- As a quick intro, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your school? When, where, how and why did you start practicing?
My name is John “Jay” Hitchman. I am 54 years young and was born in Brooklyn New York. I moved to the Philadelphia area in 1991. I am an Engineer.
I have been a member of the Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu family, and a student of Grandmaster Pete Pajil, since 1994.
I became a Grand Special Student and disciple of GrandMaster Moy Yat in 1996. I completed the Ving Tsun System in 1999.
I have been teaching since 1999 and have a Mokwoon in Hatboro PA since April 2000. My interest in Ving Tsun began from a close friend who started teaching me in his basement back in 1981.
While traveling for a work assignment in Australia during the early 1990’s, I trained at Master Jim Fungs Mokwoon in Sydney for one month. This made me commit to learning formally from a school when I returned back to Philadelphia.
- What are the most common mistakes, or assumptions, you’ve encountered during your years of teaching?
The most common assumptions or mistakes I have encountered lies mostly in peoples misunderstanding and misconception of martial arts training. Most people feel it is all about fighting and that it is only physical.
Also that just because you train at a martial arts school that you know how to fight. Another assumption is that martial arts is separate from your life.
- Movies such as “Yip Man”, “The Grandmaster” and such are probably one of the reasons many people start to practice at some point. Since reality is mostly not matching most of these movie scenes, what are some key aspects a beginning martial artist should focus on?
While it is true that these movies generate the interest and are mostly “fantasized” they still provide a more realistic presentation of Ving Tsun Kung Fu. The beginning martial artist should understand they are starting on a path of learning.
They must focus on being patient and “trust the system”. They should learn to respect their teacher (Sifu) and their Kung Fu brothers and sisters.
Initially, they must make time to commit coming to the school and participating in school events and taking care of the school and the senior students.
Many students who only equate the training to hours and money will find themselves feeling very empty and miss the learning experience.
- How can Wing Chun be used in an educational, non-martial arts setting?
Ving Tsun can be taught in a classroom setting, much like a history class. It has a rich history and true Ving Tsun teaching is complemented by Chinese culture and philosophy.
Our Grandmaster Moy Yat used to learn a lot of Kung Fu at the dinner table! It is believed he learned the Luk Dim Boon Kwan (6 1/2 Point Pole) from Ip Man demonstrating with Chop Sticks. Many times our Moy Yat family will have events that involve just spending time and talking and eating.
- The internet has completely changed our lives over the past 10-15 years. We now have access to lots of information (both good & bad) and connections like never before. How do you feel about this evolution and it’s impact on Wing Chun?
The Internet is truly a test of one’s Kung Fu to resist imposing one’s opinion. My feeling is that if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.
It is everyone’s right to post whatever they wish. They become open to appreciation as well as vulnerable to being criticized. Unfortunately, because people are so enthusiastic they can often draw conclusions based on their own experiences and not with the proven system.
If a knowledgeable person has an opportunity to meet these people, it is important to respect their opinions and, if welcomed, exchange ideas on the training floor. My Sifu has said “If someone is better than you, learn; if someone is not better than you, teach”.
I believe everyone has something of value to offer. But you cannot have a rational discussion with an irrational person. Overall, though, one positive aspect of the impact of Ving Tsun being on the Internet is that more people will learn about Ving Tsun than before the Internet.
- What direction do you see Wing Chun or martial arts, as a whole, heading in?
Martial Arts is heading in its own direction. Like sports there are advances in training methods that can be applied for better physical conditioning. There is also the healing side from natural medicines. However, the core of each martial art is within its philosophy.
Martial Arts training can have many positive effects on people, most notably in handling challenges – even those other than fighting situations.
So Martial Arts has its own direction, one that was there before me and one that will continue after me.
- To end this interview in style, what is the best wing chun or martial arts advice you have personally ever received and what is the best advice you would give to our readers?
Grandmaster Moy Yat had a saying “If you think you are good, you are good”. I’ve always taken this saying to mean that you should be in control of your own destiny and that what others think should not matter. The Kung Fu must come from within you and be yours.
Create your own standard of what “good” means to you and let that be your guideline. Always think highly of yourself and be on a path of constant change and improvement.
Seek knowledge from experience. “The Wiseman makes mistakes, but the Fool makes the same mistakes…”
Jay Hitchman – Sifu
Moy Yat Martial Intelligence – Hatboro PA