Why I Train Wing Chun

As a martial artist, first and foremost, I’m not interested in “Wing Chun,” “tradition,” or “style.”  I’m not interested in flashy acrobatics, winning tournaments, or what looks cool.  I’m only interested in what works.  What keeps you alive in real life and death fight situations?  What is the most effective way to defeat one or many opponents with or without weapons?  How is the human body best trained to become a master of self-defense?  What techniques, drills, and concepts must become second-nature to ensure proper reaction and adaptation during the chaos of real-life combat?  How can any system or style cover the literally infinite potential dangers faced?  With so many different martial arts from all over the world, how can one separate the wheat from the chaff and discern which is the most effective? 

Real fighting is dirty, no holds barred, spontaneous full-force explosive aggression.  In actual combat there are no rules, no regulations, no referees, no traditions, no tap-outs and no gloves.  So any system which caters to and trains with rules, regulations, and traditions in mind is ultimately not preparing you for actual combat but for unrealistic sparring situations. For example the average UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) match lasts almost 9 grueling minutes.  The average street fight, however, lasts a mere 9 seconds!  Why the huge difference?  Is it just because they’re wearing boxing gloves?  No.  The fact of the matter is that tournament fighting, and martial styles which cater to tournament fighting (such as MMA, Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Karate, Jui Jitsu, Judo, Wrestling etc.) all have a huge list of highly effective techniques and vulnerable targets which are completely off-limits!  The reason they are prohibited is because they are too effective, will end the fight too quickly, and could severely injure, maim or kill the opponent! 

In the interest of clean competitions and good sportsmanship it makes sense that certain targets and techniques be prohibited from tournament fights, but what happens when rules and traditions start to dictate your martial training?  Instead of always practicing the most effective techniques on the softest targets, you actually train less effective techniques on harder targets!  How can repeatedly drilling less than optimum techniques at less than optimum targets, make you an optimum fighter?  As the saying goes, practice doesn’t make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect.

In Western Boxing, for instance, the extreme limitations are clear for everyone to see. You wear huge padded gloves and almost every fighting technique imaginable is prohibited except punches to the torso and head.  No kicks, no knees, no elbows, no head butts, no groin strikes, no eye gouges, no grappling, no throws, just round after round of getting pounded by padded punches.  Boxing is a perfect example of a fighting style with so many rules that its practical self-defense applications are very limited.  It is clearly a sport, and not a science of self-defense.   Boxing’s punches are undoubtedly second to none, but there is much more to effective self-defense than good punching. How does Western Boxing prepare you to defeat an opponent carrying a knife?  How does Boxing deal with kicks, takedowns and grappling?  How does Boxing handle multiple attackers?  The answers are all the same:  It doesn’t, because it’s against the rules and not part of the game. 

In the game/sport of Taekwondo all punches to the head, kicks to the legs, and grabbing techniques are prohibited so the result is a style full of fast-paced flashy spinning jumping head kicks.  These are definitely fun to watch and work during point sparring competitions, but in real-life combat, almost the entire repertoire of Taekwondo’s techniques are pitifully ineffective and leave you off balance and vulnerable.  Being a 2nd degree black belt and former Taekwondo instructor myself, I can say from experience that Taekwondo’s kicks are second to none, but there is much more to effective self-defense than good kicking.   

As a cocky 20 year old, I thought my sidekick alone would be fast and powerful enough to defeat my soon-to-be Wing Chun instructor in a series of full contact challenge fights.  I was quite sure that he couldn’t get past my legs and he was quite sure that he could.  After several philosophical discussions about fighting we decided to put his Wing Chun and my Taekwondo to the test.  Time and time again he waited for me to attack, parried my kicks, then completely dominated and destroyed me with an intense flurry of chain punches, stomp kicks, knees and elbows.  At best I clipped him a couple times with my kicks, but ultimately he would always take advantage of my one-legged, off-balance, side-facing positioning, maneuver behind, kick out my back leg, and take me down embarrassingly easily.

Muay Thai, Kickboxing, and MMA are much more dynamic and street-effective than Boxing or Taekwondo making use of knees, elbows, leg kicks, clinches, throws, and takedowns.  But once again there are no groin or throat strikes allowed, no eye gouges, no knee stomp kicks, no defense against weapons, and no defense against multiple attackers.  These few limitations may seem insignificant, but keep in mind that most street fights involve either a weapon or multiple attackers, and the three most vulnerable targets on the human body are the eyes, groin and throat!  This means that Muay Thai, Kickboxing, and MMA are not training or utilizing the most effective targets or techniques when it comes to real life or death combat.   

These styles also use a lot of low roundhouse kicks to the opponent’s legs with the intention of wearing them down over time, which sounds good and works wonders during tournament bouts, but the average street fight lasts only 9 seconds and involves multiple attackers, so in actual combat there’s no time to strategize several kicks for wearing down your opponent’s legs.  You need more quick, direct, and devastating attacks to vulnerable targets.  Wing Chun’s two main kicks, the inside stomp kick to the knee and front snap kick to the groin, are so brutally effective that they are banned in all sports fighting and martial arts tournaments.  The inside stomp kick smashing down at 45 degrees onto the kneecap reliably and easily takes down and/or breaks the leg of even very strong opponents.  And of course one good swift kick to the groin beats a whole barrage of Muay Thai leg kicks any day.  So whether it’s Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Karate or MMA, two of the most devastating kicks are prohibited and so rarely if ever trained. 

BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), Judo, Wrestling, and other grappling styles have little or no striking whatsoever which is obviously a severe limitation.  No punches, no kicks, no knees, no elbows, no eye gouges, no hair pulling and no biting, yet these styles spend almost all their training time on the ground.  How realistic is a ground fight without any striking, eye gouges, hair pulling or biting?  Even MMA, which allows ground striking, still prohibits attacks to the neck and spine, eye gouges, groin strikes, hair pulling and biting.  This is the only reason UFC/MMA/BJJ fighters spend so long rolling around the mat together vying for position like a couple of entangled homosexual hyenas.   

If they were allowed to elbow necks, stomp spines, gouge eyes, strike groins, pull hair and bite, the entirety of their well-developed “ground games,” would be useless.  Spending minutes jockeying for a side-mount or trying to pull off an arm-bar is highly ineffective if your opponent is wildly gouging at your eyes, attacking your groin, pulling your hair and biting you!  The whole idea of martial artists needing a complex “ground game” as seen in UFC/MMA/BJJ is erroneous anyway because when real fights go to the ground, there’s no springy, soft canvas cushion to roll around on.  In the street it’s concrete and the odds are whoever makes the first takedown wins.  These styles spend almost all their training time on the ground working on the philosophy that 95% of fights go to the ground.  While it’s true that most competition MMA fights go to the ground at some point, this is not the case with street fights.  A cursory glance through YouTube’s many fine street fights caught on camera show the majority of fights being won with stand-up striking techniques, not with ground grappling techniques.  Besides, when facing multiple attackers, going to the ground simply isn’t a viable option because while you're busy rolling around wrestling one guy, his buddies will all be standing straight punt-kicking the snot out of you.

Capoeira, Drunken Boxing, Wu Shu, and other overly flowery forms of Kung Fu are beautiful to watch and wonderful for developing strength, flexibility and flow, but when it comes to real life or death combat these flashy acrobatic styles also fail in many respects.  Too much emphasis is placed on dancing and feigning the opponent, often leaving the practitioner off-balance and vulnerable to attack.   

Most of the fancy offensive striking techniques are indirect, less powerful, and less effective than tried and true quick, direct strikes along the opponent’s centerline (as in Wing Chun).  So much time is spent practicing flowery non-combative dancing or acrobatic techniques that proper application and actual fighting often takes a back seat.  Karate and several traditional martial arts also have a similar problem incessantly training rigid robotic forms, stances, blocks and strikes absolutely inapplicable and unusable in the street.  For example the traditional front stance low, high, inside and outside blocks of Karate are so slow, wide, rigid and telegraphed that they cannot work even against an unskilled opponent.  All Karate practitioners realize this and never use the traditional blocks while sparring anyway, but still spend countless hours training these useless forms and techniques regardless.

There are many martial systems which don’t fall into the “irrelevant tradition” or “sport fighting” traps and are thus much more street-ready such as Krav Maga, Silat, FMA, Aikido, Wing Chun and Jeet Kune Do.  These styles tend to be much more formidable and effective due to the fact that they are always training with actual combat in mind and not slaving to sports rules or ancient irrelevant traditions.  To my sensibilities however, Wing Chun stands out and maintains a distinctive edge over the rest with iron-clad concepts and unique techniques such as simultaneous attack/defense, immoveable elbows, three triangles, centerline theory, sticky hands/legs, and chain punching. 

Wing Chun is all about whatever works.  Arm and leg breaks, throat and groin strikes, eye gouges, finger locks, hair pulling, biting and whatever else works is fair game.  The movements and principles are so universally applicable to any fight situation, that empty-hand practice, weapons practice, and empty vs. weapons practice all utilize exactly the same structures and techniques.  This means regardless of the fight situation, you are poised and prepared with muscle-memory to react more effectively to any empty-hand or weapon attack, because all your training is universally applicable regardless of how many attackers, how strong they are, or which weapons they have. 
Wing Chun has often been called “the thinking man’s martial art” and if you have made it this far through the article you can probably appreciate why.  Originally however Wing Chun was not a “man’s” martial art at all, but the only fighting system in the world known to have been invented by a woman.  A Shaolin nun named Ng Mui developed the art over three centuries ago by taking only the most direct and effective techniques of Shaolin Kung-Fu and creating a compact martial training system specially suited and designed to defeat bigger, stronger and faster opponents.  Ng Mui and her female student Yim Wing Chun used this new style against several men in challenge fights.  Both became legendary figures in Kung-Fu history, neither of them ever losing a fight.

So how does a man benefit from training a woman’s martial art?  Think about this:  If you get in a fight with someone who is smaller, slower and weaker than you, then your natural advantages will almost always defeat such an opponent without any training necessary.  Therefore, if you are going to learn a self-defense style, shouldn't it specifically train you to defeat opponent(s) who are bigger, stronger, and faster than you?  Since women on average tend to be smaller, slower and weaker, Wing Chun seeks to compensate for these natural disadvantages by relying on body mechanics and touch sensitivity instead of speed and brute force to overcome an opponent.  Having trained this fighting system daily for 10 years now, I can personally attest to its efficacy and intricacies.  It is ostensibly a simple martial art with a swift learning curve, but contains incredible depth and complexity enough to spend a lifetime perfecting, always potential for refining and developing to new levels of proficiency.  I have researched and trained various martial arts for most of my life, all with their unique pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, and I respect the traditions and practitioners of all martial disciplines, but for me Wing Chun, based on its intelligent scientific principles and sheer brutal effectiveness stands head and shoulders above the rest. 


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  2. I could not agree more with your views on the difference between martial arts,competition sport fighting and practical effective self-defense.I started with Taekwondo,then Wushu, then Aikido, then Shoulin Kung Fu, then martial tai-chi, then jujitsu. I was a jack of all trades master of none until I found Arnis and finally stayed with an art long enough to become proficient in said art. I trained in Arnis off and on for almost a decade until the fateful day that I found Wing Chun. I saw someone playing the mook jong and was blown away and decided right then and there that I want to learn that! And after almost five years, three forms, and thousands of hours of chi sao I am finally learning the mook jong form and could not be happier!

    1. Hey Ben, thanks for the comment! Sounds like we've taken similar paths starting with Taekwondo and working eventually towards Wing Chun. I think there is definite merit in cross-training various martial arts... i.e. no art will teach you to kick as well as Taekwondo, no art will teach you ground submissions better than BJJ, no art will teach you punching better than Western Boxing, etc. I think Wing Chun is the perfect base system and cross-training others only adds to its full-spectrum effectiveness. Happy training! :) Peace

    2. I like how you also gave credence to arts like Silat and FMA. I would really like to try out Silat but to my knowledge there are no schools in my area. And I had thought about going back to Arnis but the school has changed so much since I left for it would appear my old Guru has been branching off into things like Systema and Shastarvidiya. In any case I promised myself that would start cross training once I reached Biu Gee.And that was over a year ago. Is there any art that you would recommend? Any art that will compliment the concepts and principals of Wing Chun?

    3. Hey Ben, Silat and FMA are great and very compatible with Wing Chun, but as far as filling the holes, strengthening the weaknesses of a typical WC guy's game, I would recommend BJJ/Wrestling to help bridge the grappling gap. Wing Chun has almost no ground fighting and if a good grappler gets a typical WC guy down, it's gonna end quicly without some basic submissions escapes/defense under your belt. I've been training BJJ a lot recently and I'd say it really helps strengthen Wing Chun's weaknesses. Peace!

  3. Great info and background on why you chose Wing Chun over other martial arts but for me it raises a few other questions and especially one: How do you train and prepare for these different properly dangerous strikes you mention? I mean, eye gauging and groin strikes don't need to be tested but take the knee cap kick for instance.. How do you practice that? This sounds to me like the exact same type of argument karatekas and so on have been using since the dawn of martial arts. The initial purpose of the UFC was to put this to the test, and it did. There was even a wing chun guy in there and he really got his ass kicked.
    Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to bash wing chun, I'm simply looking for what works in a "real" fight, just like you. I'm asking because wing chun has been on my radar for many years with no opportunity to actually try it. I might relocate to Bangkok soon though and I'm just checking out what's available. Thanks.

    1. Hey Random Guy, thanks for the question. I've actually taken a knee stomp kick at only 20% power from one of my training partners and it floored me instantly, left me on the ground for over 5 minutes, and gave me a significant limp while it healed over the next several weeks. I've yet to see one thrown in UFC, and I'm sure if someone proficient started using them there would be hyper-extended, broken knees, and torn meniscuses left and right. I saw that pathetic WC guy too, still waiting for WC to be adequately represented in MMA. Have you relocated to Bangkok yet? Hope to train with you sometime when you get here! Peace

  4. there's one thing I HATE about the constant 'oh what about the wingchun guy that competed in the early ufc' crap - why is it that ONE person doing an art bad makes that entire art bad? this guy coulda been only half assed in wing chun. I used to do the wing chun thing a few years ago. my teacher always said if some muscled up MMA looking dude wanted to fight him, he'd go knuckle deep with a finger in the guy's eye socket, and see if the guy wanted to fight after that, but he wouldn't stand there and trade punches with the guy. as a wing chun guy u don't 'out box' a boxer, out wrestle a grappler, or out spin kick a karateka, u play your own game.

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