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A History and Style Guide of Wing Chun

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A History and Style Guide of Wing Chun Introduction: These days, it's popular to say that the far majority of fights wind up being grappling affairs. All true. That said, before one gets to the grappling stage of combat, close quarters stand up usually commences. And that's exactly what Wing Chun is all about; close quarters combat on your feet designed to protect people on the street. Thus, it's no wonder that it's the world's most popular form of Southern Kung Fu.

So here's a little more about the Chinese based martial art that also goes by the names of Ving Tsun and Wing Tsun. And in case you were wondering, the term Wing Chun literally means, "eternal spring."

Wing Chun History And Origins

There is a long history of martial arts in China. And like all of the other styles, Wing Chun's history is somewhat clouded in mystery. On one hand, documentation of the art began appearing during the era of Wing Chun master Leung Jan (1826-1901).

That said, the popular legend regarding its origin emanates from Bruce Lee's Wing Chun teacher, Yip Man. Man indicates that a young woman named Yim Wing Chun came to the forefront of social consciousness after Southern Shaolin and its temples were destroyed by the Qing government. When a local Qing warlord offered to marry Yim Wing Chun following this, she refused. Of course, that wasn't popular with the locals in power, and likely as a result to this affront, the warlord offered to walk away from his desire to marry her if she could beat him in a martial arts match. Needless to say, Wing Chun trained with a Buddhist nun named Ng Mui (some accounts indicate that Ng Mui was in fact a monk, not a nun), who taught her what can only be termed as a nameless style of boxing. And, of course, Wing Chun defeated the warlord, eventually married Leung Bac-Chou, taught him the style of fighting she knew, and he eventually named it after her last name (Wing Chun).

Though this legend is the one that is most circulated, the time that Wing Chun came to be is important. You see, the style was developed during the Shaolin and Ming resistance movements against the Qing Dynasty, so the abundance of stories regarding Wing Chun's creation may have been circulated in order to confuse the opposition.

Wing Chun Characteristics

Balance is important to all martial artists, but this is especially true for Wing Chun practitioners that pride themselves on never getting caught in poor defensive posture. Along with this, they keep their elbows close to the body and tend toward a high, narrow stance. In fact, their arms are kept in front of the vital areas of their centerline- the centerline is an important concept within the art- and all attacks emanate from this stable, protective position.

Wing Chun practitioners simply don't like to give up defense for the sake of more wide range strikes that open them up to attack. Beyond this, they are known for their ability to overwhelm opponents with rapid fire strikes inside and kicks that, unlike most martial arts styles, connect from inside as well. Again, the centerline is crucial both in where a practitioner chooses to position themselves for defense as well as where they will tend to attack (down the imaginary line of the throat, nose, eyes, solar plexis, groin, etc.).

Finally, Wing Chun practitioners are all about simultaneous attacks while defending, as well as trapping opponents and rendering them immobile. In other words, it all happens at the same time. These philosophies are also a mainstay of Jeet Kune Do, the martial arts philosophy/style of former Wing Chun practitioner Bruce Lee.

Wing Chun Practice and Training

Wing Chun practice can be divided in the following manner:

  • Forms: Like most martial arts styles, Wing Chun students practice forms, which include solitary movements designed to protect against/attack imaginary opponents. Breathing, meditation, and more are important to these exercises.
  • San Sik: Translated, San Sik means "Separate Forms". They are different from regular forms in that they are compact in structure and can be categorized in one of the three ways- with a focus on building body structure through punching, standing, stepping, and turning drills; arm cycles and changes that coincide with interception and adaptation techniques; and sensitivity and combination techniques.
  • Chi Sao: This refers to the practice of maintaining continuous contact with another student while performing Wing Chun techniques. It's a form of sensitivity training that builds instinct and allows one to counter quickly in close combat situations. Along with this, there are also rolling hands drills (Luk Sao) where practitioners roll their forearms against each other, with some similar goals.
  • Weapons: Generally, weapons training is done within weapons-based forms. Weapons like the Long Pole or Butterfly Knives are traditionally used.

Famous Wing Chun Practitioners

  • Bruce Lee: Lee, a famous martial arts movie actor, learned Wing Chun under Yip Man in China.
  • Yip Man: Bruce Lee's teacher. Enough said.
  • Robert Downey Jr.: This famous movie actor has reportedly used Wing Chun to help him through personal problems.
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