Pre-arranged Techniques

It has become common to see videos on the internet showing a series of self defense moves and then the maker of the video claiming that these are the best ways to counter ‘these attacks’ or these ‘ring fighting’ techniques.

In fact, the unfortunate trend in martial arts training has been examining specific techniques for validity versus some theoretical idea of how a street fighter or criminal attacker or ring fighter might attack instead of understanding concepts. For many, many years, martial arts instructors have stated that one cannot learn martial arts from a video and yet here we have a whole generation of internet video fans attempting to do just that.

There have been some videos that seem to ‘start in the middle.’ In other words, they show and discuss certain problems that come up if a practitioner has several years of martial arts sparring or self-defense training experience. Context is entirely missing. A novice looking at such a video would come to a wrong conclusion about a certain type of instruction.

Wing Tsun kung-fu has steadfastly stayed away from pre-arranged sparring methods. Instead, one starts with a ‘little idea’ in the first form and builds on it as training progresses. It is important for success in a self-defense encounter that a defender understand the concepts and the tactile skills involved. If a student is able to ‘feel’ the subtle pressures of an attacker’s arm or leg or shoulder for example against their own arm, leg or shoulder, they can use that information to affect the next move. If the pressure is even a tiny bit different, the whole direction of the action could change. One cannot show or explain this effectively in a video. It has to be experienced.

Wing Tsun uses a comprehensive set of ‘ideas’ encompassing five ranges (not just close-range) of combat to round out self-defense training, from beginner to ultra-advanced training in the aggressive Biu Tze form and wooden dummy techniques. Once the principals are learned and become part of the students mechanical and automatic reactions, it represents a far better concept in training compared to reacting to pre-arranged attacks with pre-arranged defenses, then tell the student to “go spar.” Comparing what techniques work in a video is often more academic and speculative than it is helpful. People love to speculate as in “What would happen if….” Nobody knows for sure unless you go do it for real.

Wing Tsun emphasis is on real life encounters rather than sport or ring fighting. The majority of techniques and targets are not allowed in sport fighting because of the danger. The idea of Wing Tsun is to defend against severe bodily injury or life-threatening attacks. Therefor no attempt to eliminate target areas is made in traditional training. Once a student is used to aiming at these targets, it is quite difficult to re-train to avoid these targets.

To say that Wing Tsun, Wing Chun, or Ving Tsun is ‘too deadly” for ring fighting is to jump the shark. It is only deadly if the deadly targets are allowed (that is not going to happen) and if the practitioner is skillful enough!

The next time you see a video describing a set of pre-arranged self defense moves and how well they supposedly work, keep all these things in mind.

-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg