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 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, etc. It's all still Wing Tsun, it's all still authentic, it's just slightly different interpretations of the system. 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. 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, same 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 uncles, who eventually introduced him to one of Yip Man's eldest head students in Hong Kong, Leung Sheung. After several years of training, he became an assistant instructor. There came a point when he had pretty much learned all he could from his Sifu, who was also a student working on completing the system. Eventually he was introduced 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 finished his Wing Tsun training with him even after Yip Man had formally retired from teaching publicly.
Leung Ting went on to open up his own school, or kwoon, at the Baptist College in 1968. 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 skills 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.
In 1970 Grandmaster Yip Man appointed Leung Ting as the Chief Instructor of his Ving Tsun Athletic Association school (kwoon), where he assumed the teaching responsibilities over Yip Man's school. He also became the Vice Chairman of the VTAA organization. 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. 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 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. 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 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 in martial arts in 1999.
Sifu Alex Wallenwein was a student of Grandmaster Kernspecht. After coming to
America in the late 1980's, he began teaching Wing Tsun, and traveling around
the country doing seminars with Grandmaster Leung Ting during his American tours. After
settling in Houston, Texas, Sifu Alex opened an IWTA school. In 1990, he was
awarded 1st place in a Chi Sao competition by the United States Chinese Martial
After a few years, Sifu Alex became tired
of dealing with organization politics and decided to leave the IWTA. He got in
contact with his Si-Dai (Kung Fu "little brother"/junior student), Sifu Simon
Mayer, who had also came to America and was Teaching
Wing Tsun. Sifu Simon, who was an 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. Sifu Simon
brought his Si-Hing (Kung Fu "big brother"/senior student) into the Bay Mountain
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. They got together and elected Dai-Sifu 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.
Jason Malik, 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. 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 Chen Chuen Fun, and was an instructor and the technical advisor for the IWTA for many years. Sifu Brad, with over three decades of Wing Tsun training and teaching to his credit, has taught and trained around the world with some of the greats like Grandmaster Cheng Chuen Fun, Sifu Emin Boztepe, Sifu Chris Collins, and Sifu Salvador Sanchez..
As an independent practitioner, Jason 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, Gary Lam, Yip Ching, Wang Kiu, and Shaolin to get a more well rounded picture of what this art should be from many different perspectives and interpretations.
Disclaimer: The thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in this site are that of Texas Wing Tsun and its Chief Instructor, Jason Malik, who independently researched and compiled the information that is presented in his personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the official views of our WTA or RJKD affiliates. Allowance is made for fair use of copyrighted photos and other media material compiled and presented from outside sources and is protected under the federal Fair Use Act of 1976 (17 USC Section 107) for reporting/editorial, research, and educational/teaching purposes.
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