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Thread: The Master Speaks (An Interview - Long)

  1. #1
    Tsuruken Guest

    The Master Speaks (An Interview - Long)


    Ron Goninan talks to one of the martial arts most low-key yet lethal weapons!

    I went into this interview with a great deal of excitement. Sifu Yap Leong is a little known but highly skilled man, a true master of this thing we call martial arts. I’m not the first to gravitate towards this man and his teachings nor will I be the last. Original Form Boxing founder and former Yamaguchi Goju-Kai stylist, the legendary Steve Morris is but one of the many who hold Yap Leong in high regard. I have found the Sifu Leong’s approach to the martial arts not only interesting, but refreshing as well. The sensitivity, the power, the energy and applications are all very different from what the Okinawan and Japanese systems teach. The applications are simple, direct and to the point. In conducting this interview, Sifu Leong said of his answers to my questions: “Please let me know whether they are printable. Some could be controversial, but probably interesting” . Even if you don’t happen to agree with what he has to say, his abilities within his chosen art give him a right to express his opinions. When Sifu Leong talks, I listen … very closely. I hope you will too ………

    Ron: Sifu Leong, thank you for consenting to this interview. Please inform our readers about how and when you became involved within the martial arts and the styles you have studied? Our readers would like to know ... who is Yap Leong?

    Sifu Leong: I first became involved in martial arts when I was a teenager. This was nearly 35 years ago. I first started out in Shaolin Fists. A year later I did the Five Ancestors System (Ngor Cho or Wu Cho) and subsequently the Emperor Fists (Tai Cho). Basically I teach Shaolin-Fists before Five Ancestors and Emperor’s Fists.

    Ron: Sifu Leong, as you know, my personal interest is in the White Crane Boxing style. What can you share with me about your experiences and thoughts regarding this art?

    Sifu Leong: The White Crane system is obviously a very good system. That is the reason why their techniques are so popular in Fujian or Okinawa. They are incorporated in the Five Ancestors System as one of the 'Ancestors' It is important to know how to apply the crane techniques. In Shaolin Fists or Hung Gar, the Crane beak is mainly used. I personally prefer the Crane Wings as used in the Five Ancestors and feel that they are more flexible and effective. Incidentally, Wing Chun also utilises the Crane wings as well.

    The importance of the Crane is the way it blocks and strikes. When it blocks a powerful front kick, it can divert or dissipate the power without injuring itself. A typical karate block does not provide the same flexibility and usually the hand gives way or it gets injured or broken. With the Crane block, the counter attack is much quicker and effective.

    Ron: Sifu Leong the arts you teach appear to be very application orientated with everything having a purpose. Is this part of the arts you teach or the injection of your own personal feeling for the martial arts?

    Sifu Leong: There are two types of applications - one for the dojo and the other for the street. I always tell my students that Masters should not teach applications which are only workable in the dojo but not in the streets. An example of this is the three steps sparring. Three punches forward with three blocks backward in a straight line followed by a side-step counter strike. This scenario is utterly ridiculous. Obviously the students are just mere beginners and need to practise in this way. Instead of spending a year in the beginning stage followed by another year intermediary stage, why not teach them the advanced stage right from the start for two years? I always feel that what I taught must be applicable in the streets; otherwise I would chuck them away. No white belt level, no green belt level, but only emergency level. Hence my teaching is always application orientated and practical. The traditional forms are also geared towards that way. However, if there are moves in the form which are not practical, I would tell the students so.

    Ron: Sifu Leong, please tell us exactly what is the "Shaolin-Fists"?

    Sifu Leong: Shaolin Fists is a southern system based on the Five Animals which are the Dragon, Snake, Tiger, Crane & Leopard. It consists of many hand and weapon forms. It is in fact very similar to Hung Gar, but I will say it is more fluid and flexible than the type of Hung Gar I see nowadays.

    Ron: Sifu Leong, please share with me your open and honest thoughts regarding Karate and its essence in comparison with the Chinese Martial Arts? Why is this not reflected within modern Karate?

    Sifu Leong: Go to any Karate Schools and you will find a lot of similarities among themselves. Most of the moves are linear, forward & backward. When they do side-step, they are too obvious. They are too much reliant on power which is external rather than internal. Move closer to the Okinawan Schools, I could see the similarities with the Chinese Arts. There are more circular movements, but they are again obvious rather than subtle. I would consider them to be a bridge between the Japanese and Chinese Schools. Go to any Chinese Schools and you will find more fluidity and movements. To the untrained eyes they lacked power. They are obviously deceptive as they concentrate more on speed and bringing out the internal power.

    Personally I think overall Karate lacks the essence which is found in most Chinese Arts. This could be due to the traditional prejudice amongst the Chinese in not teaching outsiders. Outsiders in those days could mean another Chinese from a different village, group or clan in China.

    Imagine a Japanese seeking to learn a Chinese Art in those days. Obviously some of the arts filtered through in dribs and drabs, but very little of the important essence of the art.Modern Karate is too clinical and commercialised in its approach. It lacks the raw essence of the art. In China there was no such thing as a uniform. A clean white uniform with a clean white belt was unheard of. In fact they would rather prefer a black uniform with a black sash. Beginners usually took a lot of tumbling and falling and the dirt would not be visible on their black uniform. Modern Wushu is getting wiser and the uniforms are getting cleaner, brighter and more commercialised.

    Ron: Sifu Leong, please explain your views on "Night Porridge"?

    Sifu Leong: It was a tradition to train late into the night and after that everybody would be tired, hungry and ready for supper or porridge - hence 'Night Porridge'. When someone remarked 'you haven’t eaten night porridge', it really means 'you haven’t trained hard in martial arts'.

    Ron: Please tell us a little about "Limbs-Knocking"?

    Sifu Leong: Limbs knocking comes in many shapes and form. In Shaolin Fists limbs knocking concentrate on conditioning the arms. However in Five Ancestors, the legs are included. These exercises in Five Ancestors are much more superior than what I have learnt or experienced in other systems. Limbs knocking are not just about banging arms. They involve 'listening', twisting, sinking and use of the heavy hands.

    Ron: How does "Limbs-Knocking" apply to real world self -defence or life protection?

    Sifu Leong: The objective of limbs knocking is to condition limbs against pain, agony, ridicule, frustration and limitation. A well conditioned limb could effectively block an attack effectively and also hurt the opponent, without suffering any damage or break itself. Four well conditioned limbs could do a lot of damage to the attacker. It is like having four body guards.

    Ron: Sifu Leong, how does your art generate power differently from that seen in other styles and arts?

    Sifu Leong: Most Japanese styles usually like to generate power by obvious twisting of the hips, extending the arms & shoulders and basically shouting very loud, or clenching the teeth or jaws very tightly. External power which relies on muscles and strength obviously have limitations. Internal power relies on the chi energy.

    By relaxing and focusing the chi energy, one can maximise power with one concentrated strike. As the muscles are tensed the body becomes solid and contracted, preventing the flow of chi or whatever energy for an effective strike. It is comparable to a dry towel with the water squeezed out and a wet one. A wet towel is heavier and more powerful when it is lashed out.

    Ron: Sifu Leong, please define "essence"?

    Sifu Leong: A true martial artist has the 'essence' if he can defend against another without giving any excuses whatsoever. He cannot say he is old, small or weak. He should be able to utilise his art under any circumstances and cope with a grappler just as effective as a striker. Many styles are quite ‘dead’ in their drills. There’s no essence in it. You have to have the essence behind it.

    Ron: Sifu Leong, how do you see the state of the martial arts generally? Is it advancing or declining?

    Sifu Leong: Martial Arts in general have moved closer to each other. There is a lot of borrowing from other styles. A lot of styles borrowed from the Muay Thai knees & elbows. These indicate their limitations. Traditional Chinese Styles do not need to do that, but then they are no longer trained in the traditional way and will decline in the future. Very soon all martial arts will level off and the choice in the future will no longer be of styles but of teachers.

    Ron: Sifu Leong, please share with our readers your thoughts on the internal aspects of the arts. Just how important are they?

    Sifu Leong: The internal arts are very important, not just for their fighting ability, but also for their health objectives. Very often we hear of Grandmasters giving up prematurely because of arthritis or injuries which do not seem to go away.

    They have failed to take into account the health factor. Ultimately these miserable lot would eventually limp up to obtain lifetime awards - their followers still in awe because they have reached the 10th level.

    Ron: Sifu Leong, you've said to me in the past that the two most important aspects one should learn to master the martial arts is "Softness" and "Listening" (energy). Please explain more about these two concepts?

    Sifu Leong: The ultimate in martial arts is the ability to apply softness in any situation. Hidden within the softness is the explosive internal energy. That is the reason why some old masters can still handle themselves in nasty situations. They do not need to extend themselves physically. They are not capable of doing that anyway. Listening is like a radar. Once the expert hand touches the opponent, he can instantly read his next move. I had two encounters, one nicknamed 'Lightning Hands' and the other 'Lightning Kicks'

    Lightning Hands was a Chinese traditional master. Whenever we talked he always seemed to believe I was a 'cowboy'. In one playful situation, he countered my attack with a double-hand strike and a low kick at the same time. Because of my ability to 'listen' to his moves, I was able to counter all three strikes at once. ‘Lightning Kicks' was a bit more crafty. We met in a sport hall and shook hands in greeting. While the hands were still touching & without warning, he delivered his so-called lighting kick to my face (something like a round-house kick). Again my radar warned me of the danger and I was able to block it with my left hand and simultaneously delivered a low kick to his groin.

    Ron: Sifu Leong, your views on martial arts politics and politicians?

    Sifu Leong: Politics in martial arts are unavoidable. The masters always moan about their unfaithful students who in turn moan about their masters being too greedy or clubs too politcial which justify their breakaways.

    Recipients of lineage titles proudly posing beside their long white-bearded masters. How could they receive such titles when they had only spent a few holiday trips with their masters?

    Glories stories of their masters being amongst the ten tigers of Guangzhou without thinking for once that the myth could be perpetuated by Shaw Brothers. To please every one they also had the Earlier Ten Tigers and the Later Ten Tiger.

    Tai Chi practitioners seem to think that they have the copyright to 'softness & internal'. Give them a push and off-balance them and they will accuse you of being 'too hard & external'.

    Presidents are martial arts organizations never seem to realise that they attained their positions not because of martial arts ability, but through balloting.

    Who gave them credence except for Combat or Inside Kung Fu magazines? Martial Arts correspondents or columnists seem to think that by writing articles, their marital arts ability would improve tremendously.

    Ron: Sifu Leong, what are your views on pressure points?

    Sifu Leong: Knowledge of pressure points is essential for a comprehensive understanding of martial arts. Applying them correctly could subdue an opponent much easier than say a wrist lock or even a blow. Traditional masters used their knowledge of pressure or meridian points to do a 'Dim Mak'. Most so-called Dim Mak are mere striking blows or palms on a weak area causing the victim to be knocked or temporary blacked out. Anybody could knock somebody out with a powerful blow, but it is not considered as 'Dim Mak'. Dim Mak is not that easy to acquire.

    Ron: Sifu Leong, you recently advised me to concentrate on about 3 kata’s which give the proper essence and foundation of the whole system saying that once mastered the rest of the kata’s will flow naturally and adding that I should not dilute my time on too many kata’s. What are your thoughts on forms (kata) training and their importance to the development of the martial artist?

    Sifu Leong: Have you not heard of 'Jack of trades, but master of none.' By concentrating on a few kata’s, one can understand the moves and correct any flaws or limitations. There is more time to analyse & understand them. Once the foundations are established, one could proceed on further kata’s.

    Forms or kata’s should be developed to ensure that the whole body is fully tuned, not just for the beauty, but the flexibility, movements, power and conditioning as well. They are fundamental to the development of the martial artist. To achieve this objective, the kata’s themselves must be able to test or challenge the martial artist, otherwise it is just worthless - only good for winning form competitions.

    Many others obviously trained without the use of kata’s and be good, but it does not result in an overall & comprehensive strategy.

    Ron: Sifu Leong. Do you consider yourself a "Person" above that of being a "Martial Artist"? How and why do you see this subject?

    Sifu Leong: I consider myself as an ordinary human being trying to attain martial art enlightenment. I consider myself lucky to be able to find such a legendary master who was able to inspire me.

    Ron: What I meant is do you see yourself as a person above that of a “martial artist”. Your answer confirms what most other high level people within the martial arts also feel. Being a person is far more important than being a “martial artist”. Sifu Leong, Many styles or one style. What are your thoughts on this?

    Sifu Leong: One very good style with a very good unselfish master.

    Ron: Sifu Leong, as the Senior Master to myself and the students within the Kokusai Okinawa Butoryu Gohokan, what advise for the future would you have to offer us?

    Sifu Leong: Train very hard, but keep the eyes or ears open for unforeseen dangers. Do not be afraid to change from traditions where necessary. Get rid of useless application’ which only worked in the dojo. Do not 'mug' each other in the dojo. We learn martial arts for self defense and not to get beaten up. Getting beaten up in a dojo is the same as in the street, it is legalised mugging.

    Ron: Good advice worth heeding. What can people wishing to train with you expect?

    Sifu Leong: Do not expect anything and anything which comes subsequently is a bonus.

    Ron: That’s a great way to approach not only the martial arts but life as well! Sifu Leong, any last words for our readers?

    Sifu Leong: Do not ask me when you can expect to get a black belt/sash. I can give you one right away for $500.00 or a signed Certificate immediately for $5,000. Alternatively, you can get it much cheaper at my store for $5.00!

    Ron: Good advice! Thanks for talking with me and for sharing your views. I look forward to seeing you in May 2001!

    Sifu Leong: Thank you for the interview.


    Ron Goninan is a respected instructor of the martial arts and the representative of Master Yap Leong in Australia. Ron is a regular correspondent for Fight Times.Com.


    Ron Goninan - Chairman
    Okinawa Butoryu Gohokan

  2. #2
    WenJin Guest


    Thank You, for the interesting article

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