2010 INTERVIEWS Part 3
Interview 2010 part 3 - Continuing the Interview with Kevin Earle
Founder and Principal Instructor of Earle's Academy Ving Chun Kuen
Sifu Kevin. You have mentioned Sifu Beau a number of times throughout the interviews. Some of the students have not had the pleasure of meeting Wing Chun Master Beau Bouzaid, while a few fortunate ones have attended his workshops. These questions have been asked - how did you meet Sifu Beau, and what influence, if any, has he had on your own training?
Beau has been the greatest influence on me personally. As a friend, a student, a teacher, a family man, Beau is a fine man, an inspiration to all. Now if I remember correctly - and Beau might remember better than I can - Beau and I had met on a few occassions through mutual friends. At the time Beau wasn't aware I was teaching Wing Chun. I never really talked about Wing Chun outside the training. Anyway I believe it was about the time that I had begun teaching publicly. Beau responded to an add about Wing Chun being taught and it was a surprise for both of us when he showed up wanting to learn and found out it was me teaching. That was about 1973. I can't recall exactly when.
What were those early training years like, training with Beau and the other guys?
Hmm. Well, like I think I've already said, it was really a lot of fun. Just a bunch of younger guys - and some girls I might add - having a ball. I mentioned the girls because Beau met his wife Pam through the Wing Chun. It was her brother Colin who was responsible for organizing our classes in Gore, and Pam and the rest of their brothers and sisters came on the first nights training. Beau was a real inspiration to be around. He had prior experience in boxing and wrestling so he was very practical in outlook and application. There was no bullshit with Beau. Something either worked or it didn't.
You mentioned boxing and wrestling. What can you share with us about Sifu Beau's previous training?
I believe he had boxed for two or three years. He also wrestled for some seven years, winning New Zealand's South Island Featherweight title. He had also done a bit of door work. I remember Beau telling me that one of his wrestling coaches, Harry Young, had some knowledge of Chinese martial arts. With that background Beau recognised right of that what I was teaching was practical, that Ving Chun really worked. From that moment Beau was hooked.
(NOTE: When this page was first published, Eddie Chin was credited with being Beau's wrestling coach, a mistake which Sifu Beau asked us to correct. It was in fact Harry Young, and we apologize for that error. Sifu Beau 's interesting contribution to that correction follows:- "As I read your site may I correct a few things; my wrestling coach was Harry Young, Eddie Chin was the owner of the Hong Kong Restaurant and the Sun Set Strip. Harry was my coach he was also the referee for the professional wrestling bouts and also managed the Sun Set Strip Club in Dunedin for Eddie, the cafe was where I started my doorman work (and may I say some great nights)."). Thank you Sifu Beau.
And I understand that Beau became your right hand man?
That's correct. But more than that . A friend. And a teacher. In the early eighties, when I had stopped teaching publicly, it was Beau who shook me and inspired me to open up my training again to the public. Beau was an excellent instructor. He had moved to Sydney, and in about 1984 he joined Sifu Jimmy Fungs International Wing Chun Academy. He opened a number of branches in New South Wales for Jimmy, later becoming the New South Wales Training Manager for the Academy. Since about 1994 Beau has been running his own Wing Chun School in Sydney. Beau has been a powerful force for the dissemination of Wing Chun both in Australia and New Zealand. And believe me when I say that in my experience there is no one better than Beau at applied Wing Chun.
Please explain what you mean by "applied' Wing Chun?
I mean taking Wing Chun principles and theories and making them really work in realistic situations. For example in Chi Sau training very few can bridge the gap to dynamic realistic application; or use a component of Chi Sau in real time real world application, with the devastating effectiveness of Sifu Beau Bouzaid. And with speed and power, weight to size ratio, he is devastating.
Yes. Those of us who have experienced his touch can attest to that. You taught him well.
Thank you. But in fact all a teacher can do is share and point the way, and like any teacher I shared my understanding of Wing Chun theories and principles with Beau. And in that regard credit also goes to Sifu Jimmy Fung. But Beau's outstanding abilities are purely a result of his own perseverance, his personal application and dedication to Wing Chun, and his tremendous work ethic. Beau truly is the definition of the term 'kung-fu'. In fact when it comes to teaching, in that regard Beau has taught me as much as I have taught him.
That is interesting, for it has been noted that over the years you have altered forms and movements to fall in line more with Sifu Jimmy Fungs teachings. Why did you do that? And was Sifu Beau influential in those changes?
It is true that Beau was influential in making those changes. However the changes you see in the forms are largely superficial in nature. That doesn't mean they are not important, it simply means changes in movements. Theory and principle remain the same. For example Dai Sau was added. Now these changes were made for the benefit of those students who wanted to travel overseas to train with Sifu Beau, Sifu Jim or even to Hong Kong. This would save them any confusion; also so that they could save time and get down to business, as it were.
Sifu Kevin, most Wing Chun teachers appear to have very rigorous criteria for accepting students. Some even require prospective students to undergo police checks. I know that you have often been criticized for your open door policy of accepting anyone of the street as a student. Even known gang members, suspected criminals, persons released from prison. How do you respond to such criticism?
Ha! First of all, I am not a judge. So I do not sit in judgment of others. Yet others dare to judge me. Those who judge me claim to change lives with their training. "Look at us, our training teaches discipline, builds model citizens of good character", & "we only accept responsible students", they advertise. Yet whose lives have they changed? Actually they have done nothing, achieved nothing in a societal sense, since they began with responsible model citizens of good character, and that's what they have-supposedly-finished with. I am a Kung-fu teacher. Kung-fu can be, should be, life changing. So while it is true I have accepted as students some persons that others might deem as undesirable, a number of them credit their training for turning them around, improving their lives for the better, making them productive members of society.
Still, the concern has been expressed that those type of undesirable persons might use Wing Chun to hurt others, or otherwise facilitate their criminal behavior.
Well, some have come wanting to learn Wing Chun just to learn how to beat people up, or take revenge for example. I teach them that kung-fu is not about fighting, that it is about not fighting, and after two or three lessons they begin to understand that learning kung-fu is hard work, that it is so much easier to rip out a fence paling and beat someone with that. So those people don't come back. They are to lazy. They disqualify themselves from learning real kung-fu. But with some the training sows a seed, and their attitude begins to change. Their stature changes. They begin to carry themselves differently. Their manner of speaking with others begins to change, They are more respectful. Their way of dressing often changes. Suddenly they have a job. I have seen these types of changes many times. So people qualify or disqualify themselves from learning real kung-fu.
Also, when someone goes to a gun shop to buy a gun, the store owner does not ask their motive for buying a gun. Do they want it to shoot game, commit armed robbery, shoot their mother-in-law, or shoot at targets? No. They just sell them a gun.
Yes. But they must present a firearms licence approved by the police.
That is true. And people with firearms licences have used guns to rob or intimidate or kill. Does that mean they had police approval to commit those crimes? Also, I believe it is easier for criminals to get guns than it is for them to learn kung-fu. Criminals can steal your guns, but can they steal your skill? And when a criminal steals a gun does it change his life for the better? I know when they learn kung-fu, positive changes in lifestyle are made. They are better for it, and so society is better for it.
I would like to add here, that some kung-fu teachers portray themselves as virtuous, giving themselves a godlike status. And their students perpetuate this myth by bestowing saint-like qualities upon their teacher. Some have even gone so far as to say that there has never been a connection between kung-fu and groups like the triads. Such carry on is nonsensical. Kung-fu teachers are not gods or saints or priests, they are just people. Ordinary everyday people who have spent time and energy developing certain skills. That is all I can say.
But isn't it true that kung-fu masters should uphold law and order? Isn't that what the monks of Shaolin used their kung-fu for?
Actually, I believe that it is a misunderstanding that one should use kung-fu to uphold law and order. Although it is a fact that at times the monks of Shaolin fought for the emperor, it is also a fact that at other times they fought against the emperor. So what is the meaning? To me, that is a better example of how one should live. Not like dogs or slaves, but like free men. I am not advocating that one should break the law. I believe that one should respect and fear the law, but that kung-fu should be used to fight for justice. In my opinion justice and law are quite different, which is why policemen must present their case to a judge. Policemen uphold the law. It is the judge who determines what is just. So I do not believe kung-fu masters are judges or policemen or social engineers, but freedom fighters. This is why I say "respect the law, but fight for justice". However that is just my opinion, others may have a different point of view.
Thank you Sifu Kevin. Now a change of topic. This question has been asked: why did you decide to build your own training hall?
Well, for myself personally, when one hires halls or commercial premises, the training becomes like a job, a business. Often I was out of pocket to pay the landlord. So my own training became a burden. I believe Wing Chun training should not be a job or a burden, but a way of life. And life should be enjoyed. It is more enjoyable to train others in a relaxing atmosphere without the burden of a landlord.
How did your wife feel about having training in your backyard, with a bunch of guys traipsing past her house every night?
Hehe! My wife is very understanding, and very patient. I know sometimes she would like some peace with no one around. But I have been having people around ever since we met, and so she is used to my lifestyle. Kung-fu teaches one to be flexible, so at times I sacrifice training to spend time with family matters, and I have always kept Sundays free for my wife and family.
Sifu Kevin, what is the meaning of the saying "Kung-fu is a way of life"? How can one live this kung-fu way of life in the modern world?
What does it mean? Well, I will begin by stating what I believe it doesn't mean. I don't believe that one must become a Buddhist, or shave ones head, or live in a monastery, or wear yellow robes, or learn the Chinese language, recite mantras, sit facing a wall or that type of thing to live a kung-fu lifestyle. I do believe it means to instill kung-fu principles into ones habits. For example, in training one learns to use good posture. One should carry that posture over into everyday living, not leave it behind in class. One is taught to face the enemy square on, yet learns to be flexible, and that is how one should deal with daily affairs. With Wing Chun one learns to relax - so one should use that skill to let go of the stresses one may be faced with in other areas of day to day living. One learns to treat their training partners with respect, therefore one should equally respect all persons they interact with in their daily life. Such principles are developed through regularity, so one must practise daily to instil good habits. And above all one must have loyalty. Those, for me, are some examples of what it means to live a kung-fu lifestyle.
Thank you for your time Sifu Kevin.
Well, I say thank you to all the members who have submitted their questions. I have found them very stimulating, and I hope the readers have found my answers interesting and informative.
I am sure they have Sifu, and we hope to have some more questions for you soon.
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"Finding Wing Chun" - Sifu Awatea - his beginning in the Art that has taken him into China, Australia, Southeast Asia, and Hong Kong.
"Invincible Ving Chun" - About the art of Invincibility.
"KungFu History" - Dispelling a myth and recounting some real Kungfu facts & history.
"KungFu Lifestyle" - How can one live a Kungfu lifestyle?
"Legend Of Wing Chun" -Ving Chun is simply defined.
"Little Ideas" .. frequently updated; thoughtful and inspirational ideas from members.
"Memories" ... a Wing Chun Sifu shares his impressions of his training days with Sifu Kevin.
"Schoolboy Interview" ... over 25 years ago a schoolboy interviewed Sifu Kevin.
"Sifu Net" ... Sifu Net And The Wing Chun Riddle. A must read.
"Siu Nim Tao" - Sifu Beau gives this followup to his 2011 workshops in NZ.
"Treasure Lost" ... the remarkable life of Huloo Loo-Chi Hu. 2 videos & articles.
"Wing Chun History" ... A legendary history of Wing Chun Kuen.
"Wing Chun History NZ" ... The real history of Wing Chun in New Zealand
"Wing Chun Master" ...only known interview with Wing Chun GrandMaster Choy Siu Kwong
"Women In Wing Chun" ... The 'First Lady' of Wing Chun - Karen Armstrong