In challenge matches of days past, masters of Wing Chun and Lung Ying kung fu typically relied on a single technique to defeat their opponents. Yet students today often seek to consume as many advanced techniques as they can, as soon as they can.
Sifu Barry Pang explains the importance of developing key techniques (such as the Wing Chun punch), rather than pursuing volume.
One of Grandmaster Ip Man’s top students, Wong Shun Leung (1935-1997), developed a reputation for fighting and winning in full-contact challenge matches. His method did not involve a wide variety of Wing Chun techniques. It was to attack with his straight, chain punches. No-one could stop him.
Grandmaster Lam Yiu Gwai (1887-1966) is renowned for never having lost a fight. Even though Lung Ying (Dragon Shape) kung fu has an enormous range of forms and techniques, his top student Wu Hua Tai has said that he only used two in fighting. One technique for stopping an opponent: Pushing them away with a powerful arm-jamming technique. And one for hurting them: The guard-breaking forearm strike (Boi Gim).
Focus on details, not volume
Sifu Barry Pang
In boxing, there are four types of punches – jab, cross, hook, uppercut – but fighters will frequently have a favoured hit they use to take down their opponent. Having a large library of (low quality) options to choose from actually slows down decision-making processes. And time is not a luxury you have in self defence.
It’s interesting that in system design generally, Hick’s Law states:
The time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices.
Yet in martial arts practice, students often want to collect as many techniques as they can, in the shortest time possible. For example, “When can I learn Bil Jee and the Wooden Dummy Form?”. But the question should be “Are my basic tools effective?”
In Wing Chun, it is the basic punch that must be perfected. This is the one technique to master, together with related footwork.