Wing Chun … 1. Reflections in 2016 on Personal Notes from 1976

PART 1: Introduction

“gōng fu” – Proficiency
with Persistence
over a Prolonged Period of Time.

Wing Chun is a system designed
to allow small people
to protect themselves
from larger, stronger assailants.

Wing Chun does not ‘take’ an attack
(there is no ‘blocking’ in Wing Chun),
but controls the attacker’s move
and immediately counter-attacks.

There are NO flamboyant ‘moves’
in Wing Chun.

Wing Chun is not designed for sport
or tournament. Its strikes would not
be allowed in such competitions.

Wing Chun strikes and kicks never
leave the practitioner off balance.

A ‘thug mentality’ – sheer brute force –
has NO place in Wing Chun.

Thoughts upon Wing Chun

It has been very disappointing to see that,
in the 21st century, the term “martial arts”
has become nothing more than a synonym for
the macho-posturing “thug brawling”
known as ‘mixed martial arts’.

Amidst this crass vulgarity,
Wing Chun most certainly does not belong.

It is only in learning the oral history
that was set down in script by Ip Man,
that one will perceive the uniqueness
of Wing Chun:

an oral history which maintains that
Wing Chun was formed and developed
by women.

Whether true or not, Wing Chun in practice
is not suited to the impetuous temper
of testosterone-saturated savages
who barge into a situation
like demented animals.

Nor does it turn any man into a Chinese
cinematic super-hero who can defeat ten men.

Wing Chun (like everything else in the 21st century)
is just one more … ‘old’ … thing that has been
perverted and popularised to make money:
in other words,

serve greed and appeal to the ego
of the vicious-minded masses in the 21st century.


Western exposure to Wing Chun may be said
to have truly occurred through the teaching
of a fifty-year old Chinese practitioner in Hong Kong
named Yip Man, who gave bespoke instruction
to each student according to their aptitude for learning.

Everything about Wing Chun requires thought
and consideration of human anatomical structure.

Yet, thanks to video displays on the Internet,
modern Wing Chun practitioners
present it as being nothing more than another ‘style’
which can be adapted to the televised vulgarity
now known as ‘mixed martial arts”.

Wing Chun requires thought, timing,
and above all – self control.

Which is why I find it difficult to have seen it
so degraded by self-deifying Internet ‘tough guys’
who want to impress domineering youths
and vanity-saturated hoodlums,
in order to gain ‘likes’, ‘subscribers’, and ‘followers’.

Along with everything else in the world,
Wing Chun has been cheapened – perverted –
in order to appeal to the vanity and vacuous mentality
of the vicious.

And that, truly, is an appalling tragedy.


The aim of Wing Chun is to end a violent encounter
and defeat or dissuade an assailant … in seconds

– through simultaneous defence (diverting
an incoming blow), as well as attack,
in order to end the conflict …

delivered From my centre line,
To my attacker’s centre line.

It is a system of defence that is based upon
rules of physics.

Its effectiveness depends upon correct application
using the least amount of force required,
in the most efficient manner possible.

The straight line is the shortest, most direct,
quickest – and therefore, preferred – line of travel.
If obstructed, the Wing Chun practitioner will strike
using the most energy-efficient path available.

The main precept is The Centre Line:
an imaginary line which runs vertically
through the core of the body.

This is the centre of gravity – the centre
of balance – in a human being.

On the front surface of the human body,
along this central plane,
will be found an assailant’s vulnerable points.

The Wing Chun practitioner will Always seek
to strike his attacker’s centre line:

the closer to the centre-line that an attacker is struck,
the more force he will necessarily receive.

The farther a strike is applied off-centre,
the more the assailant can turn with the force:

therefore, when attacked, if victim can strike
his assailant’s centreline,
the attacker will certainly be inconvenienced.

The principles of Wing Chun are contained
within each of three ‘forms’ known as
Siu Lim Tao, Chum Kiu, and Biu Tze.

Performed skilfully, they have a fluidity of movement
– a gentility – that gives them an almost graceful quality
when observed by an onlooker.

Yet these same forms (to those who understand
what it is that is being presented) contain
all the methods needed to stop any attacker.

Wing Chun concerns itself with Physics
in relation to the human body.

The practitioner of Wing Chun does not imitate
a crane, tiger, mantis, snake, or dragon:
its concern is in the real world of human anatomy.

if Wing Chun ‘does not work’, it is due either to
lack of skill in the practitioner; or some distraction
that has given an assailant the crucial advantage.


In the mid-1970’s, I had never any desire to enrol
in any type of martial arts “school”
due to the palpable and consistent air of arrogance,
aggression, and ‘macho’ (in girls and women too)
competition mentality
that seeped from those I had tentatively approached.

I was not aggressive,
and had no interest in becoming so.

It was a subsequent friendship with a Chinese schoolmate
that allowed me to learn the rudiments;
be given detailed explanations of why each was used;
and taught how – in Wing Chun – one form builds upon the other.

Practice was then up to me.

In order to begin with the proper mind-set,
I made the conscious effort, and expended the energy,
to learn about Chinese culture:

the gong fu tea ceremony, for instance;

as well as the basics of … zhōng wén … Mandarin.


Whilst it is of no interest to me at all,
there may be some who will be curious about
the supposedly Historical Account of Wing Chun.

Qing Dynasty:

As the Manchurian occupying force sought
the extermination of all rebels;
the Temple Siu Lam was attacked and burned,
effectively razing it to the ground.

Escaping along with four others, was a Buddhist nun
named Ng Mui (or, Wu Mei), who fled to the region
of the Daliang mountains
in the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan.

At some point in this time frame, Ng Mui
developed the rudiments of a methodology
of self-defence.

On a personal note, I feel obliged to discard
as superfluous fantasy, the seemingly absurd legend
that Ng Mui gained her ideas
from watching the conflict between a crane and a snake.

As far as I am aware, the idea was never put forward
by Yip Man.

More convincingly though, since Wing Chun
is so meticulous in its attention to detail
regarding human anatomy and physics,

it is, to me, absurd to imagine that Ng Mui would
waste time with the ludicrous premise
of thinking to make the human body imitate
the physical qualities of a large bird, tiger, or reptile
– capabilities that no human will ever possess.

Wing Chun is far too well thought out; far too efficient,
for anyone characterised by sober-minded contemplation
to entertain such an unlikely origin tale. ]

In the course of daily life, Ng Mui met a certain man
and his daughter: the girl was named Yim Wing Chun.

The object of lust and unwanted attention from a local despot,
Wing Chun was determined that she would not become
the property-by-marriage of this local nobleman.

Her plight came to the attention of Ng Mui,
who issued an ultimatum to the belligerent suitor:

She would train Wing Chun and – after a
suitable amount of time,
if the nobleman could overcome her in combat,
Wing Chun would become his bride.

The baron lost.

Wing Chun and her husband Leung Bok Chao
further developed the skills taught her by Ng Mui,
into the refined practice that would afterwards
bear her name.

The skill was taught to a certain Leung Lan Kwai,
a performer in the renowned Red Boat Opera.

Members of this troupe became proficient in the art,
and it is probable that the Muk Jong – (the log-like
Wooden Dummy) – developed here.

The practice of Wing Chun moved from members
of the Opera Company to a resident Chinese doctor
in Foshan named Leung Jan, amongst whose students
included a man named Chan Wah Shun.

Chan, in turn, (apparently) considered carefully
the request from one teenager to become a student,
thinking the boy to be altogether too slight and genteel
to learn a self defensive skill:

Finally relenting, Chan Wah Shun agreed to teach
a student named Yip Man, who would subsequently
make Wing Chun accessible to Caucasian students.

(Continued in Part 2)

P Livingstone