Ving Tsun Kuen – The Martial Science
“If you have to stop and think – it’s too late!” Barry Lee.
Ving Tsun Kuen, or Wing Chun as it is commonly spelled, is a Chinese Martial Art. It is also spelled “Ving Tjun”, or “Wing Tsun” “Weng Chan” “Yong Chun”, etc. It is the same style, however it is spelled. (See note1 below on Chinese translation into English.)
Once one of China’s most secretive Martial Arts, it is now the most popular Chinese combat system in the world with millions of adherents in many countries.
A Long History
Folk History has it that the system has its origins at the very beginning of the Ching Dynasty, more than 300 years ago, by a Buddhist nun Ng Mui from the legendary Shaolin Temple. After developing the style she passed it on to a young woman, Yim Wing-Chun, for whom the style is named. It remained a secret style used by the Freedom Fighters against the Manchurian overlords for hundreds of years until Grandmaster Yip Man began teaching publicly for the first time in the 1950’s. (See history of VTK article.)
Wing Chun is famous for its short-range power, made famous by the legendary martial arts film star Bruce Lee’s one-inch punch. He also credited much of his own martial art to the foundation he received in Wing Chun as a teenager.
Unlike most schools of any kind, we at the Wing Chun Centre can boast a direct line of descent from disciple to disciple. Teachers have many students, but few disciples. Disciples are sometimes erroneously called “close door students”. Note 2
Martial Science – not just an Art
Wong Shun Leung, Yip Man’s top fighting student, made the style more systematic to teach, and more logical in its approach, making our lineage what is called “Scientific Wing Chun”, so we call our style a martial science, not a martial art.
It is a fast, efficient and extremely effective system of combat that teaches how to defend oneself in a relatively short time. It is completely different from the more familiar arts such as Judo, Karate or Tae Kwon Do in many ways. Note 3.
The style stresses economy of movement, simultaneous attack and defence, angles of attack and uses the opponent’s force to defeat them. Although a complete system with techniques for combat at every range, Wing Chun is at its very best at close quarters where most fights happen. Instinctive reaction through feeling and sensitivity is a cornerstone of the style. This is the reason our school’s motto is “If you have to stop and think – it’s too late!”, coined by my teacher, Barry Lee.
Exercise for the Mind and Body
You do not have to be fit, strong or flexible to be successful at this art, which relies instead on technical proficiency and efficiency to deflect your opponent’s energy instead of direct opposition with brute force. This means that the style is suitable for both men and women regardless of physique, strength, flexibility, age or fitness.. Also, if you need to be fit in order to defend yourself, you will not be able to do so when injured, ill, or old. Ving Tsun has many examples of people in their 80’s defending themselves, and is very popular with people who are no longer capable of playing sport or other martial arts due to age or accumulated injuries.
We are soft on ourselves, but hard on our opponents.
Internal Healing Strength
Other benefits include self-confidence, self-discipline, improved co-ordination and reflexes, an awareness of your body and movement, a feeling of well-being and competence, and being able to focus your mind on exacting tasks. At our school we integrate the mind and body, teaching them together.
Wing Chun strengthens the joints, ligaments and tendons, rather than muscles. This combined with efficiency of movement is two of the main foundations of the much-misunderstood “internal strength”. It will also strengthen old injuries as well, such as knees or backs.’
Some Points of Interest:
• You do not have to be fit to start learning, as suitable exercises will be taught to encourage sufficient fitness. It is better to start before you get fit, and get fit in class under proper supervision.
• There are no gradings. Traditional systems of Wing Chun – or indeed any kung fu – do not have or need them.
• Since it is combat martial science rather than a sport art, it doesn’t involve tournaments, and has little or no sparring.
• It is taught with far less formality than the majority of martial arts.
• There is no harsh enforcement of discipline for example, doing push-ups for infractions of the rules.
• We do not bow to pictures, other country’s flag or inanimate objects such as in Tae Kwon Do, but only to each other and only out of good manners.
• We use whatever language is appropriate, often two at any given time. English with a little Chinese terminology in English speaking countries, German and English in Germany, and Chinese and English in China. You don’t have to learn a new language, but you will get some exposure to other languages. If you travel to China or other countries, you are welcome to train.
• It is taught in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
• All lessons are by Senior Instructors who have trained for many years and are accredited with the various appropriate bodies for the country involved.
1. Wing Chun is a large style with many different styles within it, just as is Karate or Tae Kwon Do. Correspondingly there are many different schools, with different names. The real name for it is “Ving Tsun Kuen” (Traditional – 詠春拳, Simplified – 咏春拳 or 永春拳) The Chinese characters for wing chun kuen are always the same (well, not quite, there is simplified and traditional, and a few styles have slightly different characters with slightly different meanings, but generally, this is true), and mean “everlasting spring fists”, with the character “Kuen” in this context meaning martial art style. Kung fu (sometimes gung fu) is simply “skill acquired through hard work” and can be applied to anything. The different spellings are simply different people from different areas trying to render their pronunciation into English, and China has so many regional variations that no two seem the same. Grandmaster Yip Man decided on the “Ving Tsun Kuen” spelling after people started calling Wing Chun Kuen” “toilet fist” after “WCK”, WC being the lettering used on toilets in Hong Kong at the time, for “water closet”. And that makes the Ving Tsun spelling the correct one for these lineages. Although people are more familiar with the “Wing Chun” spelling, throughout the rest of the site, the spelling “Ving Tsun Kuen” or “VTK” will be used.
2. Yip Man had half a dozen important disciples, the most famous for his fighting and teaching was Wong Shun Leung. Wong Shun Leung also had several main disciples. The first westerner to master the system was his brother-in-law, Barry Lee. Barry has four disciples also: Fu Shan Yang, Gino Torreblanca, Bill Dowding and Theo Pasialis. Bill is the head instructor at the Ving Tsun Centre, and we all travel extensively to each other’s schools and other people’s schools to teach, quite regularly, as does Barry himself when he is able. Our school is recognized in China and Hong Kong as being one of the few schools outside of those places that teaches pure Wong Shun Leung Ving Tsun Kuen, without modification or addition.On my first trip to Hong Kong, I was training, when a guy came up to me and asked where I had learned. I told him Australia. He said he had no idea that the style was being taught so well outside of Hong Kong, and welcomed me to Hong Kong and welcomed me to Ving Tsun. He was one of Wong Shun Leung’s direct students. It was a very gratifying moment. We are still good friends.
3. We are as different from Karate (or Tae Kwon Do. To us, Tae Kwon Do is structurally identical to Karate) as we are from Tai Chi, Aikido or the moves in the kung fu movies, and as different as they are from each other. We use different moves, different areas of our hands and feet to strike with, a very different design philosophy, and completely different teaching methods. Examples: We use a vertical fist and strike with the bottom knuckles. We use the bottom of our foot to strike rather than the ball of the foot. We do not lift the knee, then kick, but instead kick directly from the ground to target. All our moves go forward into our opponent rather than around, even our blocks. We do not pull back to hit. We only have one basic stance that has a couple of variations. We program our reflexes to do the fighting so we do not have to do it ourselves, that way we do not pull our punches, and we do not have to decide to fight. We just do it. Nothing is the same.