This is a comprehensive guide to Wing Chun Terms and Techniques. Its NOT your average “Wing Chun Glossary of Techniques”.
Yes, we’ll cover definitions for important Wing Chun techniques and terminology. But you’ll also see tons of pictures and videos describing the techniques or Wing Chun and its vocabulary.
Wing Chun Techniques
When it comes to the subject of Wing Chun techniques, some say there are many. Others say there are only three hand techniques in Wing Chun. Whatever approach you take, our methods are to provide as much information for you as possible!
With more and more private Wing Chun training taking place, people often ask “what are some Wing Chun techniques? Using some rare Ip Man pictures we’ve gathered some of the basic Wing Chun techniques with pictures. Some say there are only three techniques in Wing Chun. And that all the other moves or techniques in Wing Chun are only versions of these three techniques. We can call these three techniques the “three families of Wing Chun techniques”.
Wing Chun Techniques with Pictures:
Fook Sao 伏手
Tan Sao 攤手
Palm Up Hand
Bong Sao 膀手
Wu Sao 護手
Jum Sao 枕手
Dai Bong 低膀手
Low Wing Arm
Goang Sao 耕手
Lop Sao 拉手
Pak Sao 拍手
Embracing the Edges
Man Sao 問手
Wing Chun Technique Definitions
Below are some of the prominent Wing Chun hand technique definitions. Although people think these are Wing Chun blocks, note that there are no singular Wing Chun blocks. Wing Chun’s defenses use positional deflections rather than force on force blocking or covering up techniques. Wing Chun is an offensive-minded martial art known for it simultaneous attack and defense. A Wing Chun saying is “the best defense is a good offense.”
What does Sao mean in Wing Chun? 手
The arm moves (techniques) are referred to as “sao” or “sau” in Wing Chun. The term “sao” translates directly as “hand”. All of the below Wing Chun hand terms (tan sao, bong sao, foot sao, etc) are Wing Chun hand positions used as actions to deflect an opponent’s force away from your centerline.
Tan Sao 攤手
The Tan Sao 攤手 is translated as dispersing hand. It is also known as the palm up hand. The Tan Sao is one of the most important techniques used to protect the outside line inside and under the opponent’s arm. Here is a comprehensive Tan Sao lesson video that breaks down How to do a Tan Sao…
Fook Sao 伏手
The Fook Sao, the controlling hand, is the Tan Sao’s counterpart technique and just as important. Where the Tan Sao is used to protect the outside line under the opponent’s arm, the Fook Sao is used to protect the inside line over the opponent’s arm. The hand is seemingly devoid of energy when a Fook Sao is being used, but remember that Wing Chun teaches us that emptiness is a breeder of potential.
Bong Sao 膀手
The Bong Sao, the wing arm, is a hand used for one thing only: Transitions. A bong sao is, by its very nature, a failed punch. It is NOT an attack nor is it a Wing Chun block! When performing a Bong Sao, it is very important to remember that a transition is not a place you want to be in for long periods of time, as a transition is when we are at our most vulnerable.
Wu Sao 護手
The Wu Sao, the protective hand, is just that: a hand that protects. Wing Chun is an art of duality, meaning that when you have one hand attacking, you should always have your second hand ready. A Wu Sao is always up and at the ready.
Man Sao 問手
The Man Sao 問手 (Asking hand) is often what we first start off with. It is what we use to gather feedback (or energy) from our opponents and to probe for vulnerabilities in their structure. Unlike the Wu Sao, the Man Sao is an extended hand technique placed along the central plane. Contact made with the Man Sao should always be along the pinky side of the arm—the Ulna line of the arm.
What does Wing Chun mean in Chinese? 詠春
The definition of Wing Chun in Chinese means “Song of Spring.” How does spring represent Wing Chun? Spring, in this sense, does not mean to move or jump suddenly. It means the early part or first stage of something. It represents the spirit of youth and a constant desire to learn more and go deeper. Songs too, are often filled with vibrancy and energy, capable of renewing someone’s spirit and filling them with a spring-like energy at times.
What is a Sifu in Kung Fu?
A “Sifu” (師父), in Kung Fu, translates as father-teacher and conotates a deeper relationship between a student and teacher. They are the ultimate authority in the Wing Chun classroom. They are a walking, talking Wing Chun glossary. There is no real set in stone amount of time on how long it takes to become a Sifu. It is up to a Sifu to determine when a Sihing has earned the title of Sifu. A Sifu’s responsibility is to teach, to be there for their students when they need help with their own training. A Sifu is a gardener, and their students are the plants that need cultivating—it is something that cannot be done quickly. A Sifu can be more than just an instructor on how to defend yourself. They can also be a life-coach, using their own Kung Fu experience to help their students beyond teaching them how to defend themselves.
What does Sihing mean?
Sihing 師兄 translates as “elder brother”. They are the senior-most students of the class (including kids classes) who have earned this designation. The Sihing also often acts as the “assistant instructor” in class and leads several portions of the class. It is very important to note that a Sihing will not always be the oldest person in the classroom, only the student who has been training the longest.
The responsibilities of a Sihing are just like an assistant instructors: to assist the Sifu in teaching. A Sihing can be considered an authority in the Wing Chun classrooms, who answers in place of a Sifu, should the Sifu be preoccupied.
In Ip Man’s school, the sihing was responsible for leading the class. He would work directly with the other students. Ip Man would come around from time to time and make adjustments.
Ip Man’s senior-most student (Sihing) in Hong Kong was Leung Sheung. This means Leung Sheung was the senior over all the other Hong Kong students of Yip Man. However, as time passed, different students became sihing such as Lok Yiu, Chu Shong Tin, Wong Shun Leung and other after.
More Wing Chun Terminology
When practicing our Wing Chun hands, we also practice application of those techniques. This is where the conceptual side of Wing Chun comes into our training methods. It is never a matter of “How do I counter this attack?” It is a matter of “How do I end this fight quickly and efficiently?” Below are some concepts that we implement into our training. Note that these are from Dragon Family Wing Chun, which stems from the Leung Sheung lineage.
Kung Fu (AKA Gung Fu)
Kung Fu is part of the terminology? YES! Believe it or not, “kung fu” (or gung fu as Bruce Lee wrote it) translates to “skill developed through hard work.” This is not something exclusive to martial arts! In order to get good at anything, one must develop their skills through hard work. One could have great kung fu in carpentry, for example. Hard work is the very essence of what we do in Wing Chun!
The Wing Chun Stance
The Wing Chun stance is known as Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma 二字拑羊馬 (translated as Character Two Goat Clamping Stance). It is the training stance of Wing Chun signified by the pigeon-toed feet and the tucked pelvis. It is actually only one of a few stances in Wing Chun. See our full article on the Wing Chun stance.
Siu Nim Tao 小念頭
The Siu Nim Tao (also known as Sil Lim Tao), or “The Little Idea,” is the first empty-hand set of the three Wing Chun Forms. The Siu Nim Tao is viewed as the seed of our growth in Wing Chun. It is considered the master’s set, in addition to the first set learned by new students. A completely stationary standing meditation, Siu Nim Tao is our strongest, most reliable structure builder. The Siu Nim Tao is a shift into pure, raw awareness of self and awareness of your surroundings. The variations of this set are numerous—some will perform upwards of a 20 minute long Siu Nim Tao, some will perform their Siu Nim Tao while standing only on one foot, and some will do a one-handed variation of the set, perhaps to work on their non-dominant side.
Here is a Wing Chun Terminology video from Siu Nim Tao:
Chum Kiu 尋橋
Chum Kiu is the second of three empty-hand sets (see Wing Chun Forms). It translates roughly to “Seeking the Bridge.” Unlike Siu Nim Tao, Chum Kiu is not a stationary set. Where Siu Nim Tao was development of structure, Chum Kiu is learning how to move with that structure. In addition to this form being mobile, kicks are also added. While many consider the Siu Nim Tao to be our most fundamental of the three empty-hand forms, Chum Kiu also rightly earns its place as a very important set to develop, as Wing Chun does make a lot of use of legwork. A key aspect of Chum Kiu—seeking the bridge—is understanding how to seek your opponent’s center. In a true self-defense situation, nothing is ever certain. Things are constantly changing, save for one thing: an opponent’s center. Chum Kiu teaches us how to remain focused on an opponent’s center.
Bil Jee 鏢指
The third and final empty-hand form of Wing Chun, Bil Jee (also known as “Biu Jee”) is a very different form compared to the other Wing Chun Forms. Bil Jee translates to “Thrusting Fingers.” It is a form that is not as practiced compared to Siu Nim Tao and Chum Kiu. So why is it important? As stated above, in a self-defense situation, nothing is ever certain. There are times when a Wing Chun practitioner will need to recover, and recovery often requires thinking outside of the box. Like Chum Kiu, Bil Jee is also a mobile form. Unlike Chum Kiu, however, Bil Jee’s movements are bigger. Also unlike Chum Kiu, Bil Jee does not have any kicks. Despite not being as practiced as the other two forms, Bil Jee holds importance because of that constant changing of situation in a self-defense situation. Recovering yourself in a self-defense situation is still a very important thing, and thinking outside the box is part of that process.
Sil Lin Di Da
Sil Lin Di Da, which translates to “simultaneous attack and defense,” is the teaching of duality in Wing Chun. At first, we learn how to attack and defense with both sides of our body, but eventually, with diligent practice, one can learn how to attack AND defend with one arm. Early on in Wing Chun, we are taught to defend and attack at the same time—deflect a punch, while throwing a punch at the same time. In time, after proper development of our structure, all one needs to do is throw a punch. That punch will not only deflect a punch thrown at the practitioner, it will also be their punch that hits the attacker. Sil Lin Di Da is a teaching of Wing Chun that you will learn early on, and take with you for years to come.
List of Wing Chun Terms
Kuen – Boxing or Fist
Hoi Ma – Opening the stance
Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma – Neutral/Centered Stance (See the Wing Chun stance)
Do Ma – Knife stance (Forward Stance)
Kwan Ma – Pole stance (Wide Horse)
Doi Gok Ma – Side/Turned stance
Juen Ma – Turning stance
Bil Ma – Advancing stance
Joan Sien – Centerline
Sifu – Teacher
Sigung – Teacher’s Teacher
Sihing – Elder student
Sidai – Junior student
Kung Fu (Gung Fu) – Skill developed through hard work
Mook Yan Jong – Wooden Dummy (see Wing Chun dummy blueprints)
Hong Jong – Air dummy
Sao – Hand or Arm
Gerk – Foot or Leg
Chi Sao – Sticky Hands
Don Chi Sao – Single sticky hands
Seong Chi Sao – Double sticky hands
Poon Sao – Rolling Arms
Chi Gerk – Sticky Legs
Tan Gerk – Knee Turned Out Leg
Bong Gerk – Knee Turned In Leg
Goang Gerk / Gaan Gerk – Splitting Leg
Pak Gerk – Slapping Leg
Chung Choi – Chain Punches (Lin Wah Kuen)
Chung Kuen – Vertical Punch (Yut Jee Kuen – “Sun Character Punch”)
Tan Sao – Palm up hand (Dispersing hand)
Goang Sao – Splitting Arm
Fook Sao – Controlling Arm
Bong Sao – Wing Arm / Elbow out arm
Dai Bong Sao – Low Wing Arm
Wrong Bong Sao – Crossing Bong Sao
Jow Sao – Inside- to outside-line hand
Man Sao – Inquisitive Hand / Jamming Hand
Wu Sao – Protective Hand
Pak Sao – Slapping Hand
Fak Sao – Whisking/Swinging Arm
Toy Sao (Tok Sao) – Lifting Hand
Jum Sao – Sinking hand
Mut Sao – Lowering hand
Huen Sao – Circling Hand
Bil Sao – Knife Arm / (Type of Palm Strike)
Gum Sao – Pinning Hand
Chin Gum Sao – Front Gum
How Gum Sao – Back Gum
Ju Gum Sao – Side Gum
Lan Sao – Barring Arm
Jut Sao – Jerking Arm
Lop Sao – Grabbing Hand
Chang Sao – Spade Hand (a type of palm strike)
Dai Chang Sao – Lower Spade Hand (fingers facing down palm strike)
Mang Geng Sao – Neck Pulling Hand
Shat Geng Sao – Throat Cutting Hand
Scissors Goang Sao – Upper and Lower Goang Sao
Kwan Sao – Rotating Arms (low bong sao and tan sao)
Powl Sao – Turning Bong Sao
Kao Sao – Zoning Hand
Phon Sao – Trapping Hands
Jeet Sao – Intercepting Hands
Chin-Na – Locking, seizing, and controlling
Kwai Jeong – Butting Elbow
Pie Jeong – Hacking Elbow
Butt Doan Jeong – Immovable Elbow
Luk Sao – Flowing drill (Element of Sparring)
Nuk Sao – Free Sparring
Gow Sao / Gwo Sao – Sparring out of from Seong Chi Sao (Poon Sao) / (aka Fighting practice)
Lat Sao – Free form training
Pa Da – Fear of being hit
Dwai Da – Fear of hitting
Tom Da – Greedy to hit
Kwan – Pole
Do – Knife
Luk Dim Boon Kwan – Dragon Pole
Baat Jam Do – Butterfly Knives
Sam Pie Fut – “Three Prayers to Buddha” (from Sil Lim Tao form)
Sam Sing Sao – Hitting the 3 stars hands (drill)
Huen Ma – Circling Steps (Horse)
Huen Got Sao – Circling cut (turning Huen Sao)
Po Pie – Embracing the Edges
Gnoy – Outside
Gnoy Pak Sao – Outside Pak Sao
Gnau – Wrist
Jee – Finger
Jeong – Elbow
Mai Jeong – Elbow Position
Jung Dao – Head up, chin tucked
Ting Yiu – Straight lower back (Spine anchored to the ground (pelvis tilted, coccyx tucked under)
Kim Sut – Pinching the Knees (Constant pulling together of the thighs)
Lok Ma – Lowering the stance (Connecting to the ground)
Lik – Power, Force, or Energy
Mok Lik – Targeting your gaze
Lower Tan Tien – Energy storage place in lower belly
Kung Fu Terminology
Many of Wing Chun’s terms are general Kung Fu terms used in many other types of Chinese martial arts. Here are some of these Kung Fu terms.
Founder: Jung-Si*, Si-Jo (both male/female)
Teacher’s teacher: Si-Gung (his wife: Si-Po)
Older Gung Fu Uncle: Si-Baak (both male/female)
Younger Gung Fu Uncle: Si-Suk (both male/female)
Uncle’s Wife: Si-Sam
Teacher: Sifu *
Teacher’s Wife: Si-Mou
Older Brother: Si-Hing, Si-Go
Younger Brother: Si-Dai
Brother’s Wife: Si-Sou
Older Sister: Si-Je
Older Sister’s husband: Si-Je-Fu
Younger Sister: Si-Mui
Younger Sister’s Husband: Si-Mui-Fu
Student: Dai-Ji, Tou-Dai (both male/female)
Student’s wife: Tou-Sik
Student’s Student: Tou-Syun
In Door Student: Yap-Sat-Dai-Ji
School: Gun (Kwoon)
Lineage Holder: Jeung-Mun*, Jeung-Mun-Yan
Kung Fu School: Kwoon
Note: Most of the above are only the positions in one’s own Kung Fu family. Most are not used as professional titles. Only Jung Si, Jeung Mun, and Sifu can be used as professional titles!
*Also note that a Wing Chun Sifu does NOT translate to Wing Chun master (despite how it is often translated.) A Wing Chun Sifu translates as father/teacher (aka a fatherly teacher).
Wing Chun Technique Lessons
Here are Wing Chun lessons from Sifu Adam Williss
Wing Chun’s Main 3 Hand Techniques
Jum Sao – Sinking Hand
Wu Sao – Guarding Hand
Fook Sao – Controlling Hand
Bong Sao – Wing Arm
Tok Sao / Toy Sao – Lifting Hand
Heun Sao – Circling Hand
Kao Sao – Zoning Hand
Scissors Goang Sao – Splitting Arms
Kwan Sao – Rolling Arms
Lop Sao – Grabbing Hand
Man Sao – Asking Hand
Sifu Adam Williss is the founder of The Dragon Institute. With locations in California and Florida, He teaches out of its Palm Coast Martial Arts headquarters.