Riccardo Di Vito - Maestro di Wing Chun e Coach

Interview with Leung Ting

By Riccardo Di Vito

I thank the great Paul Corti for allowing me to directly contact my Si Jo!

Today we meet SiJo Leung Ting, founder of IWTA.

Dear SiJo, when did you start with Martial Arts?
In 1960, I started learning Wing Chun when I was at 13 yrs old.
With who did you know Wing Chun style?
When I was very young, I firstly heard of this name from somebody knowing my two marital uncles Cheng Buk and Cheng Fook. They were both very good fighters and head students of Master Leung Sheung. However, it was not until some years later that I learnt Wing Chun with Master Leung Sheung for the first time. Master Leung was the first student of Great Grandmaster Yip Man in Hong Kong.
Can we know what are the differences between your Wing Tsun and others interpretations (Wing Chun, Wing Tjun, etc.)?
In the very beginning, there was no English name in “詠春”. Bruce Lee was the first one to spell it as “Wing Chun” in the late 50s. However, people did not like the spelling as the initials of Wing Chun is “WC”. It means “Water closet” or “toilet” in Europe. (* Normally the American called the toilet as “rest room” or “bath room” instead.)
For this reason, when Great Grandmaster Yip Man and some of his senior students organized the “Ving Tsun Athletic Association” in Hong Kong, they spelt it “Ving Tsun”. In fact, according to typical Chinese phonetics, there is no such a “V” sound in Cantonese! For this reason, at the time I resigned from the position of the Chief Instructor of the Ving Tsun Association, I changed the spelling as “Wing Tsun” for my own association immediately. Later, some of the western people who did not belong to our association tried to create different spellings. That is why up to now there are plenty of different spellings in the west.
You founded your own organization. What are your relations with other Wing Chun‘s families?
In my mind, I have no enemy! As well, I would not care of any body who talked bad behind me due to jealousy of my achievement. Every one has his own idea. Right? On the contrary, I am more than happy to see and to know that Wing Chun, Weng Chun or even people of other martial arts can develop their own martial-arts all over the world. This is the glory of the Chinese. For this reason, I have lots of close friends in the martial art circle;  these include lots of the followers in the Yip Man family as well as people from the other Wing Chun or Weng Chun families.
Can you tell us the story of the relationship between GGM Yip Man and the Dai Duk Lan?
Dai Duk Lan is a poultry distribution market at Yau Ma Tei district (quite close to my school’s location) in Kowloon side of Hong Kong. The late Grandmaster Chu Chung Man of the Weng Chun style was a friend of the late Great Grandmaster Yip Man. Although Chu also claimed that his Weng Chun had something to do with Wing Tsun, Great Grandmaster Yip Man always denied this saying openly. He even specially denied it in front of Mok Pui On, a reporter as well as the former student of Grandmaster Chu, during an interview by the “New Martial-art Hero” magazine in the early 70s. I was also the witness during this interview.
Do you think that this relationship increased the capacity of GGM Yip Man with Luk Dim Boon Kwun?
It is true that the “Luk-Dim-Boon Kwun” or “Six-And-A-Half-Point Long Pole Techniques” were learnt from the Weng Chun style by Leung Yee Tei, the first instructor of Dr. Leung Jan almost two hundreds years ago. The fact is that: when Wong Wah Bo exchanged his Wing Tsun techniques with Leung Yee Tei for his own “Six-And-A-Half-Point Long Pole Techniques”, they had later changed the whole long-pole fighting concepts into the Wing Tsun fist-fighting concept. They created Chi-Kwun (“Clinging-poles”) and applied their fighting techniques in accordance to the motto: “To counter an attack by an attack” (以打為消).
Almost two hundred years later, when Grandmaster Chu Chung Man learnt this long-pole form, nobody can prove if this was the very original long pole form or not! I had seen the Weng Chun long pole form from Master Mok Pui On, the reporter I had mentioned before as well as a favorable student of Grandmaster Chu, I could not see most of the techniques and any sequence quite the same as that of the Wing Tsun long pole form.
Please also understand that I never believe those saying as “Traditional” or “orthodox” in Chinese martial arts. At the time I was working for the “Real Kungfu” Magazine, I’d seen lots of the Grandmasters who performed the same forms twice but both were different in some techniques and in some sequence, although almost all of them claimed to be “authentically passed down by their masters”!
GM Lun Kai told us that GGM Yip Man didn’t teach the Bart Cham Dao in Fatshan. GGM Yip Man studied this form later or knew before, but not taught to their first students?
I had no idea how Lun Kai said like that! The funny thing is: at the first time I paid a visit to Lun Kai and Kwok Fu in Kwok’s house, I’d clearly seen Kwok Fu performing a few movements of the Bart-Chum-Dao form (the first section) in front of me. The only problem is that Kwok Fu’s Bart-Chum-Dao techniques are without footwork! For this we had even argued for a few words as Kwok deeply believed that there should be no footwork in the whole Bart-Chum-Dao form but I totally disagreed with his idea. No one can apply the techniques to fight against his opponent without footwork. Perhaps Kwok Fu had never heard of a saying: “With double knives in the hands, footwork is the most important techniques. With only one broadsword in hand, do notify his hand movement”. Further, I had no idea how many sections had Kwok Fu learnt from his master?
Nevertheless, it is true that the late Great Grandmaster did not teach his Bart-Chum-Dao techniques until it was at the very late period. Further, he actually had only taught the whole set to only four students. This was what he told me.
Who were your Masters in the past?
My first instructor was Leung Sheung as what I had answered in the second question.

You have been appointed as Grand Master. From whom and how do someone become one?
I was not appointed as a Grandmaster. It was because of some messages the late Great Grandmaster Yip Man told Tang Sang to pass it to me. Grandmaster Yip said: “From now on, I’m not going to appoint anyone as my successor. Anyone who can become the most famous Wing Tsun / Wing Chun instructor, who has the highest achievement, who has plenty of students, he would automatically become a ‘Grandmaster of his own students’”! It was right after he’d heard of some of his early students’ criticism behind him about how prejudice he was that he got this idea.
How many hours do you train?
When I was still a learner at my teenage, I used to practice at least 4 hours non-stopped everyday. At that time, my Si-Fu’s school opened six evenings per week. I came every evening. Once when I heard from him speaking that “he like hard working students…”. Then I even came in the day time. I think, that might be the reason he hated me so much, as I was only a kid who paid one portion of school fee but occupied all the teaching time in his school! Ha, ha….
When I later learnt with Great Grandmaster Yip Man, other than practicing everyday myself, I learnt twice per week in the afternoon with him privately. Other than teaching me the most advanced Wooden Dummy Techniques, he also did Chi-Sau and corrected me the other forms. It was until 9 months later, when he taught me the very last section, all of a sudden he twisted his arm, then we stopped the lessons.
It was not until two years later he taught me the complete form of the Wooden Dummy Techniques. However, the most important lessons were not these “hand-to-hand teaching” but the tea-chats later on. We had afternoon tea-chats for years until he was seriously ill. Please don’t forget I was already a Wing Chun instructor with high kungfu achievement before I learnt with him. All I needed was the fighting concepts. I found out, during the afternoon tea-chats, I learnt much more from him than from anybody else. In fact, the most important thing in Wing Tsun is the fight concepts; it does not matter how many movements or how many forms you have learnt! Anyone can create kungfu forms and teach these forms to his students for commercial’s sake.
Have you ever fight on a sport’s contest? When, where and with which results?
No. At that time open kungfu contest was not allowed in Hong Kong. I did fight against some other kungfu fighters in some secret fighting. I’d never lost.
How many hours per week should train a student to grow in a serious way?
If I were to train a student, suppose he knows nothing and is not a born-fighter, I can make him good in fighting within 3 to 6 months. Say, 5 days per week, each day 2 hours.
What are the fighting concepts that are focalized on into your School?
With the whole set of Wing Tsun fighting concept, a person can easily understand what is the difference between a kungfu-movements collector (not kungfu techniques) and a real martial-artist who can apply the best techniques (not the fancy movements for demonstrations only!) in real fighting.
It is like learning in the schools. The first form Siu-Nim-Tau only teaches you to know the most individual basic techniques ─ as the alphabets “A, B, C, D…”. Then the Chum-Kiu form teaches you the steps and turning. It is like learning how to join the alphabets together to make it words: eg. ABLE, AMY, ARMY etc. Chi-Sau teaches you to compose with the words; eg. “I come to the church”, “I know what you do…”. Biu-Tze teaches you the better and shorter techniques to become a winner in fighting. Then Wooden Dummy Techniques teaches you not just the best techniques but to remember the correct positions firmly in mind.
Unfortunately, the most difficult thing is that: without learning up to a certain level, without full explanation from the instructor and the considerate study and deep-going analysis, a Wing Tsun practitioner normally can not really understand the truth behind the techniques.
Can you tell us the difference between the two characters 永 and 詠?
“永” means “Eternal” or “Forever”. Therefore, “Weng Chun” (永春)means “Forever Spring time”. Whereas “詠” means “Singing” or “praising”.
According to the hearsays told by the Weng Chun people, their higher generations practiced kungfu in the “Weng Chun Hall” of Fukien Province. Some others said that because this style of kungfu was developed from the “Weng Chun county” of Fukien, that’s why they called it “Weng Chun Kungfu”; as this means “Kungfu of the Weng Chun Province”.
However, Wing Tsun is the maiden name of a lady called “Yim Wing Tsun”. “Yim” was the family name according to Chinese tradition. It was because of that Yim Wing Tsun, after she was married, she taught her husband this new system of fighting techniques which she learnt from her Si-Fu Nude Ng Mui. As this newly created fighting techniques were not a style but a system for fighting, Ng Mui didn’t want to develop it openly but wished her students to keep it secretly so they could apply these new techniques to fight against the rebels of the old Southern Shaolin kungfu people. For this reason, when Yim Wing Tsun’s husband started teaching his nephew, he could only say he was going to teach his student “Wing Tsun’s kungfu”. Generations after generations, people named it as “Wing Tsun kungfu” instead of a style or a school of this new fighting system.
Lately Weng Chun (永) arrived in the West. Some Masters of this style suggest that Weng ChunWing Chun had the same origin, others not. What do you think about? and
Please refer to answers for question 5 and 6. For details please also refer to my book “Roots and Branches of Wing Tsun”.
Someone speaks about the relationship between Wing Chun and some Thai style. What do you think about?
Wing Tsun has nothing to do with typical Thai-boxing. There has only something concerning of the originations between Wing Tsun and a secret fighting style called “Ling-Lam” in Thailand. However, Ling-Lam was not originated in Thailand but in south-west China. I’d had a golden chance in the late 70s when I had a meeting with Master Sunthus Supasturpong in Berlin. It was after he’d watched my kungfu demonstrations in Kiel of Germany then he was full of curiosity to find out the truth between the relationships of his Ling-Lam and my Wing Tsun techniques.
When do you think to come to Italy?
Possibly I’ll be in Italy again in the beginning of next year.

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