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Opinion: Why Wing Chun Doesn't Work PDF Print E-mail

As a prelude to this piece I will say this: Anyone who learned, trained, and fought with Wing Chun for a long period of time should understand some truths of the art.  I do not discredit anyone's experiences or call anyone or any lineage the "true" one.  Yip Man taught everyone differently, but this is what my research indicates.  I don't mean to offend anyone or their lineage, I am in the same boat you are!

Wing Chun now is bashed by many as a crappy and ineffective martial art, despite what it claims.  These same people usually promote grappling, boxing, muay thai, and other arts that are seen in popular MMA venues...  And for the most part they are right.  97% of the "Wing Chun" and Wing Chun practitioners out there suck are are an embarrassment to the Art.  I include all forms of the art from JKD to Ving Tsun, Wing Tsun, BlitzDefense, and etc. Just start looking at some of the Wing Chun clips on the net and you'll see in almost all the real fights or MMA fights that Wing Chun people are getting their ass beat.  And don't tell me your lineage is better, I guarantee you that 95%+ of them would get their ass beat just as badly. I used to be proud to be known as a Wing Chun guy, now it is getting to be embarrassing.

Why is this? 1) People don't train hard enough to actually fight a trained fighter or a enraged, tough, and/or savvy street fighter.  They can only beat other Wing Chun people up, classmates up, or other non-fighters. (Big Fish, little pond).  2) Wing Chun is for the most part watered down and a lost art.  It's a empty shell. As Yip Man told Allan Lee, "It only looks like Wing Chun but it has no substance".  And this is how Yip Man wanted it - he never sold out his true art.

Some people have either consciously or subconsciously realized this and tried to fill in the gaps with other tools/arts, but this is usually only slightly better, if not a lot worse.  Others stubbornly stick to a "Pure" Wing Chun, but these purists are usually the ones getting their asses beat and giving the art a bad name.  It is not always their fault, in principle they are right.  Wing Chun, as a complete art, should be able to handle any type of fighter it faces. But the guys who modify Wing Chun to work for them are also right - why practice something that will get you beat up?

"Although Yip Man had multitudes of students... the number of formal disciples he accecpted could be counted on three fingers on one hand.  To these few who pledged their fidelity in the ritual of three kneels nine kowtows in the traditional  SiFu Worship Ceremony he taught Wing Chun Wugong. This includes Wing Chun Kung Fu plus Gongli, the art of exerting power, plus the practical application of Wing Chun fighting techniques..."  Wing Chun Warrior

Yip Man said he passed on the complete knowledge to 5 people ONLY.  The rest of his disciples and students only got the "empty shell" (This means you and your lineage (Sorry)).  Sure, Yip Man's private students know all the forms and a lot of techniques, and drills, but the real system contains so much more.  It required years of very tough training, a lot of pressure on the disciple, and years of sacrifice on top of mastering everything Yip Man taught to his private students.  I don't want to bash any lineages or Sifus here, but the more Wing Chun I see the more I am convinced that this is right.  Yip Man did not teach the entire art to anyone he trained publicly, or any of his publicly known private students/"disciples".  He only taught about 1/2 of it.  I don't even think his real students even trained with the public classes.  So if your teacher learned in a classroom setting (even if it was private later on), then they probably fall into this group.  Learning the other half of the system meant training daily with Yip Man in person for about 4-5 years on top of the rest.  These Sifus who say they know it all and trained privately with Yip Man for 9 months, 2x a week, or even a year 7x a week, etc...  They were not formal disciples, only private students.  They are missing a lot.  And now, so are we.

Yip Man let 9 people fight for his Hong Kong school. (Not including the 5 he passed the complete system on to - these 9 included Wong Shun Leung, Lok Yiu, Taun Hong, etc.).  These fighters took that "empty shell" and made it work for them... for the most part.  Most evidence points to the fact the Wing Chun fighters only did okay in the challange matches.  They usually got just as beat up as their opponents and there was no clear cut winner.  Even Wong Shun Leung.  In his very highly publicized match with White Crane master Ni Wo-tang there was no clear cut winner and both combatants were bleeding.  As everyone said, it was a boring match.

Therefore, in my opinion Yip Man had 14 "fighters" at the end of his life, 3-5 of which knew the complete system.  Of these 5, the last true masters of the Art, only 1 or 2 have passed down their complete knowledge to date.  The training is extremely hard and tough, and people now-a-days want instant kung-fu.  It is my belief that this generation of masters will be the last, and I'm not alone in this thought.  No one trains 6 hours a day with a dedicated teacher for the 5-7 years it takes to master this system the way it was meant to be.

So what can we do about it?  Unless you are related to one of the 5 true inheritors of the system, in my opinion all you can do is train what you are given, and fight.  Get better, fix your mistakes, fill in your gaps, and fight some more. Be like WSL, Bruce Lee, and etc.  Take what you know and learn to make it work for you.

Yip Man once asked, "Do you think you can learn something from a famous SiFu?" He went on to explain that just because he is famous it doesn't mean that you can learn something worthwhile from him.

He gave a scenario. Suppose Yim Wing Chun comes alive to teach you and it turns out what you learn is not practical for use in a real fight. It's outdated and useless.  Then someone who is nobody shows you some Wing Chun technique that really works in a fight. Which do you think is better?

He also asked one of his formal disciples once, "Do you belive everything I say?" 

The disciple replied, "Of course." 

Yip Man then said, "If you believe everything I say then you will never become a good fighter".

"Why shouldn't I belive you?  You are my SiFu"

"Try [the techniques I teach you] out for yourself.  And when you have a problem I will correct it".

Yip Man would say not to blindly believe everything he said. He wanted you  to do your own research using common sense with his teachings as a guideline. After all, how do you know you are not being cheated? (Boy, this sure applies to today's world of Wing Chun).  Yip Man told all of his students to go out and fight (and a few actually did, but not most, and not most of the ones teaching today).  How many people do this today vs how many are teaching Wing Chun as if they know something?

Yip Man also had the habit of telling all of his student they were right.  Even during his lifetime most of his senior students were using the hands and techniques differently.  They all thought they were right.  Most never took his advice and didn't believe him.  They should have tested their Wing Chun as he told them to.  Even his own son did not.

"Application is the only way to verify the truth"

Of course you have to respect your SiFu. Use your common sense. Accept what they say, research it. Test it. Don't mystify the art. If you can't see it, and if you can't feel it, then how do you know it is correct and practical? Go fight with it, this is the only way to understand. 

Additional Reading:
  • My Sifus by Sifu Lee Che Kong.  Allan Lee, Yip Man's last disciple, went to Sifu Duncan Leung, one of the five to complete the full system to finish his training and become the 6th Sifu under Yip Man to get the full system.  In this article Allan says some of the same things my research has found.
  • Wing Chun Warrior:  True Fighting Episodes of Duncan Leung - Yip Man's third formal disciple to take the three kneels and nine kowtoes and to get the full and complete system.  This book is mainly very toned down stories of a few of Duncan's Fights. It was not written by Duncan.  It also mentions a little on how and why Duncan learned differently, and how Yip Man told him at the time he only had two true elder Kung-Fu brothers. 
  • The Essence of Wing Chun by Sifu Lee Che Kong - Mainly the criteria and Gung Lek are the important parts of this article.  Gung Lek is PART of the system that was not passed down to everyone completely.

Who are the 5? 

I get this question a lot.  The only one we know for sure 100% is Duncan Leung.  Alan Lee was the 6th, but Yip Man didn't train him on the secret parts, he sent him to Duncan because Yip Man was too old.    Alan is the only one that knows the names Yip Man gave him for sure, and he will say you wouldn't know any of them. 

Other people have said proposed the 5 at various times, usually including their own Sifu.  Yip Man is said to have spread the knowledge among 5 of his public students as well each giving them 1/5th and telling them if they every got their act together and stopped bickering they'd figure the system out.  They never figured it out, but the 5 were supposedly:  Wong Shun Leung, Chu Shong Tin (he got the internal aspects), Duncan Leung (external, condition, power generation, and swords), Hawkins Cheung, and Allan Lee.  However, I personally see flaws in this.  1) Duncan was not a public student.  2) Some of these guys got along great and never bickered.  Most of the in-fighting was not with these guys.  3) The generation differences don't add up.  WSL and CST were his 3rd and 4th private students in Hong Kong, and Allan Lee was the last and a Lok Yiu student.  It just seems odd he'd pass on 1/5 of the system to these guys in this manner.  Some trained with Yip Man almost 20 years apart.  Maybe he did pass on 1/5 of the system to 5 people, but if so I tend to think it was either the 5 true disciples or 5 of his private students.  Not a mix or people 20 years apart.

From what I've seen of Wing Chun I will say this.  1) Not everyone got the same from Yip Man.  2) I tend to believe Duncan got a lot more than any other public Sifu I've seen in the application and power training of Wing Chun.  3) CST got more of the Internal 4) I tend to believe that Yip Man passed the shell of Wing Chun only onto his public students - some of which took that and made it very effective 5) Wing Chun as a whole and complete art is dying out and will not last another generation.

 
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