3 Ranges of Our Wing Chun
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.
Short range is the range that is most associated with Wing Chun, even with those who are only remotely familiar with the style. This close range infighting is very advanced and can only be properly learned, practiced, and understood after the longer range concepts are fully grasped. This distance is also commonly known as trapping range. In Wing Chun we practice sticky hands, or chi sau for this.
The way my teacher taught me sticky hands is totally different from the other Wing Chun families that I have seen in person and on the internet.
First, the preliminary training for long range and mid range techniques teaches students in our family to close the gap, move in and "stick" to our opponent. Easier said than done. We spend a great deal of time perfecting our mobility, foot work, not wasting movements, stamina, speed, timing and agility.
This is the forward energy often mentioned in Wing Chun but hardly understood. Students in our family "bug the opponent like a bee or a fly or a hummingbird". Starting from a distance, as most confrontations do, and then ending up "too close for comfort to the opponent".
Every technique we use, every weapon we use, and every principle we follow carries this spirit. The close range principle is easily understood by soft style practitioners, but it seems to be mysterious to some Wing Chun artists. I will adress this later because it is very fundamental.
Once after sparring 3 or 4 people in a row, Sifu asked me, "Now, what do you think you can do better next time?" I thought for a second. Then I said,"Workout harder!", because I was completely out of breath. He said, "Hmm...no that's not it...once you get in, you don't know what to do!" At this point I am familiar with the long and medium ranges but the short range I have yet to master. We differ from other families of Wing Chun because we spend so much effort to close in, bypass the weapon and trap it that it puts our mind in a different place for applying finishing techniques. I don't see other families practice this. Im not speculating about their training per se, I mean that watching them fight they lose all other Wing Chun principles because they don't have this one.
My teacher says sticky hands is a fragmented part of Wing Chun training. There is more to Wing Chun than just that. As a result, Wing Chun has gotten a bad reputation for only looking good but with no practicality. That's why people try to mix it with Muay Thai or some other hard style of boxing when it comes to real fight training.
Everyone who practices martial arts, has had a few fights, or is fairly intelligent when they start martial arts always gets the idea to take the best stuff from every style and create their own personal superstyle. In fact this is how martial arts evolves. But most people are not qualified to do this for one reason. In order to get the best from every style you practice requires years of training. But most people study only short while, or even worse they study for years but never fully grasp the principles and never master the style. So when they take from the style they only end up taking a few moves or techniques; never carrying with them the spirit, the essence of the style.
They dont get "the best stuff".
In our family one of our founders, Fung Siu Ching, incorporated Tai Chi grappling into our Wing Chun. Many people practice some form of Tai Chi and some form of Wing Chun and try to mix the two. So what makes ours different?
Well, Master Fung was well known to be a very experienced general, marshall and bounty hunter for the Qing. He had real hand to hand combat skill for most of his life. He knew Tai Chi grappling probably better than he knew his wife. It was in him, it was a part of him. A soft, internal style principle that is our Kung Fu is internal--its in your soul, your DNA. Many readers frown on the Wing Chun and Tai Chi relationship, and confuse us with some of the masters who add Tai Chi technigues into their Wing Chun techniques like adding apples and oranges together.
Some swear that Fung had studied Shaolin Crane Style (Shaolin practitioners have said this). Most of them have never heard that Ng Mui was from Aumei White Crane Cave (stated by the Master of Lost Track style in the book Lost Track Style Kung Fu and Master Sum Nung). The Aumei Pi style of Kung Fu is actually a family of many mixed styles of Shaolin and Wudong, by many masters of the two, over hundreds of years! It became a new fruit! Back to my point.
Closing the gap in our Wing Chun is similar to Xing Yi and Tai Chi principles. In both styles the master gets close. In Xing Yi they close in. In Tai Chi they allow the opponent to close in. We do similarly but still different. We move forward in a yielding manner. Once in close, short range, trapping range, the most deadly, powerful, accurate finishing blows are executed. In this range we also differ from other Wing Chun families because we emphasize much more stand up grappling, White Crane sweeping and throwing, take downs, and breaks.