At the Ving Tsun Athletic Association, there are multiple classes going on at different times taught by different Sifus. There is a schedule just outside the door with a listing of all the Sifus and the times they teach. Some of the notable Sifus that teach here include both of the sons of Ip Man, Ip Chun and Ip Ching, and also Siu Yuk Men, one of Ip Man’s first students. Of course, there are many other Wing Chun schools all over Hong Kong and I did not have the opportunity to visit them all, but I was able to visit 7 different schools. So, what is Wing Chun in Hong Kong like?
First, let me say again. I just speak from my own experiences and judgment. I am not perfect. Do not take what I say here as the gospel truth. My opinions and analysis could be wrong; I will try my best to be fair and accurate. However, someone may get offended at what follows. I intend here to tell you the truth as I understand it based on my 5 day visit to Hong Kong. You may have your own experience which differs greatly. This is just my experience and perspective. Please don’t be offended. This is written from the perspective of one Hong Kong visitor to others who may be in similar shoes wanting to visit Hong Kong. So, here it goes…
I visited 7 Wing Chun schools in Hong Kong over the course of 5 days, training with them about 4 hours a day. There are a few things to watch out for and be aware of if you plan to visit Hong Kong. Some of the Sifus in Hong Kong particularly, the older generation, are like royalty. If they can charge you a higher fee even for one class, then they will. Some have great pride in their reputation or for having studied with a famous Sifu. So, often you will find yourself paying for the privilege to have a famous teacher teach you, but not receive quality training. If you want to go visit a famous Sifu and get a photo taken with him, then go for it, but if you want quality training, the famous Sifu may not be the best place to go. During my visit, the going rate for one class with a big name Sifu was about HK$500 (about US$65).
Another thing to watch out for is the cliquish, exclusive, and privileged mindset of some of the schools. Often, these schools feel threatened by outsiders and are unwilling to teach you or allow you to attend class. If you do attend, they won’t teach you anything. So, just be mindful of that. Some places are distrusting of outsiders and view it as a challenge when you visit a school to train for a single class or day. Others look to make the most they can from outsiders and visitors from foreign countries.
So, how about specific schools? I have nothing bad to say about any of the schools I visited. I’ll just share my experience. The first school I visited when I arrived in Hong Kong was that of Sifu Siu Yuk Men who teaches at the VTAA. I was unable to contact Sifu Men in advance to inform him of my intention to attend class because I could not find an email address for his school. However, I have great respect for him as he was one of Ip Man’s first students and finished the whole system as a closed door student. I arrived there at about 6:30 pm. The class had already been going for an hour and a half. There were about half a dozen people in the class. Sifu Men was sitting on the desk in the back. I was welcomed in the school and introduced myself. He asked me a few questions about my training background and my lineage. Then I asked Sifu Men if I could join his class. He said no since there was only 1 ½ hrs left. However, he offered to teach me privately for HK$500/hr instead. I politely declined and left.
I also visited Wan Kam Leung’s Practical Wing Chun. I emailed them in advance of my arrival, but did not receive a message back. However, I was welcomed to attend class there. When I came in, I was informed that Sifu Leung was away on travel, but I could still attend class. Eager to experience as much as I could in my short stay, I agreed. The fee for one class was HK$500, but it is also mandatory to buy a school shirt since everyone must be in uniform. The school shirt costs HK$180. So, I went for it. It’s a nice shirt! After changing my shirt, I was welcomed into class when the assistant told me that we would begin with Siu Lim Tao. I told her I’d been studying Wing Chun for 5 years and already learn Siu Lim Tao under a different lineage. I was told that even for one class, everyone has to start with Siu Lim Tao because we have to learn their version of the form. I asked for my money back and kindly departed.
I visited Sam Lau’s Yip Man Martial Arts Association as well. I did not contact them in advance of my arrival, but decided to go there after leaving Practical Wing Chun. I checked the schedule online, but when I arrive, I was told that there was no class scheduled for that night. There were some students there. I asked if I could still train with them, but they said their Sifu doesn’t allow them to train with visitors.
From there I left and went back to the VTAA to attend Sifu Ip Ching’s class. I did email them the previous day to let them know I planned to attend class. I arrived at about 7:30pm. Class started at 5:30pm and went until 10:00 pm. Sifu Ip Ching had just stepped off the elevator for his dinner break. So, I went up to class anyway. When I arrived, I was told Sifu Ip Ching had just departed for lunch and I couldn’t train until he returns. They told me I could come back in about an hour. Having just come from 2 other schools, I requested to at least sit down and wait for him. I figure I could at least watch the class. That’s better than nothing. About an hour later, Sifu Ip Ching returns. I approach him and his assistants to request to train and I’m told no. The assistant said I could continue to sit and watch if I like. I have no idea why I was given this answer. Anyway, that’s what happened. Hope you have better luck.
This concludes part 2. I hope you found this useful and insightful. Again, many people have different experiences and for longer periods of time. These were my experiences based on only 5 days. There were other events as well not mentioned here. I would like to say that a few of my experiences were disappointing. Yet, despite the few disappointments and setbacks, overall, I found many wonder people and had incredible experiences! In part 3, I discuss training in Hong Kong and my experience at 3 schools of the schools that let me train there. Thank you for reading.
Wishing you peace and compassion.
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