Importance of the Stance
When National Kung Fu is mentioned, the emphasis is laid on horse stance. It is said that “Horse Stance go before Kung Fu itself’. So it looks that horse stance is the number one exercise of Kung Fu. What on earth is horse stance? What forms do the horse stance take? As the author understands, there are complete balanced grand horse, central horse, turning horse, twisted horse, kneeling horse and goat restraining horse stance.
Among all the above mentioned horse stance, the complete balanced grand horse is the most difficult and hardest one, next is kneeling horse and central horse. Goat restraining horse stance is the last.
To perform the complete balanced grand horse is a very hard work which makes the exerciser to suffer a lot, but a lot of people consider it the basic and essential practice. Horse stance makes your legs strong. If you perform horse stand very well, your stand just as heavy as a mountain when you fight against others and stay at an advantageous position. Guided by this erroneous concept, people don’t value the Kung Fu without horse stance or without the complete balanced grand horse. They will be considered as unstable stance etc. Any horse stance without lower down the waist is considered with no strength.
This author asked this question for Wing Chun patriarch Yip Man’s opinion. Yip frankly stated his idea. He had been asked to compare the Complete Balanced Grand Horse Stance with the Goat Restraining Horse Stance. The unstated was that the Complete Balanced Grand Horse must be very stable and heavy while the Goat Restraining Horse must be with less strength. Master Yip cared little about that. On the contrary, he had new idea which was very scientific.
Yip did not negate that a horse stance must have strength; however, the strength did not have to come from that Complete Balanced Grand Horse. It could come from other stance. He did not appreciate those low gravity centre stance being used in fighting like the Complete Balanced Grand horse. The reason was simple. He made an analysis of the mechanics of the horse stance. He said that the Complete Balanced Grand Horse was heavy and stable, but the trade-off was you got clumsy and slow in your steps.
In a fighting, the excellence comes from flexibility and fluency of the art and the move of your body and steps. Low gravity centre stance will reduce the flexibility and distract your mind and force. The force of your legs will be against the force of your arms. You would be at a disadvantageous position. The Wing Chun Goat Restraining Horse Stance set higher and your feet are well mastered. You are very flexible in advancing and retreating and will not be easily perceived by the opponent.
Springtime Song and Forever Springtime
Many people think that there is no difference between Wing Chun (Singing Spring in Chinese) and Yong Chun ( Spring Forever in Chinese) and think they both come from the same family. In fact, they are different. In Hong Kong, the patriarch of Wing Chun is Master Yip Man, while that of Yong Chun is Master Songming Zhu. Regarding the forms of them, there are Little Idea form, Searching for the Bridge form, Poking & Thrusting Fingers form, Wood Man form, Six & Half Point Pole form in Wing Chun; while in Yong Chun, there are Wood Man form, One to Eight Fighting form, Chain Punching form and Six & Half Pole form.
The reason why people are confused with these two different schools is that there are similarities in them: Both use edge-in hands, wrist force. So-called edge-in hands is that the hands are used like a sickle cutter cutting in towards the inner side with bottom force and very few moving cycles, very high density is achieved. They loop very fast and no breaks.
The Source of Yip Man’s Wing Chun
Master Yip Man did not avoid talking about the source of Wing Chun. As the sole descendent of Wing Chun in Hong Kong, he told me about his history. He originated in Fuo Shang, was very weak in health. When he was 11 years old, his parents took him to the number one disciple Hua Shun Chen of very famous Master Zan to learn Wing Chun art. Yip enjoyed the memory he had when he talked with this author. I recorded that conversation as the followings:
Me: “Hua Shun Chen had a nickname as Money Seeking Hua, hadn’t he?”
Yip laughed “My coach’s characteristics would not be seen enough by that nickname Money Seeking. Beside that, he had another not so nice nickname - Ox essential. He was the number one disciple of Master Zan.”
Me: “Did that mean that Money Seeking Hua had very bad temper and often fought against others?” I asked again “How many disciples did Money Seeking Hua accepted? And what was your number in that order?”
Yip stoked his chin and thought a while “Since Uncle Hua set up his house, he accepted only 16 disciples including me. When I started to learn from him, I was only 11 years old, the last disciple of his.”
I smiled “The relationship between a master and his disciples is like that between a father and his sons. So you were the youngest son then. Traditionally, Chinese love their youngest son most just as the saying expresses:”The youngest links to the heart.” Did you get most of Uncle Hua!s love?”
Yip was extremely happy when he recalled that “Sure. Uncle Hua was almost seventy years old when I started to learn from him. His health was declining, but he still taught me hand by hand tirelessly. Sometimes, he told other disciples to teach me in detail so that I made great progresses rapidly.”
Another question occurred to me “Master Yip, how come in his whole life Uncle Hua only taught so few disciples? What was the reason?”
Yip immediately answered my question “This is a good question. I am glad to answer it. In the past, masters were very strict in accepting their disciples. They must find out details about their would-be-disciples’ behaviour and conducts. That was called “Only teach the selected.” The next thing was their paying abilities.” He-paused for a while, “Average people really could not afford the payment. For example, when I first visited Hua Shen Chen’s house, just the gift itself cost me 20 ounces of silver. Monthly payment was around 8 ounces silver.”
One hit worth thousand, gift was 20 ounces I asked again “How much would that 20 ounces of silver be worth in today’s Hong Kong dollars?”
After a thought, Master Yip said “At that time, 20 ounces of silver could economically get you a wife. We ounce silver could buy you 50 kg rice. “ Yip Man continued “So the older generations who could learn Kung Fu arts, mostly belonged to wealthy families or who abandoned average lives, but cultured themselves in the temples or mountains. Quite unlike people learn Kung Fu so casually or commonly as in modem day lives.” I asked “After Money Seeking Hua passed away, Master Yip left Fuo Shang and came to Hong Kong to study at St. Stephen. Had you ever continued studying Wing Chun Art?” Yip cheered “Of course, furthermore, I had met super hands in Hong Kong so that I could learn even further in depth in Wing Chun.”
I was excited “Please tell me who that super hands was.”
Master Yip said “That was son Bi Liang of Master Zan. There was quite a story about how I got met with my teacher Bi Liang.”
Yip Man Gets a Lesson
At my persistent request, Yip Man told his story:
Left Fuo Shang, Yip studied in Hong Kong. He was very well at the essential forms of Wing Chun and was outstanding in Kung Fu field. Due to the young age and less mature, he was often involved in contests or battles against other schools on campus.
Came across Bi Liang by chance at Incense Burner Summit
Even Yip Man was a middle height man, a lot of strong and tall students lost their battles with him because he was excellent in his Kung Fu Art. He overwhelmed campus St. Stephen with no matchers.
Yip Man became proud and seeking fights.
Half a year later, a schoolmate of Yip, Mr. Li, whose father was running a silk store on xxx street, told Yip that there was one of his father’s friend at their home, age about 50, was quite good in Kung Fu art. Hopefully they could have a contest. Since Yip was so high in his victories over other Kung Fu masters, he care little of that father generation man, promised right away. Li then passed this message to his father’s friend and made an appointment at noon on Sunday.
Early that Sunday morning, Yip Man visited his schoolmate, after being introduced to that man, Yip judged him. He looked thin and weak not like knowing Kung Fu.
After a brief greeting, Yip straightly requested to have the contest. That middle aged man grinned and told Yip “ Before we really have the try, I can tell you that you don’t need care. You can try your best skills to hit any part of my body, any part. “
These simple words irritated Yip to furiousness. On the surface, he had to control himself, but inside him, he was crunching his teeth. He felt his heart was like burning. So as soon as that man indicated he could attack, he poured out his outrage, attacked him violently. But unexpectedly, the man was very fast and smart. He responded to every move. Yip Man found that his hand bridge had great sensitivity. He himself was not as good. The opponent’s hands ran as live dragons. Only in one moment, Yip had been pushed to dead end, no way out.
He was forced to a corner of the walls; however, the man did not go to the extreme, halted for good.
After one game, Yip found himself inferior, but was not ready to surrender. He comforted himself as occasional loss, and requested more games. In Kung Fu, somebody one level more advanced will have your all hands and legs tied up. Another game just proved that Yip was completely controlled by that man. Not any move Yip could make.
Yip saw the real opponent now. He realized his inferior so left very depressed.
Since then, Yip became humble and quiet, not aggressive again. Another week passed, Li told Yip that his father’s friend wanted to see him again. Yip was afraid and told Li that he was inferior to that man in Kung Fu and felt shameful to go. Li said that his father’s friend had praised Yip’s skill and insisted on seeing him again. Yip then frankly told Li that he was defeated by that man and could not see him again. That moment, Li disclosed the secret of that man: he was no one else but Master Zan’s son Bi Liang. Yip suddenly found his eyes saw bright light, thinking “Who knows that on earth this super hands was my teacher predecessor.” Yip was so fast that he realized immediately that his skills learned from Money Seeking Hua was not good enough. It was just a precious opportunity having come across the directly inherited super hand from Master Zan Sheng outside their home town. He grasped this chance and followed Li to Gong Hang silk store to see Bi Liang, showed everything he had learned to him and expressed his willing to study further from Bi Liang.
Bi Liang found Yip Man was a genies in Kung Fu, and was pleased to teach him. After several years in Hong Kong, Bi Liang was homesick so that went back to Fuo Shang. At that time, Yip Man had reached the top of Kung Fu art.
Yip Man Tests a Prostitute’s Martial Arts Skill
Several years later, Yip Man graduated from St. Stephen. His Wing Chun had been very good. His father passed away because of illness. And World War I broke out. Their business went to an end because of the war. Yip Man went back to Fuo Shang. In Fuo Shang, he learned that Master Hua Chen had been back to his home at Shun De on illness and unfortunately passed away. Of all his Kung Fu mates, some were running business, some became medical doctors, only Zong Su Wu did not teach Kung Fu since he had a wealthy family supporting him. He did not need to work for living. Getting along well with Yip, they met with each other often to study the Kung Fu art. Even though he was senior to Yip, he was aware that Yip had learned from Bi Liang. So they often practiced and studied together.
It was the beginning of Chinese Republic, with the inherited fortune Yip led an pleasant and easy life even though World War I had ended his business in Hong Kong. As a descendent of a rich family, he was accustomed to luxury and enjoying fancy lives. Carrying cages of birds everyday, he went around the famous restaurants, hotels. Hawks Peck Sand, Big Base Tail were all full of women. He made acquaintance with those youngsters, always stayed there and generously spent thousands of dollars.
He was a rich prince, handsome, dressed fancy, so very few knew that he could fight. A number of that sort of events can be told here:
When he was 20 years old, at Triple Saint Palace in Fuo Shang fought with a group of youngsters of machine house. There was a celebration on the anniversary of the Great Temple of Triple Saint Palace. The statue of Great Saint paraded with horses leading, songs were sung in front of the temple. Lions were also attending, very bustle. Yip Man’s aunt lived there, so he, in white summer gown, white socks and white shoes, went to watch the parade and perform with his cousin. A group of the youngsters from the machine house on Shubu Street came too. When they saw Yip with his cousin sister, they thought them could be played with. They harassed Yip’s sister so that Yip could no longer tolerated. He took off the summer gown and argued with them. That ended up to a fighting. There were 7, 8 youngsters, all were beaten by him and rang away learning a lesson from Yip.
There was a prostitute named Pretty Red at FuAn cottage of Hawk Peck Sand, who came from Jiang Xi province. She claimed that with her internal Kung Fu, she bet nobody could beat her with three hits on her belly. Anybody put 10 ounces silver on the table, she would accept 3 hits on her belly. If she lost, she would let that guy sleep for a night, otherwise she won the 10 ounces silver. A number of coaches from Fu Shang went and tried. She really got hits without changing her expression on the face, no pain at all. They all lost silver and unable to even got a taste of her.
One evening, when Yip went to drink with friends on a boat at Hawk Peck Sand. His friends mentioned this Pretty Red. They admired her Kung Fu. Yip did not want to believe and claimed to defeat her. His friends sent a note to Pretty Red right away. After she arrived, they introduced her to Yip Man, saying that that young man liked to try her belly. Pretty Red viewed Yip handsome and noble, did not believe that he knew Kung Fu. So told him to put 10 ounces silver on the table, then exposed her belly and told Yip to hit. Yip had a plan in mind. He slapped his soft palm on her belly. She got her Chi and defended herself so that the hit did not have any effect on her. Yip knew that after the defense, she had to recover her Chi. He left his palm on her belly and waited for her. Just when she was recovering her Chi, Yip added the second hit. At that hit, she immediately became pale. Yip was aware of his victory, but he did not take back the silver. He did not even want her to sleep with but made a prescription and told her to take medicine.
Yip Man’s Strong Stance
That was then I made acquaintance with Yip Man. It was around 1926. The Inspection Office of Nan Hai County was located on Sheng Heng Street of north Fuo Shang. The Chief Inspector was Zaoqing Wang, nicknamed Teeth Loose Bang. There were all inspectors there. There were a couple of Opium beds and a chicken pot set upstairs the Inspection Office. Friends were welcomed to go and entertain. Yip Man, Zhongsu Wu often went there and spent some time. Zhongsu Wu was addicted to opium then. He went there everyday for smoking. Yip Man went to find him for practicing sticky hands. They usually sat at the edge of opium beds, practiced that for as long as one hour.
One day when they were practicing, Teeth Loose Bang suddenly mentioned that he had learned that Yip Man’s single leg standing was very strong. Even four people could not move him when he was in single leg standing. He wanted to see Yip to do a demonstration. Yip could not refuse so asked somebody to bring a sturdy rope. With one end as a ring above his right foot, he raised his left foot like a rooster standing with one leg. Then told four strong inspectors to pull at the other end of the rope. They could not move him even one inch.
Once, in the fall, it was quite bustling in Fu Shang, especially on Sheng Ping Road and Gong Zheng Road, it was very crowded. People walked very close to each other even got touched at their shoulders and feet. Yip came out of KwaiZi Road with some friends onto Sheng Ping Road. Since it was very crowded, when they walked to the intersection of Chang Xing Street, Yip stepped on the foot of a military officer carelessly. YunNan Army was very brutal at that time. That officer pulled out his revolver immediately, pointed it to Yip’s heart and meant to pull the trigger. Of course Yip would not like to be threatened. He grabbed the cylinder of the revolver with his right hand. With his middle finger’s sudden move, he broken the shaft of that cylinder and the cylinder dropped to the ground. That scared the army officer, while Yip Man walked away to Chang Xing Street.
After that incident, Yip’s ability became very well known. A lot of people wanted to learn from him. He knew that many professional Kung Fu masters were teaching: son of Master Hua Chen had a house at Xi Bian Lane, Zhong Shu Wu, Liao Cha Yuan, Suan Deng all were hired by big firms to teach Kupg Fu every evening. He was well off so did not want to compete with them for living. He still li;ed an easy life, dine and wine, spent money like running water.
Yip Man, as a son from a rich family, had always been leading an easy, luxury life since very young until forty’s. However, the Japanese invaded into South China, Fu Shang was occupied by Japanese. Under the rule of enemy, his wealth became exhausted. Life became very hard, but he is a tough man. Even many of those detectives he knew had been bought by Japanese enemy to serve them. He did not want to be persuaded by them to serve the enemy. He could only stay at home and grow grain. He sold some possessions to support his wife and children. He dared not to come out, but hid at home.
Yip Man Teaches Wing Chun
After a while, a businessman, Chingchuan Zhou in FuoShang, the owner of Lian Chang cotton cloth store, asked him to teach Kung Fu at his store. Zhou’s father Yugeng Zhou was a well-off businessman. Under the Japanese occupation, cotton cloth was rationed so whoever was in that business made fortune. Chingchuan loved Kung Fu. He set up fight ground at the rear of his store with sand bags, wood dummies. Yip Man agreed to teach him for living. Only since then, he started to teach people his skills. His disciples were Chingchuan and his sons, Chang Zhou and Rong Zhou.
Many Kung Fu professionals felt surprised at Yep’s teaching Kung Fu. A member of FuoShang Commercial Committee, Xiehu Li, learned Wing Chun from his uncle Houpei Li., knew there was another master Danu Weng of Hong Sheng School, nicknamed Charlie. His father Ganching Weng. was the owner of Yi Xin Pub, lived at Three Saint Palace. Danu and his younger brother Emu had been coached very well in Buddhist Kung Fu from Master Nusheng Chen of Hong Sheng School.
Xiehu Li and injury doctor Guanghai Lee, Traditional Medical doctor Buoshi Zong all loved Kung Fu. As they saw both Yip Man and Danu were famous masters, they would like to see them to compete. They persuaded them to fight and both of them agreed to fight. The battle ground was set up at FuoShang Commercial House. Kung Fu fans were informed to attend. A silver basket was set there for admission donations. That evening, the House was full of spectaculars. Everybody threw 8 - 10 militia notes in that basket. Medical doctor Shangzhi Tan was elected as the referee.
At the fighting, Danu Weng played Big Horse on the Long Bridge to attack Yip Man, while Yep used Wing Chun to defend and counter-attack when chances were coming. Since Danu exerted his force too early, he could not defend himself when Yep counter-attacked him and Danu became retreated and retreated further. Referee Shangzhi Tan found that Danu was in a bad position, shouted ‘Stop!’ immediately. They fought for less than 2 minutes only. Even though Shangzhi Tan claimed that they tied each other.; however, Yep’s Kung Fu was appreciated.
When Japan was defeated, Mr. Zhou was investigated by SPY CLEARING COUNCIL because of his role in cotton trading with the enemy. Both the father and sons left Fuo Shang. Yep therefore no longer coached anybody. He turned down an offer to become a detective and led a free life until Fuo Shang was changed government. Then he fled to Hong Kong.
Yip Man Flees to Hong Kong
The head of the Union of Hong Kong & Kwoolong Restaurant Employees, Er Xu was one of his good friends, knew Yep and his good Kung Fu. When Yep arrived in Hong Kong, Er Xu set up a Kung Fu School at the Restaurant Union and asked Yep to chief the School. Since Yip Man was looking for a base, he agreed right away. He was aware that son Jiasang of Rumian Chen had been to Hong Kong in the beginning of the Victory and taught Wing Chun on the terrace of a union house on GuangDong Road, Kwoolong, but there were very few learners. He escaped back to GuangZhou and restricted in the iron curtain. Therefore when Yep led the Wing Chun school at the restaurant union, he promoted Wing Chun Kung Fu in the name of Wing Chun Yan, following the idea of Bi Liang.
At that time Xiang Liang, Yao Luo, both were members of the Union of Restaurant Employees, learned from him. A lot of people came to learn from Yip Man. The terrace of the restaurant union was too small to accommodate them. Some of them were working in Hong Kong and found inconvenient to travel to Kwoolong to learn Kung Fu. Upon their requests and on courtesy of the owner of a restaurant on Stanley St. He got his terrace as another coaching site. So Yip Man traveled between Hong Kong and Kwoolong every evening teaching at both sites. All members of the restaurant union got opportunity to learn Kung Fu from him.
So he did it for two years. Xiang Liang and Yao Luo became quite good so as to assisted his teaching. By that time, he made up mind to promote Wing Chung School. Coincidentally there was a temple of triple princes on Ru Zou St. at deep water district. The regular attendees there were all Fuo Shangees, all knew Yip Man. Their chief loved Wing Chun too. So they requested Yip Man to go there to teach Wing Chun every evening. Yep appreciated that temple of its wide space, set up another site and taught several tens of people, all were temple attendees, among them Han Lee was the best.
In Hong Kong, since the terrace of Sino-British Hotel was too small, Yip Man consulted with Er Xu and moved his coach to Gong An Union which located on Hollywood Rd. And its setting was better for more people. Every evening, Yep with Yao Luo crossed the strait and taught two hours there. Er Xu made very good progress and became his assistant.
So far, Yep had been hired by private schools, very little chance for external people to learn from him. So he got a floor of a building on Sea Table St. and established “National Wing Chun House” to accept many disciples and license to cure injuries. Buching Yep, Shangtian Xu, Gui Wang ( Zhu Wang?) and Yun Zhao were all became his disciples then. Yun Zhao was a native near Fuo Shang (Fat San) . He had learned Wing Chun in Fuo Shang. Buching Yep had been the secretary of the General Manufacturer’s Union. He had been wanting to learn from Yip Man for long time. Because Yep was hired by the restaurant union inclusively. Buching Yep was not allowed to join. Only after “National Wing Chun House” being established, he could come and became Yip Man’s disciple as he wished. He learned very hard even though he used to play with pens. He went there every evening, regardless of the weather. Yep really liked him. When the secretary of the Union of the Restaurant Employees resigned, Yep introduced him to Er Xu and made him the secretary. Buching Yep could therefore often stay overnight at the school and studied the skill with Xiang Lian and Yao Luo. So He made very rapid progresses.
Wong Shun Leung (Chungliang Huang) Meets Yip Man
One night, when Yip Man was teaching Shangtian Xu at National Kung Fu House, a young man came to pay a visit. During the break, he came towards Yip Man and introduced himself as Chungliang Huang (Wong Shun Leung) . He told Yip Man that he had studied various Kung Fu and was pretty good at them. Being aware of Wing Chun’s practical application, he was interested in learning it; but was not sure about the real turn-out of Wing Chun, he’d like to have a try.
At his words, Yip Man felt a bit odd, but admired his courage at his young age. So told Shangtian Xu (Tsui Shan Ting) to fight with him. Xu had only learned Wing Chun for a few months then, but during the battle, Huang could not touch Xu even with violent moves. On the contrary, he was hit by Shangtian Xu. He was completely overwhelmed, so requested to be Yip Man’s disciple. Yip Man agreed to accept him.
Huang learned under Yip Man for more than a year and did make great progress. Another young man Zhuoqing Zhang, whose father Rongjing Zhang was a detective of Kowlong Police headquarters. After he became one of Yip Man’s disciples, they both were at young ages and got well along with each other. In order to test himself of the Kung Fu skills, he often studied with other schools or made appointments in the New Territory or Isolate Island to fight. In the beginning, he fought against the disciples of other schools, later he challenged the masters. Even though he won or lose half and half, he did not fear so that surprised the Kung Fu societies and he became well known too.
In 1958, Taiwan initialized cross-area competition of Kung Fu between Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Both Chungliang Huang (Wong Shun Leung) and Zhuoqing Zhang (William Cheung) registered; however, after the registration, Zhang went to Thailand for business. Huang had to go to Taiwan by himself and was defeated. He became very depressed after that and never fought again. Ever since then he studied and exercised very hard. By now, he has set up his own house on Natham Ave ( ? ) to teach Kung Fu.
It has been for twenty years since Yip Man started Wing Chun in Hong Kong. His disciples who have started their own coaching are Shang Liang, Yao Luo, Chengliang Huang, Yun Zhao, Bin Luo, Zhu Wong, Han Lee, Sheng Gu. Those of the next generation are Zuo Huang, Rong Lee, Zuoqing Zhang in Thailand, Jingming He in Macau. They all have their own houses to teach Kung Fu.
In 1969, Singapore held a competition of National Kung Fu of South East Asia, Wing Chun sent its team. The head of it was Shang Deng, Vice head is Shang Liang, Coacher Shangtian Xu, team Dr. Shang Gu, members were Zhu Wong (Wang Kiu), Jingfa Peng, Jingtian Cai. The result was not too good. On returning to Hong Kong, Sheng Dung (L:eung Sheung) determined that was caused by pride and negligence. So established an Wing Chun Exercise Association to unite all Wing Chun professionals, practise very hard to face new challenges. Yip Man has been seventy years old, watching the younger generation to merge, saying “It is young people’s stage now.”