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.”

Bruce Lee, a member of the Wing Chun family, was known to have several techniques that nobody he went up against could defend. Indeed, it is not the technique or the “trick” that wins the fight or allows you to come out on top but rather, the skill in doing it. This idea is even preached in the other nationalities such as the Japanese martial arts. Wing Tsun was created as a simpler way with fewer techniques. If you look at Wing Tsun as a First Student Grade and then review your techniques as a much higher-ranking student or instructor, you will see that everything you have learned is based on those beginning techniques. That is why it is so important to continue to bolster your basics.

Some, more complicated martial arts, have hundreds of techniques buried inside the 30 or 40 different forms you are required to learn. Some of the choreographed movements are designed for long-ago circumstances such as fighting on horseback. Wing Tsun was developed hundreds of years ago to do away with his idea.

To be sure, there are situations in sticky hands (chi sau) that encourage trickery. It is fun and sticky hands is fun, but these situations are not likely to occur in life and should not be construed as real self-defense. The sticky hands game is play but it can be valuable in applying your skills in a life-threatening situation. The path of your own deception is collecting more tricks at the expense of your skills at each one. -Sifu Keith Sonnenberg