From time to time I receive questions as to Wing Chun, and how it applies to tournaments. Many are shocked when I answer that I do not advocate participating in tournaments, nor was Wing Chun even designed for such, at least as far as tournaments in the United States. I wish to delve into this subject more, so that those seeking to know more about Wing Chun may have a greater understanding.
There are two reasons as to why Wing Chun does not work well in a tournament setting: One, Wing Chun and its forms were not designed to be showpieces, or for grace and beauty. Two, the rules that exist in modern US tournaments.
To look at the first reason, one must understand that the Wing Chun forms (i.e., Siu-Nim-Tou, Cham Kiu, and Biu Zi) are designed to teach position, motion, and power. They are esoteric in nature, and do not relate to the idea of dance or shadowboxing, like the forms of the majority of Chinese arts, and the arts of Japan and Korea. The forms are really nothing more that tools, which are meant to serve in creating better Chi Sau or fighting skills, and in working the Qigong skills. The same is true of the sword (Baat Zam Dou) and pole (Luk Bon Dim Gon) forms. The wooden dummy form (Muk Jan Zong) is seen as some to be a form wherein the Wing Chun practioner is "fighting" the dummy, but this is not the case: rather, the practitioner is learning correct position, and hown to sequence their strikes, as relating to Dim Mak. Lacking in the flashy-looking kicks, spins, leaps, yells, and so forth found in other martial arts, the Wing Chun forms look dull to most. When I used to attend tournaments, to try to introduce Wing Chun to the public, many responded to what they saw by saying "Gee, you don't do much kicks," and "That does not look very effective!" Bear in mind, though, that looks can be deceiving! The froms are highly effective, and are compact with information. Wing Chun, being a system of effectiveness, simply lacks the things that are useless to fighting.
The second reason, the rules that can be found in tournaments, offers many restrictions placed on the participants to prevent injury to each other. Tournaments are meant to be friendly meets, designed for sportmanship and competiveness, with trophies and other such prizes being handed out to the "winner." Even tournaments that offer "full contact" restrict what may be done. Any participant who is seen to be using "excessive" force are booed by the audience, and disqualifird in disgrace.
To this end, the vast majority of martial arts in the US train to fight according to tournaments. When I had studied Kenpo, kicks to the lower extremities, elbows, grabbing an opponent's leg, or blocking a kick with another kick was unheard of. Once contact in sparring was made, the two "fighters" would be separated, and the sparring would be begun again. The problem in training this way is that a student learns only those things that relate to tournaments, which skills serve no value when it comes to a street fight. A street fighter will use any and all tools to beat you. Tournaments say that kicks and punches must be pulled to prevent injury. When done in this way, the student learns to automatically do so, and power is lost in a real fight.
Wing Chun trains solely in the art of combat. Students learn to attack all targets of the body, with all of the various armed and unarmed weapons of the art. While control of the strikes are required, the students is taught how to strike with power, if the need arises. Kicks may be grabbed or kicked against, and elbows, finger strikes, and so forth are used. The Wing Chun student learns to respond with what he or she is taught, without rules. When placed in a tournament situation, the person using Wing Chun would be disqualified based upon the fact that they would seek to take the opponent by any means. The Wing Chun fighter keeps an attack up until the opponent surrenders of their own volition, or until serious injury to them leads to their being effectively taken out. There is no "one strike-return to starting position" rule in Wing Chun, and more importantly, on the street. How could one effectively judge a Wing Chun fighter who has delivered 10-20 attacks in a manner of seconds, when in a tournament, as I have seen, it takes several seconds to deliver a single blow! In fighting in the Wing Chun way, one could not be effective in a tournament, as he or she would be seen as using excessive force, and would be thrown out.
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