just another Wing Chun blog

Sifu Said …

Random notes taken over several years
During classes taught by Sifu Chow Hung-Yuen
Compiled and edited by Dan Lucas

Other styles tell you what to think. In Wing Chun we teach you how to think. There’s a big difference.

Open your eyes and you can see further. I can’t see it for you. I can only open the window; you have to do the looking. I say one, you say one. I say two, and you say two. That’s not the way to learn. I give you68542f45353ed2f5ac94a3eaf5d3679e the basics, you have to make three yourself. Nothing was explained to us when I learned, we just learned by doing. After a while we learned for ourselves what worked and what didn’t. I learned, for instance, after struggling to resist for so long, that it doesn’t work to resist. So I gave it up and tried to let go instead.

In the beginning don’t try to learn too much at one time. If you eat too much, its bad for your digestion.

Instead of trying to exploit your opponent’s mistakes, it’s better in the beginning to see you’re not making any of your own. If your foundation is not solid, the higher the building the more dangerous it becomes. The same is true with the martial arts. If your basics are not good, the higher your level of skill the more critical it becomes. The better your foundation, the stronger it is, the higher you can build on it.

For other styles, contact is the end. For Wing Chun, contact is just the beginning. Chi Sao is training for sensitivity. After class you can do the Bong Sao by yourself a hundred times, but if you can’t use it in the right way, what good is it? If you do it right, once is enough. If you do it wrong, a hundred times won’t help.

When styles rely on strength, there’s a limit to strength. As you get older your strength naturally declines. Wing Chun relies on letting go, and there’s no limit to letting go. As you get older you can also improve. It’s not whether or not to use power, but how to use it. It’s not whether or not to spend money, but how to spend it. Make every penny count.

Wing Chun isn’t a hard style or a soft style, it’s both. I don’t resist force, or meet force with force and so it’s a soft style. But when there’s an opening I use all the force I have, and so it’s a hard style too. Greater strength is a natural advantage. It’s also a disadvantage if you can’t let go of it when you need to. Strong people naturally rely on their strength and are unwilling to let it go, and so have a hard time learning Wing Chun. Are you more powerful than a car? If a car comes at you, you don’t try to hold it back – you get out of the way. Your real enemy isn’t your opponent; it’s you. Your natural reaction is to tense up when attacked, so train to replace this natural reaction with new ones. If you compare power with your opponent, you’ll eventually find someone stronger than you. I don’t care how big or how strong you are because I don’t resist you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a car or a train, I just get out of the way. How can you hit me if you can’t find my center? If you touch a spinning ball it sends you off in one direction or another.

When you aim at me I can’t move your aim, but I can move your target. When you change your aim I move the target again. But I always aim at you. If we run a race and you’re faster than me I don’t have much chance of beating you. But if I choose the direction I’ll always have a headstart.

Redirecting force is like opening a door. First I have to know which way the door opens. I don’t want to push sideways if the door opens up and down. I try one direction, if it doesn’t work I try another. Keep moving, like flowing water. If I stop, I give you the chance to use your strength against me. Instead I redirect any strength you have by moving with it. Don’t start something, then wait till tomorrow to come back and finish it. Keep moving; take action. Don’t stop to think about your next move; it may be too late.

The secret isn’t in the technique, but in the situation. More techniques don’t make you a master, it’s how you apply them. Each situation differs and nothing stays the same for long. Learn the principles and how they apply to one technique, rather than a new technique for every change or situation.

Wing Chun theory is firmly based in Yin and Yang. This can mean turning power on or off in one arm, but more usually means one arm is Yin while the other is Yang. It’s like breathing in and out, you can’t do both at once. Yin and Yang doesn’t mean I attack either hard or soft. It means that in any situation you or I will be stronger or weaker, changing with the situation. I constantly test you to find weaknesses to exploit or strengths to avoid. If one hand is heavy and the other light, don’t fight with the heavy hand. Attack the light one instead. If there are two doors, one hard to push and one easy to push, why not go through the one that’s easy to open? Chinese philosophy is based on harmony and balance. When you are positive I am negative. When you become negative I switch to positive. I don’t mean that I think about it. It has to come naturally through the movements.

Magic is only tricks, not really magic. There’s nothing secret, no magic, in Wing Chun. You only have to learn the tricks. Like the old Chinese saying about picking up a rock and hitting yourself with it: for instance, nobody traps your hands against each other, you allow them to be trapped. You offer them to be trapped.

I don’t know how dumb the fish is, or how strong; I just throw out the bait and see if it takes it. Of course I shouldn’t go fishing unless I know I’m skillful enough to reel one in.

I don’t move unless I have to. And if I move, I move as little as possible. For instance a punch on center defends as well as attacks. I keep my elbows on center and attack on center to make it difficult for you to take or use the center, and force you to go the long way around. A circular attack like a roundhouse punch is just an attack, but is in no way a defense. And I don’t have to get in on every opening. Sometimes it’s better to let one go by to set up for another. Put together the right ingredients and you’ll make a fine supper. In other words, if I set you up in the right way, it’ll be easy to finish you off.

Either make the right move, or make the move that’s right for you. Sometimes just being in the right position isn’t enough. What really matters is pressure: the pressure you apply and the pressure applied against you. When you’re in the right position but apply pressure in the wrong direction, I can take advantage of it and your position won’t matter. Good contact means the right amount of pressure at the right spot going in the right direction. Wing Chun is not for display or for competition. A bystander can’t see it, but you and I can feel it. That’s why we can practice blindfolded or in the dark, because it’s something you have to feel and not see. With your eyes open and in bright daylight, practice as though blindfolded and depend on what you feel rather than what you see.

The worst thing for you is if I know what your next move will be. In chess if I know your next move and the move after that, how can you win? So in fighting I put you into a position where you have to respond in a certain way. Then, by sticking with you, I know where you’re going and what you’re doing. When I’m dealt a hand in poker, of course I know what’s in my hand. If I know what’s in your hand too, I have a much better chance of winning. You may still have a better hand than me but at least I have more options. When I have contact with you I can sense your movement and so have a better chance.

And always remember that it doesn’t matter how good you are. What matters is how good you can become


Let’s Learn and Do Wing Chun the Easy Way

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 ip-man-wing-chunprinciples 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.

The Principle

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.

The Form

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.


The Centerline Theory of Wing Chun (technical notes)

by Ray Van Raamsdonk


  • The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
  • If you are face to face with an opponent, the shortest distance to the opponent is a straight-line path from your center to the opponent’s center.
  • If you put your palm toward your opponent’s vertical axis you occupy the center line. Two physical objects can’t occupy the center at the same space at the same time. So if one person occupies the centerline the other person doesn’t. If a straight-line punch comes toward your face and you stick your hand in the center then that punch will be deflected away from the centerline.
  • There is a vertical centerline which runs parallel to the vertical central axis of the body. There is also a horizontal centerline which runs from your vertical centerline to the opponent’s vertical centerline (if you are facing your opponent).
  • In Wing Chun we try to always face our opponent’s central axis. We don’t let the opponent get to our side. This is called proper facing. In a fight we can’t always maintain this facing, so then we are in recovery mode to get back to that way of facing.
  • When face to face with arms in contact, we have a saying that noone takes our arms off the centerline. If you point towards the opponent’s central axis and they push or deflect your hand (arm) away from the centerline, then you are in recovery mode and return back to the centerline just like when pushing on a springy twig or pushing on a ball floating in water.
  • When an opponent’s arms drift off the centerline, they have a structural weakness in their defense. A hole is created and they’ll be hit because a straight-line attack will come in so fast there won’t be enough time to recover from such a mistake. If the opponent’s arm disengages, we hit straight forward, along the shortest distance path, since that would be our best chance against an opponent with a slight timing advantage from moving first.
  • When you have a perfect center position, as taught in sticking hands, it’s difficult for an opponent to penetrate this position with any kind of attack.
  • If an opponent disengages to do a circular hit, he’ll be hit first with a straight-line hit.
  • If an opponent tries to grab, he’ll cross himself and be trapped.
  • If an opponent uses brute strength to break down the center, he’ll be stiff and can be pushed, pulled, jerked or easily unbalanced. The other option is that the opponent’s strength will encounter emptiness from your relaxed, soft feeling. Or when their hard force comes we pivot or shift so the hard force is redirected. The opponent will face the wrong way and we will point at their central axis.
  • If an opponent attempts to kick, this attempt can be felt in the hands and a pushing/pulling force or stepping in will unbalance them. (Note: however, Kenneth Chung showed how he can kick with no signals given.)
  • If an opponent retreats we chase in such a way that arm contact is maintained. Once in contact it’s difficult to shake off a person with good sticking skills without destroying your own good center position.
  • In sticking hands/rolling hands we try to detect when the opponent has deviated from the centerline position. As soon as this deviation occurs we hit. When an opponent’s centerline position is good, we may try to destroy that good position with a variety of pushing, pulling, jerking tactics, but these create defects in our own defense which can be taken advantage of. A beginner is too slow to react and can’t accurately sense centerline mistakes, so anything works against them.
  • Some Wing Chun people try to blast their way through the center, which works well against an inferior opponent. Against an advanced opponent he will either be counter-blasted, if the opponent is stronger, or more ideally will encounter sudden emptiness and be hit.
  • Since we are human, mistakes are made, so we lose because of thousands of kinds of mistakes. Mistakes include:
    • unstable stance
    • off center to the left
    • off center to the right
    • hands too high
    • hands too low
    • hands too stiff
    • hands too soft
    • not sensitive
    • slow reactions
    • contact between the arms too loose

    These mistakes and hundreds more are studied so they can be countered instantly.

  • When two people are in double-arm contact, nearly everything can be defended by maintaining a good stance and smothering the opponent’s attacks by sticking to their arms. However, when the opponent goes off the centerline we don’t stick, but attack in a straight line or else we’ll be open to attack. The idea is not to stick with and chase arms wherever they may go.
  • The first form of Wing Chun teaches ideal positioning. The positions taught in the first form are mathematical ideal positions or structures, when you are face to face with an opponent. Since we are all built differently, we can only approach these ideal concepts and have to compensate in other ways if we can’t physically apply the math concept. E.g. if you aren’t flexible enough to keep the elbows on the centers you can compensate by being more sensitive with the hands or forearms, or by shifting more.
  • When our force limits have been exceeded then body shifting is used to redirect the force. So ideally, we either stay put, shift (turn) or step forward. In reality we sometimes have to back up or even duck. The second form of Wing Chun teaches the mechanics required to coordinate the hands with the feet. This means we learn when to turn or advance depending on what we feel.
  • In real fighting nothing is ideal. Our good mathematical centerline positions may be totally destroyed. An opponent may have our elbow pushed off to the side, or grabbed us or have us bent over, or pinned us to a wall, or there’s not one opponent to face but several. In this case your perfect center-facing position against a single opponent has been lost and you are therefore in recovery mode to regain a good position. The third form of Wing Chun teaches how to regain the centerline or how to get back into a good position as taught in the first and second forms or dummy forms. Because of this it makes no sense to learn the third form of Wing Chun before having mastered the others. How will you know what position to recover to if you don’t understand the subject of positions and structures?
  • The wooden dummy is a device which forces you to have correct position because the arms of the dummy are in fixed locations. So the wooden dummy is like a teacher who forces you to have correct angles. The wooden dummy is used for secondary reasons to enhance speed, power and to condition the arms. It also doesn’t make much sense to study the dummy before having learned the first form, because you won’t understand what a correct position is. And the wooden dummy movements can’t be applied without an understanding and adeptness in sticking hands skills.
  • In Wing Chun we try to gain a correct position based on centerline concepts. From hundreds of hours of rolling hands (Poon sau) practice we can detect when an opponent’s position is off. We must be relaxed and sensitive to detect these things, then we must have the timing to attack with speed and power.
  • When close range skills are mastered there is no fear of arm contact with an opponent. After that, total concentration can be given to how to make contact with the opponent. This involves the study of structure and entry methods, and most of all, timing. The second form of Wing Chun, the wooden dummy and free style sparring teach how to enter properly so the sticking hands skills of Wing Chun can be applied.
  • From a few simple concepts, such as “the shortest distance between two points is a straight-line” and the concept of economy, quite an elaborate art has evolved.
  • Someone knowing the ideas behind Wing Chun can create counter-concepts just as in Chess, where some players occupy the center and others try to destroy it from the flanks. This is part of the fun, to outwit each other. However, once in contact there is not much room for error, not much time to change from this move to that move.
  • Many if not all of the center control theories of chess also apply to Wing Chun. Fencing does not use the concept of placing something in the center or they will get beat fast (another discussion). Some other Chinese styles think like fencing people and tend to sweep attacks aside from one corner of the four quadrants instead of from the center position. Using two arms instead of having one fencing foil changes the rules of the game.

These are just a few quick thoughts which are in no way a complete or hole-proof theory. Another topic not discussed is the location of hitting targets along the vertical center line. Also, in fact, there are many lines of balance which are used, as explained above, even during sweeping, off balancing and while ground fighting. Different Wing Chun lines may have different viewpoints on this subject. Tai Chi is also a center searching art, but the mechanics are not the same and probably conflict with Wing Chun theories.

We would view Tai Chi as violating some of our principles but we say that the Tai Chi system probably has ways to compensate for what we consider a weakness. From the Tai Chi point of view the elbows in the center do not seem like a good idea, but we have ways to compensate for this weakness perceived by the Tai Chi practitioner.


American Dit Da Jow?

by John Crescione

First, I would like to thank everybody for calling or writing me with comments, questions, praise and some criticism on the article [about Wing Chun Dit Da Jow]. The biggest problem most Westerners have with Oriental martial arts is a lack of being able to read, write or understand the language. It can be very frustrating trying to make sense out of a flowery concept like “Beauty plays the flute.” And then, trying to apply that to fighting is harder still because it is open tojohn crescione so much interpretation. With that in mind, how do you decipher Oriental medicine? “Can’t read the writing, don’t know what the heck is in those jars, and they don’t look like anything that can be good for me – sea horses, deer antler, seal penis and something that looks like wood!” Then, is it (the problem) caused by dampness or wind, excess yin or deficient yang? HEEEEEELP MEEEEEEEEE SIFUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, at that point I too went running to sifu for help and guidance. At the end of the last article I mentioned an American Jow. Why? For many reasons. Purists will argue it’s not the same – maybe so, or maybe not. Do the purists make their own rice wine before they add the herbs? Do you know what a pain it is to try and make rice wine? Where can you get the herbs, and how do you really know if they’re fresh (the most common question I got asked). Most people don’t live near a Chinatown and have to do mail-order, and that can be expensive. Look, we’re doing a Chinese martial art (most of us) and we should have some knowledge of it. However, the concept is more important, “Why are you making what you’re making?” Because of necessity. Like the barefoot doctors did hundreds of years ago. FOLKS – THIS IS THE 90’S. A Ferrari is a heck of a lot better than that Model T of Granddad’s if you’re not talking about nostalgia and history. As a martial artist it becomes important to know how to make a jow recipe from the land, not the herb store. Here are two stories to help me explain myself.

A Chinese master was giving a demonstration on Hard Chi Gung. He had four slabs placed on his head, and then a trusty student smashed the slabs with a sledge hammer. The master was unharmed, happy and smiling. Applause, Applause!! When he sat down next to me after the demonstration I asked him, “Sifu, with all due respect, doesn’t that hurt??” He said, “Yeah, it hurts like hell!!” So I proceed to adjust his neck and head. After, he said to me, “That was very good, but I have something at home that works just as good. Come drive me home and I will share it with you.” Now here I am, I’m going to this Sifu’s house to be revealed a secret Chinese magic herbal preparation. How would you feel? So I drive him home, and we go upstairs into his apartment. “You wait here, I’ll be right back.” He goes into another room and returns. “Here, this is very good for head pain.” And lo and behold the magic herbal is … Tylenol. This is the 90’s, folks.

I once had a kung fu student from a different Wing Chun school visit me and my class (same lineage, different branch). After class, one of my student’s was complaining of ankle pain. So I checked his ankle and foot and found that he had moved two bones in his arch and one bone in his ankle. I proceeded to adjust the ankle while the visiting student watched. After I was done he asked me why I didn’t use meridian/acupuncture point therapy on him? “Because this works faster and better.” He looked at me, puzzled and confused. Did I want to spend 15 minutes doing meridian work on a structural fault, and let the body’s own innate energy move the bones themselves and then heal the tissue? Or, would it be simpler and faster to move the bones and then let the body heal itself? This is the 90’s, folks – and we do Wing Chun, not Tai Chi (that’s not a shot.)

Even in the old KUNG FU television series Caine took American herbs from the Indians, because he was unfamiliar with them, and added them to his healing pouch (Just how many herbs did he have in there anyway – kind of like Batman’s utility belt, huh?).

We are American martial artists, and our knowledge needs to be as broad as possible when it comes to the healing part of this thing we do, even if it’s just for ourselves. Whether you like it or not, today’s Ben Gay is ancient Tiger Balm.

I will give you two recipes, simple to make, easy to get the herbs in most good health food stores or grocery store AND you won’t have to wait 6 weeks to 6 months for the stuff to be usable.

No claims made, this is for educational purposes only. Consult your Sifu, Medical Doctor, or knowledgeable health care practitioner for further use or injuries.

When trying to make an herbal preparation you must keep in mind what the preparation is suppose to be doing, what qualities do you want in the jow? If you’re making an Iron Palm jow then you need to keep in mind bone healing as well as circulation. Following are some guidelines:

  1. Reduce pain
  2. Stimulate blood flow
  3. Break blood clots
  4. Strengthen tissue
  5. Increase tissue healing and immune system response
  6. Strengthen muscle (and bone – if your training iron palm)
  7. Eliminate heat, swelling, dampness or cold
  8. Have an anti-spasmodic effect
  9. Stop internal bleeding

These are the basic qualities you are looking to have in your jow formula. For an all purpose jow the above should be evenly balanced, to a little on the tissue-healing side for sprains and bruises. For iron palm – bone healing, strengthening, etc. However, if you know about herbs, then you know that certain ones work better together than others, and a sprain injury will require different herbs than a bone bruise. That’s why you have to do some homework if you’re going to do it yourself. Then call somebody to check your work!

All Purpose Jow

  • Alcohol (Vodka, Gin, Brandy – even Rubbing Alcohol) 1 or 2 quarts
  • Breadstraw
  • Calendula (Marigold)
  • Camomile
  • Comfrey (if you can still get it – you may have to grow your own if you want to add this)
  • Common Club Moss
  • Cow slip
  • Dandelion
  • Shepherd’s Purse
  • Stinging Nettle
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Wintergreen oil (Many times this comes together with rubbing alcohol, either way is fine – obviously if you’re going to use rubbing alcohol you won’t need the vodka, gin, etc. Remember, boxers and other athletes have been using it for hundreds of years and they get abused a lot more on a daily basis than most of us.)

Use 1 oz. of each herb, pour the alcohol into a glass jar (or back into the alcohol bottle – all the herbs should have been ground or are small enough to funnel in). Leave it in a dark place for a week, shaking occasionally and you’re ready to roll (figuratively speaking, no pun intended). True, the longer it keeps the better it will be, but you can use it in about an hour or two if necessary.

Iron Palm Jow

Use the above formula but you MUST ADD THE FOLLOWING:

  • Horestail [horsetail?]
  • Mallow
  • Cow parsnip
  • Fenugreek
  • Walnut
  • Yellow dead Nettle

Have fun with these. I have used both with excellent results. Many of you may not be able to get all the herbs. E-mail me at drkwaichang@msn.com and I can tell you what you can leave out or substitute if necessary. In the future I will discuss Wing Chun and how it relates to both point hitting and chi gung. Good Training!!


Wing Chun And The Art Of Teaching

by Paul Simmons

Teaching Wing Chun Kung Fu is like teaching any subject; the more you do it, the better you become, both as a teacher and as a practitioner. This is because a teacher, sooner or later, realises that teaching and learning are the same thing. In fact, the best teachers are those who continue to be students, themselves. Finding better ways for students to learn is the most effective way for a teacher to improve his or her ownwing chun kid 1 skills.

The teacher of Wing Chun has the same goal as any teacher; that is, to pass on certain knowledge and skills to students. However, there is another goal which can often determine the effectiveness of the former – A good teacher strives to improve their teaching skills. Having knowledge and skill in a specific field does not guarantee good teaching skills. After all, teaching is not something that comes naturally; it, like Wing Chun, must be practiced until experience can be gathered. Usually, in the beginning stages of teaching, people copy methods with which they are familiar. Also, like Wing Chun training, teaching is a constantly changing process; new ways to be more effective have to be experimented with in the hope that understanding can be gained and passed on.

Once the connection is made between teaching and learning, most teachers begin to develop their own ways of passing on their skill. So, in actual fact, teachers go through the same learning process as their students; that is, they, also, are students. It is this perspective on the learning process which can allow a teacher to empathise with their students and to understand that we are all at different stages of our learning. Students change all the time; some come and some go, while some stay and get older and wiser and more skilful. Each student has a different motive for training and a different way of learning. Some students talk a lot; some keep to themselves; some are there with commitment and some are there for fun; and some learn quickly and some take longer, but they are all students who are there to learn. The rewards of teaching, though occasionally outnumbered by the frustrations, lie in gaining insight into students, as well as yourself. In effect, the teacher learns from others, as well as from him or herself.

The most basic aim of teaching is to enable a student to ‘know what they are doing’. This is vital in Wing Chun teaching because if a student remains in the copying stage of learning, whether practicing the forms or doing Chi Sau or sparring, then progress will be slowed. The best chance for improvement of any skill lies in understanding what you want to do and in being able to do it often. One without the other can only take a student so far. To be able to continue improving, a student must be able to think for themselves, that is, to know what they are doing. They must understand how to continue improving. It is only then that a student can begin to take some responsibility for their own learning.

Many students reach a certain stage of training and then plateau; they continue to train, but the improvements slow down and frustration creeps in. In basic terms, this student is just ‘going through the motions’; doing what they have done thousands of times before. Just as the teacher must find their own way of teaching, so the student must find their own way to progress and improve. The teacher can still be a guide in this process, but the signs are there that the student needs to take the next step, at least partly, on their own. The teacher can only ‘show’ a student what to do; he or she cannot do it for them. Once a student realises this, things can begin to change; and so, the progress continues. The student learns to become their own teacher.

The old adage of whether it is better to give a starving man a loaf of bread or to teach him to bake, applies here. It is just too difficult learning techniques from other people. The wonder of the Siu Nim Tau form is that after years and years of practicing it, lessons can still be learned. It is sometimes easy for a teacher or a person who can perform a certain skill to forget that others cannot, that they are still consciously struggling to feel the right way. This is evident in the most basic aspect of Wing Chun training – the structure. What the teacher sees as obvious (straight back, tai gong, muscle relaxation etc.) might be a matter of great conscious concern for a student. What is important is that the students know what they are doing; know the feeling they are trying to achieve. The teacher’s role is to help them to discover these feelings for themselves.

No one can make you feel the relaxation necessary to perform the Siu Nim Tau when you are on your own; no teacher can tell you how to feel the sensitivity through touch during Chi Sau training and, a teacher’s understanding of ‘focus’ and ‘intention’ cannot be understood through words alone. When a student is able to work things out for themselves, the teacher has achieved a degree of success.

Above all other things, a teacher must be able to show that they not only understand how the system works, but that they can perform the skills which they are teaching. The irony in Wing Chun is that the better one understands the system, the less physical strength is required, in accordance with the principle of economy of movement. Complex movements are not necessary when simple ones are just as effective; in line with the principle of simplicity. When a Wing Chun teacher demonstrates or trains with students, it is to prove to them that the system actually works. No one owns the system, especially not the teachers of the art – Why else would they spend so much time trying to give it away!

Finally, teaching is the best way to improve your own skills. By constantly showing others what you already know, you are reinforcing the foundations of the art; the very ones which allowed you to get where you are. It should not be forgotten that all students make mistakes when learning new skills. An effective teacher allows their students the freedom to experiment, while continuing to reinforce the basics. Understanding, patience and practice are the necessary ingredients of learning – just as they are for teaching


What is Wing Chun

by Barry Lee

Ving Tsun Kung Fu is a sophisticated form of fighting, which develops an ultra-high level of feeling and instinctive reaction… “If you have to stop and think it’s too late!”
“If you have to always use your eyes, to see what your opponent is doing it’s too late!”. Ving Tsun teaches specific reactions to certain attacksbarry lee1 (as do all fighting styles) but exactly how you move is dependent on the “feeling” developed throughout the body from a unique training method called Chi Sao.

Chi Sao is designed to increase feeling ( sensitivity to changes in force & movement), flexibility, instinctive reaction, continuity and co-ordination of movement. It also teaches angles of attack, timeing, distancing, footwork and above all, a principle called Lut Sao Jet Chung,
which refers to a continuous forward force, often misunderstood but invaluable once mastered.

In Ving Tsun very great force can be generated from close quarters and good practitioners are magnificent “in-fighters”. Those who truly master the style are in no way disadvantaged by long range attacks however. ln fact the specific training to fight in close, generally makes a distance attack appear slow by comparison.

Ving Tsun teaches conservation of energy and simultaneous block and attack. Economy of motion, the principle of using the right amount of force at the right time is one of the corner stones of this exciting style. The kicks employed are usually very low, to the weaker areas and used in conjunction with the hands. Being a style which does not rely on brute muscular strength, but co-ordination of body movement, angles of attack, redirecting and using the opponents force and movement against them. Ving Tsun is particularly suitable to woman wanting a truly effective means of protection.

The term “Self Defence” is often misunderstood. As my Sifu, Legendary Master Wong Shun Leung once said: “How can you defend yourself, unless you can fight & win?”. Ving Tsun gives you the necessary tools (principles, techniques and practiced skill) to fight and win.

Understand the situation, know the technique, react without hesitation. “Feel, don’t think!”


Thoughts When Approaching Twenty Years in Wing Chun

 by Susanna Ho

Twenty years is not a very short period of time but yet it is not really long in the martial art world. During this period of time, it was full of challenges, excitement, happiness, depression, frustration, pain and other different types of feelings. But up till now, I can still say that I enjoy practising Wing Chun.

When I first started off with martial art, I wanted to learn one for self-defence and I selected Wing Chun as it was founded by a woman. When I susana-ho-chu-shong-tin-2started leaning it, I first thought that it was a more easy and a simple art to train. As time passed by, I found out that Wing Chun is an art easy on movements but very hard on using our body correctly during the movements and be coordinated with the mental side.

When we talk about Wing Chun, the word “relaxation” must come up straight away. But I found out from my teaching that most of the students are too concentrated on relaxation and end up become sloppy. Although “relaxation” is very important in Wing Chun, in my opinion, it is more a final result we will achieve if we can manage the skills. Therefore, during the training and especially for the junior students, they should work on the basics, like structure, linking, shadowing and rotation, than just want to be relaxed. Instead of keep asking ourselves to relax, in the beginning one should work on less forcing and holding ourselves or do it as relax as we can when we try to develop our skills. During rolling and sparring, we should not just work on relaxation unless we have developed up to a certain level of skills, otherwise, we need to back off all the time. Instead, we should try to find a way to do our structure properly when moving so that we do not need to hold our ground which will cause tension or depend purely on movements to release the pressure all the time. Another problem will appear especially for the juniors if we just work on “relaxation” because they will be afraid to use their body because they will worry that they will force their muscles then they cannot fully utilized themselves to the limit.

I am lucky to be a student and have my own school at the same time so I can experiment the different ways of thinking at different positions. As a student, we always want to learn more and think that we are ready to move on to the next stage. By saying so I do not mean that we have to be a hundred percent right in one thing before we move on to the next one. We need to be able to manage a skill to a certain level then by learning the new stuff, it may help us to disclose the weaknesses of the previous one that we think we have managed. But what is the right level of a skill before we can move on will depend mainly on the experience of the teacher.

In a view point of a student, they always want to have some standards like what is a right structure, what is a proper Bong Sao to guide whether they are doing things right or wrong. But unfortunately, Wing Chun is an art that does not have a standard on the positions or shapes. Wing Chun, in my opinion, is more an art that help us to manage our body efficiently and be able to use it towards the opponent to its maximum. In other words, the way that make our skills work is more important than the physical positions. If we understand the proper method to maximize our power so whenever we can feel any tension of the opponent if they are bigger or the same size as we are that mean they cannot use their skills as efficiently or on the other hand, our skills are not good enough to deal with that type of force.

As a teacher, both holding back the progress of their students or teaching too quickly are not good enough to be a good sifu. A good sifu need to be able to demonstrate whatever they ask their students to do and if they cannot manage the skills very well at that time, they need to admit it to their students.  I believe that a proper demonstration is better than explanation in thousand words. In my opinion, students do not need to manage one skill perfectly before they move on to the next one. They just need to show that they can use that skill constantly at least for a certain amount of time and know how to put it back on whenever they forget to put it on. This judgment is very difficult to make especially if the sifu are pretty new in teaching. They can make better decisions when they got more experience. When I now look back about eight and a half years ago, I could not believe that I have the courage to open up my school with the skills at that time.

Although a skillful sifu will always help our training better but their responsibility is to guide us to train at the right path and give suggestions in working out the skills. If the students can response properly under their teacher’s instructions, it does not mean that they can control their body to manage the skills and do it again without the instructions. Therefore, the main responsibility on progress is still depended on the students because they are the only one that can control their own bodies.  Wing Chun is a special art that cannot be able to improve purely just by training hard. If we keep working hard on the wrong direction then it will be more difficult to get rid of the previous bad habits when we found out the mistakes. A correct attitude of the students in training is very important and they should not completely rely on their sifu to tell them how and what to do.

Everyone need to have an open mind during training. We are not Saints. Therefore, sifu can be wrong and students can be right sometime. Therefore, I always encourage my students to have open discussion. Through discussion, we can find out different view points which help us to see thing from a different angle. We should not afraid that we may say something stupid or foolish or want to hide our weakness by just listening to others. Communication is very important in training. If the sifu does not know what the student is thinking when he try to work out the skill then the actual problems may not be discovered. On the other hand, if the students do not try to understand what their sifu actually want them to do, they may only push their bodies too hard.

As Master Chu Shong Tin has said before, “Practicing, discussing and questioning are the best ways to success”. On top of that, I think we should add patience, logical thinking, try to develop the skills as relax as we can and trust what we are working on.