The "WT" Lineage
In Wing Tsun (Wing Chun/Ving Tsun), as in
other martial arts, you will often hear people speak of lineage. Some stand on
lineage to validate their credibility, some proudly represent their lineage as
their family, and sadly some use it to try to feel superior to others and cause
division ("we're right, you're wrong… my lineage is better, we are the only
'true' lineage"). The fact of the matter is, lineage is fairly unimportant in
the grand scheme of things. It holds about as much weight in your performance as
your surname does on your ability to read. You can come from a very
"prestigious" lineage and be a terrible pugilist, or you can come from no
lineage to speak of and have extraordinary skill. However, when two
practitioners meet, generally the first question asked is "what lineage are you
In Wing Tsun, there are generally two categories of lineages; The Yip Man (Ip Man) branch and sub-lineages, and the non-Yip Man branches and lineages. The Yip Man lineages are headed by students or grandstudents of the late Grandmaster Yip Man. They are considered Yip Man lineages because their Kung Fu can be traced back to Grandmaster Yip Man's interpretation of the Wing Tsun system, however no official successor was appointed by Yip Man when he retired (even though some of his students claimed they were and fought over the title). Over the course of his long teaching career, many of his students went on to become grandmasters of their own lineages. Over time, Yip Man's skill level, understanding, and teaching methods evolved. What Yip Man taught over the years in Hong Kong changed over time, and all of what he was teaching in Hong Kong varied from what he originally taught in Foshan. Some students had different strengths and weaknesses, and he taught them slightly differently according to their abilities. As they took what they learned and developed their own interpretation of the system, the content of the lineages varies as far as footwork, variations in the forms, teaching methods, training drills, technique application, terminology, etc. It's all still Wing Tsun (Ving Tsun/Wing Chun), it's all still authentic, it's just slightly different interpretations of the system. When Bruce Lee came to America and the western world got it's first taste of Wing Tsun, Bruce Lee was basically responsible for the first English Romanization of "Wing Chun", and also the term "Kung Fu" (Gung Fu/Gong Fu) being used as a blanket term to describe Chinese martial arts (Wushu). When Yip Man Romanized the name of the system into English, he chose to spell it "Ving Tsun" instead of "Wing Chun" purposely, because at the time of British occupation in Hong Kong, "WC" was the abbreviation for "water closet", which basically meant a toilet, and he didn't want his style associated with that or all of the negative implications that came along with it, i.e. having it mocked as "Tiolet Fist" by the British oppressors. As we've already discussed on the What is Wing Tsun and Terminology pages, the difference here is just in the English spelling. (Wing Tsun, Ving Tsun, Wing Chun is all the same Cantonese word, spelling, and pronunciation.)
Our lineage is that of Grandmaster Leung Ting, also referred to as "WT" because of the spelling of Wing Tsun. Leung Ting began training Wing Tsun at 13 years old with his uncle Pak Cheung, who was a student of Leung Sheung, Yip Man's first student in Hong Kong, and then Leung Ting became a student of Leung Sheung as well. Leung Sheung was one of 4 original Yip Man students in Hong Kong who received the complete system directly from Yip Man himself and went on to teach with the blessing of Yip Man. This group, in the order that they became disciples, consisted of Leung Sheung (King of Biu Tze), Lok Yiu (King of Chum Kiu), Chu Shong Tin (King of Siu Nim Tao), and Wong Shun Leung (King of Talking Hands). It's common place for senior student to assume a fair chunk of the teaching duties of the class, so later generations of students received most of their instruction from their Si-Hings (senior student/Kung Fu big brother), even though Yip Man was their Si-Fu, and out of the hundreds of students that Yip Man had, they didn't all stay to complete the system. However, these 4 are said to be the only students who learned the entire system, including the weapons, directly from Yip Man himself.
After several years of training with Leung Sheung, Leung Ting became an assistant instructor and also helped his uncle set up a Kwoon. Eventually one of Leung Ting's Si-Hings (senior student/Kung Fu big brother) Kwok Keung introduced Leung Ting to his Si-Gung (teacher's teacher/Kung Fu "grandfather") Yip Man, who was very impressed with his skill, and at 20 years old (1967) Leung Ting became the final "closed door", or private student, of Yip Man and received private lessons from him over the course of the next 9 moths, and resumed private lessons with him 2 years later, even after Yip Man had formally retired from teaching publicly.
To clear up any confusion, the hierarchy in Wing Tsun (as is with most traditional Chinese martial arts) is one of familial relations; even though Leung Ting was taught personally by Yip Man, Yip Man was technically not his Si-fu (Kung Fu father/teacher), but his Si-Gung (Kung Fu grandfather/his teacher's teacher), and Leung Sheung was Leung Ting's official Sifu. One does not "jump ranks" in familial ranking by training with someone further upstream in the same lineage or branch, no different than going to live with your grandfather and being raised by him. Even though your grandfather raised you, he's still your grandfather and doesn't suddenly become your father, and you his son, just because he is now your guardian. Your Si-Hing will always be your "big brother/senior student", even if you surpass them in the system or in skill level. Familial relations within the system do not change. Yip Man seemed to have a habit of picking To-Suen (grandstudents) from his first generation students and teaching them privately, as was the case with Allan Lee (student of Lok Yiu) and a handful of others.
In the winter of 1968, Leung Ting went on to open up his own school, or kwoon, at the Baptist College. This was a groundbreaking first for a Chinese martial arts class to be taught at university in Hong Kong. Planning to teach Wing Tsun to mass students, he developed a genius training curriculum and grading system, also a first in Wing Tsun. With the standardized curriculum and grade levels, this assured that no student would be able to move on until they learned the skill set of the current grade, and they wouldn't miss out on anything even if they missed class. This made for quality control of the material that was being taught and ensured that nothing would be left out.
Leung Ting often paid visits to Yip Man's original students in Foshan, where he discovered that what Yip Man taught them differed from what he taught in his later years in Hong Kong. (even throughout his Hong Kong years, his teachings varied over time.) Discovering there were additions and deletions to the system over the years, Leung Ting began rigorously researching the different components of the variations and fine tuning his own WT curriculum. This included cross training and sparring with athletes from the universities boxing and wrestling teams. So much was learned from applying Wing Tsun against these other arts and analyzing and refining applications of the techniques in the system, that Leung Ting began to hire Karate and Judo black belts and professional Muay Thai fighters to come in and spar so he could make sure his Wing Tsun was effective against any kind of attack. This lead to several revisions of the WT curriculum over the years.
In 1970 Grandmaster Yip Man appointed Leung Ting as the Chief Instructor of his Ving Tsun Athletic Association, where he assumed the teaching responsibilities over Yip Man's school. He also became the Vice Chairman of the VTAA organization. Also in 1970, the VTAA moved to a new location, and Leung Ting moved his school from the Baptist College into the old VTAA location on Nathan Road. Eventually, he resigned from instructing at the VTAA and began focusing on the promotion and growth of his own school. Teaching his proprietary curriculum, he changed the English spelling of his school from Ving Tsun to Wing Tsun (the Cantonese characters remain the same) to separate himself from all of the other schools that were springing up from Yip Man's other students, and kept with Yip Man's non-WC ideology of the spelling of the name. (Side note: in Cantonese, there is phonetically no "V" sound. Also, the "TS" in Tsun represents a harder sound than "CH", making "Wing Tsun" the most phonetically correct English spelling for correct pronunciation.) On July 24th 1973 he then founded his own organization, which came to be known as the IWTA, or International Wing Tsun Association. Although he resigned from teaching at the VTAA, Leung Ting remained on the Board of Directors in various positions, including a couple terms as President, for four decades, and again assumed the role of head instructor of the VTAA briefly in 1996-97.
As Bruce Lee, also a student of Yip Man, was exploding onto the big screen worldwide, Wing Tsun was getting its first exposure in the rest of the world and rapidly growing in popularity. As a result, the IWTA grew exponentially, eventually establishing itself in 64 countries. This lead to Leung Ting teaching everyone from celebrities like Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen, to law enforcement agencies and military special forces, and working as a fight director and choreographer for Chinese Kung Fu movies, and even assuming roles in some films to showcase his skills.
Leung Ting had an exceptional private student in Germany by the name of Keith R. Kernspecht who went on to become a Grandmaster himself, and founder of the European Wing Tsun Organization, or EWTO in 1979. Kieth Kernspecht was already a very accomplished martial artists, holding high rankings in freestyle and catch wrestling, Judo, Jujitsu, Kenpo, Aikido, Shaolin Kung Fu, and Karate. In 1982, Kernspecht founded the Wing Tsun Academy at Langenzell Castle near Heidelberg, where he further refined the curriculum and developed a new proprietary training platform (Lat Sao/Free Hands). Students lived in the castle and trained Wing Tsun full time. As the number of students rose beyond expectations, there were literally thousands of schools under the IWTA and EWTO banners. In the 1990's, the EWTO became the single largest martial arts organization in the world, with over a million active students and over 2,000 schools in 53 countries. The scientific approach to the curriculum was constantly improved upon to maximize its effectiveness. In recognition of his research and teaching prowess, the Bulgarian State University awarded Kernspecht the world's first doctorate degree in martial arts in 1999.
Alex Wallenwein was a student of Grandmaster Kernspecht,
and a classmate/training partner of Emin Boztepe. After coming to
America in the late 1980's, he began teaching Wing Tsun. Since the EWTO had no
presence in America, all of the WT schools were IWTA schools under Leung Ting
directly. Alex traveled around
the country doing seminars with with his Si-Gung, Grandmaster Leung Ting, and
receiving private lessons during his American tours. After
settling in Houston, Texas, Alex opened an IWTA school. In 1990, he was
awarded 1st place in a Chi Sao competition by the United States Chinese Martial
Arts Council. Among the judges of the event were Leung Ting, Wong Sheung Leung,
Chu Shong Tin, and Kenneth Chung.
As the years went by, Alex became tired of dealing with organization politics and decided to leave the IWTA in 2005. In 2011, he got in contact with his Si-Dai (Kung Fu "little brother"/junior student), Simon Mayer, who had also came to America and was Teaching Wing Tsun. Simon, who was a student and instructor under Grandmaster Kernspecht at the Langenzell Castle, had opened an IWTA school in California, but had also left the IWTA and formed his own organization, Bay Mountain Wing Tsun. Since Bay Mountain was a freelance organization, Simon was learning at first from his Si-Hings Emin Boztepe and Heinrich Phaff, and then his Si-Hing Bernd Wagner. The Bay Mountain organization also taught Escrima, which was taught directly by Grandmaster Rene Latosa, just as the EWTO Escrima program was.
Free from organizational ties, the Sifus of Bay Mountain continually refined the system and teaching methods to deliver the highest quality Kung Fu to the students. Eventually, Simon decided that Wagner would be the Sifu to oversee Bay Mountain and continue teaching him. Tragically, Wagner died in 2008. After the untimely passing of Sifu Wagner, the Bay Mountain Sifus got together and elected Master Level Practitioner Martin Hofmann, formerly of the EWTO, as Grandmaster of the Bay Mountain WT system, and he further evolved the curriculum and applications of the system, fine tuning it with the precision of an engineer. Eventually after many revisions, Hofmann completely scrapped the old EWTO Lat Sao program and rebuilt the curriculum from the ground up. In 2016, the Bay Mountain organization began to have a lot of troubles. Hofmann washed his hands of Simon in 2017, and Simon went back to Germany. As a result, Bay Mountain dissolved. Most of the Bay Mountain practitioners left and joined Martin Hofmann's organization.
Jason Malik (1 TG), who is the Chief Instructor of Texas Wing Tsun, was a dedicated student of Sifu Alex Wallenwein for many years, until the same "politics" and business model that caused them all to leave the IWTA/EWTO resurfaced, at with point Jason decided to sever his ties with the Bay Mountain organization in 2016 shortly before it's collapse. Now independent, Texas Wing Tsun has became an affiliate of the Wing Tsun Academy, and Jason has began to explore the Hong Kong side of the WT Lineage under the extraordinary tutelage of Sifu Brad Wohlner, who is a 4th TG under Sifu Tam Yiu Ming.
Sifu Tam Yiu Ming was a student of both Leung Ting and Cheng Chuen Fun, with Cheng Chuen Fun being his Sifu, and Leung Ting teaching him during weekly advanced instructor training classes. Because of his incredible skill and understanding of the system, Tam was appointed with 3 others as the examiners over student grading at the IWTA, where he was an instructor and the technical advisor for many years. During this time, he was selected to be the technical skills specialist to represent the IWTA in performances and demonstrations. In 1999, Tam resigned from the IWTA after moving to London, but continues to return to the IWTA headquarters annually, and still travels to teach seminars with his Sifu Cheng Chuen Fun.
Cheng Chuen Fun began as a student of Leung Sheung, and when Leung Ting opened his own school, he left Leung Sheung and became one of the very first students of Leung Ting, and as time went on became his right hand man and silent partner in the IWTA. Other than Leung Ting himself, Cheng is one of only two people to ever achieve 10th level practitioner and be officially recognized as a Grandmaster within the WT system, with the other being Keith Kernspecht. in 1982, CCF was appointed the Chief Instructor of the IWTA headquarters and handled the operations of the school while Leung Ting traveled and taught abroad. Cheng Chuen Fun eventually resigned from the IWTA as well in 2003.
Sifu Bradford, 4th level Technician Grade, started training Wing Tsun in the EWTO organization of Sweden under Grandmaster Kernspecht, where Sifu Emin Boztepe was the chief instructor. His student, Patrik Gavelin was Bradford´s teacher under Grandmaster Keith Kernspecht. Sifu Bradford trained under the EWTO for almost 20 years, but now is independent and under the mentorship of Sifu Tam Yiu Ming. Sifu Brad has trained with many great practitioners, including Grandmaster Cheng Chuen Fun, Emin Boztepe, Chris Collins, and Salvador Sanchez. He has trained and taught in Sweden, England, Hong Kong, the USA, and Mexico, and is licensed under the Spanish Olympic Federation FELUCHA. With over 30 years of experience in Wing Tsun, he now runs the Wing Tsun & BJJ Academy in Stockholm, Sweden, in Monterrey, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic with Sifu Rafael Alins, as well as overseeing Texas Wing Tsun.
Jason Malik (Primary Technician Grade) is a private disciple of Sifu Bradford Wohlner. Having experienced high level training on both sides of the WT lineage, he has a very open mind with his Wing Tsun, and is constantly thinking outside the box, pushing to improve upon his understanding and application of the system. As an independent practitioner, he constantly cross trains and exchanges knowledge with other lineages of Wing Tsun/Wing Chun/Ving Tsun, including Leung Sheung/Kenneth Cheung, Duncan Leung, Moy Yat, Hawkins Cheung, Wong Shun Leung, Gary Lam, Yip Ching, Wang Kiu, Ju Wan, Shaolin, and more to get a more well rounded picture of what this art should be from many different perspectives and interpretations. Coming from a background in competitive sport combat (wrestling, boxing, and MMA), Jason has a very realistic and modern approach to training. He also went on to become the United Stated National Director, and the Southern/Gulf Coast Regional Director for the Wing Chun Trinity organization, which is a governing body for multi-lineage Wing Chun events and competitions worldwide. While Both Sifu Bradford and Sifu Tam have schools and students all over the world, Texas Wing Tsun is their only representation in the United States of America.
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