Forms and applications in Ip Man Wing Chun

Wing Chun is not a matter of training, it is a matter of understanding.

Grandmaster Samuel Kwok

The basics for Ip Man Wing Chun are the so-called forms. In opposition to other martial arts the forms in Wing Chun are not numerous. Therefore it is possible to learn the Wing Chun system in very short time. After having mastered the forms, a lot of time is required for the training of the Chi Sao.

Ip Man Wing Chun is made out of 3 fist forms, the so-called wooden dummy form and two weapon forms (long staff and double knife).

In each of these forms principles and movements are taught that are essential for Wing Chun. They are built up on each other so further understanding a form is impossible without knowing the previous forms.

The six forms of Ip Man Wing Chun Kung Fu are

  1. Siu Lim Tao – ‘The Little Idea’
    The Siu Lim Tao is the first and most important form of Wing Chun. It is the foundation or the seed of this martial art on which the success of all following forms is depending. Basic rules of balance and structure of posture are developed as well as the force in the elbows for the correct execution of the movements.

    The Siu Lim Tao is practiced standing and contains basic hand movements of Ip Man Wing Chun. In the stand the foundation for further footwork is layed. The necessary muscles are trained. The movements of the hands in the Siu Lim Tao teach the most important principles of Wing Chun, the energy for explosive techniques necessary for effective self defense.

  2. Chum Kiu – ‘The Searching Bridge’
    The second form focuses on coordinated movements of the body mass and so-called ‘beginners-techniques‘ to cover the distance between the opponents and to disturb the balance of the enemy. Close-combat techniques and first steps of footwork are also being developed. The Chum Kiu imparts the footwork and the operation of the hip (Yu Ma) in Wing Chun. That makes the Chum Kiu the first fighting form developing force with the exact coordination of feet, hip and hand techniques.

  3. Biu Gee – ‘The Stinging Fingers’
    The third form of the hands is Biu Gee. It is made of techniques form extremely short and extremely long distances, deep kicks and so-called ‘emergency’-techniques to be put in action when having lost the correct posture and the direction of the central line to bring yourself back into a favorable position. Just as the Chum Kiu taught the turns and steps, the Biu Gee opens up a new level in the development of force by stretching the upper body.

    A commonly known saying in Wing Chun is: ‘Biu Gee does not leave the house!’. Some interpret it in a way that Biu Gee is meant to be kept secret. Others interpret it as a rule to use the Biu Gee as last means.

    The Biu Gee teaches further techniques for short distance combat. The techniques of the Biu Gee add movements of the elbow that were not contained in earlier forms. Biu Gee may only be learnt correct after having practiced the wooden dummy form long and intense.

    The weapons in the Wing Chun system

    Once the correct generation of force in the hand movements is achieved, the student is ready to advance to the use of weapons. As it is the idea of the weaponless techniques to convey energy into the fingertips it is the idea of the weapon forms to understand the weapon as an extension of the body and to convey the energy into the weapon applying the same principles.

  4. 4. Muk Yan Chong – ‘the 108 movements of the wooden dummy’
    The wooden dummy form is, as the name says, practiced on a wooden dummy, a thick wooden trunk of about 30cm diameter being equipped with 3 arms and one leg and being mounted on a slightly mobile scaffold.

    The training with the wooden dummy serves to improve the understanding of the correct angle of the hand techniques, the footwork, and the development of full force in executing the techniques. Furthermore, the movements of the prior forms are connected and regarded as a whole.

  5. Luk Dim Boon Kwun
    The long staff – a slightly conical wooden staff with a length between 8 and 13 feet (2,40m – 3,90m). It is mostly put on a level with the name of its form, ‘Luk Dim Boon Kwun’ meaning six-and-a-half point staff.

  6. Bart Cham Dao
    The double knives – a pair of large knives, a little smaller than swords. Historically these knives are known as Dit Ming Do (Life taking knives), Yee Jee Seung Do (simultaneous double knife form) or Baat Chaam Dao (The eight ways of the knives or Eight cutting knives).

The two last mentioned weapon forms form two more aspects of Wing Chun. The two forms are the most advanced techniques in Wing Chun Kung Fu. Training the two weapon forms improves the posture and precision of hand positions which again improves the application of the weaponless forms in Wing Chun.