If I Want to See It…
I stepped into the Wing Chun world in 1986. More recently, the internet has made available, and perhaps stimulated, more varieties of the art. This is all to the good. Sheer mass is an effective buffer to some of the empire-building I remember avoiding in the 80s and 90s.
What I do not see yet, and finally face my own responsibility for, is a particular approach to the art we treasure. I was urged to advance this approach by the only other person I know of that was devoted to that way, my Sifu. I have occasionally gotten hints that there is a small but real minority of others interested in this. I owe this effort not only to the past but to the future.
Wang Kiu called himself a lone wolf in having different meanings and goals in training and particularly thinking Wing Chun. To wax poetic as he occasionally did, fighting skill is just one of the many blossoms on the plum tree of Wing Chun.
Wang Sifu would “deep dive” into ideas like the plum blossom. He would start by pointing out that it is a symbol in many Oriental martial traditions, which is easily verified. He and consider the beautiful blossom as one moment in a time line that includes shed petals. The weeks of growth to ripe fruit represent the next stage in the life cycle, much longer than the days of beauty. It is easy to focus on the blossom (or finger) and not look to the distant fruit (moon). It is easy to consider the fruit as the stellar student every teacher of any subject hopes for. There are other interpretations.
Wang Sifu would say “my generation took Wing Chun from the earth to the moon. It is your generation’s task to take it from the moon to Mars,” He did not mean becoming greater fighters as the central goal, though personal talents and background might take individuals there. Reaching Mars is qualitatively a very different project than reaching the moon, as our shrunken space program shows.
My talents, interest and background (which are neither better nor worse than any other, just different) engaged well with what he was urging. He saw this and “tugged on the sprout”. It is perfectly human to want to see the fruit of the seeds we have planted. My first active motion was to explore similarities between Wing Chun and computer programming languages. As an engineer, he might have enjoyed hearing about this. Unfortunately, it coincided with a medical crisis. The doctors were surprised when he survived. Several years were devoted to recovery and rehab. He was able to re-engage with and encourage my journey, as I took my ideas through grad school to a research dissertation and Ph.D. It was then my turn to endure a series of medical challenges. Getting older sucks!
I am now the age he was when I met him. One of his earliest comments to me was “you are the same age I was when I started Wing Chun”. Life stage is one of the parallels between his path and mine.