My Wing Chun Journey, by Stephen SG12


Stephen recently completed the Student Grades of our Wing Chun syllabus so we asked him to write a few words about his journey to give other people an insight about what it’s like.


"I started training Wing Chun with Sifu Ross and Col in 2011.

I remember still, those early days finding me to be a very anxious person. I couldn't walk down the street without fear that someone would attack me - without any clue how to respond. I couldn't keep composure, couldn't center or focus, and was scared even if my heart rate went above a resting normal. Catching my breathe and controlling it was a totally alien concept to me.

Well, finally, at the beginning of September this year, after seven years, I passed the twelfth and final student grade with Cambridge Kung Fu!

And how do I compare to that version of my self seven years ago? The grading itself was a definite marker for me that the challenges I had to face over the last seven years I have overcome (though not left behind completely, as in general there are always higher levels one can aspire to in any art, martial or otherwise).

Being below average height and of slim build, those challenges are greater - even for internal martial arts like Wing Chun with the emphasis on soft (of "effortless") power. That means, my skill level has to be higher when dealing with bigger opponents - I can't get away with bulldozing my way through; and especially when I don't consider myself to be a natural at fighting (or to be more general, interacting physically with others in an intelligent way, with some kind of strategy), this is even harder for me.

Some of the challenges with being a smaller chap present themselves when you have to do a circular punch, lower body punch, or hammer fist because a maijan or elbow attack would be blocked by an upper arm, shoulder or collar region where for a taller person - especially with long reach - all options would remain on the table. Or if someone is very heavy and wrestles you to the ground, there is literally little room for maneuver, and intelligently creating space with the body, at the right time, to move (or wrestle) out and gain control again (still on the ground or back to one's feet), is critical.

And even on foot, engaging the hips correctly, turning from the waist, maintaining pressure and forward energy - sloppiness here can easily result in losing one's center and failing to control the opponent's.

Having said all that, being mindful and practicing control is always required (whether the opponent is significantly larger or not) when good skill in other respects could easily cause injury, even if there's only eight stone backing it.

Back to the grading, I distinctly remember the pressure test - if you like, the pinnacle of any grading - , where I had to survive for six consecutive minutes surrounded by five opponents, the majority of whom were significantly larger than me; involving ducking in and out of situations of one-on-one unarmed and armed attacks, bouts with multiple assailants, and pressure with pad work. One of the things Ross noted about the test (viewing it from third person), was that I managed to stay composed. I kept my routine together, and I stayed in control of my breathing. And I concur that's how I felt from the first person. Those two items alone were enough to make me very happy with my performance.

I can also look back now at the test and wish I'd added more variation here or there - in the days following, I experienced flashbacks of situations there where I had decided to adopt the technique most comfortable to me, the ones I'd practiced most; but another variation would have worked a little better, even with my frame. But I think that's natural, and something to keep in mind for future practice when dealing with situations under pressure.

All said, I've had a very positive journey with Cambridge Kung Fu over the years, and I'm very proud of where I stand now. I look forward now to future years with the club, with honing and developing those skills and desirable personal qualities that I've gained through inspiring teachers and dedicated fellow students!"