A note on Cantonese
I use the ‘Jyut Ping’ (粵拼) Cantonese writing system as I have found it to be the most accurate. For an excellent way to learn Cantonese pronunciation, see Fluent Forever. For a dictionary see CantoDict or use the Hanping Cantonese App for Android.
These are 5 examples where I saw Master Wan Kam Leung (“WKL”), my teacher of 8 years, change moves in the form. Sometimes the reasons overlap but in general they are distinct from each other. 5 reasons to change a move in the form are to:
Make it more effective in practice
Make it better better at deflecting force
Make it make sense sequentially within the form
Make it easier for students to execute correctly
Introduce a new move because the current move is repeated elsewhere
1 – make it more effective in practice
Zyun Bei Soek Sau – Siu Nim Tao 3rd Section
If you are being grabbed diagonally (e.g. right hand to right hand), instead of only using your other forearm to ‘scrape off their grip’, WKL decided it was better to rotate your wrist so that your palm faces upwards and their elbow goes up as they grab you. After that you can push into their raised elbow with your other arm to help break the hold.
2 – make it better at deflecting force
Hap – Siu Nim Tao 2nd Section
Previously, Hap used to have the palm down the whole time. However as the 4 circles became more prominent WKL changed the Hap to rotate the forearm from palm down to palm up. It then lessens the clash between you and your opponent’s arms as it connects.
3 – Make it make more sense sequentially within the form
Waang Pok Zoeng – Biu Zi 1st Section
After BZ Dai Zaang (low elbow) we used to bring our elbowing hand over the arm we’ve attacked to place it on their back hand. However this merely prepared us for a move to follow rather than being a move itself. Therefore WKL decided to make the follow-up to the Dai Zaang a proper Laap, and then added Waang Pok Zoeng (side palm), since a palm from that angle didn’t exist yet.
4 – Make it easier for students to execute correctly
Double Zat Sau – Siu Nim Tao 2nd Section
As with most styles of Siu Nim Tao, we used to train Double Zat with both arms side-by-side. However after a UK seminar in 2014, WKL saw that students were flaring out their elbows when executing the Zat. This makes the move less effective in bringing down your opponent’s arm, as you exert less downward pressure. He therefore decided to cross the forearms to help keep the elbows in. This also meant that the Double Zat position was now related to Gaau Caa Sau (cross hands) but with the palms down.
5 – Introduce a new move because the current move is repeated elsewhere
Pok Zoeng – Cam Kiu 1st Section
In the traditional Cam Kiu form, practitioners usually do 3 palms in the first section (both sides). However as long as I’ve been training Practical Wing Chun, the 3 palms in our forms have always differed from the SNT 1st Section palms. This is because WKL saw no sense in repeating a move done elsewhere. Instead he changed the palms from going diagonally upwards (as in Siu Nim Tao) to now go diagonally downwards (CK Pok Zoengs). This meant that another line was covered in the event that your back hand is up and needs to strike directly downwards.