Wing Chun is one of the most coveted forms of kung fu. Students routinely travel every year to Hong Kong and other locations to become masters in this form of martial arts. But not all have the ability to go back to the pure taproot of this ancient Chinese art. And for millions who have a great thirst for knowledge, this is a great time to be alive.
One of the best Wing Chun instructors who capitalized on a movement to learn kung fu from the comfort of one’s own home is Sifu Williams. His first full length instructional DVD set “Wing Chun Gung Fu” – the Explosive Art of Close Range Combat, is broken apart with the Western learner in mind. But do the principles of each video truly translate the core concepts of such a complex and beautiful martial art?
Let’s examine some of his old series – The Explosive Art of Close Range Combat – and see if its principles stand by the test of time.
Randy Williams Wing Chun Kung Fu
This is a super old series that originally saw its heyday on VHS. Now it’s available on DVD. For those interested in a start-to-finish Wing Chun kung fu course taught by a much younger Randy Williams, this DVD set is surprisingly informative.
Volume 1: Siu Leem Tau and Basic Theory
Siu Leem Tau, sometimes spelled or referenced as Sui Nim Tao, refers to not just the postures and stances inherent to his style of Wing Chun style but also goes into the theory and practice of them. This is where we first see the Yip Man genealogy of Wing Chun pop up and know that he is deriving his own style of Wing Chun based upon that lineage.
What the video covers: Posture, breathing, basic hand motions, theory, hand strikes
Volume 2: Chum Kiu and Footwork
What good is posture and breathing if you cannot close the gap with your opponent? The translation of Chum Kiu is “bridge seeking”. In order to bring this legendary style of close quarters combat to bear upon an opponent – Randy Williams shows you how to close the gap.
What the video covers: Movement, footwork, breathing in movement, foot strikes
Volume 3: Mook Yan Joang and Mui Fa Joang
Welcome to the wooden dummy! For those unfamiliar with its particular use, it’s a very popular wooden system of resistance to develop fast reflexes and concentration. But more importantly – it’s an essential training tool for beginners in the Wing Chun style of fighting. Not only does it give something rigid to practice the techniques demonstrated in this video – it’s the concept of real and tangible resistance outside of a training partner. Sifu Randy Williams makes no bones about it – real hand to hand combat requires toughness. And that toughness is no better developed than understanding the means to circumvent it. Sifu Randy Williams teaches that it’s not necessary to out muscle your opponent – it’s only necessary to outmaneuver them. The wooden dummy is a key to doing that.
What the video covers: Wooden dummy practice, principles, and technique
Volume 4: Biu Jee and Sticky Hands
Sticking Hands is one of the central training pivot points for all young students of Wing Chun. And thankfully, Master Randy Williams perhaps does his most admirable job in this video. Covering the basics of how to both spar with a partner and develop the reflexes necessary to action basic manipulations, blocks, and some counter-attacks – this is truly the video that cannot be missed.
What the video covers: Sparring techniques, manipulation, hand movements in combat
Volume 5: Weapons and Iron Palm
There is no possible way to cover weapons in a single training seminar on video. Once a combatant moves beyond the world of hand to hand combat and into the world of weapons, he is truly on his own. However, true to form, he attempts to teach the young Wing Chun pupil the necessary basics in form and function. For those truly interested in Sifu Randy Williams’ extensive work in the world of both Kung Fu and other artforms, it’s best to check out his videos here and here.
The true gem of this video is actually the iron palm techniques. This is not something mastered in simply a day or two or from seeing from a video but it is an essential technique to being victorious should combat arise. He discusses both the hardening and developing techniques that have actually only been discussed in Shaolin schools of thought. It’s something worthy of watching for anyone wishing to not only master Wing Chun but develop the art of war.
What the video covers: Basic bo and knife fighting techniques, some swordplay, and most of all: the iron palm
Volume 6: Combat Theory and Drills: An Instructor’s Manual
For those who have not just completed this video series but wish to pass on the instruction to others, he focuses one whole video to an honest discussion of just this. Kung fu – and especially Wing Chun – are art forms that must be passed on in order to live. He inherently understands that. And while the purchase of his DVD set covers the cost for him to continue doing his work to innovate this line of Wing Chun from the form passed down from Yip Man, the true genius is in the art of Wing Chun itself and what it can provide not just in terms of self-defense but personal growth as well.
Part of beginning on the path of Wing Chun is adopting a life long adoration of the art form. Self defense, the actual practice, is gross. This video set, made in the late 1980s, can be – at times – a bit hokey and dated. However the instruction presented in this form is actually a true classic worthy of anyone whom is unable to make the pilgrimage to Hong Kong.
For those interested in seeing what Sifu Williams is doing post-VHS, check out his groundworks basics course that he gives a preview of on Youtube.