Wing Tsun vs Wing Chun

The above video is a good example of Wing Tsun (“WT”) demonstrated at a very high level. When I first startet Wing Tsun, I was unable to distinguish it in videos from the other Wing Chun (“WC”) lineages, but by now I can tell the difference right away. Some of the differences are so subtle that I am unable to articulate them. But even though I can’t explain how I know, I can tell immediately from the video that this is a WT man.

Although there are many small and subtle differences, in my opinion the biggest differences between WT and WC are in the teaching program, the use of forward pressure, and the stances and footwork.

Wing Tsun is revolutionary in that it has a complete and very detailed training program with different material for each step of the way, from beginner to master. The program is beautifully thought out, and is designed to teach the beginner what he needs to know, and what he can actually start using right away in real world fighting. The program incorporates a redundancy principle. For example, the first hand technique taught (after the punch) is the “wedge”, which is also the first movement in the wooden dummy form.

Other lineages use the traditional Chinese method of instruction, which requires the student to absorb the material by a process of osmosis, with little explicit instruction, and to pretty much figure out most of the concepts on his own. When I studied Moy Yat style WC, many years ago, this traditional method did not work for me. I suspect it doesn’t work well for Westerners in general. Also, WT is also quite different in that it emphasizes fighting against non Wing Chun styles, not just Wing Chun against Wing Chun, reasoning that it is quite unlikely that you will ever face another Wing Chun man on the street.

Another major difference is that while WC uses “forward intent”, WT uses “forward pressure’. Forward intent means that the WC fighter will sense that there is a gap in the opponent’s defense and will train himself to punch or strike forward immediately when he or she perceives this gap. Through years of training, the WC exponent can use his touch sensitivity to sense even the tiniest gap, and will react almost instantly to take advantage of it. WT’s forward pressure is similar but different. Forward pressure means that the WT exponent exerts a slight but constant mechanical pressure against his opponent’s arms. If there is a gap, the WT fighter’s hands will spring forward without any conscious thought, based solely on this mechanical pressure, like a metal spring or a rattan cane. Once the arms have started to go in, the WT fighter’s brain “catches” up to what is going on and turns the forward pressure movement turns into an actual punch. Forward pressure thus allows reaction without any thought whatsoever, so it allows reactions which are “faster than thought”.

The other major difference pertain to stance and footwork. Most of the WC styles use either a 50% front, 50% back leg weighting, or 70% back leg, 30% front leg weighting. WT uses 100% back leg, 0% front leg weighting. The WT step utilizes the front leg to pull or drag the front leg using something called “abduction force” or “linkage force”. The details of the step are too complicated to explain here but the step looks quite different from the standard step used in WC. The difference in weighting also affects the turn. When the WT fighter turns he shifts his weight onto one leg, which shifts his body farther out of the way of an incoming straight punch. WT also teaches footwork much earlier than do the other lineages. Traditionally, footwork was kept a “secret” until the student was quite advanced.

Paul Matthews

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