Wing Chun: that magic touch

The thing that distinguishes Wing Chun from other martial arts, perhaps more than anything else, is its sensitivity. It is understandable that, when looking to defend yourself against an unruly assailant, most people would probably place the need for sensitivity fairly low on the agenda. Though – as it turns out – that would be wrong.

I’ve talked about application and form in the past, these are core to successful mastery of the art, but the essence of Wing Chun is touch. It is developing a sensitivity of touch that cements all else together. It is also the most profound lesson the art has to teach, understanding not only your opponent’s body, but also your own. The correct application of this lesson permits focus on the essential with less waste over peripheral issues.

Form is the building blocks of Wing Chun; it contains the alphabet from which each style is formed. Application is taking those moves and implementing them in combination to dispatch a real world adversary. The binding agent is sensitivity of touch.

Sticky hands is a staple of any Wing Chun training regime, which is essentially a drill performed with a partner with each attacking and parrying to an established pattern. This seeks to develop touch by understanding an opponent’s motion and learning to exploit gaps in an opponent’s defences. You learn to feel for the opportune moment to act.

I’m currently learning under a sifu that places this importance above all else. Questing for the moment of opportunity is the governing thread of each activity. While others teach this in rhetoric, he applies it with each application. I’ve studied Wing Chun for sometime: I know the forms, I understand the principles, and I’ve applied some of the techniques, but it is the broad application of this that has electrified my practice.

We have to adsorb much in Kung Fu; it is an exacting discipline that requires considerable commitment, application, and training. Wing Chun is no different and it is easy to get lost in its many demands. Training under a sifu that constantly reinforces theory with practice wraps everything together and invigorates my interest.

Credentials only go so far. I’ve learned under some extraordinary teachers with incredible histories and gained a great deal from them, but it’s easy to be blindsided by a sifu’s curriculum vitae. It is far more important to have an enthusiastic teacher with a passion for what they do, than a sifu with all the experience and knowledge in the world without the inclination to share it. Intention is the key to everything you will ever learn in Wing Chun, every motion should be charged with potential – if you don’t feel that, it’s time to start questioning. Wing Chun is bigger than the sum of its parts, form alone simply isn’t enough.

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