The Importance of Taking Notes After Wing Chun Class

Even in martial arts, taking notes is vital to our growth and education. Taking notes help us remember things that we might forget. This is especially true in Wing Chun. I learn so much after each class that I have to write down the main points I learned. Sometimes I forget some things but I write down what I can.

You should try to take notes right after your Wing Chun class so everything you learned is still fresh. For taking notes, I use my iPhone and use the Notes application. It doesn’t matter if you use your phone or a notebook, the important thing is to track your progress.

Some of the things I suggest you should write down are any tips or techniques that you learned in class that are beneficial. You should also jot down anything that you need to work on. By doing this, you can review them and work on what you need to improve on at home or when you’re free. Then the next time you go to class you can test your training and see if you can put the techniques you noted to good use and if you made any improvements in the areas where you needed work on.

I consider note taking a part of Wing Chun training because it is a good way to help us understand the fundamentals of Wing Chun in action as well as defining and interpreting the theories of what we learn in class through our notes.

I never delete my notes and neither should you. You should use these notes to chronicle your Wing Chun education and keep them as a reminder of what you’ve learned and how much you have improved.

Photo Credit: Wai-Lun Tsang

5 Reasons Why You Should Learn From a Wing Chun School

If you’re thinking about taking Wing Chun and already found some resources (books, dvds, etc) to begin your training, that’s great but learning Wing Chun on your own by reading books or watching videos is not enough. You should accompany these resources by taking Wing Chun classes. Here are 5 reasons why you should learn from a Wing Chun school.

1. Learning from an expert. If you have flipped through any Wing Chun books or watched any DVDs or videos, it is hard to make sense of some of the things they mention because without proper knowledge and training, those books and videos are meaningless. It’s easy to imitate the movement of a person in a Wing Chun video or a form in a Wing Chun book but it’s hard to understand the purpose of each move. By going to a Wing Chun school, you will have experts teaching you thoroughly so that you learn the reasoning behind every move and if you make any mistakes, your instructor, or sifu, will correct them for you.

2. Making new friends. Meeting new people in class and training with them creates a bond. Some bonds turn into friendship. Having friends in class will definitely help motivate you to get better and spark friendly rivalries (think Ken and Ryu in Street Fighters). And by having friends in class, you can continue your training outside of class.

3. Getting results. This can mean something different for each person, whether it’s learning new techniques, or perfecting a form, or understanding the reason behind each move. Whatever the case, getting results is about training consistently. This is where resources are handy because having a Wing Chun book to study or a video to watch can help you understand what you’re learning and now that you’re taking classes, everything you read and watch makes sense. Instructors, or sifus, will teach the class as a group but when it comes to individual training, they will teach you new things when they decide you’re ready.

4. Gaining confidence. Wing Chun is for people of all shapes and sizes, and the training focuses on sensitivity and reacting to the opponent’s force. It’s possible to be very good at Wing Chun without being very muscular or big.

5. Having fun. Wing Chun is definitely an interactive martial art and the main drills are done in pairs. The training I enjoy the most is Chi Sao (Sticky Hands) as it trains sensitivity and utilizes the techniques I’ve learned and because it’s fun to come up with new combinations of attacks to see what works and what doesn’t.

How do you find a good Wing Chun school?

There are a lot of Wing Chun schools but the best way to find the best one is to look around and visit them. Here are some things you should look for to find the right Wing Chun school for you.

Every school should allow a sit-in, where they let visitors sit through a class. During your sit-in, pay attention to how everyone interacts with one another and see if it’s the right type of environment you want to learn in. You might also be looking for a certain type of environment, whether you want to be a part of a big class or want more individual training, it’s important to find a school that caters to your need.

Make sure that you ask questions. Some questions that I would ask are:

  • How many years have they been teaching Wing Chun?
  • How often are the classes? Can I make up classes that I miss?
  • How much does it cost per class?

If there are multiple Wing Chun schools in your area, definitely check them all out. Some schools may offer extra perks that the other schools may not have such as discounts to martial arts stores, a gym, open availability to come in and practice whenever you want, and so on.

Photo Credit: Stuart Shafran

Wing Chun Moves – Taking a Step Forward

In boxing, a straight punch can cause a knockout especially if you’re Manny Pacquiao. The reason is because Manny is so fast with his attacks and the fact that when he throws a punch, two or three more follows. His style of punching resembles the chain punches in Wing Chun because the punches doesn’t stop.

Let’s go back to Wing Chun. Imagine getting chain punched and stepping backwards. What happens? You keep getting punched! By backing up from the oncoming attacks, it gives the attacker more room and space to continue their chain punching. But by simply taking a step forward into the chain punches can increase the chances of finding an opening in the attacker because they now have a limited amount of space to move in.

The movement of stepping forward is a very important concept in Wing Chun because by stepping forward into an opponent’s space, you close the distance. The problem with this concept is that many people, including me, naturally back up when being attacked to avoid being hit. Using the example of chain punching, this can be a problem, so by stepping into the opponent, it will change the momentum and rhythm of their attack. There’s still a possibility of receiving a few punches before successfully countering but that’s normal, everybody gets hit.

My friend Dave, who has a lot of experience competing and training in Muay Thai (Kickboxing), also mentions how moving forward works well in the ring since the opponent backs up creating space to be attacked. It’s funny because Dave says the reason he moves forward is because the gym he trains in is small so there’s no room to back up.

I found a Youtube clip of Manny Pacquiao. Watch closely, you’ll notice he usually steps in with his barrage of punches even when his opponent throws jabs to try to keep him out. He keeps pressure on them without backing off and then unloads his punches.

Top 10 Manny Pacquiao Knockouts

In theory, it seems very simple but psychologically it takes a lot of mental training. No one wants to get hit but acknowledging the fact that getting hit is part of learning can make it easier to accept. This doesn’t mean jumping into an opponent’s attack, be smart about it and start to understand when it’s the right time to step in.

Some attacks only do damage when the arm can fully extend, such as a punch or a chop to the throat, but by cutting the distance, they lose the power of a full strike because their distance is cut in half, so to create space…they actually need to step back to strike which gives you an opening to attack.

Chi Sao – Using the Basics to Create Something New

When I first started Wing Chun, I spent a lot of time trying to learn the basics and be as effective as I could with them. With Chi Sao (Sticky Hands), we learn several basic combinations to go on the offense with and the way to defend against them. I noticed that when I am partnered with a senior student when we do Chi Sao, the senior student would always do something different from what I’ve learned which makes me panic and creates more openings for me to get hit. I tried to be more aggressive and started to combine my combinations but the senior students were always at least three steps ahead of me and countered all my attacks.

I was practicing on my portable Wing Chun dummy the other day and as I was practicing the Wing Chun dummy form, I saw a new combination. It wasn’t really a new combination but a mixture of several things I’ve learned from the dummy form and from my Chi Sao combinations. This had me pondering, is this how the senior students practice, by creating new combinations from mixing the basics? That had to be it. After I learned the basic Chi Sao combinations and its variances, my sifu didn’t teach me anything new, so I’m sure the other seniors in my class had to have created their own combinations based on their experience with Chi Sao.

Chi Sao is still a sensitivity training. It doesn’t matter how good my combinations are, it’s about being able to be soft and covertly strike than try to muscle my attacks through. Whenever I get too aggressive, my opponent is able to feel my attacks coming, thus being able to counter me. Now, when I do this, my adrenaline kicks in and I lose focus of my opponent’s sensitivity, making me more vulnerable for attacks.

I am not saying that mastering Chi Sao is the path of being a Wing Chun legend but Chi Sao does demonstrate the level of experience one has in Wing Chun. I still believe that mastering the basic in Wing Chun, whether it is a striking, defending, or remaining calm, is key to being a complete Wing Chun practitioner.

Wing Chun Moves – The Art of Shifting in Wing Chun

One of the first things that I learned in Wing Chun was shifting. It is a basic principle but yet after over a year and a half, I am still striving to perfect my shifting.

What is Wing Chun shifting?

Wing Chun shifting is the movement you make when you want to dodge or deflect an attack or simultaneously strike someone. It is a very useful Wing Chun technique because it also increases the range of the attack.

I am 5’6 and some of my friends in Wing Chun class are over 6 feet tall which leaves me at a big disadvantage. The only way I can get around this disadvantage is by shifting so my arms can reach them when I strike. It doesn’t change the fact that if they shift when I do, I lose my range since our centerlines will be squared off. But because I am smaller, I can aim for the lower body instead of the upper body and the head so I can always have that one step advantage over my friends who are taller than me.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar vs Bruce LeeKareem Abdul Jabbar vs Bruce Lee – Look at Their Distance!

If you don’t believe that you can gain inches of range just from shifting, stand with your feet shoulder distance apart and use your right arm to punch in front of you. Your punch will feel restricted with no power behind the punch. Now try just shifting 45 degrees towards your left (both foot should point to the left and be parallel) and throw the same punch. You’ll notice your range has gained a few inches. Now do the exact same movement but bend your back leg slightly (in this case, it’s going to be your right leg) and throw your right punch again. You’ll notice you gain another inch of range!

The reason behind the increase of range is because of the hips! A slight adjustment can add inches in reach. You can test this theory sitting down. We’ll use our left arm this time. Raise your left arm and keep note of its distance. Now while in seated position with your left arm still in the air, lead your hips forward with your left and look at your arm again.

Proper shifting in Wing Chun requires the hips and the feet because it’s what generates the force behind our strikes and blocks. So it’s important to remember that even with range, it requires power to be effective!

Wing Chun Centerline Theory – Understanding the Centerline

The Wing Chun centerline theory is what truly defines Wing Chun. The centerline focuses on a person’s center where all our vital points are located. In Wing Chun, the objective is to control a person’s centerline; if you can control a person’s centerline, you control them . It took me a long time to realize that all Wing Chun drills are to practice protecting our own centerline while attempting to control the opponent’s as well.

In one of the most important Wing Chun training, Chi Sao, you’ll always want to have your centerline match with your sparring partner’s centerline. If your opponent shifts and change the direction their centerline is facing, it is important to mirror their movement by shifting so you can face their centerline again. If your opponent stops matching your centerline then they have open themselves up to you for an attack but this is a double-edged sword because if your centerline stops facing your opponent’s, then they also have an advantage of possibly striking you, so the best solution is to always face off your centerline’s with theirs.

Something that I learned in class and I am still trying to perfect is to protecting my centerline without stiffening up and overreacting when defending against a strike towards my centerline. I learned that a slight bong sau or a light pak sau is enough to divert a punch or strike but when I overreact, I use too much energy or too much force to defend myself. Why is overreacting like that bad? Well, the additional energy or overcompensation can leave me open to be attacked elsewhere because my body will overturn too much iff I pak sau too hard or I might shift with my bong sau towards one direction leaving one side more vulnerable. This also makes it more difficult for me to react with attacks because all my focus is on diverting a strike from hitting me. While learning Wing Chun, one of the first lessons was that we should always be defending and striking, always together and never just one.

The centerline theory can also be applied when practicing on the Wing Chun dummy. For a long time, I practiced on the Wing Chun dummy with just the thought of striking the dummy without really emphasizing on the centerline. It was until my friend Tony, who’s my senior in Wing Chun, mentioned that I should see the Wing Chun dummy with its own centerline and try to strike at it, aiming at its centerline. It’s a good drill and a good habit to focus on the centerline during Wing Chun dummy training or when I’m trying with a real person.

Wing Chun Dummy Training – 3 Quick Tips to Improve Your Training

Wing Chun dummy training is effective only when practiced correctly. It took me a while to understand this because all I did before that was I memorized the steps and the form but not really understanding the applications or why I was doing it, other than looking bad ass haha!

Bruce Lee on the Wing Chun dummyBruce Lee training on the Wing Chun dummy.

When I first started learning Wing Chun, I was really eager to learn how to use the Wing Chun dummy because I thought it was the coolest thing ever! When I first started the dummy form, one of the few things I was doing wrong was maintain the right distance between me and the mook jong. If I am too far from it, I can’t strike or defend effectively leaving me open. To ensure that I was always within striking distance I paced the speed of my form. Before that, I believed that the faster I went or the harder I struck, the better my form was plus it made me look cooler doing it. But it actually worsened my form and made it so I developed bad habits. I still have these habits but now I’m aware of them so I correct myself. But still…it takes a lot more time to unlearn something than it is to learn.

Video of Yip Man doing the complete Wing Chun dummy form.

Tip #1: Make sure you understand the form and the applications for every move you make. It doesn’t make sense to do something for the sake of doing, understand the principles.

Tip #2: Take your time as you go through the form. Imagine applying each step of the form on to a person and picture where you will be striking or grabbing. Go slow. As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race.

Tip #3: Not only should you go slowly, you should go soft as well. Like in Chi Sao, it’s a sensitivity training and sometimes just a slight bong sau is enough to divert a punch away.

Wing Chun Dummy Form on the Portable Wing Chun Dummy

P.S. If you’re looking to purchase a Wing Chun dummy, be sure to read Wing Chun Geek’s thorough and detailed guide for buying a Wing Chun dummy.

Wing Chun Training – Learn How to Train without a Partner

Learning Wing Chun and practicing Wing Chun are two different things! All I have to do to learn is go to class. But to practice, it’s hard for me to set up a time to train with my friends outside of Wing Chun class because everyone is busy, including myself. Most of the time, my only option is to practice by myself.

How to practice Wing Chun at home

I normally go through all my forms including the weapons form. Even though I don’t have the weapons at home, I still do the forms openhanded.

Butterfly KnivesWing Chun Butterfly Knives

Wing Chun Long PoleWing Chun Long Pole

I also practice my Wing Chun dummy form without a Wing Chun dummy by using my imagination and just doing it with my eyes closed. It’s funny because when I finish, I never end up where I started! I think training without a dummy has its benefits because it forces me to imagine a target and making sure my form is correct. It’s hard sometimes when going back to class and practicing on an actual mook jong just because it’s really there and I’m practicing on something physical.

Another important thing I try to keep my focus on during my Wing Chun training is shifting. After training in Wing Chun for over a year and a half, I have to say that shifting is still one of my weak points. It still hasn’t come naturally for me to shift when being pushed; I still take a step back. The only benefits that I have reaped from shifting training is shifting while keeping my hands in a Tan Sau and Bong Sau – this itself has strengthened my Tan Sau and Bong Sau and thanks to muscle memory, I have also been able to automatically shift when I do one or the other together.

Learning Wing Chun – Why I Started Wing Chun

I’m going to be honest. I knew nothing about Wing Chun before I started training in it. The main reason why I started learning Wing Chun was because I saw the Ip Man movie staring Donnie Yen back when it first came out in 2008. I felt so amped and amazed by the power of Wing Chun. I know Ip Man is an exaggerated movie based on the real Grandmaster of Wing Chun, Yip Man but it’s still a bad ass movie! It wasn’t until I started Wing Chun did I learn that he was also Bruce Lee’s first martial arts teacher!

Bruce Lee and Yip ManBruce Lee and Yip Man

After watching the movie with Donnie Yen, I made a public announcement on my Facebook declaring my new found ambition to be able to take on 10 guys at once with Wing Chun like Donnie Yen did in the movie!

I wondered, does Donnie Yen know Wing Chun? I mean I know he’s an martial artist and all but he actually did have to learn Wing Chun and go through Wing Chun training for his role as Ip Man. Don’t believe me? Check out this short clip of Donnie Yen with Ip Chun! Watch it here!

Anyway, only one person on Facebook took me seriously, my friend Tommy. He was already learning Wing Chun for a few months under Yip Pui in NYC. He invited me to come check out the class. It was interesting to watch since Wing Chun is completely different from the Choy Lay Fut wushu I studied before – everything was different: the stance, the way they strike, and so on.

I was intrigued and signed up for classes under Yip Pui. As I started my Wing Chun training, it was very difficult for me at first because it required a different stance. I was used to the traditional horse stance. The Wing Chun stance is much narrower and our toes point inwards. The first class I had to learn to deflect and punch at the same time while shifting on my heels with the new stance. Everything was foreign to me and it was a lot to process! But it didn’t matter because I loved the Wing Chun philosophy of defending and striking at the same time. And I also thought the Wing Chun dummy was one of the coolest things and I had to learn it!!

I did some research and discovered that Wing Chun is the only martial art that was developed by a woman for women. I only applied it logically to think that if an average sized woman was confronted by a 200lb man and still be able to take them down, I can scale that logic to how a full size man can take down someone who is 400lbs. Of course that’s just how I saw it. It definitely made me more enthusiastic about Wing Chun!