Interview with Sifu Garry Baniecki
Conducted by Sify Riccardo Di Vito
Today we meet Garry Baniecki, Founder of Shaolin Jee Shin Wing Chun academy of Melbourne, Australia.
Can you tell us anything about your life?
I was born in 1954. My parents were repatriated to Australia after the second world war. A lot of Europeans were resettled in Australia in the early 50's. My father was Polish and my Mother was born in Germany. My mother was a teenager during Hitler's reign and my Father fought the War.
Growing up in the 50's and 60's with a non Australia background was very hard. Melbourne was a tough place to live, full of racism, against the Italians, Greeks and Germans.
During the seventies, I became of age to drive a vehicle, which exposed me to more of Melbourne's sub culture of gangs and violence.
In the 50's we had the Mods and Rockers. In the sixties we had Sharpies and in the seventies we had Skin Heads.
After the Vietnam war finished in 1972 for Australia, the Government repatriated the Vietnamese into our Society and Vietnamese gangs started to proliferate.
It was easy to avoid these Gangs. You just had to stay at home and not venture out. Being a teenager, I wasn't about to stay at home as there were dances to attend and girls to meet.
Being exposed to a lot of street violence led me to start martial arts at an early age.
Before I started my wing chun training, I had attempted various styles of martial arts, including, Goju Kai karate, Taekwondo, Escrima, and JKA (shotokan).
I trained these styles in the sixties and seventies.
When the eighties began, my martial arts took a back seat and in 1980, I started the first motorcycle courier business in Melbourne, which I operated for 10 years and sold the business in 1991. By 1988, my passion for wing chun started to engulf me and my absence at work was starting to take its toll. By 1989, I would leave work at 11am and return around 6pm. Wing chun was now my preoccupation.
When did you start with Martial Arts?
I started my first foray into Martial Arts when I was 12 years old. I started training in Ju Jitsu and Korean Karate. That was in the mid sixties. I trained for about 3 years, but only once per week, on the weekends.
With who did you know Wing Chun style?
In the mid sixties, the Bruce Lee mania came to Australia, and he became my Idol. Wing chun was not in Melbourne until William Cheung introduced it here.
Wing Chun made its debut in the late seventies with William Cheung, but I did not start wing chun until the mid 80's.
Who were your Masters in the past?
Rolland Dante (escrima) and Tino Cebrano (goju kai) were my teachers in the early days.
William Cheung, David Cheung, Professor Shan Hui Xu, Master Fung Keun from China.
I studied medical qigong and shaolin hard qigong with Professor Shan Hui Xu for nine years.
I own and operate an independent association, named shaolin jee shin wing chun.
At present I have an afinity with Kulo wing chun.
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, but one can aspire to a Diploma in sports coaching or sports development.
Can you explain us the origin of your Wing Chun family?
William Cheung studied wing chun under Ip Man in Hong Kong during the 50's. William Cheung came from Hong Kong to Australia in the sixties and went to Canberra and studied Marketing. In the seventies William decided to settle in Melbourne Australia. When 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.
David Cheung studied with Wong Shun Leung in Hong Kong for 10 years. In 1982 David came to Australia and studied William Cheung's wing chun system for the next 2 years and then started teaching at the William Cheung Academy in 1984.
I started learning Pien Sun Kulo Wing Chun in 2007 under Master Fung Keun and since then I receive some instruction from Sifu Lau at Fung Chun's school in Shapin, during our stays.
I have also learnt Kulo wooden dummy practise and some Kulo wing chun forms.
Master Fung Keun sanctioned my wife and I to teach his Father's system of Pien Sun wing chun kung fu in Australia.
Grand Master Fung Chun has also adopted my wife and I into his wing chun Clan.
What are your thoughts on other SiFu and their methods of teaching, on others associations and Wing Chun's families?
When one starts wing chun, one will assume that all wing chun is the same. Eventually, the practitioner realizes not all wing chun is the same.
There are 7 different lineages stemming from China.
The main influences that shaped wing chun in China are;
Leung Jan - Yuan Kah San - Chan Wah Shun. Most stem from these three Masters.
Some Sifus teach hard wing chun, some teach soft wing chun, and some teach hard and soft wing chun.
The stances vary a lot from system to system.
There are many different families of wing chun around Hong Kong, China and Australia. I have touched hands with many practitioners and sifus. I have found that all wing chun schools have one thing in common; All have a very high skill of wing chun kung fu. Chi Sao among the various systems and schools are of a very high standard, as well.
Due to my trips to Kulo, I have realized that Pien Sun has many similar principles to Traditional wing chun kung fu. This leads me to believe that my lineage has its place in early wing chun ideas and concepts.
Kulo wing chun comes from Yim Wing Chun - Leung Yi Tai - Leung Jan
Traditional wing chun comes from Leung Jan - Leung Bik - Ip Man.
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. Lun Kai and Kwok fu, 2 of Ip Man's first students in Foshan, state that the Leung Bik/Ip Man system is the true "Attack fighting system of wing chun"
We have high kicks in our system and an attack entry system that I haven't seen in China or Hong Kong.
Most wing chun systems have the 3 empty hand forms but we have 4 forms. The fourth is called advanced SLT.
Our other 2 empty hand forms, chum kiu and biu gee are very different from what you see in China and Hong Kong.
Most forms are similar with slight variations, but our forms a totally different.
Our weapons forms are very different also. Our Jong form is very different as well.
The Chan Wah Shun legacy of wing chun in Shunde, China is the most unusual style of wing chun. It also differs greatly from the mainstream wing chun.
What are the fighting concepts that are focalized on into your School?
Our fighting concepts concentrate on Attack method. In Australia, due to multi culture, there are a lot of "big" people, Africans, middle Easterners and Europeans, so we spend more time on learning techniques against charging, boxer attacks, muay thai fighters, kicking and defenses against attacks with sticks and knives.
Chi Sao also plays an important role in developing close range fighting skills.
Initially the practitioner will learn all the basic skills in self defense and then the system turns to attack and control to dim mak targets.