How long does it take to become an effective Wing Chun fighter?
Answer: As you can imagine, it will depend on how often you train, and how efficiently you train.
The best tip is to practice outside of class.
Wing Chun is a skill, and you improve it by putting in the hours. In this case, train at home, on your own.
I have yet to see any Wing Chun, or other martial arts, school that’s open 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, 365-days a year. But something like ‘Video MASTERY’ can give you an edge in your training no matter your schedule.
In some of the Wing Chun schools I’ve seen, by attending all the available weekly classes (let’s say three or more classes per week), the sifus believe that in six months you can become proficient and effective. That would get a new student up about two levels from beginner (white belt).
Proficient, in my book means, you’ve figured out how to throw a straight punch, a front kick, you can release yourself from basic grabs, you know enough defensive techniques and footwork to keep you out of harms way, and you have an overall awareness that you don’t have to fight, you can flee.
If push comes to shove, you can handle yourself against someone that isn’t trained and doesn’t have much experience fighting, but may be stronger or heavier than you. In other words, a drunk dummy at a bar.
In the school I train at, I’ve seen students reach four to five levels within two or three years. These people are pretty dangerous.
Their straight punches have explosive power behind them. They can throw all the Wing Chun kicks.
Unless you’re a superb fighter yourself, you’ll have a hard time landing attacks, because their Wing Chun defense and simultaneous counters will be polished.
They have enough knowledge and skill to aim at the prime targets like the neck, groin, temple, eyes, knees, floating ribs, and shins. They’ll have some experience with wrist locks, elbow breaks, elbow strikes, knee strikes, and L-hooks.
If this person gets the jump on you by initiating the attack, and you’re not a superb or experienced fighter, you’re going to have hard time recovering.
Wing Chun Black Belt
By four or five years, and attending all the available weekly classes, a student should be prepared for the sixth level. In my kwoon, that’s a black belt, which by the way is not a high belt (we have three more levels after black before reaching red – sifu).
When I was very new to Wing Chun, I always thought the Wing Chun black belts at the time could pretty much beat the dung out of most other martial arts’ black belts.
Out of all the black belts we have at the school today, I haven’t changed my opinion.
Each kwoon may be different… in my kwoon however, things take off to a brand new level at black belt.
It’s here you begin to learn the bil gee form, and apply it. Chi gerk training starts in earnest. You learn most, if not all the wooden dummy form. Perfecting your weapons forms and perhaps some pre-determined sparring in weapons begins.
And of course, you must perfect everything you’ve been taught up to that point — footwork, forward energy, chi sao, structure, angles, a lot more sparring, and be able to express your moves naturally and fluidly.
In fact, just to reach black belt, you’re required to fight multiple opponents at the same time for your test. Lastly, some schools may ask, or require, you to lead some of the lower level classes (teach).
For comparison, Bruce Lee stopped his formal Wing Chun training at around this level. Reports say he trained Wing Chun for about four years before he moved to the US to start his new life.
All this depends a lot on you. I don’t have any hard data, but I estimate 80% of the new students in our kwoon quit before completing their first full year. And that’s too bad. Some come back. Most do not.
Then there are other students who have a higher philosophical approach to martial arts and Wing Chun and push off “testing”; because it’s “just a belt”.
Then you have many who, because of work or family, can’t make it to each class, or barely make it to one or two classes a week because of their schedule.
Also, there are those who start training and dive right in, but then they disappear because of work or other personal issues and disappear for weeks, months, even years (like me), and then return and dive right back in.
The full-time fighter and trainer is the rarest one. But, they’re beautiful to watch kick pork butt.
Luckily, you can enhance your training outside of class. That’s been my recommendation to all who ask, “how can I improve quickly.”
Train at home (including your fitness), then use class to polish up the rough edges and touch hands with different energies, heights, weights, and levels of experience.
Do you have your own answer to this question? Tell us in the comment section below.