What does Wing Chun need in the 21st Century?

Danny T

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1. Spar. Not Chi Sao but actually spar.
2. Don’t just accept that your training is good, pressure test it against non compliant partners as your skills increase.
3. Spar (respectfully) against other type of martial artists.
4. Experience other training methods
5. Be open minded and honest with yourself on your training and your skills.
 

Gerry Seymour

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Trying to learn how to swim without getting your body wet is impossible. I truly don't know how can anybody be able to learn MA without getting hit.
I don't think they can, either. But they don't have to get hit hard, repeatedly, which is what they think will happen. A lot of folks seem to think it's an all-or-nothing proposition.
 

Gerry Seymour

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When you meet a

- boxer, you ask him to throw 20 punches at you and see if you can block all his punches.
- wrestler, you ask him to try to take you down for 1 minute and see if you can remain standing.

Since you will only play defense, I'm sure any stranger will love to help you to test your skill.

If you and I will meet someday, I'm pretty sure that you don't mind to help me to test my defense skill.

Better than that, if I tell you that if you

- can punch me within 20 punches, I'll pay you $20.
- can't punch me within 20 punches, I'll only pay you $10,

will you try very hard to punch me?

There is always a way to simulate the game as close to the real fight as possible.
With strangers, it might work. With classmates, there's a process that happens that somehow creates a habit of not really trying. I see it in NGA when people are practicing defenses against specific attacks. Those attacks are rarely with any intent, unless the instructor helps folks learn to do them with intent. I've seen blown blocks against punches that still didn't land. I've seen people pushed without being moved (and it wasn't because they were rooted - the push just died when the defense didn't materialize).

Somehow, this tends to happen less when the interaction it two-sided (both are attacking and defending). I've no idea why.
 

Buka

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1. Spar. Not Chi Sao but actually spar.
2. Don’t just accept that your training is good, pressure test it against non compliant partners as your skills increase.
3. Spar (respectfully) against other type of martial artists.
4. Experience other training methods
5. Be open minded and honest with yourself on your training and your skills.

I wish there was a Like, Thanks, Agree, and Carve in Stone button function here.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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With strangers, it might work. With classmates, there's a process that happens that somehow creates a habit of not really trying. I see it in NGA when people are practicing defenses against specific attacks. Those attacks are rarely with any intent, unless the instructor helps folks learn to do them with intent. I've seen blown blocks against punches that still didn't land. I've seen people pushed without being moved (and it wasn't because they were rooted - the push just died when the defense didn't materialize).

Somehow, this tends to happen less when the interaction it two-sided (both are attacking and defending). I've no idea why.
When I test with my students (we do this in every class),

- I punch and they block. When I punch, I try as hard as I can to hit them.
- My student punches and I block. When my student punches, I'm not sure my student tries as hard as he can to hit me (may be because I'm the teacher).

But when 2 students test, I don't think they should have any reason not to go full force and full speed. After all, a punch is just a punch. You can only punch so hard, and you can only punch so fast.
 

Flying Crane

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No... not so very long as that! Maybe a combined total of 24 or 25 years.

I started WC in 1979, when WC was this super secret fighting system from behind the "Bamboo Curtain". I changed lineages in 1980 and trained sort of sporadically for about 12 years, stopping all martial arts training in the early 90s, even my escrima which I've always loved.

So I pretty much missed UFC 1 and the whole revolution caused by BJJ and MMA, coming back to re-start escrima first, and then WC in late 2007...the same year I joined MartialTalk. :) ...Anyway learning about BJJ, MMA and the inefficiencies and vulnerabilities they exposed in our traditional, and overly compliant training methods was one thing I had to contend with. And, after the brief surge in interest associated with the Yip Man movies, recruiting students became tougher every year. I believe people look at TMA differently. There's less respect now. It's more like something for kids.

At about the same time ...say around 2011 my kung fu brother who ran the local club, moved out of state and later "retired". So I took over the local group and was forced back into a "sifu" role. Well, being an assistant instructor is great. But being a sifu is a pain. You have to keep the school running, and it's a lot harder to just find time to learn, to cross-train, and to do your own thing.

Again, it's been a lonely journey and altogether another dozen years have passed since I returned to the study of WC. I still enjoy doing WC, but now again I find myself questioning just how important it is to me to do all it takes to keep my lineage alive here in AZ. I'd be glad to pass the baton, so to speak, but all the students in the area that made instructor level (either under me or my predecessor) have dropped out. So it's still on me. At 64 I'm way past the age where this is physically easy, and life is short, ya know...
Don’t worry about keeping the lineage alive. Just train in the best way you know how, and don’t hesitate to get creative with your drills and training methods. If it is still based on the wing Chun foundation then it is still wing Chun, even if the drills and such are new and never been done before by anyone. People think they need to never change anything, and I say that’s nonsense. You need to train to the best that you know how, and to the best that you can figure out. That means being creative. So develop some drills and exercises aimed at strengthening skill sets that you perceive as weak.

So instead of worrying about keeping the lineage alive, just keep doing whatever it is that makes sense to you. This is YOUR wing Chun and that’s is all it needs to be. Whether that ends up being bigger or smaller as a curriculum or method than what you learned from your Sifu.

I keep saying: none of this stuff was handed down by the gods. None of it is divine or perfect or sacred. It was created by people, over several generations. Changes were made along the way, some for the better, some for the worse. There is no reason you cannot be part of that process.

Take it and make it yours.
 

Gerry Seymour

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I keep saying: none of this stuff was handed down by the gods. None of it is divine or perfect or sacred. It was created by people, over several generations. Changes were made along the way, some for the better, some for the worse. There is no reason you cannot be part of that process.

Take it and make it yours.
Man, that is extremely well said.
 

Xue Sheng

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"I don’t want to get hit; is this a contact workout?
No—not ever! Each person in class has their own heavy bag to workout on, plus their own space to move around the bag. Trust us, you won’t even realize anyone else is in the class because you’ll be so focused on the workout! And, rest easy, we never allow sparring or fighting at ****** Boxing Club"

The other boxing club only did sparring something like once a week (they're schedule is broken on their web page right now so I can't refresh my memory) and it was a night I couldn't make it so I lost interest. Both of them seem like they're focused on the brogrammer looking for a fun workout, not on people who are interested in actually boxing.

BJJ has some extra immunity to this because you have to be at least half way serious to be willing to get all sweaty with a heavy guy on top of you if you're not already inclined to that sort of thing. I don't know how accurate they are, but even with BJJ I've read some interviews with Rickson Gracie and others that bemoan that the direction it's rules have been going are poor for teaching self defense, so maybe that isn't enough to prevent this decline.

Please note that I'm not saying you can't find legit boxing instruction in Seattle, there's an MMA gym near me that looks like it probably has pretty good boxing classes in fact. I can also find legit TMA instruction in Seattle, it's just not nearly as common as it used to be and it seems to be a tiny minority of the TMA on offer. My point is that in 50 years MMA, Muay Thai and boxing may very well be divided into two kinds of schools, 1) for pro fighters and those who're trying to be pro fighters and 2) (the vast majority) watered down schools for people who want an MMA "experience" without having to really get hit.

Where does this leave Wing Chun and what should it do going forward? That's a harder question. Projecting forward the hypothetical 50 years from the other thread a lot can happen. Right now we've got the lowest violent crime rates of my lifetime. Unless someone lives in a really bad neighborhood or their work exposes them to violence self defense is unimportant for most people for practical purposes. If that changes then there may be a resurgence of interest in TMA training that's focused on fighting. Outside of that I'm not sure what Wing Chun as a whole can do to ensure it's success. Individual schools can take a variety of approaches to maintain relevance and they're going to vary depending on how you define relevance.

To a larger extent I think the question is what do you or I want out of MA training and what do we think is relevant? If you want to fight in MMA style matches or teach people to be successful at that then you probably need to go study the arts that are made for that rule set and like Martial D adapt what you've learned from Wing Chun for that purpose. I'm not terribly interested in participating in MMA for a variety of reasons but I'm also disappointed with the lack of sparring and actual fight focused training to be found at most non-MMA schools these days.

What I'm working on for myself is slowly putting together a group of people with diverse backgrounds in MA to do some free sparring and drills to experiment with and test various techniques in a heterogeneous environment. It would be a private club not a commercial school so we'd be able to curate the membership and keep out the lunatics. I've got a friend who's fixing up a space for this purpose and when he's done I'll go into high gear recruiting some skilled people that I know. If I can get it off the ground I'll let you know how it works out.

I am not disagreeing and the schools and folks I am going to reference are not running big commercial schools, as a matter of fact one teaches for free and the other tells me if it wasn't for his other business the Wing Chun school would have closed long ago,

There are still Wing Chun folks that pretty much except the fact that you are gong to get hit., actually they will tell you it is about striking so you "WILL" get hit...a lot. The official school I went to briefly, if you were doing Chi Sau, ,and you messed up, you were going to get hit, mess up in an application and you were going to get hit. Walk though the guan door....you were going to get hit....doubly so if you worked with the sifu

I also use to train with a bunch of guys who had been in Wing Chun for years...and....you got hit.... I got hit in the eye there leading to a detached retina. The guy who runs the school for free was talking about hitting... how to hit, why to hit, when to hit, and hitting.

Although you are very correct, IMO, about those trying to make a living at this and those going to the "Big Box Wing Chun School" and not wanting to get hit all the while certain this is how you develop Donnie Yen's Yip Man movie skill..... there are still a few left that actually train Wing Chun
 

Martial D

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What does Wing Chun need? The traditonal answer is nothing. The old way is best! Proper Wing Chun as taught by my sifu (insert name here) is a complete system. People just need to have faith, believe in what their sifu tells them, and humbly train harder to do things correctly. Only then will they acheive the unmatched skills of our Wing Chun ancestors! :rolleyes:

...Also the earth was created 6,000 years ago, is flat, and all you have to do is sincerely believe in (insert religious belief system here) ...and trust me ;), all will be hunky dory.

Now if you agree with what's written above, this is not the thread for you. I'm more interested in the perspectives of those of us who have practiced traditional Wing Chun/WingTsun/Ving Tsun (or a simialr system) and have become disillusioned with the way things are going. As the years or decades pass, is the system you are training really giving you all that it promised? Or is it becoming marginalized, and becoming the domain of hobbyists and magical thinkers who would never dare get in a fight?

In this day and age where martial arts and combat sports are put to the test, and fails are spread all over youtube and social media, backward looking traditionalism and magical thinking are not a recipe for an effective and complete fighting system. So what, if any changes do you think are needed to revitalize Wing Chun in the 21st Century, and who are the people who we might look to move the art forward?
To answer this another way;


Nothing.

Nothing that doesn't come naturally through training.

The question is then; what is the objective?

If it is to preserve the style, then the training is fine.

If the objective is practicality for fighting/competition, then the training must reflect that.

That being, a focus on athleticism, making the drills live with full resistance, sparring rounds, and a willingness to accept and adapt to the results of your drilling and testing.

That's really it.

This is something I have specifically been focused on for years now.

Oddly enough(or totally expectedly) as my understanding of/feel for range and distance improve, I am able to work more of the classical stuff in. On Saturday I did three rounds using only classical wc. Even kept up the man/Wu and the triangle footwork the whole time. Yes, my legs are still sore, but I actually did ok-ish.
 
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Danny T

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We are training in or teaching a martial art. It's not a cult, it's a physical activity, It's not magic, it's not beyond the realm of physics or super natural. It's a human physical activity with some specific methods to develop particular physical attributes. Other martial methods do some very similar things while some others; not so much. Those who accept it is a physical thing and not mystical or magical will become better against others who are physically attempting to take your head off. The others don't fare so well.
 

Saheim

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I dunno. you actually attended any classes yet to base that assumption off? Because from my experience in doing actual classes very few care about sport competitions even the people in jiu jitsu or boxing clubs most are just for learning and exercise not competing

Guess we never ended up in the same class because I do care what happens in a ring, in regards to who is training how and how it worked out for them, even tho I have no intention of competing. Not in a sporting environment, at least. Unfortunately, there is an inherent risk of violence in most of the jobs I work. I am not one of the people who think MMA is the ruler by which all arts should be checked for effectiveness BUT I do believe that YES an MMA match is a pretty close replica of (survival) fighting. In all forms of training, there will always be some "artificiality". However, it is minimized in full contact MMA. I think it the people who say it is not an actual fight, because no eye gouging (or other "deadly" techniques) are allowed, are pretty silly. I can accept the fact that a guy who could stomp me stupid, in the ring, stands a pretty good chance of doing it if we said "ok, now lets try it with no gear and NO rules" Im guessing he could probably figure out how to poke me in the eye, instead of throw the jab that he landed over and over lol.

As for "adding" things to WC, I consider that more of a personal choice than a curriculum thing. Basically, train WC as WC and the individual can go pick up extra training, from other places, to augment his skillset where he feels he needs to. Not a believer in "complete" systems and think trying to create One Stop Shopping can actually limit an art because it is no longer apecialispe in any particular area. Basically, eventually everything just becomes MMA.
 

Tony Dismukes

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1. Spar. Not Chi Sao but actually spar.
2. Don’t just accept that your training is good, pressure test it against non compliant partners as your skills increase.
3. Spar (respectfully) against other type of martial artists.
4. Experience other training methods
5. Be open minded and honest with yourself on your training and your skills.
I'm a WC novice, so I wouldn't presume to dictate what Wing Chun "needs" to do. However the advice above from Danny is IMO apropos for any art which purports to teach fighting skills.

I will add one thought. I've heard the argument in WC (and other arts, particularly CMAs) that student should wait to spar until they have spent a substantial time drilling the forms and techniques of the arts. The reasoning is that until the student has done this enough to internalize the form and body dynamics of the style, then when they spar their technique will fall apart and they will just be practicing sloppy kickboxing.

I understand the thinking behind this idea, but I don't think it holds up well. Consider arts which dump students into sparring early on (boxing. Muay Thai, BJJ, MMA). What happens when those students start sparring initially? The same thing as in other arts. For most students, the technique they have learned falls apart under pressure and their body mechanics just suck. That's fine. It's part of the process. The sparring is feedback. As students start to better approximate the technique and mechanics they have been taught, they get better results (they get hit/thrown/choked/etc less while succeeding on their own attempts to execute moves). This reinforces proper technique more effectively than just repetitive drilling.

Furthermore, sparring with more skilled practitioners helps the student feel the effectiveness of proper technique. It's one thing to tell a student to "relax" when performing a technique. Most of the time they don't even know what that would feel like. It's another thing to let them feel how your relaxed technique can overcome their attempts to use brute force. In my experience, that tends to sink in a lot more.

When practitioners of an art have to wait until they have drilled the form of an art for years before starting to spar, a couple of things happen. First, they still have to go through the process of acclimating to the psychological and physical pressure of sparring without having their technique fall apart. Secondly, they end up only working against someone else who is using the same type of movement. In contrast, when a school allows sparring early on the practitioners gain experience in dealing with sparring partners who haven't learned the "correct" way of moving yet. This way they learn to deal with a wide variety of more instinctive attacks and defenses. This should lead to a more robust skill set.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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student should wait to spar until they have spent a substantial time drilling the forms and techniques of the arts.
Since I don't teach any form, I don't use this approach. This way I have freedom to teach any fighting technique from any MA system that I like to.

I will just teach several drills such as:

- jab, cross, hook,
- hay-maker, back fist, uppercut.
- groin kick, face punch.
- roundhouse kick, side kick.
- foot sweep, leading arm jam, face punch.
- ...

Students can then start to spar after that.

I told my students that one day when they get old, if they want to learn forms, I can teach them as many forms as they may wish to learn. But when they are still young, they need to accumulate as much fighting experience as they can. I know that I don't belong to the main stream and I don't expect most people to agree with my approach.

Here is a drill (one plays offense, another plays defense) that we train. What MA style do you call this? I don't even know how to call it myself.

 
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Danny T

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My Sifu who grew up and trained in Hong Kong says they didn't spar. Lots of drills, lots of chi sao, lots of drilling movement and positioning, lots of playing and having fun. BUT...though they didn't spar, what they did do was Fight!. Almost every week...there were gangs. Lots of gangs and there were a lot of fights. Somethings they lost and they went back and worked on what they had learned from the fight. He says that's the difference in how they trained then and what people do today. The element that is missing today is the actual pressure testing in a life format.

For them it was fighting, if you aren't fighting then you need to spar it.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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During my high school long fist informal class year in Taiwan, after the class and after the teacher had left, we usually drew a small circle on the ground. We sparred inside that circle. Anybody who moved outside of that circle would lose. Sometime we drew that circle so small that 1 backward step could be out. One valuable lesson that I had learned from that kind of sparring was no matter how hard the attack might be, I would never move back even 1 inch.
 
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Gerry Seymour

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During my high school long fist informal class year in Taiwan, after the class and after the teacher had left, we usually drew a small circle on the ground. We sparred inside that circle. Anybody who moved outside of that circle would lose. Sometime we drew that circle so small that 1 backward step could be out. One valuable lesson that I had learned from that kind of sparring was no matter how hard the attack might be, I would never move back even 1 inch.
Why never?
 

Martial D

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During my high school long fist informal class year in Taiwan, after the class and after the teacher had left, we usually drew a small circle on the ground. We sparred inside that circle. Anybody who moved outside of that circle would lose. Sometime we drew that circle so small that 1 backward step could be out. One valuable lesson that I had learned from that kind of sparring was no matter how hard the attack might be, I would never move back even 1 inch.
While I can see the value in that for certain situations (stuck Ina small tight area), movement is also a valuable tool for both attack and defense. You need to move out to move in, and ALWAYS being in the pocket is dangerous.
 

Gerry Seymour

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While I can see the value in that for certain situations (stuck Ina small tight area), movement is also a valuable tool for both attack and defense. You need to move out to move in, and ALWAYS being in the pocket is dangerous.
Agreed. The drill sounds useful for learning HOW to stay in tight and not give up space (something many people struggle with), but I wouldn't want that to be the only option. We used a similar drill in some defensive exercises, and it's interesting how hard it is at first.
 

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