Today we meet William Cheung, founder of World Wing Chun Kung Fu Association (www.cheungswingchun.com).
When did you start with Martial Arts?
As long as I could remember, since I was a little child, my brother, Mathew, and I were bullied by our oldest half Brother, George-alias King Kong who was 5 years older then me. I always wanted to learn kung fu in order to defend myself against the big bully like King Kong.
When I was ten years old, I joined the Swimming club and got to be friendly with Wong Man Leung. Man Leung told me that his brother, Wong Shun Leung, was good at boxing and had been winning challenge matches against some well known kung fu masters. One time Man Leung invited me to witness Shun Leung’s challenge match against an old master who practiced a kung fu system developed by a woman. I was very curious to see how Man Leung could defeat this old master and thought he might be able to teach me a few moves.
When we got to “The Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant Union’s” headquarters in Tsim Shar Tsui, we saw a middle aged small-framed man coming toward us to invite us in. Without much ado, Shun Leung let his intention be known and issued a challenge to this small man. Shun Leung was dancing around the man with his fancy footwork. I was dazzled by his agility but all of sudden Shun Leung fell to the ground with the man standing over him. Shun Leung got up straight away and dusted himself off. Shun Leung got back in his dancing steps and jabbed his left fist at the man. Again, all of a sudden, Wong fell to the ground. When this scenario repeated itself for third time, we thought we should get out of there immediately. When we got to the street, we just looked at each other in silence – nobody said one word.
A few months later I asked Man Leung old me what his brother his brother shun Leung was training Wing Chun Kung Fu with this old man who taught the Kung Fu System invented by a woman, so I decided that was the kung fu system I wanted to learn.
With who did you know Wing Chun style?
I became Grandmaster Yip Man’s Student in Late Summer 1951. But in the old days, the senior students taught the new students, at least for the first 5 or 6 months. I started with Tui Shang Tin as my surrogate teacher for my first 6 months. Then Wong Shun Leung was always very helpful. He has given me very valuable tips.
Can we know what are the differences between your Wing Chun and others interpretations (Wing Tsun, Wing Tjun, etc.)?
Wing Chun is a unique Martial Arts system. It was the only Martial Arts system ever developed by a woman- a nun call Ng Mui. However, as it was passed down the generations, a grandmaster was only allowed to select one person and teach one person to carry on the art. However, Leung Jun (Yip Man’s Grand Master) had taught two students, one was Chan Wah Shun and the other one was his son Leung Bik. But Leung Jun only taught Chan Wah Shun Modified Wing Chun which has no footwork and the techniques were also modified to reduce its effectiveness. Yip Man had two sifu’s: the first one was Chan Wah Shun for modified Wing Chun and the other one was Leung Bik for the Traditional Wing Chun. When Yip Man was teaching in Hong Kong, he only taught the Modified Wing Chun to all his students and I was the only one selected by Yip Man to be taught the Traditional Wing Chun.
You founded your own organization. What are your relations with other Wing Chun’s families?
In 1975, I returned to Hong Kong for a two months holiday. I showed all my contemporary Wing Chun brothers there is a real Traditional Wing Chun. I did Chi Sao with them and I did light sparring with them and beat them easily. I told them I was willing to show them and share with them the correct Traditional Wing Chun. But none of them were interested. Please find the attached photos demonstrating that I did Chi Sao and light sparring with Wong Shun Leung. It turned out that they didn’t want to open their eyes. Please also watch the “Yong Chun” with Yeun Bil as Leung Jun and Hung Kam Bo (SUM MO) as Wong Wah Bo. It will give you the idea about the Wing Chun Linage back in 120 years ago.
Can you tell us the story of the relationship between GGM Yip Man and the Dai Duk Lan?
I lived with Yip Man for four years from end of 1954 to the end of 1958. After many months of stringent tests, Yip Man decided to chose me to be the inheritor of the Traditional Wing Chun system. I don’t know who Dai Duk Lan is – maybe there is another spelling for his name.
Of all my contemporary brothers of Wing Chun, I think only Tui Sheun Tin is still alive. He will be near his 80s and I am going to be 70 this year.
Do you think that this relationship increased the capacity of GGM Yip Man with Luk Dim Boon Kwun?
Yip Man was very proficient in the Luk Dim Boon Kwun. In fact I was taught the Kwun in 1957 and practiced it regularly. A few weeks before I left Hong Kong on X’mas eve, Yip man gave me the Kwun The Pole is about 3 meterslong, which was used by his master Chan Wah Shun and himself. Now the Kwun is displayed at my Koon.
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 don’t know who Lun Kai is but I am sure he knows me if he has trained in Wing Chun. He might be right, because Yip Man met Leung Bik in Hong Kong when Yip Man was a student studying in De La Salle English College. May be he learned that from Leung Bik.
Who were your Masters in the past?
I was in Canberra, working with the Australian Federal Custom Department as an Inspector. My brother, King Kong, called me just one day before Yip Man’s funeral and I could not get time off to come. But my brother was there. He told me later that at the Yip Man’s Funeral, all the Yip Man students insisted Leung Ting wear the “arm band” instead of the “waist band” because wearing the waist band only belongs to the Yip Man’s students only. Leung Ting was Zheng Buk’s student which makes Leung Ting two generation from GGM Yip Man.
You have been appointed as Grand Master on October 10, 2009, by “Foshan Sports University”. What is this University? How does someone become a Grand Master?
I was Appointed Guest Professorship for the China Foshan Sports University to use Traditional Wing Chun training method to improve the Olympic candidates’ performance.
How many hours do you train?
I will be reaching seventy years old in October this year. I am still very active. However I only train about one hour in the morning but I still teach some classes in Melbourne and sometimes I conduct seminars around the world.
Is the Iron Palm necessary to practice Wing Chun?
Definitely. However I don’t think any other Wing Chun master knows the exact “Secret Herbal Formula” for the Iron Palm solution. This solution will get rid of bruising within 10 minutes of soaking. On each session of training, the practitioner will bruise his palms from the ten-minute striking on the gravel bag. Therefore, the practitioner must get rid of the bruising before he can get on with his next session. There will be three sessions in one training for 100 days.
Have you ever fight on a sport’s contest? When, where and with which results?
I have fought quite a few challenge matches with other masters in Hong Kong at the same time Wong Shun Leung and Bruce Lee were very active doing challenge matches. After I came to Australia in 1959, I also fought a few challenge matches with champions and masters, but none of the challenge matches were organized by sanction bodies. Back in the early 60s, there was no Karate in Australia. We only had Judo and Jujitsu. They did not accept outside people to compete in their turnaments..
How many hours per week should train a student to grow in a serious way?
The physical training even for professionals should not be more then six hours per day. Part Time students should try to put in about six hours per week.
What are the fighting concepts that are focalized on into your School?
We have amateur students and professional students. Around the world we have quite a few successful professional champion fighters.
For example: Prince Badi Ajamu from Philadelphia who won his WBC Light Heavy Weight in Boxing in 2009 and he still holds the title now. He is famous for his Iron Palm.
Also we have many more champions in China, USA,, New Zealand, Ukraine and Serbia as well as Greece.
The Traditional Wing Chun fighting concept is: “Watch the Elbow, Fight on the Blind Side”.
I teach the fighter to watch only one point, the leading elbow, then control the leadingelbow and fight on the blind side and WIN.
Can you tell us the story about your fight against Emin Boztepe?
It has been more than 24 years ago now. I do not think this incidence has any news value anymore.
I don’t know if you watched the original video clip of the incidence? If you have, you know it was not a fight a all. The real event has been distorted by Leung Ting and his followers. Before Emin turned up on that day with twenty of his people, I had already been warned by the Serbian Wing Chun people. They told me the Leung Ting students was going to set up an ambush when I come to Koln. The only problem I worried about was that I did not have a working VISA in Germany because I was already in Klon. I knew the German Government is very strict on any one works in Germany without a proper working VISA. The usual practice, the Government would just throw them in jail for at least a few months before they bring them to court. With that in mind, I decided to minimize the disturbance, which meant not to seriously hurt any one.
However, before the seminar, one of Leung Ting’s accomplices who impersonated himself as a journalist from a magazine, insisted I change my runners to the cheap Kung Fu slippers for a photo session. When the seminar started, Emin came over to challenge me, I told him I would fight him after the seminar. But I knew he would jump me when I turned to walk away. As I predicted, he threw a right punch from behind when I turned. I picked up my right and used the Bil Sao (Thrusting Arm) blocked his wild punch and put him in a headlock with my right arm. But because he lost his balance and I was supporting his weight with the headlock; my shoes slipped underneath me on the Basket Ball court. We both went down. Because I was holding him in a headlock with my right arm, he landed on top of me. Emin started to swing punches at my face but I blocked all the punches on his elbows because I watched his elbows. He threw at least nine punches but all of them were blocked. He got frustrated and got up and ran away. I got up and decided to continue teaching the four and a hour seminar because I had not a scratch on me. During the seminar, I noticed there were unusual number of photographers taking photos of me especially of my face. They thought Emin had landed some punches on my face. Later on, although the Leung Ting propaganda team did not release a single photo of my face being marked because it wasn’t hit. Also, if I were hurt, how could I have taught four hours of a strenuous Wing Chun seminar.
A very interesting thing happened less then a month from this incidence. I was at the Black Belt magazine office in LA. The publisher of Black Belt, Michael James, invited me to view a video tape sent from Leung Ting’s organization. The accompanied letter stated Emin had defeated the best Wing Chun fighter in the world – William Cheung. We sat in Michael James’ office with all the other journalists and photographers to view this tape. We looked at it for at least six times and also played it in slow motion. Michael James and his staff had decided I did not loose the fight. Because I did not want to hurt Emin particularly and because I had him in the headlock, I could have hurt him badly if I wanted to but I didn’t. Also they could see clearly that my Kung Fu shoes slipped from underneath me. Most of all, none of his punches had landed on my body. Nowadays, with the popularity of grappling, we all know when a fighter mounts on top, he/she does not necessary win the fight.
As a result of thoroughly viewing the footage, the Black Belt staff and Michael James had decided they would never publish any article has anything to do with Leung Ting or his organization. On the other hand , they had put me in the their magazine at least once a year and I had appeared on their cover at least six times after this incidence. The real mistake for Leung Ting was that he sent over the original video clip before it was edited.
One note of warning; Leung Ting is a very devious person. He cheated his seniority and claimed he was GGM Yip Man’s student. The clip of the incidence he used later on was edited to try and make me look bad in that incidence. You look at the Leung Ting system, they can not use their Wing Tsun to fight. They have to rely on Kick Boxing and Grappling to fight. One other thing, when Emin left Leung Ting, Leung Ting sent a couple of students to beat him up badly.
Also Leung was jailed in Hong Kong last year for beating up his pregnant girl friend.
Can you tell us the difference between the two characters 永 and 詠?
永 is from Wong fai Houng’s wife is “Houng Kuen”;
詠 is from Yim Wing Chun the Authentic Wing Chun Grandmaster.
Lately Weng Chun (永) arrived in the West. Some Masters of this style suggest that Weng Chun and Wing Chun had the same origin, others not. What do you think about?
Because Wing Chun is so popular now with Bruce Lee and Yip Man movies, every style is trying to get on the bandwagon especially Houng Kuen in Foshan.
Someone speaks about the relationship between Wing Chun and some Thai style. What do you think about?
Most of the Modified Wing Chun practitioners or fighters can not use their techniques to fight, because their strategy is flawed and they have no mobility as their foot work is too static. That’s why they have mix Thai Boxing or Kick Boxing or Grappling to make up for their shortcomings.
When do you think to come to Italy?
I used to come to the north of Italy quite often and I very much enjoyed your food and your wonderful hospitality. I would very much like to come back. All it requires is for someone to organize a seminar in Italy and I would be honored to teach anyone who is interested in Traditional Wing Chun.