Wing Chun Concepts

The Forms

There are six forms in Wing Chun. The first three are empty hand forms, the fourth is performed on a wooden dummy, and the last two are weapons forms. Forms are meditative, solitary exercises which develop self-awareness, balance, relaxation, and sensitivity. Forms also train the practitioner in the fundamental movement and the correct force generation of Wing Chun.

Chi Sau and Chi Gerk

Chi Sao or “sticking hands” is the term for the principle and drills used for the development of automatic reflexes upon contact and the idea of “sticking” to the opponent. In Wing Chun this is practiced through two practitioners maintaining contact with each other’s forearms while executing techniques, thereby training each other to sense changes in body mechanics, pressure, momentum and “feel”. This increased sensitivity gained from this drill helps a practitioner attack and counter an opponent’s movements precisely, quickly and with the appropriate technique.

Chi gerk or “sticking legs” comprises predefined leg sensitivity drills which are performed in a manner similar to Chi sao.

The Principles

Tenets of Wing Chun include practicality, efficiency and economy of movement. Wing Chun techniques emphasize these tenets to maintain its ideals on effectiveness.

Wing Chun believes in using the least amount of required force in any fighting situation. It believes properly timed positioning and practical movements can and should be used to defeat an opponent. This is achieved through balance, body structure, and relaxation.

Most Wing Chun attacks take the straightest possible path to the target based on the concept that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Primary targets all lie along the centerline, an imaginary vertical line bisecting the opponent’s vitals (throat, heart, stomach, groin). The Wing Chun punch is delivered centrally from the practitioner’s chest rather than diagonally from the shoulders in the first two forms. This helps teach the centerline concept. In the later forms, the punch is delivered diagonally from the shoulder to the centerline. This is because the distance is shorter than bringing the hand from the shoulder, to the center of the chest, and then down the centerline at the opponent.

Code of Conduct

  • Remain disciplined – uphold yourself ethically as a martial artist.
  • Practice courtesy and righteousness — serve the community and honor your family.
  • Love your fellow students or classmates — be united and avoid conflicts.
  • Limit your desires and pursuit of bodily pleasures — preserve the proper spirit.
  • Train diligently and make it a habit — maintain your skills.
  • Learn to develop spiritual tranquility — abstain from arguments and fights.
  • Participate in society — be conservative, cultured and gentle in your manners.
  • Help the weak and the very young — use your martial skill for the good of humanity.
  • Pass on the tradition — preserve this Chinese art and its Rules of Conduct.

Centerline Theory

Wing Chun practitioners believe that the person with better body structure will win. A correct Wing Chun stance is like a piece of bamboo, firm but flexible, rooted but yielding. This structure is used to either deflect external forces or redirect them.

Balance is related to structure because a well-balanced body recovers more quickly from stalled attacks and structure is maintained. Wing Chun trains the awareness of one’s own body movement derived from muscular, tendon, and articular sources. Performing Wing Chun’s forms such as Chum Kiu or the Wooden Dummy form greatly increase proprioception. Wing Chun favors a high, narrow stance with the elbows kept close to the body. Within the stance, arms are positioned across the vitals of the centerline. Shifting or turning within a stance is carried out variantly on the heels, balls, or middle (K1 or Kidney 1 point) of the foot depending on lineage. All attacks and counter-attacks are initiated from this firm, stable base. Wing Chun rarely compromises structure for more powerful attacks because this is believed to create defensive openings which may be exploited.

Structure is viewed as important, not only for reasons of defense, but also for attack. When the practitioner is effectively “rooted”, or aligned so as to be braced against the ground, the force of the hit is believed to be far more devastating. Additionally, the practice of “settling” one’s opponent to brace them more effectively against the ground aids in delivering as much force as possible to them.

While the existence of a “central axis” concept is unified in Wing Chun, the interpretation of the centerline concept itself is not. Many variations exist, with some lineages defining anywhere from a single “centerline” to multiple lines of interaction and definition.

The most commonly seen interpretation emphasizes attack and defense along an imaginary horizontal line drawn from the center of the practitioner’s chest to the center of the enemy’s chest. The human body’s prime striking targets are considered to be on or near this line, including eyes, nose, throat, solar plexus, and groin.

Wing Chun techniques are generally “closed”, with the limbs drawn in to protect the central area and also to maintain balance. In most circumstances, the hands do not move beyond the vertical circle that is described by swinging the arms in front, with the hands crossed at the wrists. To reach outside this area, footwork is used. A large emphasis and time investment in training Chi Sao exercise emphasizes positioning to dominate this centerline. The stance and guard all point at or through the center to concentrate physical and mental intent of the entire body to the one target.

Wing Chun practitioners attack within this central area to transmit force more effectively since it targets the “core center” (or “mother line”, another center defined in some lineages and referring to the vertical axis of the human body where the center of gravity lies). For example, striking an opponent’s shoulder will twist the body, dispelling some of the force and weakening the strike, as well as compromising the striker’s position. Striking closer to the center transmits more force directly into the body.

Recent History

Wing Chun was popularized by none other than Ip Man. Back in 2008 a popular kung fu film made in his honor was released, further stoking the fires of worldwide interest in this particular form of martial arts. Originally haling from Fo Shan Southern China, Ip Man migrated up to Hong Kong where he began teaching Wing Chun openly for the first time in the style’s history.

One of Ip Man’s most famous students was Bruce Lee, who went on to star in many Hollywood films and develop his own style under the foundation of Wing Chun Kung Fu called Jeet Kun Do.

Wing Chun kung fu has become a wildly popularized form of martial arts and although it is centuries old, it still remains overly applicable in today’s modern situations. Yet, Wing Chun is much more than just a fighting technique — it’s a lifestyle, an art, and a philosophy. Wing Chun is about teaching yourself to be sensitive to the world around you and being able to meet with the karmatic flow of it. Because you can’t fight a good fight and you can’t live a good life if you hold tension.

“Greet what arrives, escort what leaves and rush upon loss of contact” – Ip Man.