When I was twelve years old studying in Pak U Middle School Hung Shui Kiu 23 mile stone, new territory Kowloon, Hong Kong, I read a book called “Tai Chi Fist Saber Sword stick and San Sau compilation” and was amazed by the features done by the Tai Chi master described and believed that if I learned only thirty percent of the stuff that those masters knew, I was good enough and satisfied.
Fortunately I had a classmate whose father was a student of Yang Ching Fu, the grandson of the first “Yang Invincible” in Chinese martial art history – Yang Luk Chien. So I decided to learn from him.
In 1954, a controversy arose between a Wu style Tai Chi master Wu Kung Yi and a white crane Kung Fu master Chen Hak Fu that Tai Chi could be a kind of martial art and ended up to a contest between them held in Macau. You still can see this clip in Youtube today (Video). Oh my God you cannot believe it! Just like two untrained people, no skill at all, trading blows all the time.
I was quite disappointed and did not believe that the Tai Chi training was worthy anymore because Wu Kung Yi was the grandson of the founder of Wu style, had started his training since he was a little boy. By training more than forty years if he couldn’t do what Tai Chi claimed to be able to, who else could? That’s the way I thought at that time. So I decided to change to another style.
Before long the whole class went to camping by the side of a small temple called Ling Doa Ji near the western mountain in Tin Sam. Other classmates were busy in preparing the food, cooking etc. I couldn’t forget Tai Chi and was unhappy with my decision to quit. Automatically I did the Yang Tai Chi long form under a tree when nobody was around. Suddenly, a voice arose behind the tree; a monk appeared “well done kid, where did you learn this form”? We started chatting.
He told me that I didn’t have to be too broken hearted; there were two versions of Yang Style Tai Chi. When Yang Luk Chien was invited to teach the Manchu army, lords, and nobles (in China, in that era, sometimes we call them the Ching people) he decided to hide the secret of Tai Chi (not to pass to the enemy, at that time Man Chu were regarded as invaders from the north of the Great Wall, took over China, overthrew the Ming dynasty – a Chinese dynasty. Chinese tried to restore Ming underground all the time) and taught the Ching people in a different way. Soft, slow, emphasizing on health and push hands instead of striking hands. Today, most people learn the Yang style mainly from the lineage of Yang Ching Fu, it is this version not the same as Yang Luk Chien’s (杨 露 禅) original version which he passed down only to a few selected students and his son Yang Ban Hou – the second Yang invincible with the door closed (so called the door closed students in the past – the selected, the best, the supposed inheritors of the art). And the monk (his Buddhist name is called Ling Yan (靈 因) was a closed door student of the second generation before he became a monk. I asked him a lot of questions about Tai Chi, and he answered me satisfactorily. I understood that right in front of me was the real great master in my dream. When he said he worried about the classic Tai Chi might vanish if he did not continue to teach and asked whether or not I would be willing to be his student and take the mission to inherit and develop the art. I was so excited, that I nodded my head on the ground three times without any hesitation (the ceremony that the student pays respect to the Sifu (teacher) when he is adopted as a disciple in the olden days).
I learned from him, from thirteen years old to eighteen years old until I entered the Chinese University of Hong Kong and got to live in the dormitory in Ma Liu Shui where was so far away from his temple that I could not continue.
In this period of time, since my classmates came from all the villages around Pak U Middle School, in every village there was a Sifu living and teaching a certain style of Kung Fu, I had the chance to watch quite a number of different Martial Arts too and improve my knowledge about this a lot.
A classmate of mine in his birthday party invited an unusual friend to join who’s name was Bruce Lee. Today he is a super star, everybody knows. At that time he was not that famous at martial art and movies but he was famous in dancing, the Cha Cha champion of Hong Kong at that time. He showed his flexible legs. Bruce and my classmate exalted Wing Chun a lot, both were learning the art from Yip Man. Yip Man appointed Wong Shun Leung (Bruce Si Hing – elder Kung Fu brother) to take care of Bruce. Bruce followed Wong Shun Leung to join the underground fighting (knuckle fighting among different styles of Chinese martial arts in Hong Kong). His performance wasn’t very good at that time (He changed to another person when he came back to Hong Kong from the United States, that is another story). Wong Shun Leung, was called “the king of talking hands” (talking hands is another term for knuckle fighting) by the Wing Chun people. He won most of the fights except a few controversial ones.
You must understand that at that era, the British ruled over Hong Kong, only boxing was allowed to compete openly as a sport. Thai Boxing and Chinese Martial Arts were not allowed to do the same thing. That is why the Wu Tai Chi Master and the White Crane Master had to go to Macau. Talking Hands had only three simple rules, “no poking eyes, no strike to the throat, and no groin attack of any kind.” That’s it. Both sides showed up and agreed, then fought. Not even weight category considered. Sometimes the referee refused to announce who was the winner, because every martial arts school wanted its face, unless the result was very explicit, otherwise dispute always arose and end up maybe one school fighting against another school by the side of the ring.
My classmate and Bruce fought mostly in Kowloon, I fought mostly in New Territory because I lived there and New Territory was quite far away from Kowloon if you did not have a car. Most of the time young guys of different schools argued about which style was better and should fight this way, not that way etc. and end up to put it to a test. I started this kind of tests since I was about sixteen and always won because of my classic Tai Chi, I understood why Yang Luk Chien was so famous in the past, the art was good, no doubt about it, it was not the same thing as people do it today.
When I was eighteen, quite strong compared to other boys of the same age, my Sifu was eighty already, still could play with me (not pre-arranged, completely free) like the cat played with the mouse. He liked to make me go down by using fingers and sometimes even no contact. In the past, it is called the Chi energy, the highest level of Tai Chi. Actually, he was using your sub conscious reaction, it looked like magic but it was true. When I talked to people, people didn’t believe it thinking that I was exaggerating the fact.
My Sifu wanted me to keep it as a secret first and to teach people who has good character only when I become good enough, not anyone who just paid and asked for it and I promised.
When I entered the Chinese University of Hong Kong, I had the chance to learn Judo under some young exchange students from Japan. They were 3rd Dan to 5th Dan black belt holders in Japan, quite good. I watched a documentary film “Essence of Judo” of Mr. Kyuzo Mifune (三船 久蔵), 10th Dan holder and a direct student of the Judo founder Kano (嘉納治五郎), weighing only about 110 pounds, quite old, might be around 70, still able to throw young guys much bigger than him and believed that there must be something in Judo.
But when I practiced Judo, I was greatly disappointed, our captain of the Judo team a 1st Dan Black Belt holder free practiced with me, because I was strong and my Tai Chi background (there is a lot of throwing techniques in Tai Chi too) he was always thrown by me. First, I thought that I was just lucky, but this happened again and again, it was not luck. He complained that my Judo was not Ju (soft) but hard, I argued that I was playing his game, not Tai Chi. If he let me play my game, don’t follow his rule, the situation could be even more one sided. If muscle dominated that much what was the point of learning martial arts? Later I bought a book “Best Judo” written by the world heavy weight champion (probably 1960 Olympics in Tokyo) Mr. Isao Inokuma, he clearly pointed out “there is a saying, which gets to the heart of Judo, Ju yoku go o seisu” (Softness overcomes hardness). There are some who, hearing this, believed that even without strength they could defeat their opponent. But this is false. How can a man who has not trained diligently or who has not built up his physical strength defeat his opponent? Adages like “Softness overcomes hardness” or “ a small man can defeat a big man” only apply when your basic physical powers are on a par with the opponent’s, in such a situation, power is not the issue and it is here that we first glimpse the importance of the smooth working of Shin-gi-tai in a match.”
That made me strongly believe that Judo is a good sport, but not 100% a good self defense. A few years Judo training deeper the throwing and grappling techniques but could not change my decision to concentrate on the Classic Tai Chi.
After graduation from the Chinese University of Hong Kong – my major is physics, my minor is mathematics, I taught in an English college and was appointed by the principal to be in charge of the physics laboratory. I used my own money to buy a lot of 16 mm negative film and the machinery of the lab to do a lot of research of martial arts (at that time no video).
I couldn’t forget Bruce Lee and my classmate’s exaltation about Wing Chun and went to Yip Man – their Sifu to learn. Unfortunately I found Yip Man was addicted to Opium and seldom touched you, only talked I didn’t like his way of teaching and went to his student – Lok Yiu, who he said better than when he was young. At the same time, I also learned boxing from Johnny Lai – the only x professional boxing champion in Hong Kong, he was called the King of Boxing of Hong Kong. There was a photo that he took together with the heavy weight champion of the world at that time – the brown bomber – Joe Louis, hanging over in his gym that made me decide to learn from him.
At that era James Bond’s movie prevailed and most young people believed that Karate was the most powerful Martial Art in the world because of their breaking techniques. Some Karate champions of Japan went to Thailand to fight with Thai boxer and got defeated totally. One-sided competition, this surprised a lot of people. I thus went to learn Thai boxing under Mr. Fong Yae, the only Thai boxing teacher in Hong Kong at that time.
Later I started teaching Martial Arts. First I taught in the traditional way. Some students were very keen in learning, they learned Wing Chun from me and also learned the Tai Chi from me. One day some students came to me and asked “Sifu, when you teach us Tai Chi, you say body leads the limbs, but when you teach Wing Chun, you say don’t move the body, just punch with the elbow bottom force, which one is right?” I was stunned a little, and then I said: “Give me a little bit of time, I will give you the answer.” So, I started my research, I didn’t want to give up Wing Chun because of Tai Chi. I didn’t (even more) want to give up Tai Chi because of Wing Chun either. So, the best thing to do is to combine them together. I found it was not possible to modify Tai Chi and put it into Wing Chun, Tai Chi would disappear, but it was possible to modify Wing Chun and put it into Tai Chi. Because Wing Chun was mostly straight line movements and Tai Chi was mostly curved movements and straight line was a special case of curve when the curvature of the curve is zero it becomes a straight line.
There were a lot of contradictions between different styles of Chinese martial arts. For example; Choi Lee Fatt was low stance, most of the time only right hand attacking, the left hand assisting, extending the shoulder, nearly one sided, Wing Chun basically not extending the shoulder, high stance, weight placed at the rear leg, straight line attack to the head, chase after the center etc. in which situation which was better was quite a complicated problem, needed a lot of research. I started doing these kinds of research, used science to help and gradually found my own way out. If this could be done to Chinese martial arts, why could it not be done to boxing and Thai boxing too? So a new system was born eventually, I test its effectiveness by joining the underground fights. It worked surprisingly well, I defeated every adversary easily but most people didn’t know me because the fight was not open to the public. I had the desire to fight openly.
Bruce Lee came back from the states to Hong Kong. He changed to a strong guy, not very big but quite muscular. The muscles were definitive but not bulky, the muscle system of a good martial artist but not a body builder. Fast and coordinated, he founded his own system called Jeet Kuen Do. He criticized the traditional art for teaching a lot of katas (routine series of movements joined together mostly for exhibition or learning) was a kind of dragging the time (some style had more than forty katas, some even had more than 100, they were just different combinations of the same kind of movement), I felt the same way, why didn’t you practice with a partner instead of hitting the air all the time, it was not practical.
The old masters of Kung Fu hated us because if people listened to us, would not learn from them. At that era the Chinese Kung Fu practitioners nearly never used the mitt in boxing. I had been trained in boxing, I used the mitt to help, Bruce Lee used the mitt too, this gave them an excuse to criticize that our way was not authentic. The old cultural concept, which was deeply rooted in most people’s minds, emphasized on authentic lineage, thinking the right lineage was the best and exaggerated that the past masters to the degree of a “God” like or “Superman” like man. I didn’t agree with it, I studied science, the result counted, everything evolved including martial art.
I took Bruce’s advice to teach without kata for about two years. But some other problem appeared.
First, it was not convenient for exhibition. Second, the youngsters could not show their parents what they had learned, the parent doubted about that I had not taught anything, they were not experts and could not understand that I had taught their kids something more valuable than forms. Third, some students were not talented, they needed some forms to help them to build up the coordination, balance, how to use the body, some good habits to generate power etc. before they went to work in pairs. So, I resumed the kata teaching but cut them down to minimum. In my system, we have only three katas including the dummy form, even less than Wing Chun, which has four for empty hand fighting, Sui Mim Tau, Chum Kiu, Biu Jee and the dummy form, we keep the Tai Chi long form which was in the Yang Luk Chien’s days, we put the inch power etc back in the form because when Tai Chi was supposed to be a martial art you should not neglect those subtle things and the form is a very good way to improve your health too. It emphasizes more on the inside rather than the outside, a kind of moving meditation, you may say. I put all the useful basic techniques other than Tai Chi in another form and finally the dummy form. The dummy to us is similar to the punching bag to boxers, but the bag has no arms, we need the arms to practice some skills, which are not in boxing. We use the Wing Chun dummy because it was the best dummy we could find in the market at that time but practiced it in a different way, some techniques were similar but not exactly the same, some Wing Chun people did not like the way that I was doing but Bruce Lee said that I was going at the right direction because he did in his own way too, he asked Yip Man to demonstrate the Wing Chun dummy set in a documentary film and promised to give Yip Man a flat (a unit in a condominium) as the reward but maybe his attitude was a little bit too cocky, the old master refused. Later, when Yip Man died, Bruce Lee did not attend the funeral ceremony, this irritated the whole Wing Chun clan, I believe Bruce had made a serious mistake, this was too much contradictory to the Chinese tradition, you can see the relationship between Bruce and the Wing Chun people was very bad at that time.
Some of our skills didn’t belong to Wing Chun ”could hardly be performed on the Wing Chun dummy.” So I started to design my own dummy, but the carpenter in Hong Kong said there was no market for the new dummy and refused to help until recently my student Trey who is a good carpenter helped me to solve all the technical problems. So we are going to have our own dummy very soon. I am very excited and happy since I have been longing for this for about fifty years already.
Actually, martial arts are based on mechanics, physiology, and psychology. These are sciences, should be very objective, not subjective. Many of my friends had so called “style problems,” that means when they fight against a certain style, they look like experts but when they fight another style they look like idiots. This is because their skills and knowledge are too partial and know how to deal with a specific way of fighting only. The problem is you can’t ask the attacker to attack you in the way you prefer in self-defense. Some martial arts are like the doctor put down his prescription first, when the patient comes he asked the patient to be sick in the way he expects and then the prescription will work, this doesn’t make any sense.
I aim at completeness and all rounded ability to defend myself, talk about possibilities instead of styles. When you can handle all the possibilities in that scenario you are not afraid of whatever style, all is there. Some people may argue how come Muhammad Ali fights the same way that Joe Frazier fights? My answer is, that is competition, in competition because of the same weight category, the shorter guy tend to be more muscular and shorter in reach, so he has to dodge, bobbing and weaving, trying to go in, even asks for trading blows, the taller guy has a longer reach, he tends to use footwork to keep most of the fighting taking place at his favorite distance so to have a better chance to win. Notice, the taller guy cannot avoid being tied up. But on the street, Joe Frazier may have to play Ali’s game, when he meets someone even shorter. So, you better know both ways. Don’t mix up a competition with a real self- defense situation; they are not exactly the same thing.
Our body construction determines the way we fight. We should not imitate animals, the monkey has a tail which can hold the branch when she falls, hair on the whole body to avoid scratch, so she can jump through the trees without hurting the skin, the foot can catch the branch like the hand, can we do the same thing?
In competition, because we cannot kill each other, got to have some rules, under the same rules, after a long period of time competing, what works, people tend to copy, what doesn’t work people tend to discard. Gradually, the fighter basically will use the same kind of techniques; some personal preferences make minor differences but don’t change the general repertoire. The history of MMA proves that this is true. Remember when UFC first started, the announcer introduced: Judo 6th Dan, Karate 5th Dan,…etc. Now no more, everybody seems use only two kinds of martial arts, standing, use Thai boxing, lie down, use Brazilian Jujitsu. Many people don’t know, long time ago there were at least five different styles of Thai boxing in Thailand, after long time competing, Thai boxers tend to use the same kind of things, maybe some prefer the knee, some prefer the elbow…but the general trainings are the same. This implies one thing: if the skill works, it may exist in Russian martial art and at the same time in Philippino martial art and at the same time in Chinese martial art…etc. The traditional concept of so-called “style” should change a little bit. There is no law in the world saying that you are A style, you cannot use the stuff in B style, if you use you will be arrested, this kind of thing, “what are you using must be not the same as the other guy because he is another style” doesn’t make sense. Because if it does work and you know it you will use it, if it doesn’t work even though you know it, you will not use it, the result counts, not the style.
Bruce Lee understood this, so he advocated: “no way is the way, no limit is the limit.” I understood this, so I used anything that worked, those things that didn’t work I didn’t waste time on them. Besides, those things might build up bad habits, which might cause failure. When you fight in the ring, you are fighting for the title or money, not for the name of a certain style, to win without violating the rules is most important. When you fight on the street, you are fighting for your life, survival is most important, whether it looks like a certain style or not, is not important.
But the headache is “how to practice in such a way that the damage can be tolerated?” People believe that if it is unlimited, it must be very dangerous and tends to kill each other even in practice. So, people use rules, gloves, armor, and pre-arranged ways to solve this problem. All these rules, gloves, armor, pre-arranged ways have their side effects which make the art deviated from the real situation “here I don’t spend any paragraph to explain this, it takes too long a time or writing to make people understand, when I teach I will explain them one by one.” If you practice very safely, the art might not be martial anymore. Martial, damaging, no damaging no martial. It seems no way out, but about four hundred years ago, a guy named Yang Luk Chien “the 1st Yang Invincible” in China solved this problem already. Why don’t we follow his way and enrich and develop it by combining some other good things coming from other martial arts including even non-Chinese martial art? Martial arts are science; remember that, there is no Japanese science, Chinese science, American science, and this kind of thing. The earth is round no matter who you are, you have to admit that it is round, I remember one philosopher says “truth is what is true, whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not.” That is what I have been doing so far.
The only reason that those people don’t use Yang Luk Chien’s way is because they do not know it. But I know, I learned it from my Sifu, Ling Yan (the monk). We can play the dangerous game in a safe way, like the electrician, they do the dangerous game everyday for a living because they know how, like driving, you don’t know how to drive, you may get killed, if you insist to do that but if you know, you drive everyday probably.
So I do it in my own way and a lot of Tai Chi people criticize me because I didn’t do “push hands” I did only “striking hands” which is the Yang Luk Chien’s way in the olden days, even the Yang Ching Fu family members don’t know.
If you don’t believe my story, please explain why no Yang family member get any combat champion in any great championship held in Asia so far? Why the Wu Tai Chi master could not push the White Crane Kung Fu Master away like “throwing a pill” in 1954 in Macau? (Wu Tai Chi came from Yang Tai Chi) if what they are doing today is the same stuff that Yang Luk Chien did in his era.
Why is a song passed down named “striking hand song”, but not “pushing hands song”? Obviously because there was striking in practice in the olden days.
My own point of view, today’s pushing hands is only a game, you cannot use it as a kind of self defense, in a real fight, nobody pushes your hand, they punch you, kick you, choke you, throw you, lock you, etc. Even though you can bounce him away, what is the use? No injury, no pain, no control, he keeps coming back, can you do it every time he comes back with punching and kicking? Tai Chi talks about stick and follow, you bounce him away, that is disconnection not stick and follow anymore, every thing has to be started all over again, is it the real Tai Chi? Look at the push hands competition, mostly bullfight, force against force, muscle against muscle, too far away from the Tai Chi principle. Some so-called master of Tai Chi cannot even handle a simple jab from an amateur boxer, not to speak of a professional one. Some Tai Chi people can fight, but they fight like a Shaolin guy by putting some external stuff in the fight, you cannot see any movement that fits what the Tai Chi bible says, it is very disappointing.
I am tired of arguing for so many years, I understand one thing that if they admit that I am right, then people will not learn from them anymore, so they have to say that I am wrong.
There is a proverb in Chinese: “if thousands of people point at you, you will die without sickness” I don’t want to die without sickness and my system has been modified, blended together with some other things already. So I changed the name eventually and the dispute stopped. It is obvious a problem of commerce, position, seniority, lineage, politics in the martial art world rather than the truth.
Bruce Lee was chosen by Golden Harvest Film Company to be the chief character of “The Big Boss” and came out very successfully. It shocked the world.
He began to be surrounded by a lot of producers, pretty girls, reporters, people wanted to flatter him (or use him) and gradually stayed away from the martial art people in Hong Kong, especially old friends who knew too much about his past.
His second film and third film even more successful. He became a “God” like man, anything he said, a lot of people followed, he said he got his muscle and strength by drinking raw beef juice, a lot of people try including me, for years I got gout (I believe it came this way, too much red meat and too much good food after being a movie actor).
He played with Polo Yeung by holding each other’s thumb and turns them oppositely with the arms straight. Polo Yeung was Mr. Hong Kong at that time, very muscular and big, over 220 pounds I believe with bicep over 18 inches and Bruce Lee was around 135 pounds, bicep maybe around 14 inches but Bruce won. He seemed could surpass the human limit. I believe he used medication, because if it was fighting the smaller guy might win because of the skill but this kind of thing was purely muscle, the smaller guy could never win except he used some unnatural way.
He used a kind of electric device to develop his muscles, I tried it once, when I moved the pointer to “6”, I felt quite painful, the muscle between the two electrodes adhered to the skin contracted involuntarily, quite horrible, it did not listen to my brain anymore. I gave up, I prefer the traditional way of training, and this is not natural. But Bruce seemed to be “superman” like, he turned the pointer to “9” and trained. Was he really a superman? I started worrying about him.
He employed the international Karate Champion, Chuck Norris to act in his film and did quite successfully. This aroused a trend that the movie producers looked for champions, competition of Kung Fu started everywhere in Asia, small or big scales.
I wanted to be famous too, so I decided to take part in the Grand Kwok Sui (Kung Fu) competition held in Taiwan in 1971, representing Yang Tai Chi to fight. Eight countries joined in: Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Macau, Japan, I defeated the best martial artists from their countries in the lightweight division and got the lightweight combat champion title.
More than 200 students welcome me back in the Kai Tak airport Kowloon, Hong Kong. I told them, I decided to give a name to my system, which they had been asking for years, the name was “Yee Chuen Do.” “Yee” means intent or the mind, mind moves the body, wisdom directs the skill, “Chuen” means fist, it means it is martial; a kind of self-defense, “Do” means the way to do it. I selected the sentence in the Tai Chi bible “all these are “Yee” (the intent), has nothing to do with the outside” when you go to the highest level, you are fighting with wisdom instead of brutal force.
Next year 1972 I took the light welterweight champion title of boxing of Hong Kong again. From then on, I was invited to be an actor and action choreographer in Kung Fu movie, starting a new career of about 20 years.
At that period of time, I was also selected as:
- The chief Kung Fu instructor in the Chinese University of Hong Kong for about ten years
- Member of the development committee of Chinese martial art association of Hong Kong
- Chief of exhibition and competition department of the worldwide Choi Lee Fatt martial art association
- Chief of the combat department of Johnny Lai’s student union
I was also the first man in Asia to extinguish the candle flame with a two fingers thrust without touching the candle which was demonstrated in front of 12 thousands audience in the National Stadium of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur where the third South-Eastern Asia Kung Fu Tournament was taking place and I was invited as an honorable guest of demonstration and international judge in 1973.
In 1974, I demonstrated Chinese Martial Art in Japanese TV station (one of the Chinese Martial Art masters who first did this and was accepted by Japanese people in that era) for the promotion of the movie “The Martial Art” which was the second Kung Fu film entering the Japanese market after Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon.”
The same year, I led a Kung Fu troupe to exhibit Chinese Martial Arts in England and Spain for two months and shocked Europe a lot.
Bruce Lee died suddenly in 1973, this surprised everybody, how come a man so strong so young died so easily? The cause of the death on the police report was “uncertain.” Later, some inside news leaked out, he was overdosed by some kind of medication accidentally. They all believed that was an accident.
I felt a little bit different. Bruce had been exalted to something like a “God”, but he was not God, he wanted to maintain the image, might be he got injured but he wanted to hide, so he took drugs to kill the pain. Every time he showed himself in front of the public, he acted like a “Superman” but after that who knew? This is equivalent to when ever you drive, you dash a red light every time, sooner or later something is going to happen, this “something” can be expected, it is no accident.
Compare to the deaths of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, the same thing happened. The superstar had to maintain his super image in front of the fans; the mental pressure is very great that they eventually relied on drug, once addicted. This expected “accident” took place sooner or later. May be this is the cost of being famous. Who killed Bruce Lee? Those people that made him a “God” killed him. Today, many people still use his name to make money, they don’t really respect him, just use his name that is it.
In Yee Chuen Do, health and longevity first, self-defense the second, competition is third, we emphasize very much on safety in practice, because safety guarantees high repetition, high repetition guarantees proficiency, proficiency guarantees effectiveness.
It doesn’t make sense that you learn something to avoid being hurt by keeping hurting yourself in practice first. Self-defense is just like an accident, it may never come, but hurting yourself in practice surely comes if you don’t know how to avoid it because self-defense is usually designed to damage people to stop them from damaging you. To work in this way is not very clever. We emphasize a lot on defense but emphasize on defense does not mean we do not hit back, we do hit back but it may not be after the first attack, usually you can’t because people hit you continuously and you should avoid trading. My Sifu, Ling Yan, always said, “You know defense, you know offense because you know where in the opening and how the opening can be made, but you know offense, doesn’t mean you know defense.” Many people just keep attacking without thinking that they should defend sometimes, they think the non-stop attack overwhelms the opponent and turn him into a passive defender. So, some punches are going to land sooner or later, therefore, win. Unfortunately, his opponent thinks the same way and end up to trading blows, the stronger one will win, because he can take punches and hit stronger. The martial art becomes meaningless, before training the stronger one wins, after training still the stronger one wins, not much difference. Even you become champion this way, you don’t live long because the inside injuries accumulate, when you become a bit older, a lot of troubles come out.
See Muhammad Ali, a good example.
Bruce Lee died at the age of 32. Wong Shun Leung died at the age of 62. These two guys were the best attackers in the world at their era, emphasized on speed, power…etc. They didn’t live long. You should strive for a level that you can defend the continuous attacks without trading, also able to attack continuously but defend at anytime whenever it is needed.
The purpose of training in martial arts is to live long, happily and healthily, able to defend yourself when your life is in danger or able to protect your beloved ones when it is needed and share this blessing with people you love or care about, when fight, fight for justice and righteousness and don’t use over violence just for hatred or self-pride, not to win at all cost.
I am 72 years old already, the time left is unknown, I don’t want the art to disappear, so I do my best to teach and wish anyone who looks for the truth to join with an open mind, forget those dirty politics in the martial arts world.
Some people wanted me to teach them Yang Luk Chien’s stuff only but not Yee Chuen Do, I refused, no matter how much money. If you don’t trust me and respect me, how can I teach you? I believe if Yang Luk Chein still alive today, he would have done the same thing as I did, because in the olden days, he had to face Shaolin only. Now I have to face Thai Boxing, Brazilian Jujitsu, and Wing Chun…etc. I must improve and update it. Martial arts is not like antique, the older the better. If I don’t do it, someone in the future will.
People exaggerate the past master to attract people to come to learn is because they have no confidence on their own art, can’t show the learner what they claim to be able to. They need the name of the past master to help convince the learner, so the so-called master emphasize on kata (the easiest way to teach, just like dancing) and ambiguous and mysterious philosophy to cover up their flaws, notice that the results counts, not the name or the legend. “Yee Chuen Do” is not a style, but a system to help you to look for the truth, if you don’t like the name, erase it. Name or no name, the truth remains the same. My friend, think about it.