Once a layperson who has an interest in martial arts also becomes acquainted with Wing Tsun (or wing chun) techniques, the fascination often begins. Due partly to online videos, tons of chatter, posts, blogs, and YouTube stars, many “wing chun fans” become obsessed. All the internet surfer wants to do is be like the guy in the videos or the star of the movie about Yip Man. It is a shame that the obsession doesn’t include an obsession with the ‘secret’ of Wing Tsun.
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.
Have you ever dropped something and failed to catch it? Probably everybody has at one time or another. However, if you are a student of Wing Tsun for long enough, you might notice yourself catching those fallen items a bit more often.
The primary training that increases your reaction time is sticky hands, known in Wing Tsun circles as “chi sau.” Chi sau is pretty much confined to the art founded by Yim Wing Tsun. However, we do not know if sticky hands were a part of her repertoire. There are other Chinese martial arts that have similar drills, but it is most highly developed in the later years of the art.
Have you sparred with others in your martial arts school and seem to be outclassed in in speed, kicking abilities, and sheer strength? It doesn’t have to be a contest in athleticism. Everybody has natural gifts. Some people are fast. Some have explosive speed. Some can jump higher than others. Some spend a great deal of time lifting weights.
It is often unrealistic to consider beating a gifted individual at their own game. Smart instructors will suggest that you do not “play their game.” Their game is usually a way to mesmerize you with techniques that always work for them. The solution is to play your own game. The question that arises then is, What IS your game?
Wing Tsun applies five ranges in actual fights and self-defense. They are the kicking range, punching range, knees and elbows, anti-grappling, and ground. In an encounter, a Wing Tsun practitioner does not choose a range. The range is what is appropriate based on the attack. Elbow techniques are a close-range method of striking.
If the attack starts at kicking range, a Wing Tsun practitioner might have to kick. If the attacker retreats or dodges after a kick, the kick is often followed up with a step and a series of punches. If the attacker tries to close-in, knees or elbows might be used.
A prominent feature of Wing Tsun kung fu training is defending and attacking at the same time. Wing Tsun’s hands, located at the center of the chest, go out to meet the attack simultaneously in some long-range applications. In other applications, a bridge is established microseconds before the fight is underway to establish the direction, the power and speed of the attack, as well as the posture, tension and even the attitude of the attacker.
In some instances, a simple straight-line thrusting punch is all that is needed. This is the ultimate in simultaneous defense and offense.
The backup to this approach can be bong sau (wing arm) which is an arm which bends like a green branch of a sapling tree, followed by the punch, pinning hand-punch (gum dar), or edge of the hand strike (fak sau).
-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg
Among the many differences between Wing Tsun and most martial arts offered is a Wing Tsun specialty, close-range techniques. The prevailing idea of most arts is long-range defense and offense. The idea that goes along with this is that one can develop more power from a greater distance. This is basically true. In addition, by using long range techniques and the strategies that go along with it, a defender can keep an attacker from getting too close. This is another, seeming advantage. However, Wing Tsun departs from this obvious explanation for the methods of the other martial arts.
Some martial arts teach blocking as a defense within the first few classes. One arm is used to push an attack away or set up a ‘fence’ to keep the attacker’s arm from entering the defender’s area. Wing Tsun’s Grandmaster Leung Ting tells his instructors to stay away from the term ’blocking’ because it implies cordoning off an area. It means to clash force with an attacker. In Wing Tsun we do not ‘block’ but we do defend, differently. From the very first day we are teaching a student to yield to the force of an attack by deflecting, moving aside to evade an attacker’s power, or dissolving his force with efficient anti-grappling methods. The next step in training is to learn the footwork required to use that force against the attacker.
Wing Tsun chain punches are, perhaps almost as well-known as wooden dummy techniques or sticky hands techniques as an iconic method of this martial arts system. That said, do you really know what they are and why they are effective?
The key is Wing Tsun’s center-line concept.
The martial art techniques used by Wing Tsun practitioners are economical in movement. They are geared toward self-defense and stopping an attacker. Wing Tsun has always been a self-defense system and so the techniques are strictly practical in real situations. There is no sport application. There is a lot of talk about sparring in various internet articles, expounding on the benefits. Certainly, there must be some interaction and realistic application training to be an effective training. Sparring offers this kind of effective training. Without it, how does one respond if the student does not know the natural of the attack? A student must learn how to react, should he or she see a technique coming and how to respond in a fast and tense exchange.
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