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The Curriculum of Wing Chun

The forms of Wing Chun are different from forms of other systems. They are designed to allow the practitioner to perfect structure and build a firm foundation; to form the basic tools for fighting. They do not teach applications or how to fight. They give the practitioner a guide so he or she will know how to position the arms, how to stand, how to move and how to flow in movement. The actual application of these movements is learned in "dim" or point training.

The First Form

The beginning of Wing Chun is learning the first form called Siu Lim Tao or "little idea". It is the foundation and "dictionary" of the system. It is within the first form that students learn to structure their bodies into the basic tools of Wing Chun.

The body remains standing in a narrow horse or adduction stance where the feet are shoulder width apart, the knees are pushed in towards each other, the feet are turned in 45 degrees and the hips are thrust forward. The purpose of this is to build strong legs and a good and solid foundation. Then certain movements are practiced with each arm, first the left side, then the right, for a total of 108 movements divided into three parts, with proper consideration for centerline, proper positioning of the elbow, and gate principles.

The first part of the form is done slowly with the idea of perfecting form and generating "jing" or internal strength. This form is very deep and profound in its scope. Though the practitioner doesn't move his or her feet, there are many concepts hidden in the form. Siu Lim Tao contains all the fundamental elements of Wing Chun, which can only become apparent through years of study.

Chi Sau or Sticky Hands

After the first form is learned and while the second form is being taught, the student is introduced to Chi Sau or "sticky hands". Two practitioners intertwine their arms and perform a rolling motion that looks like two people trying to turn the same steering wheel from side to side. Chi Sau is the laboratory of Wing Chun and allows the student to practice applying techniques in a controlled way. It is learned in stages starting with simply rolling - to become familiar with the motion and to build endurance in the arms and shoulders - then other drills are introduced including changing positions, striking, blocking, and trapping.

The practitioner learns to relax so he or she can sense what the opponent is doing, and then react correctly with proper Wing Chun techniques. In this way, extreme sensitivity through touch is acquired so even if a skilled practitioner is blinded, he or she can still tell what an opponent is doing.

Chi Sau is unique to Wing Chun in that practitioners spend most of their time in contact with their training partners. Other systems, such as boxing, spend most of their time training to hit moving targets. A Wing Chun fighter tries to close in and make contact, either by striking or deflecting an attack, use the contact to control and trap the opponent so the opponent can't defend or evade, and strike vulnerable targets with precision, all the while maintaining contact with the opponent. In this regard, Wing Chun is a true in-fighting system.

Second Form

The second form is called Chum Kiu, which means "seeking the bridge" or "sinking the bridge". In this form the movements of the upper body are combined with lower body shifting and footwork to truly unify the body as one working unit. The second form addresses kicks, stepping, hand and arm motions linked with body motion, and dealing with attacks from different angles.

The student also learns the strategy of initiating contact, or bridging the gap, with an opponent and how to respond; to "seek" the bridge. The practitioner "sinks" the bridge as part of the strategy of dealing with the opponent once contact is made, whether the practitioner or the opponent initiates contact. Usually, the opponent's arms - the point of contact, or the "bridge" - is pressed down as part of proper technique in controlling and trapping the opponent.

Third Form

The third form is called Biu Jee or "thrusting fingers". Itís also referred to as "desperation form". It contains solutions to problems that arise when, in the midst of a fight, the practitioner finds himself or herself in a disadvantageous position and Wing Chun centerline and gate theories no longer apply. It also contains advanced footwork, elbow strikes, finger strikes and other techniques for when the situation becomes "desperate."

Wooden Dummy Form or Mook Yang Jong Kuen

In conjunction with the third form is the wooden dummy form or Mook Yang Jong Kuen. The wooden dummy is a protractor that is used to practice proper distancing, angles, and footwork around an opponent. It is also used to practice flowing from one position or technique to another without losing contact with the opponent, in what is called Chi Jong. It does have some value as a conditioning tool, but since most of the contact a practitioner should have with an opponent is soft, that aspect is not emphasized. Many of the elements of the wooden dummy form are closely related in application to the desperation form. The wooden dummy form contains elements from all the empty hand forms and is a valuable tool in learning to combine dim (techniques) from all the forms.

Techniques or Dim

Dim, or "point", is an individual technique or a series of techniques applied in various ways to form other dim. A dim starts off being one single motion or body structure, such as a palm-up block, or Tan Sau. This block is then combined simultaneously with a punch and a shift to form another dim. This dim is then combined with another technique to form a series of motions, forming yet another dim.

It is like taking the alphabet of only 26 letters and arranging them according to certain rules to form hundreds of thousands of words. These words can then be formed to create sentences, which are then arranged to form whole thoughts, stories, information, etc. The possibilities are endless. The forms teach the "alphabet" of Wing Chun. Through instruction, a student learns to link those "letters" or dim together to form meaningful and effective techniques.

Chi Sau then teaches you the skills you need to link these various dim together very quickly in real time to meet the ever changing needs of a real fight. It is easy and takes relatively little time to learn the basics of Wing Chun, but you could spend the rest of your life mastering the system.

Dim is taught at the most basic level of Wing Chun and continues to increase in depth and complexity as time progresses and as the student learns more and more. A drill is simply the repetitious practice of dim. The possibilities of combinations of the basic dim of Wing Chun are only limited by the ingenuity, imagination, and level of training of the practitioner.

Tam Tui Pai or Leg Techniques

Tam Tui Pai is the study and application of techniques using the legs. Most leg techniques in Wing Chun don't go above the waist and are primarily designed to attack or defend against attacks from the opponent's legs. The legs not only kick but they trap and stick to the opponent's legs, thus deflecting the opponent's kicks and maneuvering them into positions where an opening can be created, or where the opponent's leg can be broken, thus ending the fight very quickly. Leg techniques in Wing Chun are most effective and are taught after the student has become proficient with hand techniques. A good Wing Chun fighter will study his or her opponent's footwork and attempt to disrupt the opponent's foundation, by sticking to, trapping, or breaking the legs.

Chi Gerk or Sticky Legs

Chi Gerk is the same in concept as Chi Sau except the exercise is done with the legs. While standing on one leg, two practitioners make contact with their free legs, as well as their extended arms to brace themselves, and perform various motions to develop sensitivity and practice redirecting energy and leg trapping, in much the same way as they do with their arms in Chi Sau.


Weapons forms in Wing Chun include Luk Dim Boon Kwun or "six and a half point pole", which is performed with a heavy rigid nine foot tapered pole, and the Bart Jam Dao Kuen or "eight-slash swords form" which is performed with Seung Dao, also known as "twin palm swords" or butterfly swords.

The pole seems to violate Wing Chun principles and theory since it is held at one end, thus making it a one-sided weapon, but there are many similarities to Wing Chun principles in its application. The pole was not originally a part of the Wing Chun system but was adapted to the system by the Red Boat Opera members who used the pole to dock and propel their boats in shallow water as they traveled up and down the rivers of southern China. The pole is very heavy and rigid and is used to cultivate strength and conditioning in Wing Chun.

The twin palm swords are the last part of the system to be learned. The Bart Jam Dao form contains even more advanced footwork and techniques that are transferable to empty hands. When the form is practiced energetically, the weight of the swords serves to further condition and strengthen hand techniques.

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