Tag Archives: Duncan Leung

What Yip Man Taught Me About Speed – SiFu Duncan Leung

Students always ask me the best way to develop speed. I believe this article from my SiGung’s website provides a good starting point on this subject. Enjoy!

SiFu James Sasitorn

What Yip Man Taught Me About Speed by SiFu Duncan Leung
Originally Posted: http://members.tripod.com/wing_chun/hpageie.html

Recently an acquaintance gave me a copy of QiGong/KungFu Magazine, the March 1999 issue, which featured an article written by Master Ron Heimberger. My friend did not quite understand the principles that Master Heimberger was trying to elucidate. Because of my background as a private student of Yip Man, and my subsequent involvement in Wing Chun Kung Fu, he thought I might be able to throw some light on the subject. I ask the reader’s indulgence for my attempt to explain what Yip Man taught me.

Since my English is not very good, I read the article several times. I am glad that Master Heimberger is kind enough to take the time to educate the public. If all Wing Chun instructors possessed an open mind like him, amenable to reason, and were willing to go to the trouble of explaining their ideas and experiences to others, I am sure it would benefit everyone interested in the art. However, there are some parts in Master Heimberger’s article with which I do not agree. Certain points that the author makes are somewhat obscure to me, particularly his references to Jacob Bronowski and Albert Einstein. For example, Master Heimberger mentions that Bronowski — commenting on Newton’s Second Law of Motion — said that force equals mass times acceleration squared. This confuses me because, as I understand it, Newton’s Second Law states that S F = ma, which does not square acceleration.

Since Mr. Heimberger discusses speed in Wing Chun, I would like to take the liberty to share my interpretation of the principles and theories about speed based on what SiFu Yip Man taught me and on my own experience. Naturally, what I write here is filtered through my own perceptions and prejudices; I certainly do not claim to speak for the Wing Chun family, and would welcome any correction that is offered. That certainly would help me improve. It is my hope that many Wing Chun members will share their ideas with all of us, no matter who they have learned from. The experience of using the Wing Chun techniques in fighting is what counts. After all, no single fight is the same. We can always learn something new, or — win or lose — find out something from each encounter.

What makes the Wing Chun style so interesting is that one does not have to rely on physical build, but on a logical sequence of economic movements. Certainly speed is extremely important in fighting. However, no matter how hard one trains, how long one works to improve, there are always physical limitations. You can always meet someone faster than you. Some people are simply born with more talent. Wing Chun allows one the possibility of overcoming an opponent’s inherent superior speed by applying the principles of the art. Yip Man taught that in Wing Chun, there are several types of speed. If you cannot overcome your opponent with one type of speed, you can beat him with another. In other words, if you can apply the Wing Chun theory of speed, you can actually become faster. In this regard, there are four areas of concern:

1. SPEED OF TRAVELING: This is the type of speed we normally refer to, that is, a punch or kick, a speed which speed can be calculated in feet per second. With consistent practice, one gradually improves the speed of the movement.

2. SPEED OF DISTANCE: Wing Chun straight-line theory states simply that a straight line between two points is the shortest distance. Therefore, punching straight is shorter and quicker than a hook punch or a swing. To bring your foot with a roundhouse kick to the head covers a greater distance than a shorter and quicker punch to the head. It is the same as trying to punch to the shin; that is, it is much shorter and faster to kick to the shin. To use an analogy: if you and I both stand in front of a building and have a race to the back door and you go around the building while I go straight through the building from the front door to the back door, you may be the faster runner, but I may get there before you because I have less distance to cover.

3. SPEED OF READINESS: From a resting standing position, when one tries to throw a heavy punch or tries to kick with power, it is typical to cock back the leg or arm before executing the movement. This not only telegraphs the move, but also wastes valuable time in the extra motion. In Wing Chun, the power is not generated just by the moving hand or leg, so there is no need to cock. One uses the other side of the body to pull back as he or she rotates to push out the punch or kick simultaneously. For example, if one is going to throw a left punch, one initiates power by pulling the right arm and shoulder back as fast as he or she can, while punching with the left hand at the same time.

4. SPEED OF REACTION: In general, people spend most of their time practicing their techniques in their forms alone until they are very good with all the techniques, but in actual combat the application is ineffective. This is like learning to ride a bicycle by sitting in a chair moving the legs and arms simulating the bicycle experience. When that person actually tries to ride on the bicycle, he or she will surely fall. This is because the proper reflexes and feeling of balance have not been developed. Yip Man used to say if you want to learn to swim, go down to the water; don’t just move your arms and legs and think that you are a swimmer. A fight requires at least two people. You can train and fight with yourself all day long, but unless you apply the techniques with another person, you will not get very far.

Wing Chun has only three forms. After learning and understanding the first form, one trains with Chi Sau, which requires two people, and from which one develops the feeling of contact and reflex. Then there are the technique drills which also takes two people. When you work with the drills over and over, month in and month out, they become habit, second nature. When an attack comes you will react to it without thinking. Fighting happens so very fast and you may be upset, angry, unprepared or even scared. There is no time to think.

Such are the Wing Chun Theories of Speed that I learned from Yip Man.

SiFu Duncan Leung

The Rise and Fall of the Wing Chun (Ving Tsun) Family?

From our SiGong, SiFu Duncan Leung‘s website http://members.tripod.com/wing_chun/.

DURING THE EARLY FIFTIES in Hong Kong the Chinese martial arts were very popular to the young people and the working class. There were all kinds of styles available such as Hung Gar, White Crane, Dragon Style and Choy Lai Fut, but Wing Chun no one had heard of. A young man from Foshan, China, Yip Man, was there in those days. He learned the style in China and later on furthered his training from Leung Bik. He began his teaching in the Restaurant Association. Later on he had his own little school in his house in the resettlement area with 100-150 sq. ft. of space. Years went by and he had taught quite a few good students; therefore, the style was becoming known to the public. At that time different styles challenged each other privately and often. Early students from Yip Man like Lok Yiu and Wong Sheung Leung were the most active and did very well in all the fights. The Kowloon Motor Bus Company main service station was located only a few blocks from Yip Man’s school and the workers were first to join the school after the restaurant workers. Then the school kids from nearby St. Frances Xavier started to join including Bruce Lee and Hawkins Cheung. The economy was very bad at that time. Refugees from China entered Hong Kong by the hundreds daily and finding a job for everyone was hard. Wages were low and the hours were long. This made it very hard to find time for students to train. The early students like Leung Sheung, Lok Yiu and Wong Sheung Leung opened their own schools and some like Tsui Sheung Tin began to teach privately.

In 1957 another early student of Yip Man’s, William Cheung, immigrated to Australia. On the way there an incident occurred when he locked himself in the sailor’s cabin and fought more than 10 sailors. This got into all the newspapers and so Wing Chun was even known in Australia then. About a year later, Bruce Lee left for the United States. Americans were exposed to his ability in the martial arts with the start of the television series Green Hornet. He began to teach the Wing Chun style to the celebrities and other famous people in California. Later on he went back to Hong Kong and made several movies that shocked the world. People from all over the world were beginning to hear about Chinese Kung Fu, especially a styled called Wing Chun. After Bruce passed away, a student of Leung Sheung by the name of Leung Ting taught a student named Gainsburg in Germany and brought Wing Chun to Germany. Then Victor Kan brought Wing Chun to England. Yip Man’s nephew, Lo Man Kam, brought the art to Switzerland and to Taiwan, his home country. Wing Chun was becoming the most popular martial art in the world. At about this time when Wing Chun peaked in popularity, Grand Master Yip Man passed away.

Prior to his death in 1972, Yip Man had stopped teaching but was consulted about Wing Chun. He had a hard life in the early years in Hong Kong but in his old age some rich students like Dung Sing and Chan Jee Chu, police detectives of The Hong Kong Royal Police, began to support him. He was considered the head of the Wing Chun family and had a few good years before his death. Unfortunately, he did not name a successor to carry on the leadership of Wing Chun. It is possible that he had not found anyone he liked, may never have found anyone who was worthy, or he was just not concerned with the issue at that late stage of his life. Whatever the reasons Grand Master Yip Man was truly the last Grand Master of the style. After his death and as time passed family members began to realize that they were on their own.

Wing Chun today is a very big family with schools all over the world. Any successful organization needs a leader to unite everyone and to help everyone work together. For a variety of reasons, those heirs and students of Yip Man who would be most qualified to unite and lead us have either been unwilling or unable to do so.

Now, 40 years after Yip Man’s death the Wing Chun family is drifting further and further apart. Without leadership, some begin to teach in their own way and some criticize others who do not agree with their way of teaching. Some even develop theories which Yip Man never taught. There are also those who claim that they are the only “true” teachers of Wing Chun. They suggest that the only legitimate teachers of Wing Chun are those whom they have tested and found qualified. Unfortunately, such claims detract from the credibility of the entire movement and will serve only to divide the Wing Chun family. Wing Chun is a style of martial art we are talking about, an art of fighting. One has to learn and train with it for a long period of time. One has to use it in fighting to gain the applied experience. This is very serious; it can lead to life and death. It is not something you pay me money for and I xerox a copy for you. It is not that simple. Anyone who learned, trained, and fought with it for a long period of time should have understood some truths of the art. How can anyone discredit all other’s experiences and call himself the only “true” artist in the world and try to lead others with such an attitude?

The basics of Wing Chun are exhibited in the forms that Yip Man left us, but principles and theories were verbally instructed by him. Each one may interpret the ideas a little differently. I am sure Yip Man would be happy to know if we, who learned from him, would carry on the benefits he gave us. I learned to apply what Yip Man taught me. So, my style is Applied Wing Chun®. Others have their interpretation of what they learned from Yip Man. If we could have a good leadership to unite everyone together, to exchange and to accept each other’s experience and ideas with open minds then Wing Chun could thrive. Everyone would benefit in the knowledge. Without this strong bonding and support among Wing Chun members the principle and theories Yip Man left us will be diminished from generation to generation and one day no one will recognize the style. Then Wing Chun will be just a name in the history of Martial Arts.

SiFu Duncan Leung

Wing Chun Warrior by SiFu Duncan Leung

I’ve heard conflicting reports from my students regarding the availability of  the book: Wing Chun Warrior by my SiGung, SiFu Duncan Leung. I wanted to get a copy to keep at the school, and was able to order the book through SiGung’s website at:


The book is also available on Everything Wing Chun:


Unlike most of the Wing Chun books you’ll find, this isn’t the typical instructional book with history, theory, techniques, and applications. Instead, its a collection of stories from SiFu Duncan Leung about his experiences learning and applying Wing Chun, intermixed with philosophy and Wing Chun theory. This book helps elucidate the more intangible and profound aspects of Wing Chun and martial arts in general. It also provides us a deeper understanding up the character of Yip Man and his teachings. Here are two reviews on it:

The story of Duncan Leung – childhood friend of Bruce Lee and disciple of Wing Chun master Yip Man – is valuable not only for the insights it offers into Chinese martial arts but also for its portrayal of the lost Hong Kong of the 1950s and 1960s. Reading Ken Ing’s Wing Chun Warrior, which chronicles Leung’s Kung Fu escapades, will be a jarring revelation to anyone familiar with the manic but orderly and largely peaceful city of seven million people that is Hong Kong today. The city described by Ing is a place where Kung Fu practitioners wielded eight-chop knives in the streets and literally battled their way from one martial arts studio to another to prove their fighting prowess. — Asia Times, May 16, 2009

There are some gems in the text that have the feeling of a 1950s Hong Kong film. For example, when Leung is queueing up for an evening function and two triads jump the queue, he decks them, much to the admiration of the crowd. But he has only a moment to enjoy their adulation before he spots 20 men with broken bottles heading for him. He then runs 2km, loses his entourage and comes to rest at the Queen Victoria statue in Victoria Park, where he promptly vomits. There are also his references to his friend Bruce Lee, who to a certain extent has become more legend than man — that as well as fighting, they were Elvis Presley fans and enjoyed dancing, at which they were apparently skilled. The book describes the two teenagers going to weekly dance classes so they could swivel their hips like the King. –South China Morning Post, March 1, 2009

SiFu James Sasitorn
Houston Wing Chun Boxing Academy