An interview with Grandmaster Wayne Yung
Master Wayne Yung is based in Hong Kong and he is a current leader and chief instructor of Snake Crane Wing Chun. I deliberately don’t use title “grandmaster” ,”gatekeeper “ or other bombastic titles used today to show highest rank in Chinese Martial Arts, because he doesn’t like any of it , actually master Yung do care much about titles, he is simply a Sifu, teacher . In my humble opinion he is one of the most knowledgeable Wing Chun sifus today , one of the rare few who have complete understanding of the
Sifu Wayne Yung had learnt different Chinese martial arts, TaeKwon Do and Judo in his teenage years. In 1976 and 1977, he won the Hong Kong South China Athletic Association Open Hong Kong Tournaments . Then he taught Judo and became a Judo referee until 1993 when he retired from Judo. In 1978, he baiseed to Snake Crane Wing Chun Mun(SCWCM) GM Law Chiu Wing and he still practicing it today. His lineage was kept secret until 2009 , In 2014, SCWC is listed in one of the three HK wck lineages in the Hong Kong Intangible Cultural Heritage.It is Sifu Wayne whop brought Snake Crane Wing Chun to public and he still doing a great job in spreading his art. Sifu Yung graduated from Civil Engineering, majored in Structure and Applied Mechanics in 1983 and gained his Master degree in Computer Science
in England in 1986.
VZ: You were an accomplished martial artist prior to Wing Chun training , yet you left everything behind and started to practice Snake Crane Wing Chun. What is the reason for that , not many people are ready to give up all their accomplishments and start for the beginning?
WY: In my teens, I was , like many others, influenced by Bruce Lee, I loved marital arts a lot. However, I didn’t know what martial arts I actually want to practice. It was a time of search and discover. I learnt Judo, Hung kuen, Northen styles, tai chi, to see which one is most suitable for me. Eventually, in 1978, I got started with Snake Crane Wing Chun . Because SCWC was keep in secret, and I loved to fight , Judo was a perfect solution for hot blooded kid I was. I won numerous competitions , I enjoyed
Judo fights , it helped me to satisfy my desire for fighting , on the other hand I did it in honorable way , by participating in official competitions , not fighting on the street .Later , as I understand more about SCWC, I completely devoted my self to it . I gave up all other arts, and finally left Judo as well.
WY: Exactly what I said. When you fight in a competition you have no bad emotions toward your opponent , it is a simple comparison of the skill and determination. If you win , you win with honor , respecting your art , your teacher and your opponent.
Fighting on the street is for two reasons , either you fight to survive or you are the attacker, which is the worst thing someone can do . I know some people were seeking opportunity to fight on the street and they are proud on what they did , but not me . I had my share of fights , Hong Kong is not the safest place on Earth , especially in the days of my youth but I never talk about it, that is not example I want to set to my children and to my disciples who I also consider my children . I survive , thanks to SCWC, that experience I incorporated in my teaching , but talking , or even worse ,bragging , that is not me , not my art , I am trying to set a positive example to the martial arts community .
VZ: How did you find your Snake Crane Wing Chun teacher , having in mind that your teacher haven’t taught openly and he didn’t have a school , in fact Snake Crane Wing Chun was closed to public until 2009?
WY: in 1978, just before I finished my secondary school, a worker’s wife who lived in my school, knowing I am crazy about martial arts and always got hurt because I have been practicing too much , gave me my sifu’s business card and advised me to visit him and learn bone setting. Soon after I went to visit my sifu and we talked about my martial arts experience and practice . I remember the way Sifu looked at me , and then he started reading my palm , after a while he said it would be the best if I follow him and learn SCWC. He told me the rules of SCWC and asked me to think about his offer. After a month consideration, I eventually went to my sifu in September 1978. Two months later, in November 1978, we did the discipleship ceremony in his flat.
VZ: How many students you teacher had over the years ?
WY: Not many, according to my knowledge, in the late 60’s , there were Chan Wing Jin and Li Yuen, 70’s, there were Mr. Yuen Chi Choy, Chan Kwok Keung and 80’s there was Sammy Ho, in 90s Mr. Yeung Chi Cheong and David Yuen Man Kong. In this century, there were Mr. Mok Wei Keung and Mr. Lam Kwok Ming , totally 16 disciples . General speaking, every 10 years, he would accept one or two person as disciples. He didn’t teach openly and that’s why he only accepted people as disciples, not students.
VZ: You said , your teacher only accepted disciples , not students, what was the reason for that?
WY: My teacher is very traditional , he strictly followed the rules of the style. One of the governing rules was to keep style away for public. In old times , before public kung fu schools emerged at end of 19th and beginning of 20th century , martial arts teachers had only disciples , not students is modern sense of the word, disciples not only practiced directly under teacher’s supervision , but they lived with their teacher , they were considered as a part of the family, in fact hierarchy and structure of traditional school is just mirrored hierarchy of traditional Chinese family. All the titles are family related , even today we still use these titles like kung fu brother, kung fu uncle, ect.
One more interesting thing , following the rule of practice form the Ching Dynasty period , when conspiracy was essential , my teacher taught all his disciples separately , until recently most of us didn’t even know about one another . In the past we rarely met each other , and even then , only couple of us at the time , never all at the same place at the same time .
VZ: What else can you tell us about your teacher?
WY: Not much actually , my teacher kept his private life , private, he never talked about himself. But I can tell what kind of person he is . At the day of my acceptance for his disciple , being still a student , I didn’t have money for the’ red envelope”, my teacher opened his wallet ,put some money in it and gave it to me so I can fulfil complete the ritual and give the envelope to him.
VZ: Can you describe how traditional Bai See ceremony looked like in old days?
WY: Yes, my sifu choose a specific date which is believed to be good day for the discipleship ceremony according the traditional Chinese event calendar (通聖) . He invited one of our senior Sihings to come as witness. That day, sifu brought out all the ancestors tablets, actually his grandfather’s and other ancestor’s wooden tablets on the table, there was also a picture of a written Chinese character ‘budda 佛’. On the table were 3 types of dishes cooked from domestic animals a chicken, a duck and pork . When everything was set up ,Sifu asked us to write the red envelop and yellow envelop. The red envelop is for baisee to sifu, and sifu will keep it and add our name to the successor chart. The yellow envelop is for the ancestors only to let them know that, today, we are going to baisee to sifu and formally get into the SCWC Mun (family). A red pocket is also prepared for sifu.
The ceremony started by Sihing recited the mun’s rules and ask us to follow. After he finished, Sihing chopped the chicken head and help to burn the yellow envelop to the ancestors. Then we kneeled down and offered a cup of tea with the the red envelop with the lai see to sifu. Sifu will accept the red envelop and lai see and drink the tea, which means that he accept us as his disciples. After completion of the ceremony with Sihing as witness, the ducks, chicken and pig will be eaten for dinner.
VZ: Today ,you simplified Bai See ceremony , why?
WY: Ritual is important form tradition’s point of view , but not the way most people think. Ritual have a purpose to mark the moment of bonding , moment when person becomes a member of Snake Crane Wing Chun family (Mun) , that is a true meaning of Bai See ceremony, without that , not matter what kind of ritual you performing , it is meaningless. I have changed and simplified things to make it acceptable for people of different cultural and religious background . This way I still follow SCWC tradition and also avoid conflict with other traditions . Today SCWC Mun has disciples from all over the world and they all performed Bai See. Tradition is kept alive , which is very important for SCWC ,but now we are open to everyone.
VZ: Why and how did you decide to “open the door” of your style for public ?
WY: In 2008, my sifu talked to me about his age and the fact he has no son to succeed the art. His 3 daughters found no interest in learning SCWC. In order to preserve the from disappearing in my sifu;s generation, I urged him to open the arts to public. SCWC was kept in secret because well know political issues connected to Tai Ping Heavenly Kingdom period and fire of red boats and Find Jade Halll . Qing dynasty collapsed over a century, republic of China moved to Taiwan in 1949,the communist party rule China today. In 1967, the cultural revolution destroyed a lot of the Chinese traditional kung fu and practitioners were prosecuted and many were killed. But all these things are long gone ,today, SCWC no more has any political issues, and should be open to the public. Finally, my sifu decided to allow open teaching and let the art continue by the appropriate persons. Then he made a public announcement in the newspaper for 3 days that any SCWC matters are not related to him anymore, because he got retired. In 2009, 8 Jan, he assigned me as the president of SCWC Mun and passed the marshall flag to me to lead the mun people to go to the world.
VZ: How do you see the future of SCWC?
WY: I think the future of SCWC will be bright , many good WCK practitioners show interest in my art and many schools are opened recently . We have brunch schools all over the world and many people are interested to come, learn and bring SCWC to their countries .
Sifu Vladimir Zlatic