Below are five sets of Wing Chun principles from respected sources.
A cursory search of the internet shows many different sets of principles originate from different schools. This shows how varied the art is and you only have to look at videos from different places to see have the various schools of thought have developed independently.
Wikipedia citing Robert Chu, Leung Ting, etal
Many Wing Chun lineages emphasise fighting on the outside of the opponent rather than facing them head on. Such a position could be described as standing at an angle where the Wing Chun practitioner can strike with both their arms, while their opponent can only strike with one of their own arms due to poor positioning. This is often referred to as "taking the blindside" or "fighting on the outside gate".
Balance, structure and stance
Some Wing Chun practitioners believe that the person with better body structure will win. A correct Wing Chun stance is like a piece of bamboo, firm but flexible, rooted but yielding. This structure is used to either deflect external forces or redirect them.
Balance is related to structure because a well-balanced body recovers more quickly from stalled attacks and structure is maintained. Wing Chun trains the awareness of one's own body movement derived from muscular, tendon, and articular sources. Performing Wing Chun's forms such as Chum Kiu or the Wooden Dummy form greatly improve proprioception. Wing Chun favours a high, narrow stance with the elbows kept close to the body. Within the stance, arms are positioned across the vitals of the centerline. Shifting or turning within a stance is carried out variantly on the heels, balls, or middle (K1 or Kidney 1 point) of the foot depending on lineage. All attacks and counter-attacks are initiated from this firm, stable base. Wing Chun rarely compromises structure for more powerful attacks because this is believed to create defensive openings which may be exploited.
Structure is viewed as important, not only for reasons of defense, but also for attack. When the practitioner is effectively "rooted", or aligned so as to be braced against the ground, the force of the hit is believed to be far more devastating. Additionally, the practice of "settling" one's opponent to brace them more effectively against the ground aids in delivering as much force as possible to them.[
Softness (via relaxation) and performing techniques in a relaxed manner, is fundamental to Wing Chun.
Tension reduces punching speed and power. Muscles act in pairs in opposition to each other (e.g. biceps and triceps). If the arm is tensed, maximum punching speed cannot be achieved as the biceps will be opposing the extension of the arm. In Wing Chun, the arm should be relaxed before beginning the punching motion.
Unnecessary muscle tension wastes energy and causes fatigue.
Tense, stiff arms are less fluid and sensitive during trapping and Chi Sau.
A tense, stiff limb provides an easy handle for an opponent to push or pull with, whereas a relaxed limb provides an opponent less to work with.
A relaxed, but focused, limb affords the ability to feel "holes" or weaknesses in the opponent's structure (see Sensitivity section). With the correct forwarding these "holes" grant a path into attacking the opponent.
Muscular struggle reduces a fight to who is stronger. Minimum brute strength in all movement becomes an equalizer in uneven strength confrontations. This is very much in the spirit of the tale of Ng Mui.
While the existence of a "central axis" concept is unified in Wing Chun, the interpretation of the centerline concept itself is not. Many variations exist, with some lineages defining anywhere from a single "centerline" to multiple lines of interaction and definition. Traditionally the centerline is considered to be the vertical axis from the top of a human's head to the groin. The human body's prime striking targets are considered to be on or near this line, including eyes, nose, throat, solar plexus, stomach, pelvis and groin.
Wing Chun techniques are generally "closed", with the limbs drawn in to protect the central area and also to maintain balance. In most circumstances, the hands do not move beyond the vertical circle that is described by swinging the arms in front, with the hands crossed at the wrists. To reach outside this area, footwork is used. A large emphasis and time investment in training Chi Sau exercise emphasizes positioning to dominate this centerline. The stance and guard all point at or through the center to concentrate physical and mental intent of the entire body to the one target.
Wing Chun practitioners attack within this central area to transmit force more effectively, since it targets the "core center" (or "mother line", another center defined in some lineages and referring to the vertical axis of the human body where the center of gravity lies). For example, striking an opponent's shoulder will twist the body, dispelling some of the force and weakening the strike, as well as compromising the striker's position. Striking closer to the center transmits more force directly into the body.
Due to the emphasis on the centerline, the straight punch (straight left / straight right) is the most common strike in Wing Chun. However, the principle of simultaneous attack and defense (simplified Chinese: 连消带打; traditional Chinese: 連消帶打; Cantonese Yale: lìhn sīu daai dá; literally: "linking cancel and attack") suggests that all blocking movements should be accompanied with a simultaneous strike when possible. This allows for the opponent to be put on the defensive faster, and thus allowing the Wing Chun practitioner to defeat the opponent quicker by countering as soon as possible (ideally on the opponents first strike). Other explicit examples of punches can be found in the Chum Kiu and Biu Ji forms (both uppercut and hook punches), although these punches may appear to be superficially different they are simply the result of the punch beginning from a different origin position while following the same fundamental idea, to punch in a straight line following the shortest distance between the fist and the opponent.
The punch is the most basic and fundamental in Wing Chun and is usually thrown with the elbow down and in front of the body. Depending on the lineage, the fist is held anywhere from vertical to horizontal (palm side up). The contact points also vary from the top two knuckles, to the middle two knuckles, to the bottom three knuckles. Punches do not turn at the wrist as a primal directive is economy of motion and this would create two distinct motions for a single movement.
When executing the punch, one must relax and not use the shoulders or activate the trapezius muscles. The punch comes from the center, Kyun Yau Sam Faat (simplified Chinese: 拳由心发; traditional Chinese: 拳由心發; Cantonese Yale: kyùhn yàuh sām faat; literally: "punch starts from the heart"). This maxim (punching from the centre of the chest) is used primarily in training, however in application the punch can originate from any location.
Wing Chun primarily encourages using both "low elbow power" (power generated from thrusting the arm forward viscously at the target while keeping the elbows pointed down), along with "hip power" (power generated from a quick "rotation" of the hips). The combination of these two methods of power generation results in a powerful strike
Wing Chun favours the vertical punch for several reasons:
Directness. The punch is not "loaded" by pulling the elbow behind the body. The punch travels straight towards the target from the guard position (hands are held in front of the chest).
Protection. The elbow is kept low to cover the front midsection of the body. It is more difficult for an opponent to execute an elbow lock/break when the elbow occupies this position. This aids in generating power by use of the entire body structure rather than only the arm to strike. Also with the elbow down, it offers less opening for the body to be attacked while the forearm and punch intercept space towards the head and upper body.
Strength and Impact. Wing Chun practitioners believe that because the elbow is behind the fist during the strike, it is thereby supported by the strength of the entire body rather than just a swinging fist, and therefore has more impact. A common analogy is a baseball bat being swung at someone's head (a round-house punch), as opposed to the butt end of the bat being thrust forward into the opponent's face (wing chun punch), which would cause far more damage than a glancing hit and is not as easy to evade. Many skilled practitioners pride themselves on being able to generate "short power" or large amount of power in a short space. A common demonstration of this is the "one-inch punch", a punch that starts only an inch away from the target yet delivers an explosive amount of force. This is a principle example of a coiled strike in which multiple abdominal muscles can contribute to the punching power while being imperceptible to the attacker. It is a common misconception that "one-inch punches" utilize a snapping of the wrist.
Alignment & Structure. Because of Wing Chun's usage of stance, the vertical punch is thus more suitable. The limb directly in front of the chest, elbow down, vertical nature of the punch coupled with a snap twisting of the waist requires a practitioner's body to naturally untwist or release before the rebound of the punch. This effectively demonstrates an understanding of the equal and opposite force reactions attributed to Newtonian Physics. This is a desirable trait to a Wing Chun practitioner because it promotes the use of the entire body structure to generate power and prevents wrist injury or being pushed away by the high degree of forward power being reflected.
Kicks can be explicitly found in the Chum Kiu and Muk Jong forms, though some have made interpretations of small leg movements in the Siu Nim Tau and Biu Ji to contain information on kicking as well. Depending on lineage, a beginner is often introduced to basic kicking before learning the appropriate form. Traditionally, kicks are kept below the waist. This is characteristic of southern Chinese martial arts, in contrast to northern systems which utilize many high kicks.
Kicks in Wing Chun are mostly directed at the lower half of the body. Wing Chun kicks are designed to knock an opponent off balance, break their leg, or to bring an opponent on their knees.
Variations on a front kick are performed striking with the heel. The body may be square and the knee and foot are vertical on contact (Chum Kiu), or a pivot may be involved with the foot and knee on a plane at an angle (Muk Jong). At short distances this can become a knee. A roundhouse kick is performed striking with the shin in a similar manner to the Muay Thai version with most of the power coming from the body pivot. This kick is usually used as a finisher at closer range, targeting anywhere between the ribs and the back of the knee, this kick can also become a knee at close range. Other kicks include a stamping kick (Muk Jong) for very close range and a sweep performed with the heel in a circular fashion.
Every kick is both an attack and defence, with legs being used to check incoming kicks or to take the initiative in striking through before a more circular kick can land. Kicks are delivered in one movement directly from the stance without chambering/cocking.
Types of Kicks include:
Front Kick, Side Kick, Roundhouse Kick (usually delivered to the ribs or thigh), Shovel Kick (A kick that targets the knee/shin), Spinning Back Kick, Sweep.
Elbows and Knees
Wing Chun relies heavily on elbow strikes at close range. Common targets for elbows include the chest, chin, head, and face. Elbow strikes are delivered in a manner similar to Muay Thai, using the whole body and turning of the hips to generate power.
Elbow strikes include: Rising elbow (6 to 12) Horizontal elbow Kneeling elbow (12 to 6) Reversing elbow Spinning elbow strikes
Knees are delivered also, usually in a clinching position, but some Sifus also teach entering with flying knee strikes to bridge the distance.
Wing Chun techniques are uncommitted. This means that if the technique fails to connect, the practitioner's position or balance is less affected. If the attack fails, the practitioner is able to "flow" easily into a follow-up attack. All Wing Chun techniques permit this. Any punches or kicks can be strung together to form a "chain" of attacks. According to Wing Chun theory, these attacks, in contrast to one big attack, break down the opponent gradually causing internal damage. Chained vertical punches are a common Wing Chun identifier.
Trapping skills and sensitivity
The Wing Chun practitioner develops reflexes within the searching of unsecured defenses through use of sensitivity. Training through Chi Sau with a training partner, one practices the trapping of hands. When an opponent is "trapped", he or she becomes immobile.
Yip Man philosophy:
Greet what arrives, escort what leaves and rush upon loss of contact (來留去送，甩手直衝)
Wing Chun teaches practitioners to advance quickly and strike at close range. While the Wing Chun forward kick can be considered a long range technique, many Wing Chun practitioners practice "entry techniques"—getting past an opponent's kicks and punches to bring them within range of Wing Chun's close range repertoire. This means that theoretically, if the correct techniques are applied, a shorter person with a shorter range can defeat a larger person by getting inside their range and attacking them close to their body.
Grandmaster Jim Fung
In his 'blue book', Wing Chun Kung Fu, Grandmaster Jim Fung described the Wing Chun system as consisting of a logical and comprehensive set of principles, which he defined as:
· Economy of movement
· Minimum use of brute strength.
· Eric Oram discussing principles from William Cheung
· Kick No Higher than the Waist Area
· The primary reason for this principle is the maintenance of your balance. The shorter the time your kicking leg is in the air, the longer it can be on the ground providing you with a balanced stance.
· Another reason is target vulnerability. The longer and higher your leg is off the ground, the more vulnerable your groin is. If you kick at a low target, your leg returns to the ground more quickly, where it can return to protecting your groin.
· Your supporting leg is also more vulnerable to attack when you kick high.
· Maintain your Balance
· Balance is everything. Without it, nothing else really matters. Power in blocking, punching, striking and kicking begins with good balance. Leverage - especially in upright fighting systems - comes from balance. Without balance, energy cannot be pushed up from your stance and released through a movement or technique.
· An effective stance is a mobile stance. Balance should be part of that mobility. If balance is always there, you can freely interrupt your movement at any time and flow into virtually any other movement - and have constant access to the power of the first movement. This freedom is crucial to success in fighting.
· Avoid any unnecessary leaning or over-extension of your stance because it will slow you down and make you vulnerable to being knocked off-balance.
· Protect Your Centreline
· The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Use your guard to protect the straight path to your body's centre. Own it, protect it. That is where you live: don't stray too far from home.
· By occupying a position along the shortest path between you and your opponent, you force him to take a longer path to reach you. Because distance translates into time, the longer it takes for him to reach you, the longer you have to identify the movement and allow your defensive reflexes to work for you.
· Watch your Opponent's Elbow
· Quite simply, if a person's arm moves, so does his elbow. Therefore, your opponent's striking arm cannot reach you without its elbow coming with it. The elbow is father away than the fist and is easier to read because watching it does not strain the eye like watching the closer fist does.
· In addition, because it is farther away, the elbow moves more slowly than the fist and is easier to read. In a linear attack, the elbow moves approximately two and one half times more slowly than the fist. In a circular attack, the elbow moves approximately four times more slowly.
· Again, distance translates into time: The longer you can follow the path of the strike - by detecting it sooner - the longer you have to let your reflexes work for you.
· The usefulness of this principle is enhanced when you keep in mind that the knee is to the leg as the elbow is to the arm.
· Fight on the Blind Side
· In traditional Wing Chun, the outside of the opponent's lead arm is called his "blind side". This is where you want to position yourself because it allows you to stay the maximum distance away from his opposite arm. That means you have to deal with only one arm at a time.
· Again, distance equals time. If you achieve the blind-side position and your opponent tries to reach you with his rear hand, it takes longer; that gives you more time to react. Also, your opponent may cross his arms as he tries to reach with his opposite hand, and that will leave him susceptible to being trapped.
· The objective is to ensure that you have free use of both your arms while you limit your opponent to the use of one. Avoid positioning yourself directly in front of him because you will be threatened by both arms and both legs.
· Train to See Everything
· The simplest way to see "everything" is to look at one thing. This may sound like a Zen riddle, but it's not. If you try to watch literally everything, chances are you will end up seeing nothing.
· So where should you look? As stated before, you should start with your opponent's lead elbow because it is part of his nearest weapon. By focusing on the nearest weapon, you will be able to detect the most immediate threat. Anything other than the most immediate threat will take longer to reach you, thus giving you more time to react.
· If your eyes lock onto your opponent's lead elbow, you should use your peripheral vision to keep aware of three other points: his opposite elbow and both his knees. If you detect one of those body parts moving toward you, your eyes should immediately jump to that part.
· If you make contact with one of your opponent's arms through a blocking or trapping technique, your eyes should jump to the next nearest threat. Because you can feel his threatening limb, you no longer need to look at it. Your eyes are free to look elsewhere.
· Put your Opponent on the Defensive
· An old saying holds that sometimes the best defense is a good offense. For the most part that is true: You can't win by being strictly defensive. One of the best ways to stop an opponent from attacking is to attack him first and put him on the defensive. That will force him to deal with you, rather than continue trying to hurt you. He must now defend himself - or suffer the consequences.
· Wing Chun practitioners strive to block and strike at the same time. That allows them to immediately put the pressure back on their opponent.
· Attack your Opponent's Balance
· As stated above, balance is everything. Therefore, you must always maintain your balance and use it to attack your opponent's balance. Often that means getting him to lean too far into a technique, over-commit to a movement or over-extend his body. Without proper balance, he will not be able to move, block or strike effectively.
· In Wing Chun, that is achieved primarily through controlling the opponent's elbow. If you control his elbow, you can control his balance.
· Learn to Recognize Openings
· It is one thing to say, "Put your opponent on the defensive." It is quite another to know where to hit him, with what weapon and when. Whatever your system, you must know - really know - what your tools are, what range or distance they function in, and what part of the body each is designed to hit.
· Furthermore, your eyes must be trained to recognize the opening. If you don't have "good eyes" and don't know how to detect an opening, the greatest techniques in the world are not going to help.
· Therefore, you must train yourself to be able to detect an opening in any situation and to have the reflexes to take advantage of that opening while it exists.
· Have "Heart" but Control your Emotions
· Cardio-vascular endurance is crucial to becoming a complete martial artist; however, that is not what is meant by "heart". In this case, it means fighting spirit, or the will to win.
· If you don't believe you can win, you probably can't. If your opponent is more convinced of victory than you are, he will probably come out on top. Total confidence, combined with good process and a scientifically sound system, certainly increases the probability of success. But if you do not have heart, even superior skills will never see the light of day; they will be squandered by a more confident opponent.
Javier Garcia writes about his top five principles in Wing Chun Origins
One of the most recognisable drills in Martial Arts is Wing Chun’s Chi Sao. This drill is designed to develop sensitivity in the arms, so that attacks are deflected intuitively through the use of ingrained habits and structure.
It is quiet common to see advanced practitioners train this drill blind folded. This emphasises the fact that the attacks are deflected and countered by sticking closely to the opponent and sensing their movements, rather than through speed and fast reflexes. Many great boxers, such as Floyd Mayweather, employ similar tactics, where they will stick to the opponent after landing or missing a punch, in order to shut down any counter attacks.
If performed correctly, it can be a devastating strategy that leaves the opponent frustrated and unable to launch any sort of offense.
Boxing has a formidable arsenal of punches and yet, you never see strikes such as hooks or overhang punches in Wing Chun. The reason is because even though these punches are exceptionally powerful, they violate the principle of covering the centre line.
The moment the elbow comes up during a punch, it becomes impossible to cover the centre line and deflect incoming counter-punches. It is the elbow that collects the incoming counter punches, serving as a wedge that jams and deflects the opponents strike, opening the way for the fist to hit its target.
The principle is that of “hit but do not get hit“. Interestingly, before the advent of boxing gloves, bare knuckle boxing resembled Wing Chun in many ways. In those days,the punches were vertical with elbow down in order to keep the opponent at bay.
It should be obvious that if one stands directly in front of the opponent, he exposes himself to their full arsenal of kicks and punches. Not so if one manages to flank he opponent and attack from one side. From this position, the arm and leg that are furthest from the flank occupied, are relatively useless.
This is a momentary advantage of course, because the opponent will seek to reposition and square up again, but for a brief moment, we need only deal with half of the opponent’s arsenal, whilst he remains exposed to attacks from both our arms and legs.
Wing Chun’s crossing hands and Bui Jee form a designed to seamlessly move from the centre of the opponent’s structure to his flank by attacking his left arm with our right and vice versa.
2 -Forward Pressure
Wing Chun is famous for it’s relentless forward pressure. The practitioner seeks to always move forward, invading his opponent’s centre line and protecting his own. There is great merit in this idea.
In a fight, becoming too defensive can be deadly. You might be able to slip or block one or two punches, but if your opponent keeps moving forward, there is a good chance he will connect sooner or later.
Like in chess, he who gains the initiative usually wins the fight. Unlike combat sports where professionals are trained to slip, block and even take punches for round after round, on the street, a good punch can finish the fight quickly. Wing Chun’s forward pressure is designed to get that punch in first.
1 -Centre Line
Wing Chun’s most famous principle is undoubtedly the centre line. Wing Chun’s structure is designed to cover the practitioner’s centre so that the danger of being countered is reduced.
By keeping the elbows down whilst punching and moving along the centre line, a Wing Chun Practitioner is able to monopolise this precious real estate and deflect counter attacks as he or she moves forward. The opponent is still free to counter by moving around the centre line, through hooks and overhang punches of course, but the idea is that straight attacks through the centre line will get there first.
So if the opponent attacks through the centre, the attacks are deflected by the Wing Chun Structure. If the opponent attacks through the flanks, the Wing Chun practitioner moves forward and gets there first, through economy of movement.
According to “Wing Chun Central”
In Wing Tsun we are taught four main principles. These are:
1) If the way is clear forge ahead!
2) If there is contact keep glued to it!
3) If your opponent is stronger, give in!
4) If the opponent retreats, follow!
The first Fighting Principle: If the way is clear go forward
The fighter should always feel the urge to move forward, i.e. to move directly towards his opponent. This applies both to the arms (which are thrust forward) and the legs (which kick) as well as to the entire body (which should advance). A user of the Leung Ting system should always direct his energy towards the vertical axis of his opponent (forward-flowing energy), like a piece of metal attracted by a magnet.
If no obstacle is blocking the direct path of the Leung Ting fighter, he will always directly attack the opponent's axis with his hand or foot. Directly' means that the attack does not come from one side or at an angle, but that the fighter will advance and attack across the shortest distance, and without first drawing back the hand or leg. Among other things, the Latin word "aggredior" can mean "I am approaching somebody". With regard to its general approach, the Leung Ting system can superficially be called an aggressive self-defence system. However, we are not aggressive in the sense that we foam at the mouth with rage (or fear). This kind of (inherent) aggression would paralyse any reliable reactive capability and therefore be contrary to our objectives.
We have established that going forward with both hand and foot (forward-flowing energy) is the appropriate response to most combat situations.
The second principle: If you get contact stick to it
As soon as one of our arms contacts the opponent's arm, we maintain our pressure towards the vertical centre line and do not withdraw our arm. Both contact and pressure are maintained. Users of traditional self-defence methods will perhaps punch with their right and, if this is blocked, withdraw it to deliver a second punch or launch a kick. WT considers this approach to be fundamentally wrong. Our motto is: "If your attack encounters resistance, do not withdraw but stick to your opponent!" Anybody breaking this rule will expose himself to great danger if his opponent is an experienced WT fighter.
The third principle: If you meet superior strength give way
This introductory section will confine itself to the four most important reflex-like or deformative reactions which are initiated by pressure acting on our arms. Unlike "inborn" reflexes, these reflex-like reactions are not naturally possessed by every healthy person but must be developed by training (Chi-Sao lessons) with an experienced teacher. (In rare cases, they may be dormant and need reawakening). As soon as our adversary's arm contacts one of our arms at any point, and exerts even the slightest pressure, the vector (point of attack, magnitude and direction of the attacking force) will immediately cause this arm to deform itself or react reflexively without any conscious (and time-wasting) control input from the brain. The reaction is directly triggered by the adversary's attacking movement. This is what Bruce Lee meant when he said: "My technique is the technique of my opponent". In other words, your own action is the direct, reflex-like reaction to your opponent's action. Your adversary's attack forms your arm in such a way that it gives you protection
Fourth principle: If your opponent withdraws follow through
Because of your permanent forward pressure you will immediately and automatically invade any gap that presents itself, like water. The fourth principle (if your opponent withdraws, follow through) is therefore the consequence of maintaining forward pressure.