Today we meet the Black Flag Wing Chun’s (or ‘hek ki boen eng chun‘) SiFu Lin Xiang Fuk.
Can you tell us anything about your life? When did you start with Martial Arts?
My Journey with HKB Eng Chun started when I was a child. Every time I got into trouble, my dad would punish me by making me perform kungfu exercises, such as Nji Ci Bhok Yang Bhe (HKB’s Chinese Character of “2” clamping Yang Stance), Im Tiong Kun (Yin Punch), Goan Jiu (Circling hand), Cam Jiu (Chopping hand), Yang Cin Po footwork, as well as some movements that I didn’t recognize as Eng Chun movements back then. In the beginning, my parents did not approve of me learning martial arts formally, because they wanted me to focus on my academics. Since my parents had forbid me from going to martial art school, I would save most of the money they gave me to buy food/snacks, and instead purchased martial arts books. After seeing my strong interest and persistence towards martial arts, my parents were eventually convinced to allow me to study kungfu.
In 1985, when I was 10 years old, my dad finally took me to visit a restaurant where he introduced me to my first HKB Eng Chun Suhu (Sifu), Senior GM (Grandmaster) The Kang Hay, who was the restaurant owner. From then on, as soon as I finished school for the day, I went straight to the 2nd floor of his restaurant, which is his bukoan (training place). Later on, I found out that my dad had also learned HKB Eng Chun Kun under senior GM The Kang Hay who is Sutjo King Yang’s grandson. Soon afterward, I found out that all of those exercises and weird movements that my dad had me do as punishment, were the foundation of the HKB system. As the time went by, I was more impressed with this art, not just from the combat perspective, but also how it ended up helping me become the best person I can be.
With who did you know Wing Chun style?
I started HKB Eng Chun(Wing Chun) under Senior GM The Kang Hay in 1985.
Who were your Masters in the past?
I also had the privilege of being introduced to and instructed by other students of Sutjo King Yang. Some of them were my sucek (Senior GM The Kang Hay’s younger kungfu brothers) as well as Supek (Sibak= Senior GM The Kang Hay’s older kungfu brother). Although GM Tio and GM Xing Yen both received instruction from my main Suhu (Sifu), Senior GM The Kang Hay, I never saw them as Suheng (kungfu brother). Instead, GM Tio and GM Xing Yen are both my Suhu(s) as well. In total, I had the opportunity to learn from seven Suhus(Sifus) of HKB, but I received most of my learning from Senior GM The Kang Hay and GM Tio.
I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to train with seven grandmasters of HKB Eng Chun. Fundamentally, they all teach the exact same movements, positions, and reference points because of the HKB formula. However, there are differences in expression. Just like when a master painter teaches their students to paint a landscape, although all the students have the same theory, understanding, and even ‘painting-style’, the outcome of those paintings still differ. This is because it is an art, not a science. This applies to kungfu as well.
Having the opportunity to be study under seven grandmasters of HKB Eng Chun has given me the advantage to be able see what is beyond “personal interpretation” and better understand the essence of HKB. I was also fortunate to learn their individual ‘specialty’ skills that are unique to each Suhu. (Special skills could be either a certain favorite technique/approach/concept or even skill that is outside the syllabus that was developed intentionally or unintentionally as one goes deeper within the system.)
I am also grateful to have been given the opportunity to be introduced and exposed to different lineages and styles of Wing Chun. Though HKB Wing Chun has always been my main identity, the different lineages have allowed me to expand my horizons and appreciate other styles.
Once a Suhu, always a Suhu for life. Although I’ve completed the system, I always regard them as my Suhus.
You are a Sifu/Suhu. Who had proclaimed you Suhu?
After I completed my training, both Senior GM The Kang Hay and GM Tio instructed me to start teaching in 1997. They both also appointed me to be one of their successors, and gave me full responsibility to spread and preserve the system, as well as to nourish the name of Eng Chun and Sutjo King Yang. In 2000, I finally started teaching in my house. Then I moved to the United States in 2005. Senior GM The Kang Hay and GM Tio then instructed me to spread and preserve HKB internationally. I was appointed to be the Suhu(Sifu) in charge of HKB expansion overseas outside Indonesia.
In all of my teaching experience, my students, disciples, their family, as well as the public address me as a Suhu. In traditional Chinese culture, a person who teaches is addressed as Suhu by their students and disciples. Grand students call their instructor’s teacher “Sukong” which is similar to the idea of ‘grandfather-instructor’. When I took my students to Indonesia in March 2010 to visit our HKB Eng Chun Family, they addressed all of my suhus(Sifus) as Sukong. Kungfu culture is based on Chinese family structure relationship. So they’re not just teacher-student relationships. A Suhu is not just developing a student or disciples martial art skill, but a Suhu is like a father figure that is also responsible for their students’ lives, which includes their physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional well being as well as their life success in the future.
How someone can become Suhu in your association?
A person becomes a Suhu once both of these conditions are met:
1. Finish the First Level Instructor Track curriculum of HKB Engchun and become certified by HKB Headquarters. There are five levels of instructors.
2. Start teaching and have a student base.
Can you explain us the origin of your Wing Chun family?
How many hours do you train?
During my childhood, as soon as I finished school and ate my lunch, I brought all of my homework to my Suhu’s bukoan. My Suhu always had me finish all of my homework first before I started training. I trained and participated in classes from afternoon until evening time. On Saturdays, sometimes we didn’t finish until 11pm and, with my parents consent, I often ended up staying over at my Suhu’s place to sleep.
Currently, I do physical HKB practice about 2-3 hours every day. On Sunday, I train for about 5-6 hours with my students as well as personal training.
Mentally, HKB Eng Chun is way of life for me. Kungfu happens in my everyday life. Every moment, every second. It exists in the way I think, the way I speak, and in everything that I do. It is an integral part of my life.
Have you ever fight on a sport’s contest? When, where and with which results?
Growing up as a Chinese born in Indonesia, there was never an open professional kungfu contest. Most Chinese Kungfu was taught traditionally. Usually a student learned at the Suhu’s house. This is due to an Indonesian Anti-Chinese policy that was declared in the 60’s. Anything to do with Chinese culture was banned. This included speaking the language, Chinese writing, kungfu, and many other Chinese cultural practices. Public kungfu competions were a big no no. Back then, only Karate, Tae Kwon Do and Indonesian Silat were the martial arts that had professional schools open to the public. Those arts were not forbidden. When Karate associations held their contests, they did not accept outside people. This also applied with Tae Kwon Do, as well as Indonesian Silat.
There was of course secret underground fighting between styles only among the Chinese martial art community. Sometimes this tradition caused challenges among different Chinese communities. During my youth, when I was still learning under HKB Grandmasters, I had many experiences ‘touching-hands’ with other Chinese martial artists from different styles. I did this in the more respectful way, which is not through an official challenge. It did always end up surprising/impressing many masters and practitioners of other Chinese Martial Arts back then. I never wanted to disrespect other styles; I only wanted to evaluate my skills in HKB against other styles without flipping their bowl of rice. (Meaning not damaging to their school or business)
When I first started teaching, before I got better in handling challenge requests, I received a couple of challenges. I found this very disrespectful, especially if the challengers were not my generation. I did end up accepting some of the challenges and gave them ‘something’ to remember for life. But when looking back, I regret this. Kungfu Suhu(Sifu) should know how to control themselves and not be controlled by others through their emotions. And they should have the ability to control opponents without hurting them. I have learned a lot since those early years of teaching.
How many hours per week should train a student to grow in a serious way?
It really depends on conditions such as age, fitness, and the student’s goals.
As a beginner, I would expect them to train at least half an hour daily outside of class. Once they become a full-time student, they can train 1-2 hours every day.
I personally put the biggest emphasis on consistency rather than how long or how many hours they should train. Even if it’s only half an hour, if you do it every day, it’s worth more than training 4-6 hours for one or two days and then taking a break for a week.
Me personally, I train for 2-3 hours every day and about 5-6 hours every Sunday. I don’t expect this kind of training dedication from all my students, but I expect my disciples and Instructor level students to share the same commitment.
What are your thoughts on other SiFu and their methods of teaching, on others associations and Wing Chun’s families?
Chinese Kungfu is not a science; it is an art Therefore, each Sifu has their own expression and interpretation based on their own experiences. In my opinion, a good Sifu, must know what is best to teach an individual based on that student’s condition, character, mindset, and skill. This is why teaching and learning kungfu requires physical one-on-one interaction and an understanding of the student’s level, strengths, and weaknesses. This is why there is a saying in Chinese about the mouth talking and the body receiving/understanding. I personally do not agree with the idea of mass production martial arts.
As for other associations/Wing Chun families, we are like a big tree. HKB Eng Chun, as well as other lineages, are the branches of the big Wing Chun tree. Although Wing Chun has started to become more popular and well known, there is still a lot of work to do like putting aside politics and power struggles. Wing Chun, as one of the traditional Chinese martial art systems, does not enjoy the same successes (in number of students and popularity) when compared to many Japanese and Korean Martial Arts. It is easily visible that there are many Japanese or Korean schools in most cities around the world. I really hope Wing Chun will continue to grow and change people’s lives and bring more positive benefits. I would like to see Wing Chun schools in as many cities as there are Japanese or Korean schools, to give the public an option to compare what’s best for them.
I feel that it is our collective responsibility to work together to promote, spread, and preserve the system for the next generation without trying to one up each other just to prove which lineage is better, older, more original, etc.
There are many unknown lineages that simply want to introduce their system to the world and promote Chinese martial arts. HKB Eng Chun is one such system. It should be and is the choice of the student to decide which lineage is best for his or her goals in life. I, all my Suhu, and my students have no interest in participating in political feuds among the traditional Chinese martial arts community. We teach, we learn, we promote traditional Chinese martial arts. We are all one big Kungfu family on four seas and six continents.
Can we know what are the differences between your Eng Chun and others interpretations?
There are big differences in the multi-layer approach. We cannot say one is better or more original than the other, etc.
If we speak from the technical and conceptual points of view, there are many differences such as the stance; Nji Ji Bhok Yang Bhe, which translated as Chinese Character Two (Knee is the top, foot is the bottom) Clamping “Yang” (As Im-Yang) Stance rather than clamping a ‘goat’ stance. Footwork, punches and everything else is also different. HKB Focus is about occupying the time and becoming the space as the true expression of Here and Now(Chinese Chan/Dhyana Buddism)..
Aside from the “Technical Shape” and Concept differences, there also many other key factors that are unique to HKB Eng Chun. For Example:
A. Chan Detachment Principles within Sam Chin Sam Tue Principles, that are:
Micro Cosmos (Siauw Im Siauw Yang): freeing oneself from the attachment of oneself by separating the Mind, Body and Qi. To know ourselves.
Macro Cosmos (Thay Kek Im Yang):To Free oneself from illusion of attachment of Changes of Im Yang (Heaven=Time, Earth=Space).
Emptiness (Bu Kek): to free oneself from attachment of any forms/shape/theory.
These principles are the true DNA of Chan Buddhism of “Here” and “Now” where time
and space no longer exist.
B. Formula; acting as the reference point that govern exact position of every part in the body such as elbow, knee, leg, hand, position, etc. The goal of the formula is give the practitioner the ability to occupy the opponent’s time and become the space as a true condition of Here and Now (Detached). Another benefit of the formula is that it help preserve the system when it is being passed down. Regardless who taught whom, the reference point will always be the same. So the system can be passed down based on the formula rather than personal interpretation which could lead to different shape and position of certain movements. Although each Sifu has a different way to express their body, the exact reference points of their hand, elbow, knee, and other parts of the body are always the same. For example, let’s use one technique called “Tan Jiu”. Although each HKB Suhu (Sifu) has a different expression depending on their skill level, the exact height, elbow, wrist, tip of finger, shoulder, length are all exactly the same based on HKB’s formula. This can minimize the changes which could water down the system based on personal interpretation.
C. Power Generation Method; Other lineages may focus on how to generate more, using body weight, structure, position, stepping, etc.
In HKB, we do not focus on Power Generation; instead we focus on using Power Transfer Method. In HKB Eng Chun, Power is a byproduct of the detachment of Microcosm (Body, Mind and Breathing). Instead of linking and using the whole body at once, we separate them as individual units and detach them from relying on each other. The result will be very surprising regardless their size, age, distance/space, position, structure, condition, etc. This also includes the breathing method as well, the breathing must also be separated independently, which is what we call natural breathing that is slow and deep regardless how much power you try to transfer to the tip. Transferring explosive impulse power to the tip of contact point during bridging regardless of the position of the body, with/without structure, any movement, any distance(space), or even the breathing condition (whether is inhaling or exhaling) is something very crucial in HKB. This Impulse power method is called Hoat Keng. HKB’s Hoat Keng (Impulse Power) is very unique and this has attracted much attention and interest from many well known master level instructors from different lineages and styles.
These three points are just the surface-level explanation of some of HKB Uniqueness; of course it will be impossible to explain more in-depth or even other important keys in here, because it requires experiencing it.
What are the fighting concepts that are focalized on into your School?
Wing Chun can be seen as a scientific fighting method in the beginning, but once you become advanced, it is no longer a science. It is an art of expressing yourself in the most efficient way of time, space, and energy.
As an art, Wing Chun should flow and adapt to any situation. It is not fixed, if it is fixed, then it goes against HKB Eng Chun principles of detachment.
The main expression in HKB Eng Chun is based on Maximum Efficiency of Time, Space and Energy. Sometimes you even have to avoid the shortest distance to be more efficient with your time and effort. The shortest distance is assumed to be the most economical; this does not apply if it requires you to take down a wall to get to a different room.
Maximum Efficiency is not a style, but it is an expression based on a certain skill set and mindset. Maximum Efficiency is not a collection of techniques that resemble Wing Chun movements. The expression of Maximum Efficiency applies in kungfu as well as in our daily life. How efficient have we been with our time, space and energy yesterday, today, and even tomorrow?
Have you the ‘Luk Dim Poon Kwan’ form? Can you tell us something about?
We don’t have ‘Luk Dim Poon Kwan’ Form. What we do have is the pole form called Pat Mui Khun Huat (Eight Directional Staff). Our pole length is the height of the practitioner between their eyebrows to 1 fist above their head. We hold the staff almost in the middle with one hand facing down, and the other hand facing up. We use both sides of the pole. One very important point is that the power must be transferred to the tip of the pole. This is why one must be accomplished in their open hand skills first before they start learning weapons. If they cannot transfer power to the tip of their hand when it is empty, there is no way it can be done with the pole.
Have you the ‘Bart Cham Dao’ form? Can you tell us something about?
This form is known as “Sang To” in HKB Eng Chun. That means double butterfly Sword. For mainstream Wing Chun practitioners, they are more familiar with the terminology of “Bat Cham Dao”. The shape of the sword is also different compared to most other Wing Chun lineages. The HKB-Butterfly-Sword-tip is concaved in. “Sang To” is nothing more than an extension tool of the hand and arm. All of the open hand principles apply and remain the same.
Have you ever think to come to Italy?
I have always been curious to try Italian food in its country of origin. I like seeing beautiful places and meeting wonderful people, especially Kungfu enthusiasts. At the moment, I have not really thought about going to Italy. I am still preparing for Amsterdam and Brazil projects to run seminars and workshops. Eventually in the future, I may have the opportunity to come to Italy.
You are welcome. Thank you for the Interview.