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|International WingTsun Association (IWTA) Logo|
|Also known as||WingTsun Kungfu|
|Country of origin||Hong Kong (Leung)|
|Official website||International WingTsun Association (IWTA)|
|International WingTsun Association (IWTA) Logo|
|Also known as||WingTsun Kungfu|
|Country of origin||Hong Kong (Leung)|
|Official website||International WingTsun Association (IWTA)|
Wing Tsun (Chinese: 詠春; pinyin: yǒng chūn; Cantonese Yale: wihng chēun; literally "spring chant", sometimes written with the characters 永春 "eternal springtime") is a branch of Wing Chun, led by Leung Ting.
The particular phonetic spelling of 詠春 as Wing Tsun was picked by the branch founder Leung Ting to differentiate his branch from the others. WingTsun (without a space) is the trademarked form used by the International WingTsun Association (IWTA), not the name of the style.
The main objective of Wing Tsun (or WT as it is commonly abbreviated) is to be a realistic system of self-defense. WT does not focus on fighting “techniques”, instead relying on fighting and energy principles to be followed at all times. The central idea is that, under pressure, it is impossible to visually recognize the precise direction and speed of an attack and make a conscious decision in an effective way to react, all within the very brief amount of time you have before your opponent's attack lands. Rather, one must (counter) attack immediately in a very direct and protected manner and rely on reflexes to determine how to react if the opponent's attack continues to pose a problem. Chi sao, or “sticking hands” trains students to respond reflexively to the speed, force, and direction of an attack, based on tactile information – which the human brain processes much faster than visual information.
The main difference between Wing Tsun and other Wing Chun styles is the WT teaching method. The style's creator Leung Ting developed the system to be easier to learn and teach compared to more traditional styles of Wing Chun. This idea was later expanded upon by Keith Kernspecht, head of the European Wing Tsun Organization based in Germany, by introducing many of the WT specific forms (like the leg forms). WT has a more structured, school-like curriculum of teaching compared with other Wing Chun styles.
As a descendant of Wing Chun, Wing Tsun shares much of the same history. It only branches after the death of Yip Man, as student Leung Ting decided to take what he had learned from his master and teach it in a much more direct fashion than was traditionally taught in Wing Chun.
The principle of directness of teaching was expanded upon by Keith Kernspecht in Germany, and his curriculum is the one most taught today. Besides creating some of the modern forms, Kernspecht also developed a more practical and applied version of some WingTsun techniques, collectively called ‘BlitzDefence’. These focus on defending against a traditional Western style attacker and ending the confrontation as quickly as possible, while limiting the damage to any involved parties. By organising the WingTsun Association, Kernspecht helped spread the style across the western world.
The official lineage of Wing Tsun, leading up to Leung Ting, is as follows:
|Yim Wing Chun (嚴詠春)|
|Leung Bok Chau (梁博儔)|
|Leung Lan Kwai (梁蘭桂)|
|Wong Wah Bo (黃華寶) (陳華順)||Leung Yee Tei (梁二娣)|
|Leung Jan (梁贊)|
|Chan Wah Shun (陳華順)||Leung Bik (梁壁)|
|Yip Man (葉問)|
|Leung Sheung (梁相)|
|Leung Ting (梁挺)|
The eight principles of Wing Tsun form a system of aggressive self-defense that allows one to adapt immediately to the size, strength and fighting style of an attacker. There are many ways to express the principles, since they are essentially very simple. However, it takes years of performing the forms and practicing chi sao with a knowledgeable instructor to train the body to follow the principles reflexively and to understand their applications in specific situations.
As well as describing the progression of a self-defense response, the strength principles also describe the progression a WingTsun student must follow over years of training: first, form training and a great deal of punching to learn to be relaxed in a fight and to (counter intuitively) punch without tension; second, countless hours of chi sao training to be able to yield to — and exploit — the attacker's strength; finally, strength training specific to WT to increase punching and striking power.
Wing Tsun training is based on developing reflexes. Training is split into various forms, many of which are only learned when a martial artist has passed the student levels of Wing Tsun.
The Lat Sao program is something particular to the European branch of the Leung Ting style of teaching WingTsun; the other Wing Chun branches, including the Hong Kong branch of Leung Ting's organization, generally progress in a more traditional manner from the forms to Chi Sao training to sparring. Lat Sao roughly translates as "rolling hands" or "tumbling hands" training.
Lat Sao is a sensitivity drill to obtain specific chi sao reflexive responses. Although it may look combative, it should not be mistaken for sparring or fighting. Lat Sao is a game, in which one partner plays the part of an attacker, and the other a defender. The attacker and defender generally switch roles frequently, or after a set number of attacks. If one is not paying attention, or if the teacher has not explained the drill properly, the training can accelerate and become competitive; if this happens, the students are missing the point of the exercise altogether. Lat Sao is not about hitting your opponent, but about feeding him attacks that he trains to counter. As your partner becomes better, the attacks can be gradually made more difficult to counter by making them faster or more precise. However, once the attack is consistently getting through, it should be slowed down again, so that the defender can identify his mistake, or "hole" in the defense.
Lat Sao can be both beneficial and detrimental when not practiced with awareness of its benefits and its pitfalls. The benefits are generally a more technical and more precise style, because the student spends time testing his limits and finding his mistakes. A secondary benefit is a student's greater confidence and less shock when first confronted with free-sparring programs. The pitfalls are over-reliance on patterns learned in drills and mechanical execution by rote, rather than feeling the opponent's pressure and reacting to it. It is beneficial to confront the students with unexpected solutions to problems posed in Lat Sao, as an exercise and to demonstrate that each Lat Sao drill is just one of very many possible solutions to a given problem. A good exercise is also asking a student to solve Lat Sao problems using newly learned techniques in each program; even if the things they come up with do not work, the habit of investigating the problem from different angles and not taking Lat Sao as something set in stone will help them avoid the pitfalls.
German Lat Sao is being described in the afore mentioned. The German Style Lat Sao in the 1990s and early 2000s was used widely in Europe and America. In German Lat Sao the opponents tend to go through a longer, more complex sequence building it up over time. In Chinese Lat Sao the focus is more on realistic powerful attack, so the sequence generally ends within two-three strikes.
In more advanced Lat Sao the two opponents square off and both try to gain the upper hand, allowing their Chi Sao reactions to take over.
Chi Sao (黐手) or "sticking hands" is the set of drills used for the development of automatic fighting reflexes. It directly grows out of the main principles of WingTsun. In Chi Sao, both must maintain forward pressure, both must stick to prevent opponent's pressure from coming through and striking, both must yield when opponent attacks with a force that upsets the balance between the two, and both must follow when a way forward opens. The flow of attack and counterattack in Chi Sao alternates, and can be very quick indeed. However, Chi Sao is a partner training exercise, not a sparring or fighting drill, and should not be confused for such. The purpose of chi sao is to train the reflexes that let your body know what your opponent is doing, and react to it automatically.
One of the features of Wing Tsun that differ it from other branches of wing chun is anti-grappling and ground fighting trainings. Unlike grappling martial arts that wrestle on the ground or other styles which borrow grappling techniques from such arts, Wing Tsun is claimed to use its own principles on the ground to overcome the opponent.
The basic forms of WingTsun are covered in the student grades, with further refinements of application and technique in later forms. The goal of WingTsun is to be a "redundant" form, in that the teaching will build upon movement and reactions previously learned to allow greater understanding of the material faster. Each building block may not be completely understood when it is taught (although it should be understood in the limited capacity that a level explains it), however the earlier training will act as a foundation for training in later levels.
The Wing Tsun Siu Nim Tao or "little idea form" features a leg form in addition to the traditional hand movements. The aim is to provide the same foundation for the legs that the hand movements supply for the arms.
The name of the form means 'bridging', or 'seeking' arms. The focus of the form is to bridge the distance between self and opponent, deflecting his attacks. It is characterized by a one-two defense-counterattack pattern. In Chum Kiu, you nearly always yield to opponent's attack, and use it as a bridge to come in and counter-attack.
Biu Tze (lit. "dart fingers") is characterized by the use of open hand techniques (as opposed to closed fist punches), and for this reason gains its name. The form teaches how to cut through the opponent's defenses if his Chum Kiu reactions are precise enough that the attacker cannot find a mistake in his defense to take advantage of. It also teaches how to regain and create a new centerline once it has been lost, and because of this is sometimes referred to as a set of "emergency techniques". Bui Tze adds full-torso movements to the arm and leg techniques of the Siu Nim Tao and Chum Kiu forms, though (as with the other forms) some Biu Tze movements are learned in the student WT grades – building on its "redundant" teaching system.
Mook Yan Jong literally means "wood person post", as such it is used to take the place of an imaginary partner to practice on. However, it is not a literal representation of a person – but a representation of a person's force and energy.
In the wooden dummy form, the fighter attacks and counters in multiple planes and directions. Where Chum Kiu attacked and defended linearly, and Biu Tze cut through the opponent's defenses from different angles, Wooden Dummy focuses on attacking from multiple angles simultaneously, while moving around the opponent. For example, a wooden dummy attack could involve a simultaneous kick to the knee, pull with one arm, and punch with the other. This is extremely difficult to counter, as the defenses must also be simultaneous to all three attacks. Despite that, the wooden dummy training is still useful long before the student can actually apply its principles, as it helps focus and clean up the lower level techniques.
The trunk of the Wing Tsun wooden dummy is made of a cylindrical wooden stake of about 5 feet in length, and 9 inches in diameter. Other parts of the dummy include the two upper arms, which are stuck into chiseled holes at the same height of the upper part of the trunk. The third arm, called the middle arm, is stuck into a hole below the two for the upper arms.
The dummy also has a leg which is a short bent stake thicker than the three arms stuck at a hole below that for the middle arm. Together these form the body of the dummy which is fixed to the supporting frame by two cross-bars that pass through holes in the upper and lower ends of the trunk. The two crossbars are fixed onto two perpendicular supporting pillars.
The supporting pillars are usually firmly fixed onto the wall or at the ground, so as to stand heavy strikes.
Formally known as the "Six and A Half Point Pole" form, this is the second to last form of the system. This form involves a lot of footwork and precision training. It is also a great workout – trying to put the point of a 9-foot (2.7 m) pole through a 2-inch-diameter (51 mm) circle requires high precision and core body strength. Thus, while the use of weapon itself is uncommon, training it improves the overall power and precision of your technique.
The Wing Tsun empty-hand system uses stances and footwork optimized for weaponless fighting. The basic adduction stance, the sidelong stance, and the advancing (or fighting stance) are all rather narrow and high.
However, the main pole stance is much lower and wider to allow better leverage in manipulating the long weapon. This low stance, combined with the stepping from the empty-hand system, provides leverage, stability, and quick steps.
In the beginning, students are taught the gwun mah (quadrilateral pole stance), in addition to stepping and punching exercises. Once the student possesses a firm stance, he will learn simple strength training exercises in which the pole is raised and lowered. These exercises are required for the student to have the strength necessary to perform the long pole form and chi-gwun exercises. With time, a proficient Wing Tsun pole expert can maneuver the pole as easily as if it were a chopstick.
Next, the student will combine the basic footwork and pole techniques to step and thrust, press down with the pole, raise the pole, and advance. Students at this stage will practice the biu lung cheong (thrusting dragon spear), an exercise where the student will aim, step, and apply a spearing thrust with the pole at a small target such as a suspended bell. By using progressively smaller targets and putting them in motion, the Wing Tsun practitioner can improve his marksmanship and speed.
Finally, when a student has developed sufficient strength and exhibits proficiency in the basic stances, footwork and pole movements, he is ready to learn the Long Pole form.
The authentic long pole form passed down by the late Grandmaster Yip Man is a rather short sequence containing the essentials for pole fighting. Unlike the many self-created versions, which consist of over 50 or even 70-plus movements, the true pole form is quite compact and focused on practicality. There are seven basic movements incorporated in the pole form which are identified by the following keywords:
Because of the compact nature of the long pole form, it is not necessary to practice the form in such a large open area. There are no movements in the pole form which involve pointing the pole upwards at a 90 degree angle to the ground (which would require a high ceiling), swinging the pole 180 degrees (requiring a wide area), nor any movements using the head of the pole (i.e. the thicker end) for overhead windmill-like strikes. The deceptively short sequence of the pole form belies its extremely profound approach to weapons combat. There are no wasted movements, flashy twirls or fancy spinning movements. The Wing Tsun pole is simple, direct and deadly.
After learning the Wing Tsun pole form, a student is taught chi-gwun (pole clinging exercise). Here the practitioner learns to extend the tactile sensitivity and reflexes he has developed in the chi-sau training through an inanimate 8.5-to-9-foot-long (2.6 to 2.7 m) wooden weapon. This exercise simultaneously requires the practitioner to be strong enough to wield the long pole, yet light and sensitive enough to detect the direction and pressure of the opponent's weapon. Moreover, since the poles have a hard, smooth surface unlike human arms in chi-sau (arm clinging exercises), the task of "sticking" to the weapon is quite challenging.
In chi-gwun, each partner attempts to follow the same principles that apply to chi-sau. When the way is free, thrust forward; when the way is obstructed, stick (cling); if receiving greater force, yield or give way; and when the opponent withdraws, retreats or lowers his defense – go forward.
At the last stage of long pole training, the student will be taught to apply the pole movements for actual combat. This involves defending against a variety of weapons including swords, spears, staffs and other long poles.
Long pole fighting is governed by the phrase, "No two sounds in pole-fighting." In contrast to the kung fu movies where two opponents strike pole against pole repeatedly until one goes for the kill, Wing Tsun pole fighting aims to dispatch the opponent immediately after initial contact is made. There is no extended cacophony of pole hitting pole multiple times, only the initial sound made when weapons touch, followed by the kill shot.
One of the most dramatic demonstrations of this is long pole vs. long pole. During these lighting-fast matches, two Wing Tsun experts square off and have a go – which is decided in a matter of seconds. Unlike empty-hand fighting where one can recover from empty-hand strikes and continue fighting, a single strike from a weapon is usually disabling, if not fatal. So to ensure safety in actual matches, the combatants wear protective gear.
Tying into this fact is an ancient Wing Tsun proverb: "Fear the younger, stronger opponent in fist-fighting, but fear the older, wiser opponent in pole-fighting." The Wing Tsun long pole expert, much like a gunslinger from the Old West, has the advantage of superior experience and wisdom in the dangerous arena of weapons fighting. The fight will not last long, and the winner is always the one with more seasoning and experience.
Translating as Eight Cut Broadsword, this is the last form of the system.
One characteristic of Wing Tsun is its structured teaching system. While many styles of martial arts teach techniques in a non-linear fashion, WT's system is structured like a school curriculum, with each grade building on the previous, rather than just introducing more information to learn. Also, unlike the traditional master-apprentice model of teaching where a student would follow his instructor for several years or even a lifetime, the IWTA's structured approach ensures all students receive a complete WT education at each grade level. A busy individual who can only train twice a week would not miss out on important concepts or ideas that would give their devoted classmate, seemingly always in class, an unfair advantage – though an advantage would likely arise from their classmate's diligence and further developed skills from the extra hours of training.
The WingTsun curriculum consists of twelve student grades which cover the first two forms, Siu Nim Tao and Chum Kiu, as well as the related Chi Sao training and applications. In addition to the hand forms there is also a standardized set of leg forms that are learned with the Siu Nim Tau.
The student grades can be split into three sections, based on the topics they cover:
1st – 4th, Learning fundamentals across the three ranges.
5th – 8th, Ranges applied with movement and transition.
9th – 12th, Application of the style, against kicks.
At student grade 9 the student is expected to not only know the fundamentals of the style (as in grade 8) but be able to apply it effectively against an attacker. The subtle, but important difference between these two grades means that either one of these, depending on the school, can be considered equivalent to the "black belt" rank. There is no consensus, as there is no direct formal comparison.
In some schools graduation through the levels may be signified by different colored shirts, such as white up to 5, gray for level 5–8, and black for level 9–12. This depends entirely on the convention of the school.
Following the student grades are twelve instructor grades. At the instructor levels, the student begins training in the more advanced forms of Wing Tsun including Biu Tze (標指), Wooden Dummy (木人樁), Butterfly Knives (八斬刀) and Long Pole (六點半棍).
The instructor grades are themselves split into three sections, each of which with a particular focus in mind. From 1st to 4th Technician level, the student works on his technique, continuously improving and refining it as he learns Biu Tze and begins learning Wooden Dummy. Between 5th to 8th Practitioner level, the student learns the final parts of the system, and should have the whole of it, as well as be able to apply everything he's learned fluently and effortlessly. From 9th to 11th Philosopher level, the student is expected to understand the mental, and spiritual, elements of the style, and should contribute back to the style by searching for weaknesses and suggesting improvements in teaching methods, techniques, and drills. The final, 12th grade is awarded only posthumously, as it presupposes that the one who achieved it, has achieved perfection – and as that is impossible as long as one remains human, it is forever out of reach.
Each instructor grade takes correspondingly longer to achieve. The first twelve student levels take about four years to complete at average attendance twice weekly. The first technician level after that is another year of training; each subsequent grade takes an extra year – so, second technician is two years, third is three, fourth is four, and so on. Of course people can pass their grades faster if they attend class more frequently and train out of class, but generally this is the timeline that one can expect.
While different schools will have different equipment and uniforms, there are some common elements amongst them.
Uniform varies from school to school, however advanced students will usually wear black, and lower level students will usually wear white or, if more advanced, grey. These colors are often, but not always, displayed on the students school t-shirt.
While special elasticated "kung-fu trousers" are often worn for safety (preventing caught feet and toes when training), it is also common to see normal track/jogging bottoms worn by low level students. Each school will have different rules.
Instructors in WingTsun always wear black uniforms, with advanced instructors being signified with red being stripes featured on the uniform trousers. Gold or Yellow highlights are often used to signify additional rank, though this convention is far from universal.
While WT is mostly an empty handed style, it does use weapons when the student is sufficiently advanced. It also has some equipment that is used for training.
The official umbrella organization for WingTsun, the International WingTsun Association (IWTA), is headquartered in Hong Kong and led by Leung Ting. The IWTA has schools in over 60 countries, and has gained a large following in the western world. There are now over 2,000 WingTsun schools in Europe, most of them in Germany and its neighboring countries. With over 1,000,000 practitioners worldwide, the IWTA is currently one of the largest martial arts organizations in the world. The EWTO (European WingTsun Organization) headquarters is situated in Heielberg, Germany. In Eastern-Europe Wing Tsun has also existed since 1985 (in current form). The headquarters are in Hungary.