Dressed in a casual T-shirt and Bermuda shorts, Daryl Yeo, 23, looks no different from the boy-next-door. But behind the handsome face, is a mind that’s combat-ready. A black belt in Taekwando, a Muay Thai fighter, and a Kali practitioner, Daryl is also the founder of his very own Wing Chun training school.
Having an undeniable fervour in Kungfu artistry, Daryl’s eyes shone brightly as he spoke about his favourite martial art. “Four months!” came the quick response. Four months was all it took for him to fall in love. Daryl Yeo Feng Rong is head over heels with Wing Chun.
Wing Chun, is a martial arts craft that originated from China but was later developed in Hong Kong. Internationally outshone by the more mainstream martial arts (some of which became sports); Wing Chun gained popularity after the movie, Ip Man, which hit Singapore theatres in late 2008.
Being an avid fan of Bruce Lee and having started his martial arts journey at the age of 13, the action movie urged Daryl to give Wing Chun a shot in January 2009.
Daryl now runs his own Wing Chun training school at a rather unlikely place — a void deck. At this juncture, Daryl has no qualms about teaching at void decks as they provide students with ample space and requires no rent. Travelling between Hougang and Clementi, he dedicates three days of his week to train 10 to 16 students.
It wouldn’t have been possible without Assistant Instructor, Michael Goutama, 39, who backs him up when he is unable to attend training. Wing Chun buddies and fellow disciples, Daryl and Michael train together regularly to explore more techniques. “Without him, I wouldn’t have progressed so far,” admits Daryl.
Despite compromising his leisure hours on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and having the need to attend university, Daryl is not backing down as he continues to chase the silver lining.
“Sacrificing my leisure time for Wing Chun is all worthwhile. Doing what you like is the most important aspect of life,” Daryl says firmly.
His determination is far more than simply the want for fame, which he claims, has never crossed his mind. “If [fame] comes, that’s good because Wing Chun will grow even further through my teachings. Even if it doesn’t [come], it doesn’t really matter.”
Five years ago, Daryl started practising Wing Chun under the guidance of Sifu Chua Kah Joo, at the Wing Chun Kuen Training Centre.
The idea of setting up a school naturally popped up during the course of his learning but it was only when his Sifu shared his hopes of wide-spreading the art of Wing Chun, that Daryl was bent on pursuing the idea.
“My Sifu told me his dream is to have every household to have at least one Wing Chun practitioner. That is his dream,” Daryl divulges. “So I [thought], OK, then I shall help him attain that dream.”
Not a green horn in martial arts, Daryl’s talent in Wing Chun was affirmed by Sifu Chua in mid-2010, and was bestowed the title as the worthy successor of Sifu Chua. He became the rightful lineage holder of Wing Chun after Sifu Chua Kah Joo.
Founder of Wing Chun Kuen Training Centre, Chua Kah Joo, 66, recalls how the-then-18-year-old Daryl impressed him with his physique, which was perfect for Wing Chun. Sifu Chua says, “After I taught him and got to know him, I decided to train him to become my assistant.”
To pay homage to his Sifu’s teachings and to bridge the relationship between the two training schools, Daryl’s school logo brands an identical symbol as the Wing Chun Kuen Training Centre — 正中 (zhèng zhōng).
The Chinese characters mean upright and centralised, which speaks of the principle behind Wing Chun. When requesting for a duel and executing the Mun Sau pose, the torso must be straight; and the outstretched hand must be positioned at the centre of the body, in line with the chest. But there’s more than meets the eye to the significance behind the two words. The logo, 正中(zhèng zhōng), was named after grandmaster Joseph Cheng, whose Chinese name is Zheng Zhong.
Sifu Chua adds, “I believe Daryl will be able to carry the lineage and make it a name of his own in the near future, and eventually pass [it] down to the next generation.”
Norman Doo, 23, a Wing Chun student, shares that he grew a liking for Wing Chun about a year ago but was unable to find a school that piqued his interest until he learnt of Daryl Yeo Wing Chun Kuen. Norman, who recently signed up, reckons Daryl’s teachings will accommodate the learning styles of the younger generation.
“The fact that he is a Generation Y instructor, [he is] more focused and develops students faster than the traditional school… He’ll understand my level and speed of absorption instead of just going at the same speed for all students,” comments Norman.
Daryl believes that his students should not be segregated according to competence, as it restrains their progress.
He explains, “The senior student can guide the basic student, but a basic student cannot guide a basic student. When a senior student guides a basic student, it also tests their understanding of the art.”
He delves into the importance of training and he quotes – from Sifu Chua – the qualities of a Wing Chun practitioner, “一胆，二力，三功夫，四快，五硬” (yī dǎn, èr lì, sān gōng fū, sì kuài, wǔ yìng), which roughly translates to: boldness; strength; skill; nimbleness; and the ability to withstand pain.
“Wing Chun is both a martial art and a concept”, and to master the art, one must incorporate structure; speed; strength; control; and relaxation into the swift movements of each action.
Daryl hopes of his students “to always come to lesson with an empty cup, [with their] ego [set] aside and realise their maximum potential in practising Wing Chun.”
“To master the art of Wing Chun is to find a good master to give you the necessary tools to work your way up to become a master.”