If you are new to martial arts training, please take time to read this page before looking at specifics. Every teacher makes claims about the effectiveness of their own method, but beginners can easily be sold illusions because of their own ignorance or misunderstandings – about martial arts in general and Kung-Fu in particular. A little bit of understanding will make you a more savvy customer, and you’ll be able to make better decisions about what you want to learn.
On this page I will explain what Kung-Fu is, and what it is not. I will explain some terminology that often causes confusion, and i’ll try to help you to understand enough about Kung-Fu to decide if you want to study the discipline. I hope you do, and I hope you come to me for tuition, but before you start I want you to be clear about what i’m offering.
If you already know about Kung-Fu in general, and Wing Chun Kung-Fu in particular, you may want to skip past this introduction and discover what’s so different & exciting about my own approach to this intelligent fighting art, and the specially-developed, progressive way that knowledge is passed to my students.
The Term “Kung-Fu”
In the western world, we usually use the term Kung-Fu to refer to the Chinese martial arts, however the real meaning of the world encompasses something far greater:
Kung-Fu: Literally, hard work. Any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete. Excellence achieved through long practice in any endeavour.
You can say that a person’s Kung-Fu is good in cooking, or that someone has Kung-Fu in calligraphy, perhaps. Saying that a person possesses Kung-Fu in an area implies skill in that area, which they have worked hard to develop. Someone with “bad Kung-Fu” simply has not put enough time and effort into training, or seems to lack the motivation to do so.
On this website the term Kung-Fu refers to martial arts. However the true definition is good to know, and appropriate to apply in your training, and to all aspects of your life too.
So what are the martial arts?
Martial Arts 101
The term martial arts is a big general description. It encompasses ALL the different approaches which deal with the immediate problems of interpersonal violence.
Please understand that martial arts do not prevent such problems from occurring. They do not solve such problems indefinitely, and they do not equip you to cope with the aftermath of these problems. However if someone is trying to physically cause you harm, then the possession of proper training in a relevant martial discipline will greatly improve your chances of handling the immediate situation.
Martial arts have an important role to play in the wider issue of self-defence – which has nothing at all to do with fighting for sport or entertainment purposes. The ideal self-defence would prevent violent situations from arising in the first place, but this is not easy and everyone can make errors of judgement. Thus it makes sense to seek training in a relevant martial art to better prepare yourself in case things go wrong: Prepare for the worst – hope for the best.
By relevant I mean that not all martial arts are useful for all purposes. There is no such thing as the best martial art, only the best for a given purpose. Kung-Fu is one amongst many, and it’s very easy to become confused if you don’t know what you’re looking for. I regularly encounter people who don’t know the difference between the main types of martial art, and so have ended up going to a kickboxing club (for example) in the mistaken belief that they are learning self-defence skills.
So What Actually Is Kung-Fu?
Kung-Fu is one category of martial art.
Within this category there are many different approaches. Different schools of thought within the same category are known as styles and despite their rich diversity, all styles of Kung-Fu broadly have the following things in common:
Kung-Fu originates from China
The origin of an art is usually the primary defining characteristic. ALL martial arts which originate from China are known as Kung-Fu, regardless of how they have been subsequently developed. If you’d like to study a Chinese martial art, then Kung-Fu is for you.
Kung-Fu is primarily an unarmed discipline
Although many Kung-Fu styles do incorporate weapons, they are usually taught at the end of the training programmes (if at all) once the unarmed syllabus has been mastered. The focus of Kung-Fu is mainly on unarmed vs. unarmed situations, so if you want to focus on how to use your own body, then Kung-Fu is a good choice.
Kung-Fu is primarily a striking discipline
The vast majority of Kung-Fu training uses the various parts of the human body to STRIKE vulnerable areas of an opponent.
Although most Kung-Fu styles do indeed contain many control, restraint, grappling, locking, throwing or manipulating techniques, it is not the primary focus of the discipline. So if you would rather HIT an opponent instead of rolling around on the pavement or dirty pub floor with them, then Kung-Fu is a good choice.
Kung-Fu is not intended for sport
The distinction between martial sports and martial arts is a rich source of controversy & misunderstanding, so let me be very clear – one is not better or harder than the other, the two disciplines simply have different intentions and serve different purposes. Again, it all comes down to what you want, or what you need.
Sports have rules, referees, adjudicators, paying audiences, merchandising, league tables, pre-arranged fixtures, a pre-defined playing area, and pre-defined time-limits. Matches can be won, lost or drawn according to points scored, and despite the extreme nature of many martial sports, a lot of care is taken to ensure the health & safety of the players.
Real violence has none of the above constraints, but many competitors in the martial sports train a lot harder, and push themselves far further than many martial artists ever will. It’s actually a lot harder to win when constrained by rules. The most effective, dangerous options are illegal in martial sports, and if used, will disqualify you from the game. Cause injury, and you lose.
If taught and trained correctly, unarmed martial arts will teach you to understand the vast number of possibilities that exist in unarmed combat. The martial sports will teach you to play and win within a given set of rules. Both will use the tools of the human body, but in different ways and with a different focus. So what are you trying to achieve? If you understand that avoiding a fight, exiting a fight, or at the other extreme, actually inflicting harm upon an opponent are viable options, and you would like to explore the possibilities, then Kung-Fu is a very good choice.
What Kung-Fu Really Isn’t
Kung-Fu is not escapism. It is not recreating the past of another culture, dressing up in silk uniforms or bowing to each other at every opportunity. It is not calling each other by traditional titles, worshipping a master, or unquestioning obedience to ancient rituals.
Kung-Fu is not lines of students at a mountaintop monastery, shouting ‘hii-yaa’ whilst drilling techniques. It is not performing beautiful movements for the sake of aesthetics, and it is not about overcoming multiple armed opponents by unleashing your deadly hidden chi powers.
People expect the above things because their only exposure to Kung-Fu is via films, games and TV shows. If the public has no frame of reference beyond media entertainment, it’s understandable that they might look for such things when trying to find a real Kung-Fu club. It’s also (sadly) understandable that some unscrupulous clubs try to fulfil these martial fantasies in order to gain students. Do not be fooled – such things are not Kung-Fu.
There is nothing wrong with fantasy – by all means play videogames, enjoy action movies, and get involved with local theatre companies, drama groups or historical re-enactment societies. You’ll have loads of fun, you’ll meet lots of like-minded people, and – most importantly – you’ll probably be sensible and run when confronted with real violence.
A false sense of your own abilities can be a very dangerous thing. The only thing worse than no martial training is false martial training. Kung-Fu is a real martial art, but only when taught and trained properly.
If you hope to improve your chances of prevailing in real-life self-defence situations, understanding the realities of violence, and eventually mastering yourself, then come study a real martial art.
So What Is Wing Chun Kung-Fu?
To answer this question, i’m going to draw an analogy between martial arts and motor vehicles: As I have stated above, Kung-Fu is a category of martial art – just like Cars are a category of motor vehicle.
Just as there are many different designs of car, there are also many different types of Kung-Fu. These are known as styles.
The art we call “Wing Chun” is one very popular style of Kung-Fu, just as “Small Family Hatchbacks” are one very popular design of car.
Every manufacturer has their own ideas about the best way to build such cars, which leads to many different designs of Small Family Hatchbacks on the market. Some are cheaper, some are more expensive, some are very basic, and some have high specifications.
Similarly, every Wing Chun instructor, school, club and organisation has their own approach to the art. This has led to many different schools of thought within the Wing Chun style of Kung-Fu.
However just as most cars share certain features, so most styles of Wing Chun share certain characteristics. On the following pages I present an overview of the history and characteristics of the Wing Chun Kung-Fu style in general, whilst the specifics of my own approach – the Federation Wing Tsun System – are presented on the rest of this website.