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Introduction to Wing Chun Kung Fu
Can a smaller person defend themselves against someone bigger and stronger? Many people believe that it is impossible. However, in the martial art called Wing Chun Kung Fu, it has been proven time and time again that it can be done. Why is this?
One reason is that we learn how to use less energy to defend ourselves and then use an opponent's energy against him. Another reason is because Wing Chun uses footwork to move when attacking and defending, creating more possibilities for attacking or defending without using energy.
Wing Chun is not difficult to learn and very quickly you can begin practising techniques and footwork to improve your level. Michael Tse says, "My Sifu, Grandmaster Ip Chun, is only a small man, weighing less than 100 lbs. However, I have seen him do Chi Sau (a way of practising the Wing Chun techniques in training with a partner) with Westerners much bigger and taller than him and every time he easily controls them."
"They always try to use strength against him, but being smaller, he knows that he does not have the same strength to fight back. So he uses his sensitivity to "listen" to his opponent's hands and body movements. In small ways, they will give their intentions away before they have actually committed all of their energy. He can then move or change his position to defend and even change their energy to trap them and attack back. Anyone who sees Grandmaster Ip Chun is impressed by his skill, especially as he is now over eighty years old and still very fit and healthy."
History of Wing Chun
The martial art ’Wing Chun Kuen’ is named after a woman, and its roots go back some 400 years to the Shaolin Temple. At that time the Shaolin Temple was home to some of China’s best martial artists and a refuge for freedom fighters who opposed the ruling Qing Government. Its strength grew and this aroused the concern and fear of the government.
An army was sent to attack the monastery and wipe out the monks. However at first they were unsuccessful, then with the help of some traitors within Shaolin, the temple was finally burnt down. Many of the monks were killed, though among those who survived was the Abbess Ng Mui.
Ng Mui found refuge at the White Crane Temple on Tai Leung Mountain near the Yunnan-Szechuan boarder. In a town near Tai Leung Mountain lived a bean-curd seller called Yim Yee and his young daughter named Yim Wing Chun, and it was whilst selling bean-curd they met and befriended Ng Mui.
Yim Wing Chun was engaged to her love, Leung Bok Chau, but a local bandit wanted her for himself and tried to force her to marry him. Seeing this, Ng Mui took pity on her and so taught her martial arts. After training very hard, Yim Wing Chun fought and defeated the bandit, and thus was free to marry her love.
That is the legend and there is a great deal of debate over its accuracy, but certainly Wing Chun Kuen has become one of the most popular styles of Kung Fu in the world.
To read the story of Wing Chun by Master Tse Click Here.
This widespread popularity can be credited to one person, the late Grandmaster Ip Man. During his younger days, whilst living in Foshan, South China, he became famous for his Wing Chun Kung Fu and was undefeated. He refined and developed Wing Chun, but it was only when he moved to Hong Kong did he begin teaching and spreading his knowledge. Ip Man taught many, the most famous being the film star and martial artist Bruce Lee. Ip Man died in 1972. Since this time his eldest son, Ip Chun, has carried on his father’s teaching.
To read about Master Tse's Wing Chun training in Chinese, Click here
Wing Chun Ancestor Rules
Today martial arts are not gaining a good image in the public eye. Classes are often viewed as violent places full of bullies who learn how to intimidate the vulnerable. This is definately the wrong concept of martial arts.
Training any martial art should make you a better person. Correct training not only makes you healthy, it also makes you happier and nicer to be around. This is the traditional Chinese way and a positive contribution to society as a whole.
Michael Tse says, "My Sifu, Ip Chun, always says that if you want your hands (skill) to be good, then touch a thousand hands. Without doing Chi Sau, our Wing Chun skill cannot be good as we only know the concept and principles of Wing Chun but do not know how to put them into practise. My students start learning Chi Sau within their first few lessons. They also learn how to interact as part of the class itself because to know how to behave with brothers and sisters, juniors and seniors is part of learning any traditional martial art skill. Wing Chun actually has nine ancestor instructors for how to behave and be a good person and martial artist."
"If you visit my Sifu, Grandmaster Ip Chun's school, you will see a marble plaque hanging on the wall with these inscribed in Chinese. These instructions help give us a guideline to be a good student, a good teacher and a good person because in order to be a good martial artist we need not only to have just good skill but a good heart."
Wing Chun Ancestor Rules
Be disciplined and respect the Wu De (Martial Art morals)
Understand courtesy and loyalty. Love your country and respect your parents.
Love your Kung Fu brothers and sisters. Unite and enjoy to be a group.
Control your passion (including sex). Protect your Jing (spirit).
Practise the skill regularly. Keep the skill with you at all times.
Nourish your Qi. Confrontations and fighting are forbidden.
Be gentle to handle any events and situations.
Protect the weak and small. Use your martial art skill in the good way with integrity.
Carry on our ancestors' path. Strictly follow their instructions.
What Will I Learn In Class?
Forms and Chi Sau
When we learn Wing Chun, we begin by learning the form Siu Lim Tao which helps train our stance and internal energy. It is also like a meditation as we perform it very slowly and so the mind becomes calm and clear. When the mind is calm, then we will not be afraid in a fighting situation.
Michael Tse trains his Wing Chun students in the traditional way and so the forms are very important. Each of Wing Chun's three basic forms have their own principles and purpose to help the student become proficient. To neglect the forms means you neglect a very important part of the Wing Chun training. He says, "All Wing Chun's forms are important but it is like building a house. First you build your foundation, which is like Siu Lim Tao form and then you build your walls and roof, which is like Tsum Kiu and Biu Ji forms. The Wooden Dummy, Baat Jam Dao and pole training are the decorations. However, without a wall, how can you hang a picture?"
The next part of training is the actual practise of the techniques and their applications. Michael Tse says, "These techniques should become like your friend and be very familiar to you. We do this through Chi Sau (Sticking Hands training between two people.) In this way, when you do Chi Sau, you will not be frightened. Chi Sau also helps train your sensitivity and footwork. Without any one of these elements, then your Wing Chun skill will not be good."
Wing Chun also has two weapon forms:- the Wing Chun Pole (Luhk Dim Bun Kwan) and Baat Jam Do (Butterfly Knives). The Wing Chun pole form has only six and a half movements and so it is not difficult to learn, but it is much harder to practise than learn as it is very strong training for the arms and legs. Michael Tse says, "If we do not have strong legs, we will not have a strong punch no matter how much other training one tries to do, like lifting weights or using a punching bag."
"Our legs are our root and it is where our power comes from. If the roots of a tree are not strong, then any high wind can knock it down or cause damage. Wing Chun considers leg training through the form Siu Lim Tao and also through the Wooden Pole training. That is why in all traditional Chinese martial art skill, leg training comes first."
The Baat Jam Do (Eight Section Knife) is more complex and uses techniques found in the first forms and Chi Sau. It helps train footwork and develop arm strength and joint flexibility. It also develops correct use of energy and coordination.
Wooden Dummy - Muk Yan Jong
The Muk Yan Jong (Wooden Dummy) was used in traditional training when one did not have an opponent. It has a six section form which develops all the Wing Chun skill plus kicking. Michael Tse says, "Many people attack the dummy aggressively but this actually defeats the purpose of the training. By working with the dummy, we can refine our footwork and body position for attacking. Because it does not move, it allows us to check whether our attacks are accurate. An inaccurate strike will miss the dummy and in a fighting situation, potentially an opponent."
High Level Skill
Wing Chun is a very complete skill. It is very clever in that it uses less energy to defeat stronger energy. Grandmaster Ip Chun says, "The highest level martial art skill is the one that uses the least amount of energy to defeat an opponent."
Wing Chun skill is a martial art that you can practise for life and is not for just the very young or strong. With proper practise, you will become healthier and more balanced and will understand the true nature of learning a traditional Chinese martial art.
Michael Tse says, "When a person begins to apply the Wing Chun principles to his life, this is the higher level of Wing Chun training. For instance, if we are trying to call a friend on the telephone but the first friend we call is not there and then also the second friend and third, then we know that the energy is not right and so we can stop and wait for later when the time is right. It is the same if we keep trying to attack someone but cannot do so in a clean way. Instead of trying to force our way through our opponent's defence using strength, we should wait until we can create an opening and then attack. Otherwise we will waste our energy and go against the Wing Chun principle."