In the history of Wing Tsun three temples played a key role: the Buddhist Shaolin temple, the Taoist White Crane temple on the Tai Leung mountain, and the sanctuary of Confucianism of the Yip family in Fatshan. These three philosophies influenced Wing Tsun and still has influence on the style and its practitioners. The Buddhism brings the in-depth thinking and the careful observation and rejects the gratuitous fight. The Taoism can be found within brutal counter attacks transformed from the soft, almost powerless blocks, in the straight lines made up by circles and in the circles drawn with straight lines, with the steady waiting for the right moment and in influencing the opponent with small, almost unnoticeable moves. The teaching of Confucius is embedded in the strict family based hierarchy that, however, also brings the respect of the elders, the more experienced ones and the ones with greater knowledge into our lives.
To understand the spirit of kung fu it is important to know the difference between the Eastern and the Western world. The birth of a martial art is very different in the far east from the birth of one in a western culture. Asian people tend to be introverted. They are searching to find the inner perfection and to get to know themselves instead of dealing with the externalities. They often meditate and ponder. The kung fu is the external representation of their inner perfection.
The Western lifestyle is quite the opposite. Among the western people the external qualities are more important, like appearance and behavior. This is the reason why they took over martial arts, because they only see that they are fancy and spectacular. They learnt martial arts not for perfection but for pure knowledge of fighting. So a training held in the far-east and in the west can be very different although they are of the same style of martial art. A training in the far-east pays more attention to the perfection of the soul while a training in the western culture concentrates on the physical development. This difference is mainly of cultural difference.
Kung Fu is based on a strict family based hierarchy that is not related to family relations but to the knowledge achieved in kung fu. For a student it is important to get used to this hierarchy. This can be difficult because here there are no blood relations and this way it is possible that the student is older than the instructor (they can even be the father of the instructors).
The practice of kung fu is not only the practice of the techniques. The Kwon ethics are also to be learnt and they describe a way of behavior.
To become a good kung fu student it is not enough to beat everybody in a fight. Without diligence, perseverance, discipline and respect even the most talented ones can lose their way. No use if somebody is a good fighter if they are disrespectful towards their master. The master will not teach them further and their talent will be wasted. Of course, without perseverance and diligence there is no development. It is not possible to become an unbeatable kung fu fighter within two months with only talent. The discipline is important so that the training can be held in the proper way and no time is wasted due to indisciplined behavior.
But it is not enough for somebody to be persistent, talented and hard-working if they cannot control themselves. It does not serve the reputation of kung fu if somebody always looks for a fight and wants to beat someone else to prove themselves. A good kung fu fighter is somebody who can not only overcome any opponent but who can find a way to evade a fight. This is also a part of martial arts. This does not mean that the person is coward. Of course, often it is not possible to evade a fight. If it comes to fighting we must fight with all our knowledge and skill.
The martial art practitioner searches for the way of perfection not for a fight. The fight is a representation of progress towards perfection. But the emphasis should not be put on the appearance but on the inner soul.
The spirituality of Wing Tsun is not only represented in martial arts. Wing Tsun can be used in everyday life. The simplicity, the pursuit of efficiency and the philosophy of evading unnecessary things can also be applied to everyday situations. A student can only become a real Wing Tsun fighter if they can learn the inner philosophy of Wing Tsun and not just its outside “appearance.”