Learn Wing Chun Online – Can You Really Learn Kung Fu Online?

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Can you really learn Wing Chun online? In 2020 my Wing Chun classes were closed down by the government due to Covid-19. I was no longer able to offer classes in person so I decided to run weekly Zoom classes for my existing students who wanted to continue their training.

After a couple of months we re-opened classes before the next lockdown. What I noticed was that those who had maintained their training online had continued to improve while those who hadn’t were falling behind. The gap was apparent and perhaps this should have been obvious. While those who did nothing would not retain their skills, (but rather slowly lose their dexterity), those who joined the Zoom calls were actively improving.

However, all members joining me online on the Zoom calls had some previous partner training under their belt. The question is can someone with no previous experience gain something from training online from videos? In part I would like to say yes, of course they can, but it is limited as to what they can actually learn from videos without a training partner and a qualified instructor to correct them.

What online videos are particularly useful for is to learn the basic hand patterns. Without an experienced teacher (and training partner), it’s a great deal more difficult to learn and understand partner drills which generate the reflex system and hand sensitivity which Wing Chun is built on.

Having multiple Wing Chun training partners in a classroom setting offers something you cannot simulate with even a single training “buddy”. If your training partner has no training, it’s all the more difficult to generate the correct form and reaction. Each training partner in a classroom setting offers something different to the last. One student might react completely differently to another. Some students will be more aggressive than others, some will have a long reach.

It is this part of a martial art which cannot be replicated through online training no matter how intricate a particular training video might be. After all, Wing Chun in particular relies on touch and hand sensitivity, rather than simply copying. A bona fide Sifu who has decades in the art will still have to run a class and build students up with a number of forms, drills and partner activities to replicate real life situations. Even in a classroom, safety is a factor which can take away some realism. So to learn from videos seems rather pointless some might say.

Since my class closed in 2020, the Zoom classes I ran held students accountable and it made them continue their training when they otherwise might have quit. At a time of lockdown in the UK, it was a source of purpose and even just the physical activity alone met a need for exercise and good mental health.

One student had only just joined my class when we were locked down. But he stuck the course and learned the entire system (in terms of forms) just from videos! When we returned to physical classes this became apparent and he couldn’t perform the drills, and chi sau was very tense. However, the training of the forms had moved him forwards and this wouldn’t have been possible without any training at all. He knew Siu Lim Tao, Chun Kiu, Biu Gee, Dummy, Knife and Pole form, (at least in a superficial manner).

When I started learning Wing Chun in 1993, I used a book to study the first form (Siu Lim Tao), in addition to classes. Videos are far better than images in a book. They add another dimension to learning which isn’t possible through a book and photographs. Before the lockdown, I did not believe you could lean Wing Chun online. I still don’t believe you can learn Wing Chun online with any sense of proficiency. However, you can learn the basic hand patterns which can give you a head start if you are planning to join a class in the future.

Hand patterns (forms) are one of the best things you can learn online as a Wing Chun student. But in order to get the most out of online training, you’ll need to bring a good attitude and mindset to your training; it’s much more difficult having the discipline to train alone, than if you have a school and a qualified teacher.

So if you can’t currently access a school, and you still want to learn Wing Chun, you can learn the basic hand patterns of the system. These will give you a structure with which to build on. Start with Siu Lim Tao, and practice every day.

Learn this pattern first and make a habit out of daily practice. Once you have built this habit, start on the second form (Chum Kiu). Of course some of the finer elements of the forms will pass you by. But continue your practice and seek out a teacher who can elaborate on what you have learned.

Train hard and practice every day!

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