I am working in the merchant navy. I'll be working (sailing) for 6 months and then have 3 months leave. I can train for these 3 months and practice myself when I am sailing using books and videos. I am 27 years old. I am from India. Would Wing Chun or krav maga be a suitable martial art considering my lifestyle and training goals which are:

  • Short amount of time to learn (can't wait for years!)
  • Ability to practice solo
  • Functional for self defense (this is a must)
  • Suitable to practice on-board ship
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    I do not consider myself enough of an expert on Wing Chun to warrant a full blown answer, but from what I have heard from others, it's techniques are well suited for close in areas. That being said, you may want to retitle your question somewhat. "What martial art is best for me" is a very open ended question that is hard to answer, but your search for a compare/contrast of three arts given a potential training-schedule (a very particular constraint) seems more answerable. To avoid downvotes, you might change the title of the question to better match the content.
    – Cort Ammon
    Apr 14, 2015 at 14:59
  • I edited your question to be more focused on one thing. Since you seemed interested in Wing Chun, I made it about that. If you disagree, you can rollback the edit. Apr 14, 2015 at 18:03
  • What facilities are available on a ship? A gym? Area suitable for sparring? Or is it all small areas?
    – jezr
    Apr 15, 2015 at 2:50

4 Answers 4


Things that recommend Wing Chun to a sailor:

  • It is sometimes commented that Wing Chun is best suited for fighting in a telephone booth. This is not so far from the truth. Wing Chun specializes in close-quarters tactics at bent-arm range/trapping range (though I assure you it does possess long-range techniques and tactics). This would be well-suited to the cramped passageways of a naval vessel.
  • If you're a student of history, you may be interested to note that one suggested origin story for Wing Chun is the Red Boat Opera. The length of the 6 1/2 point long pole points to the origin of pushing river boats through shallow water. How this helps you in particular is debatable, but there is a history of association between sailors and Wing Chun.
  • Wing Chun possesses both very high (Yee Gee Kim Yeung Ma) and very low stances (Low Horse). The low horse stance is associated with the long pole and is theorized to have been developed for stability on rocking boat decks.
  • If you are in any way responsible for shipboard security (as you may be even if that's not your normal job description), Wing Chun does possess Chin Na applications. However, these are not a main focus, and not always part of the curriculum in every school. If you will have to apprehend persons with pain compliance, Wing Chun can be adapted to this purpose, but it's a bit like using a hammer on a screw.
  • Wing Chun possesses solo forms, which you will be able to practice on your own, preferably in front of a mirror, to hone your technique. I wouldn't recommend a martial art without solo forms for someone with most of his/her training being without a partner.


  • More than many other martial arts, Wing Chun has a certain feeling to it, which can only be captured by crossing hands with a legitimate instructor. Without an instructor in the early stages of your Wing Chun development, your movements will be empty, and quite possibly meaningless. Additionally, Wing Chun movements have to be very precise in order to be effective, and you need a sifu to correct every detail.

My suggestion is to find a legitimate instructor and tell him/her your situation. You can train with him when you are on leave, then practice on your own when you are underway. For best results: get a partner on the ship with you. You can take lessons together when on leave and chi sao together while you're underway. Your development will be much better and quicker this way.

Depending on natural ability and frequency of training (more often is always better), a person should be able to complete the Wing Chun curriculum in approximately four years. Mastery however, is a lifetime pursuit.

As an aside, the martial art that is best for you is usually the martial art you practice most consistently. If there is a martial arts program on the ship lead by a qualified instructor, take that one, even if it's not one you initially considered studying. Consistency is way more important than style.


As a general principle, the Asian martial arts approach things holistically, and that includes taking advantage of a teacher/student relationship continuously throughout training. Most whom I have talked to do not recommend a ON-OFF pattern in training with a teacher until much later because it disrupts this relationship. The more western arts/sports, like boxing, tend to be more forgiving in this way, because in many cases you are your body's teacher.

This is visible in how the different arts approach YouTube. Generally speaking, you can find lots of videos on how to break down a western technique like a hook in boxing to let you practice on your own. Finding the same videos for Asian partial arts proves to be trickier because many teachers are not convinced that sort of learning provides sufficiently substantial gains.


You can't really practice Wing Chun without a partner (or at least a wooden dummy). You would probably find more use in Tai Chi, which is almost entirely practiced without a partner or target.

  • Tai chi has extensive two person partner practice: youtube.com/watch?v=awrSlh1n8_o Apr 14, 2015 at 16:49
  • thanks for you effort.is it useful in a real life situation?? Apr 14, 2015 at 17:55
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    @indiansailor - ANY Martial art CAN be effective in a "real life" situation. It entirely depends on the practitioner.
    – JohnP
    Apr 14, 2015 at 18:56
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    @indiansailor: The opinion I get from most individuals is that it takes many years before one can "use Tai Chi to win a fight," but it begins to be useful in "real life situations" almost immediately. Masters will claim that it becomes "the ultimate martial art" over time, but nearly every art claims that, so you may read what you will. Krav Maga will give you fighting results quickly, but many groups self-associate with "Self Defense" rather than "Martial Art," and that should say something about what one seeks to get from Krav Maga study. As always, what you want out of the training matters
    – Cort Ammon
    Apr 14, 2015 at 21:04

Given your specifications, I'd go with Krav Maga.

Although Wing Chun has a history of boat fighting and close in fighting, it's also primarily learned by live, hand to hand contact with others, with the (large, expensive) dummies being a secondary practice tool. (to be sure, you can get cheaper wall-mount dummies, but they're still not that cheap). A lot of wing chun relies on angles for deflection and sensitivity to get it's trapping in - and practicing against air isn't going to give you that.

Krav Maga on the other hand, has your basic set of kicks and punches, similar to the usual mix of boxing/muay thai moves that has become pretty standard in a lot of MMA or self defense sets. You can get some good combos, find good books or video to continue with while you're practicing alone. Since it relies less on sensitivity training, you can still get a lot during this time.

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