Interview with Sifu Cheung Yung

Sifu Cheung Yung, how long have you been studying Wing Chun ?

More than 20 years.

Could you tell us a little bit abut the background of the Yuen Kay San Wing Chun Lineage ?

Yuen Kay San Wing Chun was passed down by Fung Siu Ching.  Fung Siu Ching learnt the art from Dai Fa Min Kam (aka Look Kam) from the Red Boats.  The lineage descended further back from Ng Mui Si Tai (the nun).  It has been passed down by Ng Mui Si Tai.

Who was your Sifu ?

Sum Nung.

Can you tell us a little bit about him ?
What kind of person he was, what was he like as a teacher ?

I started learning from Sifu Sum Nung in 1987, and stayed with him till he passed away in 2002.  I studied under him for 15 years.  He taught me not only Kung Fu, he also taught me Chinese medicine.  I am actually a bone doctor, he was too.  We had the same interest, so he taught me Kung Fu and bone setting.  He was a very kind and humble person, and that is why we learnt a lot from him.  Even till now, the way we are is how he taught us to be.  His Kung Fu was very good, especially short-range techniques.  He was known as “Iron arm” and “lighting hands”.  His hands were extremely fast.

What forms are there in the Sum Nung (Yuen Kay San) Wing Chun system ?

Yuen Kay San had two teachers.  The first sifu was Fok Bo Chuen.  After Fok Bo Chuen taught Yuen Kay San all his Wing Chun skills, he introduced Yuen Kay San to Fung Siu Ching.  The three forms, Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu and Biu Tze were most probably formulated and developed by Fung Siu Ching and taught to Yuen Kay San.   Siu Nim Tau trains mainly wrist power.  Chum Kiu trains mainly the bridging of the gap from long distance to short distance.  Biu Tze trains mainly the bridging of the gap from short distance to long distance.  As well, the style has kept intact the old and ancient Sub Yee San Sik (the twelve separate techniques).   One of the first things we also have to learn when starting is Sun Hei Gwai Yuen, a form of chi kung which is for foundation training.  We also must learn Siu Lam-based tit da (bone-setting techniques) i.e. Chinese medical bone-setting skills.  There is also the Sub Yee Fart Moon (twelve methodology) which includes: darb, Tseed, Chum, Biu, Chi, Mor, Tong, dong, Tun, Cheet, Tau, Lap, as well as other key principles and verbal teachings which one has to grasp and understand in the art.

Could you tell us the meaning of Sub Yee San Sik ?

Sub Yee San Sik represents the most basic form of training, and offers a person the quickest way to learn Wing Chun techniques which can be used effectively in combat against other styles of kung fu.  This is mainly Wing Chun skills to be learnt for use in combat against techniques from other kung fu styles.

I heard that the Late GM Ip Man was a friend of the late GM Yuen Kay San, is that true ?

Ip Man and Yuen Kay San were good friends in Fat Shan initially.  Ip Man learnt Siu Lam Weng Chun which was descended from Chau Chin Wah (Chan Wah Shun).  Yuen Kay San learnt Wing Chun which was descended from the nun Ng Mui Si Tai.  Accordingly, the three forms Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu and Biu Tze are from the lineage as passed down from Ng Mui Siu Tai.   Chan Wah Shun’s side learn Southern Shaolin.  They practiced forms such as Sei Moon (four doors) and Fook Fu (subduing the tiger) which had no connection with the three Wing Chun forms.  But because this Ip Man was initially friendly with Yuen Kay San, he regularly and persistently visited Yuen Kay San to ask questions on these three Wing Chun forms !   As a result, Yuen Kay San provided Ip Man with guidance and instructions on these three Wing Chun forms: Siu Nim Tau, Chum Kiu and Biu Tze.  Moreover, it should be noted that even the most fundamental chi-sao postures and methodology (luk sao and seung sao) were all taught to Ip Man by Yuen Kay San.

You researched quite a lot yourself.  Can you elaborate on that?
Can you explain something about your research ?

My opinion is that Sum Nung Wing Chun is more refined, focuses on the release of short-range power and is good with close range combat.  Each and every joint can be well utilized, and with a strong emphasis on stance and waist coordination.  Utilizing the concept of “Yee Siu Sing Dai” i.e. using the small to gain victory over the big.  Hence, a small person can, therefore, win in combat against a much bigger person using this art.  The art is, according, suitable for southern Chinese people, especially those from Fat Shan who are small in stature.  It is also suitable for Chinese people, who are generally smaller in stature when compared with westerners.  Utilizing the concept of “Yi Yau Chai Gong” i.e. using the soft to subdue the hard, and having an advantage in close range combat.  That is why it is different from other styles of kung fu.  It is also extremely fast, relying upon the feelings in the hands, and does not involve thought.  It is a simple, straightforward and realistic form of Kung Fu.

In your opinion how is Ip Man’s Wing Chun created ?

What Ip Man learnt in the early years was Chau Chin Wah’s Weng Chun, which was Southern Shaolin based and passed down from Chi Sim’s lineage.  The techniques are less close and tight, and are more extended and open.  After having obtained the three Wing Chun forms from Yuen Kay San, however Ip Man modified his art, which, thereafter, included both Luk-sau skills and close-range combat techniques, and became much more comprehensive and well rounded. (It is now spread and promoted very effectively)  After that, he most probably obtained both jong (wooden dummy) techniques and gwun (pole) techniques at a place called Dai Duk Lan in Hong Kong.  Dai Duk Lan was the place where Tang Yik’s line of Weng Chun, which is also descended from Nam Siu Lam (Southern Shaolin), was taught and practiced.

 Can you tell me the relationship between Fung Siu Ching and Yuen Kay San ?

Fung Siu Ching learnt Wing Chun from Dai Fa Min Kam.  He also learnt from both Wong Wah Bo and Leung Yi Tai, which is why his kung fu is comprehensive and well-rounded.  He was a famous bodyguard, and only returned to Fat Shan when he was old.  He was in Guangdong when he was young, and Wing Chun was made famous there mainly because of him.  Most Wing Chun branches prevalent today descended from his lineage and acknowledge him as their style’s ancestor and predecessor.  He influenced greatly traditional Wing Chun culture in the Guangdong region.  This person was, indeed, our Great-Grandmaster.

We heard that your Sifu Sum Nung won many bare knuckle fights.  Can you tell us a little bit about that?  Were you witness to some of the fights ?

There were several periods in Fat Shan’s Wing Chun history.  The first was Fung Siu Ching’s period.  The second was Dr. Leung Jan’s period.  The third was Yuen Kay San’s period – he was the best in Wing Chun in Fat Shan back in those days.  And after that, it was Sum Nung, who was ranked first and remained undefeated in Fat Shan back then.  Sum Nung then went to Guangzhou to spread his art.  Hence Guangzhou Wing Chun was developed and made famous by him.

 Are there some fights of Sum Nung you still remember ?

There were many styles of Kung Fu back then, and he had fought with challengers from every one of them.  He had learnt from Yuen Kay San when he was young.  He once went for a haircut at a hair salon.  The boss of the salon, who was known as “Hairdresser Ho”, practiced Tibetan Lama White Crane Kung Fu and was very strong.  He asked Sum Nung when Sum Nung was there for a haircut if the ‘chi chi mor mor” techniques (i.e. “stick stick feel feel” techniques which rely on sticking and feeling) he had learnt from Yuen Kay San were effective or not ?  Sum Nung responded by saying : “well, you can always try it out”.  Hairdressor Ho then said to Sum Nung that if Sum Nung can defend himself successfully against one of this pow chui (an effective uppercut technique), then he will not be charged for the haircut.  At the time, Hairdresser Ho was very famous for his kung fu skills in Fat Shan.  After Sum Nung had finished his haircut, he came downstairs to accept Hairdresser Ho’s challenge.  At which time Hairdresser Ho indicated to Sum Nung that he was just joking.  Sum Nung, however, responded by saying that he was very serious.  Hairdresser Ho then made the first move by advancing his stance forward and, simultaneously, executing his uppercut technique.  Sum Nung responded by executing a short-range kuw sao which immediately immobilized Hairdresser Ho.  Sum Nung naturally won the challenge fight.  When Yuen Kay San heard about the incident, he was very proud and happy, since Sum Nung had only just started learning Wing Chun from him for a short time.  This is just one of the stories.