Getting this new year started off right, I chose to revisit a resource I have come to rely on as my unofficial “bible” for all things related to my own personal Wing Chun practice in the hopes that you may glean some of the massive benefits I have received as well in your own training.
I have said in other posts that the majority of the books I read and recommend to others in order to improve one’s ability in Wing Chun especially as it relates to how and why Wing Chun works for self defense and the street have nothing to do with Wing Chun.
A large part of that reason has to do with the fact that I have been consistently reading and re-reading one book on Wing Chun which covers all aspects of the system from both a conceptual and technical view and does so with such depth and attention to detail that the only way to ensure that you’re soaking up all the juice is to keep reading and re-reading it. It is the single best book on Wing Chun out there.
The book is Look Beyond the Pointing Finger: The Combat Philosophy of Wong Shun Leung and the author is Sifu David Peterson.
Wanna know how and WHY Wing Chun works? Read this book. Over and over.
In daily practice I find myself consistently revisiting this little book. It contains the “meat and potatoes” of Wing Chun training, especially as it pertains to combat, fighting and all things personal protection-related.
It’s not a big book by any stretch but don’t let that fool you. It’s jammed with good stuff and tons of real-world anecdotes and articulations on the late Grandmaster Wong Shun Leung’s approach to fighting and combat in general, both for the street against muggers, rapists and thieves as well as for combat sports. It is no secret amonst Wing Chun folks that Wong Shun Leung was Bruce Lee’s direct teacher under Grandmaster Ip Man and many of Bruce’s ideas as well as the core philosophy of his art of Jeet Kune Do was a direct result of his time spent training under Wong. Once you start reading thsi book, you’ll soon see why.
Warning: If you’re looking for a book that shows you “how to” do the forms, or where your big toe should be lined up during this section of the wooden dummy, this isn’t it. Its’ content much more important-especially if you ever plan on, you know, actually having to (God forbid) USE your training one day! In the words of its’ author, Sifu David Peterson, this book is not a “how to do” this or that book; it is a “how to think” book.
Miyagi Knew Better!
In The Karate Kid, my favorite movie, there is a scene where Mr. Miyagi comes to Daniel’s apartment to fix a leaky faucet and is watching him, freshly bruised from his latest round of Cobra Kai ass-beatings, perform halfhearted kicks while reading an instructional book on karate.
Feigning interest, Miyagi asks if he is learning karate from a book but it is obvious he doesn’t think much of this way of learning. Why? Probably because he knows that the technique is secondary to mentality; in other words, when the mindset is right, the techniques are valid and worthwhile.
Miyagi, in his infinte ass-kicker wisdom, knows that without the understanding of the art’s principles, concepts and techniques especially as they relate to simple, effective and practical self-defense all you have left is a slightly more dangerous version of an Olivia Newton John music video which, coincidentally, is about as intimidating as Daniel looks, counting the kicks off and obviously thinking that mere repetition is going to transform him into a lethal weapon. Wrong.
The more you delve into serious study of Wing Chun, the more you realize that the “technique”books are the least helpful once you know the technique and your foundation is at least functionally sound. The real shortcut to using your Wing Chun on the street for self defense or in combat sports lies in knowing that if you have the right mentality you can learn anything else.
How To Read This Book
I think I’ve beaten the “need for conceptual understanding” horse dead enough so here’s how you should approach this book:
- First, read the book from front to back in blocks of 15-20 minutes a day. That way you can fully digest all of the little gems stuck in its’ pages.
- Once you have read the book twice, flip to an arbitrary section and read for approx. 5 minutes or long enough to absorb one concrete idea or concept.
- Apply that idea or concept to the day’s training.
- Once a year, start the process over again.
If you do this, it won’t take long for your subconscious mind to begin downloading the contents of the book into your muscle memory. Do yourself a favor: Pick it up and read it in the manner I suggest ’till it falls apart. Then go pick up another one and keep going.
This book has shaped how I train and teach the art and has guided the direction of my own training as well as that of my students since I first read it, and for senior students under my tutelage this book is mandatory reading.
Like I said at the beginning: wanna know why Wing Chun works? Read this. Over and over.
Train Smart, Stay Safe