Ancient art that packs a punch
Wing chun, which originated in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) in South China, has become popular worldwide through action films about its renowned master Ip Man and Bruce Lee. [Photo provided to China Daily]
To build up speed, Chen had a stand-in opponent-a dummy made of wood.
"In wing chun there is a theory that dictates that an exponent should start a punch from the middle line of one's own body and aim it in the direction of the middle line of one's opponent because it's the shortest distance between the two."
Fifty-two years after he took up wing chun, he retired when he was 65 and set up a wing chun training center in Guangzhou. However, even before that, when he worked for a real estate company, in his spare time he used to teach workmates the art.
Unlike his master, who is strict in recruiting apprentices, Chen hopes to encourage more ordinary people to practice wing chun as a hobby or as physical exercise. For him the appeal of wing chun is its adaptability to the human body.
"The movement range is small, so young and old people alike can do it," he says.
At first his class only had a few students, but it gradually began to fill up until it was full. His students have ranged in age from 5 to 66, among them people who have practiced other Chinese martial arts.
Chen thinks the key to wing chun is to relax, and in his classes he explains each move thoroughly and requires students to make each move precisely.
Since starting teaching, Chen has taken his students to martial art competitions each year.
In 2018 the World Wing Chun Open Competition hosted by the International Wushu Federation was held in Foshan, Guangdong province, attracting more than 1,000 athletes from more than 20 countries and regions.
Six of Chen's students took part, each winning gold medals in different events.
"I feel proud of my students," Chen says. "The competition is international, both the competitors and judges including people from overseas, so the gold medal is great recognition of our wing chun.
In fact many of those whom Chen teaches are from overseas.
"Most want to have a go because they are fans of Bruce Lee, and after practicing wing chun for a while they fall in love with it."