Once a layperson who has an interest in martial arts also becomes acquainted with Wing Tsun (or wing chun) techniques, the fascination often begins. Due partly to online videos, tons of chatter, posts, blogs, and YouTube stars, many “wing chun fans” become obsessed. All the internet surfer wants to do is be like the guy in the videos or the star of the movie about Yip Man. It is a shame that the obsession doesn’t include an obsession with the ‘secret’ of Wing Tsun.

You might notice that virtually none of these online videos explain how the feet should move. The footwork of this art has been ignored by a great many lineages. It seems unimportant to them. At the same time, attempts by supposedly well-trained experts all too often embarrass the rest of the Wing Chun world with their fast failure in the ring.

We can list the reasons why they fail in the ring- they have a lot less than a couple of years of consistent training, they do not train like a real athlete, they do not actually train in free hand fighting, they do not train against other martial artists, grapplers, or boxers, they do not cross train in other arts. That is the nature of the ring. Your likely opponents are going to be experts in some other fighting discipline. They will also have a high level of physical conditioning.

None of the above explains why they cannot apply their wing chun training. What does explain their failure, in part, is their ignorance of and lack of footwork skills and leg conditioning.

Students and experts alike may have read the stories of the ancient kungfu masters and how they make their students stand in the horse stance for six months before they can learn any hand techniques. The reason given is often that they are trying to discourage less than truly dedicated students. Maybe this was true. However, the other reason was undoubtedly to force the student to address the critical footwork skills of their art. It may have been considered the only way to get a skilled student. To do otherwise would result in a student who would barely practice any footwork skills. It would have been a waste of the instructor’s time as well as the student.

Leung Ting WingTsun® addresses the footwork skills. To be able to move forward effectively into an attacker’s area without being countered, taken to the ground, or otherwise countered, is the only good way to engage him in his territory. One also must be prepared to yield effectively or move and simultaneously defend out of harm’s way. The legs, being larger than the arms, require quite a bit of practice to move skillfully. Most traditional kungfu styles regard the legs as a separate skill set which includes, stepping, kicking, knees, sweeping, and throwing.

All too often, we see videos of people who call themselves wing chun practitioners, moving with no tactics or finesse at all in stepping into their opponent’s area. Their vertical midline is left open to attack to the upper body, the inside of the thigh and the groin. Weight is often placed on their front leg causing them to ignore their kicks entirely or telegraphing their kick because of the delay caused by having to take the weight off the leg first in order to kick.

The Wing Tsun Secret is really no secret at all as Grandmaster Leung Ting is fond of saying. “There are no secret techniques, only practice.”

-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg