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Useful Notes / Wing Chun

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Wing Chun, also romanised as Ving Tsun or Wing Tsun (Traditional Chinese: 詠春, Simplified Chinese 咏春; pinyin: Yǒng Chūn), is a Chinese martial art and stye of kung fu that utilizes both striking and trapping while specializing in close-range combat. It has the distinction of being of the rare martial art styles, if not the only martial art style that was invented by a woman.

Wing Chun is characterized by using long, harmonious chains of blocks and Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs in a very straight line with little footwork. It does a great emphasis in a vertical posture in which hand strikes are expected to be deflected and chained into the user's own attacks, and like most Southern kung fu styles, kicks are actually rarely used and always kept in low angles. By this and other reasons, Wing Chun could be considered the conceptual paradigm of Southern kung fu, and is by a wide margin its most trained style. It is a staple of Hong Kong action cinema choreography due to its visual finesse and complexity, which helps picture an user as an elegant and technical yet aggressive fighter, and also because its hand movements transition pretty well to Gun Fu. The art also trains the use of weapons like poles and short swords.

While one of the most popular styles of kung fu around, Wing Chun is perhaps one of the most controversial martial arts in real life. It is frequently accused of being based on impractical training methods and containing an excessive emphasis in unrealistic concepts over real applications, and this extends not only to the art's methodology, but also to its very core principles - turning into a moot point when it's argued that these traits, wrong or not, are precisely what make Wing Chun the way it is. Wing Chun also carries the stigma of being a heavy case of both Complexity Addiction and Crippling Overspecialization even inside the kung fu community, which is to say something given that most traditional kung fu styles are accused of those same flaws. These notes are a guranteedly polarizing topic of conversation in real life, as the wing chun community is known to be a very traditional, almost evangelically zealous body, which has given out too many flame wars in internet.

Common Wing Chun forms/movesets (different branches have different variations):

Empty Hand Training Forms:

  • Siu Nim Tau/Siu Lim Tao (小念頭"Little idea"): Boring, but Practical condensed into a training from, this is the first and most important form of Wing Chun. The form teaches the center line concept, balance, proper body structure, and hand movements. Very boring and slow to train, and takes hundreds of daily repetitions before the average practitioner begins to appreciate the value of the form.

  • Cham Kiu/Chum Kiu (尋橋"Seeking the bridge"): Once the practitioner is adept with the basic structure of the form, Chum Kiu introduces the practitioner how to move around while maintaining the form and chasing the opponent's form. Chum Kiu allows the practitioner move into the optimum position where he or she can engage the opponent within the Wing Chun framework.

  • Biu Ji/Bil Ji (標指"Thrusting fingers"): The third form, Biu Ji, is composed of extreme short-range and extreme long-range techniques, and emergency/recovery techniques to counterattack when the structure and/or centerline have been seriously compromised by the opponent. A common Wing Chun saying is "Biu Ji does not go out the door." Some schools interpret this as keeping the form secret and teaching only to most loyal students so the master would not be possibly countered in the case of some students turning against their master, while others interpret is as meaning it should not be used unless absolutely necessary, because over reliance on the emergency techniques will hinder the development of the basic forms and structures.

  • Muk Yan Jong (木人樁"Wooden Dummy"): The Muk Yan Jong form is performed against a wooden dummy, a thick wooden post with three arms and a leg mounted on a slightly springy frame representing a stationary opponent. The wooden dummy form teaches the practitioner proper angles, hand and leg positions, proper body structure, footwork, and developing short range explosive power.

  • Chi Sao (黐手"Sticky hands"): A form of sparring exercise training designed to teach reflex, sensitivity, and maintaining a forward pressure against the opponent. It would be appropriate to designate chi sao as a hand-to-hand chess, because traditional chess also emphasizes the importance of controlling the central squares and maintain a continuous offensive pressure against the opponent. Chi sao requires the practitioner to (1) dissipate the opponent's forward pressure, (2) maintain their own forward pressure and center line, and (3) find and exploit the opponent's openings

  • Lap Sao (擸手"Taking hands"): A form of a more repetitive sparring drill designed to further teach reflex and maintaining structure when shifting stances.

  • Poon Sao (盤手"Rooting hands"): A variant of the Chi Sao practice that turns it into a drill and focus only on maintaining one's own forward pressure and dissipating the opponent's forward pressure, with both practitioners utilizing most of their core strength compared to then when they are practicing Chi Sao. This practice is for strength and structure conditioning. Imagine the arms of both practitioners as tree roots extending towards one another in competition for more soil.

Weapon Forms:

  • Luk Dim Boon Gwun (Six and a half point pole): A tapered wooden pole ranging from anywhere between 8 to 13 feet in length. Also referred to as "Dragon Pole" by some branches. The weapon style teaches further body conditioning, and extends (pun intended) the empty hand concepts into a long range weapon form.

  • Baat Jaam Do (Eight Chopping/Slashing Knives, more commonly butterfly swords): An extension of empty-handed combat in Wing Chun, the butterfly sword form is notable because its principles are the basis for all other weaponry. In theory, any object that can be held in the hands of a practitioner will follow the same basic principles of movement as the butterfly swords.

Tropes that are present in Wing Chun:

  • Complexity Addiction: Even the most basic blocking technique in Wing Chun aspires to parry perfectly a strike and try to capitalize on it to trap the opponent's arm. While this allows for long, beautiful chains of attacks and counterattacks between two skilled practitioners, it is much more difficult to master than simpler blocks.
  • Counter-Attack: What the other hand does when the first hand blocks. Practically the tenet of the art.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: One of the main caveats and sources of criticism of the style. Wing Chun is heavily specialized to work on a very niche range between close and medium-quarters, which means that it lacks the tools to engage in either of those two or any other rango (for instance, it lacks the clinch work essential for close-quarters fighting and the long kicks and punches needed for medium to long range). This also goes for its preference for a rigid lineal footwork that excludes the possiblity of circling or utilizing mobility.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: To be good at Wing Chun, a practitioner must adhere closely to the fundamental concepts of the art. Add that to getting the proper structure, body conditioning, and combat sensitivity, not to mention maintaining a forward pressure against the opponents, it's safe to say that the art requires a lot of investment in order to be combat effective. This can make a lot of people argue for Awesome, but Impractical, as said in the main text.
  • Dynamic Entry: Wing Chun specializes in breaking down the opponent's balance and structure using fast and precise short range strikes.
  • Extremity Extremist: Barely subverted. The style uses very few kicks and kept at low angles.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Invoked. The art focuses on aggressive stepping to the opponent's space in order to disrupt their balance and enter the optimum range to deliver close range blows, though without actually getting in an excessively close range itself.
  • Pummel Duel: What happens when two wing chun practitioners spar and exchanging chain punches left and right.
  • Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs: Wing Chun chain punching. Arguably the Trope Codifier in Martial Arts.
  • Super Reflexes: Trained to maximum human level through sensitivity and Chi Sao drills. A proficient Wing Chun practitioner can theoretically fight with his or her eyes literally closed - they perceive using the change of pressure (or lack thereof) from their hands.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: Wing Chun moves are not as wide and sectacular as other martial arts styles, because all the hand movements are derived from a single concept: a straight punch delivered from the center line of the practitioner. All the other moves are derivatives designed to clear the center line from impending attacks or barriers to deliver the straight punch. This makes the moves simple to learn, but requires considerable sensitivity training and reflexes to be used competently in combat.

Famous or notable Wing Chun practitioners:

  • Ip Man (or Yip Man): Bruce Lee's original master. Founder of the Yip Man Branch of Wing Chun, arguably the most popular and well known branch in the world. Currently enjoying a surge of popularity in wake of Donnie Yen's (mostly fictional) portrayal of him in a film series.
  • Wong Shun Leung: Student of Ip Man, the man who codified the Yip Man Branch of Wing Chun into a complete system, also Bruce Lee's tutor.
    • Bruce Lee once wrote in a letter to Wong that "Even though I am (technically) a student of Yip Man, in reality I learned my Kung-fu from you."
  • Bruce Lee: Legendary martial artist. Learned Wing Chun from Ip Man for a few years before moving to the United States and developed his own style Jeet Kune Do.
  • Robert Downey Jr.: According to him, Wing Chun was one of the things that got him out of drug abuse. He uses some Wing Chun moves in the Iron Man films, and was used as Sherlock Holmes' primary fighting style in the Guy Ritchie movies.
  • Jackie Chan: You can see his Wing Chun in Rumble in the Bronx, where his character Keung practices on a wooden training dummy commonly used in Wing Chun practice.
  • Sammo Hung: Jackie Chan's classmate back when he studied Chinese School of Opera. Appears in numerous Kung Fu movies.
  • Nicolas Cage: Demonstrated a respectable level of wing chun in Bangkok Dangerous.
  • Donnie Yen: The modern media Wing Chun ambassador to the world. Showcases it best in the aforementioned Ip Man film series.
  • Michelle Yeoh: Portrayed Yim Wing Chun in a 1994 film of the same name that tells the story of the Wing Chun style founder.

It is worth noting that a majority of Hong Kong action film community members (artists, choreographers, stunt people) are familiar if not proficient with the style, both men and women alike.