WingTsun, A Different Concept

WingTsun™ cannot be classified so easily in to the framework of the spectrum of martial arts.  It is a descendant of techniques sometimes called Siu Lam (Shaolin) kung fu.  More likely it is based on techniques from several older systems.  It is not necessary to claim that it came from Siu Lam in order to categorize its quality.  WingTsun is also a southern Chinese system and that generally means that it is not an acrobatic martial art, favoring instead, close range hand techniques and low kicks. The arms are normally kept low at the elbows in order to protect the flanks.  This is as far as the similarity goes to other martial arts…

The biggest difference in WingTsun might be the fact that WingTsun is a direct system whereas other arts are indirect.  What this means is that WingTsun does not concern itself with the feint strike or the feint kick as do most martial sports.  WingTsun does not “block” an attack but rather defends by attacking or simultaneously defends while attacking.  At no time would a WingTsun defender go to an attacker’s arm or leg with his or her own arm or leg, pulling that arm away from its more important job of protecting the body and center line without having a punch or kick in the air at the same time. WingTsun teaches that you treat a kick as a kick or a hand attack as a hand attack making no judgment as to whether it is a feint or not.  The reason it can be done within the context of WingTsun technique is because it is a Centerline-Straight-Line system. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line and thus it beats any longer route to the target. WingTsun always takes the shorter route.  We are sure about this because of the unfailing rules of geometry.   WingTsun practitioners line themselves up with their attacker in such a way as to eliminate the guesswork about this. When an attack (or a feint) is made we beat the attacker to the target and therefore it doesn’t matter if it was intentional or a feint!  The purpose is to win, not to play “gotcha.”

Another major difference is that WingTsun is completely and totally a self-defense system with no aspirations to make it a sport.  There has been some attention paid to chi sau tournaments but this a minor point.  Everything about WingTsun is concerned with its practical use in a real altercation.

A third important difference is the idea of using an attacker’s strength and energy against him.  This concept is carried to a high level of development in WingTsun because of Chi Sau (clinging arms).  By sticking with an attacker’s arms while maintaining the center line concept and that of simultaneous defense and offense make it possible to directly use an attacker’s force.  By doing so, you are using the force he expends in his attack and you have therefore nullified it as it happens.  It is too late for an attacker to reverse and back out.  If an attacker detects a problem part-way through the execution of an attack and reverses direction, a WingTsun practitioner is taught to “stay with” the attacker through the use of his or her sticky hands and wait for our attacker’s next mistake.  If the way becomes clear, the WingTsun defender is taught to “spring forward” and follow up, often with chain punches following our attacker to the ground.

The ideas behind WingTsun are totally different than today’s martial sports. In a martial sport, there are rules and a game is being played.  “You move and try to hit me and then I will move and try to hit you.”  “You search for an opening and try to tag me and I will do the same.”  “I will politely block and then hit thus giving you time to counter-attack, all at full speed, mind you.”  Occasionally a fighter will find a lapse in his or her opponent’s attention and soundly beat the opponent.  This is not how it works in WingTsun fighting and real street-attacks.  A continuous flow of attack and defense takes place using all the concepts to quickly and efficiently defeat our attacker.  No stopping or pausing is done to allow our opponent time to recover so they can come back and beat us up!  This makes no sense in a real street fight and so it makes no sense to a WingTsun practitioner.  At the same time, chi sau (clinging arms) give the combatants enough control to avoid hurting their partners.
Another significant difference is that you will never see a WingTsun fighter (that is doing things correctly) initiating a “match” by throwing a kick.  As far as WingTsun is concerned, kicks are slow and relatively easy to defend against.  Even the athletically impressive high kicks leave a fighter’s groin and supporting leg exposed to devastating counter attacks to those areas.  In addition, during the time the kick is in the air, the fighter is not able to move from that spot since one foot is occupied with the kick and therefore is a sitting target for a second.  For those reasons we do not expose ourselves to this danger by initiating a kick to an alert fighter giving him every opportunity to hurt us.  After all, WingTsun is not a martial sport.  A kick is initiated only when there is no counter-attack possible or when they are needed to help the hands.

WingTsun therefore teaches the clear differences in these approaches by practicing these different concepts.

WingTsun’s approach to multiple attackers is also different and very practical. It’s approach to footwork, likewise.  Its approach to fitness and health is also very practical and can be employed in one’s daily life.

WingTsun IS different and cannot easily be classified into a category of martial arts.

©  Copyright 2008, Keith Sonnenberg.  All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without permission.