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