Qualifications

 

TLDR: 20 years learning and teaching Wing Chun, including three years full time under Sifu Jim Fung, and three years full time under Sigung Chu Shong Tin.


I was living in Perth, Western Australia, just out of secondary school, and I asked myself, “What do I want to do with my life?” I wasn’t sure what to do with all of it, but I was sure about one thing: I wanted to do martial arts.

I signed up for many martial arts classes, wanting to give myself a broad exposure before dedicating myself to one. I did Taekwondo, boxing, fencing, aikido, capoeira, systema, ju jitsu —- then I discovered Wing Chun, and it was love at first sight.

A few months into my training, I was googling about Wing Chun and I came across something that seemed too good to be true: a government-accredited tertiary accreditation in Wing Chun instruction? The government would pay me to learn Wing Chun? The only catch was the course was starting next week and was in Sydney. I wish I could say the decision was hard to make. Five days later I was on the other side of the continent ready for the Monday 9am class at the International Wing Chun Academy in Sydney’s Chinatown, the first student through the door.

 
My Sigung observing my Sifu doing the dummy form

My Sigung observing my Sifu doing the dummy form

Certificate IV in Wing Chun Instruction

At the International Wing Chun Academy (IWCA), I trained 60+ hours a week, for three years, and I also got to do a lot of teaching as a Sihung. I learnt a lot from this period from dozens of great instructors. Once I became an instructor I continued to teach for several years, until Sifu Jim’s death.

Sifu Jim Fung liked to demonstrate his powerful one inch punch on me if I was by the front desk and potential customers had come in. He would strike me, I would fly back over a meter, hit the wall, and then slide down it! Sifu Jim had extremely fast and powerful hands!

About 9 months into training, I met my grandmaster, my Sigung, Chu Shong Tin. Annually he would come to the IWCA and give a week of seminars. I attended 60 hours of seminars over four years. These seminars contained a lot of theory, in highly concentrated form.

At these seminars I found that Sigung would like to combine theory, with demonstration on the questioner, and then an attempt to get the questioner to be able to do this themselves. I wasn’t shy in asking questions! These seminars provided the theoretical foundation for my training in Australia, and put me in an excellent position to later learn rapidly from Sigung’s daily instruction when I lived in Hong Kong.

If you click on the link below you’ll see Sigung using an an application of the dummy form to throw around a younger me.

 
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Certificate IV in Fitness Leaders

While training to get my CIV in Wing Chun Instruction, I also got this Personal Trainer qualification. I learnt a lot about anatomy and biomechanics from this course. I was lucky that the course was run by Sport Scientist and Wing Chun Instructor, Kevin Troeger. Click the link to read an excellent article by Kevin.

 
 
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Bachelor of Science,
Double Major in Philosophy and Psychology,
with Distinction

I didn’t know if I wanted to be a philosopher or psychologist, so I majored in both (and learnt that I wanted what I had always wanted - to teach kung fu).

Before going to university I had learnt a lot about Eastern Philosophy and Meditation.

At university I learnt Western Philosophy. One philosophy a studied was Stoicism what some called Western Buddhism, and I found a lot of overlap and synergies between them.

I also studied Psychology, which is a vast field, its scope covers brains and neurons, to emotions, logic, beliefs, to the interface between society and the individual, and much more.

 
Mark Spence on one of his frequent training trips to Hong Kong

Mark Spence on one of his frequent training trips to Hong Kong

Training at the Chi Sau Club under Mark Spence

All through by studies I continued to train in Wing Chun, first at the IWCA, but then after the death of my Sifu with his most talented and experienced student in Sydney, Mark Spence.

This was a difficult time for me, with studying, working, and the death of my father. I found my weekly private lesson with Mark and the long, relaxed group classes centred me in difficult times. Mark is famous for his superb skill in Chi Sau, and each roll with Mark is a education. Mark’s careful attention to the forms of Siu Nim Tau during our privates I still treasure.

A was studying at university at this time and slowly realising that though I was learning so much and succeeding, it was my love of Wing Chun that I had always wanted to devote my life to.

After completing my studies, I went on one of Mark’s frequent trips to Hong Kong to train with Sigung Chu for a week. This completely clarified my goals—I would return to Sydney to pack and arrange to move to Hong Kong.

 
This roughly translates to “thought force manifesting”.

This roughly translates to “thought force manifesting”.

My “PhD” in Wing Chun

Sigung Chu was suffering from cancer at the time, and knowing how lucky I was to be learning from him and that my training would be cut short with him, I dedicated myself wholly to training under him. I was having certain problems with my development in Wing Chun that I had not been able to transcend in Australia no matter my hard work or the skill of my teachers. All of them would be the first to say that Sigung’s ability to diagnose what specific problem a student was having was second to none.

Within six months he had helped me fix a major problem with my stance; within nine what the essence of relaxation is; within a year the beginnings of shoulder power; and within two years I was able to find and use my centre. Of course it is impossible to list all that I learnt in this time.

Without the three years I spent in Hong Kong, I am convinced I would not have made progress on the above areas, and too many other areas to count. I am convinced I would have been forever stuck at a plateau in my training. All I know—and will know—in Wing Chun I ultimately owe to Sigung, and I will be forever grateful to him.

I call this period my “PhD” in Wing Chun because I learnt from the best in the world on the entire Wing Chun system. If I had never gone to Hong Kong to train with Sigung, I strongly suspect I would not have the tools to continue my growth in Wing Chun. Though I have much to learn (when someone asked Sigung how long it takes to master Wing Chun, his answer was one and a half lifetimes), I don’t have the fear that any future obstacles can’t be overcome with time and effort.

Also, as a teacher I learnt about how to be teacher from Sigung. Not only did I get to receive his personal assistance with each day of training, I saw him customise his instruction to each pupil, and I learnt much from this.