A number of different types of classes are offered by the Blue Heron Wing Chun Hall. These are meant to accommodate the needs of both new students and those with some previous Wing Chun experience.
1. Introductory Class: A Six Week Orientation to the Wing Chun System.
New students (and anyone else who is interested) are encouraged to begin with the six week orientation course. This class introduced students to the basic outline of Siu Lim Tao (the first of Wing Chun’s three unarmed forms), stances, body structure, footwork and basic strikes. An overview of the history and some core concepts of the art are also discussed. By the end of the six weeks students will have mastered all of the basic skills necessary to enter the Novice course, up to and including single handed Chi Sao. They will have also gained some important basic self-defense skills and concepts. If you are new to the Wing Chun system or are looking for a good refresher to get you back up to speed, this is the class for you. The total cost of this class for all six weeks of instruction is $50.
2. Novice Class
The second class in this system further explores the Siu Lim Tao form. Students are also introduced to more striking/interception combinations and will become comfortable working with bridges. Locks, throws and some ground work are also covered in Siu Lim Tao. This course is designed to last for about six months. By the end of this period students will have been introduced to two handed Chi Sao (sticky hands). It costs $50 a month.
3. Intermediate Class
The next class introduces students to the “Chum Kiu” form. This is Wing Chun’s main fighting form. It contains a heavy emphasis on boxing, identifying safe lines of attack and defense and trapping. It also brings kicking into the Wing Chun system. A number of different cooperative games are introduced over the course of this class to familiarize students to more complex concepts and combinations. It is also the longest course in our basic curriculum lasting about 12 months. Instruction in Chum Kiu costs $55 a month.
4. Advanced Class
The third form in the Wing Chun system is called Biu Jee. It presupposes that students are already competent boxers and begins to introduce them to a new range of topics. These include evasion and recovery when something has gone wrong, identifying your opponents weaknesses and developing strategies to exploit them, “entry” (or closing distance to make contact with an opponent), switching ranges to gain tactical advantage, targeted strikes at nerve points or other vulnerable centers, additional ground work and kicking. Students in Biu Jee are also introduced to basic defense against armed attackers and Wing Chun’s internal training methods. This class is expected to take about nine months to complete and costs $60 a month.
5. The Wooden Dummy
After mastering each of the basic unarmed sets students are introduced to the 116 movement wooden dummy form. Many students are now familiar with the basic shape and use of the wooden dummy because of their use in the recent Ip Man movies.
The dummy may be one of the most valuable training partners you will ever have. Its form incorporates movements and concepts from each of the three previous sets. This material is integrated into a single unified approach to fighting. The design of the dummy itself helps students to correct their structures and lines of attack while learning to put force in their attacks. Working on a dummy is also an excellent conditioning exercise.
6. The Weapons
Only advanced students who have mastered the previous material can go on to study the weapons. The first of these forms is the “Six and Half Point Pole.” Following that students are introduced to the Baat Jarm Do (Eight Directional Blades) or “Butterfly Swords.” The weapons are an integral part of the Wing Chun system. Yet for too long they have been hidden away and shown to only a handful of students. As a result the practice of these skills has degenerated.
The Wing Chun Hall takes weapon training very seriously, and is dedicated to ensuring that every student who completes the unarmed system has a chance to learn these systems. Poles and knives are often viewed as obsolete in the modern world, and so they tend to be neglected, or are thought of only as “traditional strength training devices.”
What Wing Chun really teaches is a comprehensive fighting method that will allow a fully trained individual to pick up any blunt or sharp object (or pair of objects), evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, and understand how to effectively use it as a weapon. While the pole and the butterfly knives appear to be very different weapons, there is still a unified set of concepts that underlays the proper use of both sets of weapons. Those same concepts can be applied to any object as large as a baseball bat or as small as a paring knife.
Sifu Nielson has recently developed an exciting new system of full-contact fencing that will take Wing Chun knife and sword training to the next level. Without challenging weapons work it is difficult, if not impossible, to understand and apply all of the footwork and “entry techniques” in the Wing Chun system. Further, a familiarity with a broad variety of blades and blunt objects is central to any system that claims to teach practical self-defense.
7. I do offer some private lessons. Call or email for rates and availability.
The Lineage of Blue Heron Wing Chun Hall
“Lineage” is a central concept throughout the Chinese martial arts. Without any overarching system of centralized administration, most Kung Fu styles rely on accurate transmission from teacher to students to ensure the long term survival of the art. The specific line of teachers stretching back before you indicates what body of techniques, philosophy or concepts your art should contain.
Students often take great pride in having a lineage that looks back to a famous teacher or fighter (such as Ip Man) in the fewest number of steps. This is viewed as the best insurance that you have “authentic Kung Fu.” But is that really the case?
Actually the best way to ensure the quality of your Kung Fu is to practice hard and to really dedicate yourself to understanding the system. Any chain of knowledge passed on only by rote memorization degrades over time, and it often becomes irrelevant in the face of changing social conditions. Your lineage gives you a basic tool box of ideas, concepts and techniques, but it is up to individual students to really own their art and make it come alive in each new generation. Still, its easier to understand what the Wing Chun Hall is attempting to accomplish when you know a little bit about where it comes from.
Dr. Benjamin Judkins – Instructor of the Blue Heron Wing Chun Hall
My name is Benjamin Judkins. I am a native of Western NY who attended the University of Rochester and later earned a doctorate in Political Economy from Columbia University. My background is in education. While teaching in Salt Lake City I became interested in the Chinese martial arts and began to study Wing Chun with Sifu Jon Nielson, a direct student of Ip Ching (Ip Man’s second second son). Under the supervision of Sifu Nielson I both completed the entire entire system and worked as an assistant instructor.
I was fascinated with what Wing Chun had to offer and its approach to fighting. It differed in so many ways from the Korean and Japanese arts that I had previously practiced while in college. Six years later I returned to Western NY, and decided to open my own branch of the Wing Chun Hall hoping to share some of these same concepts and skills with a new generation of students. My focus is on creating a safe and friendly environment to learn both authentic southern style Kung Fu and practical self defense.
Sifu Jon Nielson – Leader and Chief Instructor of the Wing Chun Hall
Sifu Jon Nielson has been studying Wing Chun since late 1980. After dabbling in several martial arts styles, he was introduced to Wing Chun by Jerry Gardner, a student of Duncan Lueng. When Sifu Gardner left Utah, Nielson continued his training under instructors from several different Wing Chun lines including Kenneth Chung, William Cheung, Eddie Chong, Malcolm Lee, and Leung Ting.
He finally found the quality of Wing Chun he was looking for in 1990 under Ron Heimberger in the Wing Chun Kung Fu Council. Sifu Nielson has taught and studied Wing Chun in Thailand, Spain and Mexico. He has served the Council as Annual Student Seminar Coordinator, Instructor Course Developer, Assistant Curriculum Developer, President of the BYU Wing Chun Club, Council Executive Vice- President and Advisor to Spain. Currently Sifu Nielson is the Chief Instructor at the Wing Chun Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah. He accompanied Sifu Heimberger in seminars to several states, and has been privileged to train with Grandmaster Ip Ching on several occasions, including several trips to Hong Kong.
Following the death of Sifu Heimberger, Sifu Nielson became a direct student of Ip Ching. He continues to travel to Hong Kong to work with Ip Ching and is associated with the VTAA. Sifu Nielson’s current area of focus and research is on the swords where he is attempting to both reconstruct authentic southern Chinese knife and sword fighting techniques, as well as to create a full contact training method for more effectively spreading this body of knowledge.
Master Ron Heimberger
Master Ron Heimberger was born March 7, 1956 in Nampa, Idaho. He began his Wing Chun training in 1969 at the age of 13 under Jim Fujitsu in Hawaii. He later moved to Oregon and continued his training in the Wing Chun system in Leung Ting’s lineage. He eventually moved to Idaho where he completed the system and advanced to the position of Leung Ting’s chief U.S. representative.
In 1987, after a falling out with Leung Ting, Master Heimberger formed his own organization, the Wing Chun Kung Fu Council and moved to Utah. As head of the Council, he worked tirelessly for many years to build up a worldwide organization, eventually uniting schools in the U.S., South America, Europe, Asia and Oceania.
In 1994, he came to the realization that he had gone about as far as he could with the knowledge he had, and began seeking out an exceptional master of the art. His searching led him to none other than Grandmaster Ip Ching, the son of the late Grandmaster, Ip Man. In 1997, they made their association official, and Master Heimberger’s students all benefited from the experience and wisdom of two great masters of the art.
In the summer of 2007, Master Heimberger began to experience unusual headaches. Despite his suffering, he continued to write, travel, and teach around the world, helping students to the best of his ability. However, in November of that same year, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He fought valiantly, but by the time it was discovered, the cancer was too far advanced. On March 9th of 2008, he was rushed to the hospital where this energetic and tireless champion of Wing Chun finally came to rest.
Ronny Layne Heimberger was the author or co-author of seven books on Wing Chun and other subjects, including the most comprehensive book on the Wing Chun dummy to date. He contributed articles to Inside Kung Fu, Black Belt, Combat, Kung Fu-Tai Chi, and many other respected martial arts magazines. He was the producer and star of several instructional tapes and DVDs. In addition, he acted on television and in the movie, China O’Brien. He served his country as a member of the armed forces. He is survived by his wife, two sons, and three daughters, hundreds of close friends and thousands of students in over 50 schools around the world. Rest in peace.
Grandmaster Ip Ching
Grandmaster Ip Ching is the youngest son of the late Grandmaster Ip Man. During the final years of Ip Man’s life, when his health was failing, Ip Ching took upon himself the duties of maintaining his father’s home and school. Unpretentious and humble, Ip Ching is dedicated to maintaining and building up his father’s legacy. In his 70s and in superb health, Ip Ching is dedicated to bringing Wing Chun into the 21st century while maintaining its rich and traditional roots.
He currently lives in his father’s house and teaches out of his school. Students of the Wing Chun Hall occasionally have to opportunity to travel to Honk Kong and train in Ip Ching directly.
Great Grandmaster Ip Man
Ip Man began his Wing Chun training at the age of nine and continued until his death in his early 70s. It was his fortune to study under two of the prominent disciples of the “King of Boxers,” Grandmaster Leung Jan. He first studied under Chan Wah Shan, who ran a school on the Ip family property. Later, when he went to school in Hong Kong, he met and studied under Leung Jan’s son, Leung Bik. He briefly taught Wing Chun to a small number of students during World War Two. Grandmaster Ip Man went on to a career of distinguished service in law enforcement from roughly 1945-1949.
In late 1949 Ip Man fled the communist takeover of Mainland China. From 1950 to the early 70s Ip Man taught Wing Chun in Hong Kong, effectively opening this style up to the public. His two sons and several other disciples have also distinguished themselves in the martial arts world. Ip Man’s life has become the subject of several recent movies. The Chinese government has recognized him as an important regional figure and dedicated a museum to him in Foshan, China in November of 2002.
Speaking of his teacher’s attitude and expertise Hawkins Cheung had this to say:
“Who realized Ip Man’s skill? All my training brothers respected Ip Man because he never hurt them, nor were they skillful enough to hurt him. Ip Man in the 1950s was the epitome of sensitivity; he could immediately read his opponent’s intention.”
Hawkins Cheung, Black Belt Magazine. 1992
Indeed, this is the same type of skill and balance that we seek to pass on to our students today.
The “Blue Heron Wing Chun Hall” is the New York State branch of the larger “Wing Chun Hall” led by Sifu Nielson. The Wing Chun Hall is associated with both the Hong Kong Ving Tsun Athletic Association and the Ving Tsun Ip Ching Athletic Association.