Wing Chun Syllabus
A basic description of the Wing Chun syllabus contains the three open hand forms of Siu Lim Tau (Little Imagination), Chum Kiu (Seeking the Bridge), Biu Jee (Thrusting Fingers), Chi Sau (Sticky Hands), and the Mok Yan Jong (Wooden Dummy Form). There are also the weapon forms for the Luk Dim Boon Guan (Long Pole) and the Baht Jam Doa (Double Knives). It is a common misconception that one completes the art of Wing Chun after learning the above syllabus. There is actually much more to Wing Chun than just this. Just regarding the forms, there is an additional dummy form for the eight Wing Chun kicks called Buhn Jee Jong (tri-pole kicking dummy). Also various dummy forms for the Long Pole and Double Knives must be trained. And still, even after learning all of the forms and sticky hand drills, one cannot yet claim to have learned the whole Wing Chun system.
For instance, learning Chi Sau (Sticky Hands) is more of a stepping-stone that prepares one for training fighting applications. Chi Sau trains one’s reflex, sensitivity, coordination, mobility, and non-stop movement. Chi Sau also trains one in the concept of coverage, which is important for simultaneous offense and defense.
I would also like to stress that the forms alone cannot be employed as-is for fighting. Even after one has learned all the forms, one must employ “Chahk Kuen” and “Chahk Jong”. These two terms mean to break down the individual techniques and movements contained within the forms, and recombine them with other techniques/movements for application in fighting. In addition, Wing Chun has special training methods called “Dah San Jong” and “Dah Wai” which employ the recombined techniques from “Chahk Kuen” and “Chahk Jong”. “Dah San Jong” means to apply the recombined techniques on a “live dummy”. The “live dummy” is an opponent who will attack you using different techniques, both from Wing Chun or from other styles. “Dah Wai” is similar to “Dah San Jong” except the Wing Chun practicioner is confronted with more than one opponent.
The recombined techniques may appear different from how they are played in the forms. This is because the forms are just a rudimentary foundation to Wing Chun, just like the English alphabet is to the English language. For example, the letter “B” holds no inherent meaning on its own. But when combined with the letters “A” and “T”, the three letters can spell out the word “BAT”. This word may contain several different meanings. If one rearranges the order of the letters, another word ”TAB”, with different meanings and applications, can be spelled. It is also necessary to point out that no one letter is more important than another. A similar approach holds true for the forms in Wing Chun. No one form is more important or more advanced than the next. No one can speak English just with the alphabet alone. There are other factors that affect a language, such as vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. As such, no one can fight in a form because fighting involves more than just forms.
As “Chahk Kuen” is important to better understand the application of some techniques in the forms, “Chahk Jong” is also very important for understanding the Mok Yan Jong (Wooden Dummy Form). The techniques from the Wooden Dummy Form also cannot be applied as in the form when fighting. This is because, unlike a fighting opponent, the wooden dummy is inanimate. Although it has two arms and one leg, the arms and leg cannot move, even when they are hit. Nor will they hit you back. It follows, then, that the application of technique in the form must again be different from that employed in actual fighting.
Many techniques in fighting application are completely beyond what one may imagine when attempting to interpret the forms. As we start to see this amazing progression from form to fighting, we begin to realize how ingenious the previous generations of Wing Chun practitioners must have been in designing these techniques centuries ago.
In addition to Chahk Kuen, Chahk Jong, Dah San Jong, and Dah Wai, Wing Chun also has many other exercises and training methods. Although all based upon scientific principles, the actual training does not require sophisticated equipment. These training methods are for the sake of developing Gung Lek. Unfortunately there has been much effort in mystifying this concept. Gung Lek is a method of generating a specific type of power. For example, a power-lifter’s legs are specifically trained to lift large amounts of weight. In contrast, a runner’s legs are also very strong but are trained more for speed and endurance. Gung Lek training in Wing Chun is designed to maximize the power and speed of Wing Chun techniques. If one does not have the physical ability to back up technical prowess, then one has but a mere shell of a martial art. As such, the Chinese have a famous martial arts saying, Lien Kuen But Lien Gung Doh Lo Yut Cheung Hung. This can be translated as If you diligently practice your martial art with Gung Lek, you will have substance in your kung-fu, instead of an empty shell and a dream of what you could have been in your twilight years.
Due to time constraints, I must stop here. When time allows, I will write more about Wing Chun in future articles. We will dig deeper in our discussion of Wing Chun theory and some of the training curricula. We will also show that explanation must be backed up by practical application. In the next article, I would like to discuss some basic Wing Chun theories and concepts. To conclude, I reiterate that this article is based merely on my experiences and point of view. If the reader feels there are discrepancies, or inaccuracies, please feel free to voice your opinion. My philosophy towards Wing Chun and how to teach the art results from and reflects the teachings of my SiFus, the late Grandmaster Yip Man, SiFu Lok Yiu and SiFu Duncan S.H. Leung.
Other articles by sifu