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A Wing Chun Kung Fu Essay by Sifu Sovannaroth Kruich

Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen at Young Forest Martial Arts

As some of you know, Young Forest Martial Arts owner and head Sifu Jesse Berry has had the good fortune to be accepted into the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen family under Grand Master Garret Gee. Sifu Berry travels regularly to train in weekend long workshops directly under GM Gee and along with many of the Hung Fa Yi family. Recently Berry attended one of these workshops, and HFY disciple Sifu Sovannaroth Kruich wrote an essay which not only covers the curriculum and everything else covered at the three day workshop, but gives great insight to the martial science of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen. If you would like to know more about what we do here at Young Forest Martial Arts of Greenville, Ohio; or if you would like to know more about Wing Chun Kung Fu – particularly the advance combat science of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun – read the following essay on the most recent HFY workshop by GM Garret Gee;

Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen: Connecting the Bridge to Chum Kiu

From the teachings of Grandmaster Garrett Gee
Written by Sovannaroth Kruich
Kung Fu Tong Research Team Member

In October of 2018, Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Grandmaster Garrett Gee delivered a milestone workshop for the public. At the HFY Southwest Regional headquarters in Mesa, Arizona, he invited the public to have a conversation about the role of the Wing Chun Wooden Dummy. What is so unique about it and how does its place in Wing Chun differ between the Opera and Boxer Societies?

Over the course this landmark event, the attendees were taken through a dozen exercises and applications regarding two distinctive bridging methods from Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun. He presented many concepts for all to explore and test; such as concepts of “broken bridges”, to “Chi Kiu”, to the “Four Body Types” and several more which I will describe below. Overall, there was a lot of action over the course of the 8 hour workshop and a great deal of information was provided to digest as well. The following is what I have captured from the event.

*In the Beginning*

When we examine the general organizational structure of Wing Chun that is taught throughout the world, we can see that the most common pattern is to start at the Siu Nim Tao and transition directly into Chum Kiu. Afterwards, there is the Biu Ji stage, the Muk Yan Jong and the final weapons stage. In some Wing Chun branches the beginning stage is either called Siu Lim Tao (小練頭) or Siu Nim Tao (小念頭). The difference between the names is usually just in the name itself because they are phonetically very similar. More often than not, only one of these two names is used in a given lineage or branch.

Both names exist in HFYWCK and are purposeful in its use. Siu Lim Tao, which is sometimes spelled as Siu Lien Tao, refers to a path of training that is focused on drilling applications purely for the expeditious training of fighters. Siu Nim Tao refers to the path of training that is conducive to developing fighters who can effectively reverse engineer their combat knowledge and teach/replicate the combat system holistically; down to the architectural level of the system’s DNA. While the SLT track primarily focuses on “What”, “When”, “Where” and to some degree “How”, the SNT is much more comprehensive and addresses everything including “Why”.

Coincidentally, the phrase ‘Chum Kiu’ can also be defined as two things; depending on which Chinese character is being used to describe it. Both of the Chinese characters sound the same phonetically as “Chum”, where one character 沉 means ‘sink’ and the other 寻 means ‘seek’. So, when ‘Chum’ is paired with ‘Kiu’, it will either be 沉橋 (sinking bridge) or 寻橋 (seeking bridge). It’s important to know the difference because of the nature of the two terms.

*What are the three keys for learning?*

Over the course of Siu Nim Tao training, a practitioner learns a variety of important combat methods like “Ng Ying Sao”, “Ng Taan Sao Bai Jong”, “Sei Muhn Kiu Sao”, “Chi Kiu Faat” and “Saam Gun Jeung Chi Sao” to name a few. Though each method is distinct and purposeful in showing us how to apply ourselves in a variety of ways, and at different ranges of combat, there is a common thread binding them all together. This thread isn’t necessarily of a matter of technique or technical knowledge; rather, it is about the process of self-cultivation in a training environment. All matters of real learning for combat training must follow the “Three Keys of Attainment”:

1. you must feel every experience at the outset of learning things

2. you must be able to read all matters of the combat reality (Time, Space, Energy factors)

3. you must cultivate your kung fu skills to react intelligently and spontaneously under threat of direct challenge

It is this common thread that is needed to lead you away from the shallow rivers of doing reflex-based techniques and towards the deeper waters of living with true functionality in the world of Hung Fa Yi. In order to bridge the unperceived skills gap from Siu Nim Tao to Chum Kiu, the practitioner may have to completely renovate their learning processes with these three keys to experience the true potency of the teachings from the HFYWCK system.

*Finite Spaces vs No Limits*

The architects of Wing Chun understood that stability in combat and the conservation of resources are essential to one’s survival. So, when dealing with the challenges of combat, it was less effective to rely on movements that expend a lot of energy like bobbing and weaving, side stepping, jumping, moving in and out, crouching, spinning and the sort. Trying to overwhelm an opponent by force or by increasing the number of movements is contrary to matters of efficiency.

These kinds of body behaviors and mentalities may be categorized into four body types: the Side-Stepper, the Long-Short fighter, Touch and Go and the Grappler. When faced with any of these categories, they all offer valuable intelligence that can be read via HFY Gate Theories to formulate certain strategies of engagement. Though they can be effective and even successful, they are considered counterproductive to energy conservation, the stability of one’s root and personal gravity. Ultimately, they serve as examples of violations against the concept of “Maximum Efficiency”.

This is a truly significant concept in HFYWCK. This concept is central to all combat operations due to its relationship with Time, Space and Energy. Every system of measurement in this art takes into account how to solve for “Maximum Efficiency”. In fact, in every direction of our personal sphere of influence we see (throughout the system of HFY) there are many units of measure all over; from points of reference, to boundaries, to geometric volumes of space and a variety of ways to measure Space, Time and Energy within! The HFY Wing Chun Formula defines these parameters. So it should be a tremendous statement that there is a heavy value placed on the idea of ‘finite spaces’ and its relationship to “Maximum Efficiency”!

As far as range is concerned, how long should the centerline of combat be? Does it matter if the distance to target is 10 feet or 3 feet? Is that relevant to you? If not, then you cannot precisely determine the range of your operations. How then can you possibly know how effective you are in defeating your opponent? At what range can you effectively compromise and penetrate your opponent’s defenses with your own weaponry? By not limiting yourself to doing combat in finite spaces, you are subject to a potential multitude of the ways things may go against you. To the contrary, you should make every effort to limit the number of possibilities your opponent can respond towards you in order to make things more predictable and thus, reliable when determining more advantageous solutions.

To put it plainly, one must solve what is A + B + C = D in real time. What’s the input of the moment? Whether it’s a punch, grab or a kick, can you gather all the necessary information from the start of the action to the moment of the interception or reception? Is it a half or fully committed attack? Is it happening from no contact, or from the point of contact? What should you do? Where’s the pathway to center? What does your victory look like? These are matters of cause and effect, and many calculations can be made prior to the first action. For the seasoned fighter, however, you must first begin with the correct mental focus. Some answers are only to be found upon contact.

This is where and why understanding “Maximum Efficiency” is so crucial! “Maximum Efficiency” is not a quantitative matter wherein 1 + 1 + 1 = 3. No, it is not a matter of how many or few techniques you do to accomplish victory! It is a procedural function that requires all of the necessary constants and variables of combat to be expeditiously interpreted within a ‘finite space’; a space where things can be reliably measured with precision and stability. It is simply a matter of fact that many combat methods simply do not utilize this concept of ‘finite space’ as a critical ingredient to the essence of their approaches; like living blood is to the human body. Therefore, it is of the utmost concern to determine the best possible (most efficient) solution for shutting down and compromising the opponent’s defenses and ability to counter-fire with full effect. With regards to the phrase “Know Yourself, Know Your Opponent”, the concept of “Maximum Efficiency” is all the more potent.

*What are the three types of Chi Sao?*

“Chi Sao” is a byproduct of two things that come into interaction: Gravity and Reference Points. Without these two ingredients, there is no such standard that can be called ‘Structure’ in HFY. When two persons obey the HFY Wing Chun Formula, and true “Loi Lao Hoi Sung” ensues between them, then the result is called ‘Sticking Energy’. For HFYWCK, this unique quality separates it from other animal style based kung fu and their corresponding bridging methods. The “Chi Sao” technology in this art is quite extensive and can be classified into three primary divisions: “Kiu Sao”, “Chi Kiu” and “Chi Sao”. All three are, by definition, forms of “Chi Sao” that enable you to potentially command and dominate a variety of ranges in combat that remain subject to the “Maximum Efficiency” concept.

Let’s look at this from a training perspective. By and large, “Chi Sao” is trained via single and dual arm bridging exercises. Its purposes are many; from developing flow, speed, tactile sensitivity, hand to hand replacement as well as touch-reflexes for trapping, striking and grappling. In Opera Wing Chun Societies, “Chi Sao” primarily consists of the Taan Sao, Bong Sao and Fuk Sao. These three tools are commonly referred to as the “Three Pillars”. Taan Bong Fuk Chi Sao typically does not deviate beyond the expression of those three hands.

Although “Chi Sao” is commonly defined as the means to continuously ‘stick’ to the opponent through one or more points of contact in order to flow and synchronize with the opponent, its application in combat carries a greater purpose for tactical measures. All forms of “Chi Sao” in HFYWCK are designed to negate the likelihood of strikes, grabs and kicks at all ranges by neutralizing and obstructing an opponent’s attempted attacks. In addition, each form of “Chi Sao” is ultimately designed to infiltrate the center space of the opponent. Each of HFY’s Three Chi Sao platforms stands as individual subsystems of “Chi Sao”, resulting in a unique multi-layered set of ‘defensive weaponry’ for different ranges and conditions. Generally speaking, they can be characterized as:

1. the “Kiu Sao Chi Sao” platform which focuses on the use of forearm-to-forearm bridging

2. the “Chi Kiu Chi Sao” platform which focuses on the use of the hand-to-forearm bridging

3. the “Taan Bong Fuk Chi Sao” platform which focuses on the wrist-to-wrist bridging

If you were to examine each form of Hung Fa Yi Chi Sao more broadly, you should see many instances where these types of bridging methods may seem to overlap in how spaces are used in application. The reason for this is due to the fact that “Kiu Sao”, “Chi Kiu” and “Chi Sao” can be linked and integrated into each other based on changes in range and the application of leverage. By extension, every form in the art of HFY are shaped by this, and should be observable upon demonstration. Can you demonstrate your “Kiu Sao, Chi Kiu, Chi Sao” ability on the Muk Yan Jong? That is indeed, what it is for!

*Through the Gateway of Wood and Flesh*

The lessons trained in the Siu Nim Tao level have a direct relationship to the rest of the HFYWCK system. You must learn what it means to be the fixed point in combat. You must learn how to use one arm against your opponent and why that strategy is important to develop. You must be able to measure range and neutralize attacks within fixed volumes of space. Also, you must train to the point that your arm(s) can do the work of attack, defense and neutralization against strikers, grapplers and kickers so your body does not need to move when it’s not necessary. Above all else, you must be the last one standing firmly on the centerline.

Such are these kinds of lessons (and many more) to be learned at the Siu Nim Tao level. As a person seeks the path forward, they must spend a great deal of time with hands-on work with the Wooden Dummy to develop harmonious arm-body-leg unification, and come to know the value and truth of what is meant by ‘consistency’ in Wing Chun. This must then be offset by being tested by many different partners through the specific combat applications and scenarios articulated by the Wing Chun system. Therefore, training objectively on the Wooden Dummy and sharpening your skills with live partners are equally necessary for improving your craft.

Thus, the sequence begins with HFY Siu Nim Tao and leads to what is called the “Hung Fa Yi Kiu Sao Muk Yan Jong” before proceeding into the Chum Kiu platform. Without this approach, a person’s transition from Siu Nim Tao into Chum Kiu would not be sufficient to properly develop the more advanced applications of HFYWCK technology and body karma. Let’s take a further look at why this is necessary.

*What is the Purpose of the HFY Kiu Sao Wooden Dummy?*

What makes the “Hung Fa Yi Kiu Sao Muk Yan Jong” a key factor and a metaphorical gateway to Chum Kiu skill development is that the skills trained in the Siu Nim Tao must come to full fruition prior to engaging in Chum Kiu level applications. The Kiu Sao Muk Yan Jong is the key to facilitating this part of the process. Should a person make the transition into Chum Kiu without properly training the technological aspects of Kiu Sao and Chi Kiu Chi Sao on the Wooden Dummy, there will be inevitable deficiencies in one’s overall execution of skill in live environments. You may very well end up ill-prepared for what will be required of you at this intermediate level.

In some Opera Society Wing Chun schools, a student may go from Siu Nim Tao into Chum Kiu as a natural progression of training and must wait until after completing Biu Ji to move on to the Wooden Dummy. This may very well be entirely appropriate and sufficient for what is taught in those schools. To contrast, there are many reasons why the SNT graduation in Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun requires further training on the Wooden Dummy (Muk Yan Jong) prior to entering through the gateway to the intermediate stage. One of the most important reasons is that there is a very distinctive difference in quality and caliber between Siu Nim Tao and Chum Kiu level skill. It is more than just a difference in the types or number of techniques one acquires over time! It is about the particular maturation process of how Siu Nim Tao level skill is transformed into Chum Kiu level skill in both mind and body on an operational level!

There are obvious differences to training with a live person versus training on the Wing Chun Wooden Dummy, but are you aware of the more subtle differences? It’s the subtleties that often make the most difference, and that can really change the results within your training. For one, the structure of the Wooden Dummy is a constant (fixed positions), so refining your mechanics and structural angles on it is the best route to improve and develop your energetics and root. Secondly, the energies you exert and experience when training on the apparatus will always give you a consistent output. The Wooden Dummy will not lie or deceive when reacting to your actions. These two factors alone can greatly affirm and improve your overall body unity and use of positional spaces.

In a sense, the Wooden Dummy can be looked at as an iconic instrument of ideal Time, Space and Energy for Wing Chun science. If the practice of your combat applications isn’t regularly checked against the Wooden Dummy for consistency, and most of your practice is instead spent with live partners, then one must ultimately ask whether or not your path ahead is truly defined as an objective or subjective endeavor. The benefits that Wooden Dummy training offers will be very hard to come by when you are tested against live opponents, yet both are required in reality for superior skill development.

*Connecting with the Muk Yan Jong*

There are very unique concepts that the “HFY Kiu Sao Muk Yan Jong” form bring to light, such as “Jung Muhn”, meaning middle gate. The “Jung Muhn” provides the spatial context needed to understand the distinction between “Deui Ying” (match) and “Jeui Ying” (pursue) facing. While other branches of Wing Chun will advocate side-stepping, turning or shifting one’s body away from the line of attack in order to avoid it, such actions are defined as violations of HFY’s Centerline and Facing Operations. In contrast, HFY regulations require you to stay squared to the Kiu Sao Centerline while in the Center Zone. As an offset for this condition, applying HFY Five Line Theory to effectuate a Chi Kiu application enhances one’s ability to remain squared up in a Deui Ying timeframe, and stay firm in the strategy of “one arm against all attacks” for “Deui Ying to Jeui Ying” facing and tracing strategies.

Another distinctive concept in Hung Fa Yi is called the “I-C-I” or “Three Boxes Range”. In many combat arts, there is a very familiar phrase called “closing or bridging the gap”. This phrase reflects the reality of moving from no contact to having contact with an opponent. More often than not, this temporal moment yields the most dangers for injuries. Without a sound method to negate such dangers in combat, the risk for injury is very high. The “I-C-I” concept takes this into account as a natural consideration for the reality of combat. Each “I” in the acronym refers to the domain of the Inbox of two fighters. The Inbox is the closest range of combat which is the space from one’s chest to his/her extended elbows. The “C” refers to the potentially shared space between the two inboxes, called the “Community Box”. Henceforth, HFYWCK was designed to help combatants traverse the depth of field with safety and risk management at the forefront of all considerations. This is the idea that, “in order to cross the river, you must be able to touch the stone.” Only by properly neutralizing a confrontation in the “Community Box” can the path forward be determined for more advantageous or defensive needs.

A third concept for HFY’s combat operations is brought into focus on the HFY Kiu Sao Dummy, and is called “Saam Sing Jong”. This concept is observable throughout the mechanics of the HFY Siu Nim Tao Form as well as here in the Kiu Sao Dummy Form. “Saam Sing Jong” refers to three lateral zones of space: the left outer zone, the center zone and the right outer zone. These important spaces govern how one should face and travel around the Wooden Dummy, and by extension the opponent. This requires identifying the correct methods for usage of the arms, body and legs. One particular regulation of traveling through these spaces requires that the “HFY Two Lines of Offense and Defense” remain wholly intact throughout all three time zones in order to correctly react to things that may happen in one of three ways: when actions occur from center to center, if they occur from the side to center, and lastly if something is traveling from the side to the other side.

To these points, Chum Kiu skill demands seasoned body karma that can only be achieved by drilling the HFY Kiu Sao Dummy form. The sequence and logic flow of this form is intentionally designed to sharpen very specific combat technologies and signatures within one’s body karma for advanced skill within the ranges of Time and Space. Consequently, training the applications against a live partner is not only expedited by the practice of “Saam Gun Jeung”, “Kiu Sao Saam Gwan”, “Chi Kiu San Faat”, “Yi Sao Daai Gerk” and most importantly “Sup Saam Jong Dip Gwat Gung” upon the HFY Kiu Sao Muk Yan Jong, but you will be better prepared for the nature of the applications at the Chum Kiu stage.

*The “Six-Armed” Guardians!*

Every “Chi Sao” bridging platform specializes in making use of two specific combat technologies to control and influence different ranges of battlefield space. As they were mentioned previously, one is called “Saam Gun Jeung” which refers to the usage of three areas of the hand. The first region refers to the “knife-pad” from the base of the pinkie down to the outer corner of the palm. The second region is the entire length of the palm heel. The third is the whole lower section of the thumb down to the wrist. These three areas are called sensors, and are used to help read the factors of “Tien Yan Dei” (Heaven Human Earth) in Time and Space. The “Saam Gun Jeung” method is expressed heavily throughout the “Chi Kiu Chi Sao” platform.

The other technology is called “Kiu Sao Saam Gwan” (or “Saam Gwan Sao” for shorthand) which regulates the usage of the wrist, forearm and elbow as three distinct gateways for defensive and offensive engagements. When these six functions are properly cultivated, it should stand to reason why HFYWCK Chi Sao methodologies are very extensive! The “Kiu Sao Saam Gwan” bridging method is predominately utilized all through the “Kiu Sao Chi Sao” platform.

These fundamental technologies are also fully present in the “Taan Bong Fuk Chi Sao” platform, and is intended to help facilitate your reaction(s) to threats within the vertical dimension of “Tien Yan Dei”, the lateral zones of “Saam Sing Jong”, and the depth of field via “Gung Gok Si Lun” to command and dominate all actions pertaining to the security and longevity of the Hung Fa Yi Centerline. In the broader sense, the primary metrics by which HFY practitioners read the values of “Time, Space and Energy” are the HFY Line Theories, Box Theories and Gate Theories (HFYWCK Saam Taan Dai Gai Faat).

Be it from long range engagements to mid-range or close range combat, the practitioner must master how to use the hands, wrists, forearms and elbows within the framework of the HFYWCK Formula and to the degree that the body need not move unless absolutely warranted under the conditions of Time Space and Energy. To accomplish this instruction, HFYWCK delivers the necessary means to influence and change key ranges of space identified by HFY’s concepts of Time, Space and Energy by ultimately applying all of these components in perfect harmony through the HFY Kiu Sao Wooden Dummy.

*The Bridge forward and the Path ahead!*

At the end of the weekend event, Grandmaster Gee successfully shared so much of his kung fu heritage with us. He has always been very open and down to earth, humble in his great knowledge yet completely resolute in the great teachings of the system. He’s genuine, honest and his integrity shines when he speaks to people or instructs them in his arts.

We got a peek into the past, and learned valuable lessons about the good, bad and ugly in the world of kung fu. We learned that understanding the ways of the old inform us on handling things now and in the future. We were shown another brilliant gem of the Hung Fa Yi treasure, and for many it should have illuminated the correct path of learning and training for this system, as well as the kind of results needed for real progress.

We learned that when you graduate from the realm of HFY Siu Nim Tao and enter into Chum Kiu, a metamorphosis in mind and body must occur because the deeper operations of HFY are more complex and demanding on one’s skills. The Wooden Dummy is vital to that transformative process and reveals the truths about HFYWCK technology. Only through the proper execution and expression of the system will such truths be affirmed.

There is much to work for that is truly greater than the multitude of techniques you can do. If you seek the heart of Wing Chun, then you must accept that Maximum Efficiency is not about techniques, yet solves against them. Truth be told, Wing Chun is a masterpiece of sophistication and has all the answers within. You need not look elsewhere! The Wooden Dummy is an amazing apparatus made for the complexities of the Wing Chun system. It’s also a great fact-checker in discerning what is or isn’t true to Time Space and Energy. In fact, trying to do Chum Kiu without training the Wooden Dummy is like writing a 10-page essay with a pencil and no pencil sharpener.

So let your efforts adhere to the gold standard of the HFYWCK Formula. Continue to renovate yourself daily. Remember a good martial artist strives for functionality over imitation, reaction over reflex, and principle over personality. I am confident the next generation of practitioners shall hold the same regard and reverence for Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun as those who have come before them. In closing, I extend my thanks and gratitude to Grandmaster Garrett Gee and to those who protect the legacy.

This article is published at the World Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kung Fu Association website. You can read this article and many others by follow the link below;


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