Sifu Baniecki started his martial arts training in the sixties. His affinity with Bruce Lee’s movies motivated him to seek instruction in Wing Chun, with David and William Cheung, who was one of Bruce Lee’s senior classmate.Sifu Baniecki’s dedication and skills led him to teach the Australian armed forces in the the Shaolin Jee Shin Wing Chun Kung Fu style. He has also trained Kung Fu champions, World Cup champions and National All Styles State, Australian and World champions, in weapons, forms and fighting.
First of all, let me state that it is difficult to represent all Wing Chun styles with my professional opinions, due to the many variations of a “theme”, on Wing Chun. Shaolin jee shin Wing Chun has its grass roots from William Cheung’s traditional Wing Chun kung fu.
Our Wing Chun forms and fighting tactics vary so much from other Wing Chun systems, we might as well come from Mars.
Since when has your Wing Chun club been competing?
The Jee shin Wing Chun fight club has been competing since 1995. Initially, we started with kung fu tournaments organised by William Cheung. Then, in late 1995, we decided to enter an “All styles” tournament, due to the fact that we wanted to compete against “All Styles” of martial arts, and we did!
What was the motivation behind joining those competitions?
I wanted to put Wing Chun kung fu on the competition “map” of Australia, which we accomplished, winning many local, state and Australian titles with Chum Kiu and Biu Jee forms. I also trained students in fighting, self defence routines, weapons fighting and weapons forms. We won many State and National titles in fighting, weapons forms and weapons fighting, as well.
Have you ever tested your style in full contact tournaments?
Yes, in 2004, I decided to try the full contact arena, so I took a group of students to a full contact karate tournament and we got “flogged”. My fighters just “clagged” out, due to lack of fitness and stamina.
The fitness level was so demanding, I realized to be competitive in the future, the fitness training had to become a priority. I have a diploma in Fitness and Coaching, so organising this type of training would only reinforce my knowledge and competence.
The next time we entered the same tournament, my students “kicked arse”.
Why did you quit the full contact Karate circuit?
As there was no punching to the head in full contact karate, I decided this was not complimentary to our method of fighting.
I decided that Muay Thai and kickboxing would suit us more. Muay Thai has knees and elbows and kickboxing allows the execution of knees.
Was your fitness conditioning training bring good results?
Once the fitness level reached a certain benchmark, my fighters did really well. Over 20 full contact fights, including kickboxing and muaythai, we won at least 15 fights.
Did you have to adapt your techniques in order to be successful in full contact tournaments?
No, not really. My style of Wing Chun kung fu is from the Leung Bik / Yip Man fighting system. This system is not confined by the limitations of the Centre Line control and approach.
My system is based on the Central Line system, which covers and redirects attacks sneaking in from the flanks or outer gates and with our diverse range of footwork we can use the first 3 stages of combat, very efficiently.
The Leung Bik / Yip Man system allows for Flying entry techniques to bridge the gap and elusive retreat steps and side steps to avoid the dreaded Hook Punch and Hay Maker.
My system of Wing Chun incorporates footwork similar to Bruce Lee, always being 50/50 in weight distribution, so we always have balance, speed and interrupt ability.
It also incorporates high kicks, knees and elbows, which is essential for full contact fighting. In Muay Thai, a Wing Chun fighter will never win unless he utilizes knees and elbows and take downs, so you have to play the Rules of the day, to appease the Judges.
Sometimes the Wing Chun guard is not efficient in covering the outer gates in full contact fighting, so a slightly different guard needs to be employed, sometimes even reverting to the old fashion “boxer’s guard”.
What about the training methods? Did you have to modify anything to be successful to perform in full contact fights?
I had to increase the fighters Aerobic and Anaerobic capacity 3 fold, so for the next six months I concentrated on a fitness resume including resistance, core strength, endurance and power training, as well as ring sparring and grappling (Muay Thai style).
My Wing Chun school has a boxing ring, four roof to floor kick bags, many focus mitts and kick pads, as well as weight lifting machines, and so on, therefore, fitness is in general, an important component of our training. Spending 10 years with the Cheung brothers also developed a challenging and competitive attitude towards martial arts.
Should other Wing Chun schools put more emphasis on the fitness aspect of their training?
Always remember, Wing Chun is a street smart self defence system, not a competitive sport, so one must prepare physically and psychologically to succeed in competition.
Kick Boxing and Muay Thai are effective self defence systems but the entire mind set is to prepare for ring fighting, so fitness is a natural component to develop. A ring fighter must also use gloves!
Wing chun’s mind set is purely for street self defence, therefore, the fitness training may be entirely overlooked, or the emphasis is very little.
Competition has rules and is confined by space limitations and has a specific time frame. A street encounter may only last 10 seconds and the level of fitness may not be a priority.
The average Wing Chun practitioner should always expect fitness training as a priority with his Wing Chun training, when preparing for competition. Without fitness, you Wing Chun skills will be very poor and not last very long, on the street or in the ring! It is difficult to speak for all Wing Chun practitioners, because most systems of Wing Chun differs so much to Traditional Wing Chun.
Do the other schools share the same level of success as you do?
I have witnessed other styles of Wing Chun in the tournament arena with varied success.
Referring to my system of Wing Chun, the average practitioner will do very well against the average martial artist, as long as they are placed in respective weight and/or experience divisions. If their fitness level is down though, performance will be highly undermined.
Why would weight difference matter? Wasn't Wing Chun designed explicitly for smaller stature people to overcome bigger and stronger adversaries?
In the street there are no rules. If you are confronted by a larger, angry perpetrator the wing chun practitioner can use deadly dim mak techniques to subdue him and fight "dirty", etc.
In competition there are rules, duty of care, and fairness, so either weight divisions or experience divisions are necessary, to maintain a fair and honest competition.
In a tournament, the competitor is not allowed to dim mak the eyes, knee strikes are illegal, kicking to the groin is also illegal. Do you understand my point?
In Foshan, the annual wing chun "san jou" tournaments are generally full contact but with restriction, such as weight and experience divisions.
Why do you think Wing Chun is not represented in mixed martial arts competitions?
Mixed martial arts incorporate ground fighting, which is contrary to Wing Chun principles. Ground fighting becomes strength against strength and the stronger fighter usually wins.
While travelling to Hong Kong and China, tracing the roots of Wing Chun, have you made any significant discoveries on your training, lineage or beliefs?
Since travelling to China from 2006 I have found the following:
- I have categorically established the fact that Leung Bik, the son of Dr. Leung Jan, did exist. Reports from the USA state that Leung Bik never existed!
- I have collected Wing Chun manuscripts written by Leung Jan, given to his son, Leung Bik, who in turn handed them down to Yip Man.
- In 2010, Yip Man’s son, Yip Chun orally stated to me, that his father had 3 teachers, but only one Sifu. The three teachers being, Chan Wah Shun, Ng So and Leung Bik.
- In Foshan, China, the home of Wing Chun today, they actually state that the Leung Bik / Yip Man system of Wing Chun is the TRUE ATTACK FIGHTING SYSTEM OF WING CHUN. Other Wing Chun styles are called “self defence fighting system of Wing Chun”.
- The other controversy encompassing the Wing Chun world and again emanating from the USA, is that Wing Chun comes from the southern temple and not the northern temple.
- In 2010, GM Fung Chun from Kulo Village, the only living grand student of Leung Jan, stated categorically, that the Yim Wing Chun system definitely stems from the Northern Temple. As quoted, when I asked GM Fung Chun where did Wing Chun system stem from, the northern or southern temple? “No, No, No, Wing Chun comes from the Northern Temple.”
- There are 7 different Wing Chun lineages or families in China, which all stem from the Red Boats. These systems can all be categorised as being Traditional Wing Chun systems.
- All Wing Chun systems in Hong Kong can be traced back to their origins in China. The perplexing aspect of Wing Chun kung fu………
- Yip Man’s first system of Wing Chun from the Chan Wah Shun in Foshan, is supposed to be the style Yip Man introduced into Hong Kong. But today, the Chan Wah Shun system, which has established itself in Shunde has no resemblance to Yip Man’s style of teaching in Hong Kong or anywhere for that matter.
- The Chan Wah Shun system is as diverse and different as the Leung Bik / Yip Man system of Wing Chun. Yip Man’s legacy of Wing Chun in China, today, differs greatly from his Wing Chun teachings in Hong Kong.
- The Shaolin Monks do not recognise Wing Chun kung fu after the Red Boats, only before their inception.
According to you, how “pure” or authentic is the Wing Chun you learned?
In my travels around China, I have only encountered two Wing Chun kung fu systems that share similar principles, being Dr. Leung Jan’s Pien Sun Kulo Wing Chun and Leung Bik’s Traditional Wing Chun kung fu.
The more I have researched Wing Chun the more I realize that the traditional Wing Chun system of Leung Bik / Yip Man appears to be very authentic. History states, once Dr Leung Jan realized his son had met his own teacher (Wong Wah Bo) in Hong Kong and learnt Wing Chun from him, Leung Jan decided it was time to pass on his legacy to his son, Leung Bik.
The 3 Wing Chun Manuscripts Dr Leung Jan passed down to his son, Leung Bik, are on display at the Yip Man Tong in Foshan, are testament to Leung Jan's intent.
Pien Sun Wing Chun from Kulo Village in Heshan County, is renowned for being the most pure Wing Chun kung fu in the World, due to its isolation from commercial influence.
Also, the fact that Dr Leung Jan had learnt 2 systems of Wing Chun and supposedly, the Kulo Wing Chun system stems from Red Boa member, Leung Yee Tai, whom was taught by Yim Wing Chun.
Dr Leung Jan returned to his native village upon his retirement and taught 3 or 4 students a synthesised version of the Wing Chun he was teaching commercially in Foshan, at that time.
The Leung Bik / Yip Man system is classified as a 108 point system and Dr Leung Jan's Kulo Wing Chun system is a 72 point system. The two Wing Chun systems share many core essence concepts and principles and both styles of Wing Chun were initially taught by Dr. Leung Jan.
What concepts are share between the 72 and 108 points systems?
Similar core concepts that the 2 systems share:
- Pien Sun – side neutral stance
- Central line theory – facing the point of contact, enabling simultaneous attack and defence.
- Circular footwork
- Parallel leg bridging the gap – this enable the practitioner to attack and control the opponent’s blind side.
Any word on the mythical character of Yim Wing Chun, from who the style was named after?
Master Fung Keun from Kulo has told me stories that refer to Yim Wing Chun and her influence on the Red Boats. Yim Wing Chun was actively involved with the revolutionary movement against the Qing.
Yim Wing Chun and her Husband directly taught Leung Yee Tai and Wong Wah Bo, whom were the teachers of Dr. Leung Jan. The above information also leads me to believe that the origins of traditional Wing Chun can be truly called "pure" or "authentic".
The above only relates to Dr. Leung Jan's legacy. There were many more Masters of Wing Chun around the same time in China that were taught by different members from the Red Boats and then forged their own system and identity.
What is the root cause of the highly publicised feud between William Cheung and Leung Ting? Being on the inside and with the trips you did, what are your views on the conflict?
Interesting question! I have to be careful what I say here. I believe I have to practice courtesy, respect and diplomacy.
Firstly, there is no shame in being defeated. All World Champions are beaten eventually.
In 1987, the feud between Leung Ting and William Cheung had been stewing for some time, already.
Grand Master Yip Man did not declare his eldest Son as grand master, nor did he name a Successor to his title of Grand Master of Wing Chun Kung Fu system. Why? We will never know.
Yip Man probably realized there were too many different Wing Chun families in China with different lineages and contrasting principles, to establish one person to reign supreme as Grand Master.
William Cheung proclaimed himself as the true inheritor of the traditional Wing Chun system because Yip Man taught William the unknown Wing Chun system of Leung Bik, son of the legendary Dr. Leung Jan. Being the son of the “king of Wing Chun”, William viewed himself as privy to the original system of Wing Chun, therefore, the right to be called Grand Master of the Wing Chun System.
This proclamation of Grand Master can only relate to the Leung Jan system of Wing Chun kung fu. This is my belief!
What are Leung Ting’s and William Cheung’s argument concerning who is the current Grand Master?
Leung Ting states: “being the last in house student of Yip Man I was privy to Yip Man’s knowledge, so I am justified to be Grand Master of the Wing Chun system.”
William states that Yip Man was extremely ill during his final years, therefore, Leung Ting would only have been taught by a senior student, not by Yip Man.
During the year, William and Leung Ting were at the same convention in London and bumped shoulders together, which created even more friction between them.
Again, I can’t be too accurate with times, but around the same time an editorial was published in a kung fu magazine with Hong Kong Wing Chun masters chastising and ridiculing William’s Cheung’s story about his claim to those entitlements.
There was a lot of tit for tat, but to cut a long story short, William accused the Hong Kong Masters of being jealous and not learning the complete system. William went on to state that he learnt the complete Biu Jee form and openly shows it, while the Hong Kong practitioners only learnt bits and pieces of Biu Jee.
William declared a verbal challenge in the magazine. He declared, If they didn’t like what he said or didn’t believe his claims, they know where he resides and to come and get him.
Not long after, William Cheung conducted a seminar in Cologne.
What happened at the Wing Chun seminar in Cologne?
During the seminar, Leung Ting pre organized with his most senior student, Emin Boztepe, to attack William and try to defeat him, while Emin’s associates would film everything.
Emin rushed William with a rugby tackle and William applied a side head lock, but from there, Emin was able to sweep William to the ground and pin his arms under his knees. The rest is History.
What was the impact on Master (William) Cheung after the incident?
It took a couple of years for this event to filter through to Australia. I remember one Friday night at a private class with William, he was so upset, during our training, and nobody could understand why. That night he actually stated he would never teach his son Wing Chun, being the greatest fighter in the world and being a Grand Master meant NOTHING!
I was so disenchanted to hear my Sifu talk this way. Shortly afterwards, I realized what William was referring to on that night.
He was toiling and stewing over that particular day. Not long after, I viewed a video depicting the fight with William and Emin. It clearly demonstrated that Emin was controlling the entire situation. Leung Ting used this footage to promote his style of Wing Chun.
The duel was probably not fair as it was a spontaneous attack. William stating; that he was not prepared or aware of what was happening and was worried that Emin’s companions were carrying weapons.
But, in a street situation, violence may happen at any given moment, so a martial artist should or does train his mental and physical preparedness.
What do the Wing Chun masters in Hong Kong and China think about the whole Cheung / Boztepe incident?
Since travelling to China, I have not heard an iota about this conflict in China or Hong Kong.
Chinese Sifu’s are extremely respectful towards other Wing Chun teachers. William Cheung is well known in Hong Kong and southern China, but not known around other parts of China.
Twenty years ago many Wing Chun practitioners were ridiculing William Cheung due to his proclamation, but today, a movie (Ip Man: a legend is born), has been produced that portrays the story of Yip Man meeting Leung Bik in Hong Kong and learning Leung Bik’s unique form of Wing Chun for three years, before returning to Foshan.
Some Master in Hong Kong are now declaring that they teach the Leung Bik/Ip Man system, but unless Ip Man taught them this unique system of Wing Chun kung fu, the stories are all marketing tactics. I have personally witnessed a lot of Hong Kong Wing Chun and there is nothing that even remotely resembles Traditional Wing Chun from Leung Bik.
William Cheung states he was the only person privy to Leung Bik’s legacy of Wing Chun kung fu. As time has unfolded, all William’s claims are now coming to fruition. It is human nature to criticize something you are not aware of or familiar with.
William Cheung Chuk Hing is a Master's Master. He has been actively involved with Wing Chun kung fu for over 50 years.There are always critics, but, critics are not out there doing it. It is a big world and you cannot please everyone all of the time, only some people some of the time.
Readings you may enjoy
- Benjamin Evans: Integrating students with disabilities into maintream ITF Tae Kwon Do
- Jan Knobel: The virtues of traditional karate vs sports karate
- 9 qualities of exceptional martial arts students
- 5 mixed martial arts pioneers that created their hybrid martial arts before Jeet Kune Do
- 5 aspects that make Mixed Martial Arts more traditional than traditional martial arts.