Yip Man's Commandments
ALTHOUGH Kung Fu has grown rapidly in Great Britain over the last three years, there are still only a handful of top Oriental instructors teaching the art in the South of England.
Recently a new instructor, 35-year-old Victor Kan moved to London to give instruction in the Wing Chun style, ans his 'kwoon' is now established in China Town in Central London.
Victor - who introduced the late Bruce Lee to Wing Chun - and his close friend Paul Lamb, one of the first Wing Chun instructors to come to Britain, had some interesting views to give to COMBAT reporter Clive Bartholomew.
YIP MAN’S COMMANDMENTS
MUST BE FOLLOWED
VICTOR KAN began studying in Hong Kong under Yip Man in 1954, when he was only 13 years old. Having been taught by the Grand Master for six years, he is now recognised as a foremost authority on Wing Chun by most of the top instructors in Hong Kong.
Victor strongly believes that a student in any kung fu style should try to stay with the same master whilst he is still learning. He explained: "Every instructor, although keeping to basically the same lines, will teach slightly different methods and this could mean some contradictions.
"The student carries on exactly what his master teaches him with any additions he might introduce and therefore it is important that the student knows all his master's methods."
All students are taught to remember the "ten commandments" for Wing Chun set down by Yip Man. Victor keeps a framed copy of the rules on the wall of his kwoon to remind himself and his students of their importantance.
He translated them as follows:
1. Discipline to reach the highest spirit.
2. Politeness and respect at all times.
3. Love your fellow man - all men should be regarded as brothers.
4. Respect and love your family.
5. Control of sex - to keep the necessary energy.
6. Practice at all times.
7. Patience - do not expect immediate results.
9. Help weaker people.
10. Respect all generations - older people are more experienced and therefore you should respect the wisdom of their words.
Although Victor's Kwoon is quite small, he has a comprehensive range of training equipment including the famous wooden man dummy. The dummy, called Mook-Yan-Jong, represents a wooden man. It is approximately four feet high with four protruding arms.
The 'body' is made of extremely hard wood which Victor called "The iron wood of China", and although it is not very large it weighs over 300 pounds. It is padded in vital spots and is suspended on two wooden supports that pass through the back of the 'body'.
Victor said: "The supports have to be equally as strong to take the weight of the wooden man and still be fairly flexible to enable a certain amount of movement when it is struct." He explained that the four protrusions are to represent limbs on a man - the two on top are arms and the one in the middle could represent either a low arm technique or a kick, whilst the one at the bottom is a leg.
Victor's students use the Mook-Yan-Jong to practise the 116 movement set in Wing Chun called Jong-Sau.
There is a full range of punch bags in Victor's kwoon, varying from a large swinging back to bags filled with sand for beginners to practice their punching on and others filled with gravel for open hand strikes.
And for students to toughen their fingers there is a bowl full of ball bearings for them to plunge their hands into.
Kicking pads are fixed to the wall below the punching bags so that students can punch and kick simultaneously.
Victor's 30 students begin their twice weekly class with a warm up session that lasts for 15 to 20 minutes to loosen muscles. Victor told me: "In the winter we loosen up for longer than in the summer because you tend to be more tense in colder weather."
The first set taught to new students of Wing Chun is Sil Lum Tao. Victor said: "It is the basic set for Wing Chun, and to master the art it is necessary to know Sil Lum Tao. However, Sil Lum Tao is the most difficult set to learn and I insist my students practice for 20 minutes to one hour continuously. Sil Lum Tao is typical of all Wing Chun."
There are two other sets in basic Wing Chun - Chan Kue and Bui Gee. New students do not learn any weapons training. Victor explained: "Weapons can be learned by advanced students only and empty hand self-defence should always be mastered first."
Like many other kung fu instructors, Victor firmly believes in Chinese medicines including acupuncture. Victor told me that although acupuncture is no use for curing colds and the like, it can relieve pains and many maladies of the bones and nervous system. He said: "I first saw acupuncture when I visited a Peking doctor in my younger days and I was amazed by the results. When practiced by proper doctors it is not at all dangerous."
Victor's small kwoon accomodates only 15 students but he hopes to expand soon.
He has now been in London five months and has found his students very dedicated. He said: "I like them to train continuously and I think they like it too."
When Victor left Hong Kong at the end of 1961 he went to France to study French. He then moved to Switzerland where he enrolled on a course of hotel management. Not long after finishing the course, Victor returned to Hong Kong and worked there for four months before visiting England.
He then passed through Honolulu and Tokyo on his way to the United States. He stayed in San Francisco
for a month and found a great interest in the martial arts. Victor said: "When I got to America I was amazed at the interest they had in Wing Chun. One man offered me a school with a gurantee of 300 students but I preferred to return to Hong Kong."
It was at this time that the kung fu craze reached its peack and the demand for instructors in Hong Kong was enormous.
Victor greatly admired the way his old friend Bruce Lee spread the martial arts word world wide. He and Lee had been students together years earlier. Victor recalled: "Bruce started training with Yip Man three months after I did, and I actually taught him his first set - Sil Lum Tao. I could see his potential greatness even then. He was so fast thinking and always wanted to learn."
Like Bruce, Victor made some films for the furtherance
of the world's knowledge of kung fu. He left Hong Kong for Canada in 1973 and made a file called 'Man of the Dragon' that showed briefly in America. He also made a number of Chinese films and became technical advisor in some of these.
Victor, who is now the overseas advisor to the Hong Kong Wing Chun Association, believes very much in keeping Wing Chun traditional and feels the idea of using things like satin suits is wrong. He told me "Satin suits are not traditional. We used to train in casual clothes - nothing special."
The dedicated Kan trains for at least one hour each day and spends about 20 minutes plunging his hands into the bowl filled with ball bearings. He keeps his fingers outstretched and continuously pushes his fingertips deep into the bowl to help strengthen his fingers.