Some schools that teach a mixture of styles of martial arts may begin by showing you the basic moves in more than one fighting style with no basic start of understandable concepts. Oh they might explain how this set of techniques is used and why but that hardly explains how you, the tall guy, for example, are supposed to deal with your opponent who is a more athletic guy with a bigger build. In addition, those moves are a few steps more advanced from where you should be. They do it as a sales gimmick to keep you interested. Sounds fine, you say. It is not fine. Every person, no matter how talented, requires repetitive practice of a technique in isolation before they can put it together with footwork, follow-ups, and other relevant details. Your ability to absorb details that make success possible with those techniques are not going to be ingrained into your “muscle memory.”

An enemy or a ring fighting opponent is going to try to disguise their intentions should they initiate an attack. To use the techniques you have learned, those techniques need to be available to use instantly without pre-thinking. In addition, your own skills need to be flexible enough to change in a nano-second. This requires some mental training as well. Some beginners may have the mindlock of indecision, fear, or stubbornness born of loyalty to what you trained on last night. If you have ever been in a fight, you know that you cannot pre-plan anything about such an encounter. Wing Tsun teaches you to “give up” that favorite technique or your pride in your strength if it isn’t working.

It is important to learn a system of movement that has flexibility. That sounds fine but what real flexibility is, is the ability to move like rubber and cling to an attacker’s limbs to guide them away from their target or you moving away with rapid footwork while counterattacking at the same time. You will not need to see an attack and then try an intercept it in mid-air. This is an error-prone strategy. True sticky hands skills are the solution to this missing element in most fighting styles. It is part of what you will learn at Wing Tsun Arizona.

-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg

Long ago, masters of martial arts recognized that if you are suddenly attacked by a person unknown to you, the old martial arts motto “Know Your Enemy,” has lost some relevance. After all, you do not know this person. How do you deal with this event if you cannot know how he moves, thinks, or his real intent?

No fighting method is ever fool proof but sticky hands (chi sau), immediately allows you to tie into your attacker’s balance, flexibility, strength, direction of power, and taken together, gives you clues as to whether the attacker has skills, all in a millisecond.

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The world of martial arts is a mixture of focused students and practitioners and technique collectors. Our Grandmaster Leung Ting warns his students early on about being “technique collectors.” He created his teaching system out of the Wing Chun he was taught and re-named it Wing Tsun. Instead, he says, it is the skills that are important. This theme is a thread throughout the Yip Man lineages. It is stronger in some lineages than others. It even exists in an oft quoted Bruce Lee saying, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who had practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

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You may attend a variety of martial arts schools these days. In some
towns and cities, the schools are on every block. However, relatively few teach
the higher Chinese skills on a routine basis. Usually very advanced skill-training
goes to only the most senior black-belt students. Most of the intermediate training
involves random sparring and forms. None of those long-range styles teach the
sticky hands handed down to them from Yip Man. In Leung Ting WingTsun®, sticky
hands is an intermediate skill.

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Movement skills

Every student of any martial art must learn new movement skills.  Some martial arts are athletic in their approach. A student must stretch, strengthen, use calisthenics and aerobic exercise in addition to stances, kicks, long range punching, power exercises, jumping skills, tumbling skills and other athletic skills.

WingTsun™ is less about high kicks, jumping kicks, spin kicks, and bending into low stances, – we have none of those – than it is about being sharply focused on self-defense skills.  However the skills developed in WingTsun training are more like sharpening a knife than making a dinner recipe. The creators of WingTsun realized that self-defense cannot happen with a recipe. There is no recipe. A student must be prepared to sharpen his or her weapons. In the case of WingTsun, it is the whole body.

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There are analogies for life within the art of Wing Tsun kung-fu. One such analogy is the idea of forward energy.

Martial arts analogies exist in other arts but Wing Tsun seems to have many, perhaps because of its concepts. To prevail in an encounter with an opponent, it can be necessary to maintain forward energy and forward direction. To stand still can be deadly to you. Forward energy and forward movement forces an attacker to spend time and attention to deal with you. In addition, it is far more difficult to stop, block or deflect an oncoming counterattack than one that stands still. A moving target is difficult. One that is coming right at you is worse.

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Martial arts drills that set Wing Tsun kung-fu apart from others include chi sau. Chi sau is a drill that often becomes a form of sparring. Some other Chinese martial arts have a tradition of a clinging arms drill like Wing Tsun’s chi sau but not as thorough in its focus.

Chi sau is also referred to as ‘sticky hands.’ This reference is because the idea of ‘sticking’ or ‘clinging’ to an attacker’s arms gives the defender the information needed to defend such as the strength of the attack, the direction, the momentum, and the reality of the attack. Without sticking there is the risk of mischaracterizing a threat by seeing an attack coming which can be deceptive.

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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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About the Sticky Hands

Most followers of martial arts should know this does not refer to a person with an uncontrollable desire to steal. It refers to a method to stick to an attacker’s arms (or legs) in order to keep track of and ultimately evade, deflect, or dissolve an attack by an adversary. Bruce Lee brought this training drill to the attention of martial arts followers in martial arts magazines in the late 60s and early seventies, having studied from then living Grandmaster Yip Man of ‘Wing Chun.’ Not all the details could be told …

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Living in the present

Part of the philosophy of WingTsun training and follow through in a real self-defense situation is a sort of a present moment outlook which is that we focus on what we are doing now – not what occurred just a second ago and not what might occur in the next few seconds, minutes, 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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