Hung Ga vs. Wing Cheun: Differences and Similarities

Hung Ga vs. Wing Cheun: Differences and Similarities

Today I would like to share my thoughts concerning the differences and similarities between Wing Cheun (Yip Jing and Yun Kei Saan lineage) and Hung Kyun (Lam Family lineage).  In the first place, please note that it is not the intention of this article to assert whether these excellent arts are superior to one another or to any other styles of martial arts.  My intention is to explore the similarities and differences between the two arts so as to expand knowledge and understanding of these arts.

Having trained in Wing Cheun for more than 20 years and Hung Kyun for nearly 10 years, it is quite clear despite some fundamental differences that both of these excellent arts have, they also share a number of similarities.

For example:

A) Both arts employ the Yi Ji Kim Yeung Ma (“Character Two Groin Gripping Stance”). For Hung Kyun, the YJKYM stance is introduced at the beginning of Sap Ying Kyun (“Ten Forms Fist Routine”) or Ng Ying Kyun (“Five Animals Fist Routine”) and is further developed in Tit Sin Kyun (“Iron Wire Routine”). Of course, the YJKYM is the first stance introduced in the Wing Cheun system in the Siu Lim Tau (Little Idea) Routine. In both Hung Kyun and Wing Cheun, the practitioner is required to concentrate on Taai Gung, keeping your hip forward and tucked upwards in executing the stance.

Hung Ga vs. Wing Cheun: Differences and Similarities

However, there are some notable differences between the YJKYM adopted by Hung Kyun and Wing Cheun. In the first place, the Hung Kyun stance is wider than the Wing Cheun stance. However, one of the biggest differences between execution of the Hung Kyun stance and the Wing Cheun stance is in the position of the knees. In Hung Kyun, when executing the YJKYM, the knees are kept only slightly bent. However, in Yip Man Wing Cheun, the knees are more bent and focused forward. In fact, in Yun Kei Saan Wing Cheun, the knees are even more bent so that only an inch of space is allowed between the knees. It is not clear as to the reason for such differences as both systems claims its lineage back to the Southern Shaolin Temple. In the writer’s opinion, the reason for the difference may be due to a difference in emphasis of the two sets. Grand Master Lam Chun Chung said the purpose of the Tit Sin Kyun routine is internal training of the bridge hand as opposed to self-defense and so the stability and solid nature of the stance is more important for this routine. However, in Wing Cheun, the YJKYM is one of the main fighting stances so bending the knees improve the mobility of the stance so that the practitioner could move easily and interchangeability between the Yi Ji Kim Yeung Ma and the Sideways Cham Kiu stance for shifting forward or sideways. Indeed, in Tit Sin Kyun, mobility and interchangeability of the stances would have already been trained in the earlier first forms such as Fuk Fu(Taming the Tiger), Fu Hok(Tiger and Crane), and Sap Ying Kyunroutines.

B) A Variation of the side stance is also executed in both Wing Cheun and Hung Kyun. In Wing Cheun, the side stance is found in the Cham Kiu (Seeking Bridge) Routine.  In Hung Kyun, a variation of the side stance may be found in the Crane Section of the Tiger and Crane Routine. Both systems require the practitioner to transition in the side stance whilst twisting the hip whilst sinking weight to the back leg and to keep the hip tucked forwards and upwards (Tai Gung).

In Wing Cheun, Grandmaster Yip Jing described the sinking weight as similar to sitting on a chair after the completion of each turn. The reason for the sinking of the weight is to create additional distance between the practitioner and an opponent’s attack or to assist in using the opponent’s power against him or her when executing a Laap Sauor grappling hand.

In Hung Kyun as taught by Grandmaster Lam Chun Chung, the side stance is executed as a Diu Ma (Hanging Stance) in the double crane beaks section of the Tiger and Crane Routine.  Whilst in the form, a Hanging stance is adopted so as to train the placing of weight on the back leg, Grandmaster Lam Chun Chung stated that in application, a Diu Ma would not be used and in fact the application stance would resemble the Wing Cheun Cham Kiu Side Stance.

Hung Ga vs. Wing Cheun: Differences and Similarities

However, there are some differences in the execution of the stance.  In Wing Cheun, the practitioner only has to turn to a 45 degrees angle so as to avoid the opponent but Wing Cheun requires the practitioner to maintain his or her centerline relative to the opponent.  However, in Hung Kyun, the practitioner turns to a 90 degrees angle so that it could take advantage of an attack in the Pin Mun(Side Gate).  Indeed, the execution of the stance is similar to the Pin Cheui(Side Punch) and the Pin Cheuipartner exercise which adopts 90 degree turns in the Yun Kei Saan system of Wing Cheun.

C)  Whilst we are talking about the double crane beaks, this technique is also very similar to the Pok Yik Jeung which is trained as part of the 12 techniques in the Yuan Kay San system of Wing Cheun. In the crane beaks, one beak (or Kau Sau) acts as a defence to deflect an opponent’s attack whilst the other beak attacks the side of the opponent’s head (temple area) or neck (pressure point). In Wing Cheun, a similar deflection palm approach is used for deflecting an opponent’s attack from the side gate, when the practitioner simulatenously executes a straight punch to the opponent’s face. Grandmaster Lam Chun Chung said that whilst a crane beak is used in the routine, in reality, a practitioner is more likely to use the defence beak to deflect an opponent’s attack whilst executing a punch or a leopard first to the side opponent’s head or neck. Another option would be to execute a chop (Pek Jeung) to the opponent’s head or neck instead of a crane beak. Despite the similarity in approach, there is a difference in application of both techniques.  The Hung Kyun attack starts from a lower position than the Wing Cheun attack.  Some people would argue that this means that Hung Kyun technique cannot be seen until it is too late.  The Wing Cheun deflection palm also takes a bigger arc than the Hung Kyun deflection beak.

Hung Ga vs. Wing Cheun: Differences and Similarities

D) The Hung Kyun Fo Jin Cheui (“Arrow Fist”) is also similar to the Wing Cheun Pin Cheui (“Side Punch”) and Jin Cheui as found in the Yun Kei Saan system. This is except for the fact that the Arrow Fist is executed whilst the practitioner adopts the bow and arrow front stance whilst the Wing Cheun fist is executed in the higher Cham Kiu/YJKYM stances.  The same could be said of the Biu Ji (“Darting Fingers”) which is found in the snake section of the “Five Animal Routine “and the form of the same name in Wing Cheun.

E)  Both arts also train the Luk Dim Bun Gwan(“Six and Half Point Staff”).  In Wing Cheun, the staff form is trained as a separate form.  In Hung Kyun, the staff form is trained as part of the Ng Long Baat Gwa Gwan(“Fifth Brother Eight Diagram Staff”).  The similarities and differences between the two routines will be explored in a separate article.

Given all of the above similarities, I think it is safe for the writer to conclude that both Hung Kyun and Wing Cheun have a similar ancestry, namely the Southern Shaolin Temple.  However, despite these similarities, there are some notable and fundamental differences between Hung Kyun and Wing Cheun.

1) Stances

The main fundamental difference between Hung Kyun and Wing Cheun is that Hung Kyun stances including the horse stance and bow and arrow stances are executed at a lower level than the Wing Cheun YJKYM stance.  Hung Kyun stances could also transition between forward leaning (for example the bow and arrow stance) and backwards leaning (Diu Ma) and neutral positions (Sei Ping Ma – Horse Stance).  Wing Cheun stances are executed at a higher level and transitions only between neutral (YJKYM stance) and backward leaning stances (Cham Kiu Stance).

Traditionally, in Hung Kyun, a practitioner is required to sit in Horse Stance (Sei Ping Ma) for an extended period of time which may be up to the time for burning of one stick of incense which is approximately one hour.  However, in Lam Family Hung Kyun, we have dispensed with such training and have adopted the position that it is sufficient if a practitioner could achieve stillness and agile transition between stances. This could be trained by way of routines or drills.  In Yip Jing Wing Cheun, students are encouraged to practice the Siu Lim TauForm for approximately one hour whilst standing in the YJKYM stance.

That said, it is important to note that despite the application of stances at a low level in routines, this does not mean that in application, Hung Kyun techniques are applied at such a low stance.

Indeed, Grandmaster Lam Chun Chung says that Hung Kyun techniques when applied are at a much higher level – usually with legs slightly bent only. The reasons for the execution of stances at a low level in routines is to train strength in the legs.  Practicing quick transition between low stances also train the practitioner to have smoother and more agile footwork when applying Hung Kyun. However, given the fact that the practitioner is already adept at adopting a low stance, the practitioner would have the freedom of executing attacks at the head high, chest high or low levels at will.

Even when practicing routines, Grandmaster Lam Chun Chung states that unlike common misconceptions that the thighs and bridge hands must be parallel to the ground, the stances are practiced with the thigh being at an angle to the ground.

Another notable difference between Hung Kyun and Wing Cheun stances is that Wing Cheun Side Stance adopts a straight-line approach, namely – both front and back feet are placed in a straight line with knees bent inwards so as to protect the groin.  However, in Hung Kyun’s bow and arrow stance, both feet are placed at shoulder width apart for further stability.

B) Power Generation

Hung Kyun is famous for its iron bridges which are trained during the Tit Sin Kyun (or Iron Wire) Routine. These bridge hands use different types of hard power (other than Yau Kiu– which uses soft power) to deflect or hit an opponent’s attack. Tit Sin Kyun  uses dynamic tension, breathing exercises and pronunciation of sounds to generate power in the practitioner’s bridge hands, improve rooting of the practitioner’s stances and bridge hands and enhancing the overall health of the practitioner. For more information about Tit Sin Kyun and the 12 bridge hands, please see my article published on this topic Practical Hung Kyun. In practicing the bridge hand, the practitioner uses dynamic tension and directs and focuses power to the point of contact on the bridge hand.  In executing the Hung Kyun punch, the practitioner also tenses his or her muscles gradually from the start of the punch and fully tenses all muscles upon the completion of the punch.  This means that with the assistance and coordination of the stance and hip, the power of the punch is focused on the knuckles of the fist.

Vincent Liu - Hung Ga Straight Punch

This aspect of power generation is completely different to that used in Wing Cheun. In the beginning, students are taught to relax whilst executing the techniques in Siu Lim Tauwith emphasis on correct positioning of the Taan Sau, Wu Sauand Fuk Sau. Executing these techniques with the correct positioning (namely, elbow tucked in and elbow and wrist forming a straight line in the centerline) means that practitioners will be able to ground force and skeletal structure in order to deflect or borrow power from an opponent’s attack. It also means that the practitioner will be able to apply the maxim Lat Sau Jik Chung(or “if my opponent lets go, I will strike forward”) in sparring or sticky hands. In executing the punch, in order to build up speed, a Wing Cheun practitioner is required to relax his arm and only tense his muscles on the moment of impact.

It is interesting that Grandmaster Lam Chun Fai has indicated in his book that one of 12 bridge hands is Chyunor inch bridge. This means that the generation of inch force is also one element of the practice of bridge hands in Hung Kyun.

C) Sticky Hands vs Bridge Hand training exercises

Sticky hands Sparring (or Chi Sau/Go Sau) is one of the essences of the Wing Cheun system. Usually, a person would have to see his or her opponent move, before executing a technique to counter the movement executed by the opponent. And this is the case in Wing Cheun in relation to defence against an initial strike by an opponent. However, after the first technique has been dealt with, a Wing Cheun practitioner uses his feeling in sticking to his or her opponent’s arms to sense his or her movements, and react accordingly. This allows the Wing Cheun practitioner to use an opponent’s force against him or her, and to build up the speed of his or her reactions. Please note that this does not mean that a Wing Cheun practitioner is required to chase the hands of the opponent.  The focus of Chi Sau/Go Sauis on chasing the centerline or chasing the opponent’s center of gravity with each defence and attack technique. Chi Sau/Go Sau is an excellent forum for students to learn the application of their newly learnt Wing Cheun techniques and counters to these techniques, and to try different combinations in a safe environment.

Chi Sau is practised between two people, and can be practised either with one hand (single sticky hands or Daan Chi Sau) or with both hands (double sticky hands or Seung Chi Sau). Initially, students learn to stick to his or her partner’s arm and execute the Taan SauFuk Sau and Bong Sau. Students also learn to use forward force in practising the sticky hands. Subsequently, students will start practising double sticky hands, and begin learning attacking and defence techniques from the sticky hands position also known as Go Sauor sparring. Chi Sau/Go Sauis seen as the bridge between the routines practiced in Wing Cheun and free sparring/fighting.

In Hung Kyun, there is the partnered Kiu Sau or Waan Kiu (“Transporting Bridge”) exercise. The exercise may be practiced with one bridge hands or with both bridge hands with a partner. The idea with the Kiu Sau exercise is to use the power built up from Tit Sin Kyun in a live environment so that both partners endeavours to use his bridge hands to overpower the opponent.  Also included within the training is to apply the skills learned in the routines such as the Chyun Kiu (Changing Bridge) or Seung Fung Sau (Double Closing hands) or the Dai Ma Gwai Chou (Grapping hands).

Vincent Liu - Hung Ga Bridge Hands

Hung Kyun also adopts pre-choregraphed sparring routines (Deui Chaak) as a means of providing training to practitioners on the application of Hung Kyun techniques. Whilst some people might mistakenly think such routines as for mere performance purposes only because they are aesthetically pleasing to the eye, practical use of techniques are trained as part of these routines. Needless to say because these are sparring routines, attack and defence are against these techniques are taught. For example, the Chyun Kiu and punch (penetrating bridge hand and punch), Gwa Cheui (backfist), simultaneous blocking and knife hand to the throat, Hak Fu Jaau (“Black Tiger Claw”) and break falling are trained in the Tiger and Crane sparring routine. These routines also assist a practitioner in building up explosive power and fitness in having to train with a partner as opposed to individual routines.

As seen from the above, Hung Kyun and Wing Cheun both have many similarities and differences.  In the writer’s view, these similiarities and differences, given the common origin of both styles, could assist a practitioner in better understanding his own art and how his own art could be applied in combat.

About the authors:  Vincent Liu is a disciple of Grand Master Lam Chun Chung (Lam Family Hung Kyun) and Yip Ching (Yip Man Wing Chun). You can find more information about Lam Family Hung Kyun at www.lamkahungkuen.com.

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