First off, I should make it clear that I'm really not qualified to speak on "Wing Chun" in general or what's "internal" since I only know what I've studied. I didn't learn Wing Chun for very long, and I learned it from a very unorthodox teacher. I don't know much about the different lineages and their politics. But I learned some really important stuff which I don't think I could have gotten out of the traditional IMA's, things which made me see the IMA material I'd learnt in a very different light. Until I tried it for myself, WC looked like a bunch of silly, slappy bullshit (and from what I can tell, most of the WC on Youtube is exactly that); now I think it's (potentially, at least) one of the most genius martial arts out there.
In some respects, I was left with the impression that WC can be more "internal", or at least "softer," than the "big three." In particular, WC made me appreciate how much emphasis there is in the IMA's on power training, despite all the rhetoric we hear about softness and efficiency. This is especially true of taiji. That's not to say that there is no power training in WC, but for the most part it seems to be subordinate to other aspects of the art.
In general, WC seems to take the opposite approach from the IMA's, but they meet in the middle at the advanced levels. For the most part (I'm sure there are exceptions), the IMA's tend to emphasize waist integration and gross, telegraphed whole-body movements for beginners, gradually shrinking things down into a more usable frame as the student advances.
WC seeks to use the smallest possible frame from the very beginning, totally isolating the waist and only working in power once a certain "no power" baseline has been established. It emphasizes weakness and disadvantage from the get-go. The form is designed as a handicapping device to totally eliminate the possibility of inefficient movement -- that is, if you can build an effective base from the WC stance, you can build one from anywhere. In contrast, the wide, deep and powerful stances of many of the IMA's allow you to cheat and 'fake' an internal structure until you actually have one.
So, the IMA's tend to emphasize integration, and WC tends to emphasize isolation. These are two sides of the same coin. If you can really do one of these properly, you should be able to do the other -- but to quote Mick Goodrick, "When a student asks me, should I do A or do B? I usually just reply, 'Why not do both?'"
From what I saw, WC is a brilliant and nasty little martial art, but a highly specialized one -- it is more just a single "little idea" than a comprehensive fighting system. Its principal advantage is that beginners can experience grounded, connected, efficient movement in a short period of time. The disadvantage is that it achieves this through contrivance, by drastically restricting one's possibilities for movement. It doesn't show you "how to move" in general but rather provides a set of limitations to help you discover new ways of moving.
If you want to take the insights gained from WC practice outside of that environment, it takes some research and experimentation, but in that respect it's not much different from any other martial art. In particular, it takes some serious interpretive faculty to figure out it all works with stepping. The way I learnt, stepping was THE key to the art, but you would never be able to figure it out just from looking at the form. Fortunately, my teacher had already figured that out and was happy to share!
I'd be curious to hear what more experienced WC and IMA practitioners think about my impressions, especially Dr. Fish but really anyone who has the background.
Last edited by NoSword
on Sun Oct 28, 2012 5:32 pm, edited 5 times in total.
"Nothing is as it seems, everything is as it is."
On top of your shoulders there is a machine. It weighs ten pounds and its job is to produce delusions day and night without ceasing.