Marko Vesse Kung Fu Academy
One month with Master Wong
By John Gibbons with interviews from Master Vesse.
Master Wong is heir to a kung fu tradition going back 18 generations. Up until the overthrow of the Emperor system in China, the ancestors of his lineage were personal bodyguards for the Emperor. Consequently their kung fu had to be deadly in combat. Besides being the living head of this tradition, Master Wong is also a Taoist scholar whose martial arts are both a spiritual and combat ready lifestyle. He is also an expert in traditional healing arts.
During my conversations with him, Marko made this statement, “Master Wong really surprised me in his approach to money. He offered to put me up in his house if it was more convenient and would save me money. He declined to accept any payment from me for his tuition. For him, martial arts are a spiritual discipline and not a moneymaking machine.
Here is how Marko described an early meeting with Master Wong:
“Master Wong said, ‘Destiny has brought us together. What do you want to learn?”
“I said, “The best stuff.” Master Wong laughed. Then Marko added, “I don't know what you offer. It is up to your wisdom. Whatever you think is appropriate.”
“Master Wong then said, ‘We will start with Chen style Tai Chi. Your power is of a very high quality. It will support the Tai Chi. Combined, it will lift you to higher levels. You have obviously mastered Mian Chuan which is one of the best styles in China. You have more than mastered it; you have changed it, evolved and improved it. After 3 months with my Tai Chi, your creativity can integrate the two styles. You will be a top Master.’”
Serious training began straight away at a Lake near the Master’s home. Marko was asked to stop practicing Wu Xing Dao for the whole month he would be receiving personal training. At first, Marko was disturbed by this because he had originally thought of the visit to China as a way to further develop his own style. He was concerned that he would not progress as quickly without it. However, Master Wong then said that his power was too great and it would override the power from the style of Tai Chi that he wanted him to learn. Because Marko was so impressed by the man he agreed to abide by his request.
Master Wong then said, “I will teach you the framework of movements first and then show you how to use the fighting and the inner workings. I guarantee that you will never see anything elsewhere like what I will teach you. From now on, all power begins from the ground and must come from the legs. All movements are circular, even through a straight line. When your power comes out the ground should shake”.
Marko stated, “Master Wong said that as we moved through the Tai Chi form he would show me various ways of using what I was learning in a free flowing fighting combination. He then demonstrated some movements. What I saw was very direct but also elusive. His movements were very fast. One moment he would approach from the front and the next he would be behind you targeting vulnerable areas.
“I consider myself to be extremely fast in my martial art; however I could see here a style of movement that I had never witnessed before. I could see it would make my own capacity lift to a whole new level.
Marko told me that Master Wong then described some of many strategies for fighting with a variety of scenarios for each.
“He said, “If you want to live by the spirit of martial arts, you must be unique. And if you are unique in martial arts, students will come to learn from you automatically. This is guaranteed.’”
“He continued, ‘I am Chinese and you are Australian but our relations are better than relations that I would have with another Chinese. You are special. Your power is still coming from Wu Xing Dao, but my power is hidden. Power must come from your hand like a fever. When you touch someone at this level, they will surely be injured.’”
Master Wong offered to teach Marko to use any part of the body to hit people, not limited to punches or strikes or kicks. Marko was already used to fighting with the entire body because it is a central part of Wu Xing Dao. However, he was so impressed by Master Wong that he was prepared to be open minded and promised to be diligent in his practice.
Marko told me, “As training progressed, Master Wong stated that I was obviously a very gifted martial artist and that was why he had taken such a liking to me. He said that I will master his style of Tai Chi very well and very quickly. He said he liked my obvious dedication to kung fu. He also stated that he was confident that I could evolve his martial arts in a very practical manner and improve on what he was teaching me.”
“He told me I should train even when I went to bed. I should review what I had just learned and practice it in my imagination. He said, ‘Use your heart, mind and soul to refine one thing at a time when training. You should even practice while walking during the day regardless of what you're doing.’”
“Master Wong then went on to some very philosophical statements. He said his Tai Chi follows the circle of nature, using the whole body from the feet, right through to the top of the head. ‘Nature is the thing you must follow at all times’, he said. ‘The physics of the way things are, such as the movements of the planets, the sun and the moon, the way gravity attracts, how centrifugal force opposes gravity, etc, all have secrets to teach us.’”
“He went on to say that a long life and a stable mind will come from the practice. He said, ‘Understand the nature of a tree. The way it grows and its strength. The way it is grounded and the way it follows the sun and breathes through itself. It moves internally and constantly having its own desire within its own survival needs. Like a tree, Tai Chi can give the illusion of slowness whilst internally it is moving at high speed.’”
“To defeat your enemy by your fist is not a high level. To defeat your enemy by the shape of your hand and the use of the circle is the senior level. To defeat your enemy by your feeling is the third level. To defeat your enemy by your soul is the top level. This is the full set needed to defeat your enemy.”
Marko said there is a lot of philosophy within the system “It really helps to understand the way Chinese speak about their kung fu. The top level Masters all use references to nature, animals, Taoist concepts and other abstract ideas that cannot be taken literally but still convey important principles.”
“For example, he stated that he wanted me to feel the circle moving around inside my body and understand how to use the shape of the triangle and circle within. He explained the triangle is not a typical triangle, it morphs into a circle. Tai Chi has its outer form which, if it is done correctly, can help increase the inner form and its power.”
For the whole month Marko followed a strict practice schedule. Each day he practiced on his own for 2 to 3 hours. He also trained 5 to 7 additional hours each day under the direct tutelage of Master Wong. This rigid schedule and his own long experience with kung fu made it possible for him to learn the complicated form of Chen Style Tai Chi in 2 weeks. His insights and performance were then polished by the Master for the remaining 2 weeks. This regimen included hours of discussions on the philosophy and finer points of technique, energy development and its explosive release, plus real life combat applications.
Near the end of his visit Master Wong surprised Marko by announcing to a gathering of family that he was adopting Marko into his own family as an elder son and told them that he was now considered a member of the family’s martial arts lineage.
“Master Wong said, ‘Many students can achieve a master’s degree in university, but very few can be a master of martial arts.’”
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A remarkable man!
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