Wing Chun in decline: My quest for the historical model of Wing Chun

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wingchunguy1

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Here's the intro excerpt from my blog post I want to share:

Wing Chun is in a state of decline in the martial arts community. Its failure to adopt the practices of modern martial arts and to evolve in response to reality is resulting in a declining membership and common perception of the art.

So far, the WC community has failed to create modern organizations that standardize and certify schools and organize good competitions in comparison to the modern martial arts. Additionally the community is heavily segmented because of continuing archaic practices such as the lineage system, in which meritocracy is annihilated because people would rather put faith in the magic hearsay of their kung fu "elders", instead of observing reality to make their own conclusions.

Meanwhile, Wing Chun produces good fighters at a much lower rate than any other popular martial art, and increasingly the WC fighters who are willing to represent Wing Chin in public challenge matches are unable compete at all using their Wing Chun against modern martial art fighters. Yes Wing Chun will probably never truly die, but its reputation as a martial art made for real fighting is seriously at risk.

The only way forward is to reform how Wing Chun is practiced and how Wing Chun is taught. Wing Chun must adopt the successful practices of the modern martial arts (Judo, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Boxing, etc.). For this to happen, we need a standard reference of Wing Chun that can be developed in an open source way. I write about the results of my research in pursuit of this in this post.

Link: Wing Chun in decline: My quest for the historical model of Wing Chun
 

Nobody Important

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Here's the intro excerpt from my blog post I want to share:

Wing Chun is in a state of decline in the martial arts community. Its failure to adopt the practices of modern martial arts and to evolve in response to reality is resulting in a declining membership and common perception of the art.

So far, the WC community has failed to create modern organizations that standardize and certify schools and organize good competitions in comparison to the modern martial arts. Additionally the community is heavily segmented because of continuing archaic practices such as the lineage system, in which meritocracy is annihilated because people would rather put faith in the magic hearsay of their kung fu "elders", instead of observing reality to make their own conclusions.

Meanwhile, Wing Chun produces good fighters at a much lower rate than any other popular martial art, and increasingly the WC fighters who are willing to represent Wing Chin in public challenge matches are unable compete at all using their Wing Chun against modern martial art fighters. Yes Wing Chun will probably never truly die, but its reputation as a martial art made for real fighting is seriously at risk.

The only way forward is to reform how Wing Chun is practiced and how Wing Chun is taught. Wing Chun must adopt the successful practices of the modern martial arts (Judo, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Boxing, etc.). For this to happen, we need a standard reference of Wing Chun that can be developed in an open source way. I write about the results of my research in pursuit of this in this post.

Link: Wing Chun in decline: My quest for the historical model of Wing Chun
This post isn't directed specifically to you wingchunguy1, but to the forum in general.

When it comes to the OP, I used to think this way too. In reality Wing Chun will continue to decline as long as all the branches are made to conform to predefined parameters set forth by a popular consensus that is contrary to their own beliefs.

Let's look at Boxing & Jujitsu, with Boxing focusing on punching as a means of subjucating the opponent & Jujitsu subjucating the opponent through throwing & grappling. This doesn't nean that Boxing is devoid of kicks, throws or grapples or that Jujitsu does not include strikes, the history of these arts clearly states otherwise, but their main emphasis is very specific. These arts have a good track record when it comes to realistic pressure tested effectiveness because of the following factors:

1. Simple singular & short combination techniques that are applied in a realistic manner and are continuously refined & pressure tested.

2. A specific focus on objective defined by an agreed upon ruleset applied in its own sporting venue that reinforces the realistic strategies and applications taught.

3. The freedom of allowing multiple similar and adaptable strategies to be employed in their instruction, while simultaneously allowing for adaptation of technique because it isn't rigidly bound by rules of movement.

These three things above "violate" most traditional mainstream Wing Chun ideology. Also, Wing Chun is viewed by some as a concept or methodology, whereas by others it is viewed as an art more rigididly and specifically defined in it's use and action.

Herein is where the problem lies, IMO Wing Chun should place equal emphasis on Striking, Throwing, Kicking & Grappling giving no preference of one method over another, as it is a system to address the basic building blocks of fighting by learning how to refine large gross motor movement into fine motor movement in the most efficient manner possible. This makes it difficult, IMO, to relegate Wing Chun to a singular approach and methodology.

This isn't an ideology shared by the majority of Wing Chun practitioners, most believe it is simply a short range fighting method that has a focus on hand striking, yet, these same individuals look to Chi Sau as a means of developing striking skills over footwork & body movement as the foundation for delivering a strike. This isn't to say that they don't employ footwork & body movement, but the emphasis is secondary to developing defensive bridging through Chi Sau.

Punching is not developed through employment of a defensive movement or mindset. Chi Sau, even used offensively, is a defense first tactic that places emphasis on using the arm to bridge, impede, parry or stop the opponents incoming limb prior to attack. This is a defense first mindset no matter how you look at it. This isn't necessarily a bad thing when employed sparingly, but all too often it leads the practitioner down a rabbit hole of ever increasing defenses that multiply in complexity that stray further and further from realistic use under the pressure and spontaneity of a real attack.

There are too many opinions as to what Wing Chun is and how it should be used for it to ever have it's own fighting format outside of Chi Sau or for it to be represented in a full contact format that will be accepted by the majority as being recognisable as traditional Wing Chun.

For now, the best format to fully represent the range of Wing Chun as an art defined by the general consenses is Sanda. This allows for a multitude of approaches and only requires the participants to pressure test their methodology to prove their interpretations effectiveness.

This is just my opinion, feel free to disagree.
 
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wanderingstudent

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Seems to me most Traditional Arts are in decline. Not sure if it is just a cycle:

Prior to 70's Boxing was big
70's was Bruce Lee and Kung Fu
80's saw Karate Kid and Karate
90's to today MMA and Current Offerings

Or if people just aren't that active or interested.
 

KPM

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You would need to have statistics. Are there fewer people studying a "traditional" martial art today than there were in the 70's? I doubt that because martial arts as a whole have become more popular over time. More people in general are studying martial arts...including "traditional" martial arts. There is no doubt that more people are studying Wing Chun today than at any other point in history. And my guess is that the majority of those Wing Chun schools have a very "traditional" orientation. We do see a modern evolution of Wing Chun with the addition of more and more "boxing-like" elements. And I like that trend and hope it expands! But that won't necessarily mean that "classical" or "traditional" Wing Chun dies out. I hope it doesn't!
 

TMA17

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I'm sure the Ip Man movies gave WC a little boost over the years.

Without any data, it's speculative. WC popularity seems to be growing within the Kung Fu world. MMA will continue to grow, as it is now in many parts of Asia.

WC has a lot of great core principles that can be added to other MA's or the other way around. I hope that continues.
 

wanderingstudent

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I have no hard data, only observations of what happens around me. There were a number of schools in my area, that have closed; only to be replaced by MMA gyms.

Bringing up evolution:

Anyone else get told by their teach, if I come back in 10 years and you are doing this the same way; you've missed the point?

Beyond that:

I plan on meeting up with some of my brothers, later in life; to see how there training has evolved.

Have you done this, already?
 
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wingchunguy1

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Seems to me most Traditional Arts are in decline. Not sure if it is just a cycle:

Prior to 70's Boxing was big
70's was Bruce Lee and Kung Fu
80's saw Karate Kid and Karate
90's to today MMA and Current Offerings

Or if people just aren't that active or interested.

Yeah I think you are right. But I also think that this was the case for JuJutsu during the late 1800s when Kano was alive, and he managed to reform/refine the best elements from traditional JuJutsu schools by combining that with modern western teaching and organizational methods. I think there is a simimlar opportunity to do so with Wing Chun today and I would personally like to see it happen.
 
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wingchunguy1

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You would need to have statistics. Are there fewer people studying a "traditional" martial art today than there were in the 70's? I doubt that because martial arts as a whole have become more popular over time. More people in general are studying martial arts...including "traditional" martial arts. There is no doubt that more people are studying Wing Chun today than at any other point in history. And my guess is that the majority of those Wing Chun schools have a very "traditional" orientation. We do see a modern evolution of Wing Chun with the addition of more and more "boxing-like" elements. And I like that trend and hope it expands! But that won't necessarily mean that "classical" or "traditional" Wing Chun dies out. I hope it doesn't!

It would be great to have a lot of statistical data, but when I say decline I do mean the public perception of Wing Chun is worsening, and I think theres many strong signs that point to this being the case. For example, WC today is not used to challenge martial artists of other styles as it supposedly could in the past (Yip Man's students, Yuen Kay San death duels, Bruce Lee).
 
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Martial D

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Here's the intro excerpt from my blog post I want to share:

Wing Chun is in a state of decline in the martial arts community. Its failure to adopt the practices of modern martial arts and to evolve in response to reality is resulting in a declining membership and common perception of the art.

So far, the WC community has failed to create modern organizations that standardize and certify schools and organize good competitions in comparison to the modern martial arts. Additionally the community is heavily segmented because of continuing archaic practices such as the lineage system, in which meritocracy is annihilated because people would rather put faith in the magic hearsay of their kung fu "elders", instead of observing reality to make their own conclusions.

Meanwhile, Wing Chun produces good fighters at a much lower rate than any other popular martial art, and increasingly the WC fighters who are willing to represent Wing Chin in public challenge matches are unable compete at all using their Wing Chun against modern martial art fighters. Yes Wing Chun will probably never truly die, but its reputation as a martial art made for real fighting is seriously at risk.

The only way forward is to reform how Wing Chun is practiced and how Wing Chun is taught. Wing Chun must adopt the successful practices of the modern martial arts (Judo, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Boxing, etc.). For this to happen, we need a standard reference of Wing Chun that can be developed in an open source way. I write about the results of my research in pursuit of this in this post.

Link: Wing Chun in decline: My quest for the historical model of Wing Chun
You whole premise is irrepairably problematic.

First, you are talking about wing chun like it's this one monolithic thing, when in fact it's a very loosley defined group of very different approaches and training methods.

Second, there are already many people combining wc methods and training with other methods and training all over the globe. (Myself included)

Third, why should anyone happy in their training adjust what they are doing to appease one faceless internet profile?(you) Why should they, I, or anyone care what you think?(serious question)

And lastly, since you have come as a reformer, where can I see an example of your reformed 'historical' wing chun so we have something meaningful to talk about here?
 

Callen

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Here's the intro excerpt from my blog post I want to share:

Wing Chun is in a state of decline in the martial arts community. Its failure to adopt the practices of modern martial arts and to evolve in response to reality is resulting in a declining membership and common perception of the art.

So far, the WC community has failed to create modern organizations that standardize and certify schools and organize good competitions in comparison to the modern martial arts. Additionally the community is heavily segmented because of continuing archaic practices such as the lineage system, in which meritocracy is annihilated because people would rather put faith in the magic hearsay of their kung fu "elders", instead of observing reality to make their own conclusions.

Meanwhile, Wing Chun produces good fighters at a much lower rate than any other popular martial art, and increasingly the WC fighters who are willing to represent Wing Chin in public challenge matches are unable compete at all using their Wing Chun against modern martial art fighters. Yes Wing Chun will probably never truly die, but its reputation as a martial art made for real fighting is seriously at risk.

The only way forward is to reform how Wing Chun is practiced and how Wing Chun is taught. Wing Chun must adopt the successful practices of the modern martial arts (Judo, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Boxing, etc.). For this to happen, we need a standard reference of Wing Chun that can be developed in an open source way. I write about the results of my research in pursuit of this in this post.
Thanks for sharing your blog post.

Unfortunately, statistics and real data are needed for most of your points in this piece. Your opinions alone, are not enough to convince an informed, more experienced audience.
 

wanderingstudent

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Some one mentioned 'modernizing' by including Boxing. Wasn't this where Bruce Lee was going?

I feel styles should have a "historic" core, but also need to identify and address modern situations.

Good luck with your research...
 
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Herbie

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Are the "traditional martial arts in decline" or is it possible the TMA were never as effective as we were all led to believe. All of us were told stories of the good old days when Master So and So took on all comers, ... We assume that, because a guy with one year of boxing or MMA training can eat the lunch of most TMA folks with several years training, that our training is not up to par with the training back in the old days. Maybe, most of the legends about how good the old guys were are exaggerated.
 
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DaveB

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The opening post makes much of WC lack of "good fighters" presumably in MMA.

The thing is MMA is a mix. I don't quite get why WC gets denigrated for having hobbyist fighters beaten by MMA pros when Pro fighters of Boxing and BJJ get beaten in MMA rings.

I want to see a crop of WC fighters put through the same rigourous training of other combat sportsmen with equivalent amounts of contact, cardio and weight training and training with boxers wrestlers ground fighters etc exactly as an mma fighter would but employing wing chun techniques and methods.

I'm pretty confident you'd see at least as many wins as losses.
 

KPM

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I want to see a crop of WC fighters put through the same rigourous training of other combat sportsmen with equivalent amounts of contact, cardio and weight training and training with boxers wrestlers ground fighters etc exactly as an mma fighter would but employing wing chun techniques and methods.

I'm pretty confident you'd see at least as many wins as losses.

I'm pretty confident the "Wing Chun" guy would end up looking like any of the other MMA fighters he is training with and against. I'm pretty confident that after all of that...you wouldn't be able to tell the Wing Chun guy from any other MMA guy when he steps into the cage.
 

DaveB

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I'm pretty confident the "Wing Chun" guy would end up looking like any of the other MMA fighters he is training with and against. I'm pretty confident that after all of that...you wouldn't be able to tell the Wing Chun guy from any other MMA guy when he steps into the cage.
Probably not but that's really the point.

Mmaists who are clearly 1 style above all are the exceptions despite varied backgrounds. People now even argue that MMA is a style in its own right.

No pure style is expected to be successful in the MMA environment, except wing chun.

Also I actually would disagree that the modern training would make WC indistinguishable. There would be fewer differences, but the technique and tactics would shine through as they do for most arts.

Techniques and tactics are the martial art, not the training.
 

Trondyne

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Chi Sau, even used offensively, is a defense first tactic that places emphasis on using the arm to bridge, impede, parry or stop the opponents incoming limb prior to attack. This is a defense first mindset no matter how you look at it. This isn't necessarily a bad thing when employed sparingly, but all too often it leads the practitioner down a rabbit hole of ever increasing defenses that multiply in complexity that stray further and further from realistic use under the pressure and spontaneity of a real attack.
There is nothing defensive about chisao, not in terms of what this drill teaches...

There is one singular main point to the drill and here it is: You face your opponent with a high pressure hose pointing at his center -- he does the same to you... Both streams cancel each other out if pointed directly at each other -- the first person to F up (meaning leave the center) gets soaked...

So what does this mean?

It means that both players are ALWAYS attacking and the first one that fails to do so loses....

So, defensive? Absolutely not.
 

Kung Fu Wang

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It means that both players are ALWAYS attacking and the first one that fails to do so loses....
Just for the sake of discussion, if you charge in with jab-cross (like WC chain punches). Your opponent also charge in with left-right-hooks. You protect your center from inside out. Your opponents protect his center from outside in.

Who will win?
 

Trondyne

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Just for the sake of discussion, if you charge in with jab-cross (like WC chain punches). Your opponent also charge in with left-right-hooks. You protect your center from inside out. Your opponents protect his center from outside in.

Who will win?

Really?

I can just say the one with better attributes but what's the point of that example?

Is this a slightly veiled critique of centerline theory?
 

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Here's the intro excerpt from my blog post I want to share:

Wing Chun is in a state of decline in the martial arts community. Its failure to adopt the practices of modern martial arts and to evolve in response to reality is resulting in a declining membership and common perception of the art.

So far, the WC community has failed to create modern organizations that standardize and certify schools and organize good competitions in comparison to the modern martial arts. Additionally the community is heavily segmented because of continuing archaic practices such as the lineage system, in which meritocracy is annihilated because people would rather put faith in the magic hearsay of their kung fu "elders", instead of observing reality to make their own conclusions.

Meanwhile, Wing Chun produces good fighters at a much lower rate than any other popular martial art, and increasingly the WC fighters who are willing to represent Wing Chin in public challenge matches are unable compete at all using their Wing Chun against modern martial art fighters. Yes Wing Chun will probably never truly die, but its reputation as a martial art made for real fighting is seriously at risk.

The only way forward is to reform how Wing Chun is practiced and how Wing Chun is taught. Wing Chun must adopt the successful practices of the modern martial arts (Judo, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Boxing, etc.). For this to happen, we need a standard reference of Wing Chun that can be developed in an open source way. I write about the results of my research in pursuit of this in this post.

Link: Wing Chun in decline: My quest for the historical model of Wing Chun

I generally agree with you, though I think perhaps you've partially misdiagnosed the problem and solution.

I was never interested in gamification and sportification of Wing Chun, though I am very much interested in pressure testing it and making it functional.

I think that Wing Chun mostly suffers from:
#1 Not practicing against realistic, non-Wing Chun attacks
#2 Over specializing and over emphasizing things like Chisao (I personally value Chisao and sensitivity training very highly, and believe you should continue to practice it, but don't confuse it with combat or sparring, etc. And, understand its place, which is to build proper reflexes in a low intensity environment where students can explore the art and process the different sorts of energies and lines of attack that can occur. Treating it as a competitive exercise as many tend to do is not something that I'm sure is all that valuable. I get some inspiration from arts like Lameco and Kali Ilustrisimo where there are "free flowing" drills where one party counters, and the other feeds attacks, but also counters and throws in unexpected attacks/angles, etc. -- such that, the intensity is low enough to allow creativity and learning/exploring, but high enough to constantly offer a challenge, and unexpected angles of attack, etc. And, both parties learn: one practices being proactive, the other reactive/proactive. A lot of Wing Chun practice also tends to focus far too much on being reactive, at the expense of learning how to be proactive, which is absolutely necessary and is really at the heart of Wing Chun's offensive nature.)
#3 Not learning to hit effectively or deal with someone really trying to hit you
#4 In a sparring context, not knowing how to close into a range where Wing Chun is effective (*I personally do not believe that sparring and especially competition are the end all be all yardstick by which one should judge an art, but it is still an important part of training)

There are people who train and teach Wing Chun very effectively already, and have been doing for a long time. Seek out and learn from them. Perhaps what Wing Chun suffers most from is a certain close mindedness and unwillingness to train with other teachers, lineages, and styles, etc.

In the end, realize that competitive fighters are extremely specialized in exactly what is necessary for their competitive environment, and put in a ton of hard work -- much more than most, somewhat more casual TMA schools. It's not what you train, but how you train. No need to modify your Wing Chun so much as modifying how you practice it, I think. So, I do agree with you on the latter bolded part. I do not think that focusing on some competitive environment is necessarily the answer, but teachers probably do need to focus a whole lot more on making the basics more functional under stress, and against other styles -- for both themselves, and their students. We're very good at countering mid-level, centerline punches delivered in our ideal range. That's great. But how do you deal with other lines and other energies, and opponents who don't stick using Wing Chun principals and body mechanics? That takes practice.

Remember also, though, that Wing Chun was sort of in a boom with the Ip Man movies. Now that that's gone, it's back to being more obscure, I think.
 
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Kung Fu Wang

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what's the point of that example?
When

- you throw a straight punch, if your opponent throws a hook punch, his hook punch can knock down your straight punch.
- your opponent throws a hook punch, if you throw a straight punch, can your straight punch knock down his hook punch?

The hook punch has advantage over the straight punch. IMO, it's easier to protect your center line from outside in than from inside out.
 
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