The concept of direct versus indirect is a bit abstract. However, it is important because it is the main point that separates Wing Tsun from a sport. It is all well and good to describe how a sport is an activity with rules and, as such, it creates opportunities for each player to score ‘hits’ or points. It then creates a situation where one player tries to hit the other within the context of the rules. Then they seem to take turns attacking and defending. Fine so far.

Wing Tsun is a ‘direct’ system. This is because Wing Tsun does not, in theory, attempt to distract so as to hit in another area that has been left unguarded as in an indirect system. In other words, Wing Tsun is not designed to use ‘fake’ techniques to draw the other player’s guard away so as to hit that area in real self-defense encounters.

The way it was designed, Wing Tsun does not care about fakes. When a technique is thrown by an opponent, the Wing Tsun practitioner treats it as a real attack. Since Wing Tsun uses ‘direct’ and simultaneous defense and attack and its striking and kicking flight path is shorter (straight lines), the idea is to beat your opponent to the target, most any vulnerable target. Thus its design as a self-defense system.

-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg

There are a lot of videos on the internet that go on and on about proper techniques and what works in a fight and what doesn’t. Some make very proper arguments about strength training and techniques training and how important strength is. Some criticize the soft arts like tai chi and aikido about their insistence on not using strength to win. One such person objected for a long dissertation about those who insist that some instructors insist that strength should not be used. Most of these talking heads speak from the sport-context in which they were raised and later taught. Every match has rules, unlike street attacks. Certain gloves are often worn, and soft targets are off limits for good reason. Matches are often fought on a raised platform with ropes. Competitors must fight. They are not allowed to run. On the street, a weak, non-athletic defender might have to “cheat” to save their life. This usually would mean kicking low (as in Wing Tsun), poking the eyes, biting, striking soft targets like the throat and other neck targets. There is more to the story. Logic might dictate that the stronger opponent will win in a fight but that does not have to be the case. Excellent technique can make the difference. Clashing with an attacker’s strength is usually not a good use of energy or strategy. In Wing Tsun and in some other arts, an attacker’s strength can be used against them. This is routine in some wrestling systems. Persons objecting to instruction that strength should not be used may have heard wrong or the instructor does not understand how to get their point across. Without some measure of strength, the persons objecting would be correct…you would not be able to stand up. However, I have not heard these persons talk about footwork and how it makes the difference in one’s ability to use an attacker’s strength rather than clash or be defeated by it. They probably do not know how footwork comes into play when borrowing attacker’s force! Incredibly, I even saw one video that spoke about how important footwork is and then never showed the feet in his video! The important footwork of Leung Ting WingTsun® is, after all, one of the “secrets” of the Wing Tsun system that Great Grandmaster Leung Ting has taught. It is all well and good to teach and explain Wing Tsun’s footwork, but a student must practice it in coordination with their hand technique. Without practice, one can never master anything. One of the challenges of learning how to avoid clashing with greater forces is to “give up your strength,” or “abandon the strength,” as GGM Leung Ting put it in one of his books. This is a skill. You must abandon, not the strength itself but your insistence on using your supposedly greater strength in beating an attacker. Most people are not aware that they are not “getting rid of their own force” so they can borrow it. This is a contest within yourself, of your ego. Si-fu Keith Sonnenberg

Some schools that teach a mixture of styles of martial arts may begin by showing you the basic moves in more than one fighting style with no basic start of understandable concepts. Oh they might explain how this set of techniques is used and why but that hardly explains how you, the tall guy, for example, are supposed to deal with your opponent who is a more athletic guy with a bigger build. In addition, those moves are a few steps more advanced from where you should be. They do it as a sales gimmick to keep you interested. Sounds fine, you say. It is not fine. Every person, no matter how talented, requires repetitive practice of a technique in isolation before they can put it together with footwork, follow-ups, and other relevant details. Your ability to absorb details that make success possible with those techniques are not going to be ingrained into your “muscle memory.”

An enemy or a ring fighting opponent is going to try to disguise their intentions should they initiate an attack. To use the techniques you have learned, those techniques need to be available to use instantly without pre-thinking. In addition, your own skills need to be flexible enough to change in a nano-second. This requires some mental training as well. Some beginners may have the mindlock of indecision, fear, or stubbornness born of loyalty to what you trained on last night. If you have ever been in a fight, you know that you cannot pre-plan anything about such an encounter. Wing Tsun teaches you to “give up” that favorite technique or your pride in your strength if it isn’t working.

It is important to learn a system of movement that has flexibility. That sounds fine but what real flexibility is, is the ability to move like rubber and cling to an attacker’s limbs to guide them away from their target or you moving away with rapid footwork while counterattacking at the same time. You will not need to see an attack and then try an intercept it in mid-air. This is an error-prone strategy. True sticky hands skills are the solution to this missing element in most fighting styles. It is part of what you will learn at Wing Tsun Arizona.

-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg

A running argument on the internet goes something like this: Is Wing Chun practical? Wing Chun is no good in a street fight. MMA fights prove Wing Chun is not practical. False.

Possibly an individual that has the incorrect mindset is no good in a street fight. The art is above average and maybe the best for street self-defense.

MMA fights do not prove that a martial art lacks a practical application for the street since streets fights are totally unlike a ring fight that has rules, time-limits, limits on legal targets and techniques. Of course, any fighting practice prepares a student in certain areas of person-to-person combat.

Read more

Wing Tsun is unique among martial arts in that it is not so much a system of “movements” or even techniques as it is one of concepts. In order to make those concepts come alive, however, we need structure. Structure starts with movements. The first form, called the Little Idea Form, is known as Siu Nim Tau in the Chinese – Cantonese language from which it came. Wing Tsun aims to build the effectiveness of its system by correctly defining the reasons for its choices of techniques. Ideas like the shortest distance between two points is a straight-line and the shortest straight-line is the centerline help give life to the system.

Read more