Do you know your weaknesses, more importantly, do you know how to avoid them?


Let me remind everyone that I am a Martial Artist that does Wing Chun, I am not a Wing Chun disciple.

This is in no way meant to be demeaning to Wing Chun, quite the opposite, I choose Wing Chun because I think it works as well if not better for me than my previous training.

I have a wide and varied fighting skill set that encompasses Boxing, Judo, Military C.Q.C. plus traditional European and S. East Asian weapons training, still, I choose to stay connected to Wing Chun.

Full disclaimer that needs to be factored in, I am 66 years old and semi disabled, if I was ever knocked down it would be near impossible for me to get back up quickly, this greatly affects how and what I teach, how and what I train.

Do you know your weaknesses, more importantly, do you know how to avoid them?

How can we plan for something that we do not even know is going to happen?

Let’s start with the worse thing we can think of, it will be different for all of us but be honest to yourself, there is no need for anyone else to know, we all have one darker fear and if we are ever slipping towards it, we will panic big time if we have not at least played it out in our minds a few times.

My favourite military maxim that should always be considered is …. ‘no battle plan survives contact with the enemy’.

This is not about being real, it is about being semi-prepared, engage your imagination, if in doubt about what would happen in a real situation pick the worst option you can think of.

I will use my worst fear as an example, but it is just the thought process that is important, develop, ask and answer your own questions.

My biggest worry is that I am on the floor!!!

Question #1. How did I get here?

Did the Bad Guy knock me down? Did he catch a kick I attempted and threw me? Did I trip over my own feet?

Most fights that end up on the floor are there because people fall over much more than someone does Ju-Jitsu.

Whatever we decided caused this problem becomes an area for involvement in our training, develop a style that kicks less, stay out of reach of your partner, develop a better, more well-balanced movement.

Question #2. Could I have prevented this?

If it was something the Bad Guy did what happened that allowed him to be in a position to do that? Was it his skill and speed or was it a case of me being inattentive or late to respond?

Either way, this problem was caused by not being in control of my personal space and something I can take into training is the question “what does it mean to control my personal space”?

As a training exercise in Chi Sau get a friend to continuously press you and work on maintaining the same shape, position and distance from them at all times.

Ask yourself can I control my personal space by standing in the one spot while my attacker is mobile, there is no correct or incorrect answer here, just a specific personal idea that we can train to be more natural.

Question #3. Was he fast or was I slow?

We can always work on our speed, especially the speed we think, our body only ever works at the speed of our thoughts, to a very large extent being quick is about having fewer choices to deliberate on.

Do not waste valuable mental processing time on trying to develop or use ‘Mind Force’, be deliberate and only think about things you can do that will actively help.

If we do not know how to transition from one situation or one position to another we will be frozen in time and space and an easy target.

Again as a Chi Sau drill work on changing shapes, stances, and positions in space.

Create a drill in Chi Sau where one partner applies a strong forward drive, the other partner tries to find a way to get behind the aggressor, do not be nice to each other, make it a win / lose game.

In training we usually tend to just do as we are told, often there is no genuine connection to what we as students think may happen, what we may need, very rarely is there any student input to reflect a personal worry or experience.

As Instructors we should encourage this type of engagement, as students, we should force ourselves to ask questions, even when we think they may be stupid.

Nearly everything we do in Wing Chun falls under the umbrella of simultaneous attack and defense, in so many street situations this is a practical impossibility. The IDEA is sound, but how close can we get to it?

In street situations the attacker has no time to try to find the best shot, there is no feinting, no dodging and weaving patiently seeking a better position, it is just a flurry of whatever and it is instantly in our face.

Most street violence that Wing Chun would engage with, the average mugging, for instance, is over in less time than it takes to read this sentence.

I am serious, if we lose control of the first 4 or 5 seconds it is lights out and go home.

If we do not see it coming we are not going to stop it from happening, this is an alarming thought, but it is what it is.

Question #4. Why was I unprepared?

No one can teach functional situational awareness because the situation changes from day to day and place to place, because of this most situations we find ourselves in will appear to be ‘almost out of nowhere’.

Unpreparedness is our default position, get used to it, train it.

If our regular training does not include ways to regain a good position from a bad position then the prognosis will be terminal, do not fall for the fantasy that Biu Gee teaches emergency techniques, find a way to make space and regain balance.

Question #5. How did this situation arise?

The only way to avoid potential problems is to see them as they evolve, and leave before conception.

Most people that fail in a violent situation do not fail because of a lack of skill or ability, it is usually a lack of trust, a lack of confidence all made more destructive by the shock inherent in being attacked.

There are hundreds if not thousands of violently effective people who have no training at all in our world, but they are courageous to the level of foolhardiness, they will walk into our fists, we have a huge advantage if we can only bring it to the fore.

Think. Plan ahead. Survive. This is what all training should be. Any other approach is leading to the wrong choice at the wrong time.


Work on your weaknesses, play to your strengths.







Wing Chun people boast about staying true to the original teachings of Yip Man, staying true to lineage.


If we hope to fully understand our training it is hard and probably self-defeating to ever move away from or ignore the question ‘does Wing Chun work in a street fight’?

Wing Chun is simply a method and as such will always work, the real question should be ‘can we make Wing Chun work for us if we get in a street fight’?

In the Martial Arts World, there are two different and unconnected approaches to fighting.

Firstly there is Combat Sports, Competition Fighting Styles that are essentially for aggressive athletic people to test themselves against other aggressive athletic people, it is essentially a dominance game of strength and endurance and requires great physical conditioning and a very specific mindset.

And then there is Traditional Martial Arts that are usually for ordinary people, usually without great physical conditioning, to get out of violent situations, self-defence oriented, dealing with unplanned unprepared for, acts of random violence.

Young men and Hollywood tend to conflate these two very different approaches with predictable results that we would expect when we, for instance, compare a professional athlete to a weekend ‘fun runner’.

A sad truth, Traditional Martial Arts do not teach people how to think about fighting.

What does any Traditional Martial Art teach any of us?

Pick your favorite flavour not only Wing Chun, it teaches its own particular Martial Arts philosophy and a set of exercises that if used to inform our choices can give us the upper hand over another, SIMILAR, relatively untrained person.

Not how to fight.

However, if we are the type of person that possesses a fighting mentality then the philosophies and exercises of our chosen T.M.A. can inform our actions in such a way as to take us to another level, to bridge the gap and potentially succeed with ease.

It is the thinking we need to address, not the actions, we could be the most efficient and skilled in our style but if we do not know how to transition from our styles environment to the new and very different fighting environment we have little chance.

Similarly learning how to play musical scales can make you an accomplished musical technician but that should not be confused with being a talented musician, much more than a set of scales are needed if we wish to be a world-class composer/performer.

We need imagination, we need to be able to make strange unheard of connections that harmonise beautifully, we need to be able to improvise.

If our T.M.A. does not teach us how to improvise, how to transition between environments, does not teach us how to fight where can we get this help?

That is the easy part, a couple of years back I began to visit a few Throwing and Ice Hockey sites, I was involved in both of these sports as a youngster and some of the IDEAS I learned then I incorporated into my M.A. training over the years.

What I saw in the advances in technique and the imparting of information was so far removed from what I had experienced as a young man that they may well have been different sports.

When I joined my Sifu’s school in the early 1990s and began instruction in Wing Chun what I was taught as current training had apparently not changed since at best the 1950s when it was tested in the Biemo contests between schools in Hong Kong.

That is the problem with ‘Tradition’, it does not change, in Wing Chun people boast about staying true to the original teachings of Yip Man, staying true to lineage.

There is the rub.

Nothing changes, if nothing changes.

Here is a brief thought experiment, if you needed to choose between two dentists, one with equipment and methodology from the 1950s or one with equipment and methodology from today which one would you choose?

Really!!!!! 1950? That’s going to hurt.

This is not Wing Chun’s problem as such, it is more that the majority of the teachers choose to present it in a way that is outdated, outmoded and out of touch with reality.

They all mean well but so few have a genuine experience of violence, those that do tend to make excellent instructors, as for the others the best I can say is that you are buying a Pig in a Poke.

With or without assistance from an Instructor we can quite easily develop the correct type of thinking that can facilitate using our T.M.A. to do the job we hoped it would do.

Think about the dark possibility of losing in a street confrontation, as unpleasant as that may be it is the only logical place to start, let us imagine for instance that we are on the floor being kicked.

How did we get there?

Did we trip or where we knocked down?

Could we have avoided it?

This is the way to build a plan, it should not start with he does this so I do that, it should start before the first blow, how do we prevent him from carrying out his plan?

In this respect, there is very little difference between violence and sports matches.

I will talk more about this soon.






What is your frame of reference for relevance?

Without Martial Purpose is Wing Chun even a Martial Art?


To help us help ourselves move forward with our training there are better questions we can ask than “Does Wing Chun Work”?

Questions that once answered can help forge a direction to influence our training such as…..

What is the ultimate take away from Wing Chun”?

“What task do I expect Wing Chun perform”?

“Where is the pointy end”?

To a certain extent, all of these questions move in the same direction but they are not the same question.

No matter what subject matter we are training in there is an end product that we expect to achieve, writing, cooking, even Wing Chun are all teaching us something specific.

Does learning how to write mean that I will be a decent author?

Does learning how to cook mean that I will be a decent Chef?

No, it does not, learning a skill is simply the departure point.

For many years I was in charge of every aspect of some very large kitchens, food, and staff. When seeking to hire a new team member for the kitchen I drew up a shortlist from their resumes, what they said and thought they could do, then when they came to see me I handed them a box of ingredients and asked them to cook me something.

Completely their call.

Surprisingly it was often the person who on paper had the least knowledge that created the most imaginative food.

They would work with what they knew and not get lost in flights of fancy.

All training is task-specific, in Wing Chun if you are not training to improve fighting ability exactly what is it you are training for, what is your intention.

What is your frame of reference for relevance?

Without Martial Purpose is Wing Chun even a Martial Art?

Or is it merely Chinese Boxercise?

Never doubt that people who come to Boxercise with a previously established fighting skillset can gain real benefit from it, although it should be obvious that genuine boxers do specialised calisthenics and not Boxercise to improve their conditioning, mobility, and overall physicality.

“What is the ultimate take away from Wing Chun”?   We will all have different answers to this, the key is to measure that answers suitability to deal with violence.

Just saying self-defence is not enough, defending one’s self does not in any way guarantee a satisfactory outcome.

“What task does Wing Chun perform”?   If you are doing it for relaxation, for health or for some form of mindfulness these are all perfectly sound reasons for investing your time, sound advice would be to not take it into places you are not training it for.

“Where is the pointy end”?   What is the one thing in all of the training that would get whatever you needed doing, done? This applies equally to any reason that you engage with Wing Chun.

The IDEA behind asking ourselves this type of question is to get a clearer definition of what as individuals we thing Wing Chun is, why we train it, and hopefully how we can use it, there is no correct or standard answer just as there are no standard human beings.

If we intend to develop and use a strategy for any purpose the most important thing is to have a very clear idea about ourselves, how we relate to the purpose and whether or not our knowledge and ability are fit for the task.

This is mostly an exercise in attitude and mentality, from here we can build a strategy that will not only work but one we can be happy to deploy.

It is not only about smacking people in the head.


Work ‘ON’ your weaknesses, work ‘TO’ your strength.



“What is your go-to move to finish a fight”?


A working strategy helps us know when a fight is over, when to leave or when to go again.


Wing Chun is a concept-driven Martial Art, in many ways it could be looked at as a theoretical martial art, along the same lines as theoretical physics, the world laid bare for all to see, but only in theory.

We should remember what the celebrated theoretical physicists Albert Einstein said about theory…..

“In theory, theory and reality are the same. In reality, they are not”

There is no getting away from the unfortunate fact that when Wing Chun people test themselves against other styles, other people of similar size and ability, the result is seldom a win.

How can this be?

Here we are with a style that has brilliant biomechanics that can redirect powerful incoming force away from us and a structure that can deliver crushing power in return from a close distance.

I finished the last post with the question “What is your go-to move to finish a fight”?

I believe that this is at the heart of the atrocious record of defeats that Wing Chun holds, everyone knows the theory, but they do not know how to use it.

Where is the strategy in Wing Chun, where is the planning?

Would a sports team hit the field without a game plan?

Would an army go to war without a battle plan?

A resounding no to both.

I came to Wing Chun from Boxing and Judo, both have a very active competition aspect to them, on numerous occasions I would attempt a move or sequence that I performed flawlessly in training only to have it completely fail, often putting me in danger of losing the initiative.

Back on the mat after the competition everything was once again working effortlessly, in theory, the attempts were the same, but in reality, they were not.

In my early Wing Chun training when I brought up the issue of strategy with my seniors all they gave were theories and principals. without a doubt, we cannot have a strategy without theories and principals, but theories and principals are not a strategy.

Wing Chun appears to have only one idea for engaging the wide variety of potential situations that any of us could be called upon to deal with. The approach is one dimensional to the extreme, everything is face to face and hey diddle-diddle, straight down the middle.

The closest thing to a strategy that I experienced was a method known as “Facing the shadow, chasing the shadow” which just tries to force the opponent to stay face to face.

These ideas work perfectly if we can completely control what is happening, however, the chance of this is unlikely, what happens when hey diddle-diddle fails.

While the biomechanical aspects of the style are quite remarkable there is no standard dynamic way to get the most from them. We have no Kata or shadow boxing sets with which we could at least imagine transitions from one position or situation to another.

Confusingly some instructors that I trained under saw this as a good thing.

So I ask again, “What is your go-to move to finish a fight”?

To be able to answer this we would need to know what had come before it, we would need to understand the chain of events that led up to us being in a position to end it with our go-to move.

Effective strategies need to be built up backwards, decide the goal and then come up with a plan to get there, a well known military maxim is “no battle plan survives contact with the enemy”, working backwards can allow us to realise different approaches to the same position, options to use if one path is blocked off, a plan “B”.

A strategy is not just about the physical contact, it is about understanding and controlling the theatre that the event is happening in, it is about environmental awareness, if our strategy is to escape in one piece we must know what direction to escape in, and what condition we need the opponent to be in before we attempt it.

A working strategy helps us know when a fight is over, when to leave or when to go again.

There are numerous weaknesses’ in the Wing Chun system, as in all fighting systems, without a strategy to circumvent them they end up being what is offered up as a defence.

Without understanding what aspects of the style to use in different situations how is it possible to….

Work on your weakness, play to your strength.



That Conversation.


Styles do not win fights…..   Men do!


I recently posted a Joe Rogan video on the club’s FaceBook page where he claimed that Wing Chun was ineffective and a waste of time, that had the effect of raising a tsunami of indignation, old training acquaintances that have not spoken to me in years suddenly filled my personal messages and inbox about the content of that video.

Joe Rogan is a skilled and experienced fighter, to say that he is wrong, that he does not know what he is talking about is tantamount to saying that we believe we can beat him in a fight, is this really what everyone thinks?

If we cannot beat him how can we put our hands up and say that he is wrong?

One friend asked “My question back to you Derek is do you think Wing Chun works? I doubt you would still be doing Wing Chun if you didn’t believe it was effective”?

Hmmmmm… does Wing Chun work?

That Conversation.

This is not the simple question it sounds like it is.

This is little like asking “does water boil”?

Water does boil if you understand what needs to be done to it to make it boil, without that knowledge and the correct application of that knowledge it may not even get hot.



I have trained in the Martial Arts for nearly 60 years, only the past 27 of those years in Wing Chun, I am a Martial Artist first and a Wing Chun player second.

As a teacher, I teach people how to fight and the vehicle I choose to illustrate how to do this is Wing Chun, an effective vehicle for this job, in my opinion.

Because I am a Martial Artists that approaches Wing Chun as a vehicle to fight with I have a different relationship to the style than many other people, I see nothing romantic in what we do.

There is a fair amount of stuff in Wing Chun that sounds good but on closer inspection is found to be questionable.

There is also a total lack of workable strategy, something more important than ability in close contests.

I must admit that I am more than a little confused as to why people get so animated when someone like Joe Rogan says Wing Chun does not work, and even more confused as to why I am questioned for airing his opinion.

My opinion, on some levels similar to Joe’s, is derived from experience and not just imagination, hope or personal bias.

There have unfortunately been a number of occasions over the years that I have taken a beating, a hammering to be honest, does this mean that Boxing does not work, or that Judo does not work, or that Military C.Q.C. do not work, or whatever style I was training in at the time did not work.

Of course not, all it means is that on that day against that man I was not good enough.

In a similar vein, there have been fights I won that I should never have walked away from, does that mean that the style I used on that occasion was the best in the world?

Styles do not win fights.

Men do!

But styles can lose fights, especially if someone tries to make them work the way they do in training.

Wing Chun is a style, a tool that we can use to help us fight, it is not a way to fight in and of itself.

That is why it has the potential to fail against people with genuine fighting skills and creative imagination.

One day what we do will be enough the next day it may not, this is just the way it goes, get over it.

There are better questions we can ask than “does Wing Chun work”? Questions that once answered can help forge direction such as “what is the ultimate take away from Wing Chun”?

All training is task-specific, “what task does Wing Chun perform”?

If Wing Chun was a stick, “where is the pointy end”?

Because these are the aspects that we are banking on making the difference between being beaten down or walking away.

The deeper our understanding of both Wing Chun and how we think we may use it, the shorter this answer becomes.

This post is getting lengthy so I will leave it here, for now.

A final question I would like everyone to address is “what is your go-to finishing move”?

I will expand on this later, this is the conversation we should be having.

As always, train your weakness, work to your strength.





I am a firm believer that we cannot train for violence we can only train to control our own movement and our own decisions


To be expected I have a number of friends that are involved in the Martial Arts, a surprising number of them in Traditional Chinese Styles with traditional approaches, they often quiz me on why I put more stock in sports instruction than even the instruction from the very top teachers  of my own lineage, especially now that I am at Master level and have my own school and students.

The first thing I ask them to consider is the position that modern sports are a ritualistic replacement for combat, people engage each other with a vigour as intense and desperate as any violent encounter, at elite level even non contact sports tend towards what is essentially full contact and can readily slip into actual physical violence.

While  we as Traditional Martial Artists on the other hand are involved in training that never engages an opponent in anger with a real outcome to prosecute and secure, much if not all of our training is a lot closer to imagination than reality so can we honestly say that there is any practical difference between the moves used in Ritualistic Combat vs the moves from Traditional Martial Arts Sources?

Once we begin to ask honest questions we eventually come head first into the ugly question that asks “if we never use our training in anger how do we know it will work in anger”?

We don’t, none of us do including myself, I am not trying to set myself above anyone here, it has been approaching 10 years since I used my skill set to its obvious conclusion.

Relating back to sports I am not sure I would put my money on a player that has been out of the game for 10 years no matter how hard he trained, or who he trained with.

From a personal perspective I have been in enough violent encounters to know that each encounter was different from all the previous encounters, over the years  I have used numerous styles so the common denominator was not what I did, I did what I did in spite of my training not because of it, the only real common denominator was me as a person.

How I moved, how I reacted to stimulus how, how I read the play as the encounter unfolded.

I am a firm believer that we cannot train for violence we can only train to control our own movement and our own decisions, in the sports environment this could be advantageous positioning and intelligent shot selection, in a violent encounter it could be to get out of the Bad Guy’s way and hit him while he is not looking.

Some well known  issues in the M.A. training environment is that many students get a little too close to the target and try to hit it too hard, it is almost impossible to be aware of this as we do not have an accurate metric to measure it by, however if we are playing a ball sport, Tennis or perhaps BaseBall, being too close, even by as little as half an inch and trying to hit too hard always result in failure.

There is no practical difference between learning how to be in the right place at the right time using the correct timing and technique to hit a baseball or tennis ball as there is in hitting an opponent.

If we allow ourselves this freedom, and it is a case of allowance, blinding dogma is always a choice, we notice that at a base level all of the moves that create the impulse { Force times Time} to generate momentum are the same for every sport, every martial arts style every normal movement.

It is a Human Movement thing.

We Humans have a limited range of movements with which we perform all actions, as obvious as it is, it is of  no matter what we may think we are doing we can only move in a human way so to that end all of our moves in any endeavour  are the same thing from the same place, there is no special way of doing anything.

Once we see this it cannot be unseen and everything becomes the same, for instance the lateral body shift in the Chum Kiu Form is exactly the way a good baseball player hits a ball, baseball players practice in an environment that is a great deal closer to their sports reality than most of what we do in the Martial Arts.



Positional and structural ideas that Baseball Coaches think are important for hitting a base ball will crossover seamlessly into our practice of Chum Kiu, shot put and discus ideas crossover seamlessly into our Biu Gee practice, if we have the eyes to see without personal bias.

Below is the link I spoke of in the video, it is a bit long at 10 minutes but it is really well presented information.



Science we can feel and see.


it may not hang together so well without all the jibber jabber that was going on


On Saturday morning we were digging into Chum Kiu and justifying our actions to the basics of Newtonian physics, on the off chance of some good work being done I had the camera rolling and I was miked up, it was all pretty ad hoc and as a result some of the filming and lighting is pretty shoddy but the IDEAS are sound.

This is a 5 minute breakdown of a 2 hour session so it may not hang together so well without all the jibber jabber that was going on, as always my main intention is to try to get people to open their minds and do their own research.