The Miscasting of Martial Arts

Our modern culture has reclassified physical movement disciplines into its own little bucket of definable terms.  Leung Ting WingTsun® kung fu is ‘kung fu’ and is not a sport.  In fact, it might be more accurate to call it WingTsun wu shu.  Kung fu means “hard work – achieving skill” whereas wu shu means “military art” which is more precise description of WingTsun even though Leung Ting WingTsun® is more civilian in nature but uses the military smarts of Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese general and master strategist.

Today we have followers of other martial arts criticizing Wing Tsun – a thing they do not understand, because it does not follow their definitions.  If you define Wing Tsun in sport terms, Wing Tsun in any lineage has not been very successful in the west perhaps just like a drag racing car would not be successful on a circular track.  In a match-up, we cannot count points when one opponent strikes another because 1) we cannot see or keep track of so many fast strikes and 2) we cannot make an accurate judgment about power because we cannot see the power in Wing Tsun strikes without making deadly impact.  In terms of raw athletic punching power, Wing Tsun does not match some other arts.  The inventors decided it was more important to be able to precisely land one or more blows accurately than to miss with powerful attacks repeatedly and end up dying in the act of defending one’s self.  In Wing Tsun, no targets are off limits and some sacrifices were made for appearance, power and the selection of different techniques.  However in the chaos of a fight, certain targets are considered more effective and easier to hit than others:  bridge of the nose, sternum, bladder, knee, shin, in-step.  Soft, vulnerable targets that end fights fast do not require fantastic power, just accuracy.  Wing Tsun was developed from the ground up so that 95% of the techniques are instantly disabling and damaging or absolutely lethal.  If hitting a particular target does not stop your attacker fast, it is not a target in Wing Tsun.  This used to be true in other arts.  With the advent of sports, these targets are not normal practice.  If they are not normal practice, do you think a typical practitioner will hit those targets when the chips are down?  I think not.  If Wing Tsun is converted into a sport, 95% of its techniques are not allowed.  Other arts might claim that 95% of their targets are disallowed as well.  However those arts have many strikes that attack many, many non-lethal targets and contain many attractive, athletic movements designed for athletes.  Wing Tsun keeps its techniques to a smaller number that can quickly be called to action in a real fight – techniques that are not going to land you on your rear end or spinning into a knife when you decide to uncork that reverse kick.  When a Wing Tsun practitioner uses a high percentage of time training in different contexts repeating chain punches, straight punches, pak sau, tan dar, biu tze sau, and two or three different low kicks, a practitioner can get pretty good at them!  When the chips are down, no need to pause to think about what technique is best, just react.

In our culture, it seems you have to define what it is you do in 10 words or less.  Not everything is so easily explained.

– Sifu Keith Sonnenberg