By Damian Ross and William Pehush of The Self Defense Company
The Shaolin monks of China are known throughout the world for the martial arts prowess and have become the stuff of legend. The monks training started out as just simple morning exercises, but their training evolved into several different styles of martial arts so that members of the holy order could use them to defend themselves in combat. They learned quickly that having a healthy body, a clear mind, and a rich spiritual life meant nothing if you couldn’t protect yourself from scumbags. Now most people today know the flashy styles of Kung Fu made popular by films and television, but traditional Wing Chun practiced by martial artists like Bruce Lee is a hard hitting style that is all about taking out your enemy as quickly as possible.
Like many martial arts styles it is hard to determine exactly when and how Wing Chun or Ving tsun as it is sometimes called came into being. Some believe Wing Chun was developed by several different Shaolin grandmasters that picked the best techniques for self defense from Chinese martial arts and made them all into one system. One persistent legend is that Ng Mui a nun from one of the Shaolin temples created Wing Chun as a form of boxing. It is said that she taught a woman named Yim Wing Chun how to fight, so she could defeat a local warlord in hand to hand combat otherwise she would be forced to marry him and not her lover. Whatever the true story is will probably never exactly be known, because the training was passed on through oral tradition as it was in those days.
The idea behind Wing Chun is to attack along the center line of your opponent’s body, and strike vital areas. This is extremely effective in breaking his balance and keeping him from mounting and offensive. At it’s core, Wing Chun is all about striking and destroying the target. This is seen in Bruce Lee’s “straight blast” method. The strike doesn’t need to be hard, but if it is done correctly it can do real damage. Rather then absorb the strikes of an attacker a Wing Chun practitioner deflects the attacker’s energy.
The style also teaches its students two traditional weapons, the dragon pole, and the butterfly knives. The pole arm has been used for centuries and was used to teach bayonet training. The butterfly knives used in pairs can hack down an opponent. Training secessions in Wing Chun are similar to most martial arts and like several Japanese martial arts, a wooden dummy is used to simulate striking an opponent so a student can refine their techniques and toughen their natural weapons for combat..
In other styles there is the block then the strike, but in Wing Chun the two movements are combined into one swift action. There is no pause between movements. When an attacker strikes at a Wing Chun practitioner they will deflect the blow and then strike back simultaneously. There is a structure to the style that also allows a practitioner block any attacks long as they’re protecting their core. With balance, body structure and relaxation a Wing Chun practitioner is able to maintain this attack/defense structure, but its strength is also a fatal weakness.
While someone can use Wing Chun to defeat a larger opponent only if they can stay strong enough long enough to maintain their attack/defense structure. Now in theory Wing Chun sounds great for self defense, but only in the short term. In a self defense situation there is no set time limit. You have to be able to keep fighting, and your method of self defense has to work whether you’re tired or hurt, because you can’t tell your attacker you need a break. Also there is no ground fighting techniques in Wing Chun. Now granted in a real hand to hand combat the last thing you want to do is end up on the ground, but you still need to know how to fight from there and improve your position.
The greatest person of note to practice Wing Chun was martial arts legend Bruce Lee (student of Yip Man). Lee saw flaws with his style and worked to strip away some of the pointless traditions and positions and turn Wing Chun in an even more basic and effective form of self defense. He also didn’t confine himself to just Wing Chun and studied many other martial arts, so don’t let anyone ever tell you Wing Chun was his style alone. Like so many martial arts today, Bruce Lee cross trained in boxing, jujutsu, karate, judo and greco-roman wrestling just to name a few. But despite all of Bruce Lee’s knowledge and expertise, he knew that Self defense is basic and brutal. There is no “style”. If you survive you win.
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