Reflections on Brotherhood

“Wise men don’t judge – they seek to understand.” –Wei Wu We

The Wing Chun Brotherhood is many things; a vision, a set of principles, a movement, camaraderie, a journey of introspection, and more. The idea was borne from the collaboration between a scrappy street fighter from Boston and an expat from the UK. From its inception its fundamental precept was that despite arbitrary barriers constructed from an ideology (lineages, schools/gyms, systems, etc), there was a fundamental connection between martial artists to help and support one another; a “Brotherhood”. With this idea, the “Wing Chun Brotherhood” was born.

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” ― Dalai Lama

There were a few false-starts in trying to build up the project with one of the founders parting after encountering resistance to collaboration from the Wing Chun community, and the other founder repatriating when life matters called him home. However each step backward was coupled with many steps forward. There was a persistent interest in the vision and mission of the project, as modest as that interest was at the time. But the biggest challenge was, and still is, the meaning of “Brotherhood”.

“For a tree to grow tall, it must grow tough roots among the rocks” – Friedrich Nietzsche

In the context of this project, the idea of “Brotherhood”, though evolving, is a whole which becomes meaningless if you pick through and choose which of its attributes to express. Brotherhood is not just a social club but an alliance with bonds that are only strong in unity. Its constituents are at their strongest when working together, and are at its most vulnerable to the threat of individualism. Brotherhood is also the product of a journey one follows when seeking to find themselves and the awareness that results from the reflection of the journey and the consideration for everyone who helped in navigating that path of introspection.

“Let go, or be dragged.” Zen Proverb

One’s journey is as unique as one’s fingerprints. On our journey we cross paths with people on their own path and often create attachment to those who travel alongside us. As unique as our paths may be this doesn’t mean the challenges are unfamiliar to or resolutions are unknown to others. We accumulate knowledge from our journey but often become overly attached to our way to the point where we can’t distinguish ourselves from our path and cannot see ourselves in those who’ve traveled a similar path. Too often this difference leads to conflict, and only when we put our ego aside does someone transcend from acquaintance to Brotherhood.

“The true mark of maturity is when someone hurts you, and you try to understand their situation instead of hurting them back.” Ryron Gracie

Conflict is inevitable and as important a tool for development as any other experience. But conflict without openness for reconciliation is simply destruction or war. Conflict teaches us that our first battle is with others, but the second battle is with our ego. Only when we can control our ego are we able to control the outcome of conflict. The ability to walk away from conflict, and the ability to avoid escalating to violence, takes more courage, strength, and skill than any physical conflict. Only when you can engage in conflict as adversaries, learn from the conflict, and return with your adversary as brothers will you truly understand the meaning of Brotherhood.

“Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.” ― Dalai Lama

Most importantly, one must not abandon one’s principles when challenged. The idea of “Brotherhood” is just not a label worn on a shirt or kept in the pocket as a challenge coin. Labels are useless without action, and it’s one’s behavior, not voice, that speaks of one’s character. Some have an encyclopedic knowledge of martial arts phrases and axioms; “Wu De” / “Mo Duk” / 武 德, the Jo Fen / 祖訓, “Iron Sharpens Iron”, etc. What good is this knowledge when it’s not practiced? How does one “sharpen iron” when the option to fight is chosen over the opportunity to help one you consider a brother triumph over adversity? How does one lay claim to “Wu De” while allowing pride to ascend over humility? The guiding principles of “Mo Duk” are to bring harmony to the mind; balancing emotion and wisdom, and to promote virtues such as humility, trust, and respect. These are all attributes that are fundamental to the mission of the Wing Chun Brotherhood, and are attributes that are attracted by supporters who promote them.

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.” ― Dalai Lama

By any measure, the Wing Chun Brotherhood project is considered a success. The project surfaces what is good in people. Wing Chun practitioners from numerous lineages (within and beyond those of Ip Man’s students) around the world have sought out and participated in our events because they witness, endorse, and promote the principles behind the mission. Lastly, the Wing Chun Brotherhood exists without the need of a name, without the need for social media, and without the need of a leader that organizes gatherings. The Wing Chun Brotherhood already exists in everyone who supports its principles. This project merely helps those to identify it within themselves.

“If you realize you have enough, you are truly rich.” ― Lao Tzu

It’s about the journey.

Wise men don’t need to debate

By Nicholas Gregory –

“Wise men don’t need to debate; men who need to debate are not wise” –Tao Te Ching

“Men argue, nature acts” — Voltaire

“It is only the intellectually lost who ever argue” — Oscar Wilde

The web these days is full of online debate regarding martial arts or anything else for that matter.  One of the common themes one is that if something is posted, one should be able to take constructive criticism.  But is that really the case?  Does constructive criticism really help, or is the person criticizing really just fueling his or her own ego, fueling a carnal desire to always win a debate?

Sometimes one has to wonder how much we can actually learn from debate, and more importantly, how much time and energy we waste debating. It seems the source of issues in our community come from linage wars, which are ultimately seeded from debate.

Watching martial arts sparring and training clips online is both entertaining and educational, but does every clip have to be the subject of debate? Or should clips be limited to watching and enjoying for what they are? Granted, if someone is practicing in a dangerous manner, he or she may benefit from some friendly advice from fellow martial arts brothers. But when there’s simply a difference in approach, is heated debate really the way to progress our art further?

Of course, not saying that all debate, disagreements, and intellectual discussions regarding martial arts are negative — seeing different perspectives with an open mind can help anyone grow in any field. But the vitriolic nature that stems from most debate’s passive aggression, intellectual superiority, and personal attacks may be doing more harm than good.

Consider this: many martial artists have lives outside of their kwoon or dojo, so having a target on their backs could affect their livelihood. The inevitably negative feedback they will receive upon posting a sparring or training clip may actually be preventing them from sharing their art with the world. In this case, having a “thick skin” or being “able to take constructive criticism” has nothing to do with practicing privately. The fear of being lashed out by the martial arts community may be preventing amazing practitioners from sharing a piece of themselves, and this fear can stunt martial arts’ growth as a whole.

When Nicholas Gregory first met up to train with Danny Horgan last fall for a Chi Sau session in NYC, his impression of him was that he was a headless chicken with no skill, someone who just used his reach and aggression to dominate opponents in push hands. I simply wanted someone taller to spar with. Horgan’s reasons for meeting me were different.

“I didn’t know much about Nick before we met up to train, but I wasn’t expecting much,” said Horgan. “Men who live in Manhattan are generally hipster frauds who have given up on their manhood by listening to bands like Mumford and Sons and Bon Iver.”

Interestingly, both Gregory and Horgan had experiences where training without debate had been the norm.  Gregory had trained intensely for a month in Shaolin in 2008 training in Chinese kickboxing and then the following year in Guilin studying Tai Chi.  In both places, Gregory could not speak the local language and the coaches had a weak dialect of English, eliminating any type of verbal debate from the training.

Horgan’s training had consisted of sparring martial artists from a variety of disciplines, including Muay Thai, Karate, and other Wing Chun practitioners. There was never any need to debate the ins and outs of fighting; Horgan and his sparring partners would discuss with their fists.

As we have stated on this blog before, it was that fall meeting between Horgan and myself that started the Brotherhood. We gained a new-found respect for each other, and we discovered characteristics in each other we never would have found through the Internet alone.

Gregory and Horgan both had a different approach than the norm to improve our fighting skills. Gregory became a worldwide traveller in combat, from training Muay thai in Thailand, Chinese kick boxing in Shaolin, Tai chi in Guilin and Wing Chun in Hong Kong. Horgan’s approach was similar yet different. Horgan decided to use his journalism skills to create the Wing Chun Blast channel which allowed him to touch hands with many of the top Wing Chun practitioners in the US.

When Gregory and Horgan met in the fall of 2013, we quickly went into pushing hands and then to sparring. No debate happened. When we were tired we stopped and agreed that it was fun and to do it again. Nothing was posted online and no debate on forums happened. After some time they spoke again and realised this is the way training should be and WC Brotherhood was formed. The idea was to create a community where people from different backgrounds/lineage could meet and train/spar without a ceremony or forums fighting coming after.  Gregory had followed Nicholas Gabriel from the Jiu-Jitsu Brotherhood and felt this is what Wing Chun needed and is essentially where the name came from. Horgan, challenging the mainstream thinking of the community with his Blast channel, was the perfect person to work with on this project.

We live in a world where opinions seem more important than facts. Between media and the endless debate we see online, being “right” in a debate is becoming more important than actually getting to the truth.

The truth is we don’t know whose Wing Chun skill is the best. Even in professional sports where athletes consistently compete for money, debate on “who is the best” still runs rampant. The constant debating really does fuel our egos and takes us away from training and doing the things we enjoy.

This article will inevitably inspire debate. And that’s fine. We are all free to follow our own path. But know that there is alternative path to follow.

Its about the journey,

WC Brotherhood

Wing Chun – The Thinking Man’s Art

By Danny Horgan –

One overwhelming characteristic I’ve come across in my time traveling and training in the Wing Chun world is intelligence. It might sound hyperbolic, but I say with conviction that more than half of the smartest people I’ve ever met have been through Wing Chun.

Wing Chun has long been known as a thinking man’s art because of its emphasis on proper physics. By perfecting aligning the body, Wing Chun theory says, a practitioner can generate the most power with the least amount of effort. And the quickest path from point A to point B is a straight, direct line.

Many Wing Chun practitioners understand these physics on an almost frightening level. Decades of intense study and application have lead them to sublime mastery of the human body, allowing them to control both themselves and their opponents with complete ease.

But Wing Chun’s collective intelligence extends far beyond the knowledge of body mechanics. Many Wing Chun practitioners are right-brained thinkers, approaching everything they do conceptually and creatively. Watching the way these practitioners apply their art is like listening to a brilliant song — you can appreciate the artistry because its unique to its creator.

One reason I travel to meet Wing Chun practitioners across the country is to explore the distinctive intelligence each person brings to the art. Doing so has not only helped my Wing Chun, allowing me to get fresh perspectives on seemingly rudimentary concepts; it has amplified my life well beyond martial arts, giving me access to esoteric knowledge in all assets of living.

After I trained with Nick Gregory for the first time, he introduced me to the world of biohacking, which has helped his fitness and energy level immensely. After exploring new diets and exercise methods through biohacking blogs, I’m in better physical shape now than I’ve ever been. Nick and I have since kept a continuous dialogue about diet and healthy living, and I’ve been able to share with him tips that have worked for me. Nick now uses my trick of taking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar right before sleeping to detoxify the brain’s Pineal gland, leading to more spiritual dreaming.

The Wing Chun Brotherhood is a network of Wing Chun practitioners, but more importantly, it’s a network of knowledge. While Wing Chun is growing in popularity, there are still countless Wing Chun practitioners who have no one to share their ideas with. So get in touch with your Wing Chun brothers, and open up a dialogue about fighting, meditation, or whatever you are passionate about. Reach out online, and if you’re able, travel to explore different branches of Wing Chun.

Ultimately, you’ll not only become a better martial artist, but a more intelligent, well-rounded person.

Image source:

On Being a Brother

By The Brotherhood –


On a martial arts journey, one’s initial goals are simple: Learn to fight, toughen yourself up and be the bad arse on the street.

We have all been there. We watch movies like Jason Bourn and James Bond. We see how being the tough guys wins all. So we go to our local martial arts schools hoping to learn the skills and techniques that will get us to this level of immortality.

Where does it go wrong?

Most guys at local martial art schools are not as tough and cool as the fictional action heroes they set out to be; they are simply a collection of men and women trying to build their self confidence, to better their lives.

Toughness is not defined by how many punches you give or take; it’s defined by character. Neanderthals could throw punches. But could they endure pain and sacrifice their own well being for the benefit of others?

Many martial arts leaders seek a god-like presence, desiring to be revered and worshiped like a cult leader. They run their schools based on secrets and “superior” techniques, leading to closed off cliques in the greater martial arts world.

But toughness isn’t made through exclusivity.

Toughness is made from being one with a community, the opportunities to meet people from all walks of life. Fighting should not be done with the intention of raw aggression; you will get the most out of martial arts by using it as a tool to improve yourself through collaboration with others.

How to Continue Your Journey

Have you ever watched an England vs. Ireland rugby game? They go to war for 80 minutes, then after end up in the bar as friends. To improve as a martial artist, take a similar approach in your fighting. Open your mind to the concept that your martial art or combat skill isn’t “superior” to any other style or way of fighting. Treat the people you train with as brothers and sisters; they are your friends and are the reason you will improve.

The Buddha thanked people who treated him bad, so we should do the same. You will meet arseholes along the way, but you can control your ego and not let them disturb your path. Thank them for making you stronger.

Own your journey.