After Gary Lam’s interview I manged to sit down with Rayan Lam, Sifu Lam’s son. We have a pretty interesting conversation about how they run their school and shared a few pretty cool stories. Hope you enjoy it!
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From what I understand you are basically living the Wing Chun dream?
Ahhhh Yea. I guess for the most part.
Are you Gary Lam’s only child?
I have two older sisters. I am the only son, so the art kinda fell on my shoulders instead of theirs.
To catch everyone up to our conversation, you basically graduated from college and then went to Gary Lam’s Wing Chun school full time.
I have this really crazy home schooling/grad school Wing Chun program that I am lucky enough to undergo. Hopefully, I’ll finally get to the point where I can take over or at the very least open up a branch school of my own.
What was it like growing up with Gary Lam? Were you doing Chi Sau since you were a baby?
When I was growing up I was not really into the idea of doing Wing Chun. Not to mention Wing Chun is a very complex system with a lot of information, no matter how simple and direct people would like to make it out to be, there are just so many different ideas behind body mechanics, angles, timing, and things like that, it is something you would not expect a 6 year old to learn.
When I was a kid he would make me do forms. After a while I would sneak away to play video games or watch TV.
When did you become more interested in Wing Chun?
When I graduated high school. This was when I told myself “what we have here is so amazing and I just told myself to man up and start training more.”
In college I started to focus more on Wing Chun as well as my studies. Now that I am done with school I finally have time to dedicate myself to the art.
What does your daily day look like?
We have morning training with private students. Most of the time it is people flying in from out of the state/country or local students who want to train more. In between I have a job, but our school opens from 3:00 to 9:00. We amy even train the wing chun dummy.
3:00 is for the kids and 9:00 is for when the adult classes start.
What does the kid classes look like? As we say a moment ago, often they do not really get it? Do they do Thai boxing?
We mix it up. We teach them some Wing Chun drills and some Muay Thai kicks. We also play games that are a lot of fun, but also teach them balance. Have them sit in front of a punching bag and hit it in their horse stance. While they are standing there, we push the bag forward slowly to make them push back. This way they will learn how to balance themselves in the horse stance and make it more interesting for them.
Its fun for them, it really tests them and makes them understand where to put your weight. We also do a bunch of other games to get them punching and kicking.
What does the adult class look like?
The best way to put it would be the Hong Kong Style of teaching. Basically students come in, warm up, and if they want to work on a drill they will ask their peers. For example they might ask a senior student “hey , I need to work on this, can you help me with it?” They just kinda get into it.
We do not line people up to do forms together, we don’t do chain punches together, we don’t pair off and have everyone do the same thing. I know a lot of schools out there do this type of training, and I mean no offense, they have their training and we have ours. We find that very robotic and we want our students to become a more “natural” Wing Chun practitioner. This way you can move at your own pace without “oh you guys started at the same time, you have to do the same thing.” We feel it becomes too fixed this way. You do not want to be like the other person, you want to be your own fighter.
For new guys, we also have a senior student show them the basics and Sil Lim Tao. This way they can be eased into this open gym mentality.
If I was new to your school and I really wanted to get my hands on Gary Lam how would I go about it? In other words, how can I go about it and still be respectful and polite?
You now, my dad is a REALLY nice guy. He is very approachable and welcome new students with open arms, even people from other schools. If someone wanted to touch hands with my dad, generally they could, or sometimes he will send out one of the senior students to kind of see where they are at.
For the most part he is more than willing to touch hands with those who want to. Its actually awesome how open he is about it.
I have a question that related to the Wong Shun Leung lineage. When I spoke with Sifu David Peterson, this issue of “softness” came up. How would you describe it as?
For my dads school, he always describes it as there is a hard Wing Chun and a soft Wing Chun. Soft Wing Chun is what you do to learn how to be more sensitive. This way you can borrow and change position without forcefully doing so.
Then when you engage the harder Wing Chun you can take space, deal damage, and use you structure to take control of the opponent. We have a balance between the two.
I personally describe softness as the difference between structure and stiffness. Lets use the Tan Sau as an example. When a person is doing Sil Lim Tao and the part with the Tan Sau comes up, if they are really pushing, twitching, and forcefully pushing it out, to me that is stiffness. This is because you straining or forcing yourself to maintain that shape.
If you understand the structure of what a Tan Sau is and you deliver to the correct location, that would be better structure. Lets say you are holding a pencil to write with. When some kids start to learn how to write, they have this kind of death grip on the pencil, to me that is what stiffness is. Having structure is being able to loosely hold the pencil and deliver the letters on the page without overdoing it. I hope that paints a better picture for people out there.
In Gary Lam’s school you get to train with other people? I.e do you get to fly to Hong Kong and meet other Wing Chun people?
He is very open about us going out to try out different lineages. He wants us to go out there and test our skills and see if it actually works. Although he likes to make sure we are comfortable with our skills first, generally he wants us to be at level one or the middle of level two first.
Since the styles are often so different, we do not want them to pick up what we might consider bad habits. He is definitely okay with us going out there, he always has students going to different seminars and touching hands with the students there and do some wing chun hand techniques with them. . He just wants to make sure you have a solid foundation before doing so.
Any notable people every come into the school?
Grandmaster Hawkins Cheung used to come by a lot. Sifu James Sinclair dropped by once to say hi, which was awesome. We are pretty open about people stopping by.
Very cool. Both Hawkins and Sinclair seem like really interesting people, real fighters.
It is great to be able to meet people who are like, people who can really make it work. For example my father seems very cam and collected. When you see him apply the skills with a bit more intensity, it is REALLY scary.
Did you get to work with Hawkins Cheung?
He taught me a few things; he told me what to work on for my structure. He gave me some really good advice, amazing information on how to improve my stance and structure. If you have been paying attention to Youtube, he has been releasing A LOT of really great videos.
From what I understand “body structure” is really his thing.
If you ever have the chance to met him, he is not the biggest guy, but the energy he has and his structure is on a whole different level. The way he can ground himself and move around so freely, makes him feel as tall as my farther. Yet their is a really big size difference between the two of them.
In Gary Lam’s class, does he add any Thai Boxing?
Generally he just focuses on the main Wing Chun curriculum. He will incorporate some Muay Thai kicking, but it is to help us understand the different ways people attack. In the end it is knowledge we incorporate back into Wing Chun.
Do you have any final words of wisdom?
Keep training hard. I know it is hard for many people to find a relatable source of Wing Chun, but don’t give up. I’ve seen so many people who have gone out of their way to train with us, although I am not saying everyone has the means to do so, but do everything you can to improve. This way when you do start training, you will gain more perceptive, allowing you to improve even faster. Keep working hard and lets promote Wing Chun together.
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