I have wanted to write about my journey into Wing Chun for a long time. Well, not such a long time since I only joined a year ago!
But already, I feel that I have things to say about my experience, what it has brought me and how I now envision Wing Chun as an important part of my life. Sharing this insight is not only destined to other women who are considering joining a Martial Arts/ Wing Chun class, but also to fellow Martial Artists, to the men I have been training with, and to anyone out there who has 5 minutes to spare to read about my journey. May it be an inspirational one.
It all started in July 2017, 18 months after having moved to London, when a friend asked me if I wanted to join her in trying Martial Arts. At the time, I had troubles settling in, was experiencing expatriation loneliness, and was seriously lacking self-confidence because of health-related weight gain that the London-life only worsened (with its fast pace and expensive lifestyle). My friend’s idea was therefore a perfect opportunity to get fit, learn self-defense, have fun and meet people. All you need when moving to a big city! Little did I know that Wing Chun was going to give me a lot more than that.
Despite knowing very little about Martial Arts, I cheerfully agreed to try a couple of different Martial Arts classes with her. And one class in particular got our attention: Wing Chun. From the first minutes into the class, it felt different, inspiring and multi-faceted. Not only did the class get our cardio going, our muscles burning, our technique challenged, our focus engaged, it achieved all of that while remaining in touch with the real world. Other classes we tried felt more disconnected from reality, enclosed in their dojo and etiquette. In contrast, Wing Chun appeared to be based on elements easier to relate to and street-efficient techniques. Besides, our first encounter with Wing Chun felt like joining a new family: the atmosphere in the class was much more relaxed than other dojo experiences, with people welcoming us and making us feel at ease despite being beginners and the only females in the hall.
I began training Wing Chun 1h30/ week. For other sports, so few training hours may have taken longer to have an actual impact on my life and health. Yet, the multi-faceted nature of Wing Chun, developing one’s body, mind and spirit simultaneously, quickly had a positive influence on me. First, the combination of high intensity cardio, stretches and strength development got my fitness going. I lost a lot of weight within the first 3 months of training. It might seem trivial, but this gave me an incredible confidence boost. With regained confidence and energy flows, I rapidly and significantly improved my physical health. Then, the more “spiritual” aspects of Wing Chun benefitted me considerably: its philosophy and relaxation elements (through practices such as the hand forms, Tai Chi and Chi kung) helped me to develop my awareness, determination and inner balance. Wing Chun requires you to pay attention to your/other’s use of space and listen to your/other’s body and energy flow. It teaches you to be ready for and feel others’ movements and intentions. Determination because practising Wing Chun is not a frustration-free journey – many of its central elements first feel counter instinctive and require persevering. Learning positions, movements and techniques demands repetitive training and commitment. Likewise, the grading process of classes pushes you to step up while rewarding your progress. Inner balance because Wing Chun is about balance: between attacking and defending; power and control; speed and accuracy; strength and relaxation; brute force and grace; and soft and hard energies (yin and yang). Wing Chun does not end after the class: it comes home with me and helps with concentration, leadership and managing my frustration in all other aspects of life. Things that you learn in Wing Chun transpire in your everyday life. By sharpening my focus in class, I increased my concentration at work. By improving my fitness and confidence, I enhanced my leadership skills both in my professional and personal life. Finally, by persevering to overcome difficulties in the class, I gained patience and determination to deal with the small everyday frustrations. Wing Chun also contributed to finding my inner peace and bringing positivity into difficult moment, by helping me to relax and giving me strength to handle challenges. Altogether, this is how Wing Chun has improved my health and confidence in ways I could never have foreseen.