3 Ranges of Our Wing Chun

By John Paul

Wing Chun is typically known as just a short range style. It is for this reason that many martial artists frown upon the style, many fail to master it, and many practice its forms and sticky hands but when they fight they look like they use another style such as kick boxing.

Mid and Long range wing chun is as elusive as my teacher's hands during sparring! To most people its unheard of. It wasn't until I met Sifu Tom Wong that I began to understand the signifigance of every Wing Chun principle and saw how they all fit in order. Only by organizing the ranges can one successfuly use Wing Chun as a fully comprehensive kung fu style, devote lifelong study to it, and rely on it to save your life.

18 weapons, 3 ranges, supplemental training and exercise, and one or more core "weapons of mass destruction" (one inch power) qualify any collection of techniques to be a bonafide kung fu style.

In my experience, after some time in Taekwondo and Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate--and after mastering its principles, I wanted to learn a style that was more comprehensive with more ranges. Grappling, sweeping, throwing, weapons, locks and breaks. Hapkido or Hwa Rang Do seemed to be a natural progression because the kicks and punches are basically the same as Taekwondo because their both Korean styles. These styles present a crude hard style example of the idea Sifu's Kung Fu carries.

Its basically the theme of martial arts in the past 15 or so years since mixed martial arts started to gain notoriety. It was this background that prepared my mind to comprehend Wing Chun in all ranges and to notice how much faster, safer, easier, executed with less force, and more deadly they are. In my experience after years with Sifu I sum up Kung Fu ranges to be long range, mid range and short range/trapping/grappling range.

The order in which they are listed and the fact that there are only three are fundamental to Wing Chun. I focus on Wing Chun because it is our "mother" art and the others are not so much complimentary to but....wing chun is the basis of our Kung Fu (Sifu also teaches us Tai Chi, Shaolin Di Su aka ground fighting skills, and Qigong). Tai Chi is like the Old Testament and Wing Chun is the New Testament...they are the same but Wing Chun in many ways is a faster, more assuming, fulfilling grandson of "Supreme Ultimate Boxing". Wing chun is a little Tao Chi. In my experience everything i learn about Tai Chi, Bagua, or Xing Ui makes Wing Chun make sense even more.

First Long range. To me this is probably the most important and first range to master, it is this range that sifu spends the most time on and it is here that the 12 San Sik are most important and are focused on. For this reason the first weapon we study is the spear, and the shorter weapons last. When we learn inch power we learn long range power then shorten it up. In a fight, it starts long range and the opponents close in from all sides. In a real life battle situation, threats close in from the outside. With that in mind we focus on long range first, foremost and fundamentally. Long range weapons and techniques usually require greater reach, better accuracy.

Unlike some other Wing Chuns that have no mid range my teacher also goes in depth with this range. I think this might be his favorite range. It is also the hardest to master in my opinion--weapons in this range are the most powerful and they can effectively be fairly long and protracted to be short. They are also extremely fast. Probably just as fast as short weapons but with much greater chopping and slashing power. Pudao and the two handed straight sword (Sifu's favorite sword), 9 ring double broad swords, and single broadsword.

In the short range, it is here that we find sticky hands and the most deadly, and powerful weapons. This range is advanced and require years of training, a strong body with good mechanics for soft style--meaning a fundamental expert understanding of the torso as the power generator. In close range, Sifu's white crane sweep from 4 direction while throwing his partner amuses many experience students.

To be continued...