Zero to 5 - Five years of Wing Chun & counting...
Growing up, I always had an interest in physical activities; pretty much anything that allowed me to move, run and jump; and yes, I was one of those that could not sit still. Not only has Practical Wing Chun (PWC) satisfied this aspect in me, but has also allowed me to develop more patience, knowledge, curiosity, leadership and most importantly, life-long friendships.
Five years ago, I began training Wing Chun under Sifu Jack Leung. I wanted to learn self defense, I wanted to learn something effective, something that would work for me if I was ever in a physically challenged situation - a self defense system that doesn’t pit force against force.
Other than Wing Chun; I had trained generic self defense techniques, Karate, Boxing, Muay Thai and Krav Maga. I personally believe each martial art has their own pros and cons, that is; not every technique will be useful for everyone - we are all built differently. Take boxing as an example; you have different matches for different weight divisions so the match is deemed ‘fair’. From a street attack perspective, wouldn’t it be nice if there were also weigh in’s and we knew who we had to defend ourselves against. Unfortunately the land of reality is we never get to chose who, what, when, where and why someone attacks us.
Take the one punch attacks illustrated in the media in recent times as example; the attackers are often unknown to the victim...
If someone decides to attack you, here is no guarantee they will be of the same height, same weight or same fighting experience. What more do you have to rely on than yourself in those circumstances? This is one of the reasons why I train Wing Chun.
If you have a medium build girl against a medium build male, oftentimes, this may already seem like a power disparity. In Wing Chun, you have hands that will allow you to use to your advantage in said instances, for example; larp sau (pulling hand) where you are able to suddenly jolt and pull your opponent to your height and execute your defense tactic; or various locks, where you are able to control the movements of your opponent to execute your defense tactic. I personally find this extremely effective dealing with opponents of a taller height.
You may begin to think, if we train, do we compete in Wing Chun? Short answer, no we don’t. There may be various schools that compete in Wing Chun or have sparring competitions, however, PWC has created a self defense culture where we may spar for training and experience, but not for competition. This enables us to re-create the experience in sudden empty hand and armed attacks without the need of serious injury. It’s a skill there to protect yourself and your family, and not to initiate attack on others. This was something important to me, I wanted to develop a skill effective enough to protect those around me, and not a skill for ‘show’ for competition only.
Let me share with you a typical... or shall I say not so typical, Friday night reality training session. We begin with the usual warm up and form (to make sure we continually perfect our foundation). Once complete, topic of the night would be introduced by Sifu; for example, defense against multiple opponents. Sifu would go through scenarios, such as what a possible outcome could be, counter strikes you could encounter and any other tips and traps.
Of course, to participate the on-a-week reality training session, we must continually master our foundations, pad work, usage and skills in other classes during the week. What I really enjoy about the reality training sessions is I am able to utilise what I’ve learnt and see what works the best for me, my build, and power distribution.. Just like I mentioned earlier, we are all built differently and some techniques may work better for your build than someone else.
In addition to weekly reality training sessions, Sifu has also arranged various workshops over the years to deal with topical issues in the community; these include defense against attacks on buses, planes and car-jacking, just to name a few. This has really opened up my thought process, allowed me to use my martial arts to adapt to different situations; for example, close combat situations or confined spaces, and bettering my Wing Chun each time.
We all train hard, but we play hard. By that I don’t mean clubbing after training of course! What I’m talking about are social events for the school; anniversary events, charity events, dinners, go karting, skirmish, and the list goes on. I guess this is what made training with PWC such a memorable experience. It’s not only about the training; it’s about the people.
I travelled for work a number of times last year, nearly every time I returned, there was a new face in the school. It’s exciting to meet new people, it’s exciting to share the knowledge we have. What good is it keeping it all to ourselves? Why not share it with others so they can use it to protect themselves and their family?
Coming back after being away, everything about the school still feels the same; the atmosphere, the training, the laughter. Sifu has created a unique culture that I definitely haven’t experienced elsewhere.
Sifu always creates a fun environment (it could also be challenging at times, such as grading!) He says it is important to share our knowledge and help those in need. Whilst we’re having fun, he reminds us to set time aside to help those who are less fortunate. Sifu has created a culture of not just mateship, but life lessons and family.
In my opinion, training at PWC has developed positively between the first year and now. First year training was relatively traditional which allowed us to train using more muscle memory. Training nowadays incorporates a lot more usage and variations on top of the traditional hands to ensure it is adaptable to everyday use and self defense.
The last five years with PWC has been a mixture of discipline, challenges (gradings) and stitches of laughter. Thinking back to day one at PWC, not only has the school grown immensely, but each and every one of us have also grown alongside the school - physically and mentally. There are people who have been there since day one and there are people who’ve had to leave and come back due to family, work or personal reasons; who have been and always welcome to come back.
Sifu has provided a number of us with the opportunity to continue growing as assistance instructors. Not only has this allowed me to pursue my passion in sharing my knowledge, culture and self defense techniques with the newer Wing Chun generation, but it has also bettered my Wing Chun over a period of time.
Nowadays, not only is PWC a place to train, but also a support network with lots of lasting friendships. Training at PWC on day one, with only a few other people alongside me in class, to now with over 5 schools and study groups. Sifu Jack Leung has definitely grown the school exponentially creating a training environment for all those who want to train. only requirement to - respect and a positive mindset.
By Charis Chan