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Sifu Linda Baniecki - Sifu Riccardo Di Vito
August 02, 2012 Sifu Linda's

Sifu Riccardo Di Vito interviews Sifu Linda

Sifu Linda describes her Wing Chun Kung Fu experiences

I was born in Albury NSW, Australia, in 1956. Albury is on the Murray river and is the border town between New South Wales and Victoria. I was 18 months old when our family moved to Leeton, NSW. We spent the next ten years living there. I was the only female amongst 1 brother and 6 male cousins, so I definitely grew up with a bit of rough and tumble.

Dad became interested in speed boats in the sixties, so I learnt to water ski when I was 8 years old. We were just the average family, but my Father quickly progressed to racing boats and through his prowess and tenacity he ended up with the fastest boat in NSW and Victoria, in his class. Through the summer, every weekend we would go boat racing. He sold his boat in 1968 and then it became the fastest boat in Australia. He is my hero, he taught me anything is possible, you just have to try.

My Father was also interested in mining so he would take us into the hot, dry Australian bush. We would spend hours opal mining, in the middle of nowhere, for weeks on end every school holidays.

I loved horses and got my first horse when I was ten years old. It was a small black Shetland pony that I loved dearly, but it was an evil creature.

In 1969 we sold our house, bought a brand new 30 foot caravan and moved to Coleambally. The Government was building a brand new Town there. The only amenities were a service station and a school. My nearest school friend was 20 kilometres away.

This is where I acquired my second horse, a big 14 hand, ex race horse, grey mare. She was to be my companion for the next four years.

When I turned 15 we left Coleambally and travelled around Australia for 2 years, only to end up back in Albury, where I was born.

I moved to Melbourne in 1976, where I met Garry Baniecki, my future husband and the man whom would introduce me to Wing Chun Kung Fu and martial arts.

The wheels of the universe had started turning.

When did you start with Martial Arts?

I was a late starter in Martial Arts. I began when I was 35 years young. I had my first full contact fight at 38 years. Which goes to show anyone out there, if you are keen, age is not a barrier.

With who did you know Wing Chun style?

I had never been interested in any kind of martial arts until I moved back to Melbourne to be with Garry.  He was training in Wing Chun and asked me to come and try a class. His goal was to become a teacher, so if I wanted to spend some time with him and share an interest, it would be beneficial if I was interested in Wing Chun also.

I figured it couldn't hurt to try, but I didn't really think that it would interest me that much. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the activity.

I loved its history and how it was developed by a women. I loved how it was mind challenging, not just robotic punching and kicking. It had science and theories behind it that boggled the mind and I was amazed at how much time it occupied my mind out of class. To my surprise, I fell in love with it very quickly and I have never stopped since that first day.

Who were your Masters in the past?

Sifu Linda began her training in 1991 and spent 12 months full time at the William Cheung Academy, where the head instructor was Sifu Dana Wong. After six months I was invited into private classes with Grand Master William Cheung.

In 1992 I began my training with Master David Cheung, where I spent the next four years full time.  David is William's younger brother. He spent 10 years with the infamous Wong Shung Leung.

I trained in Escrima with Roland Dante' on the side for six months, while I was still training Wing Chun with Sifu David.

I studied Clinical Qigong, Medical Qigong, Shaolin Hard Qigong and Tai Chi privately under Professor Shan Hui Xu for 9 years.

I have trained privately with Fung Kuen in Hong Kong from the Kulo clan. His father

Grand Master Fung Chun has adopted my husband and I into his wing chun Clan.

And now?

My husband Sifu Garry Baniecki and I operate and own an independent association, The Shaolin Jee Shin Wing Chun Academy, which offers Wing Chun and Qigong classes.

We run two full time academies, one is located on the Melbourne city fringe and the other in the North Eastern suburb of Greensborough.

My school has an affinity with Kulo wing chun and every two years we travel to China and meet with this sister school. While we are there we also visit other lineages and masters for a cultural exchange in Wing Chun Kung Fu.

We also work with the community, by teaching Tai Chi to the public for the Living and Learning centre in Diamond creek.

You are a SiFu. Who had proclaimed you SiFu?

Master David Cheung proclaimed me Sifu in 1995 after training in his association for four years full time.

Professor Shan Hui Xu has certified me to teach Medical Qigong, Tai Chi and Shaolin Hard Qigong.

Fung Keun has sanctioned me to teach Pin Sun Kulo wing chun in Australia.

How someone can become SiFu in your association

A student must achieve a Gold Sash (1st Dan Instructor level) under my wing chun system, plus, with the new government regulation on the martial arts industry, a Student must also study martial arts sports coaching with minimum level of certificate 111, if they want to teach wing chun to the public; one can also aspire to a Diploma in sports coaching or sports development.

The Jee Shin Wing Chun Association is a Government Accredited Organisation and offers Nationally Recognised Sports Coaching Courses in Martial Arts to the public.

Can you explain us the origin of your Wing Chun family?

William Cheung studied wing chun under with the legendary Ip Man in Hong Kong during the 50's. William Cheung came from Hong Kong to Australia in the sixties where he resided in Canberra to study Marketing, in the seventies William decided to settle in Melbourne Australia. After Ip Man passed away in 1972, William proclaimed Ip Man had taught him a "secret" system of wing chun. This different expression of wing chun became known as the Leung Bik/Ip Man system. This story is depicted in the movie 'The Legend is Born' with Yip Chun playing Leung Bik.

David Cheung studied with Wong Shun Leung in Hong Kong for 10 years. In 1982 David left Hong Kong and came to Australia. He studied William Cheung's wing chun system for the next 2 years and then started teaching at the William Cheung Academy in 1984. Early in 1992 he opened his own academy in Elizabeth St Melbourne.

I started learning Pien Sun Kulo Wing Chun in 2007 under Master Fung Keun. Since then, during our visits to China, I have receive some instruction from Sifu Lau at Fung Chun's school in Shapin. Kulo Wing Chun's concepts and ideas are very similar to my system and this confirms to me that my system has a direct link to Leung Jan and the early ideas and concepts of wing chun.

Kulo wing chun comes from Yim Wing Chun - Leung Yi Tai - Leung Jan- Wong Wha Sam - Fung Chun

Traditional wing chun comes from Yim Wing Chun, Leung Yee Tai and Wong Wha Bo - Leung Jan - Leung Bik - Ip Man.

I have also learnt Kulo wooden dummy practise and some Kulo wing chun forms.

We were very privileged and honoured to have Master Fung Keun sanction my husband and I to teach his Father's system of Pien Sun wing chun kung fu in Australia and even more honoured and privileged to have Grand Master Fung Chun adopt my husband and I into his wing chun Clan.

We introduce Kulo to our students once they have reached a higher level in my system.

How many hours do you train?

With two schools I teach 6 days per week and train or teach Wing Chun at least 20 hours per week.

I teach Qigong 2 hours per week and Tai Chi 2 hours per week.

I do my own personal training some mornings and at least 15 minutes before each class.

Have you ever fight on a sport's contest? When, where and with which results?

I entered my first competition when I was 38 years young, in 1994 Melbourne, The Australian Kung Fu Full Contact Championships - 2nd place in a round robin.
Over the next ten years I competed in the National All Styles Competition travelling all around Australia.

1996 - 1999. N.A.S. Qualifiers (Vic, Brisbane, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne) - In sparring, forms, weapons and fighting - 1st, 2nd and 3rd placing.
1996 NAS National Championships Perth - Victorian Team
1997 NAS State Champion. Women's Open Black Belt Forms.
1998 NAS State Champions. Synchronized Forms
1999 NAS State Champions. Synchronized Forms

2002 Kung Fu Championships Open Demonstration using the Kwan. I was very pleased with the result as the division was all men.
2005 NAS State Champion in Veteran's Kumite fighting.

I have taught many Champions in non contact fighting, forms, demonstrations and weaponry. I have also trained wing chun students to be winners in Kick Boxing, Ring Karate and Muay Thai competitions.

 How many hours per week should train a student to grow in a serious way?

Trainees that want to become a Wing Chun Sifu must train 20 hours per week full time or 10 hours per week part time.

The general public should do at least 2 to 4 classes (4 to 8 hours) per week to develop an average Wing Chun skill within a reasonable time. More is always better.

Sometimes martial arts is not the first thing the general public think of for health and exercise. In general, citizens think of the Gym, aerobics or the latest fad to raise their health. One does not have to be a fighter to get great benefits from training in this martial art. It is such stimulating exercise for the mind and the body, uplifting action reaction time, coordination, flexibility, alertness, nimbleness, hormones for good health, weight loss, muscular definition, stimulation for the brain and the muscles. It is very under rated as far as general exercise goes. Wing Chun is general exercised with a twist, it has the added bonus of learning how to protect oneself.

What are your thoughts on other SiFu and their methods of teaching, on others associations and Wing Chun's families?

When living in Australia one is very limited to a variety of Wing Chun and the tendency is to feel that all Wing Chun should be the same and if it is not then it should be questioned.

After my first journey to China and meeting with several different masters from different lineages, I soon realized that there is a myriad of variety in Wing Chun. After all, there are 7 different lineages stemming from China. It was wonderful to realize the great diversity of wing chun, and how all the different schools and teachers of wing chun have their own unique ideas and expressions. These different interpretations are all accepted and respected in China. It opens your mind and allows you to welcome a much larger wing chun family into your life.

Some schools focused on forms and weapons while doing no Qi sao at all. Others train there forms and Qi sao very hard, while others train very soft. There were variations in Sil Lum Tao, while the basis of the form remained the same. All sword and pole forms varied from one school to the other, as did the Muk Yan Jong (wooden dummy). Even when they were from the same lineage. But in all, the core of the system remained the same. One thing was common amongst all and that was that they all had a very high skill in whatever they did.

I personally don't think it matters weather a form is different, so long as it maintains the principles and concepts of the wing chun system.

Wing chun is made up of concepts and theories, it is natural that each person's idea will vary, there concept of defence and attack will vary, their interpretations of the concepts will vary, how they impart their knowledge will vary, life experiences will play a big part and all are entitled to their own expression, while sticking to the core principles. Which allows for wing chun to be a very diverse martial art.

All the Masters and students we met in China, welcomed us into their schools with open arms, hearts and minds, it was a very warm and unforgettable experience. I have the utmost respect for them all. They have opened my mind.

Can we know what are the differences between your Jee Shin Wing Chun and others interpretations?

My Jee shin wing chun originates from the Leung Bik Ip Man system.  Two of Ip Man's first students from Foshan, Lon Kai and Kwok fu, state that the Leung Bik/Ip Man system is the true "Attack fighting system of wing chun".

My system has an attack entry system that I have not seen in other lineages in Australia, Hong Kong or China.

All Wing Chun have the three forms, Sil Lim Tao, Chum Kieu and Bui Gee. My system has an advanced version of Sil Lim Tao, incorporating large rotations and footwork. I have never seen this form in any other lineage.

Our Chum Kieu and Bill Gee are very different compared to those in China and Hong Kong. Between all the different schools in China the forms all have slight variations, but ours are completely different.

Our Gwun and Dao forms are also different. We use a short (6 foot) pole, instead of the traditional long pole.

We tend to move around our Jong and use our footwork for repositioning where other systems will stay in front and not move as much.

What are the fighting concepts that are focalized on into your School?

Beginners focus on a balanced stance, basic defence and controlling the centre line, forces, range, using both arms for attack and defence, while having a big emphasis on footwork and positioning due to the fact that we are a central line system. Students need to be competent with interrupt ability while moving in and out with balance when using their wing chun. I have some really big students in my classes and being only five foot nothing, it is impossible for me to fight force on force. So stepping, simultaneous attacks and redirections of forces are key components in my teachings.

The Western world has many shapes, sizes and styles of fighting. There are a lot of really big people in society today and students need to understand how to deal with each of them differently (the big and the small), this is covered more in depth at an intermediate level.

Intermediate students focus on uplifting sensitivity and reflexes, while being introduced to bridging the gap and basic attacking techniques, this is also when serious development in Qi Sao begins and the Jong is introduced.

At the higher levels, the students learn to attack the centre line and control the opponent, while being introduced, to the application and understanding of Dim Mak, or pressure point strikes. At this level much more time is spent on uplifting qi sao skills for close range combat, traditional weapons, advanced defence against knife and gun techniques.

The Jee Shin system uses, multiple straight line attacks, single arm straight line attacks from the lead arm, simultaneous attack and defence, front kicks, groin kicks, jams, stomps, sweeps and take downs.  

How does it feel to be one of the few woman SiFu in the world?

I'm not sure how many female Sifu's are out there in the world, but I am very proud to be a part of this elite group.

It took many hours of hard work, discipline and dedication to get to the place I am at now and I would not change it for anything, I feel truly blessed.

I am elated to have succeeded in my art. To be one of the only woman Sifu's in the world; well, I find it quite amazing. I love my job with a great passion and it feeds my heart and soul when I transform an individual from being unconfident with no coordination, into a skilful martial artist.

My goal when we first went to China (the home of Wing Chun) was to test myself and do some Qi sao with the Chinese. I figured this would give me a good idea of my own skill. To my surprise, I found myself to be a bit of a novelty because I was a female practitioner and a female Sifu. I had not thought much about this before then.

A lot of the practitioners that we  met on our visits to other schools, unfortunately didn't actually want to touch hands with me, because I was a woman and a woman Sifu. They did not want to be beaten by a woman. I found this to be very amusing. I did manage however to get some challengers on the journey and found I was more than capable of holding my own.

I have been training for 21 years, my love for the art of Wing Chun just keeps growing and growing and I still have so much to work on. I have been working on a book for a few years now, titled 'An Expose' on Wing Chun Kung Fu'. It covers concepts and principles on the wing chun system. I am in the final stages of having it published. Hopefully in the next couple of months it will be on the shelves for sale, so keep an eye out for it.  I will keep you posted.

Jee Shin Wing Chun Links:

wing chun kung fu in melbourne

jee shin wing chun facebook

qigong in melbourne 

greensborough martial arts

martial arts for for children

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sifu linda's wing chun book

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sifu garry google+

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martial arts sports coaching google+

qigong in melbourne google+

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