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Wing Chun Sil Lim Tao Syllabus

This page outlines the Wing Chun Kung Fu Sil Lim Tao part of the syllabus and the students progress through it

Key objectives

There are a number of key benefits to training Sil Lim Tao. The most obvious benefits are, Strengthening the legs through the stance. Teaching the student the key techniques of Wing Chun. Teaching the student how to turn energy on and off, which is a key part of building good ging. Helping the student understand key principles like economy of motion and the centreline.

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Video of Sil Lim Tao

The following video of Sil Lim Tao has 3 parts. Click the links below to jump between parts. You can also watch the oldest available video of Wing Chuns first form as performed by the late grandmaster Ip Man. This was filmed in 1972 just a few weeks before Ip Man passed away. Ip Man filmed this footage so the world would know the correct way to do the form.

Sil Lim Tao, Wing Chun's first form

Sil Lim Tau is not just the beginning course, but an important foundation.... When we learn English, we learn 26 letters first. If we cannot handle the pronunciation of each letter, then our English will never be good. The magnitude of the fist form Sil Lim Tau in Wing Chun is the same as that of the letters in English. Ip Ching

Sil Lim Tau, sometimes referred to as Siu Nim Tao, is the first of the hand forms of Wing Chun Kung Fu. It teaches the student the basics of the martial art. The form has been adapted and changed over the last few hundred years, but it is thought that the form was inspired by movements from both crane style kung fu and snake style kung fu. The form has evolved differently as styles of Wing Chun diverged. The snake element can be seen more in Yuen Kay San Wing Chun in Foshan, China, than it can in Ip Man's Wing Chun which was reordered by Ip Man and his predecessors in Foshan and later in Hong Kong.

The other two hand forms in the system are Chum Kiu (Seeking Bridge) and Biu Gee (Thrusting Fingers). Sil Lim Tao is a basic, foundation form for people starting their journey in Wing Chun. Grandmaster Ip Man described the practice of the Sil Lim Tao form in the following way:

In Sil Lim Tao [Little Idea], the ideas of daily matters, such as money, work, hate, love, etc.... decrease to as little as possible, or even none, [so that the practitioner may] concentrate only upon practicing. Ip Man

Sil Lim Tao is the foundation of Wing Chun Kung Fu. That is why almost every Wing Chun Sifu, when teaching his students, always wants the students to practice Sil Lim Tao first. The form is divided into three sections, with a total of one hundred and eight movements. Each small section has its own aim in practice, and various meanings in application.

The Forms' Structure

The first section is for training the basic power by tensing and relaxing the arm. The strength is built up by repeating the core hand positions of Tan Sau, Fook Sau, and Wu Sau. If you wish to perform well in Wing Chun, you must use the first sections of Sil Lim Tao to train the basic power and strength. There is no short cut, once the movements of the form have been learned, they must be practiced seriously to train the power and strength. Every Wing Chun practitioner knows when practicing the first part of Sil Lim Tao, that it has to be slow. To train for the strength one has to be serious, and to be serious one must do it slowly.

The second section is the training how to use use the power / strength that has been built up in the first section. In Wing Chun Kung Fu, the strength and power are used half soft, half hard. This is easily demonstrated when throwing a punch, your arm travels at great speed but the muscles are relaxed, this is the soft part. But just before you make contact with your opponent, your muscles in your arm tense up for a split second, this is the hard part. This later develops into full delivery of the Kinetic Energy of your arm and body into the target, without compromising balance. In Chinese martial arts, good use of this on off energy is often referred to as Ging.

The third section is for training the correct position of the basic hand and arm movements, and hopefully building up muscle memory. Movements include Pak Sau, Tan Sau, Gaun Sau, Huen Sau and Bong Sau. The practitioner must concentrate on executing each movement's correctly.

A photo run through of the form

The following photos are designed to help students learn the form. Please practice the order at home so exact positions can be leared in class.

Photo captions

  1. Stand ready to start the form. The mind should be cleared ready to concentrate on the form.
  2. The hands are pulled up to chest height as closed fists. The hands do not touch or rest on the chest. This should be the case throughout the form.
  3. The knees are bent. The feet are truned out on the heels.
  4. The heels are then turned out by putting the weight on the balls of the feet. Weight is sunk to train the development of the legs and the hips are pushed slightly forward to ensure the spine remains straight. This is the training stance Gee Kim Yeung Ma. The practitioner may find it helps to imagine clamping an object between the knees as they are locked in their position. The buttocks must be tense while in this stance.
  5. The hands are crossed in the centreline at the wrists. Like two crossed low Gaun Sau's. The wrists are in front of the waist, This ensures the hands are not too close to the body or too far away.
  6. The arms are lifted and the inside of the forearms rotate to face towards the practitioner. Like two crossed Tan Sau's.
  7. Both arms are simultaneously pulled back like a double elbow strike.


Photo captions

  1. The left fist is brought into the centre.
  2. A left punch is thrown. The bottom three knuckles are used to hit so the wrist remains inline with the forearm and all the power is delivered to the end of the fist.
  3. The fist is opened palm up.
  4. The hand is rotated through Huen Sau.
  5. During Huen Sau, the hand moves in a circular motion away from the body.
  6. The hand is closed into a fist.
  7. The arm twists back into place through an elbow strike.
  8. The right hand is placed in the centre.
  9. A right punch is thrown.
  10. The fist is opened.
  11. The hand is folded back and Huen Sau is performed.
  12. The Huen Sau is fully circled.
  13. The hand is closed into a fist.
  14. The arm twists back into place through an elbow strike.
  15. The left palm opens. Begin slowly forwarding a Tan Sau through the centreline. The key point of focus is on the thumb; by pulling the thumb back it creates tension that builds the forearm as it pulls the Tan Sau through the centreline.
  16. The hand is folded back the a Huen Sau is performed.
  17. The hand drops into Wu Sau in a small sharp Jutting motion (like Jut Sau). The Wu Sau is slowly withdrawn. The focus should be on the wrist when withdrawing the Wu Sau. Once the Wu Sau is about a fists distance (3 inches) from the body, it is stopped and all energy and tension is relaxed.
  18. The Wu Sau drops into a Fook Sau. The Fook Sau is pushed forward. The focus is now on the back of the wrist as the Fook Sau comes forward.
  19. The energy and tension in the Fook Sau is relaxed and the Fook Sau is dropped into Huen Sau.
  20. Once the Huen Sau is complete the hand drops into Wu Sau in a small sharp Jutting motion. The Wu Sau is slowly withdrawn. Once the Wu Sau is a fists distance (3 inches) from the body it is stopped and all energy and tension is relaxed.
  21. The hand drops into a Fook Sau for the second time. The Fook Sau travels through the centerline and is completed for a second time.
  22. The Fook Sau is relaxed and turns into Huen Sau.
  23. Once the Huen Sau is complete the hand drops into Wu Sau. The Wu Sau is slowly withdrawn.
  24. The hand drops into a Fook Sau for the third and final time.
  25. The Fook Sau is relaxed and turns into Huen Sau.
  26. Once the Huen Sau is complete the hand drops into Wu Sau. The Wu Sau is slowly withdrawn. Once the Wu Sau is a fists distance from the body any tension in the arm is relaxed.
  27. A Pak Sau is performed making sure it does not go past the right shoulder.
  28. The hand comes back to the centre with the palm open and the thumb tucked in. A vertical palm strike is performed at head height.
  29. The palm rotates to face up and is fully open and relaxed. Then the palm folds into Huen Sau.
  30. When the Huen Sau is complete a fist is formed.
  31. The fist twists back into an elbow strike.
  32. The left palm opens. Begin slowly forwarding a Tan Sau through the centreline. The key point of focus is on the thumb; by pulling the thumb back it creates tension that builds the forearm as it pulls the Tan Sau through the centreline.
  33. The hand is folded back. A Huen Sau is performed.
  34. Once the Huen Sau is complete the hand drops into Wu Sau in a small sharp Jutting motion. The Wu Sau is slowly withdrawn. The focus should be on the wrist when withdrawing the Wu Sau.
  35. Once the Wu Sau is a fists distance (3 inches) from the body it is stopped and all energy and tension is relaxed. The Wu Sau drops into a Fook Sau. The Fook Sau is pushed forward. The point of focus is on the wrist.
  36. The Fook Sau is relaxed and turns into Huen Sau.
  37. Once the Huen Sau is completed the hand drops into Wu Sau.
  38. The Wu Sau drops into a Fook Sau.The Fook Sau is pushed forward for a second time. The point of focus is again on the back of the wrist.
  39. The Fook Sau is relaxed and turns into Huen Sau.
  40. Once the Huen Sau is completed the hand drops into Wu Sau.
  41. The Wu Sau drops into a Fook Sau. The Fook Sau is pushed forward for a third and final time.
  42. The Fook Sau is relaxed and turns into Huen Sau.
  43. The Wu Sau is withdrawn.
  44. Once the Wu Sau is a fists distance from the body any tension in the arm is relaxed. A Pak Sau is performed making sure the hand does not go past the shoulder.
  45. The Pak Sau returns to the centre with the thumb still tucked out of the way. A vertical palm strike is performed using the heel of the palm to strike at head height.
  46. The palm rotates to face up and is completely relaxed. A Huen Sau is performed.
  47. The Huen Sau is completed and the fist is closed.
  48. The arm twists back as an elbow strike. (this marks the end of the first section of Sil Lim Tao).


Photo captions

  1. The left palm opens completely relaxed. The hand travels down the side of the body completely relaxed ensuring the fingers are facing forward. Tension is applied through the last few inches of motion, after which the arms relax again.
  2. The right hand opens completely relaxed.The side Gum Sau is now performed on the right side.
  3. The hands travel behind the body until the thumbs touch at the back.Both hands then shoot backwards with last second energy.
  4. The hands stay close to the body as they travel to the front.The elbows stay bent and the arms move round. Both hands shoot forward (not straight down) with tension in the last few inches of the Gum Sau. Notice that the hands are inline with the waist/belt level and not below.
  5. The arms lift into a double Lan Sau with the left arm on top but not touching.
  6. The Elbows move out first.Then the hands whip out into a double Fak Sau with the knife edge of the hand tilted slightly up and the thumb tilted slightly down. The fingers tip forward very slightly to keep them from being damaged.
  7. The hands and arms pull back to the double Lan Sau position with the right now on top.
  8. The elbows drop into the centre as the fingertips begin to point up.Once the arms are fully uncrossed, the double Jum Sau shoots forward. Last second energy and a snapping wrist action create extra force as the double Jum Sau reaches its position.
  9. The energy of the Jum Sau is relaxed and the palms are turned up into a double Tan Sau.
  10. Tension in the forearms is created as the double Tan Sau rotates inwto a double Jut Sau using last second energy.
  11. The Jut Sau is fired forwards into a Biu Sau. Tension occurs at the last possible moment to ensure maximum energy is driven into the fingertips.
  12. Long bridge energy is then used to drop the Biu Sau straight down without bending the elbows. A double Gum Sau is performed without tension.
  13. The fingers fold back so the first finger and thumb touch. The wrists are lifted without any bend in the elbow ending in Tai Sau
  14. An outside Huen Sau is performed.
  15. When the Huen Sau is complete the hands close.
  16. Both elbows are brought back as a double elbow strike.


Photo captions

  1. The left hand performs a Pak Sau. The hand twists into position at the last second to create additional energy. The hand does not go past the shoulder.
  2. The Pak Sau is pulled back with the thumb still tucked into the edge of the hand. A front knife edge palm strike is delivered at neck height.
  3. The palm is rotated to face up then folds into Huen Sau.
  4. The Huen Sau is completed and the fist is closed.
  5. The arms are pulled back as an elbow strike.
  6. The right hand performs a Pak Sau. The hand twists into position at the last second to create additional energy. The hand does not go past the shoulder.
  7. The Pak Sau is pulled back with the thumb still tucked into the edge of the hand. A front knife edge palm strike is delivered at neck height.
  8. The palm is rotated to face up then folds into Huen Sau.
  9. The Huen Sau is completed and the fist is closed.
  10. The arm is pulled back as an elbow strike.
  11. The left palm is then pushed forward with the thumb tucked in as a Tan Sau. The Tan Sau is completed with the elbow one fist distance, roughly 4 inches from the body. The elbow is not pushed into the centreline. The fingers are straight and pointing slightly up.
  12. The forearm pivots around the fixed elbow position whilst the hand structure remains the same. The arm end in the low Gaun Sau position with the knife edge of the hand inline with the forearm and the fingers pointing slightly towards the centre.
  13. The inside of the forearm then twists back up into a slightly lower Tan Sau. This is a different way of using the Tan Sau.
  14. The Tan Sau folds back into an inside Huen Sau.
  15. The palm opens and strikes forwards into a horizontal palm strike to the level of the lower floating ribs. The heel of the palm is the striking area.
  16. The palm is rotated and opened facing up. A Huen Sau is performed.
  17. The Huen Sau is completed and the fist is closed.
  18. The arm is brought back as an elbow strike.
  19. The right palm is then pushed forward with the thumb tucked in as a Tan Sau. The Tan Sau is completed with the elbow one fist distance, roughly 4 inches from the body. The elbow is not pushed into the centreline. The fingers are straight and pointing slightly up.
  20. The forearm pivots around the fixed elbow position whilst the hand structure remains the same. The arm end in the low Gaun Sau position with the knife edge of the hand inline with the forearm and the fingers pointing slightly towards the centre.
  21. The inside of the forearm then twists back up into a slightly lower Tan Sau. This is a different way of using the Tan Sau.
  22. The Tan Sau folds back into an inside Huen Sau.
  23. The palm opens and strikes forwards into a horizontal palm strike to the level of the lower floating ribs. The heel of the palm is the striking area.
  24. The palm is rotated and opened facing up. A Huen Sau is performed.
  25. The Huen Sau is completed and the fist is closed.
  26. The arm is brought back as an elbow strike.
  27. A left Bong Sau is performed. The forearm should be rotated as the wrist is moved into the centreline. The elbow is shoulder height and the wrist is solar plexus height.
  28. The elbow of the Bong Sau drops down to make a Tan Sau. Notice how the wrist is in the same position as it was in the Bong Sau.
  29. The Tan Sau is relaxed and the palm drives up to deliver a heel palm strike. The thumb is kept tucked against the hand. The heel palm strike is delivered to chin height with the fingers tipped back. This would be applied when attacking an opponent from the side.
  30. A Huen Sau is performed.
  31. The Huen Sau is completed and the fist is closed.
  32. The arm is pulled back as an elbow strike.
  33. A right Bong Sau is performed. The forearm should be rotated as the wrist is moved into the centreline. The elbow is shoulder height and the wrist is solar plexus height.
  34. The elbow of the Bong Sau drops down to make a Tan Sau. Notice how the wrist is in the same position as it was in the Bong Sau.
  35. The Tan Sau is relaxed and the palm drives up to deliver a heel palm strike. The thumb is kept tucked against the hand. The heel palm strike is delivered to chin height with the fingers tipped back. This would be applied when attacking an opponent from the side.
  36. A Huen Sau is performed.
  37. The Huen Sau is completed and the fist is closed.
  38. The arm is pulled back as an elbow strike.
  39. The left arm is dropped down into place like a low Gaun Sau.
  40. The right hand is placed just above the elbow of the left arm.
  41. The knife edge of the right hand is scraped downwards along the forearm of the left arm. This is done whilst the left arm pulls back. There should be simultaneous two way energy when performing this movement.
  42. This results in the right hand being low and the left hand being above the right elbow. The two way energy is then performed from this side.
  43. Clear again.
  44. This results in the left hand being low and the right hand being above the right elbow.
  45. The position is once again reversed, and for the third and final time, the high hand scrapes down the forearm and the low forearm pulls back.
  46. The forearm is pulled back into the centre and made into a fist.
  47. The left fist performs a front punch as the right hand is pulled into the centre and made into a fist.
  48. Swich the punched in a chain punching motion.
  49. Right punch.
  50. Left punch as the right is pulled back like an elbow strike.
  51. The left palm opens face up then folds back as a Huen Sau.
  52. The fist is closed.
  53. The arm pulls back as an elbow strike.
  54. The arms drop and the body relaxes completely. Wing Chunӳ first form Siu Lim Tao is complete.
The Putney class is CLOSED