top of page

Why I do Wing Chun

The title of this article is a question I frequently get from new students in our class. For me, there isn't a heart warming story about how I was bullied as a child, and I wanted to learn to protect myself and those I loved. Nor was there a story about how it changed my life by giving me discipline or meaning. There are other facets in life for that. Surely the philosophy of Wing Chun changed the way I see many things in life. But that really isn't a good answer for why anyone learns Wing Chun. The simple and most truthful answer is that I started learning Wing Chun because I was curious. Martial arts interests me and Wing Chun interests me. I think a better question is why I kept doing it after a decade. I think that is a more insightful question than why we start anything.

Wing Chun Martial Arts

In the first year or two of learning Wing Chun, the drive is pretty simple. It's typically trying not to get beat up and start beating up other people. As simple as it sounds, I think that is largely what drove many of us in the beginning. A trying not to avoid getting beat up is a great motivation. Those early year(s) brought confidence and comfort to many of us. It justified our time and effort. Life was good, some might say a honeymoon period. But soon it all felt so mundane because everyone is doing the same thing. And soon, people who started Wing Chun later than you begin to catch up or at least made it more difficult for you to land that punch on them. Then self doubts enter. Frustration kicks in. Have I reached my pinnacle? Is Wing Chun working? Honeymoon is nearly over.

In so many ways I think Wing Chun is incredibly unique. One of them is the fact that it is a woman's style of martial arts. Brawling one another with chain punches is a marginally acceptable as a starting point. But it really shouldn't be the end game here. Especially for an art that preaches relaxation and pioneered by a man who was 5' and 100 lbs who went by the name Yip Man.

Sifu Kenneth Chung demonstrating the stepping practice from Chum Kiu

Fortunately for many of us who are a part of Leung Sheung Wing Chun, the path forward is at least a little clearer. We have seen Sifu Kenneth Chung demonstrate how Wing Chun allows us to fight with a bit more ease. He frequently reminds us not to pay attention solely on how hard he strikes, but rather, after all his years of practice and hard work, how easy hitting had become. Hitting to prove a point is no longer a necessity. Fear can be struck when he take away all the hope you have. Wing Chun can do that. Yip Man in his fifties did not have it in him to run around for 10 minutes and chase someone to a corner with chain punches. At least not the way Muhammad Ali did at his prime. But no one questioned Yip Man's ability to deliver harm. Brawling also wouldn't fit the concept of a woman's style martial arts. It wouldn't be playing to her advantage.

If any of you watch sports, I recall watching Roger Federer played at his prime where he played his opponent like a fool in the Wimbledon. The opponent was no ordinary chump either. He was in the Wimbledon for crying out loud. Sure Federer won. But that part didn't matter, to me at least. What mattered to me was just how easy he made it look setting up his opponent, bringing the ball close to the net, so his opponent had to run up, just in time for Federer to strike it back to the far right back corner. He didn't strike it hard or play it fast. It was masterful. I miss Federer in his prime. The analogy can be seen in all aspects of life. LeBron James, Tiger Woods, Kevin Spacey, Seinfeld, Jimmy Fallon. These talented people all do wonderful things without looking like they were trying hard. I call this being graceful. I think it is an obvious sign of mastery in what they do.

So perhaps that's what intrigued me to keep going. Sifu Kenneth Chung had already shown many of us lucky souls how graceful you can look while executing Wing Chun. I think it is the desire to reach gracefulness like him that motivates me to keep going. The knowledge and skill required to achieve it intrigues me. There are many smart and talented people out there. Why should it be easy to fight them and be graceful. It shouldn't. Maintaining whole-body integration and mobility while fighting with Wing Chun is a difficult task. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Only in Leung Sheung Wing Chun lineage have I heard of anyone asking their students to slow down when they hit and be less powerful when they hit. Why give such peculiar and counter-intuitive advice? So you can learn to use your position and skills instead of your muscles strength to power through. Don't forget he might be younger, taller and stronger. Following that advice certainly isn't easy, especially under pressure from a worthy opponent. But it's certainly sound advice. Can't do it today? Sure not, that's what keep someone like me going. It's my motivation.

bottom of page