Interview With Master Kwok in Italy

Article by Riccardo Di Vito alle added on 11 Jul 2012. Last updated on 20 Jul 2012.

Sam Kwok Interview by Riccardo Di Vito alle

Today we meet Samuel Kwok, founder of the Samuel Kwok Martial Arts Association.

The interview from Feb 2010

Dear Samuel, when did you start with Martial Arts?

Generic picture of Sam Kwok on a Wing Chun dummy I was teenager, I started going to bazaars where refugees came from mainland China and sold a range of Chinese herbal remedies such as dit da jow [used to relieve bruising and swelling]. People demonstrated their kung fu skills in order to sell their wares. I learned a lot from watching these demonstrations. I was introduced to the Wing Chun White Crane, Fuijian style. Master Cheng Man Lung, who was the full-contact fighting champion in Canton during the 1930s, was very powerful because of his dim-mak [pressure-point striking] skill. He trained with a bucket full of granite rocks and his fingers were very short and thick from years of striking his hands into the bucket. My interest in Wing Chun continued in 1968 when my basket ball captain showed me the Siu Lim Tao 'Little Idea' form. I came to England in 1972 and started learning Wing Chun from Lee Sing, who was a student of Grandmaster Ip Man. Lee Sing was my first Wing Chun teacher and it was he who introduced me to Grandmaster Ip Chun in 1978. I furthered my studies with Grandmaster Ip Chun, who taught me the Wooden Dummy form among all the other Wing Chun forms in great detail. I have invited Grandmaster Ip Chun over to the UK.Europe U.S.A.,Australia on numerous occasions to conduct seminars. Incidentally, Grandmaster Ip Chun is the most skilful practitioner of chi-sao [sticking-hands] that I have ever seen. In 1992, I brought his brother, Grandmaster Ip Ching, to the UK to conduct seminars. In 1994, I continued my training in Wing Chun under Grandmaster Ip Ching. In 1995, I brought Grandmasters Ip Chun and Ip Ching to Chicago to conduct joint seminars. I have spent many years not only training under the guidance of Grandmaster Ip Man's two sons but also promoting them in the US and Europe.

With who did you train the Wing Chun style?

As I have said I started under Lee Sing and later finished Wing Chun with Grandmaster Ip Chun, then I learned with Ip Ching. I have also been lucky enough to train with a variety of other Wing Chun masters over the years (all be it briefly) including Wong Shun Leung, Tsui Shong Tin and Chan Wai Hong, and many other lineage

Can we know what are the differences between your Wing Chun and others interpretations?

Kwok and Tsoi Shong Ting Because I have learned from a variety of sources (all Ip Man Wing Chun) I have seen many of the subtle variations in Wing Chun. I try to teach my students these different variations. For instance Ip Chun is much smaller than his brother Ip Ching and as a result his style of Wing Chun is subtlety different. Ip Man was always keen to encourage his students to learn to make Wing Chun their own so it is effective. I follow this tradition and way of thinking. Wing Chun is a thinking art. You need to get the students to use their brains to find out why a technique works, to understand the principles and theories, to understand the "keys". It is 50 per cent from the sifu and 50 per cent from the student. You must remember that everyone's build/stature is different and so you must adapt your teaching method and the focus of your student. For example, a smaller person has to use more footwork and borrow the other person's energy. Furthermore, I tell my students that it is always good to observe other styles of martial arts. This enables you to observe different techniques and pushes you to think about how you will be able to "feel" these techniques if applied against you, in a competition for example.

Who is your Master, now?

I regularly go to Hong Kong where I train with Grandmaster Ip Ching however I also train with Grandmaster Ip Chun when I am over there Also I visyt Sifu Tsui Shun Tin and a few other of Grandmaster Ip Man's students.

Have you been appointed as SiFu (Master or Gran Master too?). From whom and how do someone become one?

I am a Sifu means teacher in Chinese because I am teaching Kung Fu. Some people address me as master but it takes a life time to master an art like Wing Chun. You need to continue to develop to make it more effective. As for Grandmaster I have many generations of students, but grandmaster is just a term of respect really it means nothing. I am still a learning.

How many hours do you train?

I teach Wing Chun at Lancaster university twice a week and once in Blackpool. So that's 6 hours. I also have many private students who come from around the world to train with me It is difficult to say how many hours a week. I practice the hand forms and the dummy form and the pole exercise and sometimes the knife form for the footwork.

Are you a professional martial artist or have other jobs?

I did work for the NHS in mental health full time. However I have recently retired which will mean I can now focus on promoting Wing Chun a bit more.

Have you ever fight on a sport's contest? When, where and with what results?

UK full contact Champion Paul Smith and Sam Kwok I have never done sport fighting. A few challenge matches in my younger days. However some of my students have won national full contact competitions which I am very proud of, I'm also very proud of my training partner Paddy Monaghan who was Bare Knuckle Boxing (BKB) middle weight champion of the world. I personally have never felt the need to compete. Wing Chun is primarily useful for self defence, this inherently involves quick and dangerous strikes like neck, groin and eye strikes. These don't fit in well with sport fighting.

How many hours per week should train a student to grow in a serious way?

I would recommend a minimum of one hour per day , preferably more. I teach students to have dedication, e.g. don't train one day and leave it for several days. Train often and hard.

How much do your students spend to become a black belt (in terms of time and money) or a Technician?

I don't really have a belt system. I teach to a syllabus which is similar though. The time it takes a student to reach instructor level depends on the student. I have had students who train around 8-10 hours weekly and who learn fast. For them it can take as little as 3 years be reach a good standard. Obviously the harder you work the quicker you progress. Just like any skill. As for the financial cost again it will vary. Those who are lucky enough to live near my Blackpool or Lancaster classes just pay the class fees. Students who live abroad end up having to make a bigger financial commitment in terms of paying for flights to come over and train privately with me. However I only charge what they can afford. For me Wing Chun is not about the money so I never rip people off, some instructors do and the students wont stay long with them. I also make sure I am open and do not hold back information if the student is dedicated and trains hard.

What are the fighting concepts that you focus on in your School?

I make sure what I teach my students is practical. That is the most important thing. They must learn to use Wing Chun principles like deflection rather than meeting force head on. They will eventually practice against all types of attack and will have to learn to use their Wing Chun to stay safe. Chi Sau is very important in practising how to fight and using the concepts of Wing Chun. I guess to list some of the concepts I teach I would have to say: Economy of motion, Protecting your center, Deflecting force, Attacking straight and minimizing waste, I guess that's like economy of motion. Perhaps most importantly, doing what keeps you safe. You should allays fight in a safe and effective way. That's what Wing Chun is about. I also emphasise conditioning and training for power using the hip and stance (Yiu Ma).

Think to come to Italy sooner or later?

I think it would be nice to start spreading Ip Man's Kung Fu in Italy. As soon as someone organizes a seminar I will be keen to come over and teach and share what I have learned and developed.

Thank you, Samuel.

Thank you, it was a pleasure to talk about the art I love.

Pubblicato da Riccardo Di Vito alle

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