London Wing Chun Interview With Master Leo Au Yeung
Master Leo Au Yeung has trained in Wing Chun for over a decade under Ip Chun and Samuel Kwok. During this time Master Yeung has gained huge respect within the international Wing Chun community.
As a reflection of his skill and knowledge of Wing Chun, in 2008 Master Yeung was invited to Hong Kong to choreograph the chinese martial arts box-office blockbuster 'Ip Man' starring Donnie Yen.
Working closely with the famous Hollywood, and Hong Kong movie industry actor/director Sammo Hung (Pictured above with Master Yeung) whose past work has included Warriors Two, Prodigal Son, Wheels on Meals, Sha Po Lang and Martial Law, Master Yeung coached the action crew in Wing Chun and advised on action scene choreography. In this exclusive interview London Wing Chun speaks with Master Yeung about his experiences on the set of Ip Man and Wing Chun training...
LWC: When and at what age did you first start training in Wing Chun?
MY: I always liked martial arts since I was 4 years old, however I didn't know which style to choose or where to start. I was confused and did not know what to do until I met my uncle who had done Wing Chun for years. I showed my interest in learning kung fu and he introduce me to Wing Chun and suggested that I learn from Grandmaster Ip Chun (pictured left) as he is one of the best known Masters in Hong Kong. This is how I begin my Wing Chun training.
LWC: You also teach Hung Gar, Tai Chi and Chinese Kickboxing- when did you start learning these systems and do you think they have benefited your Wing Chun training and teaching?
MY: I have been studying these other styles for over ten years. I think every system has something it can offer and some areas they are good in. For example: Wing Chun is focused on short distance combat, economic use of energy and learning how to avoid force against force etc. By studying different arts you will not just focus on one kind of fighting format, you will have the ability to adapt to different ways of fighting. In addition there are quite lot similarities between different styles, by studying different systems you will gain more understanding of your own system as well.
LWC: I understand that you have been trained in the Ip Man lineage of Wing Chun under Ip Chun and Samuel Kwok. What was it like being a student of Ip Chun and what is the most impressive aspect about his Wing Chun?
MY: In my opinion the most impressive aspect about Ip Chun's (pictured left with Master Yeung) wing chun is his ability to demonstrate the technical and soft side of Wing Chun. Ip Chun is only about 5''4' but he has no problem practising "Chi Sau" with someone who is twice his size. Samuel is very impressive as well, he has been able to combine Ip chun's style and Ip cheng's style of Wing Chun and developed a very all-rounded form of Wing Chun.
LWC: In recent years a number of non - Ip Man lineages of Wing Chun have gained attention within the international Wing Chun community have you trained with any students from these systems?
MY: Actually a few years ago Master kwok and I travelled to China together, we went to visit a few different non Ip Man lineages wing chun schools in China and we did some friendly practice with some of their senior students. The conclusion I got is that the Ip Man lineage has more emphasis on the soft and relaxed application side of wing chun. Most of the students I came across were quite tense, may be they were just a little nervous to practice with some strangers.
LWC: Would you ever be interested in exploring other lineages yourself?
MY: This is something I will never ever do, I respect all my teachers (Sifu) and my lineages. It is my duty to pass on their knowledge and experience to the next generation. I greatly disagree with those people who have learnt some skills from their teacher and then run away to open their own school and forget everything about their lineage.
LWC: What do you think are the hardest aspects of Wing Chun for students to learn and master?
MY: The softness and sensitive side of wing chun, I think this is hardest bit to master. Because this is something you cannot learn from video, only way to achieve it is through chi sau practice with your own si fu.
LWC: You recently had the opportunity to work as the choreographer for the Ip Man movie, how did you become involved in this project?
MY: One of the Ip Man movie investors is a Wing Chun enthusiast. His intention in making this movie was to demonstrate the 'real' Wing Chun to the rest of the world. For this reason he searched for some top class Wing Chun instructors all over the world and he found Master Samuel Kwok lineage. At the end he contacted Samuel and asked him was anyone could recommend to him to choreograph the Ip Man movie.
He was looking for someone with a very good understanding of Wing Chun and who could demonstrate the art in a more traditional manner. Master Kwok immediately thought that I would be the most suitable candidate, firstly because he has true confidence in my ability in Wing Chun. He believes that I am capable of representing him in choreographing the movie. On the other hand, beside Wing Chun I also have knowledge of a wide range of martial arts, so it really helped when making the comparison between Wing Chun and other styles. Click for more pictures by Master Yeung from the Ip Man Movie
London Wing Chun Video: Ip Man vs Northern Kung Fu
LWC: Wing Chun has been regarded as a difficult martial art to choreograph for the big-screen due to the fact that it is based on simplicity and efficiency of movement, how did you manage to make the fight sequences in Ip Man look so impressive?
MY: Of course our biggest challenge was how to made Wing Chun look good on the screen, as you know most of the Wing Chun moves are very small and simple. Therefore sometimes we have to exaggerate the movement a bit, or we have to use close ups on the movements, in order to make them look impressive on screen. However, we still have to keep the form of Wing Chun. In the end we spent over 7 days just choreographing 3 minutes of the movie. Click for more pictures.
LWC: What was it like working with Sammo Hung and Donnie Yen?
MY: I only met Donnie very briefly but the impression he gave me is he is very passionate about martial arts and he is a very professional action actor.
Sammo is a very easy going and humours person. He just like a 'big brother' to us, he always looks after his crew. For example he would always buy us breakfast in the morning, in order to keep us warm. Sometimes he would ask his wife to cook something the night before and he would bring it to us in the next day. Moreover he would always be the first to arrive on set, so he would really set a good example to the rest of the crew. I really respect him and it was a pleasure working with him.
LWC: Apart from Ip Man what are your favourite martial arts films and why?
MY: I would say all Lau Kar Leung's movies, eg the 36th Chamber of Shaolin , My Young Auntie and Mad Monkey Kung Fu etc . Firstly he is a grandmaster of Hung Gar, secondly all the actors who acted in the movie are martial artists, there are no special effects or computer graphics etc. In my opinion those are 'pure' martial arts films. Of course a more recent example is Ip Man.
London Wing Chun Video: 36th Chamber of Shaolin
LWC: What are your plans for the next year, will you be holding any seminars in the near future?
MY: The objective for the next year and the rest of my life would be to teach first -rate traditional Chinese kung fu to as many people as possible because there are so many bad Wing Chun schools out there. I always tell my students that the number years a person has trained does not mean a thing. What is the most important is how correctly they train. I do not teaching martial arts for a living, this means I don't need to run my school like a business or factory, my first priority is train my student, not increase the numbers in my school.
Master Leo Au Yeung Class Times and Locations:
Traditional Wing Chun Class - Mondays 20:10 to 22:10
We teach the traditional Ip Man Wing Chun System including - Authentic Hand forms, Wooden Dummy and Complete Syllabus from Beginner to Instructor Level.
Location: The Community Centre, Haydons Road (Off Merton High St), Wimbledon
Chinese Kick Boxing and Sparring Class - Wednesdays 20:00 to 21:30
The lesson will concentrate on the proper Chinese kick boxing techniques, e.g. punching, kicking, body condition, defections and sparing. You will able to learn self defence and keep fit at the same time.
Location: The Community Centre, Haydons Road (Off Merton High St), Wimbledon
Intensive Wing Chun Class – Saturdays 13:00 to 15:00
This class will mainly focus on Wing Chun principle, application, Cardiovascular and Sparing - We will concentrate on the fitness and body condition in the first hour. The second hour will focus on the traditional Ip Man Wing Chun System including - Authentic Hand forms, stick hand and fighting application.
Location: Thomas Wall Centre, 52 Benhill Avenue, SUTTON, SM1 4DP
Master Leo is also available for private tuition, seminars and instructor tuition. For details feel free to contact Master Leo directly.
Mobile: 0788 786 1450