BIOGRAPHY OF A MARTIAL ART

© 1993 Michael Nedderman

Wing Chun Kung Fu takes a much different approach to hand-to-hand combat, possibly because it was originated by a woman. In fact, that woman intended Wing Chun to enable her to defeat her most likely opponents: men in the prime of life who were also highly trained martial artists.

Legend even says that Wing Chun’s female founder was at least middle aged if not elderly. In other words, Wing Chun was intended not only to enable smaller, less physically able people to defend themselves against untrained, albeit experienced street thugs, but to defeat practitioners of other martial arts by employing highly aggressive close-range, offensive tactics and techniques delivered from a strong defensive posture, and by training the sense of touch instead of relying upon eye/hand reflexes and athletic ability.

Most martial arts rely upon eye/hand reflexes to detect and respond to openings or attacks. Athletic ability (including strength, agility, flexibility, and quick reflexes) is paramount. These martial arts usually advocate fighting at a distance, darting in to strike as opportunity presents and quickly moving out before or as a counter attack is launched. Mobility is stressed as is focusing the mind, body and emotions (usually by yelling) to maximize power during each striking opportunity. Obviously, the grappling arts take a different approach, but athletic ability (especially strength) may be even more necessary for practitioners of those arts.

Wing Chun is actually an highly organized means of teaching almost anyone, especially the most likely victims of crime (women, children, and the elderly) to be an effective street fighter. In hand-to-hand combat, even against multiple attackers, Wing Chun is the “equalizer”–the “sawed–off shotgun” of martial arts (i.e., effective at very close range, constituting a “blast” of multiple, spontaneous techniques, often landing two and sometimes three simultaneously, with every move followed up, followed up, followed up…).

Wing Chun is scientific in nature and unparalleled in close quarter combat because it: (1) emphasizes developing the sense of touch into an amazing fighting skill that directs close-range techniques; (2) targets the body’s “soft spots” (eyes, throat, groin, knee, nerve points, etc.), (3) trains practitioners to “borrow” an opponent’s energy (the bigger and stronger, the harder he gets hit–primarily with his own energy); and (4) because of its fighting theories: (a) of combining offense with defense (attacking rather than defending when attacked), (b) of simplicity and economy of motion (making all techniques biomechanically efficient, less telegraphic, and therefore more effective, often using an offensive move to both block and strike), (c) of controlling the “centerline” (therefore controlling the fight), and (d) of not opposing force with force (either redirecting or “borrowing” it).

Additionally, because a close-range fight necessarily involves physical contact at several points, the Wing Chun fighter must receive and process information from these sources as well as from his eyes. Focusing the mind on any single source would cause awareness to be lost of the others. Unlike other martial arts, Wing Chun advocates “defocusing” the mind so the practitioner can be aware of the many rapidly, often simultaneously changing occurrences during close range fighting. This ability to defocus or put the mind “in neutral,” so to speak, enables the Wing Chun fighter to remain mentally and emotionally calm during one of the most stressful situations imaginable, a fight for his life.

Defocusing the mind is a prerequisite to experiencing the highest levels where the practitioner, with his mind “in neutral,” just lets his hands “go” and generates a free-flowing, spontaneous “blast” of techniques, literally the hand-to-hand combat equivalent of the blitzkrieg (lighting war). The nature and effect of the force of this pugilistic blitzkrieg is analogous to that produced by a large volume of flowing water: it will go over, under, around or through anything in its path.

Unbelievably, there is rarely any intent in individual technique, making each practically non-telegraphic and almost impossible to stop. Any attempt to do so only increases the power of the Wing Chun fighter’s counter strike because he quite literally “borrows” the energy from the opponent’s block as well. The real intent of the Wing Chun fighter is in the pressure he brings to bear by moving in and staying close to his opponent while generating the blitz of offensive techniques.

The combination of these theories and techniques diminish the need for strength and athletic ability, and make Wing Chun more suitable for the smaller, less athletic man, and is especially well suited for women–not surprising because the system was developed by a woman. Sifu Eddie Chong is fond of saying, “in Wing Chun, age does not diminish skill. The older one gets, the better one becomes because the critical factors are theoretical comprehension and “sensitivity” (to an opponent’s movements and intentions via a highly developed sense of touch).”

At the highest level, the practice of Wing Chun is actually quite meditative in nature because practitioners must learn to mentally and physically relax in the highly stressful circumstance of a fight. This ability to remain calm in stressful situations also enables one to non-violently defuse many angry confrontations because the mind remains calm and able to reason unimpaired by worry, fear, anger or adrenaline. The Wing Chun fighter does not get “rattled” when someone “gets in his face”–the closer the aggressor gets the better the Wing Chun practitioner likes it. Naturally, the ability to remain calm is beneficial in may other areas of one’s life