Stephen Chan's Wing Chun Kung Fu Association is a coalition of schools Wing Chun disciples of Grandmaster Stephen Chan with branches around the world.
Martial Art Schools are predominately closed minded institutions, rigid, always resisting change. Each individual school and its branches are restricted by invisible, yet nevertheless real boundaries. Techniques originating from different schools are disregarded despite their capacity to improve a traditional school in efficiency and effectiveness.
Upon any martial art school's introduction into society, some assimilation naturally occurs over the course of time as part of the newly discovered openness. The assimilation can range from minute changes to the inclusion of concepts from entirely different ideas. Wing Chun Kung Fu, as propagated by Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan is a shinning example of a martial art that has and still is evolving, without sacrificing the deep rooted traditions from which it originated.
Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan
It came as a surprise therefore, to find a third character, the neotraditionist, and this new master-teacher fills the middle way, with an ideology of maintaining impartiality. Thus, through the combination of both old and new techniques Grandmaster T.K. Chan has succeeded in establishing a harmonious relationship between the traditional martial arts and 20th century science.
Based on the premise that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, the Wing Chun School has been designed to facilitate economy of movement without inhibiting reaction time and speed of movement, the most important factors in any combat situation, whether within a competition or street encounter.
Introduced by his cousin to Grandmaster Chow Sze Chuen a closed door disciple of Great Grandmaster Yip Man, Stephen found himself in the hands of most in-depth Wing Chun School study programme provided in the Clan's history.
Being trained from the grassroots, Grandmaster Chow Sze Chuen took the advantage by molding Stephen into a finely tuned Wing Chun Practitioner, with not only the basic instruction being passed, but also the closed door secrets of Great Grandmaster Yip Man, which involved full weaponry and complete knowledge of all kicking techniques.
Grandmaster Yip Man is the most famous master of Wing Chun Kung Fu in the world. He became so well known, thanks to one of his disciples, movie actor and martial artist Bruce Lee. Grandmaster Yip Man has made an enormous contribution to development of Wing Chun Kung Fu, clear systematized principles and technics of style, increasing the combat effectiveness of Wing Chun Kung Fu. He is survived by his illustrious disciples, have made of Wing Chun Kung Fu one of the most popular Martial Arts worldwide.
Grandmaster Chow Sze Chuen was a truly gifted fighter, all of which he humbly contributed to Great Grandmaster Yip Man, who after recognizing the similarity of Grandmaster Chow Sze Chuen's physique to his own, used Grandmaster Chow Sze Chuen as his private sparing partner, and it was through this lifelong relationship that he obtained the deep essence of the Wing Chun School.
Grandmaster Yip Man
and Bruce Lee
An incident which is not common knowledge outside the Wing Chun Clan occurred several years before the unfortunate passing of Great Grandmaster Yip Man. A martial art competition was to be staged in Hong Kong and through an invitation by the tournament organizers, Great Grandmaster Yip Man was requested to register his best students to fight against champion Muay Thai fighters. Great Grandmaster Yip Man wanting to show the depth of the Wing Chun School, requested his top Student-Masters to send their best five fighters to the competition. Unfortunately, all the Wing Chun fighters were defeated. Master Tang Sang a trusted friend and student of Great Grandmaster Yip Man decided that if success was to be achieved, a change of tactics had to implemented.
Chow Sze Chuen
The entire Wing Chun Clan from the Kowloon Motor Bus company, taken at the Spring Festival Feast on the 20th of March 1961. Grandmaster Chow Sze Chuen is third on the left in the second row. This was a special occasion, as Great Grandmaster Yip Man's outfit was presented to him by those in attendance - a very rare photograph!
Knowing that future tournaments could bring a repeat of the previous competition, Master Tang Sang announced that all Wing Chun Masters recognized by Great Grandmaster Yip Man should send their finest students to participate in an elimination tournament named the 'Yip Man Cup', and that the four best fighters would be selected to represent the Wing Chun Clan in the up and coming South East Asian Kung Fu Championships.
Chosen to represent the Wing Chun Clan was Wong Yam Chung who during the course of the South East Asian Kung Fu Championships was placed once more with a champion Muay Thai fighter. This time however the results were different. After three rounds and the implementation of 200 kicking techniques against his opponent, Wong Yam Chung was announced the winner and Grand Champion of the tournament, a deed which renewed the honor of the Wing Chun School and brought joy and respect to a deserved Great Grandmaster Yip Man.
At the time of the tournament, it was the general belief that Wing Chun Kung Fu was basically a hands on fighting system with few kicking techniques. On completion of the tournament however, this was shown not to be the case, with a whole new light shone over the Wing Chun School. At the celebration feast held after the tournament, the victorious Wong Yam Chung was requested by Great Grandmaster Yip Man to take pride of place by sitting next to him at the Senior's table.
Great Grandmaster Chow Sze Chuen
and Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan
Over the years, several practitioners from within the Wing Chun Clan have referred to Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan as an eclectic who has altered the original philosophy of the Wing Chun School. But in Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan's own words, "There is no alteration from the original roots of Wing Chun Kung Fu within my instruction. All my techniques follow the practice of the Grandmaster and ultimately from my Master - Chow Sze Chuen. My system may seem to be different, but this is only due to the change in my stature at this time. As a youth I was much smaller and was trained by Grandmaster Chow Sze Chuen in his own skills which were based on his height and weight. I being of similar size was a perfect subject for Grandmaster Chow Sze Chuen to relate to. Now twenty years later and with a total change in my stature, I have of course had to make adaptations to allow the original techniques of Wing Chun to be effective in a taller and heavier individual. My school uses the centerline theory as a guide and always follows the ideology that as all individuals are made different, every body's personal skill should be conditioned to the capability of their ability, even if that means slight changes to compensate for the after being a closed door disciple of Grandmaster Chow Sze Chuen, I can categorically state that what is assumed to be different is only the closed door teaching of Great Grandmaster Yip Man and Grandmaster Chow Sze Chuen. 1As an example of the difference found in the instruction of Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan, "Chi Sao" which literally translates as "sticking hands" is seen only as a drill by traditionalists to stylize the techniques of a Wing Chun practitioner during sparring. To Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan however, the object of Chi Sao is to successfully tie up an opponents hands with one of the practitioners hands and render the adversary defenseless. This permits a strike to be executed by the practitioner's free hand. Not only will the practice of Chi Sao enhance a practitioners perception and reflexes, but it teaches the practitioner how to flow freely within a confined space. This ability to flow freely is an extremely important aspect of Wing Chun Kung Fu as it gives the practitioner a greater spatial awareness allowing him or her to refrain from the use of ineffective techniques.
Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan has always believed in the practical side to marital art training. This means that while the essence of Wing Chun Kung Fu is retained, fighting techniques have been adapted to true realities with systems to combat multiple opponents or armed attackers. Concentration during training is on free sparing with both Wing Chun Clan opponents and practitioners from other martial art schools.
This forces the Wing Chun practitioner to adapt quickly to unknown forces using exact movement and incorporating short range kicking techniques.
Being a neotraditionalist has meant that Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan has had to lead by example on numerous occasions throughout his career. In the early 1980s, he deduced that the long standing myths of Chinese Kung Fu had to be brought to the surface, otherwise there would be distinct possibility that the authentic systems would eventually die with the deaths of the Masters, and so to preserve the Wing Chun School, the system he had dedicated his life to, it was decided to write and publish his first book "The Nucleus of the Wing Chun System".
Throughout The Nucleus of the Wing Chun System, the intention was to clear the Wing Chun practitioner's mind of the doubts and misunderstandings that clouded over the underlining principles of the Wing Chun School. Being the first book in the history of Wing Chun Kung Fu to feature all three forms in complete sequence, Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan received wide acclaim for being the first Master-Practitioner to reveal Wing Chun's third form, Bil Sze to the public.
Traditionally Master-Practitioner reserved Bil Sze for their Closed-Door-Students, hence the saying, 'Bil Sze But Cuet Moon' (Bil Sze does not go out the door). Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan had decided to reveal the Bil Sze form to show that there were no mysteries within the Wing Chun School. Continuing his dedication in preserving the Wing Chun School, Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan recently released a ten volume video series covering the complete Wing Chun School syllabus from basic to the advanced weaponry techniques.
Sifu Oleg Sultanov was fascinated about martial arts since childhood, wrestling and participating in competitions at various levels since his school years. For many years he actively practiced Karate, checking his skills and knowledge during bouts. As an already formed fighter, he was constantly in search of answers to the questions that interested him, both in technique and tactics of fighting. After learning about Wing Chun Kung Fu, he realized that this is what he had sought for so long.
Education under the leadership of Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan opened up all the power and originality of the style of Wing Chun Kung Fu to Sifu Oleg. Grandmaster Chan is in excellent physical condition and has vast teaching experience; as a result he could not only answer questions regarding the techniques of Wing Chun Kung Fu in theory, but also to really show how it works and, most importantly, teach it. As a true teacher Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan passes on his knowledge to Sifu Oleg from heart to heart, without hiding anything from him, similar to how he used to learn from Master Chow Sze Chuen.
Great Grandmaster Chow Sze Chuen,
Grandmaster Stephen T.K. Chan,
and Sifu Oleg Sultanov
The general consensus is that there are two types of martial art master-teachers; traditionalists who believe that everything should be conserver, unaltered from one generation to another, and eclectics, who draw from all fighting arts different techniques with the aim of improving on the original school. The major problem however with some ecletics is that at the end of their development no original roots can be found within their system, and so they are faced with the realization that all their dreams have uprooted their past and set them on the path of a new martial art.
Today, Sifu Oleg Sultanov is actively teaching, conducting seminars and is an author of educational films and articles on Wing Chun Kung Fu. He teaches Wing Chun Kung Fu exclusively as a fighting style, which has proven successful for self-defense in street fighting, as well as for bouts at competitions. He brought up one of the first champions of Hong Kong in the discipline of "Full contact fights" as well as one of the first Russian champions in the discipline, too.