The six-week Introductory Course takes students step-by-step through Wing Chun's most basic form, or Fundamental Concepts Form. Through this form, students are introduced to the basic concepts of boxing, including punching, creating defensive structure and entering. Introductory students put these skills into practice right away through the Pauk-Punch exercise. The Introductory Course
functions as a complete introduction to the necessary skills of self-defense and as an overview of the Wing Chun system.
Unlike a kata, in which a student performs one side of a mock fight, the forms of Wing Chun read like textbooks on body movement and spatial geometry. Each form explores different aspects of punching, each subsequent form building on the principles outlined in the previous forms. The goal of training is to build versatility into the punch so that it can become whatever is needed for the situation. The six-month Novice Course deciphers the self-defense concepts and principles encrypted in the Fundamental Concepts Form, or in Cantonese "Siu Lim(Nim) Tao".
The main purpose of the Novice Course is to teach students to align their bodies in order to tie their punch into ground for maximum transfer of force. The Fundamental Concepts Form shows how to achieve this connection to the earth through static stance positions, but explores all possible directions of arm movement to develop all possible permutations of the same mechanics of the punch.Wing Chun is a complete art, and each form explores how the punch ties into the different aspects of fighting. Some forms overlap others, and some are exclusive. In the Novice Course, students explore aspects of boxing, grappling, throwing and ground fighting.
As students advance through the Wing Chun self-defense courses, they are exposed to sparring in a controlled manner. The partner exercises generally known as "sticking hands" or "Chi Sao" are a format for this type of controlled sparring. In the early courses, this sparring is tightly controlled, but as students advance, much more freedom is allowed and different forms of sparring are merged until practice closely resembles unpredictable and unlimited fighting. The sparring exercises of the novice class revolve around encountering hands as they punch, utilizing the defensive structure to redirect incoming punches and one-handed sticking exercises. These drills help to shape the punch so that it follows the proper mechanics. In addition, these exercises serve to condition the skin and bones of the arms to be able to endure and deliver more force.
The 12-month Intermediate Course furthers the principles from the previous classes by expounding the concepts found in Establishing Bridges Form, or "Chum Kiu", in Cantonese. Whereas the Novice Course focuses on increasing punching power through the hands, the Intermediate Course increases power by adding legwork through both mobile stances and kicking. Wing Chun is unique in that the mechanics for all kicks are the same as those for the punch. In addition, the unarmed Wing Chun system has only one stance, but like the punch, there are several variations of that stance to adapt to different circumstances. Finally, because of the mobile stances, some new directions and pressures for the punch are available, and the Intermediate Course teaches students to coordinate the two hands by tying them into stance movement.
Wing Chun recognizes that during a fight, hands or legs will collide. The Intermediate Course shows students how to move into positions that will allow them to turn those collisions into bridges that can be manipulated and used for openings to strike more effectively. With bridging as a springboard, the boxing, grappling and throwing aspects of fighting explored in the Novice Course are expanded in the Intermediate Course, and to those aspects are added entering, kicking, and trapping.
Sparring in the Intermediate Course is greatly expanded from the simple forms of the Novice Course. In the most prominent form of sparring both partners always utilize two hands (right to left and left to right) at the same time. This sparring drill, known as Poon Sao, teaches students to maintain their defensive structure with two hands while identifying and striking through openings in their partner's structure. A second sparring drill, Laup Sao, teaches how to make grappling easier and what to do to avoid a grapple. A third sparring drill, Quan Sao, shows how to pin and how to escape from pins. A fourth drill sparring brings the students in and out of elbow range. Then there are two bridging drills, Fauk Sao and Pauk-Ta that teach what to do when the hands are straight across and when they're crossed. Finally, there are some bridging drills for legs, collectively known as Chi Gerk. These teach how to defend against kicks with legs, and how to turn the collision to your advantage.All of these drills are coupled with stance movement to teach students to use movement to avoid bigger, stronger attackers and to apply more force in their attacks.
The Advanced Course takes nine months to complete. The form associated with this course is known as “Explosive Extremities”, or “Biu Gee” in Cantonese. Whereas the Intermediate Course represents the model fight where the fighter can stand, punch, kick, chase and throw with no loss of structure, the Advanced Course covers extreme circumstances that a fighter is bound to encounter and rounds off the complete fighting system.
The Advanced Course furthers the study of punching by tying the upper and lower body triangles together and then untying them, showing how to use the whole body as a weapon, and how to derive maximum power when the stance is lost. Explosive Extremities takes up where Establishing Bridges left off on the fighting aspects of entering, boxing, grappling, and throwing, but it puts a final spin on escaping and recovering, and finishes off the Wing Chun concepts for ground fighting.
The Advanced Course has its own versions of the sparring drills from the Intermediate Course, with particular emphasis on Poon Sao, Pauk-Ta and Fauk Sao, but these sparring methods become much more fluid and allow the student to move seamlessly from one drill to any other. At this level sparring becomes very free and can include any aspect of fighting.Recovery allows students to reverse a jeopardized position and turn it to his or her favor. The focus on escape and recovery in the Advanced Course is particularly useful for fighting against larger and stronger, or multiple attackers.
Wooden Man Course
The Wing Chun Wooden Man (Mook Yan Jong) is a training tool that can and should be used throughout training from the very first day. Concepts from all courses can be applied and practiced on the Wooden Man. He makes a suitable training partner when none else can be found, and he is a superb aid in conditioning the hands, forearms, feet and shins. However, the twelve-month Wooden Man Course exploits its own Wooden Man Form. This form is more like a mock fight with the Wooden Man in which he either provides the initiating attack, or takes the alternate side of a mock fight.
The Wooden Man Course enhances the punch by teaching students to combine concepts, strategies and techniques from all of the previous courses. Whereas in the each subsequent course builds on the principles learned in the previous courses, the Intermediate Course and Advanced Course have much closer ties to the Novice Course than they do to each other. However, in the Wooden Man Course, all of these concepts are woven together on an apparatus that at once forces correct lines and conditions the arms, legs, hands and feet.
The Wooden Man Course combines all aspects of fighting, including entering, kicking, boxing, trapping, throwing, grappling and ground fighting. However, the emphasis is on upright and mobile fighting (kicking, boxing, trapping and grappling), so there is very little practice with entering, throwing and ground fighting. The Wooden Man Form causes the student to change distances often. Therefore, he or she is constantly called to flow between one aspect of fighting and another.
The sparring exercises learned in the previous courses are maintained in the Wooden Man Course, but this course adds another type of sparring exercise known as "Dummy Hands," or "Jong Sao." Jong Sao consists of two partners working through the mock fights outlined in the Wooden Man Form and breaking those forms into combinations of two or three sequences.Continually striking a wooden man will condition a person of any size or stature and enable them to strike with shocking force. In addition, the emphasis on bodylines allows students to much more effectively and powerfully deliver force in their strikes.
Dragon Pole Course
Wing Chun's first weapon class is four-month The Dragon Pole Course, and explores the Dragon Pole Form, or "Look Boon Dim Kwan". Along with the form, there are a good number of exercises utilizing the pole for training leverage. Most of these exercises enhance punching strength.The study of the pole is a study in using the same mechanics as those used in the punch, with some alteration to account for the longer lever. Unlike fencing, dragon pole training allows for radical angle changes, which makes for a less predictable and more dynamic type of sparring.
Dual Sabers Course
The final Wing Chun course is the 12-month Dual Sabers Course. For nearly a century, Wing Chun practitioners have practiced this form using a specialized type of knife known as Batjumdao, or "Eight Directional Slashing Blades." However, recent research has shown that the form was originally practiced with a pair of short swords. Using two swords allows the practitioner to transition from the principles learned in pole fighting to two-handed swords and finally to the double short swords, or in other words, from fighting with one line to fighting with and coordinating two weapons.
The Dual Sabers Course employs the thrusting of the punch in stabbing, but adds slashing force as well. Like pole sparring, sword sparring employs entering and distance fighting, but given that the swords are much shorter than the pole, opportunities for grappling, kicking, throwing, and disarming arise much more often in the swords form. Because of this, the Butterfly Swords Course is the crowning pinnacle of the Wing Chun System.
Sparring with the swords is similar to fencing, except that more than one line is allowed, the rules of foil, saber and epee are all combined, and Wing Chun swordsmen fight with two blades at once. This combination allows for better body balance since a Wing Chun swordsman uses both hands equally.