What is the most effective defence against a Wing Chun practitioner?

I know Wing Chun features punching quite heavily and has a very efficient defence itself but I am interested to know how to counter a Wing Chun attack effectively.

My initial thoughts are to try and ground the attacker as I do not believe Wing Chun features much (if any) ground-work or defence against takedowns or to try and catch them with a counter-attack as they are advancing. I predict there could be trouble with the counter-attack method though due to the tight Wing Chun defence.

My style is a combination of Tae Kwon-Do, Taijutsu/Jujutsu and Capoeira.

Any advice appreciated.


8 Answers 8


I like the other answers here. Let me just add my take on this subject. I hope I don't offend anyone here. Talking about a style's weaknesses is often a hot button subject.

Wing Chun was developed with a particular purpose in mind. And that was to train someone as quickly as possible to be able to fight people who were trained in traditional kung-fu arts that were commonly found at the time and in the region of China where Wing Chun was developed. It accomplishes this goal exceptionally well. However, when Wing Chun fighters engage with fighters of styles that are very different from those traditional kung-fu styles it was designed to go against, it reveals Wing Chun's weaknesses and holes.

The goal of Wing Chun was not to develop a fighting system that was equal to those traditional styles. Its goal was not to make people well rounded fighters or good at "street fighting". It was just supposed to get people skilled enough to be able to take on traditionally trained kung-fu fighters, and do it in a fraction of the time it normally takes.

So how did it accomplish this? How can you train someone in one year to be able to fight (and win) against traditionally trained kung-fu fighters that have been doing it for 10 years?

The answer is that Wing Chun was designed to take advantage of various weaknesses in most kung-fu styles at the time. Most of these styles did not train the close range that Wing Chun trains. Most of them teach a defensive style, whereas Wing Chun takes the fight to them and quickly tries to close the gap and get right up in their face in the close range. Most of them teach circular, long, over-arching strikes and blocks. Wing Chun does away with the long arching motions and does simple, short, direct, linear ones instead. Most of them teach dozens of forms with a half dozen weapons, taking years of extra time to master. Wing Chun only has 3 forms that can be learned quickly. Most of them trained single action striking and blocking. Wing Chun trains simultaneous striking and blocking. Most of them puts one arm forward and one arm back, but Wing Chun puts both arms forward and uses them both at the same time. Most of them are "hard" styles that lacked sophisticated feeling and sensing skills like Wing Chun's chi-sao techniques. Etc.

Given all of that, you can see now that Wing Chun was developed with the sole purpose of exploiting the weaknesses and holes present in traditional kung-fu styles around at the time. It gave Wing Chun a big advantage. Wing Chun fighters didn't have to be particularly well rounded fighters. They didn't have to spend decades learning to master anything. They could, in short time, get good enough to exploit the weaknesses inherent in traditional kung-fu styles. It's very smart.

But take Wing Chun out of that environment and put it up against fighting arts that were uncommon or completely unknown to the founders of Wing Chun at the time, and you will find that Wing Chun is often at a big disadvantage. This is especially true against western style boxing (particularly the hook punch to the head). And it's also true for arts like wrestling, Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiujitsu, and MMA. If you pull up Youtube, you can see many examples of Wing Chun fighters not doing at all well against those styles. And you'll see why almost immediately.

In conclusion, Wing Chun was designed for a specific purpose and was excellent for that purpose. It still is. But when you use it outside of its expertise area, it is often quite inadequate. Many Wing Chun fighters realize this and augment their training with supplementary fighting styles such as filipino martial arts (knife and stick), Brazilian Jiujitsu, Muay Thai, western boxing, and so on. Some styles of Wing Chun, such as Wing Tsun, attempt to address these holes and weaknesses within its own system, with varying success.

  • 3
    Not a bad answer, but remember one of Wing Chun's core ideas was not to teach a set of responses to a particular attack as was normal in more traditional systems. But rather teach a few key techniques and then practice it against various types of attacks. Wing Chun is very good at adapting to various systems.
    – AquaAlex
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 9:37
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    True, and that is why it has holes. My advice: if you only have Wing Chun, be aggressive, make the first move, quickly get right up in your opponent's face, and fire as many punches as you can. That's probably WC's best tool (offensiveness and quickly moving to the close range). Many of the Youtube videos where Wing Chun people fail show a common trend: They waited for their opponent to come and bridge with them, just like a Wing Chun training drill or something. So they were sitting ducks for hook punches and Thai kicks. Limited tool set, so bend the situation to where you can use them. Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 18:24
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    Issue is not with a system but with the practitioner of a system. No matter who you fight against being able to read their automatic responses & tells/signals will give you the edge every time.
    – AquaAlex
    Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 8:17
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    Yes and no. Yes, in that systems actually don't matter one bit. That's what I believe. What matters is how you train. If you train like MMA trains (anything goes, non-compliant partners), then you're going to be fine, because you'll figure out what you're missing and will go out and learn it on your own. Almost no WC group I've seen does it that way, though. They usually claim their system has everything they need and reject MMA style training. And what you're saying about the "reading" of an opponent is just one part of having a reliable training method. That alone won't give you much. Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 18:24
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    good point Steve, but not all WC groups are like that. Just as I have seen many fighters in MMA that are weak against certain kind of attacks. If you can not read your opponent and have not trained against people using those attacks then you have a weakness. I think in answer to question i just feel you need to work on not beating WC guys but rather should train to fight against different type of attackers at different ranges.
    – AquaAlex
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 8:29

Orthodox wing chun focuses on "trapping" range, between striking range and the clinch. Within many schools' live training (sparring) there is often virtually no throwing, no shots, very little clinch work or kicking, and punching or other hand strikes are often only trained once contact has been made, leaving long-range boxing untrained.

The style has therefore unsurprisingly shown itself to often be vulnerable to wrestling shots (for example). Practitioners of wing chun that do not spar are also generally not able to defend themselves against sparring-trained opponents in the striking range.

Since a non-sparring chunner will generally want to stay in trapping range (between the separated-striking range and clinch range), practice forcing an opponent into a clinch from trapping range. Practice establishing dominant positions in the clinch against an opponent who wants to back up and strike. Develop throws that you can execute against such an opponent without spending much time at that middle range between long-distance striking and clinching.

All of this must of course be taken with a grain of salt when discussing wing chun schools that glove up and spar under broader rulesets like kickboxing or MMA, where non-cooperative grappling and long-distance striking are encouraged. (This is not to say they must do kickboxing or MMA instead of wing chun, but merely that they must spar with a broad ruleset.) Wing chun that involves training or cross-training in such sparring rulesets cannot be assumed to be vulnerable as noted above. This, in fact, applies generally: expect people to be good at what they do in sparring. If they don't wrestle, or don't box, or don't combine wrestling and boxing, then expect them to be bad at those things. Style often becomes immaterial.

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    excellent answer, yes how you train is what is important. If you only train against boxers you will be very good at defeating boxers. But then this is true for any martial art.
    – AquaAlex
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 9:39

There are four distances at which we fight:

  1. Long range. You'll need to perform a jumping attack to close the distance.
  2. punching range. I'll lump kicking in here for simplicity.
  3. close quarters. This is where Wing Chun is very effective.
  4. grappling.

Basically anything that is NOT close quarters fighting would be logically effective, but I wouldn't face a skilled Wing Chun practitioner at punching range either because it's ridiculously easy to close the gap on a punch.

What you would want to do first is limit yourself to snap techniques which retract the attacking hand/foot. i.e. No spinning kicks, hooks, axe kicks and the like. Wing Chun is great at riding the attacking arm or leg, so don't allow your opponent to do it.

Secondly, you'll need to decide on either sticking to hit and run tactics, or going for the grapple. I would prefer hit and run because if you can't get on the opponent's back, he can still close-quarter your face into a bloody mess.

So do what Taekwondo does best: Keep your distance, strike hard and fast and get out of reach.

2004 olympic gold medal fight

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    As a WC fighter, sounds as the logic way to test the skill of your WC opponent minimizing the risks. Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 3:00

A few things I've noticed from a little striking sparring against wing chun guys...

  • a fast jab around their guard, slightly from the side and arcing as is natural for a side-on fighter, surprisingly worked really well as long as I didn't do it so much that it became predictable

  • their stance is frontal and shallow (from front toe to back heel), so they have little angle from either to the centre of mass - that's why they can't advance or retreat as fast as a side-on fighter in a karate-like fighting stance: you can exploit this...

    • deep kicks like a stepping side thrusting kick worked very well (but take a lot of effort)

    • hit and run tactics as Juann advocates

  • the limited mobility means it's actually pretty safe being on the edge of their reach... they jab fast, but if they have to move first to cover even an extra 10 or 20cm you'll have a significant amount of warning

  • if they get into reach they'll deliver crazy numbers of rapid punches... you want to make sure that if you commit to moving into their range you'll be hitting hard or knocking through their position to force them backwards - a little exploratory punch or feeling that they can easily deflect or wear with vague notions of following it up when you're in closer isn't a great idea

  • 3
    Just be careful. Wing Chun does not move around a lot, but can very quickly change direction. Their motto is to wait for incoming attack and then twist and rapidly attack with kicks/strikes at an angle. Large dedicated attacks are especially vulnerable. I tend to find fakes may get inexperienced wing chun guys to over commit leaving them open to the real punch. Also students with more advanced training will use (for a lack of a better word) unorthodox methods to counter. My sifu always said: "Wing Chun is like Mechano. We give you the parts so you can build anything you need."
    – AquaAlex
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 9:44

As someone practicing Wing Tsung i have to say, stay out of punching range. Boxing techniques are good, single powerful attacks that are hard to predict.

We are sparring with street clothes and no rules and the only thing really getting me are long range torso kicks or boxing punches.

Thats my two cents, but perhaps my school is not very traditional...

Edit: If you have any contact you will probably loose against a skilled WT user, as his reflexes are extremely fast, but when relying on his eyes, he can be fooled.

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    You spar with no rules! How often? What kind of throws and groundwork do you do? What is your insurance like, considering you spar full contact with biting and hairpulling and eye gouging allowed? Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 13:10
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    I would imagine that a sparring session would be stopped before someone got castrated. I learned a tiny bit of Wing Chun through a guy who was very into full contact fighting and MMA. He allowed things to get rough and he was very liberal with the rules, but always knew when to stop. Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 14:31
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    We respect our partner and will not inflict permanent damage... But throwing is normal and wearing a cup reduces tge risk of castration ;) The session stops when one gives up or is incapable of fighting any more (like solar plexus hits). We fight with sport shoes on laminated ground, to get a feeling of being on the street. Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 15:04
  • Wing Chun is aimed at teaching novices how to defend against skilled Kung Fu fighters. At that, it's brilliant, but it was never meant as a serious competitor to martial arts in general. Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 10:33

I like the answers from both Steve Weigand and Dave Liepmann.

But honestly the only way to find the best defense of Wing Chun is to train in that style. Get an understanding of it's principles and how they work, then you can understand how to break it down and defend against it. Bruce Lee is a bad example... His training in Wing Chun is too short to get a complete understand of Wing Chun. Yes he got some of the basic principles but was missing a whole more.


I'm new to this section of Stack Overflow, but I practice and teach wing chun and self defence.

I've read some comments here and I agree that this is a "gorilla vs shark" like question. I'm not for heavy theorizing martial arts, but I do miss some considerations which could be of interest to the readers.

Mainly, you should not explicitly train to overcome one style's weaknesses. If your opponent has years of training ahead of you, it simply does not matter which style he uses. He will most likely succeed because of experience.

Train your style and if it comes to a fight, do your thing, not your opponent's. Simply put: don't wrestle a wrestler if you're a boxer!

Another distinction I'm missing is between martial arts as sport and martial arts as self defence "tool". This is a crucial distinction because it shows some flaws of the question.

  1. Sports have rules. The main objective is to win in compliance of such rules. There is a referee, who ensures that no party suffers an unreasonable/unhealthy amount of pain and/or damage.
  2. Self defence does not have rules (although some judicial limitations!!!). The main objective is to survive; you can poke eyes, bite, etc.

Most martial arts were developed as the latter, although over time reduced to the former, in order to widen the audience and to ensure that novices aren't killed. And I mean they were developed for war time level of self defence.

Where I train, we teach wing chun as this kind of "traditional" martial art. We do not beat each other senseless, but we teach which technique (and yes wing chung has such techniques) is designed to break a bone (We don't demonstrate it!).

Given those facts, do you want to fight for real or in a sparring like competition? For instance, in a real fight, a wing chung response to a boxing jab could be an eye poke. A take-down could be countered with a choke-hold (wing chun has those too, although we use them as a last resort due to the range preferences mentioned in other comments) guiding the opponent head first to the ground. This stuff is forbidden in competitive sports (Boxing, Kumite, MMA, ...) for good reason - this stuff can cripple or even kill someone!

Also bear in mind, nothing stops your opponent (wing chun practitioner or not) from going for lethal points first; he does not have to wait for your attacks.

And as a last remark: it is true that wing chun has a focus on arm techniques. However, a well trained wing chun practitioner will kick and punch almost simultaneously, in order to distract his opponent. A kick aimed at your jewels/gonads (works for all genders) probably lowers your defence.

(All this does not mean wing chun is superior - in a kicking competition it will most likely lose against taekwondo or karate - it's just different)

  • These are good considerations! In a no rules combat I would fear to risk, my knees for example, throwing a slow or missing kick against a WC experienced fighter. Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 3:19

Punch them in the face! Its as simple as that! Wing chun is just a load of forms. If you do something like Thai Boxing you will have no problems against someone who does wing chun.

Wing chun is a set of forms that are not practised against a LIVE opponent wher as Thai boxing/boxing/BJJ/wrestling/Judo are real martial arts that are practised against live resisting opponents. That is why they are more effective and used all over the world by police and armed forces along with MMA fighters. Ask yourself this question: would a guy who practices against air (wing chun) as opposed to a boxer who practices against pads and opponents be more effective in a fight? I don't think so. Imagine trying to learn guitar by book and without ever picking the guitar up!

A quick description on Bruce Lee and JKD (a guy who did Wing chun): "He often compared doing forms without an opponent, to attempting to learn to swim on dry land. Lee believed that real combat was alive and dynamic."

  • 1
    That's a good strategy most of the time, but could you explain a bit more? I wasn't the one giving the downvote, mind you. Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 9:34
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    @Funky If Wing Chun was so useless in a real fight, why did Bruce Lee choose to use it as a base for JKD? While I agree with your comments about police forces using Judo techniques etc to counter real-life encounters, I still do not believe that Wing Chun is as useless as you say. I once worked with someone who had been training for around 30 years and he was an unbelievable fighter.
    – Rich M
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 12:07
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    @RichM Because Bruce Lee knew Wing Chun? It's not like he had some sort of magical martial arts evaluation mechanism. Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 13:09
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    Correct, he knew wing chun. He also pointed out that martial arts had too much emphasis on forms as opposed to live training in Karate, Kung Fu, etc which is why JKD includes elements of boxing, thai boxing and grappling. A quick description on Bruce Lee and JKD: "He often compared doing forms without an opponent, to attempting to learn to swim on dry land. Lee believed that real combat was alive and dynamic."
    – Funky
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 14:13
  • 1
    But that's my point; there must have been useful, applicable elements of Wing Chun which is why he used it. So if this is the case, is cannot be completely useless.
    – Rich M
    Commented Feb 19, 2014 at 14:26

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