Wing Tsun Seminar

IS WING CHUN EFFECTIVE IN A REAL FIGHT?

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Wing Chun can be effective in a real fight because it trains you to react instantly without thinking. It also teaches you how to fight and deliver fast powerful straiight pucnhes at close range. It may not be efective against trained full contact fighters, or tough street fighters who are bigger and stronger than you. unless you modify some of the techniques and training methods.

The first video above is of Emin Boztepe, a Wing Chun master, who was one of Leung Ting’s top fighters. He is considered by many as being the best fighter from the Leung Ting lineage, and he also invented the Leung Ting anti grappling program, at the request of Leung Ting, made when grappling arts started to become dominant around the world.

You can see that he is very fast, very powerful, and very skilled. However, Emin is a “beast” who would kick practically anyone’s ass no matter wich martial arts he trained.

One of my former sifus saw Emin in person in Germany.

Emin did a demonstration where he had a really big guy the size and general shape of a refrigerator, holding an extra big kick shield against his body. Emin stepped in and punched the shield, causing the big guy to be physically lifted off the ground into the air and then crash to the floor on his face. Probably what Emin can do has very little to do what you (or I) can do, but it demonstrates that, for some people, Wing Chun can be a deadly weapon.

Between 2005 and 2019 I practiced Wing Chun almost continuously, though there were a few years there where I was only taking weekly private lessons, and I might have taken a month or 2 completely. At first, my learning process was slow and frustrating, but after about 3 or 4 years, I started to “get good”. I eventually finished the unarmed system, including the wooden dummy, took several seminars on the long pole, and one seminar on the knives. For a time, I taught a small class at the school, and had some private students.

I was always aware of the haters and naysayers, but for most of that time I believed that my long and sometimes intense training would stand me in good stead if I ever had to use it against a typical attacker in a real street combat situation.

At one of my schools there was one student who stood out. He had very powerful techniques. I remember I once held a pad while he slammed elbow after elbow into it, eventually causing me a severe headache from the impact.

After about a year and a half or two years of training, he had become a “beast” in the class, and he was planning on entering various full contact competitions, first with a kick boxer, and then against a Muay Thai fighter. The Sifu, an athletic and very gifted practitioner and teacher who had full contact experience, gave him private lessons on how to apply his Wing Chun in the ring.

This student’s first and only full contact bout was against a kick boxer on Long Island, where he was knocked out in the first round.

Then there came a time when I was investigating other martial arts. I had a few classes at a Muay Thai gymnasium, which I found to be humbling. I learned that being in a class or even watching a live class is very different than watching videos on YouTube. In the class, I could see and hear the impact of the Thai kicks striking pads and bags. Even the female students could kick with tremendous power that I doubted that I could handle. The intensity of the workout that every class started with, as well as the level of conditioning of the senior students and instructors, was off the chart.

My next stop was a Judo school. In the class, I could see that the students who were thrown hit the mats with tremendous force. I also looked up injuries in Judo and found that it was a sport with many acute injuries, and that long-term practitioners were mostly plagued with chronic injuries to their spines from continuously being thrown to the canvas. Some of the throws were executed by picking the opponent onto the shoulders and throwing him down from a height of up to five feet.

Finally, I spent almost two years studying Wing Chun in a small class located in a boxing gymnasium. The boxers were mostly young inner city men. Many were built kind of like Mike Tyson or were less bulky but ripped.

Many punched with tremendous power even though they were amateurs. One of the coaches was kind of a nutty but playful guy and would typically engage me in a few seconds of light sparring. I found that he was almost never able to block any kick or any wing chun technique. However, I doubted that that I could survive any length of time against him in any real fight or in a real fight against any of the testosterone-laden amateur boxers.

Meanwhile, the few Wing Chun fighters who fought in the UFC and in other mixed martial arts competitions were quickly demolished, and to my knowledge, none has achieved any measure of success in K1, Glory, or any of the other major kickboxing full contact competitions..  The few Wing Chun fighters who won matches in the small shows mostly used boxing and kickboxing techniques and did not look like Wing Chun fighters at all. Recently, a Wing Chun fighter was trounced by a one-armed opponent.

There are several reasons for these poor results. Perhaps the main result is that the very high-level Wing Chun men are pretty much all sifus with their own schools, and Wing Chun is mostly marketed as being an unbeatable art. These sifus are afraid that if they entered a competition and lost, they might lose most of their students.

What I notice in watching videos of Wing chun fighters against non-wing chun fighters is that even Wing Chun fighters who do relatively well and look halfway decent only use the style’s signature chain punch and front kick. There is no pak sao, lap sao, sticking hands, or trapping. The second video above is an example of a wing chun fighter using the most basic technique, the chain punch, effectively against an opponent who is pretty good at a non-traditional martial art (kickboxing). The wing chun man has fast hands, effective footwork, and he uses the wing chun strategy of going in aggressively and attacking nonstop. He is not afraid to close the distance with his opponent.

However, I do not see him throwing any punches with knockout power, and he does not seem to have ever actually hurt the kickboxer, but he keeps him busy defending. If this fight took place with bare knuckles, the chain punches would probably been much more effective, and at the very least, he would probably have cut the kickboxer up pretty badly. It is also hard to do trapping techniques with boxing gloves on.

The video above shows beginner students in the Leung Ting lineage going in full contact against each other. Some wear various protective gear, but IMHO the full power knees, elbows, and kicks to the head and spine are way too dangerous for training, even with protective equipment. Although their form isn’t that great, and they are using only basic techniques, the deadliness of the techniques and the ferocity of the fighters shows that this style can work for tough and motivated students in a real life self-defense situation.

I have also seen some MMA fighters finding success using the wing chun low side kick and oblique kick in bouts. In fact, they have been so successful in causing knee injury that there is talk about banning the oblique kick because, even if it is delivered above the knee joint and not directly to the knee joint, it can hyper extend the knee joint and cause serious and possibly permanent injury.

Some MMA fighters seem to be experimenting with trapping hand techniques, and it turns out that eye jabs (while mostly accidental) are effective in the ring, so much so that the UFC is working on developing new gloves to prevent them.

If Wing Chun doesn’t work in the ring, can it still work in the street?

There was a time in Hong Kong when there were a lot of gangs, and Wing Chun became so popular among gang members that it was called “gangster fist”. The gangs liked it because they could learn it relatively quickly and it was devoid of fancy, impractical techniques. However, these gangsters were using Wing Chun mostly against untrained opponents, or possibly against opponents who trained mostly impractical styles of Kung Fu, and were not fighting against Muay Thai, kickboxing, western boxing, or wrestling.

Nowadays, some of the haters at least concede that Wing Chun can work on the street against an untrained and unarmed opponent. I agree, except that on the street it is more likely that you will be confronting either an armed attacker, or multiple attackers. Wing chun does not work against a knife, but to be fair, neither does any other martial art.

Wing Chun also does not work well on the street against multiple attackers, or even against single attackers who are wrestlers, grapplers, decent boxers, or even against a street fighter without any formal training, who is much bigger and stronger, or who is very aggressive and has a granite chin.

The reasons for this include the fact that Wing Chun fighters don’t train to develop knockout power, tend to be “nerds” who have never been in a real fight, never do full contact sparring, and only train to fight against other Wing Chun fighters. They also lack the mobile footwork that is necessary to survive encounters with multiple attackers.

On the other hand, much of the theory and many of the principles of Wing Chun, such as attacking the center line, using bone alignment, keeping a strong structure, and optimizing for efficiency are quite valid, and drills that increase sensitivity do allow practitioners the ability to fight instinctively, without having to think.

What can you do about it?

First of all, you can do more training for power. Wong Shun Leung schools often emphesize drills for power, and some use the heavy bag in addition to the traditional wall bag. The long pole is another traditional way of developing power, and there are modern methods such as plyometrics and even isometrics, wich Bruce Lee used a lot. It is also possible to modify the wing chun chain punch by incorporating a very quick and short rotation of the waist. You can also incorporate additional footwork from boxing or kick boxing. I believe it is an excellent idea for a serious wing chun sudent to train for six months or more in a boxing gymn. <
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