I'm a freelance writer who enjoys travel & culture.Enjoy more writings from me by visiting my blog at www.wandersoftheworld.net
Published May 7th 2011
Wing Chun Kung Fu (meaning eternal spring) is a southern style of Kung Fu that specialises in close range combat using linear strikes and low to mid range kicks. Wing Chun is practiced globally in over 64 countries and as a result has become the world's most popular form of Southern Kung Fu. Most interestingly, it is also the only traditional kung fu style that was created by a woman.
The history of Wing Chun is somewhat hazy due to the fact that the genesis story of this style was passed down through word of mouth rather than through written documents. The commonly accepted story is the tale of a Buddhist nun named Ng Mui, who had escaped the destruction of the Shaolin Temple by the Qing Army.
One day, Ng Mui witnessed a fight between a snake and a crane. Intrigued and inspired, Ng Mui used what she had learnt from the snake and crane fight and combined it with her knowledge of Shaolin Kung Fu to create her own unique style.
The Buddhist nun passed her knowledge of this newly developed style of Kung fu to a local tofu vender who was being forced into marriage by the local warlords. This tofu vender, named Wing Chun, used Ng Mui's style of kung fu to defeat the warlords from harassing her ever again. Wing Chun eventually found a man she truly loved and in turn, taught the style to him. Her husband, Leung Bok-Chao, named the style after his wife and both passed on the style to others.
It wasn't until the early 50's when Wing Chun increasingly grew in popularity with the help of a quiet humble man named Yip Man, aka Bruce Lee's master. Yip Man was first Wing Chun teacher who taught the style openly on a school fee basis in Hong Kong. It is thanks to Yip Man that Wing Chun is able to enjoy the success and popularity it receives today.
Wing Chun takes a very simple, direct, efficient and very effective approach to Martial Arts. It is a fighting system that doesn't rely on having great strength, but instead uses the body's natural structure to develop power, speed and efficiency. An important aspect in the Wing Chun system is the 'Centre line Theory'. The Centre line is an imaginary vertical line that stretches along the centre of your body from head to toes. Wing Chun places a strict emphasises on guarding one's centre line as the most vital organs in the body are located along this line, for example, eyes, nose, throat, solar plexus and groin. Striking along the centre line can cause maximum damage and reaction where as striking points outside the centre line will cause impact to be minimal and less effective.
Wing Chun favours more linear strikes rather than circular strikes as it is the fast route from point A to point B. Circular strikes are disregarded since it not only exposes one's centreline but also places an emphasis on strength rather than technique. Wing Chun practitioners believe that the strength and impact of a straight punch should be supported by the alignment of the elbow and the body, which would result in producing much more power than a swinging punch that is supported by only shoulder strength.
In regards to kicks, the linear approach is again favoured with the use of the front kick. Traditionally, Wing Chun kicks are mainly kept below the waist as any kick above the waist is seen as useless and inefficient. Why kick above the waist when you can use your hands to punch? The leg is the longest limb in your body and therefore in theory should be mainly used for long range attacks or defence.
Stance is important in any style of martial arts. A person who has a good stance can recover quickly from a failed attack and can also deliver a strong drive for their punch or kick. The characteristics of a Wing Chun stance is firm and steady yet mobile and adaptable. The Wing Chun stance should have the knees slightly bent; the feet shoulders width apart and the thighs locked as if one is holding a ball between the thighs. This creates a firm and stable base for the practitioner.
The mobility of the stance is utilised by placing the body weight on the balls of the feet rather than the entire foot. By doing so, the Wing Chun practitioner is able to be quick, ready and adaptable for any situation.
Although considered a 'hard style', Wing Chun does incorporate many aspects of a 'soft style' martial art. Relaxation and quickening one's reflexes are essential for a Wing Chun practitioner. When an arm muscle is tensed, striking speed is decreased due to the biceps essentially locking the forearm. Striking with a relaxed muscles means that one is able to quickly adapt to any situation that occurs and be able to take advantage of an offensive opening.
To train the body to relax while striking and quicken its reflexes, a training exercise called 'Chi Sao' is practised. Chi Sao, literally meaning sticky hands, is the most fundamental training exercise a Wing Chun practitioner will learn. Chi Sao is practiced through two practitioners maintaining contact with each other's forearms in a relaxed manner while executing techniques, thereby training both to feel each other's body mechanics, rhythm and sensitivity. When a change occurs during the exercise, a practitioner is able to train to quickly adapt to the change using the appropriate technique.
Most Chinese martial arts utilises a broad range of weaponry training as it is ideal for conditioning the body for reflex and coordination. Wing Chun only has two weapons which are practised: the Dragon Pole and the Butterfly Knives.
The Dragon Pole is a wooden pole that ranges from 8 to 13 feet in length. It is a weapon to that is used primarily for long range situations. Due to the heavy nature of the Dragon Pole, it is seen also as a weight training device for the forearms and wrist.
The Butterfly Knives are a pair of knives that are slightly shorter than a Chinese broad sword. Theoretically, a knife is an extension of the arm with techniques being similar to an empty handed technique. Using the Butterfly Knives mainly involves 'slicing' movements with little 'thrusting' manoeuvres.
It should be noted that schools of Wing Chun only offer lessons in weapons once a student has fully developed their empty hand techniques.
In Melbourne, Wing Chun has proven to be one of the more popular Chinese kung fu styles around. With a vast number of locations, Melbourne offers many schools where one can learn the art of Wing Chun. When you are searching for a Wing Chun school, you will inevitably find schools that teach either 'traditional' Wing Chun or 'modified' Wing Chun. There are some slight differences between the two styles; however, both fundamentally share the same essence of the Wing Chun philosophy. Traditional Wing Chun claims that it is much more pure than modified Wing Chun, however in the end, I believe it just comes down to difference in interpretations.
Listed below are just a few suggestions to choose from and to begin with.
Traditional Wing Chun Kung Fu
Located in the heart of the CBD, this is probably the best known school of Wing Chun since it's operated by the legendary Grandmaster William Cheung, the man responsible for introducing Australia to Wing Chun. Grandmaster Cheung was a live-in student of Yip Man and was also a senior of Bruce Lee.
Qian Li Dao Academy The Qian Li Dao Academy emphasises on 'Using Wing Chun Kung Fu as the Path to Your Hidden Talents.' This school is operated by Sifu Dana Wong, who has incorporated techniques from the Filipino Knife Arts into the training program.
Fantastic article nicely written, I recently visited a school in Melbourne called Kung Fu Melbourne and was surprised at the quality of learning. If anyone else is interested I found their website on the web kungfumelbourne.org