Wing Chun has a profound and extensive history and philosophy. To decipher and grasp its depths would require a lifetime. However, much of its appeal and pleasure comes from the time and thought invested in its decipherment and understanding. Wing Chun isn’t about strutting your stuff in front of an audience or boosting your ego. It was created with the hope that each student would take something from it and use it successfully in a potentially fatal situation. It wasn’t designed for friendly matches between buddies or wasting time in a boxing ring with gloves and protective gear. Its creators certainly didn’t envision it being used in thrilling action films.
When sparring in Wing Chun, the sparring should appear graceful and beautiful. Like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, you should be ballroom dancing, with your bodies composed, connected, moving in unison, and dancing without missing a beat. Your faces should not be tense, your bodies should not be taut, and your movements should not be jerky; however, sparring is characterized by these qualities. Getting into a real fight is an entirely different ballgame. Survival becomes your primary objective. You and your opponent may need help to perform as flawlessly as you did with your training partner. Nonetheless, the success of the training you and your partner have received will become immediately apparent. If your opponent was only trained to respond to certain types of attacks in a specific kind of environment, and if his training does not match the current situation (which will always be the case because every opponent and environment will be different), then your opponent will be at a disadvantage because he will have difficulty adapting to the unknown on the fly.
Suppose you have been trained mentally to understand that every opponent and environment will be unique, that fighting is the art of managing both force and environment, and that your training consisted of interactive sparring rather than situation-based choreographed responses. In that case, you will have a much greater chance of surviving and defeating your opponent. The Wing Chun concept and training program applies the laws of physics and biomechanics to combat. The principles are not restrictive but serve as guidelines for achieving the highest levels of safety and performance.
In some ways, it is similar to teaching someone how to drive a car. The traffic laws are crafted with all drivers’ safety and performance in mind. You are instructed to stay within the confines of your lane and monitor other motorists’ movements. If a driver on the opposite side of the road swerves into your street, you do not stay in your lane simply because the rules say you should; instead, you shift into the safest route, even if it is momentarily toward oncoming traffic, to avoid danger.
Similarly, Wing Chun training teaches and enforces safety and performance rules. You will do whatever it takes to avoid danger and perform at your best in a real fight. You may jump, throw a hook punch, bite, or pull your opponent’s hair (which are not technically part of Wing Chun’s technical training curriculum). However, you will do so out of an innate desire to survive. The Wing Chun training program encourages rather than represses these reflex actions.
Because the training program for Wing Chun is based on the natural laws of physics and biomechanics, you will be able to improvise quickly with the tools you’ve learned to adapt to any unanticipated and immediate situation. This will allow you to maximize your potential as a Wing Chun practitioner. In his most famous duel, which he fought against Sasaki Kojiro, the man who proved to be his most formidable opponent, Musashi impromptu carved a wooden oar into a boken or wooden sword while they were traveling to the duel in a boat. Sasaki Kojiro was the man who proved to be his most formidable opponent. He used it to kill his opponent, who was armed with a sword made of Japanese steel and forged by the most accomplished swordsmith in the country.
When you have mastered the concept of combat in Wing Chun, you will be able to fight armed or unarmed, with or without weapons, and against a single adversary or multiple adversaries. The basic idea has remained the same. You won’t have to search your memory for previously rehearsed scenarios relevant to the current situation because your automatic assessment of the circumstance and appropriate response will take care of that for you. Musashi penned:
The spirit of defeating one man is equivalent to beating ten million. If one man can defeat ten, then one thousand individuals can defeat ten thousand. Become a master of strategy by training alone with a sword, and you comprehend the enemy’s plans, strength, and resources. You will be able to employ the strategy to defeat ten thousand enemies.
The traditional training method of Wing Chun has been abandoned by several Wing Chun schools, which is an unfortunate development. Many sifus have experience in other systems; consequently, they find it easier to adapt to the Wing Chun curriculum using the skills they learned in their prior training. A typical Wing Chun class might begin with loosening-up or “cooling down” exercises that last for ten minutes, followed by thirty minutes of warm-ups and calisthenics, then forty to sixty minutes of choreographed attack-and-defend drills, and finally ten minutes of loosening-up exercises. One hundred minutes of a class that lasts for two hours are devoted to activities that have never been a part of traditional Wing Chun training. This leaves only twenty minutes for actual Wing Chun-related training, such as practicing the forms, Chisau, and sparring. Many schools teach Wing Chun, but most only offer 90-minute classes focusing on fitness exercises rather than actual Wing Chun instruction.
At this time, Wing Chun is not taught, practiced, or represented in the manner its original creators had in mind. The situation is miserable right now. People desire to see Wing Chun training return to its original form, in which only the most serious, dedicated, and honorable individuals participated. This may sound like an elitist desire, but it is shared by many. Anything of value that is adopted by a large number of people automatically loses some of its worth. It is time that Wing Chun be restricted to being taught to individuals who are worthy of doing so.