This is a breakdown of the Wing Tsun system overview.
This is a breakdown of the Leung Ting Wing Tsun system and its training methods, grading scale, and rankings. While this is very similar to almost all of the lineages under the Yip Man branch, there are also quite a bit of propriety material that is specific to Leung Ting Wing Tsun, and to various Sifus/organizations that are, or have been, affiliated with Leung Ting. With that being said, there are quite a few non-Yip Man branches of Wing Chun that may deviate greatly from anything that you are used to. Some have one long form instead of the three hand forms, some have up to 20 hand forms within their system, while others have dozens of short sets called "San Sik". Some branches also use different weapons, some with a variety of up to a dozen weapons within their system. Some have very different footwork, techniques, applications, terminology, and training/ranking methods. Like most other lineages, our forms, weapons, dummy, and curriculum has evolved into something unique to our WT system.
Siu Nim Tao - "Little Idea/Small Thought": This is the first form of Wing Tsun, and arguably the most important. This form is like a condensed data dump of the entire system, and can be used as an index of movements and a reference for self-checks when training. This form is all about correct technique coordinates and developing structure. Even though it is the first form taught, it is widely accepted that it was the last form developed. Even the highest level practitioners find their way back to Siu Nim Tao, exploring it on a daily basis. The better your SNT is, the better everything else is. Even master level practitioners find themselves coming back to SNT to explore, training it on a daily basis to make improvements.
Chum Kiu - "Seeking/Sinking the Bridge": This is the second form, or set, and focuses on compound movements and shifts, turns, and steps. The practitioner has both arms serving different functions while stepping, kicking, and changing angles. Chum Kiu focuses on making contact with the opponent and controlling the flow of energy while maintaining your structure and finding a position of superior strategic advantage. There are seven sections of Chum Kiu Chi Sao techniques to accompany the form. The sections vary slightly between the Hong Kong and EWTO systems. Our curriculum is based on the Hong Kong WT, however we teach the EWTO variations of the sections as well.
Biu Tze - "Thrusting/Darting Fingers": This is the most advanced empty hand form in the system, full of very complex movements, and it focuses both on very aggressive attacks and recovery techniques from what could be considered as a bad or losing position. For this reason, a lot of people refer to this form as the emergency form, or "oh shit" form. Biu Tze contains a lot of circular movements and attacks from odd angles, bending, and even seemingly breaking, a lot of the rules and principles that were learned early on, and it employs its own unique footwork. The attacks from Biu Tze are generally very fast, efficient, and brutal, resulting in serious injury, permanent disability, or even death of the opponent. Whereas Chum Kiu is more of a reactive form, Biu Tze is much more proactive in it's application. In our lineage, we do not consider Biu Tze an "emergency form". We embrace it completely, and personally I have often found that very high level practitioners in our lineage use Biu Tze almost exclusively once they become proficient at it. It is just the next level evolution of your Wing Tsun skills. One thing that has always stuck with me was when a friend and high level practitioner said to me, "Every technique in the system is designed to simultaneously attack and defend, while controlling the opponent and protecting your center. Every technique that you employ, even the most basic beginner level techniques, is because you are under attack. In that sense, every technique is an emergency technique, every form an emergency form".
In the early days of Wing Tsun, Biu Tze was a closely guarded secret, never publicly displayed and only taught to select students. There was a saying, "Biu Tze never leaves the house", meaning it was only taught to the most loyal, long term disciples and family members behind closed doors. Legend has it that this form got its name from an old Chinese proverb: "The fingers thrust towards the moon, not what is nearby", meaning the goal is seeing victory in the end, even if the situation you are in looks hopeless. Biu Tze specializes in turning a losing situation into a victory. There are four sections of Biu Tze Chi Sao techniques to accompany the form. As with the Chum Kiu sections, there is deviation between the Hong Kong and EWTO versions of the sections. While our main focus is on the Hong Kong system, we teach both versions of the Biu Tze sections as well. We are also currently in the process of incorporating the new Biu Tze Chi Sao sections created by Master Tam Yiu Ming.
Mook Yan Jong - "Wooden Man Post": This is the iconic wooden training dummy that is used in Wing Tsun. In the old days, the wooden dummy was reserved for higher level practitioners, however it is a great training tool right from the very beginning. It has its own form and applications to accompany it, but even beginner drills can be practiced on the dummy. Additionally, there were 4 Chi Sao sections created for the wooden dummy by GM Kernspecht for the EWTO in addition to the regular applications training, and we have included these sections into our curriculum as well, in addition to our traditional dummy applications training. Below are some photos of Grandmaster Yip Man himself demonstrating the wooden dummy form just 10 days before he died of cancer, along with some pictures of Donnie Yen portraying Yip Man in the Ip Man film series.
Luk Dim Boon Kwan - "Six and a Half Point Pole": Commonly referred to as the Long Pole or Dragon Pole, this weapon is generally a little over 8 feet long, and tapers from approximately an inch and a half in diameter at its base (handle end) to about an inch in diameter at its tip. The name Six and a Half Point Pole comes from the pole form, which consists of it's 6 techniques that can be applied in various directions, and the "half" technique, which is a rapid downward motion of the pole. Earlier development of the centerline plays a major role here. It is generally accepted that this weapon and form was a later addition to the system (circa the Red Boat Opera Troop era) and generally attributed to Jee Shim; this part of the Wing Tsun system uses the low and wide sideways (Pin Sun/side body) "horse" stance and 50/50 weight distribution. Our 6 and a Half Point Long Pole form bears many striking similarities to the Baji Quan 6 Harmony Great Spear form, the Shaolin spear form, and the Hung Gar Eight Trigrams long pole form, where it was most likely derived from. The pole itself was actually a boat ore that the opera troop used on their junks. Below are some photos of Grandmaster Leung Ting demonstrating the Long Pole, and also some very rare photos of Grandmaster Yip Man demonstrating the Long Pole.
Baat Cham Dao - "Eight Slash Swords": Commonly mistranslated as "Butterfly Swords"; the Eight Slash Swords look very similar to the Butterfly Swords. Our Baat Cham Dao have a shorter, fatter machete type blade that is designed for slashing. The tang is flushed with the spine edge of the blades, to assist in the chopping action.
Both types of swords are generally wielded in pairs and feature a D-grip to protect the hand (or to strike with), and a quillion for trapping an opponents weapon for damage, disarm, and protection.
The Woo Dip Dao/Hu Die Dao (Butterfly Swords) generally have a more slender and pointed blade, and the tang is centered on the blade, in line with the tip, as its design is more for thrusting.
A lot of modern hybrids exist, although with the exception of a few, there seems to be no real logic or thought that went into the bastardization of the blades. A lot of the cheaper Baat Cham Dao (chopper) training blades seen today have the centered tang for whatever reason, but this totally throws off the balance and geometry of the weapon in relation to its designated function. The centered tang makes the weapon slow and heavy and off balance when you attempt to chop/slash, and even more difficult to raise, putting unnecessary strain on the wrist. The open angle of the tip is not good for thrusting, and the centered tang is out of alignment with the tip, which will cause deflection when your thrust meets resistance.
In the pictures below, the top left are Baat Cham Dao, the bottom left are butterfly swords. The pair on the right are poorly designed hybrids that you often see these days.
The Baat Cham Dao form is closely related to Biu Tze in application and footwork. Some suggest that the Baat Cham Dao played a major part in the birth and development of Wing Tsun. The style of blade and the contents of the form vary between different branches and lineages. You will hear people refer to Baat Cham Dao as both "knives" and "swords", and they are technically both correct. Chinese language (both Mandarin and Cantonese) make no distinction between knife and sword, only single edged blade and double edged blade. So a single edged broadsword and a single edged kitchen knife would both be "dao". Even in modern English, there are no set rules to specify the difference between a knife and a sword, and these blades definitely fall in that grey area. Our particular flavor of blades traces it's roots back to Shaolin, where very similar blades were carried by the monks. As the monks were not interested in actually killing their opponent, most of the length of the blade was dull, so they could destroy an opponents weapon and break bones if necessary, and the last few inches around the curve to the tip was sharp for whenever slashing was necessary. They used the quillion to disarm their opponents. However, the Baat Cham Dao used by the Wing Tsun clan were designed to be lethal. There were several revisions to the design over time, as the blades were adapted to the Wing Tsun system, deviating further and further away from their Shaolin roots. At one point, the blades were configured with the bevel on one side only, and one side of the handle was flat, so they could fit in the same sheath together, and be drawn together with one hand. This type of ease of concealment was popular with the rebels in the Red Boat era.
Other Southern styles such as Hung Gar and Choi Li Fut have their own variations of these swords, which will not be addressed here, as that is neither here nor there as far as Wing Tsun is concerned, but the short dual wielded Dao was a very popular thing with various martial arts factions and rebels in South China for many hundreds of years. The term "Butterfy Sword" (Hu Die Dao) was coined to describe the way the swords looked when they were crossed, and was often used as a generic description for any dual wielded single edged blade, even ones that don't resemble ours, as you can see below. Dual wielded Jian (double edged swords) which were popular in North China and the Northern styles, were often referred to as Shang Jain (Double Swords), so "Butterfly Sword" became a generic blanket term for most single edged double blades in the Southern region. In the West, we tend to call them Butterfly Sword instead of Butterfly Knife so they are not confused with the Balisong, which is also called a Butterfly knife in English speaking regins.
When you see the swords side by side, regardless of the similarities, it becomes very plain that our Baat Cham Dao and the Hu Die Dao are two distinctly different weapons.
Our lineage uses a specific design, a chopper/slasher with a blade that's usually between 11" and 13", with a uniquely shaped pronged D guard that can be used as an impact point when striking, and to deflect an opponents weapon away from your body when used to block. Our quillion is used more for trapping, as we generally do not flip our blades into reverse grip. The pronged D guard was found on the Baat Cham Dao in a warriors tomb, dating back to the era of the inception of the system. They bore the inscriptions "Baat Cham Dao" and "Wing Tsun Kuen" on the blades, making them the oldest known set of Baat Cham Dao in existence today.
Lat Sao - "Free Hand": Lat Sao is often used to refer to sparring (along with San Da and Kuo/Gwoh/Gor Sao). In our lineage, the EWTO Lat Sao program is a proprietary training platform created by GM Kernspecht to train techniques and build one level to the next throughout the student grades. This platform interchanges with other levels throughout the curriculum, and you can flow in and out of the programs, allowing high and low level students to train together effectively. Lat Sao is a safe way to drill techniques and responses, and timing and distance. One bonus of this platform is that it is generally initiated from no contact, so the practitioner can learn to bridge the gap and intercept and counter incoming attacks. The EWTO Lat Sao drill platform is sometimes referred to as Pak Da, or the Pak Sao drill, as this is generally the starting point. Most of the training platforms (Lat Sao, Chi Sao, Jut Chuen) are very similar once you are in motion, with the main difference being that they are named after their respective starting positions. While our Hong Kong WT curriculum does not use the EWTO Lat Sao program, we have retained portions of it that we feel are important and compliment our training platform.
Dan Chi Sao - "Single Sticking Hand": This is a beginners exercise and energy drill to develop flow and sensitivity, and maintaining forward intent without resistance, isolating and learning proper execution of the techniques under pressure and how they interact with each other. This drill is performed with one arm of each practitioner, so they can concentrate on the action being performed. This is the precursor to Chi Sao, and focuses mainly on the 3 "seed" techniques of Wing Tsun: Bong Sao, Taan Sao, and Fook Sao. Below, Grandmaster Yip Man and Bruce Lee demonstrate.
Jut Chuen - "Shocking & Threading": Also called Laap Kuen (Pull/Punch), this is similar to the Laap Sao cycle/Bong Laap/Laap da drill done by other Wing Chun lineages, but mechanically different in function. This is a training platform used to practice free flow of techniques and counters, to learn to control the floating center and apply forward intent to your movements, bridging the gap between Lat Sao and Chi Sao. Jut Chuen is the primary training platform used by the Hong Kong/IWTA side of the WT lineage, as opposed to the Lat Sao program used by the EWTO. Our Jut Chuen platform starts students off with what we call the "5 Attacks", which is a series of intertwined attacks, counters, and re-counters that all flow together, and cover most ranges, giving a beginner a response for most attacks they will encounter (high, low, center, sides, cross, pressing, retreating, etc). Once the 5 Attacks are learned, the drill becomes very dynamic, with no preset responses and footwork involved. As the student progresses in the system, more and more techniques are brought in, and more speed and pressure are applied. The entire system can be worked here, including the Lat Sao program and the Chi Sao sections, and eventually the lines between the Jut Chuen, Chi Sao, and Lat Sao training platforms become blurred. Below, Grandmaster Yip Man and Bruce Lee demonstrate.
Chi Sao - "Sticky Hands": Chi Sao is an impulse response training platform that generally begins from contact (Poon Sao) and focuses on applying techniques under pressure and developing flow and sensitivity while practicing the application of the Wing Tsun fighting and energy principles. You are looking for holes in your opponents defense to attack, while not allowing your opponent a chance to attack you. Chi Sao can vary in degree from a choreographed drill of preset patterns called sections (like the Lat Sao program), to freestyle Chi Sao between practitioners which resembles a safe way of sparring training without injuring each other. Chi Sao has even become a competitive sport among some practitioners. Chi Sao is a chess game where you simultaneously attack and defend, while trying to control the structure of your opponent. This is a great training system used to make your techniques natural reflex responses. Below, Grandmaster Yip Man and Bruce Lee demonstrate. Click here to read a more in depth perspective into the multiple layers of the Chi Sao concept in Wing Tsun.
Kuo/Gwoh Sao - "Cross Hands/Testing Hands": (Sometimes spelled Gor Sao) Originally a competitive form of sparring that began from contact on the outside of the wrist (hence the name Cross Hands), the term has been used for quite some time throughout different branches and lineages to refer to sparring. Our system has a leveled Gwoh Sao program, which starts from slow and controlled turn based applications, to full contact sparring (which can technically also be called Lat Sao). The main difference between Chi Sao and Gwoh Sao is that Gwoh Sao does not usually start from the Poon Sao position, generally involves more kicks and takedowns that classic Chi Sao, and disengaging and reengaging the opponent like Lat Sao. It's a much more open and free enviroment to test and tune all of the skills you've learned in the system with real pressure.
Chain Hands - A 2 man partner drill developed by Sifu Tam Yiu Ming that is used to isolate and train techniques under pressure in a safe fashion, while teaching centerline control and awareness of the floating center. As with most of the other platforms, the entire system can be worked in Chain Hands.
San Sik Number Drills - Small choreographed form sets of reflexive development drills, based on individual seperate technique application, numbered 1-61, are a form of "San Sik" (separate form/drills). These are very short slices of the system so a practitioner can isolate and work each piece to improve their technique. Since basically the entire system is broken down into these number drills, this offers a great learning and training platform for all practitioners, regardless of their skill level or rank. The drills can be practiced alone, or worked with a partner, with one practitioner using one of the numbered drills against a partner practicing a different numbered drill. In this way, the entire system can be tested and trained together with practitioners of all levels. The number drills can also be worked from any platform, such as Lat Sao, Chi Sao, Gwoh Sao, Jut Chuen, etc. San Sik is the way the curriculum is taught in other, mainly non-Yip Man branches of Wing Chun, specifically though that trace their lineage through Dr. Leung Jan (a common ancestor among many Wing Chun branches, including Yip Man), Yuen Kay San, or Sum Nung. Our version of these San Sik number drills were developed entirely by Master Tam Yiu Ming and based on the progression of our Wing Tsun system, its existing forms, and the WT Chi Sao section.
Empty Hand Form Progression & interconnection
There are many underlying concepts buried within the forms, depending on how and what you are training at that particular moment. Here is a breakdown of some of the basic ideas of the forms, at least from my perspective. There is a very logical reason that they are taught in the order that they are, because each new form builds from the content of the previous one.
Siu Nim Tao: As stated above, it is an index of basically the entire system. It's used to program your body and offer a system of self check. It lays the framework for everything that follows, as you focus on structure and proper shapes and isolated technique execution.
Chum Kiu: CK is about complex compound body movements. It brings footwork into play. This form is more reactive than anything else, teaching one to deal with incoming force and respond to attacks, while maintaining structure and personal space. Here you learn to safely counterattack, stick, and control. Chum Kiu is the embodiment of the concepts and principles of Wing Tsun in motion. Footwork is very important, and while the basic leg technique shapes and stance are introduced in SNT, Chum Kiu is the first of the forms to be mobile and present actual footwork. Every subsequent form has its own unique footwork to compliment its skill set.
Biu Tze: BT is a much more aggressive and proactive form geared towards brutal interception and preemptive attacking. It contains concepts of how to recover from less than advantageous positions, and attacks from awkward angles and positions. Where CK is more linear, BT uses a lot of circular movements, plane and angle changes, and odd positions that beginners would consider (or have been taught are) "wrong". It is very aggressive and focused primarily on very vicious attacks. Where Chum Kiu could be considered the "fighting form", Biu Tze is the "life or death maim cripple and kill form". Where Chum Kiu is about protecting your space, Biu Tze is about invading your opponents space. Where CK seeks the bridge, BT is about destroying the bridge, lighting it on fire, blowing it up, and completely devastating whatever is in its path with no remorse. The movements and body mechanics are a lot more complex and free flowing, and even previous level techniques take on an entirely different persona and application here from their Chum Kiu counterparts. Biu Tze bends, breaks, and rewrites the rules. While early on, some people think of Biu Tze as an emergency recovery skill set, higher level practitioners tend to use Biu Tze almost exclusively.
Wooden Dummy: Where Siu Nim Tao teaches correct technique application and develops proper structure, Chum Kiu teaches you to yield, receive, and flow with an attack, and Biu Tze teaches you to attack viciously from anywhere and chop through and overwhelm your opponent, the dummy teaches you how to maintain forward pressure while moving around an opponent that is immovable/more powerful and get the proper position for an effective attack vector. You learn to respond to your attacks being met with brute force, and how to instantly transition. In that sense, all of the concepts of the previous three forms come together as a single unit on the dummy. While the dummy can be used as an effective training tool basically from the very beginning, the dummy form is usually taught after the 3 empty hand forms, as it contains many complex theories, concepts, and technique applications that the practitioner will not encounter until Biu Tze level. While each of the previous empty hand forms teaches techniques, principles, and concepts, the dummy form is the amalgamation of the application of those forms. It is possible for a lower level student to mimic the movements and learn the form, however it will serve little value, as the depth of understanding and skill required just isn't there. All of the forms, including the weapons, have their own unique footwork, and the Dummy footwork is the most advanced, and brings all of the footwork engines together in application.
The Weapons Forms: The weapons, like many other things in the system, serve multiple purposes. There are direct correlations between the weapons techniques and empty hand techniques. While the Baat Cham Dao intertwine almost exclusively to Biu Tze, the Long Pole introduces many things that that the uninitiated might deem as "wrong", such as long fist techniques, low side body stances, shoulder extension, and horizontal punches. Many techniques from the weapons sets have very practical empty hand applications disguised within them, as well as body conditioning, and timing and distance. While the blades serve as training for mobility and attacking, the pole teaches laser focused centerline control, especially from positions that the practitioner may not be well versed at.
As far as direct applications, these weapons are strategically chosen to assist the practitioner in any armed combat. Evan as obscure as training with an 8 foot staff may seem today, it has it's merits. Both weapons, in a yin and yang fashion, teach the practitioner to make use of a single weapon and a dual wielded set of weapons, a single handed weapon and a two handed weapon, a long range weapon and a close range weapon, a bladed weapon and a blunt weapon. First Wing Tsun turns the practitioner into a living weapon, and then gives the practitioner the training to be effective with whatever weapon can be sourced at the time of conflict. Likewise, the movements of the empty hand forms directly translate to armed combat, be it a knife or impact tool, and the correlation between Biu Tze and the Baat Cham Dao illustrates this.
In our Wing Tsun system, we have a standardized grading system that is recognized worldwide within other WT schools. We have a set curriculum that we teach to make sure that all students are presented with the same information and nothing is left out, skipped, missed, or neglected, similar to grades in a regular school.
There are 12 student grades. Grades 1-4 (white shirt) are the beginner grades. Grades 5-8 (grey shirt) are the intermediate grades. Grades 9-12 (black shirt) are the advanced grades. To put things into perspective that most people with martial arts background will understand, student grade 9 is about the equivalent of a black belt (we do not use a belt ranking/Dan system; that is a Western modified Japanese thing). A student may become an assistant instructor at student grade 8, and a certified instructor at student grade 10.
After the student grades, there are 4 Technician levels, and a 5th level which is Master Practitioner. The Technician levels are very highly advanced. These would be equivalent to the "Dan/Degrees" a master would have on their black belt in other styles, and the Tech levels take quite a bit more time to complete than the student grades. To Earn the official title of Sifu (and a red shirt), one must be at least a 2nd Technician Grade. Technician level practitioners can often be recognized by the red stripes on their black training pants. Once you achieve the 5th level Master Practitioner, you have learned and shown mastery over the complete Wing Tsun system from start to finish. Master Practitioners can often be recognized by their yellow shirts, and yellow stripes on their training pants.
To put in into a perspective that a non martial artist can plainly understand, the 12 student grades are like going to school, kindergarten through high school. This should give you a nice well rounded education to function in society for all general purposes. The 4 Technician levels are like going through college, progressing through your associates, bachelor's, and master's degrees, and receiving technical certificates on your trade. This is where you do your internship and residency and graduate from student to instructor, and finally to Sifu. The 5th Master Practitioner level is your doctorate, where you recieve your Ph.D. in Wing Tsun.
*Most of the elements of the EWTO Wing Tsun training system developed by Keith Kernspecht that we have retained have been modified and updated over the years, fine tuned and streamlined for greater efficiency and effectiveness by a number of high level Master Practitioners, such as Emin Boztepe, Martin Hofmann, Rainer Tausend, and Heinrich Pfaff. While there is a lot of great material from the EWTO program that we have assimilated into the Texas Wing Tsun curriculum, as well as a solid IWTA base from Leung Ting and Hong Kong Wing Tsun from Cheng Chuen Fun and Chris Collins, our main focus is Sifu Tam Yiu Ming's proprietary interpretation of the Hong Kong WT curriculum in its entirety. Our strict standards and grading requirements are in compliance with that of the Wing Tsun Academy, and the guidlines of Si-Fu Bradford Wohlner, who oversees our school. We want to present a very complete and well rounded training system to our students. However, any material from EWTO, IWTA, CCFWTA, HKWTA, EMBAS, other WT variations, or material sourced from other lineages or organizations is taught in addition, as a compliment, to the complete training program provided to us by the Wing Tsun Academy.
Disclaimer: The thoughts, views, and opinions expressed in this site are that of Texas Wing Tsun and its Chief Instructor, Jason Malik, who independently researched and compiled the information that is presented in his personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the official views of our WTA or RJKD affiliates. Allowance is made for fair use of copyrighted photos and other media material and external links compiled and presented from outside sources and is protected under the federal Fair Use Act of 1976 (17 USC Section 107) for reporting/editorial, research, and educational/teaching purposes. We claim no ownership of intellectual property published on this site that does not belong to us. If you see your content posted on this site and wish to be credited for ownership, please email us and we will list you as a contributor and link you.
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