About Wing Chun Kung Fu.
Wing Chun Kung Fu is a Southern Chinese Boxing Martial Arts system, developed in China approximately 400 years ago. It came about during a time of civil war, up until that period most (if not all) Chinese Martial Arts were based on animal movements, hence took many years to learn as the movements were unnatural to human functionality. The people needed a relatively easy system to learn and apply readily. So a group of Shaolin (Sil Lum) Masters from different Martial styles collaborated and developed Wing Chun.
Wing Chun was then secretly taught throughout China via the Hung Suen (Red Boat) Opera Troupe to the rebels in anticipation of the civil uprising.
Wing Chun Kung Fu then dispersed in two directions. On the surface it became sport-like. It was no longer needed for war as such, so it was practiced for health and enjoyment. The system also went underground, practiced by the Chinese mafia – the Triads.
Many years passed, and by chance a man named Ip Man – who had been taught the sport-like Wing Chun – came upon a Master of the Triad style Wing Chun. Ip Man, now knowing both systems, publicly taught the sport-like style to the masses and, privately taught the Triad style to one man, William Cheung.
William Cheung and Bruce Lee were training partners and great friends. In letters Bruce Lee wrote to William Cheung he would refer to William as the greatest street fighter he had ever known. So when Bruce Lee passed and these letters came to light it attracted a lot of attention, further increasing the popularity of Wing Chun.
When Ip Man passed away William Cheung had to decide whether to teach the sport-like system of Wing Chun or the Triad style – which he deemed the real way of Wing Chun, as that system was tested in real life and was what Wing Chun would have been if the original Masters had kept developing the art.
He chose to teach the “real” Wing Chun. This upset a lot of people and there is still a great deal of politicking about it today.
He was teaching in Melbourne, Australia when (now) Sifu Rick Spain began studying under him in 1975.
Sifu Rick Spain later went on to win state and national titles in Kickboxing and various Martial Arts tournaments in Australia. Then in 1982 he represented Australia as a Middleweight at the International Chinese Martial Arts Tournament (much like the MMA tournaments we see today, with less rules!) in Hong Kong and won the World Title.
Some time after returning to Australia, and before returning to the fighting circuit, Sifu Rick Spain had a severe car accident that ended up costing him his professional fight career. It did however, open the door to his career as a Martial Arts Coach and has been teaching in Surry Hills Sydney now for 30 years.
Wing Chun Principles Explained
Operating on the Centreline:
It makes total sense that you put something between you and your opponent. Most guards are designed that way. Operating on the centreline means you have covered the most direct pathway between your opponent and yourself.
Watching the Elbows and Knees:
Using your eyes effectively is an essential component to elite performance. Understanding how our eyes interact with our brain is called visuomotor coordination and is in the field of cognitive psychology. Elite athletes master gaze control using their eyes much more effectively than a novice.
50/50 Weight Displacement:
Similar to the principle of operating on the centreline, prior to attack or defence, you have to find a balanced athletic stance, with your weight distribution approximately 50/50.
Don’t fight Force with Force:
This is a great principle if you can get it right. There’s a saying in our system “technique beats strength every time” but you have to realise that muscles are your friends and that there are going to b e times, regardless of how much you try to employ this principle, that you’re going to have to muscle through some techniques.
Creating openings is really a universal principle. Other systems understand the principle of faking or drawing (drawing a response) for example, faking low draws the guard down and then the opening is up high.
Attacking the Blindside:
Our system is evolved in such a way now that we are always looking whenever possible, even when we’re on the inside. to escape to the outside. We are looking to get the blindside and then ultimately get the back.
Economy of Movement:
In so much that we have a limited, or what I call a capped energy reserve (you will gas out eventually), we must use the principle of economy of movement as often as possible.
Simultaneous Block and Strike:
This is a brilliant principle, but one that can be very frustrating to get to work. This leads the student to become disappointed when s/he cannot employ that principle.
Utilising Touch Reflexes:
Touch reflexes are not unique to Wing Chun, other systems have variations of Chi Sau (sticky hands – a training aspect of Wing Chun that develops touch reflex). All they are trying to do, as we are in Wing Chun, is develop certain attributes that will allow us to interpret our opponent’s movements and his/her intent through touch.
Principles of Wing Chun
“Principles and Theories are just that – they must be driven by men of action” – Rick Spain
- Operate on the Centreline
- Watch the Elbows and Knees
- 50/50 Weight Displacement
- Don’t Fight Force with Force
- Create Openings
- Attack the Blindside
- Economy of Movement
- Simultaneous Block and Strike
- Utilise Touch Reflexes
You need to look at principles from the perspective that there is rarely a singular perfect solution for any particular problem – it’s usually a combination of elements – and to understand that the principles are sometimes just guidelines and that they are not always written in stone.
Adaptability, improvisation and having a contingency plan play a major role in the success of any situation.
Two and a half minutes of Wing Chun in action including fight footage of Sifu Rick Spain
The Key to developing a Martial Art System? Pressure test, pressure test, pressure test! (10 min video)
How we have stayed true to the Origin of Wing Chun Kung Fu
If Wing Chun came about during a time of civil war and was essentially the first Mixed Martial Art, then it only makes sense for the system to keep evolving and utilising modern day resources to enhance the system.
If there was a BJJ Master in the Shaolin Temple when they created Wing Chun, we believe s/he would have been invited into the creation process. If there were a Muay Thai Kickboxing Master at the Shaolin Temple when they created Wing Chun, we are sure s/he would of at least been invited to the discussion. If they had the same understanding of sports psychology and sports science that we do today, we are sure it would be utilised.
There is always an opportunity to learn and grow. It is nice to show tribute to how things were, but to keep Wing Chun applicable to today, and to be true to the Masters who created it, then we must use the resources we have around us to create that perfect system of Martial Arts.
10 Minute Documentary on the Wing Chun Head Quarters in Surry Hills Sydney
Hear from Rick Spain himself and some of his students about training at Red Boat Kung Fu Sydney.
In this video on Red Boat Wing Chun Kung Fu Surry Hills, you will discover more about our history and lineage. Why we train the way we do, how we are different to other Wing Chun systems, yet how we believe we have remained true to the original concept of the art.