Intermediate and senior students teaching junior students is how the advanced students revisit “the basics” and discover that there is a lot more to the fundamentals than they previously believed. That humbling discovery causes those advanced students to realize that they must rededicate themselves to understanding the basics. That positive method of motivating advanced students to revisit the basics, and the realization it causes, works wonders on the attitude of all students and creates a welcoming, helpful atmosphere.
Self-discovery through teaching is a critical element in both fully comprehending the art and preventing the development of bad habits which plague and frustrate many in their pursuit of excellence in Wing Chun. That method is also how a school learns to share the learning experience, and is how the ego-enhancing “pecking order syndrome”, so apparent at some schools, is displaced with a much more cohesive, “family” atmosphere. It truly creates the atmosphere which cultivates the much lauded character development for which martial arts training is often recommended.
The source of Bruce Lee’s skill
Although best known as Bruce Lee’s original art, Wing Chun’s stellar effectiveness (not to mention Lee’s) can be directly attributed to the art’s unique approach to solving the problem of winning a fight. Jun Fan, and Jeet Kune Do (JKD) are arts Bruce developed in the United Sates after he learned Wing Chun from Grandmaster Yip Man (Ip Man) in Hong Kong. Even though he only achieved an intermediate level, it is that grounding in Wing Chun which gave Lee his incredible insight into analyzing the techniques of other Martial Arts. Because Wing Chun is in fact a study of the science of biomechanics as it relates to the movement and energy flow of martial art techniques, one can only wonder what Bruce Lee could or would have done had he completed his Wing Chun training.
Bruce Lee’s journey through the martial arts is placed in context by his Wing Chun classmate, Hawkins Cheung, in an enlightening four part series published in Inside Kung Fu in November & December ’91, and January & February ’92 issues. Insightful comments regarding Lee’s motive and goals for creating Jeet Kune Do were subsequently provided by one of Bruce’s first students from his Seattle school, James DeMile, in a letter to the editor published in June of ‘92. There is a lot to learn from this kind of historical context which is part of the education students of Touchstone Martial Arts receive.
Wing Chun: the original Mixed Martial Art?
It is truly unfortunate that those who are fascinated with Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) don’t know that Wing Chun embodies exactly the attributes they seek and could greatly benefit them by giving them control over that critical moment when first contact is made. In fact, Wing Chun is also known as “stand-up grappling” and may be one of the first mixed martial arts because the woman who originated it combined the close-range tactics and techniques of a half dozen Kung Fu styles to form one cohesive fighting system with the goal of enabling her, a middle-aged to elderly woman, to defeat her most likely opponents (men in the prime of life). The arts from which Wing Chun derived are: Tai Chi (probably Chen style), Southern Preying Mantis, Sil Lum or traditional Shaolin Kung Fu, Eagle Claw, Chin Na (joint locking), and the mysterious “Golden Palm.”
Wing Chun’s unique approach to winning a fight (not to mention Bruce Lee’s effectiveness) can be directly attributed to the unique perspective of its founder. That founder was a woman who must have reasoned that she wasn’t going to win a contest of strength and agility against her most likely opponents, and so . . . and so you should read "Biography of a Martial Art" for a brief discussion and “Planning for the Inevitable with the Sawed-off Shotgun of Martial Arts” for an in-depth look at the marvels of Wing Chun Kung Fu. "Jeet Fa" describes the first level a new student learns, and don’t forget to read "What’s in a Name" for our instructor’s teaching philosophy (“What’s in a Name” is currently being revised—look for a current date on the revision).