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They called him "The Machine"

Sifu Barry Lee, the Story, as known by his close friends and students

By Neville Burns edited by Theodore Pasialis and Fu-Shan Yang

Sifu Barry Lee has been described as a "phenomenon of the Ving Tsun world" on one of the websites. This well-known fact is indisputable to those who are privileged to see him demonstrate his skills and knowledge, or more, be trained by him. Dynamic, charismatic and yet infinitely approachable with a keen sense of humour, Sifu Lee is the product of sheer dedication and very hard training under his Sifu, Master Wong Shun Leung.

Sifu Lee was born on the 9th of November 1951 in Tamworth, NSW, Australia. After leaving the army, he began training in martial arts. He started with Kyokushin Karate then began training in several Kung Fu styles in Sydney. During the course of training, he noticed certain techniques were superior to others, and asked his instructor at the time where they were from and he answered "Ving Tsun Kung Fu".

Inspired by the sound science, structural speed and combat efficiency of Ving Tsun style, Sifu Barry Lee sought out Master Wong Shun Leung. The man who more than any other Ving Tsun exponent under Grandmaster Yip Man, brought fame and enormous recognition to the style through his victories in "beimo" the full contact contests with other martial arts styles which were then part of life in Hong Kong.

In 1973, Sifu Barry Lee sold his belongings and flew to Hong Kong. After considerable trouble finding Master Wong Shun Leung, and a weeklong interview with him, Sifu Lee was accepted as a disciple. He was the first Westerner outside Hong Kong to be accepted.

Barry Lee Image

Master Wong Shun Leung found in Sifu Barry Lee a dedicated student who not wishing to take advantage of natural physical attributes (reach, height, and strength) and realizing that Ving Tsun did not give all the advantages to the larger and stronger man, trained fanatically at developing his skills in Ving Tsun. This training occupied twelve to fifteen hours a day, seven days a week, month after month. During this period Sifu Lee was titled "the Machine" by Master Wong Shun Leung and his fellow students as he wouldn’t rest, wouldn’t give up, wouldn’t stop, as he wore out one training partner after another. Apart from experiencing friendly challenges (full contact, free fights) with other martial artists, and known to those closest to him, Sifu Lee had occasions to use his skills under extremely dangerous circumstances, something he rarely mentions.

Master Wong Shun Leung told Neville Burns that sometimes he would go to lunch leaving Sifu Lee practicing the Muk Yan Chong form (wooden dummy) and when he returned, some two hours later, Sifu Lee would still be practicing, driving himself to ever higher levels of excellence. Master Wong Shun Leung also mentioned to Neville that Sifu Lee had very special understanding of the style and stated that "if Barry hit any man hard, he would not get up". The author having felt the effect of a very controlled short punch to the chest that left him unable to breathe without discomfort for 3 days finds this easy to accept.

Sifu Barry Lee having finished 18 months of this incredible training regime, returned to Australia where he taught a small but dedicated group of people privately, returning later for further training in Hong Kong. In 1976, Master Wong Shun Leung presented Sifu Barry Lee with his Senior Advanced Sifu Certificate. Sifu Lee continued teaching in Australia for many years charging very little money (sometimes for free for dedicated people unable to pay any money at the time) for his time and efforts and giving unreservedly of his hard-won knowledge to all whom he accepted for training.

After years of Master Wong Shun Leung’s insistence that he teach publicly, he finally gave in to his request. Since then, Sifu Lee has opened three branches in Australia, provided seminars all across Europe and accompanied Master Wong Shun Leung at his European Workshop Tours. Sifu Lee has a deep love for Ving Tsun, a style that despite its growing popularity today, is unfortunately poorly taught in many (well known) schools around the world. Sifu Lee believes in strong basics, which give his students, a solid foundation on which to build, as their abilities and understanding increases.

Both dynamic fighter and gifted teacher, Sifu Lee is presently teaching privately in Germany, where he lives currently. In the later years after Sifu Barry Lee moved to Germany, he has entrusted the three School Branches to his four qualified Head Instructors (Fu-Shan Yang, Gino Torreblanca, Bill Dowding and Theodore Pasialis). Sifu Lee returns to Australia on a yearly basis to train and provide intensive advanced training to his senior students to ensure their competencies are maintained with a high quality standard of teaching, skills and knowledge; also for inspiration and assistance for those students who are less experienced.

As one of the Head Instructors commented, "he quickly reminds you that no matter how much you have improved, you still have long, long way to go …".

Barry Lee training kick

The legendary Master Wong Shun Leung told one of the Head Instructors at the Barry Lee Ving Tsun Martial Arts Academy (BLVTMAA) that he considered Sifu Lee the best Ving Tsun practitioner outside Hong Kong, the best in his generation, the best non-Chinese, and the hardest hitting. Master Wong Shun Leung named Sifu Lee his senior representative in Australia and his best fighter worldwide. He often said that Sifu Lee would be the best man to write an English text on Ving Tsun.

Praise indeed from one of the greatest Ving Tsun warriors of all time. However, to consider only his incredible fighting abilities would be to overlook this passionate, dedicated Sifu's ability to pass on to his students a detailed explanation of his understanding of this beloved Ving Tsun.

About the Author

Neville Burns - The "Crocodile Man", he currently works at Australian Wonderland in Sydney NSW, expert in Snakes and Crocodiles. Neville has known and trained under Sifu Lee for over 20 years and is a Life Member of the Barry Lee Ving Tsun Martial Arts Academy (BLVTMAA). He is a close friend of Sifu Lee for many years and adopted by him into his family. Neville is proud to call him Sifu, friend and brother.

About the Editors

Theodore Pasialis - The Sydney Head Instructor for BLVTMAA at Strathfield Branch, and he has been practicing Ving Tsun for over 14 years under Sifu Barry Lee. Theo is a senior student of Sifu Barry Lee and he has over 10 years of teaching experience within the BLVTMAA.

Fu-Shan Yang - The Australian Head Instructor for BLVTMAA, and he has been practicing Ving Tsun for over 24 years under Sifu Barry Lee. Fu is the most senior student of Sifu Barry Lee and he has over 17 years of teaching experience within the BLVTMAA.

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