WingTsun is Practical Self Defense
When we think of the word practical, what do we normally think of? Normally we consider how useful something is. If a car is a red, low-slung fast sports car with seating for two, we would not consider that to be practical. You cannot carry more than two people and certainly not the family. You cannot go to Home Depot and load it up with building supplies. It is much too small for that. It attracts a lot of attention, sometimes the wrong kind. You, the driver, get a ticket once in a while because it is so fast from a standing start.
A more practical car might be one that could transport at least four of more people and perhaps some type of vehicle that had room for groceries, building supplies, travel gear for road trips, etc.
When America was first introduced to martial arts in the 1950s, nothing was ever said about a martial art being practical. As far as anybody knew, these exotic looking movements always worked. After all, who would think to watch for these high kicks a fake low, punch high technique? It was always a fantastic looking movement. A red sports car is fantastic looking too. However your average street fighter does not care about your fancy kicks or splashy spinning back fist.
The Confucian* influence, a major philosophy of China, is often credited with lending a practical slant to the techniques and fighting practices of Wing Tsun kung fu. In more modern times, Buddhism and Taoism was rejected in favor of Confucianism by a great many Chinese thinkers. Confucius himself rejected these older philosophies. Confucius philosophy was concerned with ‘self-regulation’ of the citizen, not to be too dependent on the state. This was considered a very practical approach by many who looked at esoteric philosophies like Buddhism and Taoism as ‘useless,’ particularly for the common people.
The people of southern China were often residents in rural coastal areas. They did not have time to learn attractive looking jumping kicks and spinning kicks that did not have a great many real applications in real fights or to learn significant athletic skills nor were they inclined too. They did not have any practical use in their day to day living as life was a struggle. In addition, many martial arts in this geographic area were family martial arts. They were passed from father to son. There was no attention placed on attracting new students because new students were not going to be had and so spectacular movements designed to attract students were not developed. The ‘long bridge’ techniques of northern China had a use because of rough terrain. In addition they were descended from military sources where horses were used and long weapons such as staff, sword, and halberd. These long range technique have little practical value in the confined setting of a boat or in a village. If you are attacked in a populated area, chances are, one’s attacker does not want to be seen. Consequently he will do his evil deed in an alley, inside a house, or in the dark! Wing Tsun developed in this kind of social atmosphere. Techniques ONLY designed for survival were developed. The rest were considered unnecessary. Survival was the only reason to learn the family martial art because there was little law enforcement in the remote areas and even the villages.
Today we have Wing Tsun with low kicks, quick, straight punches, fast, and direct. Targets were then and still are to areas like the throat, the side of the neck, the base of the skull, and the various key areas of the legs and so on. One limb can convert to several different uses: a hand can form a fist to punch, palm strike, side palm strike, edge of hand strike, thumb and defend with pak, tan, fook, gaun, gum and so on. Very practical. Kicks were low and still are. It is very useful to be able to kick the legs out from under an attacker to stop his advance. It is very useful for a weaker individual to be able to stop a stronger attacker and to use his force against him. Attempts to try and match an attacker’s strength, pound for pound are not considered practical or even realistic.
*Confucius reference: Wikipedia
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