Wing Tsun is a fighting system that can be applied by any individual with a mind capable of learning and participating in a contact enviroment. Sifu Chris Collins has his own interpretation of the martial art – exploiting the realtionship between time and space.
Thanks to the late Hollywood actor Bruce Lee and a string of
movies about Kung Fu master Yip Man, Wing Chun has
become one of the best-known Chinese martial arts, attracting
people all over the world to learn it. Among them is Chris Collins, a
former United States marine. As of now, he has taught Wing Chun in
Hong Kong for 16 years, to hundreds of students from around the world.
Wing Chun in Hong Kong
“ITS structure is not on the physical prowess of the individual,” Collins
says. As a former boxer, wrestler, bouncer and US marine, he fi nds Wing
Chun quite different from many other fi ghting systems. “It is instead built
on a foundation of body mechanics, the dynamics of human anatomy,
and the science of movement.”
Wing Chun is a Chinese Kung Fu system, which began over 400 years
ago. According to legend, a former nun from a Shaolin temple created it.
It was further developed in the southern Chinese city of Foshan,
from which Yip Man brought Kung Fu all the way to Hong Kong and
then spread it to the world with the help of Leung Ting, Collins’
In 1995, Collins met an old Chinese man practising a martial art in a
national park in California. A softness and calmness in the movements
that he had never seen before immediately caught his eye, and he asked
the old man what it was. He learned it was Wing Chun and soon became
fascinated by it. A few months later, with the permission of the Marine
Corps (USMC), he came to Hong Kong to learn from the real source of
After six months of searching in Hong Kong, he fi nally met his sifu,
Cheng Chuen-fun at Leung Ting’s Kung Fu centre in Yau Ma
Tei. “He is a very calm, extremely humble, very sincere person,” says
“He teaches you calm. When you have contact with your opponent,
you don’t have to be hard. You move with them to divert the force.”
Collins continues, “My ultimate purpose was to bring back all those skills
to the US to formulate the martial art programme for the Marine Corps.” He
has stayed in Hong Kong for 18 years on and off. He is now a master level
Instructor. In 2011, he founded the Hong Kong Wing Tsun Association.
Philosophy and methodology
THERE are two different styles of Kung Fu: soft and hard. The latter
utilises a wide stance, but can be very rigid.
Wing Chun belongs to the soft category. “You are able to change, like
bamboo, bending yourself, but not breaking,” Collins explains.
To be soft, the motion of the arm relies on the pivot joints of the
elbows, wrists, shoulders, knees and hips.
When asked what is the most
important feature of the martial
art, Collins says directness.
“Wing Chun is straight ahead, and you have to deal
with every type of force, whether somebody is coming straight
to strike you, whether they are strong. Whatever the case may
be, we must deal with them.
“It is very direct and simple, but the simplicity is what makes it
so complex. You have to be so clear in your ability to understand and
apply what you are doing.”
The directness also comes from anticipation of the opponent. “I can
feel he wants to push me, feel he wants to draw his hand,” Collins says.
The anticipation creates time and space, which matters in a competition.
“If you are going to punch me and I don’t do anything, you have
time to travel that distance to punch me,” Collins explains. “You must
determine the action based on time, and then I can beat you early into your
space. If you have time, while I have no time, then you have all the space.”
To obtain such directness, Collins says the fi rst skill that a new learner
has to practise is “sticky hand”.
“It puts you in contact with your opponent; once you are in contact
with your opponent, then you can feel him change. You can feel how he
wants to strike you. It is not about ‘I have to overpower you’, but about ‘I
have to feel your energy’.”
For the people who want to understand Wing Chun well,
Collins says they should be open-minded, analytical and
very intelligent. These are the keys to succeeding in
learning Kung Fu.
For teenagers, he looks on Wing Chun as an
alternative to team sports. “The beauty of martial art
is that there is nobody to rescue you, and you have to
do it yourself.
“Everything you do is under a microscope,
because your sifu is watching you, to teach you how to
understand your body, learn patience, learn discipline,
and how to interact with people to show them respect.”