My Way of Wing Chun

The Learning Curve

Wing Chun Wisdom by Sigung Ip Chun (Part 2)

Like all martial arts Wing Chun requires a great deal of practise. However practise alone is not enough. You must spend time listening to your teacher and seniors who can pass on valuable knowledge. Knowledge which is not written in any texts, as it comes from a culmination of their own experiences, which are unique. So the wise man will recognise an opportunity to learn from the wiser and more knowledgeable, and in the Wing Chun world who could be wiser than Grandmaster Yip Chun.

Question: Wing Chun places a great deal of importance on sensitivity. How long does it take to develop a high standard?
Yip Chun: This comes with practise and experience. The more practise the better you will get. It is as simple as that. There are no secret techniques to learn.

Q: But often many people say ‘oh I’m not getting any better!’.
YC: If you train with the same people all the time then you never get to see how good you are. This is because as you get better so do they!

Q: Does the time of day make any difference to practising?
YC: Some styles of martial arts fix the time of day when you should practise, but for Wing Chun it doesn’t matter, you can practise at any time. The only time I suggest you don’t practise is when you have a lot of worries, because you need to relax.

YC: At this point I want to talk about the Wing Chun Pole and Butterfly knives. Basically, Wing Chun does not have many forms. Three forms and dummy for unarmed defense. Knives and pole weapons for defense.

A couple of years ago, the American magazine “Inside Kung Fu” concentrated on talking about the, pole and knives. One subject for talk was ‘ Are these weapons useful in modern society?’ In this situation, everyone had different ideas and answers. Some said ‘yes* some said ‘no’. So we have no real answer, just opinions. For me, I say we should know this skill! Of course to carry a pole or knives around is very old fashioned, because of guns! Science has developed quickly, and weapons with it.

So in modern society I say the pole and knives are not very valuable. But when we practise Wing Chun, if we understand the pole and knives then we understand Wing Chun and its principles better, as a whole system. Traditionally, people trained the pole for between eight to ten years! Today can anyone spend eight to ten years on the pole? Even if you spend your whole life on the pole, where can you find a partner with the same dedication to train with or even fight? But if you study Wing Chun you should know all aspects of it. If you want to concentrate on one thing, such as the dummy or pole, then that is up to you, personally I prefer Chi Sau. So if someone say’s “You don’t need to study the pole” I don’t agree, you should know the whole system.

Q: Does the pole and knives have any benefit for the body?
YC: Practising the pole and knives builds up the energy in the arms and legs, so you develop the punch and kick. But you must learn correctly. You must go slowly and build up bit by bit. You must consider your physical condition to practise, especially for the pole. If you are not strong enough and try to train hard you damage yourself. So, first concentrate on basics, the legs and how to hold the pole, and slowly build up the energy.

Q: Does the pole have to come after the three forms?
YC: No it doesn’t have to. You can concentrate on the pole if your body is strong enough. Basically the pole doesn’t look like Wing Chun.

The technique comes from Leung Jan, who adapted it from another skill. Wing Chun is not the only system to have a six and a half pole. Others of south China also have it. So you can see the connection between the pole and hand forms is not very strong, therefore you can separate their practise. But the knives must come after you have completed the three forms because there is a strong connection.

Q: Which then of the three forms, dummy and weapons do you think improves Chi Sau the most?
YC: Dummy!

[1] Darryl Tam, Wing Chun Wisdom, Qi Magazine no. 4, pp. 14-16 (Jun/Jul 1992)

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