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Pacific Association of Women Martial Artists

Uniting and empowering a diverse community
of women and girls in the martial arts.

Starting Over

Marie Jackson

Marie Jackson(left) kicking Nina ThompsonMarie Jackson (left) kicking Nina Thompson (right). The two trained in the same dojo for several years, and now enjoy sparring whenever possible. Photo by Patty O'Linger

After training for more than 25 years in Shotokan karate, the dojo I trained at closed. Training in martial arts is a way of life for me and I wanted to continue training. Rather than train in another style of karate, I decided to switch styles completely and after visiting a number of places, started training in a Wing Chun kung-fu studio. It was humbling to start over, to go from a black belt to a beginner in a new style.

The things that I have found that are the same between these two traditional martial arts are:

We show respect for the founders of the style, respect for our instructors, and respect for fellow students.

Both styles use the body to make powerful techniques, whether they call it having good “connection” or “structure”.

Both have a long lineage of people teaching the art.

The things that I have found that are different:

No belts in this Wing Chun system. There is a seniority system, mostly based on length of training. I admit I don’t miss the stress of belt tests! A belt system does motivate people to train hard, however, and recognizes their achievements.

There is a more relaxed training atmosphere in Wing Chun - in the Shotokan classes I’ve been in, you don’t walk off the floor during training to get a drink of water. I sometimes miss the intensity and focus of Shotokan classes.

There are only three Wing Chun forms, instead of the 25 different katas practiced in Shotokan.

Marie Jackson, Keta Tom, Nina Thompson

Photo by Sarah Thompson. From left, Marie Jackson, Keta Tom, Nina Thompson.

We wear light shoes in Wing Chun, instead of training barefoot. Since we wear shoes out in the real world, training with shoes is a good idea. The “uniform” in the Wing Chun studio is black kung fu pants and a school t-shirt - no more white karate gis.

So how has training in Wing Chun added to my skill set? I’m comfortable at close range or kick-boxing range now. I have a larger range of techniques. My hand speed has increased. I’ve learned not to be too tense.

These days I am not a pure practitioner of either art. I have karate-flavored kung fu and kung fu-flavored karate. I have combined what works best for me from the two arts and am a more well-rounded martial artist because of it.

Marie Jackson trains at Leung Martial Arts in Eugene, Oregon.

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