The Wing Tsun practitioner’s main goal in a real encounter? Stay standing! The reason for Wing Tsun’s being is survival. Self-defense is a right of every human being. In ancient times, there were tough-man contests, but nothing terribly organized. They were no rules or few rules.

Wing Tsun developed separately from those regular contests. It was kept in a narrow family line for generations. Over time, it spread for sure but nothing like the fancier methods or the ring-fighting, tough-man contest methods.

The idea in the Wing Tsun families was to pass something down that would be useful for their descendants against faster, more skilled, attackers. It became critical that a defender remain standing. Once on the ground, an aggressive, larger, attacker will have a huge advantage if that happens. Odds of survival go down significantly.

At the heart of this art was the fast-moving footwork. In order to avoid clashing with the force of a stronger attacker, one’s feet must move quickly, lightly, but be firm when striking a blow! To make it work, the foundation footwork must be half of your homework! Some branches of this art that evolved from the Yip Man root have lost some of this important emphasis. More about the history and why these things happen is in in the book Roots and Branches of Wing Tsun by Grandmaster Leung Ting. Fascinating reading!

-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg

To “empty one’s cup” is a Zen philosophy phrase which means to get rid of preconceived ideas about what you think the martial art of Wing Tsun will be and move aside ideas that you have gained from another martial art. If your head is full of fixed ideas about other martial arts, you will have to “empty your cup” while you learn this new set of concepts. Only in this way can you learn it and appreciate the differences and what it will mean to you and your training. If you would like to study with us and you come from another martial art, particularly if it is from a different lineage of Yip Man or a different version of Wing Chun, you will have to empty your cup.


Sifu Keith Sonnenberg

The legendary founder of Wing Tsun is supposed to have analyzed the techniques of her native martial art, Shaolin and found it impractical to learn and impractical to use in a real encounter against her stronger male adversaries. She reduced the repeated movements in the forms and reduced the total number of choreographed forms. It is doubtful that the full transformation in developing her own method took place in one generation. She taught another female, a teenager named Yim Wing Tsun and it was passed among a series of family members and “Red Boat” opera performers over a 250-year history.

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Part of the philosophy of WingTsun training and follow through in a real self-defense situation is sort of a present moment outlook which is that we focus on what we are doing now, not what just occurred and not what might occur in the next few minutes, or hours, days, weeks or even longer. This doesn’t mean we cannot have a goal.  However, we cannot let our mind drift and get torn away from our focus on the present moment. Our goal will be realized when it is and not before.

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Back in August we talked about the many different versions of “Wing Chun” based mostly on ancient history prior to late Grandmaster Yip Man. Many of the forerunners of Yip Man must have had students who taught others. They passed what they knew onto their students the way they saw fit. It is easy to see how, in a country as large as China and how, in ancient times, with little communication, there could eventually be variations of Wing Chun.

Why then, do we see significant differences, even in the versions taught in the twentieth century in lineages from Yip Man?

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There are many different lineages of Wing Chun, Ving Tsun today including Wing Tsun. The instructors of these schools have decided to spell their teachings differently from one another. For many years, the western world assumed that all Wing Chun came from the late Grandmaster Yip Man. Yip Man lineages are the most numerous and generally successful in attracting new students. The late Grandmaster was drawn into teaching publicly by enthusiastic students in the Hong Kong of the 1950s. He also became known for teaching kung-fu superstar Bruce Lee.

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Virtually all martial arts taught today had, at one time, a very effective combat purpose. As the decades and centuries passed, the purpose for some arts faded. To preserve the concepts, techniques, and philosophy of those arts, many were preserved as sports. The best self defense martial art was usually the one that had not been converted to a sport. However, it also had to be relevant and had application to modern circumstances.

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Many martial arts were designed in bygone eras in eastern countries that had a high regard and respect for nature. Imitating the movements and even the character of animals was a common way to invent a martial art style. Consequently, we have many styles named after animals. Of course, the martial art was adapted for use by humans but attempting to incorporate the qualities of animals was considered a problem by the founders of Wing Tsun. Wing Tsun’s founder, the Buddhist nun, Ng Mui was an expert in Shaolin kung-fu according to the legends. She saw flaws in the way the fighting arts were conceived and decided to start teaching her new students techniques that would more closely be adaptable to the human body. In addition, the new art would have to be more efficient and be more quickly learned. She and her followers who were being pursued by government soldiers did not have time to spent a lifetime learning how to defend themselves.

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Martial Arts Histories. History lessons? Why?

Because we can learn a lot from what happened before. Regarding martial arts histories, we can learn why a martial art like the one we practice came to be the way it is. Unlike the fictional stories we hear, one cannot invent a martial art from a dream or a sudden inspiration.

Today, martial arts are practiced as a hobby as much as they are practiced as self-defense if not more so.

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Starting in the spring of 1980, Great Grandmaster Leung Ting toured the Unites States, teaching 4-5 seminars in just as many states, Arizona included. Each seminar was 10 days long, 6 hours per day! This is what I call real immersion! My fellow kung-fu brothers and I basically soaked in the Wing Tsun training at a fast pace and with great intensity. Much of the training was hour upon hour of stance training, punching, being thrown to the cement, and advancing step training on the patio at GGM Leung Ting’s hotel near the Salt River in Tempe. This is where I began my training in earnest. I had met GGM Leung Ting first, in California where he taught me some simple hand movements and spoke at length about his approach to Wing Tsun in his hotel room at the Los Angeles Hilton in the prior January.

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