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  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 10:44am
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Changing from the inside: An Italian's quest to understand Wing Chun

Antonio Bacino has dedicated his life to studying the martial art made famous by Ip Man

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 7:04pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 March, 2014, 8:43am

Antonio Bacino is on his tenth trip from Italy to Hong Kong.

But unlike many other Europeans who travel to the Pearl of the Orient each year for business and pleasure, Bacino’s Hong Kong pilgrimages always involve Wing Chun – an ancient form of self-defence which achieved world renown in 2008 with the blockbuster film Ip Man.

In the film, Hong Kong superstar Donnie Yen Ji-dan played Ip Man, teacher of Bruce Lee and one of Wing Chun’s most famous practitioners.

Today, Bancio studies with Grandmaster Ip Ching, the son of Ip Man, and the 37-year-old Italian credits his 30 year Wing Chun odyssey as a major confidence booster that has changed his life completely.

Watch: An interview with Antonio Bacino

“I was the typical skinny guy that everybody wanted to beat up,” Bancio says, recalling the days when he began learning Wing Chun at the tender age of seven with his father, also a martial artist.

“I was shy, insecure… As I started Wing Chun, I stopped being insecure and began changing day by day.”

As Bancio grew older and graduated from various Italian Wing Chun schools, his passion led him to seek out advanced tutelage under Ron Heimberger, a senior master who dedicated his life to promoting Wing Chun as a director of Ip Ching’s Ving Tsun Athletic Association.

Heimberger left an indelible impression on Bancio before passing away from a brain tumor in 2008, and he was also the one who introduced his Italian pupil to both Ip Ching and Hong Kong – setting the stage for Bacino’s current schedule of regular trips to the city.

“Master Heimberger became like a father to me,” Bancio says. “He always tried to help me discover my potential and pushed me to get over my limits, which I now understand were things that I was putting in my own way.”

Conquering personal limits is one of the foremost benefits of Wing Chun, Bancio says, largely because the martial art places all students on equal footing. Rather than advocating brute force, Wing Chun teaches flexibility and intuitive reaction, making it possible for physically smaller fighters to defeat larger opponents.

“After I started studying Wing Chun, I was never frightened by tougher or bigger guys anymore,” Bancio says.

This unique philosophy may stem from Wing Chun’s origins as the only major martial art invented by a woman. Legend says that the self-defence mechanism was developed over 300 years ago by Ng Mui, a female Shaolin monk who was inspired by the movements of a snake and a crane.

Today, Wing Chun is practiced in an estimated 64 countries across the globe, and Bacino himself operates multiple Italian Wing Chun associations, including schools in Milan, Savona, Touscany, Arezzo, Parma and four in his hometown of La Spezia.

In Italy, Bacino notes that the craze of the Ip Man films has not necessarily created the most healthy atmosphere, and many schools have been “struggling to steal students from others”, while some have promoted warped interpretations of Wing Chun that have an emphasis on violence.

“Respect is only earned by respecting others…and students must search and find a master that is close to their point of view,” Bacino says. “You must avoid the masters that beat up their students and those who promise you miracles…

“Wing Chun must be learned step by step… If you study and apply its principles, they will drive you through a process of internal growth.”

With plans to open more schools in the near future, Bacino shows no signs of stopping this internal growth and has his sights set on following the footsteps of his teachers to inspire a whole new generation of practitioners.

“Wing Chun gave me the opportunity to become happy,” he says. “And to reach levels that I never thought I would reach.”


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This article is now closed to comments

On On
Talking nonsense about something you don't know.

On On : If I do not know Wing Chun, I would not be able to make the criticism that I did, I had studied the system for a long time. All this idea about acquiring the sensitivity and quick reflex via sticking hand practice to block-and-punch an opponent is useless in actual street fight, A Wing Chun practitioner would never be able to trap the arm and fist of an opponent in a real street fight, or be able to move away from the footwork of a well-trained boxer. They are simply too fast for the Wing Chun guy who has no foot work standing stiffly like a dummy, Every Wing Chun mission to fight Thai boxer in Thailand in the 1960's got defeated. That's when I learn Wing Chun under the direct teaching of Leung Sheung who succeeded Yip Man as the head of the system, Probably before you were born !! I had even gone to Yip Man birthday party, The wooden dummy practice is dumb. No opponent would stand there like a dummy for a Wing Chun guy to hit on. Wing Chun is a great marketing success, That is all.
i am not sure about the validity of wing chun as a fighting system but perhaps its flaws are what inspired bruce lee to break away from what ip man taught him to develop in his own jeet kun do fighting style. either way dedicating one's life to mastery of martial arts is an admirable thing and this italian deserves praise
"The wooden dummy practice is dumb. No opponent would stand there like a dummy for a Wing Chun guy to hit on."
...The fact that you associate the wooden dummy drills to actually "fighting", shows how little you understand Wing Chun.
I think you should better off commenting on other martial arts that you practice and live by, then to talk about one that you do not.
Good day.
If you look at Jeet Kune Do as practiced by Dan Inosanto the current head of the system and compatriot and friend of the late Bruce Lee, and by Bruce Lee himself when alive of course, you will see that much of the JKD movement has its basis in Wing Chun. Bruce also studied boxing, fencing and myriad other martial arts to arrive at JKD (which he would tailor to each student based on their individual strengths and weakenesses) which still, has in a large part, recognisable Wing Chun moves.
Disclaimer: I am no expert and no real aficionado. Merely somenone who has seen and read plenty of video clips and articles on this subject.

Wing Chun is but a great marketing success. It's simplicity makes it easy to explain, learn and market. The gimmicks of sticking hand and wooden dummy practice give it an attractive eye-catching allure. Although Bruce Lee only practised the system for a few years as a teenager and never hyped it very much, the association to him brought the system to the lime light. In actual street-fighting combat, a boxer, Thai or the western style, will floor a Wing Chun practitioner in less than one minute.


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