In Yongchunquan / Wing Chun Chuan 咏春拳[1], as in Yiquan, an attempt has been made to reduce excess ballast. The Shaolin tradition[2], with its dense lessons packed with so many teachings, probably reached a point where it became necessary to reduce the numerous forms and techniques, in order to return the emphasis in martial arts back to the central concepts of Kung Fu.

Yongchunquan / Wing Chun Chuan is one of the more than 500 Kung Fu styles. Its logical directness makes Yongchunquan / Wing Chun Chuan suitable for efficient self-defence. This style was created by the nun Ng Mui 五梅 (NING MUI) in the legendary Shaolin Monastery 少林寺 in about 1760, during the Qing-dynasty[3]. Monks who had practised the ‘hard’ Shaolin styles[4] for 15 years were impressed by Yongchunquan / Wing Chun Chuan and considered it to be a secret method.
Yongchunquan / Wing Chun Chuan enhances the efficiency of its adherents with the following revolutionary aspects:

  • simultaneousness (of defence and attack)
  • concentration on the central line (median-sagittal-plane)
  • sensitivity training (training of reflexes)

In Yongchunquan / Wing Chun Chuan force is not matched against force (where the stronger is bound to win). Systematic practice teaches you how to put your opponent’s strength to use for your simultaneous counterattack. Thus you learn to protect your weak points while at the same time striking the ones of your opponent. Moreover, your reflexes are considerably improved. Everything is more based on skills and tactics, rather than strength. This gives a physically handicapped person a chance to defend him- or herself successfully against a much stronger person. This style, therefore, is ideally suited for women and children.

Video of Ip Man’s Xiaoniantou/Siu Lim Tao >

The eight main exercise groups below are a model that favours one’s personal developement. Knowledge comes from the experience acquired through striking and counterstriking. The exchange of blows is not an end in itself but stands for a much more extensive learning process. This is, of course, always done in a way such that one is challenged, but not pushed over his or her limit. Provided that one trains seriously[5] enough, there is no limit to one’s pathway.

1. Xiaoniantou / Siu Lim Tao 小念头 (little idea). Exercises done while standing that strengthen your basic structure through their movements. Preliminary ideas (concepts) of dodging and thereby simultaneously counterattacking.

2. Xunqiao / Chum Kiu 寻桥 (looking for a bridge). The concepts that were developed in the preceding exercise group are now put into action with the addition of stepping techniques.

3. Biaoken / Bju Tse 标掯 (thrusting fingers). The acquired stability can now be used for the opposite concept – the direct attack. Thus, the inner strength can also be gradually focused on a single point.

4. Murenzhuang / Mok Jan Chong 木人桩 (wooden dummy). All previous concepts form a unified whole and one’s proper resistance is greatly increased. The aim is to be able to release force at will anytime and in any direction.[6]

5. Liudian-Bangun / Lok Dim Bun Guan 六点半棍 (long pole). The further consolidation of the basic structure considerably increases the effectiveness of each single technique. The long pole is the foundation for all weapons with a staff (point directed principle). It specifically trains tactical thinking.

6. Bazhandao / Pa Cham Dao 八斩刀 (short swords). The basic structure is optimized to the tips of the fingers and toes. The short swords are the foundation for all cutting weapons (circular directed principle). It especially promotes strategic thinking.

7. Chishou / Chi Sao 黐手 (sticking hands). This exercise group is practised with a partner and puts one’s level to the test within circumscribed boundaries. Through contact of the arms and/or the legs, pressure is exerted by both partners; this is later elaborated through the addition of striking and defending techniques. Practice begins standing in the spot, using one arm or one leg. Later on, both arms or both legs are used and finally, footwork techniques are added.

8. Sanshou 散手 (free hands, free fighting). Similar to the previous exercise, except that now the emphasis is not on practice but on ‘real’ fighting. Preliminary stages are, for example, competitions with rules and protective equipment, which restrict the possibilities (Qingda, Sanda, Leitai). In the end there are no rules. You cannot dismiss a strike that hurts.

[1] Yongchunquan / Wing Chun Chuan (Chinese, singing spring fist).

[2] Shaolin (Chinese, young forest monastery). This alludes to those styles of Kung Fu that arose from this tradition and which have, in part over centuries, accumulated more and more forms, movements and techniques. Nowadays you often find people rigidly referring on a long tradition, desperately clinging to set of given routines to preserve it.

[3] 1644-1911, also Mandschu. In 1768 the Shaolin Monastery was destroyed once again (legend of the five eldest, the only survivors). This was followed by rebellions, the Opium Wars and the fall of the empire. The story of the founder of the style Ng Mui is historically not proven and is therefore regarded as a legend.

[4] The following are a few ‚Shaolin styles’: Black Crane, Choy Li Fut, Cobra, Crab, Dragon, Drunken, Five Immortals, Hung Gar, Leopard, Lohan, Northern Praying Mantis, Python, Snake, Southern Praying Mantis, Springing Leg, Tiger, White Crane, White Eyebrow and Wing Chun; the latter is mainly a synthesis of Snake and White Crane.

[5] ‚Seriously enough’ refers to a qualitative appropriate training in moderation. If one trains a lot, but for instance only one of the qualities of neili, then zhengtili, and of course all the other forces will never be developed. If one trains with the appropriate quality, this should be done with moderation, which again will vary from individual to individual. Too much and too little are equally non-beneficial.

[6] A popular legend says it came about when 108 separate wooden dummies from the Shaolin Temple 少林寺 were combined into one by the nun Ng Mui 五梅 to make training more efficient and effective. The Wing Chun wooden dummy uses an arm and leg configuration designed to cultivate energies & forces on different layers simultaneously. The Hong Kong wooden dummy is a wall mounted version that hangs using two wooden slats through the body of the wooden dummy. Older versions of the wooden dummies were originally placed in or on the ground. The modern design was created by Ip Man 叶问 in Hong Kong to fit the needs of living in an apartment. The Wing Chun version of the Mok Yan Chong 木人桩 has three arms and one leg, which represents an opponent’s body in various positions and the lines of force the body can give out. The pole dummies are harder to train then the wall mounted ones, but they develop a much better body structure.

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