In The Footsteps of the Founder: Wing Chun Training For Women

Training a first-time participant inWing Chun-based close quarter self-defense. Seeing just how tailor made for Wing Chun in all areas-concept, technique, application and even build-women are never ceases to amaze me.

People begin training in the martial arts for any number of reasons.

Some are looking for a new way to exercise; others need a form of stress relief that is more engaging than an elliptical or a treadmill.  Some are drawn to the social aspect of a class environment while others prefer the solitary peace of practicing in their own home.  Some want to feel empowered and prepared to protect and defend themselves while others just like to hit someone without getting arrested.

Whatever reasons for beginning one’s martial journey,all are equally valid.

What most often draws women into the the martial arts are one of two reasons: self empowerment and self defense.  This is where things get a bit unclear-not because of their desire and drive, but because the majority of arts out there quite simply are not effective for self defense the way they are taught today.

That’s My Story (And I’m Sticking To It)

As Wing Chun folks we all know the popular story of Buddhist nun Ng Mui and the origins of the Wing Chun system.  After escaping the burning of the Shaolin Temple, Ng Mui taught her personal system of self defense to Yim Wing Chun, who successfully used the art to fend off the unwanted advances of a warlord who was attempting to force her into marriage.

Now while many (including me) feel that the real origin of Wing Chun has its roots in being a system of close quarter guerrilla warfare to overthrow the Manchu regime who was making life hell for the people of China, the fact remains that what developed was a system that when used the right way renders factors such as size and strength largely moot.

For women especially, the story of Yim Wing Chun resisting the marriage proposal of the warlord is just as applicable today as it was back then; just substitute a rape or sexual assault scenario in place of “marriage” in the above story.

My main beef with most martial arts schools out there lies with their advertising; more specifically the fact that so many prominently advertise “self defense” yet their training is often the furthest thing from it.  Sometimes it’s downright laughable

Putting it bluntly, women seeking martial arts for self defense should not be taught how to throw a reverse punch, perform a flying side kick or how to  put a would-be rapist in an arm lock or heel hook.  No right handed defenses against a left wrist grab and for damn sure no high X block knife disarms.

They should be taught how to go for the eyes, throat and balls.  They should be taught how to cause pain.  They should be taught how to be practical, fierce and mean!

Generally speaking, women tend to be smaller and less physically strong than men.  If I were an attacker and a woman punched me in the face while I was attempting to mug, assault or rape her, chances are she’d just end up pissing me off.  If she were to instead gouge my eyes, claw my face, scrape my shin with her shoe or smack and grab my balls, all of my size and strength goes right out the window.

Women: Nature’s Born Wing Chun Fighters!

If you have ever seen 2 guys fight, it usually follows the following pattern…the staredown, the posturing, back and forth swearing, one guy shoves the other, he shoves back, they clash, then a punch comes.  It’s like watching 2 rams run and butt heads on Animal Planet.

All predatory sucker-punch scenarios aside (which is another animal entirely),  when guys fight it tends to be more about status and perceived dominance.  Watching 2 women get to scrapping, on the other hand, is downright brutal.  They claw, they pull hair, they scratch, they tear, they bite.

Very close-in, very to the point, very Wing Chun.

Now no martial art has the market cornered on combat effectiveness-they can all be trained in a way that addresses the realities of self defense.  As I always say, Wing Chun is not exempt here-far from it!  Wing Chun is based on simplicity, efficiency and directness.  Everyone pays lip service to these core principles but once training begins, many times these ideas are not being expressed and are passed over in favor of flowery, excessive and non-direct motion.

What makes PROPERLY trained Wing Chun such a powerful tool for women is the fact that unlike other martial arts it is based on negating or cancelling out size and strength which makes it the ideal choice for women.

Change This ONE Thing Today For Your Own Safety

That said, changes still need to be made to translate training into preparedness for self defense.  One simple one that can prove to be a game-changer involves substituting the fist for the palm of the hand when defending yourself.

Driving me back from the ground up: the right marriage of structure and technique. Note the position of the hand to then rake the eyes and the right knee loaded to drive up into the balls.

Look at her line of force from the ground as she drives off her rear leg and out her palm.  This body unity is what is reinforced during our forms practice, just applied and expressed in a more dynamic way.  Consider the following photo sequence:


I actually rushed her quickly and she was startled but per our training dropped one leg back, created the kinetic chain from the floor to my chin and drove me back using her structure and purpose.  Not shown was the knee to the balls I got just after this, hence the groin guard I am wearing, which you should always wear in any type of scenario training.  Your nether-regions will thank you.

This is just one example of using Wing Chun in a more combative, realistic scenario.  Does it look like Wing Chun at first glance?  Not really, right?  Look harder.  She is attacking my centerline and displacing my power base while utilizing Wing Chun stepping to preserve her space as she drives forward to attack my attack.

Viewed through the lens of reality, it seems pretty Wing Chun-ish to me.

Do This! (Not That!)

As I stated earlier, for women looking for self defense I do not recommend punching an attacker in the face for 3 reasons:

  • First, punching an attacker in his face without proper training will most likely piss him off, and a proper punch takes much longer to effectively learn and use. We train the chain punch in Wing Chun on the wall bag to reinforce structure and to deliver power to a concentrated area.  What we aim to do in a real life encounter is transfer that structure into a variety of scenarios.
  • Second, most attacks to women occur in a closer range than a proper punch can be delivered.  This is why the way most traditional martial arts including Wing Chun are trained today are more harm than good for women in street self defense scenarios.  Against a bear hug or a quick encroachment, a palm to the chin can be used to preserve structure by driving from the ground and stiff-arming them like the football player on the Heisman Trophy.
  • Third, a punch targets none of the vital areas of the body.  True, a punch hurts and will make the nose bleed and eyes water.  It also has the possibility of damaging your hand especially when hitting a cheekbone or teeth.  A person committed to doing you harm is in a state similar to a drug induced resistance to pain.  Training a palm to the chin coupled with an eye rake, or driving the webbing of the hand between the thumb and index finger into an attacker’s throat not only disrupts his balance but also triggers a very visceral primal response to guard the vitals.  The same can be said for the eyes and balls.
She’s gonna have to work for it, I’m not just gonna give up or give in and let her smack me around! She did great, and got away. I needed 2 ibuprofen later that day.

Ladies, you are tailor-made for Wing Chun.  Just make sure to never let the art become more important than the artist.  Should any thug try to take liberties or make advances towards you, you can then follow in the footsteps of Yim Wing Chun and show this soon-to-be organ donor you are NO ONE’S VICTIM.  Wing Chun will need to be applied differently in the scrappy, messy and chaotic reality of a real-world encounter.  As women, one might be inclined to think that your naturally smaller stature and lack of comparable physical strength to a male might put you at a disadvantage.  I disagree.

You are tailor-made for attacking the vital targets of your attacker.  Adhere to the principles of Wing Chun, adjust the punch for the palm and go for the eyes, throat and balls.  Above all, get ANGRY!  F**k passive thinking, get PISSED and take it out on him.


Train Smart, Stay Safe

Sifu Bobby

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