These six Wing Chun forms represent the foundation of the Wing Chun system, in the Ip Man (also spelled Yip Man) lineage.
This Wing Chun line is arguably the most popular and far reaching lineage around the world today.
One of the most frustrating things I went through when I was very new to Wing Chun was learning that there isn’t a truly pure Wing Chun.
Many sifus claim to have “The Knowledge”. There are many rumors of who was taught the ultra-secret virgin state of original Wing Chun.
But who the heck really knows?!
Wing Chun is about 300 years old and there isn’t any complete, authoritative, or documented history (I’ve looked and read and researched everywhere. If you have any input on Wing Chun history please share with all of us).
The true origins is something for professional historians and archeologists to figure out.
There Is One Commonality...
The majority of all Wing Chun sects, inside and outside of the Ip Man line, either have one or all of these six Wing Chun forms in their system and it will be called by the same name.
- Sil Lum Tao (小念頭 Little Idea)
- Chum Kiu (尋桥 Bridging the Gap)
- Biu Ji (标指 Thrusting Fingers)
- Muk Yan Jong (木人樁 Wooden Dummy)
- Baat Jam Dao (八斩刀 Butterfly Swords/Eight Cut Swords)
- Look Dim Boon Grun (六点半杆 Dragon Pole/Six and Half Point Pole)
These are the six forms you’ll see and learn about in any Ip Man lineage, Wing Chun school around the world.
But, the commonality ends with the names of these forms.
[note: The “transliteration” – how the names are spelled using Roman letters i.e. A, B, C – doesn’t matter since they’re all written the same in Chinese itself.
The different spelling is a result of dialect, accent, and history. People, usually Westerners, wrote what they heard i.e. Peking instead of Beijing. And what they heard differed based on what part of China their sifu came from.
Even up to 50 years ago there was no accepted “transliteration” from Chinese into Roman letters – Romanization. Today, however, the Mandarin dialect (which is the closest to Beijing’s dialect) and its Pinyin transliteration system is the standard accepted method.
Yet a problem still exists for many Westerners. Pinyin is used to transliterate the standard Mandarin dialect – known as PuTongHua: 普通话.
In the West, Kung Fu words didn’t come from Mandarin speakers. Rather they came from other dialects such as Cantonese, Fujianese, and others.
For instance, Ip Man is pronounced ‘Ye Wen’ in Mandarin. In both cases, it is spelled 叶问 in Chinese. (If you can get the Chinese writing for all your Wing Chun terms, that is best. And feel free to share a copy with me.)
If you get confused by all the different spellings and pronunciations and want to get it straight… all you have to do is learn to read Chinese 😉 Or, continue visiting us here at Wing Chun Life.com and let our expert Chinese translators clear up all the mess for you.]
The Wing Chun forms have the same names, but how they’re executed, the number of moves within each form, and the order of the moves varies from sect to sect, lineage to lineage.
And the variations between them can be very large. But even then, when you see a Wing Chun practitioner perform one of the forms you know which one is being done.
“Ah, he’s doing some kind of Sil Lum Tao.” “She’s performing a modified Chum Kiu.” “That’s a funky looking wooden dummy form.” Etc.
Which is the pure and original Wing Chun form?
Again, that’s something for university professors and historians to argue.
In the meantime, below is a brief overview of the six Wing Chun forms
1) Sil Lum Tao (小念頭 Little Idea)
This is the first of the three empty hand Wing Chun forms. It contains the basic foundation of all Wing Chun hand attacks and defense techniques.
To the untrained eye it looks and feels too simple. Yet, that’s the essence of Wing Chun – simplicity.
Practicing the Sil Lum Tao you learn the Wing Chun punch, palm strike, the center and central lines, location of and blocking (defending) the upper, middle and lower gates, breaks and locks, and the beginnings of footwork and Biu Ji.
When you really understand what’s going on you learn to appreciate it, even when you become a more advanced Wing Chun student.
2) Chum Kiu (尋桥 Bridging the Gap)
The second Wing Chun form you learn. Opposed to Sil Lum Tao where most of the form is performed one arm at a time. The Chum Kiu form performs more of the moves with both arms at the same. (Which is truer to the practical aspects of Wing Chun in combat or sparring).
Just as important, Chum Kiu incorporates footwork and kicks. You begin to learn how to be mobile and balanced while using both arms, footwork, and kicks.
3) Biu Ji (标指 Thrusting Fingers)
It’s the third and final open hand Wing Chun form. It’s the most advanced form because in order to pull it off in real life you need to have near perfect coordination, balance, and footwork.
To accurately strike the pressure points you need well-developed chi sao and chi gerk skill to control your opponent.
Otherwise it won’t work.
Also, the moves in Biu Ji are finishing moves. They’re used to end the fight. And if you lack control you could potentially kill someone without that being your intention.
The Biu Ji form, along with the thrusting finger attacks, also has all the Wing Chun kicks, the footwork, breaks, and includes elbow strikes.
When you get to this point in your training, you’re pretty much a walking weapon.
4) Muk Yan Jong (木人樁 Wooden Dummy)
In this Wing Chun form you train against a massive piece of wood – “The Wooden Dummy.” Although, nowadays you can also find it made from PVC or metal.
I believe one of the best ways to use the Wing Chun dummy form is to train interruptibility.
Too many people falsely believe that the Wing Chun dummy is for pounding and hitting hard.
Not true. (Although I like to use a padded wooden dummy so I can hit it a bit with no damage to myself).
Since these materials are harder and denser than skin, muscle, tendon, and bone, you don’t want to pound on it. Doing so is using force against force. Which we don’t do in Wing Chun.
Instead, throw a strike and if a hunk of wood gets in the way, interrupt and change your technique. If another hunk of wood blocks your path, interrupt again and change into another technique.
Training interruptability and flow is the proper use of Wing Chun dummies and the wooden dummy form in Wing Chun.
Like all forms, start slow to learn the move well. Then relax to speed up. Train like this and you’ll build speed and fluidity. And when you have speed and fluidity, you will gain power.
And remember to use your imagination. Many students and sifus say that the Wing Chun wooden dummy is your best training partner — if you don’t have a live one.
5) Baat Jam Dao (八斩刀 Wing Chun Butterfly Swords/Eight Cut Swords)
In Chinese, “Dao” is directly translated into “knife” and “Jian” is directly translated into “sword”. So technically, you could translate “Eight Cut Swords” into “Eight Cut Knives.”
I think the look and cultural background is more important than the direct translation in this case.
Most Westerners would agree that the Wing Chun Butterfly Swords look more like small swords than very large knives. (The ancient Romans had short swords, or were they daggers? Either way, I’m pretty sure no one them called them knives. So what’s a machete…?)
I bring it up because I read a heated discussion about this topic on the Internet. I felt it was ridiculous especially if you understand the difference, which you do now.
Besides, in English, swords just sounds better.
The “Eight Cut” or “Eight Slash” comes from the fact that this weapon was originally used by Shaolin monks, and monks are not allowed to kill. However, they are allowed to maim their attacker by slashing the wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles.
This is a great weapon for the Wing Chun artist.
It allows you to use both arms together, defend and attack at the same time, incorporate footwork and kicks, while giving the practitioner extension so he or she can attack low and high, close in and further out than by only using empty hands.
In addition to being my favorite weapon, this happens to be one of my favorite Wing Chun forms – they’re freakin’ awesome!
6) Look Dim Boon Grun (六点半杆Dragon Pole/Six and Half Point Pole)
This Wing Chun weapon gets its name from the number of moves in the form (Six and a half moves/Six and a half strikes).
Different schools will give you different definitions of how long the Dragon Pole is (anywhere from 5 feet to 13 feet long – almost 4 meters long) how thick it is (the average is around one inch in diameter, 2.54 centimeters, give or take), some say it’s tapered, others say it’s not, etc.
One more thing, outside of Ip Man lines, some families have Dragon Pole forms with much more than 6.5 moves! Again, this is something for the historians to figure out.
The point is: keep it simple –
The Dragon Pole is a long stick that you use to beat up enemies from a long distance.
Before Mankind learned to sharpen stones and melt metal, he used sticks (or stick-like things) to beat up enemies.
Unfortunately, I haven’t spent much time with this weapon yet. You need a lot of room to practice.