Wing Tsun and the Keyboard Commando
A look into the world of the Internet and the Martial Artist.
A paper by Steve Crandall as required for the
2nd Technician Level in Bay Mountain Wing Tsun
In this modern age of computers and the Internet, we are faced with a
plethora of new avenues for research and discussion of the Martial Arts. For the
most part, this resource becomes a useful tool for the Martial Artist to grow and
learn new things. Unfortunately, as with most things in life, there is always
another side to the story. This new fertile land also provides an avenue for those
who have nothing positive to say, nothing to contribute, and only serve to tear
down walls for what appears to be their own self gratification.
For this paper, I would like to discuss in general the negative comments or
misconceptions that “Keyboard Commandos” tend to generate when speaking
specifically about Wing Tsun. While I do focus on the art of Wing Tsun, this also
applies to any other Martial Art out there. For this paper I rely on three main
sources of information. The first would be a more reputable Martial Arts forum
called “Kung Fu Magazine Forum” and is located at:
http://forum.kungfumagazine.com/forum/index.php This is the website forum for
the actual “Inside Kung Fu” magazine that you would find on a newsstand.
The second website I used was the forum located at:
http://www.vingtsun.com.hk. While this website comes directly from what I
understand to be the headquarters of all Wing Tsun lineage’s, this appears to be
the least reputable and where the most “Trolls “ can be found. (The word troll is
used to describe a certain type of individual.) I find this most suprising since one
would tend to think that the “headquarters” for all families of Wing Tsun would
allow such a forum for negative discussion.
For the third source of information I use our own, Bay Mountain Wing
Tsun Instructors and School Owners message forum. Since I know the group here
at our own site, it gives me a little better insight into the mindset of those
participating in the discussion. Using our own forum also provides me the
opportunity to “direct” conversations like a salesperson would ask leading
questions he or she already knew what to expect as a response. This type of
questioning allows me to better see, or focus, on just one aspect of a thought or
The reason I decided to write this paper on this subject is because of the
interesting anonymity dynamic the Internet throws into the mix. This idea of
anonymity spawns and supports multiple sub-level ideas of this behavior. For
example, anonymity allows room for unsupported comments by any individual
without any need for proof for their statements or their credibility. On the
Internet, everyone is a Master of their own style and they, for the most part,
consider them the all knowing sources of information for their particular style.
That is not to say however, that there are many good people out there that
contribute to Martial Art discussions in a positive way. What it takes is a very
discerning eye to separate what is a good post/comment, and what is not.
A side effect from these “Keyboard Commandos,” and their all knowing
attitude, is the possibility for circular statements. Sometime these statements are
made on purpose, by those cunning enough, so that the people involved in the
discussion get so confused they start to believe the authors false comments. These
people I like to refer to as the Intelligent Deceivers. They like to be in control of
the conversation and like to direct it as they see fit. Usually, to the savvy Internet
user, one can pick up on this type of circular rhetoric and either leave the
discussion or point out the authors’ inaccuracy. The latter is usually done so that
the imposter is shown for his true colors, a Troll.
In general, a Troll is known as someone who peruses the forums looking to
start flame wars or discredit someone solely based on personal gain, or in general
is a person who has a malicious attitude and knows that because of his/hers
anonymity can get away with personal attacks. These Trolls use tactics like
assuming a rather reputable Martial Artists name as a user name, and start saying
negative things about other styles and other Masters/Sifus/Guros etc. Again, in
general, most people who participate in online discussions about Martial Arts can
sniff these Trolls out immediately and have them, or their comments, either erased
from the forum or banned completely from the website.
My last sub point is not really about anonymity, but it is a point about
people in general and the ones you will find online participating in these
discussions. When speaking in regards to martial artists, I like to refer to these
people as Good Intentioned Loyalists. These are not mean or spiteful individuals,
they just have “blinders” on when it comes to their own martial art. What I am
talking about is the general attitude of reading for what you want to read, or hear,
and not what is actually written down.
Too often when people have strong opinions about something, especially in
Martial Arts, they tend to become close minded even when they think they are
being open about something. I have been involved in online Martial Art
discussions where, in black and white, I would state my opinion and one of the
participating individuals would counter my statement without even considering the
content of what was written before. While this is not only frustrating, it can also
be used as a tool to weed out the Trolls mentioned before hand.
Getting back to the original theme of this paper, I have found the following
three (3) different points or misconceptions about Wing Tsun that I generally find
in the online Martial Arts discussion forums I participate in. As this paper
discusses the “Keyboard Commando” and the misconceptions presented on the
Internet, we will consider how anonymity affects the idea of Wing Tsun and
martial arts in general when possible.
For the first idea or point of this paper I will discuss the different
understandings of the Wing Tsun art, from different family lineages, brings to an
online discussion about the art. Here, we will look at the difference between
technique based thinking and principle based thinking, regardless of style, and
how it can lead to misconceptions. Such as the idea that Wing Tsun is an
incomplete system and one would need to go outside the system to make up for
those supposed “shortcomings” in Wing Tsun. We will also examine the idea of
only sparring in your system, with like minded/style people, and the need to yet
again go outside of the system to “prove” your skills or make up for a supposed
Wing Tsun deficiency.
For the second main idea or point in this paper, we will deal with the actual
application of Wing Tsun, or fighting using Wing Tsun principles. We will
discuss the idea of ring, UFC fighting and how they are discussed in online
forums. Then, we will “relax” the rules a bit and see how people react and
comment when they see and discuss challenge matches. The final sub point for
fighting with Wing Tsun is the overconfidence and misunderstanding of the
application side the novice Wing Tsun student can have.
Finally we will look at the dynamic that presenting Wing Tsun to the public
has on peoples opinion of the art and how it is discussed online. This last point
becomes a very interesting point because it can actually lead back around to my
original point in this paper. After all, what this paper really boils down to is how
the public views our art, based on what they see either on the Internet or in person
from a particular Wing Tsun/Wing Chun/Ving Tsun/Wing Tzun/Wing Tjun
family. This final point will continue the public demonstration point and narrow
it down to an individual presentation and how this can affect teaching of the art.
This presentation point will wrap up with the misconception between these
demonstrations and the actual application. In lesser words we will discuss the idea
of the “light switch” and how that differs from the presentation to the public.
I’d like to finish this introduction by saying that this paper does not attempt
to discredit anyone, and really does not have any purpose other than to discuss the
common misconceptions about Wing Tsun, or any Martial Art in general, due to
the anonymity of the Internet. I find this interesting because everyone uses the
Internet, and for the most part use it without regards to authenticity or accuracy. It
is true that the Internet holds a wealth of information for everyone and provides
for an excellent learning environment. But as with your Wing Tsun, it should be
questioned and looked at for content, intent, and clarity.
For there is no greater crime, in my opinion, for one to spend a major
portion of their life chasing after a dream that may only be a vapor trail at best.
Wing Tsun is a beautiful art and belongs to no one. It should be treasured, not
trashed as I have seen it so often on the Internet.
How different schools of thought affect WT misconceptions
In general, online discussion forums have done what no martial artist or
teacher has been able to do in the past. That is to meet with other students
instructors from all over the world and discuss varying ideas and opinions about
martial arts, self discipline, teaching and world events in general. Where in the
past, one would consider himself fortunate to have crossed paths with 2 or 3 other
instructors/students he can learn from, now that same person can learn from
thousands to millions of different students and teachers.
When we narrow the martial arts subject down to a Wing Tsun discussion,
many of the discussions break down to Wing Tsun in a technique based format, or
a principle based format. Technique based fighters will generally argue that “there
is only one way to respond to that attack” or that “you could never defend that
because there is no known defense for it” when discussing a particular point of
view. Principle based people generally don’t care where or how the attack comes,
just that they deal with it properly using principles and are usually found to be a
little more flexible in their discussions. These two types of people make for an
Now throw Internet anonymity into the mix. If the discussion online takes
a nasty, divisive turn others may pick up on this and start to question Wing Tsun
and its efficiency altogether. “Why if these Wing Tsun guys can’t agree on
something than the answer MUST lie somewhere else outside the system.” This
type of divisiveness, fueled by Internet anonymity, only weakens the image of
Wing Tsun and it’s effectiveness to the public.
This questioning of the art’s effectiveness does not only come from outside
the Wing Tsun family, but inside as well and in turn has started a movement
towards looking outside of the system to answer questions that their techniques
cannot answer. Many outside observers, and in my opinion those technique based
Wing Tsun people, feel the need to go somewhere else and “cross train” to
become the most complete martial artist. As a principle based Wing Tsun fighter
one can see that all of the answers are there for you, they just need to be
I have to divert the topic just slightly for a moment to address a similar
misconception introduced by one of the more famous, temporary practitioners of
Wing Tsun, Bruce Lee. With his limited knowledge of Wing Tsun, Bruce Lee
was able to turn himself into a very accomplished fighter, actor and teacher.
Unfortunately many of his teachings and ideas are often misunderstood, and
further fuel the ideas of going outside the system and cross training. For example,
Bruce Lee was often heard saying “Use what is useful to you, throw away the
rest.” Although Bruce Lee did cross train with masters to improve himself, he
always stayed true to his fighting principles, in my opinion. It is my belief that this
is where people misunderstood him and his need to better himself as a fighter, not
to make up for Wing Tsun deficiencies by looking outside the system.
So with Bruce Lee came the idea of JKD and cross training. Throw the
Internet into the mix, along with many gullible people, you can see how quite a
few martial artists believe that Wing Tsun or any other art for that matter is
incomplete and to become the best fighter you must cross train.
To wrap up the first point of this paper, different schools of different
thought believe that you must spar against people from other systems and often
criticize Wing Tsun people for not doing so. In other words, many online persons
state that Wing Tsun isn’t effective because any time they see someone using it,
they are always sparring against their own style! This is the burden of our style of
training and fighting. Too often people who see a Wing Tsun person practicing
Chi-Sao thinks that this is the way we actually fight people and begin to pick apart
why a Wing Tsun fighter would lose based on what they saw. And in essence they
are correct. There are those lineages, mostly technique based in my opinion, who
attempt to defend themselves from the beginning of Chi-Sao!
However most of those who practice Wing Tsun, spelling specific, know
the difference between reflex training and actual fighting and can dismiss these
comments with ease. But when we consider the vastness and size of the internet
one can see what can happen when many, many like minded people can get
together and sway the masses into their line of thinking. If an opinion gets started
on the Internet, it can be very difficult if not impossible to remove the false
perception of Wing Tsun created by the different ways to approach the art from
different Wing Tsun/Wing Chun/Ving Tsun/Wing Tzun/Wing Tjun
If it can be done in a safe manner, sparring against other systems is a great
way to improve yourself, and your Wing Tsun. Sparring against other systems
puts you closer to the idea of self-defense and it will give you a more realistic
view of things. As a Wing Tsun person, one of the first things you recognize
when sparring against someone of a different style is just how “ugly” the
encounter is and how it is much more difficult to respond to attacks as one does in
Chi-Sao. The “big” idea here is to realize that you must spar more in the terms of
Poon-Sao, not Chi-Sao. The more simple the idea and reaction the better.
Fighting with Wing Tsun
One of the problems with a martial art such as Wing Tsun is losing its true
meaning and use. We get buried in the details and forget that Wing Tsun is not
only a fighting art, but an art of fighting. But where does one turn to when our
idea of applying our martial art is to incapacitate the attacker? This question is
more easily answered when you look at applying Wing Tsun as a principle and not
a technique based art form.
For example, one criticism often found in online discussions is this. “If
Wing Tsun is so effective, why do we never see any Wing Tsun fighters in ring
competitions or the more recently famous Ultimate Fighting Championship
(UFC).” To make matters worse for the art of Wing Tsun/Wing Chun/Ving Tsun,
the one UFC appearance by a VT fighter was an embarrassment. To anyone who
saw this fight, it was painfully evident that the VT fighter was fighting with
techniques and not principles. Also it was very evident that the VT fighter had no
experience with fighting on the ground, or possibly fighting at all.
The most often argument heard on why you don’t see WT fighters in these
types of competitions is because there are “rules” and we as WT fighters could not
stay within the constraints of these rules. (I.e. No strikes to the neck, no elbows to
the back of the head, no thrusting of fingers towards the eyes, etc. etc.) While it is
true that Wing Tsun has movements that strike towards vital parts of the human
body, this restraining misconception is often brought forth on the internet by the
Intelligent Deceiver to cover up his or her own deficiencies as a fighter. This type
of Intelligent Deceiver also falls into the category of technique based fighting
rather than principle fighting.
Now if Wing Tsun is used in a principle based format, one could compete
in just about any martial art sparring/fighting competition. To review, we have
four energy principles and four fighting principles in Wing Tsun. The energy
1. Go Forward.
4. Follow Through
And the fighting principles are:
1. Free yourself from your own energy
2. Free yourself from your opponents energy
3. Use your opponents energy against him
4. Add your own energy to the energy used against your opponent.
As any sane individual can see from the principles listed above, there are no
eye gouges, or throat attacks that would be deemed illegal in a ring fight and keep
an individual from competing in one of these events. For example in Keith
Kernspects book On Single Combat, page 341 references how Henning Daverene
was able to successfully use Wing Tsun techniques in boxing matches. By using
Wing Tsun principles, and not techniques, Henning Daverene was able to wing 7
out of 7 fights, most by knockout. In addition, I have had or known several
students of Wing Tsun who have successfully employed Wing Tsun principles in
other arts. One students successfully used his principles to win Muy Thai boxing
matches and another student used his principles while grappling in his Brazilian
So to answer those critics as to why you never see Wing Tsun in ring or
UFC competitions is this: You probably already have, you just don’t realize what
to look for.
Another twist on this topic when discussed online is removing the rules
found in ring and UFC competitions. This type of fight is usually known as
challenge matches or a fight with Kong-Sao, no rules. While removing the rules
eliminates one “effectiveness” blocker for the Intelligent Deceiver, it opens the
door to much more criticism for the following reasons. One, challenge matches
are usually not advertised and the attendance is usually kept to a minimum. Two,
because of the minimal attendance there is less authenticity to the reports of the
challenge match should the results become public.
Take for example the September, 1986 challenge match between Wing
Chum Master William Chung and at the time, 3rd Technician Level Emin Boztepe.
While there is documented proof in the form of a video recording, and we can see
who the victor of the fight really is, only so much of the actual fight can be
commented on. But when the above mentioned conditions of a challenge match
and internet anonymity are mixed together, this can provide an awfully
entertaining view of what may have happened during this challenge match. From
time to time I have read Internet forum discussions on this challenge match where
people have stated the most ridiculous things about the fight, without even being
there. (I.e Emin pulled Williams’ pants down right before he attacked, People with
Emin had knives, Emin attacked William from behind.) Trolls and the like can get
away with saying things like this due to their anonymity on the Internet.
So where does this all lead to? Well, for this paper and this point it all
comes back to how you perceive Wing Tsun and what it is used for. While this
paper is mainly about Wing Tsun misconceptions found online, these
misconceptions can unfortunately be found within our own Wing Tsun ranks.
Here I would identify these people as the Good Intentioned Loyalist. These folks
are so dedicated to the art that they loose the bigger picture or focus of the art and
sometimes think that one way is the only way. This becomes a very destructive
and dangerous way to think. For to have the blinders on is to miss an opportunity
to learn and better yourself. And it is a good way to get hit as well!
A fight is never what you think it is going to look like. Neither should you
think that to fight, you should only act in a certain manner. A fight is very random
and is never something that one can predict. So why limit yourself by thinking a
Wing Tsun solution is the only solution to a fight? To say Wing Tsun is one thing
or another goes against the very principles of Wing Tsun.
Too often the Wing Tsun fighter gets lost in information and technique and
forgets about the bottom line, defending yourself. And more often than not, the
higher the Wing Tsun fighter, the higher his intelligence and higher the ego. This
is the ego that causes a Wing Tsun fighters world to come crashing down around
him when his “techniques” fail and he is defeated. One should never loose sight
of the goal.
Wing Tsun is not only a fighting art, but an art of fighting.
WT Presentation and the Public Reaction
For the third and final point of this paper, I would like to address the
misconceptions people on the Internet have of Wing Tsun after watching a WT
video or live demonstration of WT. Generally when discussed, this subject
devolves down to the effectiveness of Wing Tsun based on what is seen on video.
And it becomes difficult to defend some of the criticisms because when looked at,
there is some validity in them for these reasons.
When someone posts a video online, generally done to show some sort of
proficiency in the art to the public in hopes of recruiting more Wing Tsun faithful.
To the outside observer of this kind of video, one can see how the movements are
preplanned and practiced to perfection. Hence why people criticize Wing Tsuns’
effectiveness. While the prearranged movement statement is true, the Wing Tsun
person has an insight to these videos that most outside observers don’t.
The first insight is that it has to be preplanned. But on the contrary to the
effectiveness debate, preplanning is done so that the outside observer can actually
see the ideas being used to defend oneself with Wing Tsun. Because Wing Tsun is
a very close quarters fighting system, people would not see what we are doing to
defend ourselves. Therefore we have to practice and preplan movements for a
video demonstration so we can make them large enough, and slow enough, for the
person watching the video to see.
Preplanning the video is also an online excuse for our quickness in reaction
time to an attack. It is said “Sure, I could be that quick if I trained the same
movements time and time again.” This is true to some extent, but not to the extent
presented online by the uninformed. Yes it is true that in a Wing Tsun class we
train reactions time and time again. But it is not the same sequence of movements,
repeated time after time, that builds the reflexes needed to be proficient at Wing
Tsun. Because of some of the general misconceptions about Wing Tsun, and
those misconceptions being negatively perpetuated online, most people don’t
understand the idea of tactile reflexes and those reflexes processed through the
brain. This is where part of our quickness comes from, tactile reflexes.
Something you can only appreciate when actually physically practicing this, not
from debating it on the Internet.
Another misconception perpetuated on the Internet by demonstration videos
is the teaching method used by Wing Tsun instructors. Because of the
explosiveness and effectiveness demonstrated in these videos, often people will
attack the method of teaching and how could anyone learn from this type of
instruction. Often read on the Internet is, “Oh, that instructor is just a bully and
beats up his students.” This can be a tactic used by a Troll or the Intelligent
Deceiver to try discredit an instructor and his style.
Regardless of who makes this comment or the intentions behind the
comment, the common missed points on this subject are this. One, there is no
need to beat up a student unless physically threatened by the student. Nobody
learns anything from the encounter and people get hurt, both physically and
emotionally. Second, if a teacher were to beat up all of his students how would he
earn a living from it? What student in their right mind would want to come to a
place that in order to learn self defense must get beaten to a bloody pulp to do so?
Third and final, for this author there is no dignity or gain in beating people up.
Unfortunately on this last point, there are those that see teaching in completely the
opposite way just stated. Add in the Internet and a few disgruntled people and the
Wing Tsun community comes into question.
The one missing ingredient that “Keyboard Commandos” don’t appear to
have or understand is the “light switch” idea. If those video critics new and would
take into account the “light switch” effect, they would not comment on the videos
in the first place. If the “light switch” was in fact “on” for these video
demonstrations, the person for whom the WT principles were being applied to
would probably not get up after the attack, let alone come back to class for another
lesson. For those that are unaware, the “light switch” is the idea that it using Wing
Tsun is either one thing or the other. There is no in between when using Wing
Tsun. We either practice Wing Tsun, or we apply Wing Tsun. This is why we
compare it to a “light switch.”
Throughout this paper we have looked at the way Wing Tsun in general is
perceived when discussed on the Internet and some of its common misconceptions
due to the fact that everyone is anonymous on the Internet. This anonymity also
supports several different layers of behavior unique to the Internet. These
behaviors were classified into the following different types:
1. The Master
2. The Intelligent Deceiver
3. The Troll
4. The Good Intentioned Loyalist
With these behaviors, or types of people in mind, we discussed some of the
common misconceptions of Wing Tsun perpetuated by the four different types of
behaviors or individuals listed above. In general this paper looked at the
misconceptions of WT in:
1. Different Family Lineages
2. Fighting with Wing Tsun
3. Presentation of Wing Tsun to the Public
What I intended to accomplish with writing this paper, aside from fulfilling my 2nd
Technician testing requirements, is to make the reader aware of these different
types of behaviors or people when they are online discussing Wing Tsun, or
martial arts in general. During my time as a Wing Tsun fighter and student, I have
always searched out new and different ways of learning the art and have found the
Internet to be an outstanding source of information. But, I had to learn by
experience what has been laid out for you in this paper. I have also come to realize
that this subject can have a potentially disastrous effect on ones training and state
of Wing Tsun mind. As a Wing Tsun instructor I feel I have a duty to inform, and
warn those of these destructive traits found in online discussion forums.
But one should not take this paper and my word for fact. Persons reading
this paper should go out online on their own and discover some of these things on
their own. As another avenue of research, and if viable, people should go out into
their local community and speak with local instructors about theories, ideas and
principles of martial arts. As an added benefit, when one is searching their own
local community, they can use the “online” points addressed in this paper in a
person to person discussion!
Think about it and question it. Make it yours, make it better.