“Relaxation is the key to the mastery of Wing Chun.”
Chu Shong Tin
Despite my having trained in Wing Chun since 1999, I have only recently heard of Chu Shong Tin. I actually heard about him from my current teacher, Sifu Bernard Langan, who specializes in teaching “internal” power development with Chinese Martial Arts. He is a teacher of such systems as I Liq Chuan and Chen Pan Ling Tai Chi (among many others).
I am not one of those people who thinks thing “happen for a reason” or according to some sort of plan. I know enough about history to be very suspect of such thinking (what was the plan for the people who died in various atrocities over the whole of human history?). But sometimes, you find yourself discovering certain things only when you are ready for them. In the case of Chu Shong Tin and his take on Wing Chun, I was much more knowledgeable about how Chinese Internal Power is developed (not that I’ve developed much of it!) than I might have been even a year ago, so I was open to seeing what he was teaching and how this fit in with the whole arc of the dispersal of Chinese martial knowledge over the last hundred years.
Sifu Chu Shong Tin (1933-2014) was born in Guangdong province of China and began his martial arts training at the age of ten. He moved to Hong Kong in the 1950s and became one of Ip Man’s early students, along with Leung Shung and Lok Yiu.
Here is where my theory comes in!
I’ve always heard that Leung Shung was a more “internal” practitioner of Wing Chun. This was linked to the story of Sifu Kenneth Chung’s development, which I heard was “hard” initially and then, under the tutelage of his Sifu, “softened” and became more “internal.”
I’m curious if anyone knows more about this, but my theory, based on reading The Creation of Wing Chun and other books on the history of Chinese martial arts, combined with my comparisons of the system’s practices and techniques with those of systems like Southern Praying Mantis and Tai Chi, I speculate that the system Ip Man was taught by Chan Wah-Shun and Leung Bik (which they learned from Leung Jan) had much more “internal” content. I think that when Ip Man was forced to leave Foshan due to the rise of the Chinese Communist party (Sifu Ip had been a Nationalist police officer under Chiang Kai-shek and so, was an enemy of the new state), he arrived with few resources in an impoverished post-war Hong Kong and found himself needing to make a living teaching martial arts. However, the post-Boxer Rebellion period involved a widespread adoption of more Western, “scientific” approaches to things and the kids in Hong Kong needed to get results fast in order to survive on the mean streets of Hong Kong.