Such A Popular Question
I was presented with this question during one of this weeks WingChun.Online livestream classes, after a student mentioned that he had been watching Siu Lim Tau on YouTube and as mine was slightly different, he would make the effort to do it ‘that way‘, so the question is…
If they’re all supposed to be Ip Man Wing Chun,
Why do they look so different?
This is such a popular question;
Firstly I would say that Ip Man taught for many years and had many students, therefore the character of each individual can play a strong part in the outcome of many variations.
Personally, I have been training properly in Wing Chun since 1985 (Wing Chun not being my first style but coming from a Karate background), and was honoured to be invited directly, by Master Ip Chun himself, to train solely under him as a personal student and disciple, in Hong Kong, back in 1990, where I eventually settled in 1991.
Before Ip Chun
One of the biggest reasons I was SO happy about this invitation was that I knew that the Wing Chun I would be taught would be correct.
Now I do not mean disrespect to anyone else, simply that:
If I was Ip Man, I would obviously teach my own sons the purest form of Wing Chun I knew (wouldn’t you?), and that my friends, has to be the most truly considered, ‘Ip Man Wing Chun’.
Ip Chun, Ip Ching, Ip Man
On a side note, it is commonly known that Grandmaster Ip Chun did not start his training for real until he was 37 years old.
Now some may wish to argue that his Wing Chun must not be good then?
But look at it this way, when I started teaching, back in 1991, I reckon I was rubbish, I didn’t fully understand what I was teaching and probably passed it across even worse.
I’ve often said that:
“I am a lot better teacher now than I was 10/15 years ago,
but not as good as I hope to be in 10/15 years time”
If you are a good teacher then you learn through teaching,
Your skills improve and your teaching improves,
And the cycle continues.
I imagine that if Sifu Ip Chun had started when he was just 10 years of age his Father would still have been working Wing Chun out himself!
When Sifu started training with his Father, it would have been at the highest level of Ip Man’s teaching abilities.
So, as for people looking different and yet supposedly being from the same lineage?
There are two contributing factors I see for this happening…
At the start of this blog I referred to how, ‘The character of the individual can play a part in this outcome‘, what I mean by this.
Ip Chun has explained to me:
“When you learn your Wing Chun, 50% will come from your Sifu and 50% will come from yourself”
Wing Chun is designed to mould to the individual and therefore, should the teachers character drift into their approach to the style then so be it, and therefore the outcome may look slightly different.
This second reason may seem a little more controversial.
Let’s imagine I am a teacher of Wing Chun but no one has heard of me yet, (I know, I know, very funny), now if I teach for 20 years gaining 10 students each year, and by the end of which time I become world famous (I’m Ip Man in case you haven’t guessed yet), and then I eventually pass on, many of my students (after a grieving period of course) are potentially faced with a difficult decision:
Teaching is fine for the longer-term students who had covered everything in the system with their Master during his living years, but what about those who only studied for a shorter time, what if they now wanted to teach?
They now find themselves in a bit of a situation, they can truthfully say that they are a student of Ip Man and begin teaching under his name (even with limited knowledge) OR continue their studies with someone else.
But if they continue their studies with someone else they can no longer open a school claiming as being under Ip Mans teachings, but instead under the teachings of their new Instructor
So if they open a school anyway, with their limited knowledge, at some point a student will have questions which will only be able to be dealt with by creative and imaginative (and possibly made up) answers.
A possible outcome being, a legitimate direct Ip Man student who’s Wing Chun looks very different to everyone else’s.
I would like to finish this post by reminding you that:
I am not suggesting these ‘differences’ in Wing Chun are right or wrong,
They are only different