If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.
I have been unable to find out much about Philipp Bayer. I know he is German and studied with Wong Shun Leung in what looks like the early 80s (based on the clothes and the hair styles in the old videos).
He looks pretty badass.
I like his energy – they call it “playing” Chi Sao and I like to think it should be play, the kind of play that can enhance your skill. But thinking of it as play can help get rid of the competitive head-hunting that hurts so many students quest for advancement.
The following is an article I copied from a website called Combat Journal, which now seems to have gone out of business.
I like the way Sifu Bayer’s answers (which border on the blunt) reflect the inherent simplicity and directness of the system. They also recall the replies from Barry Lee – simple, direct, clipped!
INTERVIEW WITH SIFU PHILIP BAYER- STUDENT OF MASTER WONG SHUN LEUNG
How did you get started in Wing Chun and who was your first teacher?
I started in Germany with the Leung Ting way of wing chun , called WT after short time I changed to Wong Shun Leung because of his Fighting System and his way of thinking.
How did you get to meet sifu Wong Shun Leung?
By accident, a martial shop owner gave me his address saying “if you want to learn true Ving Tsun you must find this man.”
What are the special characteristics of Wong Shun Leung’s wing chun?
You have the objectives clearly in front of your eyes… no mystics, no secret just hard work, no playing wing chun, just fighting.
What are the main principles of the art?
The Conditioning of correct behavior and thinking for fighting, training and developing Punching Power, Strategy, Coordination, Balance, Finding and Using of Chances , timing to find the simplest and most direct way to solve ones problems in a fight and other important fighting attributes necessary to survive a fight.
How is chi sau related to combat?
To train and improve in Ving Tsun, we have a unique and versatile training partner exericise which serves to train and correct many attributes necessary for fighting…this exercise is called Chi Sau. Chi Sau is a co-operation between mutual partners to exchange and reciprocate something between themselves, if there is no co-operation…it’s no longer Chi Sau, which becomes un-productive. Chi Sau is a very good exercise to help you to reach your goal and that’s why we spend so much time and effort usually up to 90% of our training time, but it is still only a link or bridge between the forms and sparring which serves to develop the Idea of Ving Tsun.
What is your opinion of cross training eg Wing Chun and Brazilian Jiu jitsu?
To attain combat proficiancy in Ving Tsun, you have to train very hard, to keep this level even harder… there is no time for implementing other ideas.
What are the diffrent types of footwork used in Wing Chun? Could you please describe them?
There is only one type of footwork… we try to cut the enemies way and interrupt the attack
The wooden dummy is broken down into 108/114 movements.These movements are further grouped into sections. How many sections are there in the wooden dummy techniques and does each section have a particular purpose to teach the practioner?
Like Chi Sau and other methods to train your behaviour in fighting, we use the dummy. Most of the dummy sections train your elbow position for the main weapon of Ving Tsun… the straight punch. But it also improves coordination, synchronisation of leg and arm movements and to use ones whole body structure to hit. Proper footwork and timing is also learnt, among other things.
Please explain the concept of using body structure in Wing Chun ?
A good punch doesn’t come from the arm only, you need your complete body… in chi sau for example we create the perfect structure to use the body for punching, when we are able to exchange the force with the partner. The quality of the exchange is the key…
How is your typical Wing Chun class structured?
My students start with the forms of Ving Tsun in order to create and keep the right idea. Later they start to train the main weapon.
What is your opinion of chi sao competion?
Unable to think of that!
What is you opinion of supplementary training for Wing Chun eg running to build endurance and weight training for strength?
In Ving Tsun you learn very early to find your weak points and what you have to do to rectify them. Running for example is not bad, but to be in good condition for fighting, you need to fight and spar.
Is grappling and bone breaking techniques included in the art?
Sifu I am going to list a few techniques and concepts. Briefly state in one sentence a important point for each techniques in relation to combat:
Tan sau trains your punch
Bong sau open the way for striking
Fook sau trains your punch
Pak sau open the way for striking
Kwan sau trains your punch
Tok sau we dont have
Poon sau exchange of force
Fak sau striking
Lap sau open the way for striking
Yee gee kim yum ma training stance .. to conditioning the foot and knee position for supporting the punch
Jum sau trains your punch
By the way… you didn’t ask me about the most important technique(principle) , the straight punch!?!
What are your thoughts on the future of Sifu Wong Shun Leung’s wing chun?
I hope that we can keep the stupid and foolish people away from the system.
Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to interview you.
Philipp Bayer can be reached at www.philippbayer.net
I’m an Italian student of Philipp Bayer’s lineage and I had some seminars with Bayer himself. As you mentioned before you don’t know very much about Bayer, thus I supposed you never crossed your arms with him. Please do it, if you really want to understand the incredible skills of Bayer in Wing Chun. Bayer never hurts his students even if his behaviour can appear aggressive. But he knows that Wing Chun was developed for real fighting, not for fun. Bayer had many fighting competitions for several years in China and he was trained by Wong Shun Leung in Hong Kong for nine years (and up to nine hours a day) with this aim. It is interesting to note how much Philipp Bayer’s Wing Chun concepts can sometimes differ very much from other famous Wong Shun Leung’s students, who clearly don’t appear to have the same speed, precision and economy of motion of Bayer. My conclusion is that those masters misunderstood, at least in part, some fundamental (biomechanical) concepts of Wing Chun, in particular by mistaking many movements in the forms with applications to real fight situations.
I love Italy! I lived in Northern Italy for a year in my teens.
I think its clear that only a small percentage of the students of any great martial arts teacher really get the art and are able to put it into their bodies. It takes a particular type of person to get both the art and the combat application of Wing Chun. Its not easy – it takes enormous discipline and time and ultimately, you have to overcome your ego a little, the hardest part of all!
My Sigung Gary Lam will be visiting soon and I plan to ask him for anecdotes about his kung fu brothers Barry Lee and Philip Bayer, two of the Westerners who really acquired high level Wing Chun skills from Wong Shun Leung. I think its easy to miss the mark in training and get too focused on training tools like Chi Sao and (to quote WSL) look at the pointing finger and (to quote Bruce Lee) miss all that heavenly glory.
But you can really see it when its displayed. It can be aggressive but its a controlled aggression. And you can really feel it when its done to you – the power is just massive, like being hit by a car. I would love to roll with Sifu Bayer and I encourage you to go to a Gary Lam seminar if he comes to your part of the world!
I too have had seminars with Sifu Bayer and the man is Amazing. You simply can not argue his speed and skill, no matter what is your verdict regarding the style…
Wong style is very economical and devoid of the usual “fat” that happens in most martial arts (hope you know what I mean…)
Steven Moody says
I know exactly what you mean. I used to chase the next new thing (when can I learn Chum Kiu or the knives?).
Now I spend all my time drilling the basics, laying down the reflexes, conditioning my hands. I want my “gun” to fire true with a large caliber without jamming when I bring it to bear (get/make a clear angle).
I have been studying WSL Philipp Bayer Ving Tsun in Germany and been visiting his seminars regularly for a few years now and I have never ever met an individual as impressive as him.
His movements are almost too quick for your eyes to track , which does not diminish the power they bear. He always is in complete and utter control of the situation, always thinking two steps ahead, like a chess player. The most impressive thing, however, is the fact that he does not have to think a second while just firing away like a machine gun. I actually think it is appropriate to say that this guy has reached the highest level you can possibly achieve, he has turned his body into the weapon Ving Tsun wants to turn you into, with all those mechanical instincts.
But honestly, the reason why I decided to learn his Ving Tsun is that, although I thought the concepts of Ving Tsun very interesting, everywhere I looked I found them flawed, people were not able to explain why Ving Tsun is the way it is and thus made many mistakes or did not offer proper answers to questions I asked.
Bayer believes that there is only one type of Ving Tsun, the type he is practising. Very simplistic, extremely effective. You learn incredibly quickly under his instruction and he is able to explain absolutely everything about Ving Tsun with its biomechanical contexts and even more so he wants his students to understand it and regularly asks them why they do something and what its supposed to train.
For Bayer Ving Tsun is a system to develop your main weapon, your punch. It does not offer a lot of applications (only pak, jut, bong and huen sao) like must martial arts but it strives for something higher. It seeks to implement certain principles of behaviour that work under all circumstances and without thought (Balance, footwork, speed, power, the way you have to use your body, where to put your hands), which makes them much easier to apply than singular applications for every way you get attacked.
For Bayer, Ving Tsun is all about the fight and most parts of Ving Tsun are only training methods to develop those attributes you need for fighting, they do not represent a fight.
Go to one of his seminars, please do. He is the eye-opener, the only person I have ever met who really has not only understood the genius of Ving Tsun, but who has absorbed it. Philipp simply IS Ving Tsun. No words can possibly describe what you are going to see when you pay him a visit.
Steven Moody says
Yes – Sifu Bayer (sihing to my Sigung Gary Lam) is a true Wing Chun master. Thousands of hours over many decades of training have blended all the elements of the system into a single reflex. Every action he takes has many parts that flow together, giving him angle, momentum, and clarity of movement even as his actions take these qualities away from his opponent. He is someone to watch closely and emulate.
David Cheang says
Hi Steven, I joined PBVT training about 2 years ago at a local club in Bristol, UK after having trained at a different school just under 4 years. Came across your blog when I googled “why is PBVT so different to others” out of curiosity. I’ve been to his seminar in Serbia last year and will go again this year. Like many VT artists I’ve looked at numerous videos online and I’ve yet to see anyone as good, fast and efficient as PB. He is even more impressive in real life, very down to earth, never holds information back and can explain any queries about the art. I learned much more in the short 2 years with PBVT style than I ever did in the other school I was in. Before discovering PB I really liked Gary Lam and thought I might make a trip to US to train in his gym. But now I see a remarkable difference between PB and all the other “masters” out there. Most people talk about elbow energy, focusing on elbows etc etc but when it comes to the drills and chi sau it’s all lost and you only see wrist action and “chasing of the hands”. There’s a huge misunderstanding of what chi sau is used for as well. PB’s style, like you wrote is direct, very blunt and most of all simple. Because in a real fight, I believe simplicity beats complex unrealistic techniques. Do try and attend a PB school. Kevin Gledhill runs a good one in the US. There are several high quality schools in Europe as well.
Steven Moody says
Your experience sounds exactly like mine. Discovering Greg and Gary Lam changed my understanding of WC at a fundamental level. They are in another class.
In my experience, Wong Shun Leung had an unusually large crop of very good publically known WESTERN or WESTERN-friendly students (i.e., teach in English and discoverable on the internet).
Sifu Wong was also something of a genius at understanding the art in a Western-friendly (i.e., scientific) way and at communicating it to his students with good examples, custom drills made up on the spot, and good anecdotes and metaphors. This is so important! Martial arts concepts are best communicated through story and metaphor since it is trying to communicate how something should feel in your body.
This is why we have great Wong lineage teachers like Gary Lam, Greg LeBlanc, Philipp Bayer, Wan Kam Leung, Joh Smith, etc, etc).
I think Sifu Bayer is especially photogenic because of his fast style. This is not to say he is not effective, but he also looks good in his effectiveness. This is unusual for WC, since effectiveness is usually a result of taking position, which is hard to demo on your students without damaging them. Sifu Bayer can take position but in his demos, he controls from the outside through his speed and deft control of angle and shows his dominance of the position with a bent arm love tap.
But I think you’ll find that all the teachers I’ve mentioned are comparable in terms of their capacity to teach what Wong’s version of WC. Then it’s down to the quality of the students, and as we all know, it’s only a tiny percentage that “get it” and do the work and make it to the “end.” And then, of those, only a smaller percentage will teach and demo publicly.
All of that said, I would love to go to a PB seminar and /or study with him. Ditto Kenneth Chung, John Smith, David Peterson, Wan Kam Leung, Robert Chu, Hawkins Cheung and more!