So, what is training Wing Chun in Hong Kong really like? First of all, more than any other place in the world, Hong Kong probably has the most variety of Wing Chun styles and lineages. More variety does not necessarily equate to better quality, but I did find one school that was simply amazing. In this last part, I’ll describe the class structure at the schools I visited, what the training was like, my thoughts on particular schools where I received training, and the one school that stood out among the others I visited.
At the Ving Tsun Athletic Association, there are multiple classes going on at different times taught by different Sifus. There is a schedule just outside the door with a listing of all the Sifus and the times they teach. Some of the notable Sifus that teach here include both of the sons of Ip Man, Ip Chun and Ip Ching, and also Siu Yuk Men, one of Ip Man’s first students. Of course, there are many other Wing Chun schools all over Hong Kong and I did not have the opportunity to visit them all, but I was able to visit 7 different schools. So, what is Wing Chun in Hong Kong like?
In this article, I hope to share my experience of training Wing Chun in Hong Kong, answer common questions about visiting and training Wing Chun in Hong Kong, and hopefully assist you if you ever plan to make the trip yourself one day. This article is broken down into three sections. The first is an overview of staying, traveling, eating around Hong Kong, and directions to the VTAA. The second section discusses visiting schools in Hong Kong, what to look out for, and my experiences at 4 of the schools I visited in Hong Kong. The third section discusses what training is like in Hong Kong, how the classes are structures, how it may be different or similar your school, and my training experiences at 3 of the schools I visited in Hong Kong. In each section, I will refer to each school I visited by name. It is not my intention to offend anyone, any lineage, or any school. I hope to share my experiences from an un-biased view point. So, please do not take offense. Part 1 begins now…
Recently, many Wing Chun schools have admirably sought to fight with Wing Chun in the realm of combat sports, particularly, mixed martial arts (MMA). However, when they get in the ring or cage to fight, they use very few Wing Chun techniques, but instead use techniques from Boxing or Muay Thai, but still call it Wing Chun. Are they right? There is sharp disagreement in the Wing Chun Community as to what defines Wing Chun in MMA. This article will likely offend some. I apologize for that and please don’t be offended as this is just the opinion of one person. However, when you see karate stylist in MMA like Lyoto Machida, Kyoji Horiguchi, or Stephen Thompson, their karate is obviously seen in the techniques they use. When you take Wing Chun out of the school and into the cage what does it look like? Should it still look like Wing Chun?
So, let’s say you’re new to Wing Chun or you’re in the market to study at a school near you, how do you know you’ve found the right school? What are some characteristics and qualities you should look for in a Wing Chun School? Here are some things to look for.
This seems to be the age old battle at least in the Wing Chun world. The last two Ip Man movies feature the final battle between Ip Man and a boxer. This is also the topic of numerous forums and Youtube videos. Here’s an objective take on this never ending debate.
What is Wing Chun Fighting? To answer that question, let’s first examine a related question, “Who are Wing Chun Fighters?” Wing Chun Fighters are a subset, a growing movement in the Wing Chun Community that seek to apply their skills not just in the classroom, but through combat, whether street fighting, sparring, combat sports, and most importantly, through how they live their life.
"If people say Jeet Kune Do is different from this or from that, then let the name of Jeet Kune Do be wiped out, for that is what it is, just a name. Please don't fuss over it." In the process of studying both Wing Chun and Jeet Kune Do, I find that most prospective students consider the name of the art as more important than the art itself.
I heard a joke recently that went something like this: “How many Wing Chun practitioners does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is 100. 1 to change the light bulb, and 99 to tell them that they didn’t use Wing Chun to do it.” It’s funny, but sadly this is all too often the case with martial art practitioners that are heavily based in theory, but lack application. So, what is Wing Chun fighting?
Broadly speaking, why do so many wing chun practitioners we see online appear to be ineffective and frankly incompetent when attempting to spar or fight?
“Before I studied the art, a punch to me was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity; the ability to express the utmost with the minimum… a sophisticated fighting style stripped to its essentials.”
If you’ve trained Wing Chun for a while, you may have tried your hand at sparring or fighting with Wing Chun. How do you build confidence in the techniques you’ve learned? You drill and drill the Wing Chun techniques every class, but when you go to spar, what happens ? The techniques you drilled don't come out, you can't do them, or if you do them, they don't work the way they did in the drill. Here, I'll explain why.
There are an infinite number of approaches to Chi Sao. As you play Chi Sao with more people from different lineages, you’ll notice quite a bit of variety in strategy, implementation of principles, and energy. Here, I’d like to discuss some basic strategies for advanced Chi Sao. Specifically, these are observations I’ve noticed between novice and experienced Chi Sao players.
While Wing Chun versus Boxing is a popular subject at least in the Wing Chun community, the truth of the matter is Boxing is not opposed to Wing Chun. There is no rule that says Wing Chun practitioners cannot compete in Boxing, Kickboxing, or MMA. The problem is we chose not to compete in these arenas. The principles of Wing Chun Fighting can be applied in a street fight, in sparring, in MMA, in Kickboxing, and even in Boxing. Wing Chun Boxing is the science of Wing Chun applied in the sport of Boxing.
A few years ago, I visited with Sifu Pete Pajil (Moy Bah Hugh) of the Moy Yat lineage of Ving Tsun (Wing Chun) Kung Fu. I sat down with him to introduce myself and learn about his Ving Tsun. He greatly impressed me with his wisdom and overall demeanor. He struck me as a man of a calm and gentle nature, one who embodied the spirit of Moy Yat Ving Tsun Kung Fu. One of the tidbits of advice he gave me on my Ving Tsun journey was Sao Poh Lei (I’m sure I’m misquoting the Cantonese), but the translation he told me was this: “Learn how to obey, learn how to learn, then throw it all away.” So, what I’d like to discuss here is parts 2 and 3 of this quote.
Many Wing Chun schools speed hours and hours each week just doing Chi Sao, but how do you apply your skill in Chi Sao to actual fighting? In my opinion, the purpose of any striking combative art is to teach one to hit more and get hit less. Bruce Lee developed Jeet Kune Do because he discovered that if he could intercept his opponent’s movements, then not only would he hit his opponent, he would also nullify his opponent’s attack. Thus, hitting without getting hit. However, none of us cannot read our opponents’ every move and intercept them especially if they are trained fighters. We are lucky if we can intercept 20% of our opponent’s attacks. So, how can we use Chi Sao to raise that percentage? How can we apply Chi Sao in a real fight in order to hit and not get hit with greater accuracy?
How do we bridge the gap between Chi Sao and actual fighting? In Chi Sao, both arms are connected or bridged. In a fight, however, we’re seeking a bridge, but typically will never bridge both arms simultaneous and stay there as in Chi Sao. At best, we can bridge one arm and only for a split second, while the opponent prepares to blast us with his unbridged free hand. Wing Chun trains for the bridging of the arms, but what do we do with the unknown? How do we handle both arms simultaneous with only a bridge with one?
In Wing Chun, we move to an angle by using triangle footwork. This is covered in a previously written article, but triangle footwork is simply stepping off the line of attack to the right or left, then circling your other foot in at the angle. So, if your feet were squared as in Yi Jee Kim Yeung Ma for example, then your two feet would form the base of the triangle on the floor. You step one foot outside of the triangle and to the side. Your other foot moves to the top of the triangle, while the initial stepping foot returns to its original corner. Of course, there are variations to this and depending on the situation, you will step differently. Triangle stepping allows you to avoid a straight line attack while also taking an angle to hit your opponent and follow up. How does this work?
The classic Wing Chun training stance is called Yi Gee Kim Yeung Ma, most commonly translated as “Squeezing the Goat Stance.” The feet are pointed inward, the knees also are pointed inward and slightly bent, the hips are forward, and the shoulders are slouched and relaxed. Why do we stand like this? What’s the purpose?
Ying Da Juck Da, But Ying Da, But Ho Da loosely translated means: “Strike when you should, Do not strike when you should not” (Wing Chun Archives. http://www.wcarchive.com/articles/maxims-kuen-kuit.htm). So, this begs the question, “When should you strike?”
To recap, the Eight Frames of Attack seek to assist the fighter in knowing when to strike. With the rise of mixed martial arts, many fighters, including Wing Chun practitioners, are studying multiple arts. The difficulty comes in knowing when to apply what you have learned.
Often in a fight, the one who controls the distance controls the fight. You see it all the time in mixed martial arts fights. The grappler who can get in close will often defeat the striker trying to stay on the outside. Likewise, the striker who can maintain a long range distance will often defeat the grappler who must get in close to set up his offense. The bottom line is it all comes down to how you use your footwork.
In most of the Wing Chun fights I’ve seen, the Wing Chun fighter tends to almost exclusively use the chain punches with rarely any other form of attack. Typically, it’ll be a combination of the chain punch and a front kick. Besides these two attacks, there is no variety in the arsenal of the Wing Chun fighter. Why not? Does Wing Chun punching only consist of chain punching or the straight punch? Or are there other options? Here, I explore the wide range of options.
Probably the most underused attacks among Wing Chun practitioners are the Wing Chun kicks. Although Wing Chun is known as a close range art with emphasis on hand trapping techniques, Wing Chun has devastating kicks. In fact, since Wing Chun utilizes short range trapping and punching, kicking will be your primary weapon and strongest weapon from medium to long range. Here we explore a few of the most common kicks used in Wing Chun and how to use them.
The Jeet Kune Do concept of intercepting has roots in Wing Chun Kung Fu. From the proper distance, it’s easier to see an attack coming and to perhaps intercept. However, how do you intercept or deal with an attack when you’re not at the proper distance? At the proper distance, you have time to (1) see the attack, (2) recognize it, (3) identify how to deal with it, and (4) to do so before it reaches you. However, when you are too close, there is no time. Which step in the process do you cut out to avoid getting hit?
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