Wing Chun is a martial art with the reputation of being a highly-effective form of self-defense. Also, it claims to be a scientific approach to combat, using correct angles and power to align the body with its natural power. It is direct and often described as a simple martial art. As Wing Chun is a principle- and concept-based martial art, many interpretations of forms and applications can be seen.
In fact, what we often see is an application of Wing Chun that is not equipped to deal with real fighting, instead it is a shadow of the formidable art, which was designed with pure combat in mind. Many times what is seen is in terms of scientific explanation are just somebody’s idea of how the system works, with completely flawed mechanics and physics. Wing Chun is in some ways a simple art, but not in the simplistic way in which it is often explained. Many different views exist about the correct approach to applying Wing Chun, but most are people’s styles or own methods of application rather than a system of the art.
– The Problem –
How do we quantify the effectiveness of Wing Chun as a fighting system in a way that both demystifies it and removes it from the realms of subjectivity? Many schools of Wing Chun are now including the idea of “structure” within their teachings, a term that was made popular by Robert Chu Sifu based on this understanding and development of Wing Chun instruction from Hawkins Cheung Sifu. But what is “body structure” in terms of Wing Chun and even in general to the martial arts? Can we take this new buzzword (structure) and set out a clear and understandable method of explaining and measuring what is really correct structure, rather that just being titled as having structure? As the term is so misused, we have moved from a one word explanation to the classical term of the Six Core Elements. Within that, “Force Flow” is an important element, which is a focus of this book.
– Principles and Concepts –
Often you will hear that martial art systems are based on principles and concepts. But in fact, what you find is that many systems are really just styles of martial arts rather than systems of training—and rather than core principles, they just have concepts of applications based on points of view, not solid-tested facts.
The Chu Sau Lei Wing Chun system has based its whole approach to Wing Chun on the idea of “structure” within a system. For a time we didn’t have the terms to clearly express the depth of our system. The term “body structure” has many layers, but people focused on the “structure,” as they thought this was what we were referring to. In fact, physical structure is only one area and even within physical structure we have many layers. The “Six Core Elements” changed that by giving us a wide platform to break down the different layers of each important area that makes up the true structure of Wing Chun.
With this in mind, a goal of this book is to present key components that one must have in order to comply to what we now understand as essential to Wing Chun. With this made clear, I aim to minimize subjectivity to what would be classified as a structural method, rather than just a reason for the way people perform their skill.
My teacher, Dr. Robert Chu, inspired me to research and develop my views on the impact of his method of Wing Chun on the martial arts world. Therefore I will be referring to some of his work within this book, in order to break down and test the ideas of structure within the Chu Sau Lei Wing Chun system. Also, Hendrik Santo has been key in sharing his research from the Yik Kam 1840’s Wing Chun, which is also shared in the book.-
– The Plan –
The plan is to compare the understanding of the physical structures of the various Wing Chun systems, looking at the historical development of the art, as well as comparing and contrasting other martial arts, to allow a fuller understanding of the way martial arts produce and control power. The connections to Chinese medicine and physics will be explored in terms of their relationships to the structure and function of the body. To fully demonstrate the important principles of these systems, the background to forms training within Wing Chun and the martial arts in general are used explain the importance of continuity within a martial arts system. To bring these points together within this project researching the often-misunderstood area of internal training within Wing Chun is a key area. Looking at the modern martial arts world’s direction, and Wing Chun’s place within that world in terms of self-defense and sport, will be important to validate the study and importance of structure. As MMA events have become a testing ground for many arts, the pros and cons of such competitions and Wing Chun’s place within this arena will be an area to explore. This will lead to the connection between the physical structure within martial arts and mental development. We will explore some of the classic writings within the martial arts to compare and validate my research.
The aim is to discover whether Wing Chun is a progressive martial art and, with the correct understanding, can continue to be a tour de force within the martial arts. I will show that we must stay with the art’s core principles and concepts—with a view to dealing with the present environment of martial arts and self-defense—rather than just copy and repeat what has been passed on. In order for this to happen, in a way that was not just somebody’s miscellaneous ideas, we must prove true key and critical principles that are the driving concepts of the system. “Structure,” as a martial arts term, can be used in various ways. Often it is used as a throwaway word to describe merely the personal way of applying one’s physical methods. In fact, most of what we have seen is not correct in terms of body mechanics or even application. However, once someone says it, many of us believe that then it must be right. It seems to be the way people follow instruction. Often we see ideas taught that defy common sense. The true significance of this book is in fully explaining the types of structures used within the martial arts and particularly Wing Chun. Then we will look at the development of Wing Chun’s structure, as well as its misconceptions of the truth. It’s my hope that this will be a cornerstone in setting a standard of understanding within the Wing Chun community.
In order to avoid bias, I will look at a number of the main Yip Man Wing Chun versions of Wing Chun and compare and contrast the ideas that show “structure,” from which to explore the methods that have a true systematic approach and those with a style approach. That being said, it would be best to look at these different versions of Yip Man Wing Chun without putting family names to them, again in order to avoid politics within Wing Chun. I will, however, take time to address in a general manner the effect politics and individual agendas have had and can have on the development and direction of the martial arts.
The aim of this is not to argue politics, but to address how politics and individual agendas often have an effect on the direction and development of an art. It is important to note that not one approach in the martial arts—or one approach in a style of martial arts—will be perfect for everyone. That’s why we have so many styles and systems in the first place. What we will look for is consistency and continuity.
The Structure of Wing Chun Kuen is not intended as a study to criticize the systems of other Wing Chun schools and branches, or to testify that the Chun Sau Lei Wing Chun system is better or worse than other branches. Rather, it aims to study the body-structure relationship within the Chun Sau Lei Wing Chun system and explore how it has grown and changed into an ever-clearer approach to our teaching and development. My students have been the testing ground for the evaluation of the areas that I have set out to prove within this body of work.
Other physical observations will be conducted: practical testing and analysis of the effectiveness of the system’s many styles in a scientific, controlled way; detailed mapping and analysis of the forces at work on the body; anecdotal and experiential evidence gathered through MMA contests; and an hypothesis of the sum of the collected information.
That’s the goal!
The Six Core Elements have unlocked the layers of Wing Chun for me and I hope they will for you, as well. Enjoy!
—Alan Orr Sifu
Chu Sau Lei Wing Chun: 8th Degree Black Belt – Master
European and Australasian Head of Chu Sau Lei Wing Chun Kuen
Black Belt in BJJ under World Champion Leo Negao
Integrated Eskrima – European and Australasian Chief Instructor
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