Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun’s Tan Bong Fook Chi Sao System
By Sovannaroth Kruich
How do you define Chi Sao? How do you define Four Gates Theory? Do Chi Sao and Four Gates Theory have anything to do with each other? Isn’t Chi Sao just a training method for the development of tactile sensitivities and trapping hands? These were just a few of the questions posited to the 20+ persons in attendance by Grandmaster Garrett Gee at the Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Chi Sao Workshop conducted at the Hung Fa Kwoon of (Tempe) Arizona on 22 February 2014.
During the first evening of the workshop, Grandmaster Garrett Gee provided a glimpse into the multi-faceted layers of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun’s various Chi Sao technologies. There are three distinct “mainframes” of the Hung Fa Yi Chi Sao System (紅花義三壇粘手大法©). He presented us with this unique knowledge from HFYWCK:
1) Hung Fa Yi Tan Bong Fook Chi Sao (紅花義攤膀伏粘手法©)
2) Hung Fa Yi Kiu Sao Chi Sao (紅花義橋手粘手法©)
3) Hung Fa Yi Chi Kiu Chi Sao (紅花義粘橋粘手法©)
On a very general scale, Wing Chun is known for its Chi Sao training which helps develop: highly attuned tactile sensitivity to stick to opponents, quick reflexes using Loi Lao Hoy Sung/Lut Sau Chi Chung, and a number of trapping/striking/footwork techniques. All actions and reactions are entirely intended to dominate the Center Line, even if that requires turning away from the opponent, moving one’s body backwards and even sideways. The most common thread is that of "sensitivity training". Some Wing Chun branches do things that others don’t advocate.
However, one should consider if these are exclusive traits attributed only for Chi Sao training. As a broad rule of thumb, should these not apply to the art of Wing Chun in its entirety? And if so, then what makes Chi Sao truly unique from its other components aside from the aspect of “sticking”? What does it mean to stick? As it is, there is quite an abundance of differing viewpoints on what is the purpose and function of Chi Sao throughout the Wing Chun community. The focus, though, was not to say what is and what is not. Much to the contrary, external and internal points of view were openly shared by several attendees for consideration of the subject matter.
Grandmaster Gee then brought us into the science of Hung Fa Yi Chi Sao, where he introduced us to the first of the three mainframes (HFY Tan Bong Fook Chi Sao - 紅花義攤膀伏粘手法©), which is further expanded upon into three key sub-layers of Chi Sao skill development in this mainframe:
1）Hung Fa Yi Sei Mun Ying Jong Faat (紅花義四門應樁法©) – HFY Four Gates Reaction Method
2）Hung Fa Yi Ng Sien Ying Jong Faat (紅花義五缐應樁法©) – HFY Five Lines Reaction Method
3）Hung Fa Yi See Lon Ying Jong Faat (紅花義時輪應樁法©) – HFY Time and Space Reaction Method
He asked us “What do the Four Gates Theory have to do with Chi Sao?” Several branches of Wing Chun have used the basic idea of Four Gates Theory in various ways, but as it relates directly to the technology of Chi Sao... There is no one that has taught Chi Sao and Four Gates Theory combined, even more to the point as a naturally occurring systematic process of the art. This might not be viewed as a big deal (or even applicable) to some, but it is of great importance within the science of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun! There are two reasons why this is the case: 1. every component in the art is connected, consistent, and constant throughout (no contradictions), and 2. Four Gate Tan Bong Fook Chi Sao exists in Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun at the architectural level. Four Gate Chi Sao requires more than just sensitivity, and Grandmaster Gee went into enourmous detail on the reasons why.
We began the hands on portion of the workshop focusing on HFY Structural Energy, referred to as Ying (形), which stems from the concept of the HFY Ng Mui Ying Jong Faat (红花義五枚应樁法©) - Five Petals Reaction Method. The Five Petals Reaction Method has its own logic flow as well. It consists of the following layers:
• Ying (形) - shape
• Chung (沖) - collide
• Lau (流) - flow
• Saat (殺) - execute
• Fa (化) - neutralize/influence
Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun training starts by building one's structural framework. A prime example of this is the HFY Advanced Siu Nim Tao form. This form illuminates all the consistencies and required ingredients of the science of HFY for combat. Developing HFY structural energy (形) is paramount to being able to read Time Space and Energy. The Four Gates Theory, as an example, represents one of many constructs within the Time and Space considerations of combat, and it cannot be accurately implemented without the correct structures.
HFY’s Saam Mo Kiu (红花義天人地三摩橋©) - Three Connecting Bridges philosophy describes to us that in the process of developing structure, there will be variances in one’s presentations of structure. Honing one’s body alignments to be in accordance with the HFY Time Space Energy Formula is progressive in nature (wandering to focus state). Ultimately, HFY Structural Energy is the only instrument specifically designed to work with the HFY Time Space Energy Formula. It is important to realize HFY structure cannot be removed from its spatial constructs without creating more distortions in the process. The HFY Time Space Energy Formula is the representation of this relationship. It is here where we begin to learn and understand how to stick in Chi Sao through HFY Structural Energy (above and beyond the attribute of sensitivity) and use for Sparring, which we learn through intimate knowledge of the HFY Advanced Siu Nim Tao form.
The purpose of using Four Gates Theory in Chi Sao (the Four Gates Reaction Method (紅花義四門應樁法©)) is to enable the person’s ability to stand his/her ground to meet and neutralize direct-force attacks by using HFY structural energy. This facilitates one's ability to displace any residual energy away from the Centerline (Loi Lau Hoi Sung) and into the gates. As a result, the person can maintain the original position at the onset, obey the boundaries of Time and Space, and capitalize on advantages. The alternative would be to step away from where he/she originally starts to dissipate/redirect what energy may still remain from an attack. However, moving away from one’s original position equates to a loss of any potential advantages that could have been gained otherwise.
Grandmaster Gee expanded on the technological implications of Hung Fa Yi’s Four Gates Theory. What happens when you subject your Chi Sao operations against “touch and go” grappling/wrestling/sparring realities? We tested out all these aspects over the course of the weekend. One of the basic differences between Four Gate Tan Bong Fook Chi Sao and Four Gate sparring is that one is driven by engagement and the occupation of space versus already being in contact and using Loi Lau Hoi Sung within the geometric framework of the 4 Gates Theory. You must be able to do both modes in order to combat a grappler, striker, and a Wing Chun/kung fu opponent. This is when Grandmaster Gee soon emphasized one of the most important implications; that to not remain disciplined to the Four Gates Theory greatly increases the opponent’s capacity to overtake your position. In turn, you deviate further away from Maximum Efficiency.
Ideas are the roots of your actions and reactions. When Centerline Theory is applied to Chi Sao, the techniques are then driven by it. The same is to be said when the HFY Four Gates Theory is applied to Chi Sao. The tools address each of the gates accordingly when governed by that theory. The functions of Tan Sao Bong Sao and Fook Sao are inherently influenced by the purpose of the gates, whereby direct connections to each person’s center of gravity are intentionally denied through the bridge’s displacement away from the Centerline. This is a stark contrast to Centerline-based Chi Sao operations mechanically and strategically. How you execute Loi Lau Hoi Sung when operating on Centerline Theory and/or Five Lines Theory is very much different when applying it with Four Gates Theory. Line Theory and Gate Theory ultimately represent distinctly different dimensions of space and time.
It is also important to note such an application of the HFY Four Gates Theory to Chi Sao technology is not arbitrary; rather, is part of a larger logic flow. The HFY Four Gates Theory governs the usage of the hands at the mid-range of combat. How is this actually accomplished though? By using the following technologies, we discovered there are additional governing ideas within “HFY DNA” for footwork, body method, and energy management (功法) that provide the answer(s):
1. Saam Sing Jong Kiu Sao Ma Bo Sun Faat (三星樁橋手與馬步身法©) – Three Zones Bridging/Footwork/Body Method
2. Sap Saam Jong Dip Gwat Gung (十三樁疊骨功©) – Thirteen Structural Points for Bone/Muscle/Tendon Compression and Release
These supporting HFY technologies describe the proper ways to face your opponent(s), how to control range through the bridge, the hidden technology of sticking in Chi Sao, how to manage sticking and striking energies, and the method behind HFY footwork.
Grandmaster Gee continued on in refined details how the connections and consistencies of Principle (Time/Space factors), Concept & Theory (methodology), Structure (body), Energy (various qualities and methods), and an overriding philosophy (HFY’s Three Connecting Bridges philosophy, for example) are truly paramount for cultivating genuine martial skill and recognizing the nature of things.
As I observed and listened to Grandmaster Gee’s teachings, I saw something intimately profound and bright throughout his presentation. I was immediately drawn to a chapter (大學傳五) in the classical (Confucian) work entitled The Great Learning:
“The meaning of the expression, "The perfecting of knowledge depends on the investigation of things”, is this:—If we wish to carry our knowledge to the utmost, we must investigate the principles of all things we come into contact with, for the intelligent mind of man is certainly formed to know, and there is not a single thing in which its principles do not inhere. But so long as all principles are not investigated, man's knowledge is incomplete.”
As a teacher, Grandmaster Gee’s lessons are never without great significance. As such, sophisticated subject matters require equally sophisticated minds to both learn and teach such matters. No stone is ever left unturned, and he is an exceedingly efficient master of his craft as teacher, student, fighter, philosopher, and scholar. He truly is a rare gem in the martial arts world. What he offers through his instruction yields greater value for those of specific intellectual caliber and character. In truth, learning the art of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen is no small task. To truly study the depths of HFYWCK, one must have a dedicated and investigative mind set grounded with the right virtues. The volume of knowledge and information within Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen requires a very specific method to learning, should one pursue a serious and committed education into it. The passage continues on:
“On this account, the Learning for Adults, at the outset of its lessons, instructs the learner, in regard to all things in the world, to proceed from what knowledge he has of their principles, and pursue his investigation of them, till he reaches the extreme point. After exerting himself in this way for a long time, he will suddenly find himself possessed of a wide and far-reaching penetration. Then, the qualities of all things, whether external or internal, the subtle or the coarse, will all be apprehended, and the mind, in its entire substance and its relations to things, will be perfectly intelligent. This is called the investigation of things. This is called the perfection of knowledge.”
In order to truly learn something, investigations in the roots and branches of the subject matter then become quite necessary in order to achieve complete knowledge. Grandmaster Gee’s family genealogy includes one of the most influential persons of the last 1000 years, Chu Hsi (朱熹), the great Neo-Confucian scholar of the Song Dynasty. Grandmaster Gee is the 33rd generation descendant of the Chu Hsi family tree. Life Magazine ranked him as the 45th most influential person of the last millennia. Chu Hsi’s extensive works on Confucianism, in particular on the “four books” (the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, the Analects of Confucius, and the Mencius), have helped to shape Chinese culture and many societies over several countries such as Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, and the Western World, over the span of the last 900+ years.
One of the most fascinating parts that resonated with me over this workshop happened when Grandmaster Gee shared some teachings of Chu Hsi’s metaphysical works on Li (理) - principle, Qi (氣) - vital force/energy, and Taiji (太極) - supreme ultimate, and the parallel into the Hung Fa Yi philosophy of Heaven Human Earth Three Connecting Bridges (红花義天人地三摩橋©) - Tien Yan Dei Saam Mo Kiu. As he stated to us, “Heaven Human and Earth” represent the Time and Space in HFY. They represent the principles (Li), for we are to discover and connect with the Truth of each bound. The “Three Connecting Bridges” are parallel to Chu Hsi’s teachings on human nature and Vital Force/Energy (Qi), where this describes the conditions of the human experience within Space and Time. According to Chu Hsi’s teachings, the idea is to have both Li and Qi in perfect balance with the Supreme Ultimate. In Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun, understanding the nature of Tien Yan Dei Saam Mo Kiu is very much in accord with this parallel. We were once again enlightened to connection and consistency. Grandmaster Gee explained how HFY Four Gate Tan Bong Fook Chi Sao reflects the nature of the Fau Kiu (Floating Bridge) timeframe as described through the Saam Mo Kiu (Three Connecting Bridges) philosophy.
Also in attendance for the private training sessions was retired Lieutenant Colonel and Master Richard Loewenhagen of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Pai and a senior member of the Kung Fu Tong Research Team, who later offered his unique insights into HFY from his expertise in Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kuen and his military education and experiences. Master Loewenhagen shared some sharp realities over the weekend. Very few people can see something that is in truth highly distinctive and sophisticated and in moments see its real value. With his martial training, formal education, and real world experience, he is uniquely qualified to grasp the real value of this art. It is by no accident that he recognized the true quality and character in Grandmaster Garrett Gee and the authenticity of his teachings back in 2000. Why? Read on.
Master Loewenhagen successfully graduated as a Senior Ving Tsun Instructor through the Government of China and the Ving Tsun Athletic Association (VTAA). He is certified by seven senior grandmasters of Ving Tsun: Mak Po, Yip Ching, Yip Chun, Moy Yat, Chu Shong Tin, Moy Bing Wah, and Hawkins Cheung, earning their highest level of Ving Tsun certification. He was given blessing by GM Moy Yat to run the seventh official kwoon in the Moy Yat family in the late 1990’s. At the kwoon’s highest point the student body was over 220 members and was awarded and recognized as one of the top 200 schools in the nation.
As a retired field grade military scientist and officer, he was trained at many of the most prestigious leadership, strategies and tactics, schools the United States Department of Defense has to offer. He studied and graduated at the Air Force Institute of Technology, the Air Command and Staff College, and the Marine Command and Staff College. In 1982, the exclusive International Society of Logistics Engineers honored him with the ‘Researcher of the Year’ award.
His insights into HFYWCK over the years are indeed exemplary and carry great weight. Never before in his tenure in martial arts had he encountered a martial art of such high caliber parallel to his military education as in Hung Fa Yi. He knows there is something truly unique and powerful in Grandmaster Gee’s teachings of HFYWCK that exponentially enriches his education of Wing Chun Kuen, and testifies to that fact to this day. Upon each reveal of information, he immediately recognizes and shares the implications of such things. He can articulate in detail the reasons of his observations.
By his own informed account, from his extensive education and training in Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun Kuen and Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kuen, the sheer volume of information between the two respective branches is approximately a 4:1 ratio (HFYWCK : MYVTK). What we were taught over the latest workshop on Chi Sao and the Four Gates Theory has literally changed and expanded upon how we already use Chi Sao for combat, and that includes all of the aspects on a psychological level. As much as I have learned to date, (completed my training in MYVTK and ongoing with HFYWCK) I must concur with his assessment.
I have witnessed many things through the HFY’s Advanced Siu Nim Tao form to the Wooden Dummy forms to Chi Sao to Sparring how all things in HFYWCK are connected and consistently exhibited to a relatively large degree. My studies and findings into the art have yet to reveal any contradictions. As an example, the movements of HFY Advanced Siu Nim Tao form and the HFY Wooden Dummy forms provide the exact specifics on how the tools of Chi Sao are to be used. These particular forms describe in great detail, the vast array of tools used to apply all the important elements of the HFY Time Space Energy formula. To have complete knowledge of this allows one to distinguish the traits of what is genuine and false.
Consequently, the metaphysical consistency of this signature can then be identified and observed throughout both sides of combat; via the “How/When/Why/Where/What” of sticking (Chi Sao) and striking (Sparring). The same is also truthfully stated with regard to HFY’s philosophy, history, and culture. Everything is connected and consistent throughout. The central theme of this for Wing Chun comes down to stability, which implies a great deal on the nature of the art.
Ultimately, I attest that Grandmaster Gee’s holistic teachings (philosophical and scientific in particular) on Chi Sao serve as an illustration and testimony to the absolute magnificence of Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun’s sophisticated designs. This knowledge from Hung Fa Yi Wing Chun has once again furthered and transformed my knowledge and usage of Chi Sao and fighting! I look forward to the upcoming workshop tentatively planned with Sifu Billy Lau in the coming months!