What I currently teach is around 90% “classical” Wing Chun. I have studied this art for around 12 years, and have actually studied 3 different lineages. I studied in a Moy Yat school many, many years ago, but I wasnt there that long, and I quite because they used the traditional Chinese teaching methods, which do not work well for westerners, or at least did not work for me.
I don’t remember a lot about the training, although I do remember the basic drills that were taught to beginners.
I trained for 10 years in the Leung Ting lineage, where I achieved the rank of 2nd level technician, and the sify title. After that i trained for about 2 years in the Wong Shun Leung lineage. I consider both the Leung Ting and Wong Shun Leung Lineage to be very good, and although when I switched to WSL, I tried not to use any techniqut for es in the way that I had learned in the LT lineage, I had been doing LT for too long, so that when I do sparring, I actually incorporate both.
I have also studied a large number of other martial arts, some for a few lessons, and others for a few years. Most recently, I studied escrima, a filipino stick fighting art, for 2 years. The lineage that I studied was Balinawak under Grand Master Bobby Taboada’s lineage. GM Bobby had started out as a boxer and when he started his own lineage of Balintawak he incorporated many elements from boxing, ,including power generation and head movement.
While I have never formally studied boxing, I do incorporate these elements of boxing in my own teaching, along with explosive footwork similar to the ways to the footwork some boxers use.
My first lesson will focus on some of the basic concepts and principles of Wing Chun, as Wing Chun is an art that is based as much, or more, on principles, than on specific techniqyes.
The Main principles are:
All lineages of Wing Chun use “stick”. “stick” means that you maintain contact with your opponent’s arms while you fight. Wing Chun was developed a couple of hundreds of years ago by Shaolin Kung Fu experts who had discovered that it was almost impossible to defend against non-telegraphic hand strikes at very close range. The reason for this is that it takes some amount of time to see and identify an incoming punch before you can even start to react, and at very close range there is no way to react in time.
However these fighters figured out that if you used your tactile (touch) reactions instead of your visual reactions, you could react much faster, and with enough training could react up to 3 times as fast.
There are different degrees of “stick”. You can stick with both arms, with one arm, and you can also stick all of the time, or part of the time. Different lineages have use different degreees of stick. Although it is somewhat of an oversimplification, stick works better for defense than it does for offense.
2) Economy of Motion.
Wing Chun seeks to use the most direct and fastest attacks, and for that reason emphasizes straight line attacks, although it does use other types of attacks in certainsituations. It also seeks to reduce all unnecessary motion, and unnecessary expenditure of energy. Finally, it seeks to reduce wasted time, by emphasizing simultaneous attack and defense. It can be said that wing chun seeks to save energy, save time, and save wasted motion. In order to conserve energy and to move as quickly as possible, both in attack and defense, it is necessary to use relaxation, and only use tension at the moment that your strike hits the opponent. To be able to achieve relaxation in close quarters fighting, is difficult and can require years of training.
3) Centerline Theory
Many of the vulnerable points on the human body are located on the “vertical midline”, an imaginary line bisecting the body. These include the eyes, nose, point of the jaw, throat, solar plexus, and groin. Also, if a strike lands on the outside of the torso, the body will naturally rotate when it receives the hit, and some energy will be lost, while if the strike hits anywhere in the vertical midline, practically all the energy will be absorbed instead of being wasted.
This is why Wing Chun emphasizes strikring at the vertical midline, and also defending the vertical midline. However we all understand that there are other points on the body which are also vulnerable to attack by hook punches, roundhouse kicks, etc.
IMHO Wing Chun, like practically every other martial art, does have some gaps/ weaknesses. Many famous and top Wing Chun experts have come to realize this, after using their techniques in actual fights and full contact fights, and have made some modifications to address these issues.
In my view, there are two main issues. The first is power generation. Although Wing Chun does use and develop short range power, as seen in the famous Bruce Lee Inch punch, it still does not have punches which are as powerful as the punches used in Boxing. Some Wing Chun experts punches are pretty much just arm punches, and while they can definitely break someones’ nose, they may not be powerful enough to knock someone out who is either much bigger, or is a full contact fighter or street fighter with a lot of fighting experience. However, it is possible to increase the power of wing Chun punches by incorporating small but very fast rotation of the body, which is similar to the way that advanced amateur and many professionals punch.
The second issue has to do with footwork. Wing Chun has never been known for having great footwork. IMHO, the two styles that have the best footwork are Boxing and Jeet Kune Do, which uses a combination of boxing footwork and fencing footwork. Wong Shun Leung, one of the 3 most famous Wing Chun fighters (The others were Yip Man and Bruce Lee) started learning boxing, and eventually taught footwork which resembled a simple for of western boxing, similar to that of the famous old time champion Joe Louis. However Louis, ranked in the top 10 of heavyweights of all time, was not known for his footwork, although it was good enough to do the job. I consider the WSL footwork to be decent.
What all Wing Chun lineages lack is the fast and explosive footwork that some boxers use. Perhaps the best example of this is Manny Pacquiao. I teach both the WSL basic footwork and also a more explosive footwork.
In general, what I teach has a heavy emphasis on practical fighting for self defense. I do not use full contact as it is debilitating to the body and in particular the brain. I acknowledge that it is a challenge to teach practical self defense without it, at least if the students have little or no experience in real serious fights or full contact bouts. It will be no problem at all for students who have fought full contact in a ring, or who are bouncers .
I do emphasize power development footwork and also head movement, which is largely absent in traditional wing chun, as well as using non wing chun techniques if the student ends up in a longer range fighting situation..
Wong Shun Leung had a famous saying about the most importan things you need to have before your Wing Chun will really work in a real fight: “first fighting heart, then power, and only then can we talk about technique”.
Because wing chun does use sparring at various speeds, including speed as fast or faster than used in street fights, it is extremely important for the student to develop excellent control so that he or she just taps the partner, rather than hurting the opponent, even though the partners are sparring at top speed. This control may also take a year or more to develop.
I also incude a few techniques that I have learned from various martial arts, along the way of my own martial arts journey These are not techniques from classical wing chun, but I htink they are just too good to leavout.