Focusing on training
There are many aspects to martial arts training. Each style has its specific components. Wing Chun is no different in this regard. While it is a compact style, consisting primarily of the three empty hand forms, two weapons forms, the wooden dummy techniques and chi sau there is still an overwhelming amount of knowledge and techniques to learn and become proficient in.
To this end do not be myopic in your training and practice. Realize why you are training and what you are training for. Also recognize that there is a martial aspect to what you are doing, to become a proficient fighter you must fight. How can we accomplish this aspect of our training?
We begin by simulating a fight in the kwoon and we do this through sparring. I have seen many Sifu who do not encourage their students to spar; I am thankful that my Sifu made sparring a part of our everyday classes. To learn techniques only on a theoretical basis and not understand how to use them at speed against someone who is fighting back only gives you a glimpse of what they are. To really begin to understand what you are learning you have to use it and you have to use it against someone who is fighting back.
The next step after you have been sparring with your Kung Fu brothers and sisters is to spar against strangers. The best way to do this is through tournament competition. This will push you out of the comfort zone of being in your kwoon. I read all the time from other Sifu that Wing Chun is not for tournaments because it is primarily a self defense system. While Wing Chun is well suited to self defense, the same could be said about all martial arts including many that are used competitively. Using your training within the rules of a tournament is easily done. Yes, you have to omit some of the more damaging techniques that Wing Chun is best known for, but tournament sparring allows you the opportunity to test your skills against a stranger that is trained and also fighting you back. Is it real fighting, no, but it is the closest approximation you can get without the risk to your life and health.
Within the realm of competitive fighting you have different opportunities as well. Wing Chun techniques and principles can be successfully applied to full contact fighting competitions such as kick boxing, Sanda and even MMA.
My Sifu, Master Anthony Arnett has successfully competed in and trained many students to fight in every type of competitive fighting venue from point fighting to full contact. To this end he created and subsequently received sanctioning from Grandmaster William Cheung for his competitive fighting style Cheung Style Sport Kung Fu. Cheung Style utilizes many of the same techniques and more importantly the same principles as Traditional Wing Chun Kung Fu. The main difference is not targeting some of the vital points such as the eyes as this is not legal in any competitive venue.
Through the years of training, sparring and competing that I have done, I have come to understand Wing Chun as it applies to my own personal strengths and weaknesses. In addition I have learned and am confident that the Kung Fu I have been taught works and that I can use it if I need to.
So train hard, be diligent and push yourself out of your comfort zone.