On the surface, Wing Chun is one of the simplest
looking systems of Chinese Kung Fu. Three empty hand forms cover the
complete essence of this art. Wing Chun also uses the long pole and
the popular Southern Chinese butterfly knives. Training in this form
of martial art consists of the three forms, sticking hands, the
wooden dummy, sand bag training and finally free style sparring.
However, behind this deceptively simple looking system of Kung Fu is
a vast amount of knowledge - Wing Chun is both simple and elegant,
but also very effective if used in an all out confrontation.
Economy of motion is at all times implemented through the centerline
theory, and this is the key idea in Wing Chun. Wing Chun was
designed by a woman, and in so doing one must realize from the
outset that brute strength has no part in this style - Correct
positioning, feeling, timing, and strategy are relied on instead,
you basically use your opponent's strength to your own advantage!!
Wing Chun uses punches, palms, pokes, chops, kicks, elbows, shoulder
attacks, head butts, knees and hips - Short range non-telegraphed
hits provide the arsenal of Wing Chun. It is characterized by short
explosive hand attacks, low kicks and simultaneous attack and
Grandmaster Yip Man spent his whole life as champion of the cause of
Wing Chun Kung Fu. He was responsible for advancing Wing Chun Kung
Fu to its eminence today. Yip Man was the first Sifu ever to open a
Wing Chun school accessible to the general public.
Yip Man began with his training under Chan Wah Soon, the first of
three Wing Chun masters to instruct him. He started his training at
a very young age. Chan accepted him as both his youngest and his
final student. Yip trained under Chan until Chan's death in 1905,
thereafter continuing his Wing Chun with Ng Chung So, one of Chan's
top disciples. After two more years of study, Yip left Fatshan for
Hong Kong and enrolled in St. Stephen's College at Stanley to pursue
an academic education.
While enrolled at St. Stephen's, a classmate, hearing of Yip's
training in kung fu, dared him to challenge an old kung fu
practitioner living on a boat anchored in Hong Kong Bay. Yip
accepted the dare and duly sought out and challenged the old man.
The old man accepted his challenge and, despite Yip's growing
reputation as an unmatched fighter, beat him handily. Only after his
defeat did Yip discover that the old man was actually master Leung
Bik, a direct descendant of the original Wing Chun lineage reaching
back to Wing Chun herself. After the melee, Leung took Yip as his
only student in the art and advanced his Wing Chun even further,
both expanding his theoretical grounding in the art and refining
Yip returned to Fashan at age 24 and found a position as the Captain
of the Local Police Patrols of Namhoi. Yip worked as a law
enforcement officer for several years, teaching Wing Chun in
his spare time, but always, in accordance with Wing Chun tradition,
restricting his lessons to a just a few carefully selected students.
Yip continued in this manner until China succumbed to the Communist
revolution in 1949. Historical accounts seem to concur that Yip felt
forced to flee mainland China and return to British-occupied Hong
Kong as a consequence of the communist uprising. In any case, Yip at
the age of 54 abandoned his family home and fortune to seek
sanctuary off shore.
Reaching Hong Kong alone and destitute, facing certain poverty, Yip
Man quickly fell back on his martial arts expertise to earn a
living. He decided to break with the Wing Chun tradition of limiting
instruction to a select few and opened a public Wing Chun school in
the union hall building for restaurant workers.
However Yip Man established his teaching practice in Hong Kong, he
managed to create with it the seeds of a martial arts revolution
that, through the efforts of some of those he taught, would take
root in countries spanning the world. Though Yip Man himself never
taught outside the Chinese sphere of influence, his disciples
carried his Wing Chun around the globe.
Bruce Lee was one of them.
Perhaps no other name is spoken in Wing Chun circles with greater
reverence than that of Grandmaster Yip Man. A teacher of the art
until his death in 1972, Yip Man is often credited with moving Wing
Chun from an obscure fighting system known only in China to a
world-renowned style of kung fu studied by thousands.
Grandmaster Yip Man working the
In Wing Chun training, the wooden dummy presents a
"person" to train with.
The design of the wooden dummy is such that nearly all the Wing Chun
techniques can be drilled on it. Due to the fixed nature of the
dummy the individual practitioner's movements become quite exacting
A formal set of wooden dummy techniques is taught by most Wing Chun
schools and after the student has become familiar with this, he is
free to improvise.
The wooden dummy is also used as a conditioning device to supplement
the sand bag for training short range punches, palms, chops and
kicks. Its advantage over the sand bag is that all the deflecting
movements can be practiced on it ... The wooden dummy reinforces the
correct stance, correct arm angle, correct stepping and the correct
Grandmaster Yip Man in action !!
In this short demonstration the real
"simplicity" of Wing Chun Kung Fu is shown.
Towards the end of the sequence of movements note how
Grandmaster Yip Man is able to trap both of his opponents hands
rendering him helpless.
He then follows up with a side-palm strike to the neck.
About the author:
Robert Ciapparelli is a JKD Unlimited practitioner and studies under
Sifu Morne Swanepoel in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is dedicated
to the pursuit of complete martial freedom, as well as to enhancing
his unlimited potential within the realms of combat and beyond.He
can be contacted via his website