There is much debate about lineage in martial arts and whether a style is ‘traditional’ or not. Being able to trace the lineage of their instructor is clearly important to many a prospective student because, perhaps, they consider a traceable lineage as a guarantee of quality/authenticity. However, lineage is not an indication of the quality of instruction a student receives – that is simply down to the knowledge and attention to detail of their own instructor. The majority of Wing Chun styles in the Western hemisphere can ultimately be traced back to Grandmaster Yip Man anyway, so our roots are, in the main, the same. ‘Traditional’ is therefore often taken to be how close the style is to that which was taught by Grandmaster Yip Man, but again that does not mean that the style is necessarily better.
At Wing Chun-UK, we believe that with each new generation the art should evolve in line with greater knowledge of body mechanics and modern training methods. Even in decades past the style was constantly being developed. It has actually never been set in stone. For example, every direct (first generation) student of Grandmaster Yip Man has their own interpretation of what he taught them. The question then must follow: what is ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic’ Wing Chun and who is teaching it if the styles differ so significantly? In the end, a more important question, perhaps, is what does the individual student want from their training?
Over the years we have altered the Wing Chun-UK syllabus greatly. So, why did we change things?
Wing Chun is a self-defence martial art, and as such should be logical and practical. When we change things (after careful consideration) it is always to make our style more practical to apply physically, regardless of size, strength, gender etc. OR it is to make our syllabus clearer and easier to follow. In both cases we are looking to aid our students in achieving good self defence capabilities and to this end clarity is paramount.
So, how did we arrive at our current syllabus?
We focussed on testing each and every stage from the very First Student Programme through to the eighth Wooden Dummy section to locate and ascertain the most efficient, stable, powerful and flexible application ideas in every movement and position within the programmes.
We are fortunate in many ways that we are so different in stature – it has helped us greatly in achieving an end result where we know that our Wing Chun is effective regardless of height, weight and other physical variations.
So, how can we say this so definitely? Because we have trained many countless repetitions, had many discussions about the syllabus past and present and looked carefully at how the students engage with the syllabus, both in our own classes and through the testing of students from other Wing Chun-UK classes. Also, between us we have over 40 years of experience in several styles of Wing Chun.
1-We cut out the unnecessary and improbable from the very many variations we had seen in the past.
2-We began slowly and steadily, comparing possibilities at each stage.
3-Later, we trained with stronger and heavier pressure through every part of the syllabus to check stability and position.
4-Then, we trained the movement combinations at a faster pace to clarify correct timing.
5-Lastly, by performing techniques and combinations with both speed and power we could check for realism and plausibility from both perspectives.
This was no easy task and not all parts of the syllabus passed this stringent testing at each stage the first time around. After many repetitions, if any technique fell short we had a deeper look and repeated the process. Hours of discussion at the different stages was often very interesting as we explained our perspectives to one another. It was a very enjoyable and interesting task, but also a lot of work. We pooled our knowledge and experience gained through our years of teaching and have arrived at our own way of Wing Chun: Fluid, flexible, fast, strong, stable and ultimately, effective. Also, possibly still subject to change!
Our objective? Self-defence for everyone
Sifu Tony Hollander and Sifu Ed Pettitt