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No-Bullshit Wing Chun Training Tips Wing Chun’s TOP SECRET Weapon: Applying The Discerning Mindset to Self-Defense, Fighting and Combat Sports

Wing Chun’s TOP SECRET Weapon: Applying The Discerning Mindset to Self-Defense, Fighting and Combat Sports


Performing the first form, Siu Nim Tau (my hands-down favorite thing to train in the entire Wing Chun system) at one of countless Chinese New Year performances. This form is where the mindset of Wing Chun is first cultivated and later sharpened.

One of the most the most underrated benefits of Wing Chun lies in the mindset and mentality it develops in you; in my opinion, a discerning mindset is the one that will carry you farthest in life, not just in your martial arts, self defense or combat sports training. 

Think of the following scenario:

Imagine walking to your car from the local supermarket and suddenly realizing you absent-mindedly put a Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cup from the dollar rack in your pocket while you were walking through the store, fully intending to pay for it. Honest mistake, right? You walk back in, explain what happened, laugh at your scatter-mindedness with the clerk, flip them a buck and go on about your day.  Easy fix.

Now suppose that you are driving home in a blizzard when you realize this.

If you are the kind of person that would turn around and drive back to miles in a blizzard or torrential downpour just to pay a dollar for this because you think to yourself, “it was the right thing to do,” you are either a recent parolee or a well-meaning person with a piss-poor discerning mindset. 


Suppose in doing so you cause an accident that will cost you $1,500.  Would you risk all that to be able to say to yourself, “well at least I paid for what I had; it was the right thing to do.”  That is an example of pride getting in the way of clear situational thinking – and this is exactly the kind of split-second decision making the Wing Chun mentality is designed for.

Common Sense in a Combative Sense

The Wing Chun mentality recognizes when it is best to take stock of the pros and cons of a situation and cut one’s losses by continuing home rather than cause a probable or even potential accident and thousands of dollars of damage for the pride and self-righteous satisfaction of paying for the whopping $1 candy bar.  The Wing Chun mindset assesses whether or not the risk is too great and if it is, the Wing Chun mentality takes note of this and will always be more cognizant to avoid such a repeat.

Because this is not a physical attribute, the discerning mindset of Wing Chun is probably the one aspect of training that takes the longest to develop. That makes complete sense since we tend to first learn physical skills and only after mastering physical skills do we begin to understand the non-physical aspect of them.

Baby Steps and Soccer Matches

A clear example of this is the act of walking.  As a child you learn to stand up, balance, put one foot in front of the other and move. You’re not thinking of situations when to move or how to move; you’re just focused on moving.

The mindset of Wing Chun when viewed in this context is akin to learning how to walk and then run (in this case, the physical techniques and skills of Wing Chun) and then much later learning how, when, where and and in what specific way to apply the skills of such movement (i.e. the Wing Chun mindset of discernment and judgement) to a situation that requires a high degree of decision-making such as playing a soccer match (a self-defense scenario or MMA match). 

The Wing Chun mindset is geared towards self-defense. in fact I’d go so far as to say that if you do not develop that aspect of your Wing Chun training, you will never unlock the secrets of fighting. This not only translates over into self defense for the street but also into combat sports such as kickboxing and MMA since both require a high degree of mental preparation and the proper mindset and mentality.

3 Ways to Sharpen Your Mental Razor

Try these 3 drills to sharpen your sense of discernment and situational awareness as it pertains to Wing Chun and how to apply the system in an  impartial, results-driven way for success in sparring, combat sports like MMA or full-contact fighting and most importantly, for self-defense and personal protection.

  • Form Focus.  When practicing your forms – especially the first form, Siu Nim Tau – pay particular attention to your stance, the inward tension on your inner thighs, your waist and the forward pressure from your elbow. Your stance should be solid and rooted and the inward tension on your thighs should be present, but not to the point of strain. Remember this is not an exercise in isometric tension; it is an exercise in developing body unity.  The hips should be tucked and your pelvis slightly popped forward.  The back should be slouched slightly, the chest should be concaved and the shoulders rounded to give the body an “S” curvature. This is imperative since this will allow your body to become a conduit of force.  When focusing on these attributes pay particular attention to how they FEEL in your body; once you understand and are familiar with the FEELING of all of these specific points you no longer have to think about them you can feel them, but it will allow your mind to right away discern or judge whether or not your structure is on point or not. In this way your mind is discerning good structure from bad structure from the get-go before anything is done. This is where the key to Wing Chun mindset starts. 

  • Engage in Deliberate Practice.  Just about everyone is familiar with the Rule of 10,000.  If you haven’t heard of this it simply means that it takes ten thousand hours of practice or 10,000 repetitions of an activity (I have heard both) to master a skill. What the idea of “deliberate practice” means is that you can drastically cut down this curve by practicing with the intention of improving. If you’re practicing your Wing Chun chain punch, for example, practice with the intention of developing a stronger punch; practice with the intention of slicing through an opponent’s attack to deliver one of your own in a econ more economical and efficient way. In doing this you are not only reinforcing the technique itself but you are reinforcing the constant refinement and improvement of the technique. You are seeking the most simple, direct and efficient shortcut to improve skill.  Don’t look now but I think you’re developing the Wing Chun mentality in a very Wing Chun way. One of the easiest ways to reinforce the chain punch is by “chest sparring.”  Simply don a pair of MMA gloves  and set a Timer for 30 seconds to 1 minute rounds, then try to punch your opponent in the cheSt in such a way that your punch not only meets its’ mark but also cuts an angle to deflect your opponent’s punch from hitting yours. Watch your time spent training yield much more fruitful results…see what happens from deliberate practice? Told you so.

See how the right equipment makes or breaks the reality aspect of any drill?


  • Never allow personal preferences as to style or lineage override the reality of personal protection self-defense and human combat. This is a dangerous one.  Anyone who trains in martial art for any length of time at some point has tended to view the parameters of self-defense according to the basic principles of their art. This is one of the most basic human functions in that we tend to assume that other people share our values. We view as weird or wrong that which is not familiar to us. It’s completely wrong and grossly inaccurate but it’s also very human. In self-defense or martial arts, there is a tendency to tend to view how a situation will happen or what. An attacker will do based on the way in which we trained. once we recognize our minds as humans are wired we can immediately change this by adopting a more discerning mindset in so far as the realities of self-defense. Are. Wing Chun as a style please no favorites and has no preferences. Look at the way the forms are done:  completely bilaterally, first left then right, exactly the same.  Wing Chun does not mimic anything; it does not try to conform to the way an animal moves or anything like that. Wing Chun literally applies the same techniques in the same manner on both the left and the right side in order to avoid a mindset of of preference and to instill in the practitioner the mentality of having no preconceived ideas or expectations. 

This guy doesn’t give a shit if I have a black belt or a seat belt; he just wants to hurt me. I must respond mentally the same way. Rank, belts and certificates go out the window at this point: how I train and can apply my art means everything. Again, whether or not it "looks" like Wing Chun in the moment is immaterial.  Closest weapon to closest target is the order of the day.  We get there by developing the Wing Chun "discerning mindset."

Bruce and the Way of the Wooden Doll

Again, Bruce Lee’s famous quote on the nature of combat and self-defense rings more true today than ever:

Turn into a doll made of wood: it has no ego, it thinks nothing, it is not grasping or sticky. Let the body and limbs work themselves out in accordance with the discipline they have undergone.

Wing Chun is designed for one thing: efficiency in combat. 

This is why the system itself is very small curriculum-wise; it is also why once the student has learned the first and second forms along with the wooden dummy they’re 90% through the system itself – not  because Wing Chun is lacking anything, but because Wing Chun is, paraphrasing Grandmaster Wong Shun Leung, whose system of Wing Chun is my root and base, designed in reverse. 

Designed Backward To Propel You Forward

Wing Chun’s structure is unique among martial arts in that it is effectively designed in reverse.  This “reverse engineering” is what serves us best in making Wing Chun work on the street in a self defense scenario, or in the MMA or full-contact sports arena.  Now it goes without saying that much training and modification will be needed to apply Wing Chun to the sports of MMA or kickboxing, for example, but once the mindset is locked in, the physical approach is a matter of altering and adjusting technique.  Believe me, the physical part is the easier of the 2 to align and train.  Here is the 10 second version of how and why Wing Chun works as it does:

  • The most important and applicable things are taught in the first form, Siu Nim Tau, to be reinforced the most. 
  • In order to do the second form, Cham Kiu, you need to have a firm solid grasp for the first form in a stationary position in order to apply these techniques and ideas from the second form perspective of being mobile.
  • The third form, Biu Jee, comprises specific “what-if” scenario tricks to get you within the proper 180-degree realm of the first and second form so that if you ever find yourself out of the 180 degree comfort zone of the first two forms (from left shoulder to right shoulder) i.e., if someone traps your arm or gets out the outside of your 180 degree frontal position, you can apply techniques from the third form to recalibrate and get back into your “wheelhouse.”
  • The weapons forms, both the 6-1/2 point pole (luk dim boon gwun) and butterfly swords (baat jaam do), are conceptual reinforcements of basic principles tracing all the way back to the Siu Nim Tau form.
  • These principles are then applied and reinforced through chi sau, gor sau sparring and self defense training, and can be applied for sports such as MMA or kickboxing with training modifications.

That’s the Wing Chun gameplan in a nutshell.  In all stages, the hidden gem for either for street self-defense or in the combat sports arena is the mind. The Wing Chun mindset is your ultimate back pocket secret weapon for any fight you find yourself in, be at in the street, the ring or in life (this one warrants its own series of posts alone). 

A discerning mindset: this is the true secret of Wing Chun.  Train it accordingly and watch everything improve; neglect it and it’s going to be a long day for you, my friend.


Train Smart, Stay Safe

Sifu Bobby



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