Interview with Donald Mak

 Today we meet Donald Mak, Grand Master and Founder of International Wing Chun Organization of Hong Kong.
When did you start Martial Arts? And why? 

I started martial arts in 1979 when I was 17. Like most of the teenagers in Hong Kong, we were influenced by the Chinese kung fu movies in the 70’s in which of course including Bruce Lee’s movies. My martial arts background is quite pure. I only practice Wing Chun throughout my kung fu life in the past 32 years. Even though Hong Kong is a mecca of Kung Fu, I have not practiced any other Kung Fu style other than Wing Chun. 
Why I chose Wing Chun, firstly, it is because of Wing Chun’s characteristics of directness, economy of motion, using opponent’s force to against its own force, flexibility, close range of combat … etc which is more suitable to my size. I am only five feet and six inches height. 
Secondly, I have such a good luck that I can study under my sifu Chow Tze Chuen. Chow sifu is such a respected master that I have ever met. 
With whom did you start to study Wing Chun? 
My Wing Chun was learnt from Chow Tze Chuen whom is one of the early students of Yip Man. 
Who were your teachers in the past? 
If you mention “teacher” here means SiFu (literally means Teacher and Father), Chow Tze Chuen is my only SiFu (SiFu is different from Sifu, SiFu means Teacher and Father, Sifu means someone who use certain skills as his/her profession who may not have teacher/student relationship). SiFu in Chinese Kung Fu concept is quite different from teacher in the sense of western concept. However, if your mentioned “teacher” is one who have inspired you, or have taught you certain techniques, then I have several teachers including peers, senior masters of other kung fu style or other Wing Chun lineages. 
Now with who you study Wing Chun?
I am still meeting with my SiFu, Chow Tze Chuen quite often although I have my own school for more than 10 years. My SiFu is already 86 but he still practices Wing Chun every day. We still discuss about kung fu and even practice a little bit when we meet. 
Have you ever joined a match as an amateur or a professional fighter?
No. However, I encourage my students to join competition. 
How many hours do you train a day? Could you describe one of your normal weekly routine of training? 
I have my day time job working as a chief executive in a Multi-national company which requires a lot of my time and effort. I teach Wing Chun after work on a part time basis. Having said that I still spare time to train on my own every day. My weekly routine training is to have all the Wing Chun curriculum practiced at least once. 
What do you think about traditional methods of training (dummy, Weapons, Chi Sau, etc.)? 
My view on the Wing Chun traditional training methods of empty hand forms, Chi Sao and wooden dummy is as follows: Basically, the three empty hand forms are a sort of “Kuen Chung” (Seeds of Fist) which mainly for conceptual training. Applications need to be learned from Chi Sao and wooden dummy form. 
Siu Nim Tau trains a Wing Chun practitioner’s concept of relaxation, Jee Ng Seen, Chung Seen, body-squaring and static elbow. It also introduces the basic Wing Chun stance, Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma and Wing Chun’s basic defending and attacking techniques. Most importantly, it gives the practitioner the concept of Jee Ng Seen. It is mainly on front body and straight line fighting approach. 
Chum Kiu further trains one’s concept of shoulder path, single weighted stance and Yiu Ma Hop Yat (concurrent waist and stance). It introduces 2 more Wing Chun stances, Pien Sun Ma and Ching Sun Ma which are evolved from Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma. Footwork like Biu Bo, Tor Bo, wing chun kicks and body pivoting techniques are introduced in this form. Apart from that side body fighting approach is taught in this form. 
Biu Jee gives you the proactive fighting concept with much more aggressiveness. Thus, more deadly attacking techniques like Kup Jarn/Gwai Jarn, Man Sao, High-low Gaun Sao, Biu Sao and double Lap Sao and Chap Kuen are taught. Long bridge power and the other footwork technique, Huen Bo (Circular step) are trained. It teaches the circular fighting approach on top of the straight line fighting approach learnt in Siu Nim Tau and Chum Kiu. One cannot fight by just learning the 3 forms.
Chi Sao has to get into place to bridge the empty hand forms with real combat situation. The training of Chi Sau is divided into 2 stages, namely Pun Sao (means double hand Chi Sao or rolling hand) and Guo Sao (literal means exchange of techniques, kind of sparring but maintain the hand-to-hand contact). 

During Pun Sao (also termed as Sheung Chi Sao or Luk Sao), emphasis should be directed towards: Developing sensitivity of the hands. Listening to your partner’s energy (Listening in the traditional Wing Chun sense of the word means feeling or sensing your opponent’s force or movements in a certain direction). Proper use of 3 fundamental techniques: Bong Sao, Tan Sao and Fook Sao. Training spiral force, which can be employed to offset your opponent’s equilibrium and allow you to take control of the centerline. The 12 hand to hand situations and follow up (combination) situations. There are 12 basic scenarios that one may come across, these techniques teach you how to react and counter. 

There are no fixed drills, as Wing Chun techniques should ultimately reflect an individual’s personality, although several techniques characteristic to our lineage exist as a reference point. The idea is that you can never know how your opponent is going to react before he actually does, so to commit to a preset configuration would place you at a disadvantage against an experienced fighter. The concept of relaxation, centerline, static elbow (down and in), body squaring, and facing. 
During Guo Sao, focus should be placed on: The practice of simultaneous defense and attack: This is the most efficient way to strike your opponent. The same time you defend an attack you simultaneously deliver a counter strike which will disturb your opponent’s equilibrium and enable you to follow up by exploiting any openings. 
The use of distraction when attacking: By applying this tactic, the opponent will be easier to hit. Stickiness and control: Good stickiness and control can minimize the chance of being counter attacked. 
Practice of Lut Sao Jik Chung: This is an important concept to internalize as it is a practical application. Lut Sao Jik Chung literally means “without contact, thrust out straight”. This is a proactive state through which the intention is there for your hand to strike out at your opponent when you instinctively sense an opening free from obstruction. 
Structure and Footwork: The training and use of correct structure and footwork allow you to maintain good form under stress while remaining in a position to be able neutralize / dissolve your opponents force. The fact that you don’t counter force with direct force is core to Wing Chun theory. 
Chi Kiu Chi Da (sticky strike): This is the concept of first establishing contact and then building up to a strike. It is important to train under someone who can “bring out your hands” in order to correct technique and to align your senses with the Wing Chun system. 
Coming to the wooden dummy training, the overall purpose is to reinforce the concepts and techniques that you have learnt in the 3 empty hand forms. Specifically, it can train one with: 1.better coordination of waist and stance; 2.strengthen the concepts of facing, body square, relaxation… etc; 3.agility of footwork; 4.power development; and 5.proficient application of Wing Chun techniques in different fighting scenarios All in all, I found the design of Wing Chun system is very scientific and logical. 
What do you think of the other SiFu and their teaching methods, other associations and Families of Wing or Weng Chun?  

Different people have different interpretation. It is not a matter of different lineages, Wing Chun or Weng Chun. The differences are bound to happen because of people. It is good because it can have wider variety. The most important is to understand what is the difference and why it is different, what are the pro and cons and how to cover the cons. 

How anyone could be SiFu in your Association? 
One has to complete the whole system, teach for certain years and have contribution to both Wing Chun and our organization. 
What are the fighting concepts that are focalized on into your School? 
Directness and economy of motion. If your opponent is stronger than you , use soft approach. If you are stronger and bigger than your opponent, just go straight and direct. 
Can you tell us anything else on Long Pole form and training and on Baat Cham Dao? 
To me, any old style weaponry in Chinese martial arts like spear, pole, knives, long bench… are no way to compare with today’s fire weapons. The value of weapon training in Wing Chun is more to supplement our empty hand techniques in the way of stance, positioning and power than the original value of weapon fighting. It is not practical to carry the Baat Cham Dao or a 9.5 feet long pole for self defense. Having said that, if apply the long pole techniques with a shorter staff, it works extremely well in self defense. All in all, both the Baat Cham Dao and Long Pole form are excellent forms to supplement our empty hand fighting techniques.