The Logic in the Wing Chun System

The efficiency of Ip Man Wing Chun unfolds once one masters the system and understands its logic.


A ‘scientific’ system

The Wing Chun Style became known in the West in the 60s and 70s, in England earlier than in the rest of Europe. When Wing Chun gained popularity organized in its first large association it was propagandized as the fighting style of Bruce Lee. Moreover, Wing Chun was seen as a scientific system. For more on this read the older and newest publications of Keith R. Kernspecht: Vom Zweikampf, Wu Shu press.

Another reason for its popularity was that this ‘most efficient‘ style was also very easy to learn. Grandmaster Samuel Kwok claims in his last publication (Mastering Wing Chun, Empire Books, Los Angeles 2007, 1. Edition, page 20):

"We are using the word ‘system’ for a reason. A system is something that may be defined. It has a certain amount of components, being consistent. Agreeing with numerous dictionaries a system is an organized set of teaching basics, ideas or principles that normally serve to explain the order or functioning of a systematic whole. As one may see it has to contain a defined limits and components describing the complete thing to be considered a system. There has to be standard by which the system is formed." (multiply translated)

The most wide-spread Wing Chun – in all different ways of writing – traces back to the system developed by Grandmaster Ip Man in Hong Kong:

A set of 6 forms being taught in schools in the most different variations

  • Siu Lim Tao
  • Chum Kiu
  • Muk Yan Chongg (Wooden Dummy)
  • Biu Gee
  • Luk Dim Boon Kwun (Long Staff) und
  • Baat Cham Dao (Double Knife).

In some schools and associations the order of these forms is switched concerning the wooden dummy and the Biu Gee. This does, however, most certainly not comply with the original order as taught by Ip Man.

It is well-known that Ip Man himself has changed the forms of his masters but we only know the versions of the forms that Ip Man publicly taught. Which exact elements he changed and what the Wing Chun he learned looked like is not recorded. Therefore, today’s Wing Chun may be considered very young Martial Arts system.

There also is the hypothesis that the different weaponless forms of Wing Chun were originally a single, very long form which was split up to simplify the learning of Wing Chun.

The logic of the Wing Chun system is recorded in the following forms

The structure of the forms comply with the rules:

  1. From simple to complex
    The order of forms is not random: In the first from only the correct stand and the most important moves of the hands are learned isolated, which is followed by the footwork in the Chum Kiu, further footwork techniques in the wooden dummy form etc… In this methodical order the path of learning is shorter than in others.

  2. From standing to walking
    Self defense is about situations with a moving opponent whose intentions might not be known. The situation of a fight is neither plannable nor static. Therefore one learns standing first, then moving on the spot (Chum Kiu Part 1), then simple steps forward (Chum Kiu Part 2 and 3), then compass steps (wooden dummy) and then the special stand in the Biu Gee assuming the distance to the opponent is too small for kicks or dodging. It is only then that one learns forward and backward steps allowing a pursuit of the opponent or to dodge him as he besets one stronger. The complete footwork of the Wing Chun system is not learnt before the last form.

  3. From the long distance to the short distance
    The first form does not really teach how to fight, but it contains the most important principles of self defense on which all other forms are based. In the Chum Kiu are the first steps, meaning this form also contains explanations for various distances. The construction of the second form contains the paths how to reach the short distance via the medium distance starting at the long distance to gain control of opponent. The sequel to the wooden dummy form contains the application and combination in the so-called medium distance in which kicks play an essential role. The Biu Gee however does almost not contain any steps anymore, which is explained by the fact that in the reached short distance the distance to the opponent is so little that steps are no longer necessary. This form focuses on the elbows, the typical weapon in the short distance. However, for this the short distance must have been reached. This is the most important argument for teaching the Biu Gee after the wooden dummy form.

  4. From ‘isolated movements’ to ‘combined movements’
    The first from only contains simple hand movements without any footwork. In the middle part of the form synchronized hand movements are executed which may however also be seen as isolated movements. In the second form the focus lays on opposing movements which are put together from the single movements of the first form. In the wooden dummy form one learns movements combined with footwork. Regarding coordination this form is a lot more difficult.

  5. From ‘long ways’ to ‘short ways’
    Master Trevor Jefferson used the form as a model for explanation of the biomechanical aspects of an optimized movement. Because in self defense the aim is a maximum of efficiency in own movements Wing Chun has to give an answer to the question how to get this efficiency. To further develop self defense abilities and to achieve a gain in time from a single action can only be accomplished when using the form to improve own movements to perfection. The result of movement paths becoming shorter is a result of no longer understanding movements as fixed techniques (like: I learned it exactly this way) but rather seeing them as an answer to a situation. The shapelessness described by Keith Kernspecht is already a part of the Wing Chun system However, this only works in connection with

  6. From ‘isolated strength’ to ‘combined strength’
    The development of a dynamic and explosive technique is called ‘Ging’ in Wing Chun. In Tai Chi it is often called ‘Fa Jing’. If someone, by long training, gains the ability to execute every movement with perfectly coordinated contraction of all involved muscles exactly at the moment of contact with the opponent, a movement does not necessarily have to look like in the form. It follows the short path and might in fact barely be visible. The required energy however results from the training of the long paths, which goes hand in hand with the development of Ging. Otherwise, this aspect cannot come into action.

  7. From the outside to the inside
    The development of techniques in Wing Chun goes from the ‘outer’ forms to their ‘inner force’. Achieving consciousness for the correct mechanics begins with the forms, transitions into controlled partner training (e.g. Chi Sao) and results in the free application in a fight. The application of movements in Wing Chun demands a high level of physical feeling, because one is supposed to act and react in very limited space.

The mentioned points result from an analysis of the forms of Wing Chun and are supposed to align with the claim of Wing Chun being a scientific system.

Adapting this system on the other hand can only happen in ‘practical experiments‘ in training because only the system of the forms with the known construction is recorded by Ip Man. But the knowledge contained in the various forms must always be rediscovered and transferred to new generations to remain practical.