Wing Chun is a traditional martial art that specializes in close range combat, and is known for being economical, direct and efficient.
Wing Chun dates its creation to the reign of the Emperor Kangxi (1662 – 1772) in the Qing dynasty, as per the oral history of the Yip Man branch of Wing Chun. Qing forces destroyed the Fujian Shaolin Monastery (Southern Shaolin) which resulted in the Abbess Ng Mui fleeing to the distant Daliang mountains on the border between Yunnan and Sichuan.
As per the legend as told by Yip Man, it involves a young woman Yim Wing-chun. This was during the period after the destruction of the Southern Shaolin and its associated temples by the Qing government. A local warlord offered a marriage offer to Yim Wing-chun which was rejected by Yim Wing-chun. Yim Wing-chun laid down a condition that she would consider marrying the warlord only if he defeats her in a fight. She soon crossed paths with the nun Ng Mui, who was the Fujian Shaolin destruction survivor. As per the legend, Ng Mui taught Yim Wing-chun the martial art that she had been inspired by the nun’s observations of a confrontation between a snake and a crane. This then nameless style helped Yim Wing-chun to defeat the warlord in a one-on-one fight. Yim Wing-Chun thereafter married Leung Bok-Chau and taught him the style, which was later named after her.
Many legends including the story of Yim Wing-chun were spreading regarding the creation of this system in order to confuse the enemies; as this system was developed during the Shaolin and Ming resistance to the Qing dynasty. This is often given as a reason to explain the difficulty in accurately determining the creator or creators of Wing Chun.
Wing Chun is a scientific and unique form of martial arts. Wing Chun is one of the styles of Kung Fu, originating from China. The martial art was later refined in Hong Kong by late Ip Man.
Reasons for the popularity of Wing Chun
The main reasons that Wing Chun has grown in popularity is that:
- it is very practical in the modern world
- it can be learned in a relatively short period of time
- it can be practiced by people of all sizes, shapes and degrees of athletic ability
Wing Chun originated in and was developed for crowded urban environments such as the cities most people live in today. It can be used even when assaulted in a confined space like a cramped hallway, stairway or elevator as it is a close-quarters system. It allows someone to defend themselves even when unarmed as it is primarily an empty-hands system. As opposed to a consensual fight or sport combat match, it trains one to respond instantly and instinctually to a surprise attack, as it is based on reflexive movements. It is simple, direct and efficient, eliminating techniques that are not needed so much in the modern world, such as high-kicking an enemy of his horse.
Wing Chun was designed to be learned in the shortest time possible as compared to many systems of martial arts requiring a decade or more to learn. In about two years, one can learn the entire core system with regular, consistent practice. Mastery of the system will certainly take a lifetime.
People of all ages, sizes, shapes and degrees of physical ability can practice the martial arts system Wing Chun. It is equally applicable to both men and women even though there is a trend for women to make progress much faster. Rather than using speed it uses timing, and as compared to strength uses structure. Since it is based on natural human anatomy as compared to mimicking the movements of animals, it does not require extraordinary flexibility or athleticism.
Philosophy of Wing Chun
- One who excels as a warrior does not appear formidable
- One who excels in fighting is never aroused in anger
- One who excels in defeating their enemy does not join issues
- One who excels in employing others humbles themself before them
- This is the virtue of non-contention and matching the sublimity of heaven
Wing Chun Characteristics
Wing Chun practitioners pride themselves on never getting caught in a poor defensive posture as balance is very important to them which is true for all true exponents of any martial arts. In addition to the posture, the Wing Chun practitioners keep their elbows close to the body and tend towards a high, narrow stance. In fact, their arms are kept in front of the vital areas of their centerline, an invisible line said to span the throat, nose, eyes, solar plexis, groin, etc.).
From this stable, protective position all attacks begin.
The ability to overwhelm opponents with rapid fire strikes and kicks is the ability that is what the Wing Chun practitioners are known for! The centerline plays a key role in how fighters position themselves for defense and where they tend to attack. The practitioners like to render the opponents immobile, trap them and deliver simultaneous attacks. These characteristics are also a mainstay of Jeet Kune Do, the martial arts style of former Wing Chun practitioner Bruce Lee.
A holistic system of training
Both, a high degree of physical fitness as well as mental focus is built with proper training in Wing Chun. Extraordinary sensitivity, balance, endurance and coordination is developed by the consistent practice. A person can quiet one’s mind and focus attention through the training in different forms. Perhaps most importantly, one will learn to relax and unwind tension from the body. This brings a person into a natural state of structural stability and intrinsic strength.
A normal-sized person effectively defends against a bigger, stronger attacker. This is possible due to the emphasis on structure and relaxed intrinsic strength part.
As a person further learns and digs more into this martial arts form, it seems to be sneaky. It assumes that a person is being assaulted without warning, at high speed, and with shocking violence. The training in this martial arts puts the fight on a person’s terms as one is trained for simple reflex response to interrupt the attack and get the attacker off balance.
While this martial art defends and attacks simultaneously, other systems block and then attack. Wing Chun hits without warning from any position, while the other systems draw back or chamber their punches before they strike. The structure of the entire body to create power in a small space is used by this martial arts, while other systems require a wind-up to generate force. It doesn’t stop delivering damage until the assault has been effectively ended and is turned on like chainsaw. In the similar case, other systems trade strikes back and forth until one fighter is either knocked out or takes cumulative damage.
The bulk of one’s training is not spent on punching heavy bags. Much of the student’s practice time is spent training the body to move efficiently and with great precision because structural positioning overcomes sheer strength. To develop this precision and economy of movement, Wing Chun uses a unique training exercise called Chi Sau (sticky hands). The principle is simple physics: use the minimum amount of effort to create the maximum effect.
Wing Chun Lineage
Wing Chun is not based on a military system unlike many other popular martial arts. Most schools follow a family hierarchy based on relationship rather than follow a military-styled hierarchy based on rank. While the most schools do not use the sash ranking popularized by the Japanese and Korean martial arts, some have started using these rankings. Some schools will begin training sessions by having students line up by rank, and others bring students together in an all-inclusive circle. All Wing Chun schools put special emphasis on the style’s lineage, adopting titles based on family relationships; regardless of modern class format.
For example, an instructor is addressed using the Cantonese term Sifu, which has a deeper meaning than simply “teacher”. Sifu also implies a relationship much like “father,” and a Sifu is expected to care for their students much like a father cares for his children. Rather than being a simple business arrangement of a teacher being paid for lessons, a student is expected to show respect and loyalty to their Sifu, similar to a child’s bond to a parent.
Students also refer to each other using family terms, such as Si Hing or “Older Brother” and Si Dei or “Younger Brother.” Older and younger do not represent age in this case, but rather the length of time studying Wing Chun. For example, a 25-year-old student may still be Si Hing or Older Brother to a 40-year-old student who has just started training. A few Wing Chun titles that you may hear within a school are listed below:
Sifu: Instructor of School
Si Mo: Sifu’s wife, Kung Fu mother
Si Hing: Older kung fu brother
Si Dei: Younger kung fu brother
Si Je: Older kung fu sister
Si Mui: Younger kung fu sister
Si Gung: Sifu’s Instructor
Si Bak: Elder king fu brother of Sifu
The family relationship is also emphasized in the Kung Fu lineage. A Kung Fu lineage traces a “line of transmission” from generation to generation similar to a family tree. A traditional Wing Chun system will provide a lineage that traces the history from the current instructor all the way back to Wing Chun’s founder, Yim Wing Chun.