Learning Wing Chun or any martial arts for that matter can be a daunting task. It is easy to hit a ceiling in your practice and get lost in the forest of details. When this occurs students often lose confidence in their training and many will give up.

In this article, I want to share with you my views on how you can keep your Wing Chun training alive and develop your critical thinking skills.

Practice Wing Chun

Learning can be viewed as a process and by understanding the various stages or hierarchy of that process you have a better idea “where you are” and what is the next logical next steps in your training.

Martial arts or Wing Chun practice for that matter could be broken down into four (4) processes. I call them “LIST”, an acronym for LEARN, INTEGRATE, STRATEGY and TESTING. It is a hierarchal and interactive model.  Hereafter I will discuss the various stages of LIST.


This is the technique stage, one starts his journey by learning a single technique. For example, how to execute a straight punch. The challenge for the beginner at this stage is to purely focus on the technique. Beginning students often “do too much”, ask them to punch and they pull back the other hand or lose their balance by overcommitting etc. Just go through the simple motion, don’t add variables like speed, power etc. and do not daydream about applications.

Feel your body alignments, train slowly. Look at yourself in the mirror when you do the technique or ask feedback from your teacher or fellow student.


Here you practice how to integrate or combine the techniques you have learned so far. Integration requires good mind/body coordination and proper technique (!).

For instance, you step and punch, how do you maintain your body unity, use your body mass etc.  Make sure that after every combination technique you return to your basic structure so that you can seamlessly transit into another position or technique.

Lots of sweat and drilling, alone or with a partner.


This is the application phase. Here you experiment, develop your game plan or become an expert in specific attributes, for example:

  • One punch KO power, an unstoppable combination
  • Setups for entries: develop feints, break rhythm (full/ half beats, slow/fast, light/ heavy)
  • Pressing, breaking structure or counter-punching game.
  • Sparring games are great fun to develop specific skills or attributes.
    • For example Lead hand only sparring, kicker versus boxer, toe-to-toe sparring, body sparring, etc.


You did a lot of learning, drilling, experimenting etc. now the “rubber meets the road”.The abstract becomes reality! ! Now you learn from “live” training with a non-cooperative partner.  Test and learn from your mistakes and shortcomings and “Invest in your losses”

At this stage, less is more. Here you want to carve out your game and focus on the techniques that work for you. Many Chinese martial arts (including Wing Chun) don’t include this training.  They stop at the “strategy stage” It is a pity because live training is one of your best learning opportunities. To learn is to be inquisitive. Ask questions (why, what, etc..) find the answers and stimulate your critical thinking skills.

Why I was not able to counter/ perform that technique…?

Which stage (LIST) am I for this technique

What mistake did I make, when I …?

How can I improve my sparring game? Etc.

Go back and forward in the various stages and break your questions down to its smallest unite. The devil is in the detail.


Learning Wing Chun can be viewed as a process. I discussed LIST as an example, it is a conceptual and hierarchical framework for learning Wing Chun. LIST can help both the beginner and advanced student to identify and understand how to improve their Wing Chun training. It is a method or a tool that can help you take responsibility for your own progress!


I hope you find this useful! Looking forward to hearing any questions or comments you might have.


Steven Wang

Head Instructor

Chu Sau Lei Wing Chun Singapore