Chris Chan’s ‘historic” wing chun event included promotions and never-before-seen demonstrations.
By Ken Chun
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -— The U.S. Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy presented its grand promotion ceremony and wing chun kung-fu exhibition here recently.
The historic event, attended by over 700 spectators at the Far East Café in this city’s famous Chinatown, featured what may have been the most comprehensive demonstration of the wing chun fighting system ever presented to the public. .
Grandmaster Chris Chan (Chan Shing) presided over the promotion of over 125 students. Of these students, 48 received the title of sifu, while 11 others were further advanced to second-level sifu. Grandmaster Chan’s two sons, Darren and Ryan Chan, also were promoted to sifu on this auspicious occasion. Until this ceremony, grand- master Chan had not formally promoted any students to sifu since 1985.
To show their deep gratitude, sifu Chris Dias and Joe Dias surprised grandmaster Chan with a beautifully carved bronze plaque on behalf of his thousands of students around the world to celebrate his more than 40 years of instruction.
Organizing the event were two of grandmaster Chan’s senior disciples, sifu Ken Chun and sifu Tito Pedruco. Both sifu displayed their quick and powerful wing chun prowess during an exciting demonstration. Sifu Hayato ‘Yodi” Nin served as choreographer/fight coordinator for the demonstrations, while sifu Ralph Pinkerton was the props coordinator. Most of the U.S. Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy chapters were represented at the demonstration. Participating sifu included: Kevin Shea, City College of San Francisco Wing Chun Club; Ken Chun, San Francisco, Calif.; Bert Rodriguez, Santa Rosa; Cisco Spano, Los Angeles; and Gino Bennetti, San Ramon, Calif.
The event was attended by some of San Francisco’s renowned sifu, including Bill Chin, Ron Dong, Ron Guardino, and Stanley Chan (grand- master Chan’s older brother, who also learned under the great Yip Man).
Grandmaster Chan’s students demonstrated the entire wing chun system to a standing-room-only crowd of enthusiastic and excited spectators. The audience saw empty-hand, weapon and wooden dummy forms; chi sao combat drills; fighting combinations; live chi sao competitions; and battle using baat jaam do (eight chop knives), also known as the wing chun short broadswords. Sifu Mara Okita also presented a unique interpretation of the traditional lion dance (known as the 7 emotions) incorporating wing chun techniques.
The evening concluded with a personal demonstration by grandmaster Chan of astounding techniques, many of which had never before been seen. They included the teet bo saam (iron shirt) technique, for which grandmaster Chars allowed three of his largest and strongest students to strike him with full force to the body. The audience then witnessed demonstrations of sup yee gum chai (12 golden combinations); chi gao and wooden dummy techniques, as well as a presentation of the wing chun dim mak pressure-point system and its applications.
Grandmaster Chan has maintained a low profile for most of his martial arts life. This event marked his first public demonstration since 1968, when he performed in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where he was chief director of the first Chinese National Kung Fu Association Both kung fu exhibitions were attended by his longtime friend and training partner, Bruce Lee.
Both grandmaster Chan and Lee are credited with introducing the martial arts technique of dyun ging (short-distance power) to the American public. Lee often traveled from his home in Seattle, Wash., to San Francisco to train and practice with grandmaster Chan.