How hard should you train with a partner when you are first learning Wing Chun?

For example, some guys in class like to throw their punches at you like in a real fight; hard and fast. Is that beneficial for beginners?
Answer: I would say no. In my personal experience, as in talking about myself, this never helped. When I was first starting out, I hated practicing with the advanced students who liked to beat up on the newer students. I thought they were jerks.

For arguments sake, I’m going to assume these guys are being mean on purpose. Not that they’re naturally heavy handed, not that they don’t have much self-control over their body, and not that you’re especially green and new to all martial arts or hand combat that you just freak out simply because a hit or a kick is coming your way…

If you’re a brand-new student, and get beat up in each class, you’re probably not learning anything useful because you’re stressed and tense. So this definitely isn’t working.

To be fair, a minority of students do like getting beat up. They think it’s important and valuable to keep it real. They like to be made aware of their weaknesses. They believe it will only make them stronger. They feel it’s necessary to stay motivated if they’re dealing with a better fighter who clocks them in the face a few times during class.

Everyone has a different way of learning.

But, this learning method is in the minority. It works for a very small and rare group who need to get rapped on the knuckles when they make a mistake.

The problem is negative reinforcement, for most people, reinforces the negative habit. It also creates stress and tension.

These are not empowering states of mind, and they actually lock up and turn off the brain from learning efficiently.

The trick is to find the balance between learning and memorizing the moves calmly, apply them in a free-flowing natural way, give yourself enough stress and tension (perturbation) to bring it up a notch, and highlight your weaknesses so you can fix them.

When you build muscle memory, you want it to be the correct or proper muscle memory. One Sigong said, practice does NOT make perfect, Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.

Even professional boxing agrees.

I read that in professional boxing, a wise manager will purposely find a weak challenger to fight his boxer in his first few professional fights.

The reason is because he wants his fighter to gain confidence. What do you think would happen if an aspiring boxer gets his face bashed in on his first professional fight?

He’ll probably give up and quit. Most likely, he won’t learn to be a better fighter, he’ll learn to be scared and nervous. That’s the problem with negative reinforcement.

This is what you want to avoid from happening to you, especially if you’re brand-new to Wing Chun.

Most of the time, I will take it easy on the new students and give them a chance to actually learn the techniques, so they actually have a chance to use them effectively.

But I’ll verbally ask if they want me to go faster or to hit harder during our drills. I’ll let them choose the proper tempo. This tends to work out well.

Even for myself, if I’m learning a new move, I’ll ask my partner to go slower until I build up the muscle memory. Then, I’ll ask my partner to go faster, harder, and make it more real.

In sparring it’s a little different.

Where I study, our sifu won’t let you spar until you’re at a certain level. And then, among the lower level or less experienced or more “timid” students he’ll build them up first. Give them tools and strategies that are useful in sparring.

Normally, he won’t let an advanced student beat down the other guy or gal. But here’s where more experienced and confident fighters can get rougher, without hurting anyone’s feelings.

Truth is, it doesn’t prove much if an advanced student can “out gun” a new or less experienced student. It just means the new student hasn’t learned or developed any skills yet.

But give it a few months of effective learning and training, and that jerk better watch out.