The Rise of Gulao ​Pin Sun Wing Chun

Gulao ​Pin Sun Wing Chun

Just a short walk from the iconic Kings Cross St Pancras Train Station in London you will find Wing Chun London, which is a small traditional Wing Chun Kwoon (School) teaching Gulao Pin Sun Wing Chun. 

Sifus Michael Watson and Taskin Hudaverdi first opened the school in the spring of 2015. The aim of the school is to pass on the legacy of Grandmaster Lee Shing. In fact, just how this very rare branch of Wing Chun arrived in the UK is a very interesting but little known story.

In this article, we will explore how this very secretive art made its way from mainland China to London’s Chinatown and how it has continued to grow since. The origins and history of Gulao Pin Sun Wing Chun have been documented many times over recent years, and is now well-known, so with this in mind, I will briefly explain its origins before explaining how this very rare branch of Wing Chun made its way to London’s Chinatown in the UK, in the late 1950s. 

Upon his retirement, Dr Leung Jan returned to his ancestral village in Gulao. For many years before that, Leung Jan had run a pharmacy in Foshan and was a well-known and respected figure both in the Wing Chun circles and in his professional life.  

Leung Jan was now in his later years of his life and it was at this point that he developed a style of Wing Chun which we now refer to as Gulao Pin Sun. This style of Wing Chun differed from the classical style Leung Jan had practiced and taught in Foshan and was made up of separate techniques (San Sau), as opposed to the standardised hand forms that we more commonly see in other lineages of Wing Chun. This, he believed, would be quick and easy for his students to learn and use in a short time frame.

Yet, there is a lot more to Leung Jan’s art than just 12 basic body movements and shapes. At a more advanced level, the student would understand that the 12 sets taught do in fact encompass all the underlying principles of Wing Chun that make up the classical approach Leung Jan had taught in Foshan

According to recent research, Leung Jan took on four students when he returned to Gulao, with the most famous being his nephew Wong Wah Sam, who in turn passed this style onto Fung Yee Ming. This is where we get to how this rare form of Wing Chun arrived in the UK in the late 1950s.  

Born in 1923 in Hoksan, Guangdong province China, Lee Shing showed at a very early age an interest to all the various Kung Fu styles that were practiced in his home village. One style that stood out from the rest for him, was the type of Kung Fu practiced by a Wing Chun expert named Fung Yee Ming who was a student of Wong Wah Sam. The young Lee Shing was accepted as a student by Fung Yee Ming and went on to complete the system under his teacher before relocating to Foshan, where he continued to explore other styles of Wing Chun and compare differing ways of practicing the art.

It was while he was in Foshan that Lee Shing first met Grandmaster Ip Man, as they both trained together under Ng Jun So, and like Ip Man, Lee Shing decided to move to Hong Kong.  Whilst in Hong Kong, Lee Shing continued to research other styles of Wing Chun and according to family tradition, he went on to train with many of the Wing Chun Masters that were now based there.

These masters included Ip Man, Lok Yiu, Yuen Kay San, Jiu Wan and of course Fung Sang who was teaching Gulao Pin Sun at his school in Hong Kong. In 1959, Lee Shing left Hong Kong and settled in London. Upon his arrival, he opened a restaurant in the heart of Chinatown named Canton, and this restaurant is now considered to be the birthplace of Wing Chun in the UK. To begin with, Lee Shing only taught the staff at the restaurant as a means of self-defense, but soon, word spread within the Chinese community in London of a Wing Chun Master teaching the staff at the restaurant.

Eventually, many sought him out and began to train under him. In fact, many of today’s Wing Chun Schools in the UK  can trace their roots directly back to Lee Shing, and many of his personal students would go on to become pioneers in spreading the art of Wing Chun across the world. Some of Lee Shings’ most notable students include, Joseph Cheung, Joseph Lee, Samuel Kwok, Chan Man Kuen, Eddie Yeoh, Joseph Man and Simon Lau, Austin Goh and Nigel Fan. 

Even though Lee Shing had many students, he only passed on his knowledge of Gulao Pin Sun Wing Chun to a handful of his favoured student’s. One of these students was Joseph Lee who continued to teach this unique style after Grandmaster Lee Shing passed away in 1992. Joseph Lee is still very much active, still teaches Gulao Pin Sun in London and is the teacher of both Michael Watson and Taskin Hudaverdi, who now continue the legacy of Grandmaster Lee Shing into the next generation. 

The Form consists of the following 12 Handsets;

Siu Lim Tao (Small Idea Set)

Dai Lim Tao (Big Idea Set)

Sam Jheen Choi (Three finger jab)

Biu Choi (Charging/Thrusting punch)

Sap Jee Choi (Reverse meridian/Cross hand punch)

Dip Cheung (Double Butterfly Palm). Alternating low palm strikes.

Lan Kiu (Bar Arm Bridge)

Teet Jee Chum Kiu (Iron Finger Sinking bridge). Back fist flowing into low strike followed by low palm strike.

Tang Ma Biu Jee (Rising thrusting finger with phoenix eye)

Hok Bong (Crane bong). Level Bong Sau, moving into side body with simultaneous attack. Wan Wan Yeu (Life after Death). Using the waist to lean back to avoid strikes detected late, then using the return waist power in the hand strike.

Fook Fu (Subduing the Tiger). Mixture b/w Gan and Fak Sau with phoenix eye.

Also included in the syllabus are Dai Bong (Low soft Bong), Fu Mei (low strike to the groin), Gwai Lung Na (double Lop Sau), Sam Bai Fut (Three bow to Buddha), Sam Jhin Chiu (Three arrow blow), Fan Kup Choi (uppercut), Lien Wan Fai Jeung (linked fast palms), and important principles like the double bridge and Flicking Tan Sau with forward energy to bridge the Gap in Chum Kiu.

Pin Sun teaches you how to modify these points depending on the situation and how to combine them effortlessly in free flowing techniques so that they are not static, but flow freely with correct footwork. Ω

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