EARLE'S VING CHUN - THE EARLY YEARS
When I flew to Sydney to train with Sifu Greg (Greg Tsoi; Choy Siu Kwong;), I had already been teaching in Invercargill for several years. Teaching what could best be described as a reality based hybrid mixture of western boxing, kungfu and Ving Chun, with practical methods from my decade of experience as a street punk and bouncer thrown in.
I had been boxing up in Porirua under Bob Elley, now down in Invercargill I was boxing out of Bill Enright's gym. I threw myself into my training. A handy amateur at best I was still training hard but my passion for boxing began to wane as my interest in teaching others how to take care of themselves with Wing Chun grew. I was really taken with Wing Chun.
It was the early seventies, and in 1973 the cinematic cult classic "The Five Fingers Of Death" (King Boxer) starring Lieh Lo lit up the big screen (followed by a series of Bruce Lee classics) and suddenly everybody was kungfu fighting. There was an explosion in the numbers wanting to train with me and so we wound up hiring a couple of halls. We trained hard, we trained serious, and we had a lot of fun.
With years of practical experience I could already fight, but I felt that I was missing something, that there was more to this ancient Chinese art than just sparring fighting everyday. I was aware that kung-fu was concerned not just with fighting but with health, and the kungfu concept of "not fighting". I determined that I needed a real Wing Chun coach. One who could point me in the right direction. And so it was I put pen to paper and wrote to "THE REAL KUNG-FU Sydney Wing Chun Master who trained with Bruce Lee!". Master Greg Tsoi (Choy Siu Kwong).
It is said, "When the student is ready the teacher will reveal himself". Sifu Greg was meant to be my teacher. I was ready for Sifu Greg. Greg had accepted me, he was only twelve hundred miles away, and he spoke English. Best of all, he was a genuine Wing Chun Sifu. When I trained with Sifu he had been training for more than twenty years during which time he had been teaching publicly and privately for some twelve years, prior to which he had some experience instructing his juniors - including Bruce Lee - in the classes in Hong Kong. Further, he began his training as a private student of the Great Grandmaster Yip Man. So Sifu was a senior Wing Chun master.
Sifu Greg did invite me to accompany him to Hong Kong, but he also suggested that the training in Australia was equal to any training that I would get in Hong Kong.
Of course I could have made the trek to Hong Kong to seek out training but I'm pleased that I didn't. While I am sure that I would have enjoyed the experience I believe that I would have been lost in Hong Kong. I don't mean lost in the city, I mean lost in Wing Chun itself. Unable to speak the language I could easily have been led astray in the art. And where to train? Following the death of Yip Man Hong Kong Wing Chun was still in the throes of very public cat fights and much internal political upheaval, and In my opinion not much has changed since. Meanwhile Sifu Greg gave me the guidance I sought, and I have never regretted not making it to Hong Kong.
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