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.
Today we have a martial art that is dramatically different from more common “long-bridge” martial arts. The look is different. We stand upright rather than in low stances. Wing Tsun contains elements of meditative and health-building activity, internal power instead of muscular force, and stances that allow a practitioner to use the force of an attacker. Its techniques are almost entirely confined to the limits of your body’s dimensions. We see no kicks higher than the waist and kicks and used sparingly.
For the founder, Buddhist woman of the Shaolin Monastery, the techniques she used had to work. There was no longer any purpose in practicing techniques with no practical value.
All that said, there is much dispute as to the accuracy of this version of Wing Tsun’s history. Regardless, Wing Tsun is unique in the martial arts world. Many other martial arts systems have borrowed techniques from it. However, borrowing ‘parts’ would be like borrowing parts from a car to fix a motorcycle. It doesn’t work well.
-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg