yip Man system of Ving Tsun. The majority of the Chahm Kiuh level discussion centered around Luk Sau, since the structural strength of Siu Nihm Tauh, the body mechanics of Chahm Kiuh, and the identity of Luk Sau are the essence of Ving Tsun in the Moy Yat family. Sifu spent a good deal of time discussing the fine details of this important subject.

The final subject of the day was the Hung Fa Yi Saam Mouh Kiuh (meaning "Three Connecting Bridges") concept. In the Hung Fa Yi system, this represents the three stages of existence in life and martial arts. The first stage, called Fou Kiuh, is the stage of wondering. At this stage, a person has no idea what is going on or why, with no idea of time or space. The second stage, called Saan Kiuh, is the stage of awareness. At this stage, a person is aware of why and how things occur, but one does not possess a clear focus or understanding of the connection between how and why. This person would fight with control of either time or space but not both. The third stage, called Wihng Kiuh, is the stage where a person has an awareness of his or her own identity. In martial arts, this stage represents understanding fighting in terms of the relationships between oneself, the opponent, and the environment. A person knows exactly what to do in terms of his or her structure in conjunction with space and time. At this stage, structure and position are the primary focus with attributes such as speed and power being secondary. This concept was reinforced with some time/space examples before concluding with some Hung Fa Yi punching drills.

Sunday began with a lengthy skill assessment and feedback session for the workshop attendees. This covered the Yip Man system from the beginning of Siu Nihm Tauh through Chahm Kiuh level. Based on this assessment, Sifu Meng continued his discussion of the Luk Sau aspects of Chi Sau training. This really allowed the participants to directly relate (via touching hands) with what Sifu was presenting.

The workshop wrapped up with an academic overview of Biu Ji in relation to the Ving Tsun system and discussions on the VTM education process and the status of the development of the VTM branch school and clubs.


Ving Tsun Marathon workshop group photo

Everyone at the workshop (who voiced an opinion) left with the strong sense that they had been given a thorough foundation in the Yip Man lineage Ving Tsun system, and that it was well complemented by comparisons and contrasts to Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. The workshop will be followed by a 2nd Marathon Workshop at the VTM in December 2000, which will pick up where the first left off. Personally, I am very grateful to Sifu Meng for taking so much time and energy to help us all along the path of Ving Tsun.

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