Famous Wing Chun Practitioners: From Ip Man to Bruce Lee
Discover the fascinating Lives and Lasting Legacies of the most Legendary Wing Chun Kung Fu practitioners, including Yip Man and Bruce Lee, in this Captivating Article.
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What does it take to become a Wing Chun master? In this video, we are going to take a closer look at the training and time involved to become a Wing Chun master.
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The following article is the transcript of the video above.
What does it take to become a Wing Chun master? Wing Chun is a concept-based traditional southern Chinese kung-fu style and form of self-defense that requires quick arm movements and strong legs to defeat opponents. It is one of the youngest and most contemporary styles of Kung Fu, having been constantly refined and adapted over its 300 years of existence.
The style uses kicks, sweeps, elbows, palm strikes, punches, tapping, and control techniques as part of its fighting arsenal. Wing Chun differed greatly from other Kung Fu styles of the time. It was not based on imitation such as directly copying animal movements, but on natural scientific laws, eliminating unnecessary movements to overcome and generate force in the most efficient way.
Considered to be one of the three great martial art styles of Southern China, Wing Chun was founded during the Qing Dynasty by Buddhist nun Ng Mui of the famed Shaolin Temple. Ng Mui, one of the top five fighters of the day, aimed at designing a more effective fighting method that did not rely on brute strength to be effective.
Legend has it that she found her inspiration after witnessing a fight between a stork and a large rodent, where the stork was able to repel the rodent's attacks by using its wings and legs to attack and defend simultaneously. She named her new style Wing Chun after one of her top students Yim Wing Chun, who used it to defend herself against an unwanted suitor.
Over the years, Wing Chun has been handed down only to a small number of dedicated students who in turn have gone on to teach others, including grandmaster Yip Man. Yip Man is credited with having rescued Wing Chun from having been wiped out in the Chinese cultural revolution by migrating to Hong Kong in 1948 and introducing the style to the general public. Renowned as a teacher and an invincible fighter, he is considered to have refined and further perfected the system.
So, what does it take to become a master of Wing Chun? In a short: time and practice. There is a lot to learn when it comes to this martial art and it is not done with speed. Depending on the student and school, it can take about five to ten years to reach the most advanced belt level, which is called Sifu. But that's not where it ends. After this, depending on the school, there can be at least three more levels.
The most common system of forms in Wing Chun consists of three empty hand forms, two weapon forms, and a wooden dummy form. The first and most important form is Siu Nim Tao, which is practiced throughout the practitioner's lifetime. It is the foundation or seed of the art on which all succeeding forms and techniques depend. Fundamental rules of balance and body structure are developed here. It serves as the basic alphabet of the system. The Siu Nim Tao teaches how to build up structure and achieve a relaxed state which is necessary for the proper generation of force and the development of Wing Chun's power of relaxation.
The three basic hand works of Wing Chun: the Tan Sao, Bong Sao, and Fuk Sao form part of the arc of a circle, or sphere. These movements are performed through the rotation of the circle at its center, such as the ball joint in the shoulder. As a spherical shape can withstand a much stronger external impact than any other shape, these movements are highly effective for attacking and defending in a self-defense scenario.
The second form Chum Kiu focuses on coordinated movement of the body mass, and entry techniques to bridge the gap between practitioner and opponent and move in to disrupt their structure and balance. By focusing correctly, turning the body around the center, and ignoring the resistance, you can turn effortlessly and the person resisting will just come along for the ride. Close-range attacks using the elbows and knees are also developed here. The Chum Kiu form also teaches the development of the multi-vector force.
An example is a stepping movement with a simultaneous Bong Sao and Dai Sao. As the body moves to the side one arm creates a circle with the Bong Sao movement while the other performs a raising Dai Sao movement, thereby creating three vectors of force. The combination of the three force vectors results in the generation of a tremendous amount of force.
The last form Biu Jee is composed of extremely short-range techniques, low kicks, sweeps, and emergency techniques to counter-attack when structure and centerline have been seriously compromised, such as when the practitioner is seriously injured. As well as pivoting and stepping developed in Chum Kiu, a third degree of freedom involves more upper body, and stretching is developed for more power. Such movements include close-range elbow strikes and finger thrusts to the throat. Learning these three forms of Wing Chun will achieve the black belt equivalent of Sifu.
After this comes the intermediate level which is Mook Yan Jong. This is performed on a Wooden Dummy which serves as a tool that helps the student to use Wing Chun against another human opponent. The benefits of learning Mook Yan Jong include improving power from the waist, conditioning of the hands and arms, and it teaches the student the correct distance.
Traditionally, Wing Chun predominantly consists of two weapons: Butterfly Swords and the Dragon Pole. The Dragon Pole is a tapered wooden pole ranging anywhere from 8 to 13 feet in length. The pole has the advantage of its length and linear movements in attack, with a minimal circular movement in defense. This technique combined with the most efficient footwork, in both attack and defense, allows the exponent to move in and out of range like lightning. In fact, it is said that once you hear the first impact of the pole, the victor has already been decided.
Butterfly swords are used in several Chinese martial arts. In Wing Chun, one notable aspect of Butterfly sword combat is that its principles are the basis for all other weaponry. In theory, any object that can be held in the hands of a Wing Chun practitioner will follow the same basic principles of movement as the butterfly swords. This is because the use of butterfly swords is simply an extension of empty-handed combat.
Becoming a Sifu in Wing Chun means that you are certified by your teacher to teach others. It is recognition of your ability to pass on the knowledge that your teacher has taught you, although some translate the word Sifu to mean master. The real direct translation of the term Sifu has two characters: one for teacher and another for father. In some schools, it can take seven years to become a Sifu. As for becoming a master, that can take a lifetime.
Wing Chun is a vehicle for self-discovery and self-improvement and you never stop learning it.
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