Wing Chun, if trained seriously in a good school with a good teacher, for a fairly long period of time, can train students to be able to defend themselves against typical attackers in real life self defense situations, most of the time. It does not, however, work as well against non-typical attackers who are experienced full contact fighters trained in boxing, kickboxing, or Muay Thai, or against tough, experienced, and big or strong street fighters.
As an instructor I would not be happy to learn that one of my students had to defend himself in street and was beat up or even seriously injured, but that he or she had only used classical wing chun techniques.
Contrary to claims by various teachers and pundits, Wing Chun was not developed by a woman, and it was not developed as a complete fighting style. It is very likely that Wing Chun was invented by one or more male martial artists, who had discovered that it was impossible to reliably defend against punches and other hand strikes if they were delivered from within a certain distance, which is somewhat closer than arm’s length. These pioneers developed Wing Chun to add to their present fighting repertoire, which included other longer range techniques.
For reasons not known, over the generations teachers and schools developed that taught only Wing Chun. It is also important to understand that Wing Chun was intended to be used against other Kung Fu Syles that were around two hundred to three hundred years ago. Leung Ting, whatever you think of him, was the first, foremost, and perhaps the only Wing Chun master who realized that in modern times, a Wing Chun fighter might have to deal with opponents who were skilled in these modern and non-traditional martial arts styles, and also created an anti-grappling program.
I personally, like and teach the following six techniques, which are very effective and do not break (at least too much) from fundamental Wing Chun principles. Hence, these techniques do not include high kicks or techniques where you jump in the air or use spinning techniques where you expose your back.
1) The boxing jab. The jab is considered to be the most important punch in boxing because it sets up all the other punches. Why? Because the jab is considered to be the safest punch in boxing. Whenever you throw any punch, you are also creating some kind of opening. Because the jab comes from the lead hand, is used with a bladed stance, and goes out and comes back to resume a defensive position so quickly, it leaves only a very small opening for a split second. Also, the jab is usually used from long range, which gives more time to see and defend a counter strike. Because of the safety that comes with this speed, other punches can be easily set up. The boxing jab can also be used to set up Wing Chun techniques, and is one very good way to close the gap.
2) The Straight Lead, from Jeet Kune Do. The Straight lead is a punch which is similar to the jab, but it is used with a vertical fist, and is used with the power hand, which is placed in the lead position. This power punch is typically used with a strong rotation of the hips. Being able to switch stances and using power shots off of the lead hand can easily confuse the opponent, and also allows for different footwork. Tyson and Lomachenko are both boxers who were very adept at switching stances and using footwork to create different angles. Because punches to the face are even more effective in bare knuckle combat (assuming that your hands and wrists are sufficiently conditioned) the straight lead to th ehead can be a devastating punch.
3) The front snap kick from Karate, Tae Kwan Do, and Savate. While Wing Chun emphasizes the front kick it uses a stamping kick, and does not have a snap kick. While Wing Chun kicks can be very effective, the front snap kick is both faster and has greater range, especially since, with the right footwear, it can be used with the toe of the shoe striking the opponent. Because the front snap kick still does not have a ton of power, it is mostly effective as a groin kick.
4) The Muay Thai “side teep” kick. This is a kick that is thrown from a squared up stance. Thai fighters rarely use the side kick because under Thai rules kicks to the legs and to the back are allowed, and it is very difficult to defend these from a bladed stance. Side kicks, while very powerful, are also telegraphic if thrown from a squared up stance because of the hips , and indeed the whole torso, rotates before the kick is thrown. The side teep starts out as a front kick, but at the last minute, the hips rotate and the kick becomes a side kick. This kick has more range and power than the front kick, but i almost as fast and non-telegraphic. While it can be thrown to the body, and can knock the opponent off his feet, for self defense situations the best targets are the groin, knee, or shin.
5) The Hook punch, from Boxing. Actually the Leung Ting lineage does include a hook punch, but it is only used in limited situations, and it is only used at close range. The boxing hook, on the other hand, can be used at both close range and intermediate range, and even at long range, although at long range it becomes too telegraphic. In Boxing the hook punch, usually delivered from the lead hand, can be used as a mainstay punch, and it allows a boxer to have knockout power in both hands. The hook punch delivered from close range, can pack a ton of power, since it comes from outside the opponent’s peripheral visio, and is very hard to see, and if it lands right rotates the opponent’s head and, can result in a one punch knockout. Even if doesn’t knock the opponent unconscious, it can still completely destroy his balance. Just developing this punch and adding it to your Wing Chun arsenal can make you a much more dangerous fighter.
6) The spear elbow, from Muay Thai and Bagua. Both of these arts use an unusual but very effective elbow strike that is not seen in other arts. While Wing Chun rivals Muay Thai in the use of elbows, it has only four different elbow strikes while Muay Thai has over a dozen. This elbow is thrown by raising your upper arm and stabbing the point of the elbow directly at the opponent, using a forward step to add momentum and power, while closing the range. It should be used at a ditance which is just a half step away from elbow range, allowing the step.