The Art of Ving Tsun

The Story of the ancient martial art Ving Tsun

Have you ever watched some new action movie in which the main or only weapon of the actors is martial arts? Were you watching and secretly dreaming of being a hero, defending yourself sharply from the blows the enemy, or making a deadly blow with just a few, at first glance, simple, movements? Well, whether you answered to the above description or you are just curious to learn a bit more about one less familiar eastern martial art, we assure you that the following article will awaken your interest.

Stefan Kunev was born in 1970 in Sofia. During his teenage years he trains water polo but, due to physical trauma, he stops his sporting activity. Immediately afterwards, he discovered the eastern martial arts, thanks to two teachers at his school. This is how his passion for Ving Tsun was born. We would like to offer you the fascinating story of the martial art which Stefan shared with us.

However, Ving Tsun Kung Fu is supposed to have been born in the middle of the 17th century, when the Shaolin Monastery was burned by the Manchurian troops. Only a few Martial arts masters survived, and Ng Mui was one of them. She then traveled to South China, where she planned to settle in one of the Monasteries of the Mount Emei. When she arrived, she met a girl – Yim Wing-chun (the martial art is named after her). She was harassed by a local bandit, and Ng Mui decided to teach Yim Wing-Chun to her martial art to help her. Eventually, a fight took place between the girl and the bandit. The legend tells that Yim Wing-Chun  has won with ease and her troubles with the bully finished

Later on, the girl married and passed her battle skills to her husband, who, in her honor called the martial art Ving Tsun. The knowledged was then passed from generation to generation. This is the mythological part of the story, there is no actual historical data about the mentioned people.

Ving Tsun’s first historical master is Yee-Tai, who lived in the early 18th century. Next master is Wong Wah-bo who handed over the system to Leung Jan, a physician from Foshan. He was the master who has glorified the system all over China. His successor was Chan Wah-Shun who had only 13 student throughout his whole life, the last of whom is Ip Man.

Grandmaster Ip Man 1952

He started training at an early age (only about 12-13 years old), but unfortunately, three years later his teacher died and older students continued his training. When Ip Man turned 18, he traveled to Hong Kong, where he studied in a college for four years. During this period, he met one of the sons of Leung Jan – Leung Bik. Under his mentorship, he mastered his skills in Ving Tsun. Upon returning in Foshan, Ip Man easily defeated his old classmates, which ruined the relationship of the students. In the next 26 years, he worked as a police inspector in Foshan, but during the occupation of Japan, he refused to serve the government which led him to total misery. To feed yourself, he trained in Ving Tsun 2-3 kids of his close friends.

He started training at an early age (only about 12-13 years old), but unfortunately, three years later his teacher died and older students continued his training. When Ip Man turned 18, he traveled to Hong Kong, where he studied in a college for four years. During this period, he met one of the sons of Leung Jan – Leung Bik. Under his mentorship, he mastered his skills in Ving Tsun. Upon returning in Foshan, Ip Man easily defeated his old classmates, which ruined the relationship of the students. In the next 26 years, he worked as a police inspector in Foshan, but during the occupation of Japan, he refused to serve the government which led him to total misery. To feed yourself, he trained in Ving Tsun 2-3 kids of his close friends.

Grandmaster Wong Shun Leung 1983

In 1949, Ip Man emigrated to Hong Kong and opened, under the custody of the union of the restaurant laborers, his first formal school of Ving Tsun. In 1955, Ip Man began training Wong Shun Leung (nicknamed the King of Talking Hands), and three years later the school welcomed the most famous student of Ip Man – Lee Jun-Fan (Bruce Lee).

After less than a year, Bruce Lee is forced to leave the school, and until he leaves for the United States, for about two years, he is trained by Wong Shun Leung. After arriving in the States, Bruce Lee quickly rises in the world of martial arts. He was just outstanding. After a demonstration at Long Beach in 1964, his name became so famous that the road to cinema, fame and money was inevitable. Despite all of the above, Bruce Lee realised that his skills at Ving Tsun are not at a highest level, which made him look for perfection in all directions. He began practicing Escrima, western boxing, fencing and gradually gaining skills, deciding to create his own style – Jeet Kun Do. The foundation of this new style was Ving Tsun, mixed with different ways learned from other martial arts. Bruce Lee’s story is famous – a huge success in TV series, film roles, premature death – just 33 years old.

Bruce Lee and Wong Shon Leung 1956

But, let’s go back to Ving Tsun.

Thanks to Yip Man, who has managed to train more than 1,000 students for his entire period as a teacher in Hong Kong, Ving Tsun occupies a solid position in the world of martial arts in Hong Kong. After his retirement, Ving Tsun is taught by many of his students, but the most prominent are Leung Sheung, Chu Shong-tin, Lok Yiu, Wong Shun Leung and Mo Yaat. Each of them contributes a lot to the development and popularisation of Ving Tsun, but undoubtedly the brightest name among them is Wong Shun Leung.

In the mid-1960s, Wong Shun Leung turns Ving Tsun from almost unknown Kung Fu style to the most dangerous one (if we are talking about Hong Kong). Within only a year, he took part in more than 60 non – rule fight (Beimo, in Chinese) winning all of them. Many of the fights were organised by one Australian journalist who writes about martial arts. Thus, Ving Tsun began to appear on the pages of various magazines around the world, and this led to its international fame.

Training with Muk Yan Jong (wooden traindoll) 2018

As for the differences, Ving Tsun is a style of less movement. Characterized by short movements, stable position, low kicks, simultaneous attack and protection, simultaneous attacks on several levels. You can’t see the distinctive for the Nordic styles jumps and acrobatic elements. Style is relatively easy to learn because, unlike most martial arts, physical fitness is not required. It is structured in three complexes (Tao, in Chinese) while in other styles you can find up to several dozen. Besides these complexes, there is a training device (wooden doll) and two Tao with weapons (in the classical Chinese martial arts there are at least 18, reaching up to 108). The style operates with a minimum number technical technique (less than 10). There are even styles that claim their technical arsenal has more than 60 thousand movements. If we take it into account, it is clear that, within a year, anyone who practices Ving Tsun will learn the technical arsenal. In the examples above, it becomes obvious why learning any style of Kung Fu or other martial art requires decades of practice.

Another distinctive feature is that martial arts generally proceed from the idea of the opposition of one technique to another. This way of thinking has led to the invention of more and more techniques (and mastering them takes time). Ving Tsun’s approach is different. Instead of enriching the technical arsenal of the trainee, it minimizes it, instead of relying on technique, it develops the senses, emphasizing mostly on the conscious (sensitivity).

To be able to implement this idea, the strategy is determined by three simple principes: meet the attack, follow those who retreats, if nothing stops you – attack.

So we can successfully protect or attack with minimal technical arsenal, the lack of any physical training using only three the principle of strategy, Ving Tsun uses a method that is called Chi Sao (Chi in Chinese is energy, and Sao means a hand). It is through this method that we learn to feel the power and pressure of our opponent to react with the shortest movement, to manage both hands independently of one another while at the same time they must act in sync (ie if one protects us, the other strikes).

July Morning training at 5:00AM in the waters of the Black Sea 2018

Don’t forget that you can also read the whole interview with Stefan Kunev, the World Golden Medalist of Ving Tsun. The first and the second part are available on the IBA Blog.

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