…And The “Why’s” Have It! Reverse Engineering Wing Chun Skill for Self-Defense and Fighting

Know WHY you are training and don’t lie to yourself. Believe me – nothing good comes from doing that.

In the pantheon of Wing Chun training, the “how-to” aspect occupies far too much of the time.

Now obviously in order to improve at something you first have to learn how to do something, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.  What I am talking about is the fixation on “how-to” skill at the expense of the other aspects of training that are more important in the furtherance of your ultimate goal of combat effectiveness and efficiency and practicality in self-defense; aspects that force you to venture out past what you are comfortable with.

These can be mental, emotional or even psychological aspects of training or they can be a next level of physical aspects such as sparring or full-contact training, scenario self-defense work or even chi sau with a new partner whose motions perplex you.

One universal example of this is learning the first form, Siu Nim Tau.  Imagine that you begin your Wing Chun training with this bedrock form.  You learn each section, practice extensively, internalize each of the basic techniques and build your foundation on which you can progress.  Sounds natural enough, right?  Sure does-until it’s time to challenge your comfort zone.  What happens?  When you become scared, frustrated or insecure you will undoubtedly revert back to practicing your form again and again, thinking and subconsciously hoping that the more time you spend doing it the easier your new challenge will be.

I have some good news and some bad news for you.  The bad news is, it won’t.  The good news is, that’s a good thing for you in the long run even though an ass-kicking (mental, emotional or physical) is in your near future.

When we are challenged, we have a tendency to revert or retreat back to that which we find familiar.  This is one reason why “how to” martial arts books are so popular.  They allow us to focus on mechanics and motions instead of addressing what needs to be tackled in order for our skill set to truly grow and take root.  This is the same reason that so many folks obsessively write and rewrite posts or articles instead of publishing or posting them-focusing on the “how to” provides a sense of comfort that testing yourself and your skills takes away.

At some point you need to pop the training wheels off and just do it. Fear can be harnessed by remembering WHY you are doing what you are doing and how this experience will benefit you in furtherance of your end goal. Here I am eating one as I moved in. No problem. I kept coming and eventually found my mark.

The shortcut to real RESULTS in training lies outside of mere “how to” focus.  I make no bones about saying that training for me is about one thing: results.  All of this “enjoying the process,” and “it’s not the destination it’s the journey” rhetoric sounds great and all but to me it’s total bullshit.

I love training and will always train but I don’t train for training’s sake, I train for results, and results for me is the ability to apply Wing Chun as a system of self-defense and fighting skill, period.  That might fly in the face of the falcon-sweeping-across-the-purple-sky-at-sunrise motivational posters that every half-wit with an InstaGram profile churns out faster than a Malaysian sweatshop (a word of advice-if you do stuff like that, stop) but it’s true.

Why Motivation Sucks

I don’t like the term “motivation” for several reasons but here’s number one: motivation is at heart an “outside-in” approach.

You seek to find something to spur you to get off your ass and get things done-that’s it.  When approached in this way, it can be anything from a “boot camp” style fitness class with an instructor barking orders at you to conjuring up images of fearful consequences to propel you to act.

If that’s what it takes for you, have at it-just be warned that at some time, this approach will lose its’ edge: you will become desensitized to the yells of Sgt. Hard-Ass and your fear of whatever boogeyman you conjured up for yourself will wane as you begin to see results.  Don’t believe me?  No prob-I have all the proof I need after New Year’s Day in any gym across the country.

Motivation sucks because it is an illusion whose chief problem lies in the fact that, as I said earlier, it is essentially an outside-in approach and that type of approach never has the staying power for lasting change.  Ever.  EVER.

Jet Fuel Vs Charcoal

Motivation is like jet fuel: it burns hot and bright and fierce-then it’s gone.

We need more.

Charcoal on the other hand burns low and slow, but burns white hot and smolders for hours and hours, providing exponentially more heat.

THAT is what we want; we want the “charcoal”of the mind that keeps going and going and provides us with a practically limitless and constant source of inspiration.  Wanna know what is it?  CLARITY.

The shortcut to your Wing Chun skill and improvement lies in CLARITY OF PURPOSE.

Knowing exactly what you want to accomplish and getting very clear on “why” you want to accomplish it is ten times more powerful than learning “how to.”  That’s a fact.

The clearer your focus gets, the more everything else comes into focus.

This is why all those “train for the love of it” type answers are feel-goody and sound wise but are in reality complete shit for getting you where you want to be.  There is no sense of purpose or measurement.  All you are left with is a romantic notion of training next to a waterfall on a mountain and I can tell you that everyone I have met with this attitude is excellent at forms and has the demeanor of a robe-clad Master but would probably get knocked out by the backswing of a heavy bag.

Waves and Ripples

Crystal clear clarity of purpose is powerful because unlike the “outside-in” approach of motivation, it germinates power form within like sound waves or ripples in a pond.  These waves then radiate outward and have no choice but to express themselves through your actions.

Motivation works by force, and when people feel forced they seek out the easiest path-the “how to” path.  This is why the “self-help” section of any bookstore is the most visited.  There are dozens of books that if you follow their instructions will get you what you want but to really do so will require WORK!  Once folks realize that, it’s as if they shut down and need another fix to – you guessed it- “motivate” them, so it’s back to the bookstore and the cycle repeats.

Clarity works in exactly the opposite way.  The clearer you get on WHAT you want, and WHY you want it, the more your actions align.  It’s like a chiropractor for your brain.  It’s so easy to say “get clear on” this or that but maintaining clarity of purpose requires constant refinement and evern more focus each time you train.

Clarity = POWER

Knowledge isn’t power.  Applied knowledge is closer, but it still isn’t power.  The only thing that makes these two things powerful is clarity of purpose.

When you are crystal clear as to WHAT you want from your Wing Chun training and WHY you want it, your training aligns as if by magic.  You don’t have to force a thing-’cause you don’t have to.  The “why” begets the “how,” not the other way around.  This shorctut to turbo-charged effectiveness in self-defense and fighting is in itself a very Wing Chun concept.

Designed Backwards

Grandmaster Wong Shun Leung, patron saint of no-bullshit Wing Chun, self defense and fighting.

Wong Shun Leung, patriarch of my lineage of Wing Chun, had a lifetime of experience in real-world, life or death practical Wing Chun application.  He always said that Wing Chun was designed backwards; that the most advanced and useful aspects of the system were taught first, in the Siu Nim Tau and Cham Kiu forms.  Indeed, I’d say that upwards of  90% of the Wing Chun system is contained within the first two forms. 

After the first 2 forms are learned, The Muk Yan Jong, or wooden dummy form, was taught as a positioning tool to get back into good structure if you screwed up or found yourself momentarily off-kilter.  The Biu Gee form was taught last since it is focused on getting back into the perfect bubble of theory and technique created by the Siu Nim Tau and Cham Kiu.

(For the best resources I have found for learning all of the aspects of these bedrock forms, click HERE).

The pole and knives forms reinforce concept and structure and are taught only after everything else has been learned not because they are the “secret” or “super-advanced” forms but because they can’t reinforce what hasn’t already been learned.

That’s the Wing Chun system in a nutshell.

No extensive curriculum of complex techniques, no secret scrolls on the mountaintop, no esoteric magic- just clarity of purpose and work.  Works for me.

3 Questions To Quicker Wing Chun Skill

Here is one thing you can do to instantly ratchet up your motivation and extract double the benefit from your time spent training.  Give this a try and just watch what happens.

Take a pad of paper or an index card (I prefer index cards since I can use them as bookmarks and can see them more readily all day) and answer these 3 questions:


Answer all 3 in the affirmative.  They must include both an intellectual and emotional element to anchor to your mind and feelings.  It can be something like this:

I train Wing Chun for self-defense and combat readiness.  The end goal of my Wing Chun training is to be able to handle myself in any situation that should arise where I will need to physically protect myself or my loved ones.  It is of the utmost importance that I have both the physical skill and mental confidence & determination to protect my life and the lives of my family because I love them and want to keep them safe and they deserve to have the peace and security of knowing that they are safe and free from worry of harm.  That is why I train and will continue to do so.

Wow-kinda hard to not be motivated to train after reading that a few times throughout the day.

Now contrast that with the standard cookie-cutter response of many when they say, “I train martial arts for inner peace.”  What the f*ck does that mean?  Sorry but that’s about as clear as a South Carolina swamp.  Sounds pretty but that’s about it.   I get inner peace from reading the above statement as to why I train, and then training.

I’ll go so far as to say that if you train martial arts and aren’t comfortable with the reality that,if push comes to shove, you can and would bury your thumbs into someone’s eyeballs or rip away at their face with your bare hands then you don’t have inner peace; your coin has a heads but no tails, and the only coin without both sides is a counterfeit one.

Wise Words from a Bonafide Bad-Ass

Renowned close-quarter self-defense instructor Paul Vunak (circled) with his students from SEAL Team 6 in the late 1980’s. When dudes like this talk about fighting, it’s best to listen.   

Former SEAL Team Six trainer Paul Vunak once said words to the effect that in order to be at peace you must be in touch with your killer instinct.  In order to be kind you must know you can be ruthless.  There is no front without a back.

Revisit your index card often and if you feel that one aspect no longer serves you, rewrite it.  Stay clear, stay focused, stay honest and above all else stay REAL.  This isn’t for anyone else but you.

Get clear on why you train, pick up some contact gear and read your card daily.  It will keep you dialed in to they “why” of your training and in and remember that in any discussion as to training skill improvement, the “whys” have it.


Train Smart, Stay Safe

Sifu Bobby

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