Take the saying ‘Learning the usual ways will allow later variations’.


In the world of Wing Chun, two words are thrown around and used interchangeably that are in fact very different.

They are CONCEPT and IDEA.

How we use and understand these words has a direct and very real effect on our understanding of the core message of Wing Chun.

My understanding is that…

A Concept is abstract, vague, dynamic and self-generating, what it generates are multiple and quite diverse IDEAS.

While an IDEA, {the product of an earlier Concept} is static, concrete, fixed, the finished product, IDEAS may be built upon but never lose their identity, they are always recognisable as themselves.

However, individual IDEAS can be separated, taken out of context and used to function as a stand-alone CONCEPT to produce more IDEAS.

What makes the concept/idea definition such a bone of contention, is that depending on each individual’s level of education, and what thinkers/ philosophers they were exposed to at school, we can be coming from radically different directions.

While all thinking we are on the same page.

And then there are the problems that surround the quality of translation.

My teacher, {Jim} Fung Chuen Keung would say that Wing Chun does not translate to English because of the thinking and not the language. Western thinking and Eastern thinking evolved down different paths, with different thinkers, different philosophies.

My view is that a CONCEPT is an abstract notion, that through mental effort and creative thinking manifests into something real and useable.

An IDEA is a way of perceiving the CONCEPT.

The Sil Lim Tao Form is often referred to as an IDEA, or even THE IDEA, if this is the case what was/is the CONCEPT that created it?

This may seem like an overly academic reflection but I do not think that, if we do not know where the IDEA came from we are simply heading in the direction of BELIEF over EVIDENCE.

After many years studying Wing Chun, it has become pretty clear that many of the parts do not function as well as intended.

It doesn’t work very well.

But I do not think that it was ever meant to.

If Wing Chun is a CONCEPT driven martial art it was never meant to teach someone how to fight, it was meant to generate IDEAS that could be used in fighting.

Our connection to the past of Wing Chun is through the Kuen Kuit, the fact that these sayings are vague and difficult to pin down is, to me at least, a nod towards CONCEPTS over IDEAS.

Take the saying ‘Learning the usual ways will allow later variations’.

Why would this be suggested if it was not meant to be taken up?

Why has it been handed down from generation to generation?

When Ip Man taught his ‘Closed Door’ students they would spend 6 months on each Form, this again is consistent with developing a CONCEPT that each student could then spend the next 5, 10 or 20 years developing IDEAS out of.

Wong Shun Leung’s Wing Chun was very different than his clanmate Chu Shong Tin’s, a case of different minds creating different IDEAS out of the same CONCEPT.

I do not think anyone would argue that these 2 men were giants of Wing Chun.

To spend long years studying the Forms was not the way under Ip Man, which if you are from one of the Ip Man lineages means it is not the Wing Chun way.

I do not think this change has anything to do with an individual’s available time, more just a complete misunderstanding of the base data.

Again from the Kuen Kuit…

‘Learning the techniques without developing the skills will never bring any accomplishment’.

I do not think it cruel to substitute the word FORM for technique.

I have been fortunate to have attended numerous workshops held by the late Chu Shong Tin, he would conclude by saying something along the lines of ‘nothing in Wing Chun is written in stone’.

This is also consistent with seeing the Forms as CONCEPTS and not IDEAS.

I mentioned earlier about the difference in the philosophies between the West and East that creates the problems with translation and understanding, especially with Western students.

I have heard fellow {Westerner} students, especially those returning from the pilgrimage to Hong Kong use the terms Wu Wei {the action of no-action}, Wuji {infinite, unlimited, boundless} or Pu {the uncarved block}, but then in the same breath talk about how to do things correctly, this is a contradiction, this is misunderstanding the difference between CONCEPT and IDEA.

Many see the Sil Lim Tao Form as THE IDEA, but if it is an IDEA it must be as PU, the uncarved block, not as an operating manual as it is so often used.

The function of any and all Forms is to generate individual IDEAS.

IDEAS that can then be used to function as a CONCEPT.

A CONCEPT to generate new IDEAS, and so it goes, the wheel keeps turning.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s