The subject of a Wing Chun master can be confusing. Is a “Wing Chun master” someone who is a Wing Chun expert? Are they someone claiming to do something that sounds outrageous and full of nothing but hyperbole? Or are they more apt to back up their words with action? In this article, we will go over things to look out for when looking for a Wing Chun school.
What IS a Wing Chun Master?
A Wing Chun master is generally agreed to be an expert at Wing Chun. This means someone very experienced and skilled at Wing Chun. However, there are more points to consider than the general meaning of a Wing Chun master. With so many self-proclaimed masters of Wing Chun, both skillful Wing Chun experts and beginners alike should hold this term in careful consideration of its deeper meanings.
One of the most outspoken Wing Chun sifus who opposes the term “Wing Chun master” is my teacher, Sifu Adam Williss. He says, “you can’t master Wing Chun, let alone grandmaster it!”
As a Wing Chun student, this idea resonates most with me. He taught me that a Wing Chun teacher—a Wing Chun Sifu—is not the same as a Wing Chun master. Being a Wing Chun Master is something that someone achieves in the eyes of his students. And because of that idea, I look at those Wing Chun teachers claiming that they themselves are Wing Chun masters, as sleazy salesmen (Master Wong?).
Now, at first I thought I thought that maybe these self-appointed “masters” haven’t considered the deeper meanings of what it means to call themselves “master”. But then I came to realize that they know exactly what they’re doing. They simply don’t care what it implies. That was a big eye opener for me.
The reason for this is simple: being a master of Wing Chun implies that you have nothing left to learn. And that’s just plain nonsense! There is always room to learn and grow. In fact, any true Wing Chun master will never consider themselves a Wing Chun master. Because that’s not at all what Wing Chun is about. Wing Chun’s entire idea is continued growth and development. Only when continued learning and growth happen will anyone continue to reap Wing Chun’s benefits.
Another important factor to spot, is whether or not a Wing Chun Sifu will answer any questions a student throws at them. A true Wing Chun master should have no issues answering any question, and should, in fact, encourage asking questions. It is the right of the student to ask questions. And as long as your intentions are pure, there are no such things as stupid questions.
Just as important as the above is whether or not the Sifu in question bad mouths other martial arts. Now granted, any person will have opinions—even Wing Chun masters are only human after all—but bad mouthing another martial art is just bad form, and not only does it reflect badly on the Sifu, it reflects badly on the school. A Sifu worth their salt accepts other martial arts for what they are, and sometimes, they may even go the extra mile and mention various aspects of another martial art that they like. They want harmony within the sphere of martial arts as a whole, not conflict.
You mentioned that someone is a Wing Chun master in the eyes of their students. Elaborate?
To put it simply, a Wing Chun master lets their ability and students do the speaking for them. That’s why as stated above, I don’t believe that a true Wing Chun master should claim to be a Wing Chun master. We live in the age of the internet, and as such, it’s easy to say anything you want and pass it off as a fact. This is one of the reasons you see so many fake Wing Chun masters today. You see more and more of these fake Wing Chun masters refering to themselves as “Master Wu”, “Wing Chun Master” or “Grandmaster Wong”. When you see this, its generally a good idea to go the other way.
What qualities of Wing Chun should I look for in a true Wing Chun Master?
The most important part of being a true Wing Chun master is character and integrity. On top of that, these qualities are good points to consider…
- Solid experience. A good Wing Chun sifu needs experience both as a practitioner and as a teacher. They need to have spent years under their sifu. And have years sparring experience. See How long does it take to be a Wing Chun Black Belt.
- The ability to develop relationships with students. Wing Chun sifus need to be able to trust their students and their students need to be able to trust them. This kind of relationship is required in order to bring out the best in a student.
- Patience, caring and a kind personality. The best Wing Chun teachers have lots of patience with their students. They show them that they care about them and their progress. And they are always kind in their dealings with their students. Never making them feel bad for mistakes.
- Knowledge of how different people learn. Wing Chun masters understand that different people learn in different ways. They are sensitive of this and go about bringing the best out in each student in the most effective ways.
- A true dedication to teaching. The very best Wing Chun teachers are committed to teaching in some of the most uncommon ways and will go out of their way to help their students.
- Engaging students in learning. Wing Chun teachers who bring out the best in their students find ways to engage them which resonate and motivate them on mental, physical and emotional ways.
What is Not Wing Chun?
Overpowering through brute strength is absolutely not Wing Chun. Wing Chun was designed for anyone to learn, but it was made especially for smaller people to have a chance at overpowering bigger people. Flow is also very important in Wing Chun, and if you see people resisting and trying to force their way through, that’s not Wing Chun. Wing Chun focuses on using force without effort—why try to overpower someone when they give you many ways of exploiting an opening?
Something else that is not Wing Chun, is trying to prolong a fight. We train in the hopes that we never have to use our martial arts. If there is a situation where we have to fight, we want to end that fight, fast. No Wing Chun practitioner wants a fight to last, and no real Wing Chun master worth their salt would ever seek out a fight. Any Wing Chun master worth their salt would never instigate a fight. If there’s another way, a true Wing Chun master will more than likely take that way.
How to Spot a Fake Wing Chun Master
Before getting into this segment, we want to make it clear that we are not targeting anyone specifically. There is a lot of Wing Chun misinformation out there on the internet, and we do not like to sit back and let that misinformation spread around.
Wing Chun is an offensive, aggressive martial art when practiced correctly. When attacked, a good Wing Chun practitioner will respond by meeting that attack and going for the center. They will always have an offensive mindset, and will go for an opponent’s center like a predator tracks their prey. If someone claiming to be a Wing Chun master is teaching you to cover up, be defensive, and be passive, then they are practicing Wing Chun wrong. Remember that Wing Chun was designed for a smaller person to take on a larger person, and being defensive-minded will only get a smaller person into serious, harmful trouble if they get into a fight.
Always remember to do your research when looking into a Sifu. Perhaps just as important as the Sifu themselves is looking into what their students have to say about them. As mentioned above, if a Sifu is declaring themselves a “Wing Chun Master,” they aren’t worthy of your time. Let the students do the talking in that sense. It is very important to do your due diligence. If a Sifu also has an online learning program, be it via YouTube or through online lessons, see what people who are in different parts of the world have to say about the Sifu in question.
Probably most important of all though, is to simply follow your instincts about the Sifu. Are they trying to rope you in, or are they genuinely wanting you to make your own decision to join their school? A true Wing Chun master would want you to commit and stay because you want to. A fake Wing Chun master would be trying to keep you at their school for the purposes of money. On the other side of that coin, a true Wing Chun master will also kick a student out if they feel the student just is not a good fit for their school. A fake Wing Chun master would keep that problem student on, because it helps with profits.
Closing Points on Wing Chun Masters
Wing Chun is a martial art with a big presence on the internet. With that presence comes misinformation, and with that misinformation, comes people who wind up injured, hospitalized, perhaps even worse. Always remember that the internet is a place where misinformation on Wing Chun can fester and spread, and remember that a fake Wing Chun master is not going to care about the growth of their students as much as the money they make. Any martial arts master will want their students to grow first, and foremost.
Any true Wing Chun master will not seek out a fight. A fake Wing Chun master will probably be insecure about what they teach, if they are questioned on things they do not have an answer to. A big part of Wing Chun is learning to adapt—both in a fight, and in everyday life. Wing Chun is for all aspects of life, not just fighting. You are learning how to navigate the craziness of life, which can be just as chaotic, if not more so, as a fight can be. If you look back at all the kung fu masters is the movies, they try to teach life lessons along with fighting lessons. Stealing the pebble from the master’s hand may seem silly and possibly downright weird in how hard it is for the student to do so, but believe it or not, that stereotypical scenario is a very good idea of what being a kung fu student entails—perseverance, integrity, education. The master wants that student to take the pebble, but the master also will not make it easy. If it was easy, everyone could do it.