Three Stages Of Learning


When learning any martial art,

This must be approached in three stages


This is a topic I have addressed many times in the past, but yesterday while chatting to a student regarding Chi Sau, I realised it needed to be approached once again.


There are many ways we can use the ‘Rule of three’ when learning Wing Chun, here is one to get us started:



Learn the shapes



Learn to defend using these shapes



Learn to defend and counter attack


Anyone can hit, YOU, your job is to make sure you DO NOT get hit, and in order to do that you need to know what to USE in order to not get hit.


It is so easy to attend a beginner course, see the shapes (blocking positions) for the first time and to be a little put off by the lack of immediate excitement and boring stagnation of the thing, but this is only the first step, once you’ve got the shape correct (Every time!), then can we start to see it in application.

Jumping the gun at this stage will only cause massive confusion later, so spend enough time in stage one and make this new ‘shape’ a default setting.


A Tan Sau can be used higher, lower, in, out, with a turn, with a step, and so on, BUT, before you start changing it to suit your need, you need to know what the hell the shape is in the first place.


In so many ways you can say that:

Everything in the Wing Chun system can be found within your Siu Lim Tau


Or perhaps I should reword that slightly by saying that;

Everything in the Wing Chun system can be found within your Siu Lim Tau,

IF you know where to find it.


The problem with this idea is that you need to have studied, learned and understood all of the other Forms in Wing Chun to be able to fully understand what Siu Lim Tau was trying to teach you!

This is a little like being a book on ‘How to read Chinese’ but discovering that it’s written in Chinese.


Meaning that by the time you get to a point where you can now successfully read that book, you come to realize that you no longer need that book.


This three-step principle is shown throughout the three hand Forms, with the Siu Lim Tau teaching you all the basic positions, relaxation, centreline principle and development of leg strength, the Chum Kiu openly being described as your fighting form (showing us now how to use these shapes effectively) and the Biu Gee having shear aggression, causing possible over commitment and the recovery and return to our initial centreline.


But this three-step principle is shown in its simplistic entirety within Siu Lim Tau alone:

The first section of the Form, showing us the importance of the Tan, Fook, Wu Sau, showing us the centreline path and forward thinking, while at the same time developing mental focus and leg strength.

The second section of the form focuses on the now, ‘correct use’ of energy while being applied to defensive moves, and the third section plainly showing block and counter moves.


Grandmaster Ip Chun once referred to the three hand Forms as different levels of schooling, saying that you could think of the Siu Lim Tau as Primary school, Chum Kiu as Secondary school, and Biu Gee as University.

With this in mind he posed a Question:

“Which form therefore is the most important?”


At this point all sorts may go through your mind such as:

Well I may not get a good job if I only have a primary education,

but then again I would not get into university if I never learned to read and write?


So what was the Answer:

“Which ever form you are practicing at that time.”


So enjoy the stage you are in now, give it time and give it the respect it deserves, because that stage three counterattack I mentioned, will never happen if you didn’t block the initial attack by using stage two, and you’ll be putting an awful lot down to luck in stage two if you never properly listened at stage one.


While teaching my class once, I was trying to get my students to not over think their defensive techniques but rather to allow them to simply happen.


Once using one of our newer members, I  demonstrated this by paying attention to his reaction through Chi Sau and how he had developed these panic defences, reacting to my attacks almost without thought, allowing the body to mould to the area of danger, without thinking of how to block.


While explaining this I was reminded of something Master Ip Chun said, something he also called;


‘The three stages of learning’.


These were explain as follows:



The first stage is when you enter the school for the first time, and, because you know nothing, you require no thought.



The second stage we could consider the dangerous stage, as this is where we begin to learn.

Things are being developed, drilled, practiced and tested, but not yet confirmed.

And as we know, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

(In my opinion, this is also why teaching our students should NOT be delayed and/or dragged out by PRETEND secrets or extortionate fees).



And then we come to the final stage.

This being where, when an attack is thrown, you simply react with your defence and counter attack.

Without thought.

Just as you were when you first entered the school as a beginner.


I hope this helps, thank you.

Start typing and press Enter to search