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Interview by Mark V. Wiley
Hendrik Santo is a researcher of Wing Chun Kuen, Qigong, and Buddhism. He has studied Wing Chun since 1973, is a student of the 4th generation 1850s Wing Chun successor late Master Choe Hung Choy, and also is a student of Zen Patriarch late Venerable Master Hsuan Hua. Hendrick is also a grand-student of late Grandmaster Ma Li-Tang, the expert of the Six healing Sounds Qigong and, professionally, he is a power management semiconductor design architect based in the Silicon Valley, California. He has more than 20 patents in the field of power management control systems, circuits, and devices. Hendriks videos are watched all over the world and generate much interest and ire. I have known him for years, so I called him today to ask a few godo questions goodought our readers may be interested in.
Hendrik, your background is quite interesting. You are a sifu of Yik Kam Wing Chun, Healing Sounds Qigong, and these are not the common branches of these arts. How did you find your way to these lines?
First of all, I think it is more accurate to call what I study as 1850s Wing Chun instead of Yik Kam Wing Chun. The reason is what I study is not a creation or modification of Yik Kam. Yik Kam is a historically traceable Wing Chun ancestor of the Red Boat Opera; an opera actor under the Fine Jade Association who participated the 1850s Red Boat Uprising of China.
I get into Six Healing Sounds due to my search to understand the 1850s Siu Lin Tao writing. So, I got the Siu Lin Tao writing in 1977, in order to understand it, I have to dig very deep into Buddhism classics and practice to search for the detailed explanations.
I was able to study Buddha Dharma, because my grandfather on my mother’s side is one of the people who helped to bring Buddhism into northern Sumatra of Indonesia, I was granted permission to freely enter my Sifu Ven. Fa Chan’s Buddhist temple exclusive liberally to study the buddhist scripture. My late Sifu Fa Chan was a student of the late Ven. Sek Ko Sam, a Shaolin martial monk who brought Shaolin martial art to the Southeast Asia in the early 1900s.
It turns out that Chinese Buddhist-based martial arts internal practice is based in the Buddha’s teaching of Anapanasatti. And about 1500 years ago, the Buddhist monk Shramana Zhiyi, who lectured on his summary on Anapanasati experience in the book, The Essentials of Buddhist Meditation, had incorporated the Six Healing Sounds practice. Thus, Buddhist-based martial arts of China since then are using Anapanasati and the Six Healing Sounds to develop their internal skill; and the six healing sound practice is known for healing internal injury and strengthening internal organs.
The chance I had to study in the Buddhist temple’s exclusive library for 2 years prior to coming to the USA for my electrical engineering education, provided me the education to be proficient in ancient Chinese classics, Buddha sutras, Chinese martial arts classics, and qigong classics. This all enabled me to search into and track down the critical ancient Chinese classic to crack the code of the 1850s Wing Chun classic. At that time, I was in the Buddhist temple everyday studying, such that my late Sifu ask my grandmother’s permission to ordain me as a Buddhist monk.
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Yik Kam WCK is different than the commonly seen Hong Kong version. What are the main differences in terms of curriculum, movement, focus, emphasis, etc?
By technical evidence, the 1850s WCK is a comprehensive system which is based on the six core elements, namely: 1) physical, 2) mind, 3) breathing, 4) energy channel, 5) strength, and 6) impulse momentum. It is an ancient Chinese teaching. While the Hong Kong version are an evolution, they no longer follow the comprehensive ancient teaching.
Yik Kam, like other southern Chinese arts, are related to the writings of General Qi Ji Guan and the Shaolin Short Strike classic. How do you draw this connection?
A critical rule one must know is that when doing research into ancient Chinese classic, one must use the proper older classics to decode the newer classics. Otherwise, one will not be able to accurately know the content and make much sense of the writing; instead left with mere subjective guessing or opinion. When this rule is practiced, evidence the relationship of the classic will show up by itself objectively. This can be analogy to unlock a combination lock. One needs the sequence and the code to open the lock.
Applying this to the 1850s wing chun classic, as in shown in my book Resurrecting Wing Chun, by details evidence the 1850s Wing Chun classic is clearly an offspring of the Chinese martial art by Qi Jiguang and Shaolin Short Strike classic. Evidence speaks for itself.
Shaolin Short Strike and WCK 1850 are ancient and have much in their DNA that is rarely seen in modern WCK or modern southern systems. Why do you think this was lost over time?
There are many reasons for the loss. 1) Chinese only passed the comprehensive details to their sons, if the son is not capable to learn it, the art is lost. 2) from 1860 to 1970 China is in chaos, there is Westernization and Cultural Revolution, and the people has even difficulties to bring food to the table. So, no one really has the opportunity to focus for indepth study. 3) after 1978 most Chinese don’t know ancient classical Chinese and don’t know the mind set of ancient Chinese, as their education became Westernized. That locked one out from seeing the truth. Thus, it evolves into lots of guessing and opinion which is not solving the problem but distorting things further.
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You also are educated as an Engineer and this has played a big role in your view and training in martial arts. Can you tell us what, specifically, it was within your engineering background that led you to look at your art differently?
I never want to be a martial art or qigong sifu and I don’t want to be a Buddhist monk. My interest is to investigate and find out things or solve problems. As a Silicon Valley design director, that leads me to using the same mind set and experience to investigate Wing Chun in an objective, scientific, and systematic way, which involves multiple levels of verification. One other advantage I have supporting my engineering experience is that I am a Kyokushin member since 1973 and have participated in Kyokushin open matches at age of 15. I have seen the Mas Oyama trained fighters training and in actions. By 1977, at 17, when I have my brown black belt, a level below black belt, I had more then 600 hours of Kyokushin type of full contact sparring and multiple exchange with other martial art friends. These experiences gave me a solid data point to verify what is reality in a full contact combat.
You have been sharing your knowledge with youtube viewers for a long time. I would say almost a video a day for years and years. My recollection is that you started sharing information on biomechanics, and force… Can you share some of your insights on this area with us?
The ancient chinese martial art is not magic, as stated in my books Wing Chun Matrix and Wing Chun Inception, I have mapped what the teaching of general Qi Jiguang and also qi nurturing into physics and sport science. As in Silicon Valley, one needs to be able describe it, quantify it, verify it, and repeat it in order to know the strength and weakness to have a solution or to bring it into reality. Otherwise the arts are just a fairy tale or magic that no one can demontrate or know for sure. Or the emperor’s new clothes. And one will put other at risk or giving ppl false security.
Wing Chun and Tai Chi have literally taken a beating lately. Practitioners and masters are falling one by one to full contact competitors. This is not a good state of affairs.
When I was 16, my late Wing Chun sifu Cho Hung Choy, who was involved massively in Gong Sau, told me, “The rule of one having an exchange with other martial artist is to disregard who wins or loses, it is individual. Do not make public and not boasting it, the opponent you defeat today will not be the same tomorrow.” The point is to find out what is the technical strength. Later, I found out same type of teaching in general Qi Jiguang teaching.
So, the loss of the Tai Chi or Wing Chun sifu are individual incidents, that can’t represent Wing Chun or Tai Chi on the whole. However, from these defeats, a critical thing is that practitioners must discover the technical details of the problems and fix them. That’s the teaching of General Qi jiguang. That is just a part of life. The disaster will be if one ignore it, dont accept it, dont analyze it, dont come up with improve solution.
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Because of that, your recent emphasis is on training methods. Specifically, using equipment of top athletes and terms of sports science, to explore WCK. Why did this come about?
It is clear that if Wing Chun Kuen wants to compete, like any Silicon Valley high tech fast track inc., WC needs to be able to analyze, verify, and bench mark the competitor and oneself. Thus, using the same sport science and equipment of the top athletes is a must and unavoidable. Otherwise wck really flying blind and wck guarentee become obsolete.
If you could pick five modern training devices to help the modern student of kung-fu improve themselves with the art, which would they be and why?
The following 5 modern training tools are presented in my book resurrecting wing chun. It is a must for this modern era.
1) Garmin fitness tracker to track training heart rate, heart rate variability, and Vo2max for cardiovascular endurance training.
2) T2 isotrainer for combine isokinetic, isometric, elastic and suspended resistance training.
3) EXER-GENIE for moving, agility and speed training.
4) Isochain for quantized isometric training or muscle endurance training.
5) Bulgarian bag for building core musculature, coordination, and improving overall shoulder and joint mobility.
What does the future hold for TCMA? Those that remain the same and those that choose to progress by mapping into sport science?
If TCMA do not reform, it will not last long. To reorganize to have a comprehensive training coverage and mapping into sport science is the only way to survive and grow. To remain the same means vanished the chinese mma player Xu Xia Dung has proved that in the past 4 years.
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