Home » Aikido » Wing Chun & Aikido: An Amateur Look

Wing Chun & Aikido: An Amateur Look

Following this post from the Striking Thought’s blog got me thinking: What are the differences and similarities of Aikido and Wing Chun?

Though the comments and discussions between the commentators, myself, and Bob I had some train of thoughts: are there any connections between the two arts? What is different? What do *I* see as different? Any that I see as the same? With these in mind I realized there was an aspect of Aikido that seems to have been lost to the masses of the martial arts community: the idea of a circle and center.

This is from a Zen manuscript, not done by an Aikidoka. However this is a good visual representation of the “Circle & Center”

According to my Sensei (both) once you break the circle, you are no longer in an optimal position (my words, not theirs). Though encouragingly it is stated that if one were to have a center, they would have a circle and visa versa. Conversely if one were to not have center, they would not have a circle, also visa versa.

In my years of Aikido, I could only surmise that there is a physical center as well as an energetic/presence one. This also goes for the circle. For those of you who pay attention to people who have the floor at a speech, are the life of a party, or notice multiple attacks during a fight, they have a certain amount of “circle” around them. It’s as if people come onto their circle, their territory.

In the same way, you will notice how someone has a certain amount of “center” in a situation; The politician keeping his cool during a harsh interrogation by reporters , Bruce Lee taking on 10 thugs, walking through a crowd of people and not getting lost. These are situations where keeping one’s center is paramount.

Now what does this have to do with Aikido? Look not further than this video. FF to  4:00 and view for the next 10 secs.

Now if only I can do that…

What about Wing Chun and the center line? Aikido doesn’t have a center line, what we do have however is the movements akin to the placement of the samurai sword.

This isn’t the best example, but as you can see the arms are directly in front of the body

For some reason I couldn’t find ANY good photos of how the sword is held in front of the body! Scratching my head at Google’s inability, the arms are always in front of the body. Aikido takes many of its movements from the samurai sword starting position being in front.

That’s the only similarity that I see at this time. Having your hands in front automatically protects your front, the “center” in Wing Chun.

This is not the sword movement in Aikido, but you can see the arms are protecting the front/centerline by default.

Here’s a clip from the movie “Ip Man”.  Notice how in the entire exchange that Ip Man’s (here played by Donnie Yen) arms and hands are always in front. You can argue that it’s a Wing Chun thing, but the whole point of this post is point out how similar the arms and hands are in Aikido and Wing Chun.

I would say that Ip Man kept his center and his circle, but that’s just the Aikido in me. So how does keeping one’s arms in front have to do with circle and center? I’m not sure at this point since I’m just going off of what I feel. However, I suspect that if part of maintaining a circle and center is to keep the arms in front. Now I want to take Wing Chun!

42 thoughts on “Wing Chun & Aikido: An Amateur Look

  1. From what I can tell, Aikido and WC deal with the center differently. Aikido puts you in the middle of the circle – sorta the same idea Sabum taught us in taekwondo sparring. If you hold the center your attacker has to expend more energy circling you because the radius of the circle is larger on the rim.

    WC seems to have two goals: 1) Protect your center line and 2) Breech your opponent’s center line – usually by angling.

    I’ve known at least 6 martial artists (my old TKD sabum included) who got their 1st – 4 th dans in their primary art, then went on to study Aikido.

    There must be a reason why!

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  3. The question is, between Aikido and Wing Chun as defined by whom?

    Discussing this can be difficult for so many reasons, one of which is that people often confuse broad martial arts guidelines with the unique principles of their own style.

    For example: “Our idea is: don’t meet force with force.” Well congratulations, you’ve just described 90% of the martial arts in existence today–including Wing Chun, which to untrained eyes often appears to violate it directly.

  4. The was an interesting post. I must say that we do have a center line in Aikido and we protect it just the same as we do in Kenpo, Silat or other system. In Aikido we move off line, utilizing either irimi or tenkan movements, while we operate from our power zone (hara, tanden, one-point); which happens to be within our center line. Our cuts and throws are executed in front of us in conjunction with the movement of our hips. When we move off irimi, we move somewhat offline but nevertheless, we do move from our center line (where our hips are turned). Just my viewpoint.

  5. Bob (Mr. Patterson) – Sabum? What is that? As for your friends, I’m not sure about their decision to go into Aikido, all I have are personal theories. However what I can tell you is that a lot of O’Sensei’s (the founder of Aikido) best students came over from other martial arts. Tohei (the founder of Ki Society) was a dan in judo before entering the art. One of my sensei who studied with O’Sensei was a policeman and a judoka as well. I hear there was also some Karateka black belts too.

    Chris – Recently I’ve noticed several hand movements in Aikido are similar to moves in Silat/Eskrima and Wing Chun. Not to mention the knife blade hand position from Karate. Though I think I made it clear in the post of which technique/move was Wing Chun and which was Aikido. Oh well.

    Joe – What you say is true and I can attest it from experience, although the optimal word in Aikido isn’t centerline, it’s circle and center. That’s not to say centerline has not slipped into the Aikido vernacular from time to time.

    I think it was Bruce Lee that put it nicely when he stated that all humans have two legs and two arms. Until we have an extra arm or an extra leg all fighting will be similar.
    Or at least something like that. My paraphrasing skills at their best I’m afraid.

  6. Fortunately, I’ve studied both. I loved (and love) Aikido. But for it to work the opponent must commit to their attack. And the throws and take downs depend on leverage and also that the opponent over commits to their moves. Which falls in line with… if there’s no conflict there’s no fight.

    But it also means if the fighter knows how to throw strikes that explode, while staying balanced (Wing Chun and many modern forms for fighting are adopting Wing Chun’s more erect stance, compared to before when they’d throw their whole bodies into the strike) the Akidokan will get hurt.

    In terms, of circles and centers and centerlines… There’s more than one – at the same time, and it moves in relations to events. You have your center, your opponent has her center, the two of you have a center that you share, you move and one or more of the centers move, she moves… etc.

    Along with the centerline and circles in Wing Chun, there are also triangles, and planes, and tangents, and forward energy, and redirection…

    You can make Wing Chun very technical if you want, although it doesn’t need to be.

    I suspect when you start training Wing Chun, from a good Wing Chun sifu, you’ll fall in love with it’s directness and efficiency like I have.


    • Rob – Thank you. I appreciate your insight and your view point of someone who has experienced both. I still have Wing Chun on my mind so we’ll see. Although the nearest Wing Chun school is about an hour from my home it seems…

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  8. I’ve got 3yrs of intense Wing Chun training, and had a few years of Aikido a long time ago. I recently tried switching back to Aikido, but found it too frustrating. WC is so direct and efficient, in Aikido I found myself thinking “why would I do that, when I can just Pak Sao and hit him in the face?” I guess is just depends on each persons personality.

  9. BAH,
    My thoughts exactly. Although, I’m planning on letting the kids study Aikido for a bit.
    Learning to fall properly is important, not just in self-defense. And spending extra time on wrist and arm locks is good too. We study locks, breaks and chokes at my Wing Chun school and I’ve noticed that my background in Aikido makes it easier for me to get those drills down compared to other students.
    By the way here’s a video of Steven Seagal… if you watch closely, he’s using Wing Chun moves, although I doubt he says that’s what he’s doing.

    • Stevel Seagal Lawman

      I’m assuming you’re talking about this shown here? I’m always careful to label what someone is doing as “xyz martial art” because although it does look like it, that said person might now have trained in that art for any considerable amount of time. I have seen my sensei do moves that are more boxing than Aikido, however in his explanation and in my knowledge they are a result of his Aikido experience rather than boxing.

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  11. I don’t understand why these 2 systems are so often compared to each other, wing chun and aikido are nothing alike.
    Wing chun is a system of fighting and aikido is not.

    • Matt – by “fighting system” if you mean beating your opponent down, then yes Wing Chun has punches and etc. It also depends on your definition of “martial arts”; if by MA you mean beating the snot out of your opponent then again, Wing Chun does have punches, kicks, etc.

      Aikido has violent origins; many of its moves come from Aikijujitsu, Jujitsu, Japanese spear forms, some Judo-inspired moves, and last but definitely not least Japanese sword (kitana forms). Aikido pre-WW2 had punches (atemi) , kicks, take downs, and quite often practitioners of Aikido would break bones during practice. Obviously that’s not happening now (purposefully).

      So what is your definition of a martial art?

  12. With all due respect, to me the term “Martial art” is a contradiction in terms. In my humble opinion, “art” is something created to encompass a fleeting beauty interpreted by an individual, the “artist”, whereas the word “martial” represents military action, something (again, to me) which is perpetrated by people who would not, could not ever produce something of beauty.
    That being said, I also mean’t no disrespect to the aikido system when I mentioned that I don’t believe it’s a fighting system. I believe, please correct me if I’m wrong as , I have never trained in aikido, but I believe that aikido is a system of self defense, philosophy, discipline etc which has been adapted from a fighting system (aikijutsi). I do believe that it can be used in certain fight situations but I do not believe it was developed primarily as a fighting system.
    Wing chun on the other hand, was primarily developed to be used as an efficient system of fighting, the philosophies of wing chun are very much like the physical system in that, it is a system based on common sense “fight fire with water”. It is mostly straight line fighting but not only, wing chun uses whirlwind force as well, just about every hand movement of the forms is followed by ‘Huen sao’, which is a circular move. every move of wing chun can be used as an attacking or a defensive move, even ‘Tan sao’ can be used for attack.
    I hope this makes sense.
    Both systems are great in their own right but 1 is for fighting and 1 is for tournament.

    • Matt – I see your point. With that said, let me shoot back several points of my own:

      – Aikido is not a tournament martial art. We don’t have tournaments nor are we competitive. There is a school of Aikido that does competition but that is not the one that I am studying.
      – You are right that Aikido is not totally a fighting system. I will say that it is a COMPLETE martial art system (in my opinion anyway, don’t take it for gospel) where it puts together spirituality and martial moves into one system. As oppose to other martial arts that are just martial, “fighting” systems.
      – I can see how “martial art” can be viewed as an oxymoron. However, I will point out that any soldier can call their fighting style an “art” – however sadistic that may sound. “Art” as a noun that denotes a skill or mastery of something (wikipedia). Dictionary.com has some similar results. If you don’t agree with these definitions, then that is your choice.
      – This article was meant as a brief and superficial comparison and should not be taken as a in-depth snap shot of both arts. I will reiterate that these are just my opinions and should not be taken as gospel. However I will take compliments that state that.

      And yes, it does sound like you have not have had a class of Aikido. What martial art experience do you have?

      • My experience went in this order: Boxing (as a kid, like every kid ;-)), then a few years of a Muay Thai, then 8 years of Traditional Wing Chun, 1 year of Ving Tsun..
        I didn’t mean to belittle aikido, I’m just callin’ it how I see it, I never said it was a bad system, people take their beliefs very seriously & I don’t agree with martial shit-stirring between systems, aikido has lots of benefits to offer and so too does wing chun but the benefits of both systems are totally different. For instance if a persons objective is to become flexible, aikido would be a much better training system, whereas if speed where the objective you can’t go past wing chun. If somebody wants to learn some cool intricate moves to throw someone, then again it would be aikido but, if it were to dispatch a murderer quickly then it would be wing chun.
        Once again man, I didn’t mean to touch a nerve, pardon the pun 😉
        Good vibes to all.

  13. Aikido rocks! If Wing Chun was never invented I’d still study Aikido. If I had more time, I’d study Aikido and Wing Chun at the same time 🙂

    Out of all the martial arts I’ve studied (you can check out my “fighting dossier” under Martial Arts Background), Aikido, Taiji and Wing Chun have very deep and meaningful “Art” to me.

    For overall health benefits – Taiji has an advantage. Although I’ve been doing some of the Wing Chun forms… very… slowly… and it seems to have the same health benefits as Taiji – as measured in ounces of sweat:-)

    Wing Chun has the balance I desire in a martial art. It’s internal and external. It’s circular and direct. It uses the opponent’s energy. And we (most of us) tend to avoid a fight but if we have no options then we fight to win.

    • Matt – I appreciate your civil attitude. Rare among the internet these days – or it may be just me. By the way, I didn’t do boxing as a kid – the parentals thought it was too violent and that I’d abuse the skill (I was the one who couldn’t sit still). I did however do 4 years of Chinese Kung Fu as a teen.

  14. Perhaps the most common mistake about Aikido starts from a lack of knowledge: O Sensei had two “laboratories”, one in Tokio (Hombu Dodjo) and the second in Iwama (Iwama Ryu Dojo). In Hombu Dodjo he worked with his sons and in Iwama with Morihiro Saito. In Iwama he studied the connection between weapons (buki waza) and the unarmed techniques (taijutsu) and in Tokio he studied the connection between taijutsu and the spirituality. Unfortunately that leaded to a schism who created two schools: Aikikai and Iwama Ryu. Of course, there are other aikido shools like: Yoshinkan, Ki Aikido, etc. but these are the creations of the shihans derived from the main stream of O Sensei’s aikido.
    My conclusion is that all the martial arts are “martial”; they sprung from the same need: survive on the battle field, and out there everything is circumstantial.

    • I think it’ll be arrogant to say that any of us knew what O’Sensei “really” was doing since none of us were there (I wasn’t born til almost 20 years after his passing). Even my Sensei who received instruction from him I’m sure doesn’t know the WHOLE story behind O’Sensei – although he does know quite a bit.

      Not to say that you have provided a new look at what he did.

      As for your conclusion; as true as it is I would say that in Aikido’s case, the core of the art was not to kill people, it was to improve yourself as a person. That’s what is taught at my school of Aikido (You>martial moves). So the term ‘circumstantial’ is a bit superficial in this case.

  15. Wing Chun, for me as well as a few others who go against the ‘traditional’ waters, is not so cut and dried in concepts. For example, in regards to centreline, some say that it’s not just a centreline but Centre-Of-Mass (COM). As in your Aikido clip at the 4-min mark, the defender compromised his opponents centre of mass making him fall down. In real ‘up-to-date’ terms, it could be simply stated he compromised the opponent’s balance.

    If we look at Wing Chun as a system of rote rules and ideas, then it is as useful as a brick. But I think that Wing Chun, as it is trained traditionally, is just the system’s theories being expressed, alebit poorly. If I wanted to preserve a martial art’s ideas and theories, look no further than the forms and drills in Wing Chun.

    More practical examples:
    Centreline – protect your vitals, face the point of contact
    COM – keep your balance, compromise your opponent’s balance
    Elbow out – long range
    Elbow down – short-range, control of opponent with elbow

    I think that there are similarities between Aikido and Wing Chun, however the strategy to employ them are different.

    I like that you’re dabbling with JKD and Wing Chun. It all makes it all better. Heck, it took amateur boxing experience and BJJ to open my eyes to the possibilities of my Chun. And I’m not done with any of those passions yet!

    • CTK – Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate your comments and support. I like you pointed out the segment at the 4 minute mark, I will add that although the “breaking of the balance” is obvious, the means of achieving that is different for different martial arts. My dojo’s explanation would be the attacker’s balance was compromised moments before he lifted his kicking leg.

      It seems like our martial journeys have only just begun! Good luck to you my friend.

  16. Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you, However I am having troubles with your RSS. I don’t understand the reason why I can’t subscribe to it. Is there anybody having identical RSS problems? Anyone that knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanks!!

  17. Ok after reading all this I still think I’ll go for wing chun, but if theres anyone out there who has a lot of experience like Matt in Wing chun, then please tell me that if you were to consider another martial art as a pre requisite for wing chun example(aikido,jeet kun do etc) what would it be?

    • I feel that there’s no “prerequisite” to Wing Chun – or to any art for that matter. It all boils down to your individual journey in martial arts. Be it protecting yourself and/or self discover (for me it’s the later). That being said, usually people move on to other arts because of several reasons: 1.) relocation and poor teaching quality of the art that they were training prior to their move 2.) The prior art was ineffective in whatever reason and 3.) The prior didn’t fulfill a need.

      I’m happy to say Aikido has fulfilled my needs (and then some) up to this point. The only reason why i would drop it entirely is if I relocate and if the instruction at my new location just did not measure up to the training that I am receiving now.

  18. K buddy thnx a lot for the info but I got 2 more questions…
    Can you or anyone else reading this (please don’t talk out of your anal sphincters) compare JKD and wing chun and if so then how? And also do you guys think wing chun and JKD are compatible cuz I heard something about Bruce lee basing all his philosophies of JKD on Wing chun more or less to the effect , I don’t know if I worded tht Bruce lee part right..

    • That’s true, Wing Chun was Bruce Lee’s first art but as he learned more arts, he only took what was useful from WC and the other arts that he learned and created JKD. Remember JKD is just a combination of everything that he thought was useful.
      Now depending on how you want to interpret it, you can really “add” whatever you want to JKD. From my understanding, you can add and take away stuff from JKD so long as it’s applicable.
      Is WC compatible to JKD? As much as you want to. I’m sure it helps (never trained in WC and only had 1 class in JKD so take my advice for a grain of salt).

    • Take both and see what happens. It also depends on the school environment and teacher. Do you like them? Is the group “vibe” good for you? It all depends. If one school isn’t good for you, move on to the next. Good luck.

        Thanks. I know this shouldn’t be a personal conversation but I very very recently happened to speak to a jeet kun do teacher ( I’m sure you know JKD is a mixture of many MA ) who said things like WC is an incomplete way, also that we teach moves in JKD tht could counter many moves of WC, and he also said wih most confidence that if I was to bet on the fight of a WC practitioner VS a JKD practitioner ( and they had the exact speed strength etc -which really got me thinking ) …he’s like ” I’d bet my money on the JKD practitioner cuz of how Bruce lee took out all the unecessary moves from wing chun” – to be quite honest he did not sound like he was trying to insult any practitioner or another MA
        On the other hand I had a conversation, on the same day with a wing chun teacher and he said JKD is an incomplete way of fighting, without a given reason. Hence the JKD teacher said the same about WC.

        Now this is something I want to learn and teach (pursue as career or job, it was initially WC i was so sure about but now I’m going throughthis friggen intellectual masturbation phase of “what if and what if” ) Like anyone else I’d hate to get my ass kicked by any fighter pro or not pro, tournament or no tournament) Like I wanna be the best.

        Here’s what Ive understood frm research so far … 1) both WC and JKD training seem intense but JKD seems a bit more of a wild ass kicking ( like the ones we see in Hollywood) and Wing chun I’ve seen a teacher (master Steve ruiz) and this guy looks like he”ll rape someone and according his sifu(teacher) GM William chueng of wing chun residing in australia now told me tht master Steve Ruiz is one of the top four students he had and the best WC teacher in Canada and its not ard to believe hes the best. I saw him doing a seminar face to face and I saw a bunch of his videos too, they were bloody intense with punches, side kicks on the knee, breaking someone’s neck etc) 2) Im also considering tht I am more likely to be successful in the future through making business with ppl through the art of WC. 3) now that I think about it, one of the biggest reasons of my dilemma is that I wanna be the best and I wanna be like one hell of a competitor to any fighter on the whole 9 yards. Be it gene labell, Steven segal, or even the guy I wanna learn frm master Steve Ruiz. Btw I did want to take aikido far before wing chun until I heard Steven segal got laid out by pro wrestler gene labell. And he knows more than that.

        So please don’t take to offence but if two pros were telling you about another MA being incomplete would your answer for yourself be? try both (same answer) or would you do more research TO FIND OUT WHICH IS INCOMPLETE

        Plz watch these videos

        1) Extremely Advanced Jeet Kune Do Training
        2) World Wing Chun Canada/Dads Charity Event

  19. Btw I must say lol…please don’t take this to offence, but this whole idea of making kunfu a big portion of my life, started through watching Steven segal movies and his aikido but then I found out two things which really were a means of bringing me towards wing chun

    1) Steven segal got his ass handed to him by gene labell (which really kept me upset)

    2) a lot of the aikido moves are just so happened to be found in wing chun

    And I was ready to fly to iwama Japan just to learn aikido and become a lethal weapon like segal and teach it

  20. Isn’t the purpose of aikido to persuade the attacker to stop fighting (because it is unnecessary) without hurting the attacker (or at least minimize the damage)? I think that this probably is a big difference with other MA/selfdefence systems. And therefore the way the techniques are used/developed are different. There is no “more effective art”. As long as that art has accomplished his goal for which it is created then the art itself is effective.

    • That is true, so long as the martial art(s) suit your needs, that’s sufficient. And yes, that is a “true” martial artist’s M.O. (not just Aikido); deescalate a fight quickly without any physical altercations or provocation. However, in the rare event that overwhelming force is already on your position – don’t hesitate to allow one’s natural self-defense instincts to kick in (pun intended) but in a way (hopefully) won’t cause extreme permanent damage.

      You look at some of the techniques such as Shihonage – it doesn’t take much to shatter someone’s arm completely, yet the way we train we protect ourselves from injury. It’s all in the viewpoint.

      • I know this thread is old. Just got back from overseas, Army. Have Wing Chun school about 45 min away and Akijujutsu school 15 min away. Can’t make up my mind. I have 17 years of Tae Kwon Do-Moo Duk Kwan (Tang Soo Do).

  21. @ Mike

    It depends on a few things:
    – The commute might be an issue especially if you have other commitments (family, job, whatever).
    – As for which art – it really depends on you. I’d say go to each school and “feel out” the environment. Ask yourself, “would I like to train here for the next X months/years”. Talk to the sifu/master, what did you think about their personality? Because that matters.
    – Regardless of which one you choose, ask yourself what do you want for yourself? Wing Chun and Aikijujitsu are two different martial arts with different approaches to almost the same thing.

    Hope that helps.

  22. Hi,

    Firstly, the center has to do with the center of gravity. When your opponent is off balance he is easily defeated. WT and Aikido have similar answers for this. WT uses every bio-mechanical movement to achieve its goal, its not limited, that’s why its not based on techniques but on principles. Strictly speaking, none of the WT forms should be taught before Lap-sao, so that a student can feel how the arm responds to incoming force, without preconception.

    Sadly these days, WT/WC have been adapted for their commercial value rather than for their original purpose as a method of teaching Zen. It is now taught as a rigid structure. With preset positions like bong-sau or tan-sau.

    O’Sensei and Ng Mui understood the same thing about the intrinsic value of martial arts. It is a way that leads to inner harmony and immeasurable peace, and helps give that to others.

    So to me, both Arts are the same.

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