www.cambridgewingchun.co.uk – Cheung’s Wing Chun 張氏詠春會 – grading system:
The above website was my old version and because I was unable to make changes, so opted out the new site: www.cheungswingchun.co.uk However, still kept the old site as a static advertisement.
Many schools of martial arts such as Tai Kwan Do and Karate historically have grading system. These systems were introduced to present a visible hierarchy achieved by the practitioner to differentiate contestants within a competition and between family individuals. However, with economic pressure for clubs and martial schools to survive much of these grading system have become a source of generating additional income.
In Wing Chun, the decision to have a grading system is debatable. For the advocates, putting aside the issue of money, it gives the practitioner a short term goal, a token measure of some progress and recognition that a ‘standard’ had been reached.
For groups that are against a grading system the counter issues are:
What is the ‘standard’ to aim for?
The difficulty of applying a standard is that each Sifu often has his or her own interpretation of Wing Chun and may expresses certain aspects of the art. For example, Ip Chun younger brother Ip Ching’s body frame was larger and thus his Wing Chun placed heavily on using the body more. In addition, there are also subtle differences within the Wing Chun family itself, in particular how the forms are introduced i.e. the greeting and salute and in how the forms are ended.
To apply a Wing Chun standard is therefore very loose. Where a person may regards a colour belt, a sash or a certificate having value. Another may regard it as what it is, just an item.
For recognition sake, it would be more valuable for the students to receive verbal praise from their Sifu and be able to recite to which Wing Chun lineage is being followed. For the Sifu, such praises are like personal stamp of approval knowing that their own reputation (as of character and skill of teaching) is on the line. For the student to receive the phrase ‘Ho Kung Fu 好功夫!’ meaning good Kung Fu from respected peers, is a high achievement not just acknowledging the student but of the Sifu as well.
Brings out trophy chasers
The other contentious point about the grading system is that it brings out trophy hunters. We define these people as rushing the art so as to obtain the perceived next level of achievement, belt, sash or a certificate. They have forgotten that the system is to measure personal progress.
Wing Chun forms are thus nearly always rushed resulting in images of mad student waving their arms and legs around. This inevitable leads to weak Kung Fu and associated derogatory term such as Lap-sap Kung Fu 垃圾功夫(meaning rubbish Kung Fu) and more eloquently put – Fa Kuen Sau Tuoi 花拳繡腿(a descriptive saying translated to mean ‘flowery fists on embroidery legs’). To any martial artist, this is a very insulting remark!
For personal progress, it is much better to experience routine drill work from beginning to end and to perform Wing Chun forms under expert guidance. Until such a repetitive learning, the student instinctively know and feel it is right. It is like learning to ride a bike.
Economic pressure inevitably drive the adoption of a grading system and thus our Association has succumb to modern times.
Such grading is not a true requirement to progress, but the paper work is necessary in our modern world should you consider teaching in the future. Sifu John Cheung does not agree on the issue of grading but on traditional values and encourage students to learn relentlessly from respected peers and in time hope to receive the acknowledgement of ‘Ho Kung Fu’ = good skills 好功夫from them or even better – ‘Ho Kung Lik’ 好功力= deep in depth knowledge and skills!
However, to keep the art for the next generation after me, it is necessary to safe guard of its quality and prevent any trophy hunting element or poor teaching. Therefore, the following grading sash qualification will be introduced for my students from 2016 onward, but the wearing of sash will NOT be permitted in class (i.e. it is just solely for the purpose of teaching – paper works for the future). The following was a message to all my students and the Sash criteria:
The last couple of days, over a cup of hot coffee and some quiet times, I realized that I have been studying the art for more than 14 years and with the permission from my Sifu, this year I plan to introduce the name ‘Cheung’s Wing Chun Association’ 張氏詠春會 but still remained part of the UK South Region Wing Chun Association. This will give me complete autonomy in designing grading structure and should be easier for me to assign Sifu(s) according to the individual ability and passing the necessary exams. Although, personally I don’t believed in grading system (not very practical in actual combat); but for the students – one day they may want to teach and pass on the art. In our modern world today, to set up a club, need paper work and the support of an association (e.g. able to use the name – i.e. Cheung’s Wing Chun Association). At present, I paid certain amount of affiliated fee each month to UKSRWA to remain part of the association. This is a normal practice for all coaches or instructors, past, present and future.
We will all get old day by day, so I want to set this up to safe guard the future of my students should they wish to teach one day. The Cheung’s Wing Chun Association 張氏詠春會 grading qualification is designed in such a way that it is impossible to skip the learning process.
My plan is to set FOUR grading criteria (each topic mark out of 10 and the over all score must be at least75% for Yellow, 80% for Red, 85% for Black and 90%for SIFU entitlement) which are explain as follow:
(There is no limit to the number of attempts; however I will not advice the student if he or she is not ready!)
capable of understanding and performing –
- a) Yee Chi Kim Yeung Ma 二字箝羊馬, the ‘goat stance’.
- b) Sil Lim Tau 小念頭, the entire 1st form.
- c) Tze Ng 子午線, angular position (35 or 45 degree)
- d) Pak Da 拍打 Pak Sau cheung kuen (slapping hand thrusting punch).
- e) correct side Bong Sau 正膀手 and Chaw Bong Sau 錯膀手
- f) Huan Bo 圈步 forward and backward circle steps
- g) Sam Kwok Ma 三角馬 triangular steps
- h) Sheng Sin Kuen 双線拳 and Lin Wan Kuen 連環拳 double & triple punches
- i) Jem Bo Wu Sau Cheung Kuen 箭步護手衝拳 Arrow step with guard hand and thrusting punch.
- j) Dip Sau Chamt Sau 蝶手斬手 ‘butter-fly’ hand technique and chopping hand (against a hook).
- k) Willingness to help beginners.
THIS YELLOW SASH examination is about 30 OR 40 minutes AND IS MARKED BY Sifu John Cheung, result will be posted (i.e. via email) after the examination. Venue: at an agreed location pre-arranged with Sifu John Cheung. The fee is £30 which includes certificate if successful.
capable of understanding and performing:
- a) ALLthe subjects in the Yellow Sash’s criteria
- b) Chum Kiu 尋橋 2nd form Seeking bridge and understand the meaning the term ‘bridge’ in this context.
- c) Show couple of example of Yielding 缷力
- d) Able to teach and perform a ‘Lok Sau’ 滚(碌)手 rolling hand drills in pair.
- e) Able to teach or show a Dan Chi Sau 單黐手, single ‘sticky’ hand drills.
- f) Know how to perform the basic stances proficiently: this includes wide horse stance, goat stance, ‘cat stance’ and arrow stances 四平馬, 箝羊馬,吊馬,弓步.
- g) Show and deal with 3 upper body application (i.e. defend against 3 upper body attacks) 防衛技術
- h) Tze Ng Che Ying 子午朝形 show able to continue the attack from alternate angles.
- i) Biu Chee 標指 the 3rd form known as the ‘thrusting fingers’ but should not apply literately and give an example.
- j) Show and deal with trapping or 3 type of different locks 擒拿手 (i.e. problems and solutions).
- k) Able to explain all the subject above if necessary and willing to help fellow students.
This Red Sash examination is roughly under an hour and is marked bySifu John Cheung.
An overall score of 80% is the pass mark and for this level, it is set at £45 which includes certificate if successful. Result will be posted via email after the examination. Due to its duration, need to arrange a different date and hiring of the hall: hence the higher fee.
capable of understanding and performing the following:
- a) ALLthe content of both the yellow & red sash.
- b) Show 2 attacking moves and 3 defensive moves.
- c) If an error or mistake happen on the part of the practitioner, the practitioner need to show recovery action – give 2 examples.
- d) If opponent show no error, find ways to get to a good position – show an example.
- e) Able to show and teach the basic double Chi Sau (double ‘sticky’ hands).
- f) 2 minute free light sparing with a training partner under examiner’s supervision.
- g) Able to demonstrate, explain and perform all the Wing Chun kicks 單提起腳, 膀脚, 低踢,橫攤腿 (i.e. the straight lifting kick, deflecting defensive’jamming’ kick, low kick, side wide swing kick).
- h) Able to borrow energy from the ground, turning force, momentum, sinking, etc. Show 2 examples 力的運用(e.g. 力從地起)
- i) Teach a group of complete beginners for 10 minutes on a given topic (decide on the day by the examiner).
- j) Teach a group of experienced students for 15 minutes on a given topic(decide on the day by the examiner).
- k) Know how to pronounce most of the hand techniques in Cantonese (i.e. 10 minimum).
This Black Sash examination is about 90 minutes and is marked by Sifu John Cheung.
Overall score must be 85% is the pass mark for this level and the fee is set at £50 which includes the certificate if successful. Result will be posted via email after the examination. Due to its duration, need to arrange a date and hiring the hall; hence the higher cost.
capable of demonstrate and explain the following:
- a) ALL the contents in Yellow, Red and Black criteria.
- b) Able to demonstrate and teach the entire form of the Wooden Dummy 木人樁
- c) Able to teach double Chi Sau to experienced students
- d) Able to demonstrate and teach the Baht Chamt Dao (knife form) 八斬刀ORthe pole form 六点半棍
- e) Teach a whole class of novices/beginners as well as experienced students for an hour.
- f) Teach a class of strangers for a minimum of 40 minutes (i.e. at other branch).
- g) 15 – 20 minutes chat with Sifu John Cheung (e.g. future club).
THIS SIFU EXAMINATION ARE IN TWO PARTS: FROM (a) – (e) would need about 90 minutes and (f) – (g) need to visit other club with Sifu John Cheung. The fee for this SIFU status exam is set at £95 due to hall hiring, examination fee and transport.
IF SUCCESSFUL AFTER THE CHAT, A CERTIFICATE OF SIFU ENTITLEMENT WILL BE ISSUED where you will be able to teach anywhere in the future under the banner of Cheung’s Wing Chun Association.
Please note that each topic in each of the sash grade mark out of 10, means that if a particular technique is NOT 80 – 90 % correct; then the student will run the risk of failing the exams. Well, in order to be proficient, YOU have to put in the effort – practice, practice and practice!!