WING CHUN BRANCHES AND OFFSHOOTS
In recent years, A number of interesting new styles have been created which I consider to be offshoots of Wing Chun, which I wanted to look at and discuss.
First of all, because Wing Chun is an evolving art, it is difficult to draw the line as to when changes and evolutions have modified the art so much that it can be considered an actual offshoot of wing chun rather than just a wing chun style with a slightly different lineage, or when there is a new art which is so different that it can non longer be considered to be Wing Chun at all.
I recognize that in addition to lineages derived from Yip Man, there are other much lesser known lineages that came from mainland China, and not from Hong Kong. I know almost nothing about these, and thus I didn’t consider them. These styles include the Buddha Hand style, and even Weng Chun, which is a very old style only seen in mainland china. Parenthetically, there is some evidence that Yip Man practiced a very different Wing Chun when he lived in Fashan, than when he moved to Honk Kong.
Additionally, practically all of the students of Grand Master Yip Man who became heads of their own lineages, made some type of modifications to the Wing Chun they learned from him. The most traditional of all the famous direct students of Ip Man was undoubtedly Moy Yat, who, like Yip Man, preferred to dress in the traditional Chinese costumes, rather than western clothes. Most of the other famous masters considered their modifications to be more like interpretations, and not changes.
Ip Man Wing Chun branches which I don’t consider as offshoots
I considered the Leung Ting version as a possible offshoot, but upon further consideration, even though Leung Ting made some significant changes to the footwork, stance, and pivoting, and changed the delivery of the basic front kick, he still kept all of the fundamental principles and concepts, and his wing tsun is still similar enough to other lineages that it is hard to tell them apart, unless you have actually studied his lineage.
A stronger case could be made for the European version of Leung Ting’s Wing Tsun, which is led by Sifu Keith Kernspecht. While the European version uses the same forms and sections of the Hong Kong version, the training methods are very different and Kernshpecht himself, in recent years, has added upper body evasive movements which do not look like wing chun at all. But for the most part, I do not see his students incorporating these movements.
I also considered whether or not Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do could be considered to be an offshoot. However, jeet kune do is made up, for the most part, out of only one third wing chun, with one third western boxing, and one third the principles and some of the footwork of fencing, along with some kicking techniques borrowed from many other arts.
Furthermore, at the end of his life, Bruce Lee de-emphasized and greatly simplified the Wing Chun portion of Jeet Kune Do, which started to resemble kick boxing more and more. I would consider jeet kune do to be essentially a very different art than wing chun.
Ip Man students who created offshoot branches
Within the Yip Man lineages, I know that most of the teachers from different generations had differences in the forms. The differences were least pronounced in the first form, Siu Nim Tau, or “little idea”, and became more pronounced in the more advanced forms like Biu Tze and the Muk Yan Jong (wooden dummy).
Interestingly, while the beginning sections of the dummy look fairly similar between schools of the same lineage, the later sections generally do not. When it comes to the butterfly knives, the forms from different schools are all over the place.
Victor Gutierrez (as seen in the video above) was a Leung Ting master who was put in charge of all the WT schools in Spain. He was quite successful in growing the schools, however he taught a version of Wing Chun that emphasized circular strikes, including hook punches, hammer fists, and circular elbow strikes, even though Wing Chun emphasizes straight line punches and strikes.
However, as far as I can see, in all other respects he stuck to the Leung Ting version of Wing Chun. Eventually Sifu Gutierrez quit Leung Ting’s association and formed his own.
His style seems quite legit to me, although Gutierrez is a very powerfully built man who had trained many years in the Leung Ting lineage, and perhaps he “makes the style look good”.
His former schools seem to have been taken over by senior student Salvador Sanchez, who is no longer affiliated with the EWTO or Leung Ting organizations. His wing tsun is heavily influenced by Gutierrez.
Heinrich Pfaff was another Leung Ting master who was extremely talented and athletic. After many years in the Leung Ting organization he created his own art, which he called “Wing Tai”. It appears to be mostly a mixture of wing chun with all of the elbow strikes of Muay Thai, as well as some other movements which look, to my eye, somewhat peculiar.
He partnered with another long time Leung Ting instructor, Mark Stas, who demonstrates, in the video above, how to use wing chun sensitivity to counter an opponent who is trying to use the Muay Thai clinch against him. Stas eventually broke away from Wing Tai and is teaching “wing flow”, which to me looks pretty much identical to Wing Tai.
Finally, Wan Kam Leung (shown in video directly above, as well as in the first video on the page) who was the first student of the famous grandmaster Wong Shun Leung, created “Practical Wing Chun”. He does not call it a separate style or offshoot, instead just claiming that he made some minor changes to make his wing chun more practical.
However his practical wing chun ctually made radical changes to the basic stance, the punch, and even the bong sao technique. He changed the signature pigeon toe stance to a parallel stance, the basic vertical punch to a 45 degree punch that looks a little like an uppercut, and does his bong sao without raising his elbow. I feel that these changes are so significant that his art is best considered as an offshoot.
There was also a rumor (unconfirmed), that Wan Kam Leung, modified his wing chun to include techniques from Southern Mantis, however he has denied this.
By the way, I do not consider his offshoot, or for that matter the other two offshoot styles discussed here, to be inferior to the main lineages of wing Chun. Wan Kam Leung, in particular, I consider to be one of the most skilled and innovative Wing Chun masters alive today.
If you are a Wing Chun practitioner who is looking to improve his art, you can get a lot of tips just by studying his video, posted above. Notice how he always punches over his partner’s bridge arm, allowing him to control it, and how he times his partner’s attacks, so that he can redirect them away while still covering the opponent’s arms with one of his own.