What is special about Wing Chun?

Wing Chun emphasises the most efficient use of body mechanics against an attacker. The movements a Wing Chun exponent uses are not only the smallest and fastest movements that can be used in a particular situation, but they are also the most structurally sound according to the way the human body is built. A smaller and physically weaker person can take advantage of this sound structure to overcome a physically stronger attacker. How is it that physically shorter and apparently less (obviously) muscled tennis players manage to serve as fast as those who appear more physically powerful? How is it that some rugby players manage to avoid the strong tackles of players bigger and stronger than they are? The answer is often that those individuals have a better understanding or application of sound body mechanics and fine motor skills to compensate for the fact that their size or strength does not match that of their opponent. Wing Chun is the martial arts equivalent. The Wing Chun student learns to engage only the necessary muscles for a given movement and not to tense their body unnecessarily, which would slow their response.

Wing Chun movements are based on attacking, not defending. This does not mean that the Wing Chun student initiates physical confrontation, but that if they are forced into defending themselves, they will not try to stop the aggressor’s attack with blocking or covering techniques, but rather they will immediately take the initiative and use their understanding of body mechanics and angles to use the aggressor’s force against them and nullify the attack immediately. Wing Chun is about protecting your safety in the most efficient way possible and therefore does not advocate complex defensive techniques, but strong offensive counter-attacks. Self-defence is not about how beautiful your movements are or how impressively you can defend attacks, but whether you return home safely.

Wing Chun classes are not competitive. The emphasis in training is that our students help one another to learn the skills needed in a self-defence situation. If a student has a higher skill level than their training partner then they will provide information on the correct application of the technique being trained and simultaneously discover more efficient ways of training and using that technique against the unique body motions of the person they are training with. Everybody moves differently and therefore all levels of student are valuable training partners. Although there is a grading syllabus, more advanced students are encouraged to constantly revise the basic principles as the Wing Chun system is, and must be, built on a strong foundation of core ideas and ways of using the body.

The training of Wing Chun is predominantly done with a partner as opposed to technique training in the air or on pads (although this is also part of training). The most well-known Wing Chun training technique is called ‘Chi Sao’ and involves the development of tactile reflexes with a partner. In Chi Sao the training partners begin in contact and learn how to free themselves from that contact in order to defeat/escape from an aggressor. Not only does chi sao training develop fantastic tactile reflexes in a student, but it also encourages the more timid student to become accustomed to close physical contact with their peers which, in turn, improves self confidence outside the school. The sense of mutual benefit gained through partner exercises such as Chi Sao also produces a feeling of camaraderie in a Wing Chun class as opposed to a sense of competition.

The body movements Wing Chun teaches can be applied in a multitude of different situations. There are not different techniques for every conceivable scenario, a Wing Chun student simply follows the movement principles he/she has been taught, regardless of the type of attack. The ‘basic’ movements of the system can be used in many ways and the body mechanics principles trained are sound in any situation. There is no confusion as to what technique to use in a given situation, there is only one most efficient way of responding-this is Wing Chun. In this way the Wing Chun exponent’s thoughts are clear and their way of dealing with a given situation is immediate and totally efficient. Ultimately, this efficiency and clarity of thought can extend into other areas of life and help the dedicated student to feel more self-assured. Through the constant practise and refinement of efficient body movement the Wing Chun exponent learns not only how to deal with physical confrontation better, but can also feel better able to control more common verbal confrontations.

Through constant physical interaction our understanding of body language and personal space increases and our awareness of the presence of threat is heightened meaning we can remove ourselves from potential danger. All of these things are extremely valuable, and with any luck we will not have to call upon our physical skills at all.