Both Wing Chun and Hung Gar are Kung Fu Systems from southern China. Kung Fu or Chinese boxing is one of the oldest forms of fighting arts known to mankind.
It is very difficult to write about the history and roots of Chinese Martial Arts in a few pages, because we are talking about a very important part of Chinese culture, which has a long and at times confusing history, due to in no small way to legends, myths, and contradictions with so many influences such as religion, philosophy, superstition, beliefs and of course politics.
The earlier stages of both Wing Chun and Hung Gar were based on legends that were past down verbally from master to student, so at times they could be ambiguous due to the fact there was no evidence at the time these system were founded.
So I will give you a brief history of Wing Chun and Hung Gar Kung Fu. Starting from an era where two monks fled the Manchurian persecutors. One being 22nd Generation Shaolin monk Ye Chen An Zhu from the Northern Shaolin Temple, who according to historians from Futsan China, was the person responsible for teaching Wing Chun to people who became involved with the Peking Opera.
And monk Gee Seen Sim See Abbott from the Southern Shaolin Temple known today as the person who taught the founder of Hung Gar (Hung Hei Gung) on the Red Boats Peking Opera.
Both systems where developed around 300 years ago during the Ching Dynasty. It was a time of oppression for the general population. Between 1644-1911 the Manchurians ruled China, where only the minority where Manchus and the general population were the Hans. To maintain control over the Hans, the Manchus ruled with harsh laws and zero tolerance, banning the use of weapons and or training the Martial Arts, also forcing Chinese men to adopt Manchu customs like to infamous queue (braided pony tail). This provoked violent Chinese resistance. It is well known that rebel activity flourished in the Red Boat Peking Opera Troupes that traveled along the Pearl River in Southern China.
This was the perfect environment for Anti-Ching rebels to hide from the imperial troupes, where they became performers and wore costumes, and painted their faces also changing their names for “stage names” and sailing from town to town, this is how many secret societies were formed.
Kung Fu Systems Founded
After the period of the Red Boats Peking Opera Troupe, these two systems took quite different journeys. On one hand, Wing Chun was passed down to 4th Generation Wing Chun Grand Master Leung Jan and from him it went on from Master to a select group of students for several generation until Grandmaster Yip Man taught it openly, and then it became the worlds most famous Kung Fu System in the world. And Hung Gar went on the become one of the most well known system in China due to the fact they taught it openly to many people in the attempt to overthrow the Ching Dynasty, the most famous master in Hung Gar history was 5th Generation Grand Master Wong Fei Hung (member of the Ten Tigers from Canton), the man responsible for shaping the system to what it is today.
Both systems predominantly use hand techniques over kicking techniques, and most if not all kicks are delivered to the mid section or lower. But apart from that the rest is quite different in theory, practice and application.
Wing Chun works on the centerline theory and where the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, everything is based on the shape of a triangle, it encourages the student to defend and attack simultaneously also focusing on the theory of opposite direction, and utilizing various types of speed.
In Wing Chun you will only find a hand full of forms. There are three empty hand forms, Siu Lim Tao (little idea form), Chum Kiu (Searching for the Bridge form), Biu Jee (Thrusting Fingers form), a wooden man form a kicking dummy and two weapons form the Luk Dim Poon Kwan (six and half point pole form) and the Bart Chum Do (eight slash knives form).
Each form is used like the English alphabet, where the techniques are performed one at a time like the A, B, C not following a particular fight sequence like in Hung Gar. So this way the practitioner has the chance to “pick the letters” and create “words” so you can find an infinite of fighting applications.
One other very unique training method in Wing Chun is called Chi Sau or sticky hands. With this method the student basically trains sensitivity and learns how to cover the area he/she has exposed or open.
Hung Gar is known as Hard as Iron, Soft as a Thread. It is based on the concept of an immovable foundation. The student is encouraged to block with strong forearm techniques. This way opponents limbs will clash painfully and many times injuriously as a result of a Hung Gar block or guard. This concept is trained via the use of Iron Rings on our forearms, and Da Sam Sing forearm strengthening method.
Hung Gar is mostly known as an external Kung Fu system, but in advance level of training the student is introduced to the internal aspect of training, going in to Chi Kung (Internal Enegry) training which helps improve the student’s health and wellbeing.
In Hung Gar we have little over thirty forms from a wide variety of empty hand forms, where we have what is known as the Four Pillars which are the foundation of the Hung Gar system. If somebody has not learnt all four sets, he/she cannot be called a true Hung Gar Master, these forms are as followed: Gung Gee Fook Fu Kuen (Taming the Tiger), Fu Hok Seung Ying Kuen (Tiger and Crane double shape form), Sup Ying Kuen (Ten Pattern Fist), Tit Sin Kuen (Iron Wire Fist).
In the weapons forms, there are both short range weapons (like the broadsword, straight sword) and long range weapons (like the long pole, spear, tiger fork, kuan to), the five and nine section whips. We also have the two men forms, which are divided into two separate groups, empty hand and weapons. These are just to name a few.
I would like to point out a couple main differences between Wing Chun and Hung Gar. Although they are both very good and effective martial arts, they both will follow different paths in pursuit of excellence.
Wing Chun is a system designed for fighting, it will teach the student how to improve his awareness, sensitivity, co-ordination and power through its unique applied fighting method. There are no chi kung training methods or chin na (grappling) method’s, at least in my lineage from Grandmaster Yip Man. Its all about simple direct intercepting the attacking, covering not blocking, jamming with force, redirecting your opponents power and the use of devastating kicks.
Hung Gar was intended to be the artistic expression of power. This system will use the combination of five animals and five elements training method. To rip muscles, break bones, dislocate joints, etc.
Here is the list of animals together with its main characteristic and equivalent element.
Dragon, hard and soft simultaneously. It uses sinking power. Its element is Earth.
Snake, soft and flexible, until it has to attack then it becomes hard and sharp. Its element is Water.
Tiger, Fierce, powerful. Strengthen bones and tendons. Its element is Fire.
Leopard, speed, strength in momentum. Its element is Gold.
Crane, balance in attack and defense. Its element is Wood.
This has been an insight into these two great Chinese Martial Arts systems, which I have spent almost my entire life learning, studying, and teaching…
By SiFu Henry Araneda.