Welcome to Touchstone Martial Arts presenting Wing Chun Kung Fu from both the Yip Man (Ip Man) and Pan Nam traditions.For a brief overview of Wing Chun, please read the “Biography of a Martial Art .”
What makes the teaching method used by Touchstone Martial Arts exceptional is that it is essentially an apprenticeship instructor’s program where student also learn the art of teaching. See the discussion below in “The benefits . . .” section for a brief overview of that aspect of our program, but also read the article “What’s in a Name?” for a full discussion of our Instructor’s teaching method and why he named the school “Touchstone Martial Arts.” See also our instructor’s biography .
The article, “Jeet Fa” (“the intercepting method”), describes the first level a student learns. It is the beginning level of the “Touchstone Wing Chun System” described in “What’s in a Name?” That system is pure Wing Chun albeit abridged and restructured it is presented in a way which prevents the bad habits many practitioners seem to unknowingly acquire. It does that by enhancing the understanding of the mechanics of each technique within the contex of the art’s fight theories.
The dozen or so techniques selected for the Jeet Fa level (the 1st of 2) are the fastest and most effective which don’t require an extensive foundation. Those techniques are packed together at the beginning to create an abbreviated, yet amazingly cohesive and aggressive fighting system that can be learned in a matter of months rather than years. The Jeet Fa level provides students with an “experiential peek” at the effectiveness of the art’s most advanced level of while teaching them to appreciate the importance of understanding and perfecting a few techniques rather than being in a hurry to learn many with all the negative effects which proceed from that attitude.
Our Sifu, Michael Nedderman (see his bio) , learned both the Hong Kong and Pan Nam Wing Chun systems from Master Eddie Chong between 1987 and 1996. Eddie Chong learned the Yip Man (or Hong Kong) system from Kenneth Chung who is a prominent student of Leung Shung, Grandmaster Yip Man’s (Ip Man ) most senior student from his Hong Kong days (Leung Shung is known as “The King of the Attack Form,” the bui gee form). Master Chong learned the Pan Nam system in China directly from the late Grandmaster as his final closed door disciple as described in “Enter the Wing Chun Time Machine” (currently being revised and updated), which was written by our Sifu and published in the July and August 1993 issues of Inside Kung Fu magazine.
For a brief discussion of Wing Chun generally, see the “Biography of a Martial Art” . For an in-depth discussion of the art, and how to analyze any martial art, see “Planning for the Inevitable with the Sawed-off Shotgun of Martial Arts” . Both articles were written by our instructor
The benefits of an Apprenticeship Instructor’s Program
Our instructor emphasizes that the highest evidence of a practitioner’s comprehension of Wing Chun is the ability to effectively communicate it to others. Obviously, skill in application (fighting) is the ultimate goal. Actual fighting ability is certainly the primary reason for training in the fascinating art of Wing Chun Kung Fu.
But no matter who you are, from Bruce Lee to “Paul the Pugilist” to “Mr./Ms. Mild-mannered,” you will spend much, much more time learning and teaching than you ever will fighting. Therefore the practical goal that will provide the surest path to the ultimate goal (fighting skill) is becoming the best teacher possible.
Teaching is an art in and of itself, and the better your instructor is at it, the better you will be at not only learning the technical aspect of Wing Chun, but also the art of how to teach it most effectively. Consequently, the better your teaching skill and the more you teach, the better you will comprehend the art as you both apply it (fighting, if necessary) and pass it on to the next generation.
The value of a written lesson plan
Our instructor passes on his insights and teaching methods at every opportunity to insure that the next generation of instructors will have as much confidence in their competence as possible. That confidence can only be rooted in reality – in the fact that they actually have the highest level of fighting and teaching skill possible. Otherwise it is false confidence which leads to disastrous results in both situations (fighting and teaching).
An important part of the guidance our instructor provides is contained in a written course outline for each level of the martial art. Such an outline helps the beginning student know where he is in the overall course of study, while at the same time it guides the more advanced students by giving them confidence that they are teaching the right thing at the right time to junior students.
Naturally, our instructor oversees the entire process, working with all students at every stage of their progression through each level of the system both to help them and also to verify the accuracy of each apprentice-instructor’s understanding of the art. Apprentice-instructor’s then feel comfortable exploring the system within the safety of the context that such guidance provides. That is why this is an apprentice instructor’s program.
Most importantly, a written course outline provides a standard, the meaning of “touchstone,” which insures better quality and consistency of the overall instruction at the school than would otherwise be possible. Using a written course outline, overseen by our instructor, prevents the confusion in students which some schools experience as well as the “pecking order syndrome” that creates negative feelings and an unfriendly atmosphere.
Self-discovery through teaching is critical to ultimate competence
Intermediate and senior students teaching junior students is how the advanced students revisit “the basics” and discover that there is a lot more to the fundamentals than they previously believed. That humbling discovery causes those advanced students to realize that they must rededicate themselves to understanding the basics. That positive method of motivating advanced students to revisit the basics, and the realization it causes, works wonders on the attitude of all students and creates a welcoming, helpful atmosphere.
Self-discovery through teaching is a critical element in both fully comprehending the art and preventing the development of bad habits which plague and frustrate many in their pursuit of excellence in Wing Chun. That method is also how a school learns to share the learning experience, and is how the ego-enhancing “pecking order syndrome”, so apparent at some schools, is displaced with a much more cohesive, “family” atmosphere. It truly creates the atmosphere which cultivates the much lauded character development for which martial arts training is often recommended.
The source of Bruce Lee’s skill
Although best known as Bruce Lee’s original art, Wing Chun’s stellar effectiveness (not to mention Lee’s) can be directly attributed to the art’s unique approach to solving the problem of winning a fight. Jun Fan, and Jeet Kune Do (JKD) are arts Bruce developed in the United Sates after he learned Wing Chun from Grandmaster Yip Man (Ip Man) in Hong Kong. Even though he only achieved an intermediate level, it is that grounding in Wing Chun which gave Lee his incredible insight into analyzing the techniques of other Martial Arts. Because Wing Chun is in fact a study of the science of biomechanics as it relates to the movement and energy flow of martial art techniques, one can only wonder what Bruce Lee could or would have done had he completed his Wing Chun training.
Bruce Lee’s journey through the martial arts is placed in context by his Wing Chun classmate, Hawkins Cheung, in an enlightening four part series published in Inside Kung Fu in November & December ’91, and January & February ’92 issues. Insightful comments regarding Lee’s motive and goals for creating Jeet Kune Do were subsequently provided by one of Bruce’s first students from his Seattle school, James DeMile, in a letter to the editor published in June of ‘92. There is a lot to learn from this kind of historical context which is part of the education students of Touchstone Martial Arts receive.
Wing Chun: the original Mixed Martial Art?
It is truly unfortunate that those who are fascinated with Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) don’t know that Wing Chun embodies exactly the attributes they seek and could greatly benefit them by giving them control over that critical moment when first contact is made. In fact, Wing Chun is also known as “stand-up grappling” and may be one of the first mixed martial arts because the woman who originated it combined the close-range tactics and techniques of a half dozen Kung Fu styles to form one cohesive fighting system with the goal of enabling her, a middle-aged to elderly woman, to defeat her most likely opponents (men in the prime of life). The arts from which Wing Chun derived are: Tai Chi (probably Chen style), Southern Preying Mantis, Sil Lum or traditional Shaolin Kung Fu, Eagle Claw, Chin Na (joint locking), and the mysterious “Golden Palm.”
Wing Chun’s unique approach to winning a fight (not to mention Bruce Lee’s effectiveness) can be directly attributed to the unique perspective of its founder. That founder was a woman who must have reasoned that she wasn’t going to win a contest of strength and agility against her most likely opponents, and so . . . and so you should read “Biography of a Martial Art” for a brief discussion and “Planning for the Inevitable with the Sawed-off Shotgun of Martial Arts” for an in-depth look at the marvels of Wing Chun Kung Fu. “Jeet Fa” describes the first level a new student learns, and don’t forget to read “What’s in a Name” for our instructor’s teaching philosophy (“What’s in a Name” is currently being revised—look for a current date on the revision).