Traditional Wing Tzun?
May 13, 2012 at 7:21 PM
Here is my new writing about tradition in Martial Arts, specifically in Wing Tzun Kung Fu. Let's turn up the heat a little, shall we:-)?
How many times have we heard Wing Tzun people criticize other Wing Tzun people about their tradition? Most of the criticism that EBMAS gets is that we're not traditional because we're too aggressive, Dai Sifu Emin Boztepe is brutal and tough, and Wing Tzun is not all about fighting. I have heard this often, mostly through messages, emails and sometimes phone calls but never face-to-face, which I find amusing.
Wing Tzun was created by a woman for one simple reason: to help her to defend herself against anyone trying to harm her and to give her an equal chance against bigger, stronger opponents. In those times, there already were many styles that offered protection via self-defense techniques and most of them took many years of study and practice to achieve a level that could actually be applied. What else could motivate Ng Mui to start thinking about developing a new form of Martial Art?
Let's look at what happened in China several hundreds of years ago when Ng Mui created a new style of martial art that was not yet known as Wing Tzun. At the time, there were not many sporting competitions and most duels between two opponents were called 'challenges' or 'death matches'; there were no referees and most people died, including the winner, from serious injuries or wound infection. The country had dealt with internal war for centuries and the land was full of bandits, deserted soldiers (sometimes the two were the same) and soldiers without work . Because these individuals did not receive any compensation during times of peace -- when you fight for a warlord and lose the battle but survive, you would end up without a pay check -- so they had to take care of themselves by roaming the land and taking whatever they wanted by force with killing the only thing that they knew well. In addition, you had the ruling dynasty of the time who placed soldiers all over their territories to collect taxes by any means to make sure they could continue the war. In those years, violence was a big part of the Chinese people's everyday life. Therefore, Ng Mui had very good reason to create this new, realistic, simple and quick to learn but brutal style to make sure she would survive .
Many Wing Tzun people forget these circumstances around the origin because they only read books about Wing Tzun with pleasant pictures and graphics and they are too busy to analyze movements in the system. Most of these so-called masters, Sifu's and instructors have had little or no experience in the street, have never served in the armed forces or as a Law Enforcement agent and did not grow up in a rough neighbourhood, so they never had to face certain realities. The biggest altercation they have likely experienced is beating up their own students in the classroom. These factors cause their imagination to believe in an alternate reality separate from what actually would happen in real life.
Here is a much more extreme and well-known example of how imagination can depart from reality: Until several years ago, many Christians imagined Jesus' last hours a certain way. Everyone knew that Jesus died suffering on the cross, but most probably thought about it only to the extent of what they saw in paintings and church frescos. Their knowledge about the past may have been limited, but more likely, it was simply easier to picture Jesus' death in this manner. After the release of the film "The Passion of the Christ," people all around the world were shocked and horrified at the blood and brutality depicted. They had not thought about the barbaric torture and killing that occurred during those times. These new images were so brutal that they were unacceptable to our civilized society of the present even if they were more realistic. Similarly, when you look at old calligraphy and paintings, and read stories about Wing Tzun, your imagination can take over as your mind adjusts in an attempt to make things more acceptable and humane. It's very easy to end up far away from reality because the truth is ugly.
When you chain punch for real and break a jaw, nose or eye socket it will be bloody, messy and brutal. Most of the time your own fist, hands or fingers will get jammed, cracked or even broken -- don't forget that when striking with your fist (knuckles), the human face does not have much cushion or muscle to protect it so you are essentially hitting bone against bone. When you hit or elbow with full power to the throat in a real fight, your opponent could die by choking on their own blood while desperately gasping for air. These are not nice images and should this ever happen to you, it will stay in your head forever. This will not happen in every fight and it may never happen, but the possibility exists as long as you target those areas with your attacks (and if you know Wing Tzun, the throat, eyes and groin are the most vulnerable points we target). Please don't forget that in a real fight, it does not matter how great of a master you are; you may be able to control your own movements, but you cannot predict your opponent's (unless you're a psychic).
Many Wing Tzun practitioners and students talk only about angles, center line theory and the philosophy of Wing Tzun. They pose in magazines, pictures and videos. (It is important to note that when viewing videos, you do not actually know how many times they filmed and practiced for those few seconds you see.) These people have answers for everything and if they don't, they will travel around the word looking for that answer -- the secret of Wing Tzun -- without realizing that there is none and the truth lies in front of their eyes. Many believe the tradition goes from father to son and because the person's family name is the same, he learns the secret. (If you have children you know that sometimes the apple falls far away from the tree.) They put it on posters and websites promoting the name/person, not because of his true knowledge but only because he's the son of a Master, Grandmaster or a teacher who taught a famous person. They are the ones who avoid the demanding training, instead hiding behind titles, names, family histories and tradition because they know that when the time comes and someone attacks them for real, all of their mystery, secrets, titles, tradition and talking will be crushed in one moment.
Based on my experience, this is the truth about fighting: There is no such thing as using your favourite technique over and over -- every fight is different and if you think having a favourite technique translates to the street, you are far, far away from reality. You will get hit most of the time and you will feel pain. Very rarely will you have a chance to put your arms up in Man/Wu Sao position or stay in the traditional (IRAS-Internal Rotation and Adduction Stance) Wing Tzun stance because most of the time, the attack will surprise you. Over the past 20 years, I have had countless fights in Europe and the US as a soldier, ex-police special forces agent, bouncer and bodyguard and I have not ever had the chance to put my arms and legs into the traditional Wing Tzun position. You also have to deal with the after-effects, and by this I am referring to the police, court and the possibility of a lawsuit or even jail time. Most of the Wing Tzun Sifus, Masters and Instructors forget to educate their students about this because it's not 'traditional,' but it definitely can and will affect you and your future. You will also be scared -- I was and I still am before every fight because I know what the consequences can be.
Please don't misunderstand my words. I am not saying that you don't need to learn and practice the standard, basic Wing Tzun techniques. What I am saying is that you have to train in a realistic manner to ensure that those techniques and concepts really work in real life. You might not believe what I stated above, but if in the future you run into a physical altercation and you end up on the ground staring at the stars -- if you are able to remain conscious -- you will realize that your traditional beliefs alone cannot save you on the street. Try to remember the lines above as well as my last words: Welcome to reality.
By Sifu Zsolt George Boka
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