Grandmaster Doc-Fai Wong Interview
Fighting Stars Magazine
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One of Grandmaster Wong's favorite weapons is the straight sword or Gim.
Fighting Stars: What is your favorite fighting form?
Doc-Fai Wong: I have many. There is no particular form that is always my favorite. Any form that one does well becomes a favorite form. However, if I had to choose I would say that I really enjoy ?Buddha Palm? and the ?Choy Li Fut Snake form?. Also, ?Lo Han Taming the Tiger? also I love Choy Li Fut fan forms at this time.
Fighting Stars: What is your favorite internal form?
Doc-Fai Wong: I like it all. Tai Chi of course and all Choy Li Fut internal forms, of which there are many, I enjoy them all.
Fighting Stars: You follow in a great line of traditional martial arts. With all the distractions in the modern world do you feel that the students of present day can achieve the same level of skill such as achieved by Master Yang Cheng-Fu, Hu Yuen-Chou, Professor Peng-Si Yu or yourself?
Doc-Fai Wong: Yes, because even though we have the high tech distractions of today people are still people. In the olden days they didn?t have video games or computers, but they had other types of fun and entertainment. If people really enjoy the martial arts they will find the necessary time to do it. If they don?t like it, then if they don?t excel?well the distractions are just an excuse.
Fighting Stars: Could you tell us some of the differences between Tai Chi push hands and Choy Li Fut sticky hands.
Doc-Fai Wong: Choy Li Fut doesn?t have sticky hands like in Wing Chun. We have a rubbing hand called Nor Kiu that is more like Tai Chi single push hand.
Fighting Stars: I spoke with a well known Sifu with many years of sticky hands practice who told me that he was greatly humbled by your ability when he crossed hands with you. This Sifu is larger and would appear to be physically stronger than you. How can you explain the apparent contradiction?
Doc-Fai Wong: I can?t really talk about another system, but the sticky hand principle is not the same game as push hands, which is what I do. For example one time Bruce Lee ran into a Tai Chi master and he tried to push the Tai Chi master over. It ended up that Bruce Lee could not push the Tai Chi master over and so he punched the Tai Chi master and said I?m a puncher not a pusher. It?s really not fair to be playing one game and then do another because you aren?t winning.
Maybe with the person who tried to test me it was more of a case that I am able to unbalance that person. If you try to unbalance me I will try to redirect your energy and unbalance you. Someone may have great physical strength or may have a background in sticky hands, but maybe that person needs to work harder at rooting himself and develop a greater sensitivity as to where the opponent is trying to direct his energy. Maybe in the case you are talking about I was just able to take better advantage of him. For example; why would Brazilian Jiu Jitsu be so special? They just learned the same Japanese Jiu Jitsu , which both Brazilian and Japanese arts have their origins in Chinese Chin Na. When I watched a Gracie Jiu Jitsu match I was able to observe that he learned how to relax and move out of a hold and he was able to change the force similar to push hands and reverse the advantage in his favor. So, if you understand the principles of Tai Chi push hands or Aikido and develop your sensitivity then you can take any energy like in Jiu Jitsu or other grappling arts. You know how to redirect them before they get a hold on you. I believe that is why the Gracie?s are so successful at getting out because they are able to relax and redirect the opponents energy, whereas most people would become tense and they loose their ability to detect an opponents energy. It is not that this form or that form is better or that if you have a better kick or better punch then you will win in a fight. For example; many people were critical of Yang Cheng-Fu for watering down the Tai Chi system. They said you took out this kick or dropped that punch. What difference does it make? Let?s say I took a Tai Chi form and added ten or more Choy Li Fut punches to that form. Would that Tai Chi form be any better or more effective for martial arts? No. In the same way if you had a karate master who taught someone forms everyday for many years without freestyle or fighting technique do you think that person would really know how to fight?
It?s not the form that makes you effective. You have to train yourself and you have to make the form effective. So, therefore in Tai Chi Chuan we do the form to learn about ourselves, the balance, the shifting of the weight and the difference between empty and full with the footwork. And, then we learn relaxation and the connection of the Qi (Chi). See how high or low you can move the waist and shoulder. And how you synchronize the whole body as one unit. So, in doing parts of the Tai Chi form or actually when you practice any martial arts form you must know about yourself. And then in push hands and things like that you can learn about your opponent. Is that guy too loose, too stiff or too tense? Once you know both together, then you will make the system effective. If you learn a thousand techniques but if you don?t have the ability to feel and sense your opponent then those thousand techniques won?t be effective. Especially, nowadays I see a lot of people doing Aikido. But, they aren?t doing it correctly. Like for example if they do a locking technique, they automatically ?boom? fall over. But when it comes to a real fight that guy isn?t going to fall over. So, if that?s the case your technique is not going to be effective against a real live opponent. You need to be able to change your movements right away. That?s what Tai Chi push hands teaches you. Don?t use force against force. If I want to go to the left and that person doesn?t go to the left then I need to change to the right instantly. If he goes to the right I go to the left or the opposite direction. If he won?t go up then I go down, or in or out. I need to find the right angle from which I can apply leverage to make him off balance. This must be done without the use of physical strength.
Fighting Stars: That?s fantastic. And I know you gave the example of Gracie Jiu Jitsu and obviously you have been able to instill that same sensitivity in your own system and your own style in order to defeat other people.
Doc-Fai Wong: Of course that is only part of the martial arts training. You know, back about thirty years ago, when they first started Full-contact Fighting and then Kickboxing and then Shoot Fighting. I kept telling my students at the time that this is only a sport and it is not real fighting. I told my students that eventually you will see this sport adapt locking and Chin Na techniques because that is an essential part of fighting. At that time no one believed me. Remember the fight when Muhammad Ali fought the Japanese wrestler. I felt at that time that the Japanese wrestler should have won the fight, but because of the politics in the fighting at that time they gave the decision to Muhammad Ali. The Japanese fighter kept kicking Ali in the back of the knee and this caused some bruising and blood clots in the leg. At the same time Ali could not get close enough to the wrestler to cause any real damage. Of course if you score the fight with only boxing rules then the boxer is going to win.
So again I told my students Kickboxing is only one side of fighting. Now everyone talks about Gracie Jiu Jitsu and says that is the greatest art in the world. But that is not the greatest art in the world. That is still only a partial art.
Fighting Stars: Yes, we know that Jiu Jitsu has its roots in Chin Na.
Doc-Fai Wong: With all the grappling arts you can only real deal with one on one fighting. You can not deal with a group as effectively. So you need everything and not just wrestling or Jiu Jitsu.
Fighting Stars: And you yourself have a long tradition of Chin Na training in your system of fighting.
Doc-Fai Wong: Yes, and that?s another reason why I am so grateful to master Hu Yuen-Chou because Chin Na was almost lost in the Choy Li Fut system. It was resurrected by my teacher Hu Yuen-Chou.