Header image courtesy of Gabriella Lynn
Swoosh. Pow. Thud. With quick and precise movements, local Wing Chun master Patrick Hsu strikes the three arms and kicks the leg of the iconic wooden dummy of martial arts fame. For the 33-year-old, kung fu is his biggest passion in life, and he spends his days teaching and advocating Chinese martial arts and its benefits to Hongkongers.
In partnership with Kung Fu Hong Kong, a martial arts school of the Internal Wisdom and Knowledge Association (IWKA), we sat down with the sifu himself to talk about his kung fu journey and dive deeper into the Chinese art of self-defence.
When I was 14 or 15, my mum took me to tai chi lessons. I found its theories interesting but the movements boring, so I wasn’t persistent in taking classes. My friend introduced me to Wing Chun later, and I thought it was better for small and skinny people like me to protect ourselves, so I went to a traditional Wing Chun school in Hong Kong. I fell in love with its fast and close-range fighting style and continued to learn Wing Chun from then on.
It definitely changed the way I saw things. For example, there’s an exercise called “the standing meditation” that we do, which helps us improve our posture and open our minds more. By doing the pose, I understood how the tendons and ligaments worked together to punch, kick, and generate power throughout the body.
I also learned to push myself to become stronger through martial arts. I became more resilient. When I first started learning Wing Chun, there were many sihing (師兄; kung fu apprentices) who were stronger and bigger than me; I had to try very hard to not get beaten up by them, especially when we practised the chi sau (黐手; “sticky hands”) exercise. After years of training, I became better and learned how to fight in situations like these.
IWKA is a health and wellness association that helps people master their bodies and minds in different ways. One of these ways is through learning kung fu. We promote kung fu as an answer to achieving better well-being and practical self-defence. A lot of people in Hong Kong are too busy to understand kung fu and how it relates to them; that’s why I focus on the benefits during classes so they can get the most out of kung fu.
My sifu, Sifu Sergio, summarised a system of Chinese martial arts based on his research on and experience with Wing Chun and tai chi. We teach both martial arts styles to our students since there are some commonalities between them. Movements of both martial arts styles [focus] on the sensation of your arms, like the push hands and chi sau exercises. When you use them to fight, you’re supposed to feel your opponent’s energy and deflect it.
The most important thing about kung fu is its traditional aspect, like paying respect to your masters and ancestors. Some other sports also emphasise paying homage to your teachers, but this aspect of traditional culture is not as significant as it is in kung fu.
Without your sifus and your sifus’ sifus passing down the knowledge of kung fu, you would not be able to get to where you are now. I think gratitude is the most important aspect for children to learn kung fu, but its physical and mental benefits are important as well.
Many people think the wooden dummy is the first thing you practice in Wing Chun, but that is almost the last thing. It’s used to identify where the target is and which part you should strike—so for practising hand techniques, essentially. You also learn how to generate power during close-range fighting. There is a saying in Chinese that goes, “When there is no teacher or opponent, practise using the mirror and the wooden dummy.” (無師無對手，對鏡與樁求; mou4 si1 mou4 deoi3 sau2, deoi3 geng3 jyu5 zong1 kau4)
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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.