Simple & Direct – the Principles of Wing Chun

A martial art is much more than a collection of techniques. There is a common thread that links them all together and make them work in harmony. This thread is the principle which the system is based upon and this is the most important thing to find.

What is the main principle of Wing Chun? It is to be simple and direct. Wing Chun is one
the most famous, profound and effective styles of Chinese martial arts. Fighting ability
is one of the most important aims of Wing Chun since it belongs to the martial arts. Therefore, what is the most effective method to make fighting skills work better?
This is directness. The quickest way to get to your opponent is to draw a straight line between you. This line is the fastest and most direct way to attack your opponent. If you can hit him first, then you do not need to worry about being hit. Of course you will ask, “But what if he is strong enough to withstand your attack and does not feel any pain when you hit him? Then he will hit you back.” In this situation, if your fist is too weak, then of course he will hit you back, but if you are strong enough, or even stronger than he is, then, what do you think? How strong your punch or other attacks are is another matter and is a question of training. However, the quickest way to attack your opponent is in a straight line. It is like shooting a pistol. The bullet travels in a straight line and reaches the target quickly. So in Wing Chun, your punches and kicks follow the same principle. When you attack with a punch, you start from where ever your fist is and go straight to the “important” area of your opponent, the target. Simple and direct, do not waste your time and energy – this is the main principle of Wing Chun.

Many times people ask, “Can we use hook punches in Wing Chun?” I always say, of course when you are fighting your can use it, but it does not belong to the principle of Wing Chun, because it does not follow a straight line. It goes in a curve and so it is not as fast as a straight line. Therefore, if you study Wing Chun, you should not use hook punches because they do not follow the principle of Wing Chun. The more you use techniques from other styles, then eventually your level of Wing Chun will not be so good. To learn the principles and develop the skill in Wing Chun takes time. You need to develop theWing
Chun fighting attitude, not just the skills. This only happens after many years of training. This you need to do without the influence of other styles of training. Then your fighting style will be Wing Chun and every technique you use will follow the principle of Wing Chun –
simple and direct.
For this reason beginners should not learn other styles of martial arts as it will affect their development and how they improve with the Wing Chun training. If you mix things up, eventually you will have bits and pieces of other styles of martial art together with the Wing Chun attitude. This is “Chop Suey”.
So you must make up your mind and decide which style of martial art you want to learn and which one fits you. Don’t study a “Chop Suey” style. It does not matter which you decide to follow, but you need to develop the attitude of the style. The attitude is a result of the styles principles.

I have a student who has studied Taijiquan for many years. Each time he practises Chi Sau (Sticking Hands) he is able to follow the correct method in the beginning, but as soon as things get tricky then his Taiji Pushing Hands attitude comes out. He has found it very difficult to stop doing this and so his Wing Chun level of skill does not improve so fast. People always want to do many things at the same time. They are often scared they might miss some thing or think the more styles you study, then the better your martial arts will be. Actually, you don’t need so many knives. One sharp knife is enough. If you can spend the same amount of energy developing one style as you would trying to learn many different ones, then you will become very good in that one style. Then you will have one sharp knife, which is better than having many dull knives. So become an expert in one style.
However, many people will ask me, “Sifu, you have also learnt many styles?” They are right, as well as Wing Chun I have learnt Taijiquan, Shaolin and Qigong. First of all the Qigong and Shaolin I practise is for my health. I only really treat Wing Chun and Taijiquan as martial arts, though of course they are also good for your health. To be honest, my Wing Chun is better than my Taijiquan. I have been studying Wing Chun for twenty-six years and Taijiquan for only eighteen years (article written in 2001), so of course my Wing Chun is better than my Taiji. In the past I was like many people, I wanted to learn more. Also I think it was my fate to learn Taiji. How I met my Taiji teacher is another interesting story, which I might write about one day.
Of course you might still ask me, why did I start to learn Taijiquan? I had been studying Wing Chun for eight years before I started. Now I think that Wing Chun and Taijiquan are enough for me to learn. These two styles tell me so much about martial arts and how to reach a high level, how to develop myself and what is a real martial art.
I don’t mean you should not learn another style, only you should reach a good enough standard and understand enough, and then it will not affect your development in the style you chose first.
I suggest you spend five years without stopping, on one style first. Then you can see about learning another style of martial art. This way you will not just touch the surface, you will go deep inside and experience the other styles you see and the real quality of martial arts. Afterwards it will actually help your understanding of your original style and answer the many questions you might have. Eventually you will reach a high level in your own style and you will see the similarity and difference between different styles, not the techniques, but in their principles and how they train the body and mind.

written by Michael Tse









Qi Magazine Issue 54, March/April 2001, Pages 23-25