The Shaolin Connection Between Hung Fa Yi and Chi Sim Weng Chun Kung Fu



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Some contemporary critics have suggested that there can be no Shaolin connection between Chi Sim Weng Chun and Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun simply because they do not look the same and do not share the same surface choreography via like forms and training sets.

This is a common error made by novice researchers who believe shapes, forms, and names of techniques alone determine a system of martial science. In truth, a martial system cannot be assessed in terms of shapes and forms alone. A Great Dane doesn’t look much like a Bull Mastiff, but they are nearly identical with 99.9% identical genetic code and can interbreed.

Wherein their surface appearance may seem significantly different to the non-scientist, at the cellular level and lower, they share much in common and come from the same roots – so much so, that they are classified as the same species.

There are five basic wisdoms of Shaolin that any true researcher will recognise: Faat (reality and methods) of Heaven, Man, and Earth, Lai (principles), Yi (meanings and concepts), Ying (shapes and forms), and Sup (expression and showmanship).

These wisdoms can be used to identify or disprove a Shaolin connection between these two systems, and, at the same time, highlight some of their differences. Inexperienced researchers may start with the fourth wisdom (shape and form) and disseminate their research based on surface differences based on individual expression.

All five wisdoms must be understood in depth to make an informed comparison. Before employing such a comparison, it is first wise to look at the overall combat strategy of each system.

A Common Strategy

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Both systems recognise and use the reality of heaven, man, and earth, in the form of time, space and energy technology to obtain a superior battlefield position and to maintain universal harmony. Chi Sim strategy focuses on bridges based on time, space and energy to accomplish this strategy.

Hung Fa Yi uses Five Elemental Battle Arrays called Ngh Jeung Chiu Meen Joi Yeng to accomplish the same, but with an emphasis on maximum economy of motion and resources. Both systems recognise their Southern Shaolin roots but have been taught over the last 350 years separate from one another, yet both share a common strategy based on time, space, and energy.

Their methods for training are different, as are their expressions, but their knowledge of how to employ time, space, and energy control is quite similar and certainly Shaolin in their heaven, man, and earth perspective.

Similar Methods

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True indoor students of Shaolin always started their training with a rigorous understanding of methods and realities. These students were referred to as Kuen Faat Dai Si – both Chi Sim and Hung Fa Yi practitioners recognise this term. Outdoor students, known as Kuen Sut Dai Si began their training with a technique and drilling focus.

They were equipped to use a system, but not to understand it to any degree of depth. As indicated above, the faat of both Chi Sim and Hung Fa Yi is described by the Heaven, Man, and Earth metaphor. The earth component represents the beginning or root of everything in the kung fu. It is the overall foundation, consisting of both identity and gravity.

Gravity defines the shape, form, and function of every organism in relation to its environment, and kung fu is no different. In turn, shape, form, and function become identity. Identity is really a human anatomical recognition of time, space, and energy that gives rise to self-identity. It must be recognised, but not fixated upon.

Eventually, the practitioner must transcend self-identity to appreciate universal reality. Both systems teach a need to know self, but remain detached from it to prevent the distortions that ego can bring to combat reality. Full comprehension of gravity is essential to knowing self. The human component of Heaven, Man, and Earth faat represents energy. It cannot be destroyed – only changed.

Both systems prefer to harmonize ever-changing energies rather than resisting them, and both recognise all five fundamental energies: wood, water, fire, metal, and earth. Each understands that energy represents potential. From a martial arts perspective, humans are merely expressions of potential energy and all are interconnected.

The heaven component of Heaven, Man, and Earth faat represents the interplay of time, space, and energy. They are universal constants. They make up reality. Every tool in martial arts employment is time, space, and energy dependent. This is a Shaolin concept and a Chan philosophy construct for understanding reality. The final faat is Hou Chuen San Sau.

Both systems insist that learning can only be done face to face with the teacher. Literally translated, Hou Chuen San Sau means the “mouth passes on and the body receives.”

Compatible Concepts

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Chi Sim Weng Chun is guided by 6 ½ principles that view all action and motion as an opportunity. Tai (lift) is viewed as an opportunity to lift an opponent’s weapons and structure. Got (down) represents an opportunity to sink the opponent’s center of gravity downward. Kit (open) is seen as an opportunity to open a flanking opponent’s center and to flow to the outside to open him up if he counters. Laan (close/obstruct) becomes an opportunity to close down an opening attack, while Dim represents an opportunity to hit a charge. Wun (circle) represents and opportunity to turn an opponent’s structure and energy. The ½ point, Lau (flow) is the most important principle. It connects the other six. All of the above motions and actions must flow from one to another to be effective.

All of these principles are completely compatible with Hung Fa Yi training, although their use of time, space, and energy is different. Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun employs an additional guiding principle of Economy of Motion – the least amount of energy in the shortest space and time.

Concepts are more descriptive than principles. They allow for more focused comprehension. Chi Sim Weng Chun accomplishes the focus of the 6 and ½ principles with 18 definitive Kiu Sau. They specifically describe the actions and motions of the 6 and ½ principles, as well as their interactions. Chi Sim also employs the Heaven, Man, and Earth concept for both height and range determination.

Visually Different Shape and Form – Definitely Related Beneath the Surface

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On first examination, Chi Sim’s broadly flowing shape and form appear significantly different than Hung Fa Yi. They represent the classical Shaolin expression of employment of circles to cover the gates and encounter the bridge. Chi Sim shapes and forms are best described as circles enfolding triangles. Hung Fa Yi’s shapes and forms are best described as triangles enfolding smaller circles.

The Wing Chun formula and the Chiu Meen Deu Yeng/ Chiu Meen Jeui Yeng alignments use angles to cover the gates. If the practitioner’s position does not allow the immediate use of angulation, a circle can be employed to obtain it. At a Wing Kiu level, the circle can be bypassed because the formula and Jeui Yeng positioning have already guaranteed the space and time for immediate Chum Kiu destruction of the opponent’s forces.

A Common View of Sup (Expression and Showmanship)

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For both Chi Sim and Hung Fa Yi, this is where the human factor enters the process. Both focus their training on science, yet recognise that humans are not machines and cannot purely express science. Their attempts to do so represent showmanship. As such, human expression is art, rather than science. This is most definitely a Chan recognition of reality.

After employing the Shaolin wisdoms to peer beneath the surface at these two systems, insiders consider them to be brothers with the same father (Shaolin) as creator. Traditional Shaolin is based on application and reality. Nothing is prearranged. Training must focus on the space, time, and energy offered, rather than that which is desired. Both Chi Sim Weng Chun and Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun fully understand and employ these wisdoms. They share much more in common than the sum of their differences.

Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun begins conceptual definition with the construct of the Wing Chun Formula. It is the formula that allows the Hung Fa Yi practitioner to express ultimate economy of motion. The formula gives rise to Hung Fa Yi’s Gate Theory.

Chi Sim also employs similar gate theory, but does not incorporate the same emphasis on absolute economy of motion. Like Chi Sim, Hung Fa Yi also uses the Heaven, Man, and Earth concept for height determination, but the Six Gate Theory of Hung Fa Yi gives rise to Chiu Meen Deui Yeng and Cheu Meen Jeui Yeng triangulation for range determination.

Chi Sim Weng Chun and Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun are the only two Wing Chun systems found to date that begin with Chan philosophy and the faat (reality and methods) of Heaven, Man, and Earth. It is interesting to note that faat for both systems is completely rooted in their combat strategy. Every completed exercise and drill is performed in the precise space and timeframe those same motions and energies will be employed in battle.

There is no need to remove the “system” from the Kung Fu before going to battle, because the system has already provided the necessary skill challenge conditioning.

This article was written by Benny Meng of the vtmuseum

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