by Hung Y. Chow
This article is written for people who have heard about Wing Chun, and are curious as to what Wing Chun is about. There are many books and articles in the martial arts magazines talking about the principles and techniques of how the Wing Chun system works. But I haven’t seen anyone who can learn the art successfully through books. It has to be taught personally and passed through hand-to-hand contact, from one generation to the next. For example, when an untrained person looks at the Wing Chun first form (Siu-Lin-Tau), it would be extremely difficult to figure out how it works without step-by-step explanation, without interactive communication.
Whatever you do in Wing Chun, forms or sticky hand or working on the wooden dummy, if you do the movement right it should be easy. Once is enough and you should get results from the movement. Otherwise if you do it wrong it will be hard even if you do it a hundred times. It’s only wasting time and effort and won’t work very often. Certainly it won’t get the results you expected. That is simple and everybody knows it. The real question is, how do I know I am doing it right or wrong before it’s too late? Different Sifu learn differently, so they teach differently, even if only the minor details.
Let’s start from when you decide what style of martial art you want to learn. Remember you are in a shopping mode. If you want to protect yourself, carrying a concealed weapon may do a better job. Maybe not. First ask yourself why you want to learn Kung-Fu, or Karate. You have to find out what you are looking for. There is some homework you have to do to help you make up your mind. Sometimes your choice is based on the name of the art, or a recommendation by a friend. Does the white uniform with black belt or fancy athletic movements attract you? Eventually you may get some trophy from a tournament, or just real survival fighting skills. How much do you know about the principles and the philosophy? Are they something you can agree with, believe and follow through? Will it fit your personality? What is the strange culture you are going to get into? What is the background and quality of the instructor, etc? When you learn a martial art, you also learn its view of the principles of life, self control, discipline, confidence, etc.
You have to make a decision, “Is Wing Chun the right style worth learning?” I assume you have made up your mind to learn and practice Wing Chun, because you continue to read this. Let’s understand it and find the easy way to do it. Practicing Wing Chun should be relaxing and fun, otherwise you won’t fully enjoy and love it.
We all should know that the Wing Chun system is based on the Yin-Yan theory, the permanent structure of the universe. The two extreme opposite elements coexist. Let’s make it simple to understand: in our daily lives we know we have day and night, cold and hot, life and death, male and female, etc. If we draw a line we can make a comparison between positive and negative, major and minor, strong and weak. Without a middle line how strong is strong, how weak is weak? Does 10 lbs of weight belong to heavy or light. It seems a debatable question, but it is not. If you look at it in another way, how much is 100 lbs, or just 1 lb., the answer will be simple and quick. As another example: when we breathe we inhale and exhale; if we only do it one way, how long will it last? If we understand from this point, we can concentrate on how to put the meaning of (Yin and Yan) into a practical way of doing positive and negative, major and minor, on and off, open and close, get in and get out, forward and backward, turning left and right, etc, and how it applies to the forms, the sticky hand, wooden dummy techniques, etc. There are many small details like balance, center line, sensitive feeling, movement, on and off power, relaxation and creating tension, etc. These are the main factors which make the system work well.
When we do any one of the Wing Chun forms, there are a few things we need to pay attention to. (I’m not going to describe the form movements here, because it would take thousands of words to explain the action, and would only confuse you). The following suggestions are important and, I hope, will help the Wing Chun participant take maximum advantage.
Body and Position
The purpose of the stance is to protect our invisible centerline between left and right, upper and lower. We must remember to keep our body’s center of gravity low and within our body limit, and to keep our body weight supported by our feet, with the major portion on the heel. The heel is used primarily to turn. Focus on the centerline. Always occupy the centerline. Remember, a straight line is the shortest distance between two points.
Turning is very simple, but it is the most important thing in the system. Without the ability to turn naturally, you can’t even claim you know Wing Chun. We use turning as a basic movement, or use it to move forward or backward (Wing Chun movements do not go straight forward or backward). As a matter of fact, when we do sticky hands, we need the turning to do the Bong Sao or Tan Sao. There is an old saying: “Square body, no Bong Sao”, which means that when the body is square to the opponent, you cannot roll your hand into the Bong or Tan position.
Power and Relaxation
We have to know when and how to use power. Most important is to try to create power from our mind, not from our muscles. That means we control our muscles, not the other way around. When we generate power in live form, live power can change or disappear and adjust accordingly. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean how strong or weak the force is–I mean whether the power is alive or dead. Have sensitivity in the hands to determine whether the incoming force is alive or dead, and respond accordingly. This means power is concentrated and passed to the target in certain directions. So when the hand meets incoming force, it allows a certain amount of tension and should respond in a fraction of a second. That is the purpose of the sticky hand exercise. Try to relax at all times. Pass incoming force instead of resisting it. It has nothing to do with soft or hard. For example, don’t waste time to stop and hold a speeding arrow coming at you, but rather do the turning and move yourself away as a target.
By now you might start getting some idea of, but don’t quite understand, the whole thing. That is a normal, expected situation. In the future, we will continue to discuss more details about Wing Chun at an advanced level. Be patient with yourself. Time and dedication will help you in doing a great art successfully.