Self Defense Unraveled

Wing Tsun kung fu is self defense unraveled. The bottom line is taught in countering the kind of  random attacks that occur in real life. In our school, on the very first day, the concept of not clashing with an attacker’s force is taught.  A student is taught to be soft and yielding, a bit like Tai Chi but at the same time, certain strength-building exercises are taught.  A student, whether man or woman, is taught to use his or her advantages against the weaknesses of an attacker.

The majority of attacks on people are irrational or emotional acts which can result in physical and psychological damage to the victim. Wing Tsun uses this irrational, emotional state against the attacker. Regardless of whether the attack is emotional or irrational or for another reason, an attacker normally would not attack another person without believing that they had some type of advantage. That pumped up attitude can be used against them as well.

Examples of ingrained human tendencies for both attackers and defenders:

1) A person’s untrained reactive response to an attack aimed at their face is usually to throw their hands up to cover their face.

2) A person’s ego or wish to be stronger than another person might cause them to push (resist) against a greater force. The greater strength of their opponent is an ‘affront’ to their dignity. Instead, we can borrow their force.

3) A person is often embarrassed at being perceived as ‘weak’ whether it is true or not. Their fear of being weak can cause a person to ‘shrink away’ and their Wing Tsun body structure would break down during an attack. This is tendency can be reduced or eliminated through training so that the trainee can become a competent self defense practitioner. Whether the practitioner is weak or not is not relevant. What is relevant is the person’s ability to move well so that effective self-defense can be achieved. In self defense, a perceived win is not the main objective (like sports). Success is when the defender escapes harm. The above individual may react in a different way but we will leave that to the sociologists and psychologists.

4) A person’s anger might cause them to attack a person without due caution. A person is always more vulnerable in the course of attacking. This is a weak point that can be taken advantage of.

5) A person’s mind locks up when confronted or attacked and they cannot think of a way to defend or counter attack. Then their body also ‘locks’ up and they cannot free themselves from their own ‘prison.’ This can be used against them.

6) Let us say a person has never really learned how to fight; how to punch, how to kick, how to throw or grapple and so on and so they compensate by using a knife, gun or other weapon in attacking another person. They are completely dependent on the weapon. This dependency can be used against them in a self-defense situation.

From this, we can conclude one interesting fact. It is best to keep one’s emotions under control in practice and if attacked. After-all, your attacker does not care if you are happy or sad, but only if you are afraid. Control of your own emotions is a counter to his game plan.

The Wing Tsun system knows the human tendencies and resulting weaknesses and how to protect the defender and take advantage of the same thing in the aggressor. These tendencies, emotional roadblocks and hindrances can be gotten rid of through Wing Tsun training so that the body can move freely and without self-judgment.

In order to create a system that had substantial advantages over other very effective martial arts of the time such as the Shaolin arts, the developers of Wing Tsun had to dig deep into the physical and psychological aspects of defending oneself.  In this process, training the whole person was the result.

Empty handed martial arts of self defense exist out of the recognition that the best weapon is one that is available and one’s body weapons are more available than a knife or other weapon in one’s pocket or purse.


From the book Wing Tsun Kuen by Leung Ting, 10th Level M.O.C. …

“Another difference between the former Siu Lam (Shaolin) System and Ng Mui’s new system was that in the former Siu Lam system, too much emphasis was laid on “strength training”, that a trainee was required to practise for two or three years keeping a firm stance, before he was allowed to learn any boxing* form. Ng Mui’s new kung-fu system emphasised defeating an enemy with “method” rather than with “strength”. Though in her method there was a need to practise for strength, yet in a real fight what was important, in this new system, was to adopt a skilful method that suited a particular occasion and a particular opponent, so as to be able to defeat him with skill and wit.”

The legend states that Ng Mui left the monastery and traveled to Mt. Tai Leung where she meditated on her new kung fu system.  On her travels down the mountain, she met the teenager Yim Wing Tsun and her father Yim Yee.  She discovered that she was being bullied into marriage by the local landlord.  With her father’s permission, Ng Mui taught Yim Wing Tsun her new boxing form.  The day came when she was forced to face the bully in the town square. She defeated the bully with one punch. He never bothered her again. One might say that a style of Chinese boxing for women was founded that day.

From the book Roots and Branches of Wing Tsun

“In the book ROOTS AND BRANCHES OF WING TSUN, the author, Prof Leung Ting states: “From lots of information I collected, it sounds like Ng Mui was no doubt a kungfu expert from the Weng Chun White Crane style of Fukien.”

“Weng Chun Bak-Hok or “White Crane Style of the Weng Chun precinct” was supposed to have been founded by a woman! Her name was Fong Chat Neung in the early years of K’ang Hsi (1662-1722). The story is oddly a bit similar to the most common legend of Wing Tsun (wing chun).”

In his book, Roots and Branches of Wing Tsun, Grandmaster Leung Ting states: “[Our late] Grandmaster Yip Man emphasized very clearly to Mok Pui On that “Wing Tsun is not the same as Weng Chun.” – from an interview with New Martial Heroes magazine.


* boxing refers to kung-fu or wu shu which is often called Chinese boxing.

1. Italics are mine.

2. The unusual spellings are the spelling of the ‘Hong Kong – British’ English language where the book was written and published.

– Sifu Keith Sonnenberg