The internet seems rife with claims about which is the best self defense martial art or which is more effective in a seemingly endless effort to recruit more students. Claims of ineffectiveness based on a video of one martial artist beating another are mostly a waste of time for a prospective student of martial arts. Any person can beat another at any given moment based on many factors which may not be obvious in a video. Calls to join schools or arts based on questionable reasoning are common. Calls appealing to convenience, faster learning, instant success, solving a problem you have with crime in your neighborhood with a few quick visits to your local self-defense practitioner are also frequent. What seems to be forgotten is whether a martial art offers something a person is looking for such as a fitness and health regimen they can handle, a recreational activity, a unique skill to learn, or a reasonable expectation of learning common self-defense. After all, most people do not expect to be attacked by a champion ring fighter.

Martial arts that have been around for hundreds of years were developed by individuals or societies as ways to protect themselves. They contain more than physical moves and skills. They develop the mental skills and calmness inherent in somebody that has the confidence that comes from learning real self-defense skills. Most of them were not money-making schemes. However, there were charlatans in centuries past, to be sure.

China was known to have “street vendors” as mentioned in Doctor Leung Ting’s book “Behind the Incredibles.” The street vendors or “vagabonds” demonstrated stunts on street corners to amaze onlookers for money. However, they were just stunts and not real, as illustrated in this book.

Knowledge of every facet of human engagement is probably not possible in any person’s life time. However, a practical knowledge of common attacks is possible. Some instructional programs are naturally better for this purpose than others.

Some martial arts specialize in grappling and throwing, others in kicking, still others in ring fighting. Some focus on health and energy cultivation and others on self-defense.

To learn something that is really going to work when the chips are down will require a thorough education in fighting principals and how they differ from self-defense over an extended period. It has little to do with sport-fighting. Your average attacker is not going to warn you but would prefer to attack you when your back is turned or your attention is elsewhere. Sometimes the attainment of a basic skill such as how to remain standing can make the difference between life and death. The use of elbow and knee strikes or just biting can make the difference. The all-important subject of the use of energy principals for striking or using attacker’s force and when to use power and when and how to borrow power cannot be taught in a few weeks of classes. It must be hands-on training and seep into your bones and become part of you.

The situation of domestic violence must be addressed in separate specialized classes in conjunction with the above due to the psychological / societal issues involved in this situation.

Wing Tsun has been embraced by many as an accessible martial art in that it can be practiced nearly any place and any time. Likewise, it can be use any place and at any time due to its upright stances, short-steps, and close range techniques. Kicks above the waist are not used. Wing Tsun is complete. It contains anti-grappling, kicking, punching, open-hand striking, elbow and knee applications, sticky hands, wooden dummy training with a few drills in the intermediate stages and full-on wooden dummy training in the instructor levels.

Wing Tsun training requires one to leave one’s ego at the door and to empty one’s cup. It requires footwork practice at class and outside of class. Upper body practice and flexibility of the body is also high on the list of priorities to practice inside and outside of classes. Finding a training partner is a serious consideration. Wing Tsun is a long-term proposition but worth ever step.

-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg