WING CHUN – System or Style?

WING CHUN System or Style

I’ve been a practitioner of Wing Chun for a long time, and have gone through a lot of different thinking on what Wing Chun represents.  My present thinking is that it is a training/development system.  What does that mean?  

To me it means it’s a way to train specific attributes, structure/mechanics, reflexes and so forth, so that I am better able to deal with a fight on the street. My chances of success should be higher after training in the system than before my training.  

Notice, I did not mention anything about learned techniques nor about how to apply them.  You see, I don’t see Wing Chun as a style.  A style is something that totally changes the way you move and tells you what to do if a particular attack comes upon you. 

It is the “if he does this, I do that” thinking.  I used to partake in this when I trained in TWC (William Cheung Wing Chun), as we worked a lot on techniques against the various attacks one could face in the street. 

The problem was that after all the years involved in TWC, as a practitioner and teacher, I never saw anyone really be able to apply the techniques the way they were taught.

No one in all of the testing phases (the higher levels of the system) made us face random attacks. No one was able to perform tan sau against round punches with side step the way we were taught it in class.

My realization now is that this type of training is not efficient. You learn how to do  techniques rather than learning how to fight someone fighting back. 

Hitting the hit is totally unnatural and you are trying to display a particular way of moving instead of just responding, moving and fighting. Your concentration is too set into moving a certain way, looking like your “Sifu/VT Icon, or VT movie icon”. 

You end up moving like a robot, in a mechanical manner.  I’ve learned that Martial Arts is really only about the training of your own body or frame.  You do the forms to develop structures/mechanics and habits within your own movements (e.g. elbows moving within your frame vs. elbows moving out of your frame).

Dan chi and chi sau/laap sau drills, bring the habits from the forms alive and allow you to engage with another person with live energy/pressure.  You don’t do the drills with the mental intent to “fight” with your partner. 

It’s not important if you hit your partner more than he hits you. Rather you both are feeding one another pressure so you can develop your own frame and structure, awareness of your frame and how it reacts to pressure upon itself. You also develop sensitivity and reflexes and calmness under ever increasing pressure.

The result of this “systematic” way of training is that your overall ability to fight (hit hard, avoid being hit, adapt and finish off your opponent) is improved and your chances of success are increased.

I’ve also learned that training is about development, and that application of your specific Wing Chun skills are learned by applying it in sparring with as many people as you can.  Wing Chun skills do not necessarily translate to fighting skill. To really learn to apply it, you have to let it go and just spar, with the idea that your training has improved your fighting ability via a naturally progressive learning/adaptive curve.  

You are not trying to display a particular way of moving or structure/mechanic when you spar.

If you do, you will move like a robot, mechanically and with too much thought being put into what you are doing. As Bruce Lee said, “the ultimate is to be naturally unnatural, or unnaturally natural”. So in essence, there is a “Development” stage of learning, where using the analogy of a baby learning to walk, first they sit up, then roll over, then crawl, the stand up alone, then take small steps with support, then they are walking on their own. 

Along each way, the baby has to subjectively learn balance, muscle control, awareness, concentration, focus, and sensitivity with the ground. 

The same goes for learning Wing Chun skills. It starts out with the basics, repeating fundamental drills over and over again until it is second nature. Then challenges are brought into play. Take the basic dan chi sau exercise for example.

​One person in tan sau, the other engaging the tan sau with their fok sau, both in yjkyma stance. Facing each other, the basic drill is to tan sau palm strike towards the face or chest whlist the opponent uses fok sau with a jum sau (either with forward intent or backward intent). Then the opponent strikes, and this is met with a  bong sau.

From this basic drill many challenges can arise. The practitioner using  the tan sau can step forward as they palm strike so the opponent  has to respond to this extra challenge.

After the opponent responds with fok sau, he can strike again with the other hand, forcing the other to respond with the appropriate technique depending on how the strike is coming.

There are many such times in the dan chi sau drill where “challenges” can be introduced. These “challenges’ bring the practitioner closer to real life situations as some awareness of real life situations is brought into the picture.

The goal is not too master the drills, but for the drills to teach the student what the Wing Chun system has to offer. Ω

By Sifu James Roller

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