by Andrea Hartley
“Protect your center. Keep balanced. Get your power from the ground,” Sifu David Shaman, of the Smiling Dragon Kung Fu Academy, Northfield, N.J. says to Eva Marie Fuschillo, as he instructs her in the art of Wing Chun, a form of Kung Fu. The 25 year old Fuschillo, looking straight ahead, never taking her eyes off her opponent, moves her hands more to the center as she moves her body in a carefully learned series of maneuvers. She feels confident that, if she is attacked, she is learning to be able to defend herself. “Wing Chun is not about brute force or muscle strength, but about manipulating your body so that even if you aren’t strong or big, you are still able to cultivate power,” Fuschillo said.
Bob Smith, 67, of Linwood, New Jersey, another of Shaman’s students, found a profound health benefit to learning and practicing Wing Chun. Smith suffers from cervical spondylosis, a condition where the discs in the neck dehydrate and shrink and develop bone spurs. He was in severe pain. After seeing the MRI, Smith’s neurosurgeon had a disappointing prognosis for him. The doctor said, “No one can help you. If any doctor says he can, he is just looking to buy a new car.”
“I tried everything for relief,” Smith said. “I went to a chiropractor, I had acupuncture, I had injections for pain management- nothing helped. I couldn’t turn my head to the right or left even an inch. I was like a robot.”
Smith, who has been practicing Wing Chun since last August, says that now, he has greatly improved. “It’s amazing,” He said, “I can turn my neck and rarely feel any pain.” He also has great respect for his sifu (teacher). “I think David Shaman is probably one of the most positive and encouraging people that I have had the privilege to be around. He thoroughly answers your questions and takes responsibility for his students learning.”
According to Shaman, also a master of the Asian healing art of shiatsu therapy. “Many sifus are also practitioners in healing arts.” he said. Shaman is also a nationally certified massage therapist and is a mind-body holistic practitioner. He added that Smith only practiced the Wing Chun, and his improvement came from that alone.
But Wing Chun is much more than just fighting, self defense, or even health benefits. There is a philosophy involved with it, that if learned and practiced properly, can help one be successful in daily life. It is a lifestyle that Shaman has learned and practiced for over 30 years and strives to teach to his students. “As one learns to protect his/her center physically from attack, one can learn to apply that principle to the mind as well. Keeping one’s mind in focus, and one’s self centered during a crisis, will enable one to make better decisions. The student of Wing Chun learns to develop a calm head and inner peace that can help one be better prepared to handle life’s situations and problems and unexpected realities, ” Shaman said. “ When faced with daunting problems, one may feel small or insignificant, much like a smaller statured person who is facing a huge opponent. When faced with unexpected situations in life, where you need to make quick and decisive decisions-much like in self defense- Wing Chun is designed for just such a purpose, and applying the techniques and concepts to the problems may help one to deflect them and gain control over them. No one attacks you slowly in real life and real life has a way of throwing a surprise attack at you.”
The origin of Wing Chun is rich with legends, but the most common and widely held view is that it originated during the Ching Dynasty sometime between 1796 and 1820 when the Emperor Jiaquin decided that the Shaolin monasteries must be destroyed. A few of the monks escaped the destruction and were scattered in the woods. One of them, Ng Mui, a Buddhist nun and grandmaster of Shaolin Kung Fu is said to have created the Wing Chun style. She had observed a snake and a crane fighting. The snake attacked directly and the crane side-stepped the attack and this observation inspired her to create Wing Chun. It is also said that she met a young woman by the name of Yim Wing Chun (which means endless springtime and new beginnings). Wing Chun was in quite a bind because she was being bullied into a marriage which she did not want by a warlord. He was 100 pounds heavier than her and an expert fighter who smugly agreed that she would not have to marry him if she could defeat him in a fight. He even gave her a year to prepare for the match. Ng Mui, took her under her wing and trained her in the new style that she had developed.
Wing Chun used the warlord’s size and strength against him. At the appropriate times, she would throw all of her own body weight against him aiming at specific targets. This put him off balance and left him vulnerable for repeated strikes. He was defeated before a huge crowd. Ng Mui named this new technique after her student. After defeating the warlord, Wing Chun married the man she loved and taught him the new technique. Together they taught it to others. In honor of his wife, the husband named this new style after her, Wing Chun.
The most famous grandmaster of Wing Chun in recent times was Yip Man who lived from 1893 until 1972. Yip Man was revered for the mastery of the art and gained notoriety since one of his students was the famous movie legend, Bruce Lee. Shaman learned Wing Chun under the direction of Dr. John Crescione, a chiropractor and Sifu in New York. Crescione trained under the direction of Yip Man’s son, Yip Ching, as well as other well-known teachers, such as William Cheung, who was responsible for bringing Bruce Lee to Yip Man and Lee Moy Shan as well. Those who have studied under this lineage have held to a” family” philosophy.
“I like the way Sifu Shaman runs his classes and encourages his students to be a family,” Fuschillo said. “It wasn’t about paying money and going to class, without any connection.” She added that one of the first things she heard from him was “Welcome to your Kung Fu family”
“My students are really great, ” with obvious delight Shaman proclaims, “They care about each other and helping each other to succeed, not just in Wing Chun but in life.”
Sifu Shaman invites anyone who has an interest in learning more about Wing Chun to come for 3 free lessons. He is also offering a summer camp for children ages 7-11.
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