NZ WING CHUN OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF

EARLE'S ACADEMY VING CHUN KUEN
THE ART OF INVINCIBILITY

NZ WING CHUn OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF
VING CHUN KUEN - THE ART OF INVINCIBILITY

EARLE'S
  ACADEMY

SIFU NET AND THE WING CHUN RIDDLE

"Kevin, the westerner will never master the real kung-fu". So spoke my kung-fu friend, a master of White Crane Kung-Fu. At the time of our conversation I was a young teacher of the Wing Chun system of kung-fu, of which there was just one book available in English, and to my knowledge at that time there was just one system of Wing Chun. I had only one teacher. I had but one path to follow. How hard could it be?


As I reflect on that damp and misty evening conversation some forty years ago I find my friends comment somehow strangely prophetic. If it was impossible for a westerner to learn real kung-fu fourty years ago then surely it is impossible now, for no longer is the path clear cut. As a raw beginner, at least I had had the opportunity to scratch the surface of kung-fu, while today the surface is littered with trips and snares amidst that thorn bush known as 'The Net'.


The internet is a goldmine of information about various kung-fu systems including Wing Chun kung-Fu, each promoting their own particular theories over the internet and through other media. With so much information now freely available surely, logic would suggest, it should be easier to learn kung-fu; yet even before they begin the kung-fu novice is faced with a confusing dilemma. Which path to follow?


There is in excess of one million addresses to Wing Chun available via the internet, and one could not hope to visit every address in their lifetime, never mind read the tens of millions of pages of information those addresses lead to, or watch the thousands of Wing Chun videos posted online. Even if one could devote their waking hours to such a pursuit, where would it lead? Certainly not to any quality of personal development in the art itself, for one would have no time to practise. And even if they set aside a portion of their time to practise, questions would then arise. Which theories on Wing Chun are the theories to practise? Whose method to follow? Which system of Wing Chun to study? How should one stand? This way or that way?


One of the problems associated with written information on the net is that the subject matter may be presented in such a way as to appear quite logical. But is it really? Often that which is logical in theory is not so in practise. And what may appear to be logical in a particular circumstance may be quite impractical when subtle changes in circumstance occur. So how does one ask the author to qualify or verify their statements? Can one enter into dialogue with the writer, coupled with hands on guidance or demonstration to substantiate their written ideas? 


Still another problem that arises is that often one cannot identify the source; or if the source is identified, the reader may lack the necessary understanding of the underlying principles of the system on which the source is based and may mistakenly attempt to apply those principles into their own system. Further, is the source reputable? Similar problems exist with video - and often a certain practitioner and his methods may appear extraordinary on video, leading the viewer astray or giving them unrealistic expectations, for generally footage shown is a carefully staged demonstration with willing and compliant followers.


As I alluded to, numerous systems of Wing Chun have been 'discovered' in the past fourty years. Some claim lineage from Henan Siu Lam, some from Fujian Siu Lam. Some descend through Yip Man. Some branch of before Yip Man, maybe through the Red Junk, or through Malaysia or Vietnam. Others have sprung from the Yip Man lineage in the period since Yip Man settled in Hong Kong, and have separated laterally through several generations. And despite the claims by some advocates of the different systems that they are 'the same', or that the underlying principles are 'the same', in my opinion they are in fact quite different in principle and substance.


The ease with which information on Wing Chun can be accessed isn't recognised by the student for what it is - an obstacle to their progress. How can they recognise such an obstacle when they don't now any better? But it is also a problem for the teacher, for having instructed a student to stand this way' or perform a movement 'thus', a student, confused by the conflicting information they are exposed to, may silently or openly question their teachers methods, {perhaps even to the point of sowing dissent among other students), as they measure their instruction and progress against that which they are exposed to on the internet.


Does this mean that the teacher should instruct their students to avoid internet Wing Chun? Not at all. There are many entertaining, interesting, even helpful publications available on-line, a number from very reputable sources. So if used wisely the internet can be a valuable resource for student and teacher alike. But if either believe therein lays the path to learning and teaching Wing Chun, or real kung-fu, they will be kidding themselves.


So if one desires to learn 'real' kung-fu how should one proceed? There is a kung-fu saying, that first one must empty ones cup to make room for the new idea, for one cannot possibly begin the new idea while one is full of the old. I would add to that by suggesting that one should not attempt to fill their cup with many flavours, for such a mind will be led about in a constant state of confusion; a gypsy; a follower of fad and fashion; led first this way then that way by contradictions in theory and principle.


So I suggest that the teacher guide his students wisely through the information maze, and that the serious student spends his or her time training kung-fu diligently, as guided by their teacher, treading the kung-fu highway rather than the internet byway.


When you seek it, you cannot find it. - Zen Riddle

Kevin Earle