What is Wing Chun ?
👊 Wing Chun is a Chinese martial art born about three hundred years ago. It is a style of Kung Fu for close combat. It is known for its science of fists. It is a fast, flexible and efficient fighting system. The main basic principles are :
- The simultaneous attack and defense.
- The protection of the central line of the body where the majority of the vital organs are located.
- Taking the center line to have the shortest distance to hit the opponent
- A constant push forward.
- Favouring relaxation over hardness, never fight force against force, execute relaxed techniques.
It spread all over the world during the 20th century thanks to famous practitioners such as Bruce Lee, Ip Man's student.
What are the Origins of Wing Chun ?
The origins of this art are also based on several legends told orally. I am going to tell you the one that I think is the most significant.
We are going to go back to China where we have already done a tour talking about close combat.
🇨🇳 It all begins in 1644, in China, a Chinese general betrays his own and allows the Manchus, a people with nomadic origins, to penetrate the Great Wall. They invade China and commit numerous massacres throughout the country. Thus, they captured the capital and set up the Qing dynasty.
The Shaolin temple attracts the opponents of the Manchus, they learn Kung Fu in it.
Unfortunately the temple is destroyed by the ruling dynasty, five Shaolin masters manage to escape. In this group of martial arts experts, we find a woman, Ng Mui, who according to the legend is a Ming princess. She was sent to this temple to avoid her capture by the Qing.
Ng Mui then goes to Sichuan in the White Crane Temple to develop her Wing Chun art. She was inspired by a fight between a crane and a snake to study their movements.
She realized that the method of fighting was more effective than strength, speed or size. Wing Chun helps physically weak people to fight larger people. It is a style that seeks avoidance and deflection and is quick to learn.
Later, Ng Mui met a tofu merchant. He has a daughter, Yim Wing Chun who is the target of a bandit who wants to force her to marry him. However, she is already promised to Leung Bok-Chao, an enemy of the ruling dynasty.
Ng Mui wants to help Yim and begs the bandit to postpone the wedding for at least 6 months. He agrees, and during this period Ng Mui teaches the girl the martial art that bears his name.
After many months of training, Yim Wing Chun becomes an expert and offers the bandit her hand on condition that he beats her in a fist fight 🥊. He is then humiliated by the efficiency of the girl's art and runs away.
Finally, the story ends well for Wing Chun. She marries Leung, an expert in Kung Fu, but he realizes that his wife's art is far superior to his own. So he learns her fighting style.
After his wife's death, he travels around the country exporting this art, Wing Chun Kuen, in homage to his wife, which means promise for the future.
Principles and Wing Chun Techniques
Wing Chun is based on many essential principles. When attacking or defending, one always protects one's center line.
This line must always be in front of the opponent, while avoiding his. This allows you to attack and defend simultaneously because you are facing a more secure area of the opponent.
It is not necessary to work in force, muscular relaxation is essential. The strength of the blows comes from the structure of the body. It is necessary to privilege the speed and the mass of its body.
It is necessary to focus on deflecting and intercepting attacks rather than blocking them hard. This requires less strength and therefore less fatigue. By deflecting the attacks, the whole body is in motion, which allows to get out of the opponent's central line.
If the enemy has a superior strength, it is necessary to yield intelligently. For example, if he pushes, you should let him do it and not resist. Similarly, if he shoots, you should follow the movement, as this time allows you to move and reorganize.
✋ Finally, it is necessary to use the principle of sticky hands (chi sao). That is to say, to be in contact with one of the arms (or legs) of the opponent by putting pressure on his vertical axis. The information on the intentions of the enemy is done more quickly tactically than visually.
Chi sao is therefore an indispensable exercise to develop one's combat skills. The tactile sensations combined with the relaxation of the body allow the practitioner to execute these techniques naturally at the right moment.
The particularity of this style is that it only includes three taos. There are no spectacular figures as in some styles, but these forms develop the qualities necessary to make a good fighter.
- Siu Nim Tao, the beginning of the small idea: Teaches the control of the center and the cultivation of energy (constant forward thrust).
- Chum Kiu, seeking the bridge: This is the stage where one learns to make contact with the opponent's arms.
- Biu Ji, fingers of trust: This is the study of striking techniques including spikes and elbow strikes.
Siu Nim Tao
The first form is called Siu Nim Tao (小念頭), or "The Little Idea."
It is a static form that teaches the student a stable position and good body structure. It also summarizes the basics of Wing Chun Kung Fu.
The practitioner constantly comes back to it like the pianist to his scales. He favors relaxation, the precision of the angles of the joints and breathing.
Siu Nim Tao allows the student to acquire the postures, the movements, the techniques and the basic combinations. We learn the notion of central line, the notion of time and space.
The second form of Wing Chun Kung Fu is called Chum Kiu (尋橋), or "seeking the bridge" between oneself and the opponent.
It is a form that works on body movement, axes, rotations, and structure of the body in motion, while maintaining its structure. The rhythm of this form is higher than the first form.
At this stage, short distance attacks with the elbows and knees are studied. Chum Kiu focuses on seeking close contact with the opponent, which requires extensive Chi Sau (Sticky Hands) work and is accompanied by internal and psychological development, the chi (or Ki), then manifests and work with closed eyes can begin.
The third form of Wing Tsun Kung Fu is called Biu Jee (鏢指), or "piercing fingers."
The student learns it at a higher level. It includes advanced attack techniques. Its intensity is important: the practitioner can release all his speed and physical condition on this form.
Biu Ji allows the development of attack techniques called "emergency", necessary in close combat, as well as advanced techniques of Chi Sau.
At this stage, the notion of fear must have disappeared in the practitioner.
Mook Jong - The Wooden Dummy
This is a specificity of Wing Chun. The dummy is an integral part of the South Chinese styles.
It cannot replace a training partner but it is a very useful tool to develop different points such as skill, precision, coordination, dexterity, speed and power 💪.
The exact origin of the wooden dummy is not certain. Among other things, it is not confirmed whether the wooden dummy was developed before or after Wing Chun.
The Shaolin temple is the first to refer to it through a legend about the training of the disciples. The disciples had to progress in an alley of dummies and fight each one of them to prove their technical value, some of them being equipped with mechanisms that made them move and could hurt them 🤕.
No real trace of this alley has been found, but the legend persists. However, traces of relatively simple dummies have been found. They were sometimes simple wooden poles driven into the ground, without arms or legs. These were mainly used to strengthen arms and legs.
The first modern dummies with arms and legs were made by the practitioners themselves according to their training needs. However, these were always embedded in the ground and not fixed to the wall.
It also allows to harden the limbs and to develop the reflexes of the upper and lower body.
The design of the dummy gives the practitioner the possibility to hear the sounds and therefore to feel the vibrations according to the blows.
Finally, all forms of taos can be worked on separately.
Luk Dim Boon
The dimensions of the long stick are: 2,65m to 3m (6.56ft - 9.84ft), with a non-homogeneous diameter, going from 4 cm at its base to 2,5 cm (4 - 0.78inches) at its tip.
The practitioner holds the stick with both hands. If we divide the stick in two equal parts, the part from the base to the half is held by the practitioner. The other part, from the half to the tip, is used to deflect the opponent's attacks, and to sting him. The surface of the stick is smooth. It allows the practitioner to slide it in his front hand.
Like many traditional Chinese weapons, the origins of the long stick are very humble. The Nunchaku for example was used to thresh the grain in the farms. The long stick was used by fishermen 🎣 to steer boats in the desired direction, avoiding rocks and other obstacles.
This weapon was integrated into the Wing Chun system during the "Red Opera" period. The "Red Opera" moved from port to port by sea. The boats were manned by singers, dancers and cooks as well as sailors.
The great masters associated with its practice are Wong Wah Bo, a master of Wing Chun, Leung Yee Tai and Leung Lan Kwai, stick practitioners of the "Red Opera", and Master Chi Shin, a monk survivor of the Shaolin temple fire.
Baat Jam Dao or Bart Cham Dao
Butterfly knives, or Baat Jaam Do, are knives about the size of a forearm, with only one sharp side.
It has a slightly rounded guard to protect the hand, reminiscent of the Japanese Sai. This allows it to be turned during an attack and to be used at a very short distance.
Originally, they were created to allow Shaolin monks to train and defend themselves without killing their opponents. Indeed, the Buddhist philosophy and teachings forbade the monks to take a life.
So they created a weapon with few cutting edges in the lower part of the blade to intercept weapons and make non-lethal attacks. They still had the option to cut and pierce with the rest of the blade. They preferred to disarm the enemy rather than kill him.
In addition, the shortness of the blade allowed the weapon to be hidden in the monks' loose sleeves or boots, or under their robes.
⚔️ The practice of butterfly knives uses the same principles of movement as a fighter with bare hands. In Wing Chun, they are considered as an extension of the practitioner's hands.
They allow to deepen the mechanisms of Wing Chun, with some notable additions: the rotation of the blades during a movement, and wider movements.
The Grandmaster Yip Man
Reserved for a handful of people, the teaching of Wing Chun is spread to people outside the lineage thanks to Yip Man.
World famous for having taught the greatest martial arts star Bruce Lee, Yip Man is above all the reference of modern Wing Chun 🥋. Adulated by most for his defense of his art and his willingness to teach all who wish to learn, Yip Man has served and still serves today the cause of Chinese culture.
Portrayed as a Chinese sage or hero, his life is less flamboyant or fearless than the movies suggest. A chaotic life interspersed with periods of prosperity and dictated by the vagaries of the times.
Born in 1893, he is one of the greatest Wing Chun masters.
When he was 10 years old, he started to learn Wing Chun from the old master Chan Wah Shun who was 70 years old. The young yip saved a lot of money to enroll because the classes were very expensive. The old master was impressed by the maturity of the boy.
Unfortunately Chan died three years later but asked one of his first disciples to take special care of Yip Man before his death.
When he was in middle school, at the age of 15, he saved a woman who was being beaten by a policeman by putting him out of action. This impressed the son of Chan's master who invited him to train with him.
Later, he went to the army at the age of 24 and taught his colleagues and friends Wing Chun. They all progressed rapidly and became excellent in this art. This gave Yip Man a very good reputation.
He returned to Hong Kong and due to lack of money for his heavy opium consumption, he opened a martial arts school. His school and his students radiate everywhere in the country, Bruce Lee studies in his school.
💀 Finally Yip Man died in 1972 of throat cancer and left an extremely rich legacy of his art.
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