Wing Chun Geeks Interview
Excerpts From My Interview with Wing Chun Geeks, "What's it like to study with Hawkins Cheung":
Check out the Full Interview!: http://wingchungeeks.com/phillip-romero-hawkins-cheung/
What was it like training with Hawkins and how does he compare to other Wing Chun people?
He is very different, he is not a very big man. He is around 5’1, he has the experience and really is a fighter. As small as he is, he got into A LOT of fights. What he did was he perfected the combat elements so well that it is a part of him. When he took me on he put me against guys that are 6’0 where I am only 5’7 and did pretty well against them. Then he told me to work with him and I didn’t last more than 30 seconds.
What got me about the situation is that he threw me over his back. I landed really hard – it stunned me and dazed me. I was sitting there for like 2 minutes!! How he hit me? I have no idea. I know there was something totally different in this. It rocked my world hard core.
When I got to know him I came to learn that he had some really unique theories toward combat. Things like time issues, angle’ation theory, how to control a fighter, he taught a lot of cool things.
Any cool stories about Bruce? How close of friends were they to your knowledge?
They grew up together as kids. Bruce Lee was the person who introduced him to Ip Man. They stayed very close for years. They shared a lot of information back and forth. We never really bothered to ask him, because it was just too personal.
There even a few times when Bruce Lee’s mother walked into the school, who was a very nice lady and it was great to talk to her. You would be surprised at the people who would walk into the school.
What was it like meeting her?
For me it was like meeting your really cool grandma. She came in and sat in with us. One of our classmates translated for us. He told us Bruce and Hawkins were very close and we should really pay attention. According to her “unfortunately my son is no longer here, but training with Hawkins is how you get through to my son.” She was a very nice lady.
One of our Facebook page questions comes: How did Hawkins focus on body mechanics, was it like Ip Man? If so, why?
His body mechanics were designed for him. If I give you a theory or concept it is coming from me, because it is based on my body structure, but I really like the idea in a way that fits. As Hawkins would say “I can only show you the way.” You have to design it to you. Ip Man’s structure was a lot different and you have to remember the time frame it came out of. The ideas from Hong Kong in the 1950s, the era where Hawkins came up, is totally different from the 1900’s. People like Hawkins are now fighting boxers, so the theories are going to change and it is going to evolve as time goes on. He designed it to fit his body type and it changed to fit other things he was falling into.
What was the typical class like with Hawkins Cheung? Did you get to Chi Sau with him?
He was totally interactive. It is kind of like his videos on youtube. He would start out by talking about theories and explain them. After that we would get together to train and he would walk around to correct everyone. Sometimes he would cross hands with you and give you a good half an hour. To this day he is still very hands on.
What does it feel like to play with someone like Hawkins Cheung?
A lot of people ask me this. It can feel like a piece of metal going right though you, at other times it can feel like a hot piece of metal splitting your body apart. When he throws you, it feels like you got hit by a piece of iron. When you hit the ground it feels like you were hit by the hardest piece of concrete you have ever known. He knows how to do things very very well.
What is the training like with him? When you train with Hawkins, is it like Wing Chun Vs Wing Chun? More used for street?
It is not so much Wing Chun vs Wing Chun, as he would say “why bother with that?” What he would do and this is interesting, around 1985, a couple of guys from the American Kempo league came and wanted to do some sparing with us. Hawkins said “sure no problem, bring them in.” They brought these guys from South Central LA and there was 6 of us and around 8 of them.
Hawkins split us up into two groups and would call out our names. Like “Philip you get together with him.” You stand in the middle and we would go at it. He would match us around the same sizes and we would go at it. Around 95% of the fights we had with these guys we won.
It sounds like you did a lot of training in the 80’s, from what I understand that was a different era for training. Back then, were there a lot of challenge matches?
Yea, there was actually. Back in the early years Hawkins first school was in Dan Inosanto academy. There were a lot of people coming through, lots of JKD guys, lots of people wanted to meet Hawkins because of Bruce Lee.
This one gentleman came in, whose name was Pat Strong, he studied with Bruce Lee in Chinatown. He trained with Hawkins too and he was very well versed. We had a lot of these types of people coming though.
With this many people coming though, getting challenges wasn’t anything unusual. We just did it.
I take it back I have one more question. I used to think you can complete the Wing Chun system very quickly, around 5 years. Although with some Sifu’s it is possible to do that and there is nothing wrong with it, I now believe it takes almost forever to complete. When you study under someone like Hawkins, how long does the system take to finish?
You can learn the shell of the forms that is not an issue. The question is can you learn all the mechanics of it because your body is going to change? You never complete it. To use myself as an example you start to modify it as you get older. You are constantly changing it as you change.