Learning Any Martial Art 

In today’s world and the demand for instant gratification, we have instant messaging, fast food, everything is wireless, and we have ‘mixed martial arts’ which is assumed to bestow martial arts skills of several styles in relatively short order. The mind of the uninitiated novice might jump to the incorrect conclusion that learning several styles is no problem at all; just join an ‘MMA’ gym.

Of course this is not the case at all. To learn a martial art one must also train in a martial art. Unlike the movie “The Matrix” we cannot download kung fu skills into our cerebellum from a computer! The body must be trained.

Any good martial arts school must teach the fundamentals; ie., how to stand, how to punch, how to kick, strike, throw, or sweep. This might be even before you face your first opponent. The movements must be embedded into your reflexes as natural movements. Sometimes this is called ‘muscle memory.’ If the movements are not natural, they will not work in a real situation. If it is a ‘martial sport’ the training would differ from training for a real self-defense situation.

Many a new student has had little idea how ineffective his punch currently is. He might have no idea how much training he will need to make his punch hurt his attacker or thwart his attack. He might not know how to land a blow against a vulnerable target on an attacker and that it takes preparation and work. This is the reason that the lessons in how to stand, how to punch, how to kick, strike, throw, or sweep are taught before any fighting practice begins.

Any authentic martial arts ‘style’ or ‘system’ should have related stances, kicks and hand techniques that can be used and must be learned first before they can be combined. Unfortunately many schools merely teach ‘movements’ contained within exotic sets of movements called ‘forms’, katas, hyungs, or kuen without any solid idea as to how many of them could be used in reality or the situation they describe does not relate to today’s reality. Their forms practice is really just a series of poses and acrobatic movements judged on appearance. In other words, the flying kick designed to dismount a man on a horse – well that doesn’t come up too often today. That low block – It will hurt your arm if you are trying to block a street-fighter’s low kick. That dodge-move against a broadsword attack, hmmmmm, doesn’t come up much except in a Jackie Chan movie.

Fortunately, Wing Tsun, a traditional / non-traditional system did away with most of the above ways a few hundred years ago. Wing Tsun does not use formulas or specific defenses against specific attacks. It does not contain movements designed primarily for ancient combat between armies.

Wing Tsun’s related techniques all fit together to form flexible, seamless movements which adjust according to pressure, tactile sense, distance and position. Before this can happen however, there are those fundamentals.

– Sifu Keith Sonnenberg