About Sifu Ken HarnishI began my study of the martial arts in the 1970's. It was mostly primitive stuff that was availible in the U.S. at the time. I trained for five years in an Okinawan style, three and a half years in a Korean style and a few years in
exotic and eclectic styles. By the late 1980's after participating in more than half a dozen Wing Chun seminars by different instructors I enrolled in classes and began to study the art in earnest. There is a Chinese proverb saying "when the student is ready the teacher will appear"- this is how it had occurred for me. Within a period of six or seven years of training I had progressed to my forth Wing Chun teacher. As I had
prepared myself to receive higher instruction I'd come into contact with a more knowledgeable instructor. It certainly makes all the difference to have a splendid highly qualified teacher. I have been very fortunate to receive very
intimate and precise instruction under the tutelage of Master Ho Kam Ming. You may have heard that Wing Chun is based on simplicity. This is true but this does not mean that you can buy a few videos, attend a few seminars or study for two years and then teach yourself or others the real art. Much patience
and perseverance is required of both teacher and student. Only by treading this meticulous path can you realize the trying exactness to detailed control, which one must master. What generally happens to a student studying Wing Chun is that they will believe that they have an understanding of what they are being taught. Further study would reveal to them that actually they have only come to know one dimension
of a multi-layered art. If one does not receive proper instruction and training over a number of years with a sifu [teacher] who has an authentic knowledge of the art then they only acquire for themselves a deficient interpretation of the art. It gets watered
down its beauty diluted until it becomes something ugly to the eye of one who has been taught the true subtle inner workings of the art. You can learn to see that the "art" is dying. There are only a few small enclaves in the world that maintain any vestige of the art and design of Wing Chun. The past Grandmaster of Wing Chun in Hong Kong possessed rare skills but for reasons of his own he was not very forthcoming in the training of his students. I could list more than a few reasons for you but mostly it was because it
was more from being forced by circumstances that he came out to teach rather than from a heartfelt directive to be a kung fu sifu. Additional factors that contribute to the point I make regarding the loss of knowledge and expertise in Wing Chun. 1. "Protecting the rice bowl" [not giving his art away to others] 2. No real desire to teach. 3. Very hard work involved in teaching it right. 4. Slow approach to teaching [and advancement of students] 5. No systematic approach to teaching to a group of students. 6. Taught as per how much money the student could pay. 7. The influence of drug addiction.
So many students consequently have inherited an incomplete understanding of the art. Because people who do not comprehend the true path have come out to teach, variations abound in the art. True there may be some inherent minor adjustments
due to different body types and such but major variations cropped up due to a lack of knowledge of original Wing Chun design and use. This is not a matter of opinion. This knowledge can be taught and learned just like mathematics.
You can show that one and one equals two regardless of another's opinion.You can also show that much of what people pass off as being Wing Chun is not of the true design of the art. If you learn to see the difference you can see that much of the Wing Chun being played today has disintegrated to people
using roughly simulated Wing Chun positions for mere slap-boxing sessions actually devoid of real Wing Chun skills. In some cases they were taught by a supposed sifu, who beat their students to stroke their own egos.They believe that this will earn them respect but true respect is reserved for one who can teach the true art. You will also recognize that some travel around teaching mainly because they exploit a niche to make a lot of money
from it.The uniqueness of the art as taught by Ho Kam Ming reveals the depth, completeness and beauty that can be accomplished in this exquisite art.It is said of Master Ho "that he has received all the best knowledge" [from the grandmaster]
Master Ho tells me why he had learned so much from his teacher. Ho says "you can go to the store and buy a five dollar shirt, a twenty dollar shirt or a one hundred dollar shirt. I paid for the one hundred dollar shirt." Master
Ho told me that for each of his daily private lessons with the grandmaster he would pay an amount of money equal to what the other general students would pay for a years worth of training. He says that he had paid the grandmaster
enough to buy three houses in expensive Hong Kong.Master Ho's grandfather owned a concession stand on a military base in the orient. With 4,000 people stationed there it was a lucrative trade in the sale of coffee and pastries. The grandfather thought that he was providing for
his grandsons future. He never realized that all the money went to Yip Man for his grandson's kung fu education.Master Ho sites another reason why he had been taught a lot by Master Yip. Since he was more mature he took his study more seriously and responsibly. He told me of a time when Master Yip was quite ill. The other students didn't
bother to come to class, figuring oh well the teacher's sick no use to go. But Master Ho sill went to check on his teacher. Master Yip was too ill to bathe himself so Ho helped him to bathe. When he got worse instead of better
Master Ho carried Master Yip on his back all the way to see the doctor. It was a bad neighborhood with no taxis to be found. Thereafter Master yip appreciated the friendship of Master Ho and was more helpful towards him also.Master Ho trained many years with his grandmaster to learn the proper foundation of the art. He says however that it was his subsequent 40 years of teaching the art that has enabled him to put it all into definite focus. That is,
exactly "how to use" the art.
Once you are schooled in proper structure you can determine who has had high-level training and who has not. Otherwise you may be fooled. The art is deep. Encompassing levels that some do not even know to exist. So they are not
even aware of what they are missing.Master Ho was asked by one of my students if he believed that Grandmaster Yip Man withheld any information from some his students. Master Ho laughed a bit saying that "in truth you could say that really Yip Man taught no one." Because all he would give you would be the basic foundation. That's all, if you wanted more you'd have to figure it out from there. He didn't care enough to take the time to lead you step by step through mastering the skills.Later on when visiting Ho at his school Yip Man commented that Ho had better teaching methods that he [Yip] did. When Master Yip retired he passed many of his private students on to Master Ho to continue their training.I once asked Master Ho if he had any objection to my releasing some of the insights that he had taught me in a Wing Chun book that I was writing. He said "even if you write the book people still won't really get it." There it is
again, that elusiveness: why many who think that they've learned it have in actuality missed the boat.
Master Ho will be retiring from teaching before long. He is working hard at this point toward the preservation of the true art.He migrated to Canada Six years ago. I am the first non-Chinese to train with him. I train usually privately with him in his basement. Now he has a school up near Toronto. He makes many regular trips to Chicago endeavoring to develop
my school into a place where people can come to learn "Original Wing Chun" as he calls it. I study from him not only the art but also importantly his time honored teaching methods. Not many have learned the complete art and not
everyone who has can teach it well. Teaching the art is more difficult than just learning it. To learn it is to climb the mountain. To teach it is to carry someone else up the mountain.He believes that if he sits back and does nothing that the art will die. He and his knowledge are indeed unique. I have never encountered anything so in depth. Although he has taught for 40 years I believe that aside from myself
there have only been four others to continue these teachings [one in Macao and three here in the U.S.]Coincidentally as I am writing this he is en route to Chicago along with 9 or 10 of his students for our first seminar of 2001 [last year he came in for three]. We will post some seminar photos soon.