Wing Chun is often advertised as simple, but when you study it properly you find that it is in fact very intricate. Most of the time we say that Wing Chun only really consists of three hand techniques, Bong Sau, Taan Sau and Fuk Sau.
In practice there are more techniques, which to a greater or smaller extent, stem from these three core hands. There are only three bare-hand forms in Wing Chun and one Wooden Dummy form, but when you put their practice all together and try and make things come alive in Chi Sau, the combinations of techniques becomes vast. Combine this together with footwork, i.e. stepping forwards, backwards, turning to the side to change angles, then even more combinations are available.
These are just the physical shapes which are really just the surface of things. More intricate and interesting is the use of energy (or strength), Gong Lik, Fa Ging and structure strength. Then you need to also account for reaction times, emotional states and stress levels and add these into the mix. I think you would agree we have long gone past the notion of “simple”.
If you look at Wing Chun like this, then you will not see the wood for the trees. You need to look past the confusion and see the principles that create the system. How we use less strength, how to redirect strength, how to borrow strength, how to be direct, the centreline, etc. However, there is a danger that when studying these principles we get stuck in the detail again and so the techniques become more important than the principles.
If this happens then we are in danger of complicating things further. We will create techniques and routines for the sake of creating techniques and routines. And what we create adds nothing to the skill. We must remember that techniques are expressions of the Wing Chun principles. If you have a good grasp of the basic techniques which are given to us in the forms, and you ally these with the principles of Wing Chun, then you can express the Wing Chun principles in a way that suits you, in a way that fits your body, your mind set, your emotional state.
The Wing Chun you do will be yours and not a pale imitation of anyone else’s. Of course, at the beginning you need to copy your teacher but there has to come a point where you have to find your own way and as long as it is based on the correct principles, then it is still Wing Chun. During this process you will reassess what you are doing and always refer back to your teacher as your teacher is the starting point of your journey. Naturally, you need to make sure you are ready for this stage of your development, but it will come about when the time is right and your teacher will know and encourage you.
So looking past all the techniques and principles, what are they for and where do they take us? Simply put, they get us into a good position where we can attack or defend. Your opponent will undoubtedly try and break your defence or move but all our training, all the techniques and principles we embody, lead us to another good position and can even turn a seemingly bad position to our advantage. At this level, it is not the technique that defeats your opponent, it is the position. So attacking and defending become the same thing. A skilled opponent will know when they have ultimately lost and, like in chess, they know they are in check-mate so you don’t even need to finish them. Though the Chi Sau may continue, it moves onto a different situation or another round of the chess game.
Wing Chun really follows the principle of Taiji. It is both simple and complex, it is hard and soft, it is fast and slow, etc, etc. Again the words are just examples of the principle. Yin and Yang are constantly mixing and changing. So you need to understand the nature of Yin and Yang and change and then something complex becomes very simple once more.