Everyone involved in martial arts love their styles and are ready to swear that their arts are best and most effective. People involved in Wing Chun , including myself are ready to say the same for their art. If we put emotions aside for the moment and put aside theory of Wing Chun as well, which is really outstanding , the reality is telling us something entirely different about our art. If we look at the results of Wing Chun fighters in professional MMA and Full Contact contests we can conclude that Wing Chun is not the best choice for this type of competition .On amateur competitions Wing Chun fighters have similar “success”. On the other hand, there are martial arts that dominate rings and "cages" and are an essential part of training for all professional fighters .Thai boxing, classic boxing , BJJ and wrestling are basic foundation for training of every professional fighter .These arts proved their efficiency all over the world in all kinds of full contact competitions.
So, why some martial styles can "work" and some , including Wing Chun does not. In my opinion it is the inadequate approach to training and inadequate training its self. While in BJJ and Thai boxing from the start practitioners are “pushed in fire" and after only a few training sessions and only a few learned techniques practitioners immediately apply what they have learned against an opponent who gives all possible resistance , in traditional martial arts training process is usually different . A great amount of time is spent on polishing techniques, we can often see almost mathematical precision in performance which has great visual effect , on the other hand , sparring if there is any , starts quite late .One more thing is very important, competitive oriented sports\ styles pay great attention to physical preparation, while traditional martial arts training often neglects this aspect at the expense of prefect “techniques” performance, visual the effect and other less important things .
I will try to analyze some of the mistakes in Wig Chun training
1. Proper understanding. At the beginning, the most important thing is to fully and properly understand the concepts and principles of the art .Level of understanding will determine the method and approach to training. It is important to realize that Wing Chun is a system that offers general principles of fighting rather than a fixed set of techniques that cannot be changed. Wing Chun is a system that suppose to adapt to each practitioner's needs and psycho-physical predispositions .This way a practitioner will have an opportunity to improve all aspects of his art .It is equally important to understand practitioner’s needs and goals and adjust training system to that needs and goals. Self defense , sport and competition ,health reasons …ect, suppose to have different approach in teaching and training .Clear understanding of individual’s needs and goals should come from both sides , instructor’s and student’s side. In order to be achieved , goals should be clearly set up , individual must have a clear picture of he or she wants to achieve , when that is clear instructor will have a clear picture of the training process and adjust training system to for that specific goals
2. Dead drills. "Wing Chun has a large number of exercises called "dead drills" .Tan sao drill, drill Pak Sao, Bong sao drill and all others derived from Chi Sao are necessary and very important for beginners. Through these drills practitioners learn the proper mechanics and execution of the basic moves . Despite of a widespread belief these drills do not develop the reflex response to the attack in a combat situation. The sole purpose of these exercises is to help a beginner to correct his execution of basic techniques by sensing an incoming energy . While these drills are very important for beginners ,once mastered these drills should be practiced only occasionally .This type of drills are just a tool that helps beginners learn proper mechanics of certain movements, nothing more than that .It is wrong to believe that these drills directly prepare practitioners for real combat conditions and represent some kind of reflex training .Often practitioners spend too much time perfecting these exercises and over time they become more relaxed and confident in their execution but even a light sparring quickly show that "dead drills" are not preparation for real fighting .It is very important to use ‘Dead drills “ properly because they are very important training tool that introduces beginners to the world of martial arts. Bad habits acquired during this part of training can cause a lot of trouble for the practitioner. Here are some important points
-Dead drills are not sparring nor reflex training ,they are basic tool in developing necessary physical attributes for fighting
-Proper stance and body position .If stance and body position are not correct, body structure necessary for successful fighting ,will be ruined. Especially dangerous is losing of balance as a direct consequence of bad body structure ,and as we all know, without a good balance there is no good fighter.
- Improper distance between practitioners .This is the most common and dangerous mistake that occurs in these drills is improper distance. Techniques are performed from a "safe" distance, ie the distance from which training partners can reach each other . This is wrong for several reasons .Practitioners will develop wrong mechanics of blocks because they are intercepting punches with insufficient force because they already lost most of their energy , under a wrong angle. Awareness that punches cannot hurt develop wrong mental state and practitioners are too relaxed which is not a proper response to adrenaline rush that happens during combat .
- Insufficient strength. These drills, after a certain initial period where basic mechanics of movement are acquired, must be done with full power. If drills are not practiced with a full power practitioners will have the same problem as it was described in the first example .
-Wrong footwork. In the beginning “dead drills” are static , without footwork .After some time these drill should be exercised with footwork . Often too much attention is on "arms" ,on the proper performance of the upper body but not enough attention on footwork. Again wrong habits will cause trouble in a later pat of training process , especially sparring . Wing Chun footwork is designed to maintain balance and structure and helps us to preserve the integrity of the area that we cover. Wrong footwork "opens" the practitioner to attacks and damaging the balance and structure.
These are the most important aspects of the "dead" reels that should be paid attention to as well as the fact that you should be aware of the true role of these drills in this sense to practice them.
3. Wing Chun techniques “ . In my opinion Wing Chun “techniques” are THE WORST thing in Wing Chun and in many traditional arts as well. When I say " technique " I mean premeditated set of movements-blocks, strikes, throws.. – as an answer to a certain type of attack with the help and assistance of partner who carry out the attack . The problem with this is that training partner "freezes" and wait for "technique" to be executed without any resistance .This way it is possible to perform the most complex sets of movements, unfortunately, without any support in the reality. Often we can see two, three or more blocks applied on one strike ,or endless set of blocks to an endless set of attacks . Often , this is a primary way of practice is some styles and instead of sparring , people practice “techniques” . Even practiced with full strength “techniques” are nothing more than choreography ,something that looks nice but it has no martial value . I do not understand people who believe in ”techniques”, not that is not possible to apply more than one block to one attack and it is not possible to endlessly block series of attacks but it is impossible to memorize a set of movement as an answer to an attack .
4. Chi sao besides wooden dummy is a "trade mark" Wing Chun. What is the purpose of Chi Sao? Main purpose of chi sao is to help in development of a proper body structures . Unfortunately the concept of wing chun structure is unknown to many, hence many have wrong ideas about what chi sao is and how to practice it . In short, the proper structure helps deal with incoming force under different angles, allows us to control the opponent who is stronger than us, to redirect or absorb great amount of force without losing the balance or give up the position\space we control .Chi sao is just an exercise that allows to develop proper body structure without exposing the body to stress of constant hitting .Chi sao teaches us what to do and how to react from the moment of contact, and how to deal with the upcoming force. Also, chi sao teaches us how to cover and control the space in front of us. Despite of common believe , chi sao does not develop contact reflexes and "finding holes in opponent's defense". It s very easy to prove this , to prove that chi sao does not develop “contact reflexes” whatever that means and cannot help anyone to find “holes in his opponent's defense" . I suggest a visit to a boxing club .First , ask a boxer to practice chi sao , I believe wing chun practitioner will have no problem to defeat a boxer , because boxing does ton have a chi sao practice . After that wing chun practitioner should try to fight with a boxer for a round or two , if “contact reflex” theory is correct , boxer should be defeated just as easily as it was in chi sao session, if that does not happened then “contact reflex”\ "finding holes in opponent's defense" theory is not correct .Chi sao is not sparring , it is not fighting , does not prepare directly for fighting it is a drill that develops a necessary skills and attributes which will be ,through future training, used to make a complete set of skill necessary for fighting . If there is no sparring and|or real fighting experience , chi sao will not make anyone a fighter. Chi sao is not substitution for sparring ,and it is not a magical tool that makes good fighters , it is just a training tool ,a drill and not the most important one .
5. Physical conditioning is probably the most neglected aspect in traditional martial arts. Physical conditioning does not mean just the cardio workout but also the strength training and preparation of the body to endure the pain and shock caused by physical trauma .This is a crucial point for successful practice of martial arts and sports. Without physical strength and ability to endure the pain and shock during the fight everything else is meaningless , all sparring, chi sao, drills ect.
6. –Sparring is the most important part of martial arts training, often totally neglected . Sparring should start at the very beginning of the training process , as soon as practitioner learn couple of basics movements he should practice to apply with a full force with noncomplying opponent , under a stress of possibility to be injured ( punched , kicked , thrown …) . There is only one way to learn how to fight and that is actual fight , there is no other way , just like swimming , you have to go into the water to learn how to swim there is no other way . While in the early stages of training sparring should be controlled and it shouldn’t be main part of training ,in the later stages of practice, when practitioner already mastered technical part of the art and is physically prepared , sparring should be main part of the practice .
7. Situational training is crucial in self-defense practice. This system of training should bring the practitioner as close as possible to the real self-defense situation, to raise adrenalin to the level equal to adrenalin level in a real attack. This way, practitioner will build proper physical and psychological response to stress in a self –defense situation and will have a real sense of his abilities. To be able to defend means to be able to control adrenalin pump with all its effects in the body and mind, to be able to use it and turn it against the attacker.