Whilst most people take up martial arts for the self defence aspect, there is of course the health side to think about too. I would say it’s perfectly fine starting a martial art like Wing Chun from a point where you feel unfit, with your doctors permission of course. That is how I started.
Beats the Gym
It is certainly more fun than hitting the gym and in most cases increased fitness will develop naturally over time. The way I think about things does tend to revolve around efficiency. If you are going to spend time repeating an action or an exercise you might as well make those movements useful in other situations.
Whilst we use repetitive exercises to build muscle and improve cardio function, being able to apply the same movements you have been practising for self defence is an added bonus.
Where is it from?
So where does Wing Chun come from? Unsurprisingly the style is from China but its popularity comes from a very famous Chinese man you may have heard about. His name is Bruce Lee and he has without a doubt made Wing Chun one of the most popular forms of Chinese martial arts around the world. There are now so many different types of Wing Chun that the words lineage and authentic get thrown around a lot but does it matter?
Does Lineage matter?
I am a big fan of several styles of martial arts from different countries and places all around the world. Wing Chun is certainly one of my favourites and Bath happens to be one of the places with a direct link to Ip Man’s lineage.
If you want to know what Bruce Lee knew then you have to learn from the person who taught him. That person is the late Ip Man also spelt Yip Man. His lineage now lives on through his eldest son, Ip Chun and the UK Wing Chun Academy based in Bath trains with Ip Chun over in Hong Kong. Check out their about page for more information regarding their links.
People do put a lot of emphasis on lineage and authenticity in the Wing Chun world. To me it means both everything and nothing. You want to know that what you are learning is effective. In this way it acts like a guarantee but at the same time it shouldn’t really matter where or who it comes from as long as it works.
No matter what style you learn and hopefully you will learn more than one, you should keep these words in mind. “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.” – Bruce Lee
What I like about the style
Wing Chun emphasises efficiency and straight lines. There are only 108 moves to learn because less thinking means more time defending from attacks. If you have too many options to chose from this can lead to information overload. Essentially you freeze and during a fight is not a good time to freeze.
Knowing 1000 ways to block a punch has two problems. First which one do you chose? You do not have time in a fight to work out the best defence you just need something to work. Second to reach the same level of proficiency with each defence will take 1000 times longer as you will need to practice each block thousands of times to learn and perfect it.
In the words of Bruce Lee “I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.”
A Martial Art for women
Whilst anyone can train in any style of martial arts, Wing Chun prides itself on being created specifically for women. In fact Michelle Yeoh played the woman ‘Wing Chun’ who the martial art is meant to have been created for
in the movie unsurprisingly called Wing Chun. It’s an oldie but a goodie as they say.
The style does not require you to have a massive physique or to be taller than your opponent. It focuses on small and often fast movements to intercept and redirect punches heading towards you. In training you perform drills such as Chi Sau which builds sensitivity in your arms allowing you to react without having to see what your opponent is doing.
It’s lean, it’s fast and it’s devastatingly efficient.
Want to check it out?
For some of the best choreographed examples of Wing Chun the movies are the best place to start. There are now four movies staring Donnie Yen as Ip Man which can currently be found on Netflix. They are by far my favourite movies not just because of the choreography but the fantastic story lines and the superb acting.
Be warned Ip Man 3 is a tear jerker but has a very good elevator fight scene against a muay thai fighter which really shows off the close quarter benefits that Wing Chun give you.
For one final example the Sherlock Holmes movies staring Robert Downey Junior incorporates Wing Chun into the fight scenes. RDJ himself is a practitioner and even credits the style for helping him keep his focus.
When you are training, if you lose your focus that is when your opponent gets you. The thought about having to buy more dog food on the way home or what you want to have for dinner that night is when a slap gets through your defence.
There are a few other styles which are similar. The first is Wing Tsun which is very similar and essentially a different flavour of the same style. When students become masters they tend to either change a few things to allow them to call their new style something different or they retain the name and lineage for wider appeal.
Kali another favourite of mine is a Filipino martial art which whilst completely separate does share some similar concepts like efficiency and the idea a few moves are better than too many.
I have done and continue to enjoy both styles equally. In fact Bruce Lee was also known to have studied Kali from his friend Dan Inosanto. You can see his stick fighting skills in one of his most famous movies Enter the Dragon, a personal favourite.