Sifu John Wong, A Wing Chun Legacy – Interview
We take a personal, inside look at different Wing Chun enthusiasts from all corners of the world. Learn the insights, history, training methods and inspiration from the greatest proponents and supporters of Wing Chun. All lineages, any style… simple and effective.
This month, we profile Sifu John Wong Hong. Sifu Wong began training in Wing Chun at a young age with is father, Wong Shun Leung. He conducts seminars internationally, currently teaches Traditional Wong Shung Leung Ving Tsun at the Ving Tsun Athletic Association in Hong Kong and serves as President for the Wong Shun Leung Students Association. – VIDEO INTERVIEW BELOW
When did you first begin learning Ving Tsun under your father, Wong Shun Leung?
We had three siblings, I’m the oldest and I have a younger brother and sister.
Back in the day when we were studying in school, we were home during the summer breaks. If all three of us were on break, it was the busiest for mom. So she told us, “Hey, why don’t you guys go train with dad?”. Practically speaking it was much easier for her. So when we first started training, it wasn’t long term. It was during the summer break that we three started training, 1984 approximately. Obviously we were too small back then so we didn’t completely understand what we were practicing.
That was how I started. It wasn’t until I was about 13 or 14 years old that I trained regularly.
What was the kwoon (school) environment like back then?
Well back then we had what we call Mo Kwoon (home school). The duration would be rather long. I remember when my dad was teaching, the schedule was like Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. There were 4 days. Within the 4 days, training started at 3:00PM in the afternoon, until about 11:00PM. During training, if you needed to work at night then you would come over in the afternoon. The night class environment was more relaxed, that’s when the majority of people trained. It was like this for many years.
At the kwoon on Saturday and Sunday, class was taught by my Sihings. At that time my father didn’t teach on the weekends, so he gave a time-slot to my Sihings to teach their own class.
What year did the kwoon (school) officially open?
We’re talking about 1969 or 1970. After he started the kwoon, he didn’t beimo (challenge matches) anymore.
Can you share any insight about Wong Shun Leung’s beimo?
We would often go eat a late night snack after training. During dinner my dad would tell stories, such as beimo. When my dad started to learn, about one year into his training, he started to go out to gong sau (test fighting skills) with other people. Therefore he started beimo. When he went to challenge matches he said in Hong Kong there were two places that were especially common for beimo, Ka Tou Lei Shan in Yau Ma Tei up on a mountain, and the other location was rooftops. He tried many locations, for example they would go to a hotel open a room and just beimo in there. There were only a select few people that would come along.
He had to beimo for awhile before people started to know him. My dad had an adventurous personality. He liked to problem solve by questioning what he learned, how he could use his Wing Chun and whether or not it was practical. He had to actually go out and try it in the real-world in order to know. He would often times meet up with people across many disciplines.
In the middle of his beimo period he met Chan Fei, a Hong Kong newspaper reporter. He’s no longer here, he passed a number of years ago. During this time, when my dad went to beimo, Mr. Chan Fei would go along. They would go together and he would describe the challenge match play by play, and then he would publish it in the newspapers. That time was a “Kung Fu Era”, so a lot of people would follow newspaper stories. Because the people often times followed the newspapers, they knew about my dad. It was because of this that people recognized him.
Of course as time went by, within the community, there would be people that would recognize the name Wong Shun Leung.
How do you incorporate Wong Shun Leung’s teachings into your approach to Wing Chun?
Because my dad died early I’m very meticulous about turning his teachings into a “systematic” format… So how did he systemize it? He turned it into a scientific study. He incorporated theory into the forms.
In class, we would get together to discuss a certain topic and break it down. So it becomes very systematic. For example, my dad would say, “You learn a lot of a,b,c,d, but it’s just letters, you don’t know how to use it. I have to teach you how to build words from those letters in order for you to understand what they mean.” And then I realized that there was a process and procedure. In Wing Chun this process and procedure is already integrated. How it is taught, every Sifu has a different method of teaching.
Information and Contact
Want More From Sifu John Wong? For additional info about the Wong Shun Leung Students Association, visit their Facebook page. You can also check out the Ving Tsun Athletic Association’s website for class scheduling, and reach out to Sifu John Wong on the Ving Tsun Sifu John Wong Hong Facebook page as well. Make sure to watch the recently released short video of Sifu John Wong below. Like and subscribe!
INTERVIEW/TRANSLATION: KENNETH HAU
EDITOR/LAYOUT/DESIGN: CRAIG ALLEN
PHOTO: JOHN WONG HONG CHUNG
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