What are Wing Chun’s Core Principles?
1.) Attack along the center line - defend your own center line
The centerline is a straight line drawn from the center of the Wing Chun student to the center of their opponent's body. An imaginary line running down the middle of the body called the center line is the basis of Wing Chun fighting theory. The path of the center line is determined by crossing the wrists while extending the arms first down then up this movement is found at the beginning of all three Wing Chun forms.
All of Wing Chun's offensive techniques, in particular, the straight punch (Chung Choi) which is the style's major weapon begin from the center line. Attacking either to the left or right of his center line your force will be dissipated and not cause major damage to the opponent.
Furthermore, most of the body's vital organs are located along a vertical line that runs down the center of the body. For example, targets such as the throat, solar plexus, and groin are all located along the center line of the body.
Defensively Wing Chun stresses the instinctive protection of one’s own center line.
Wing Chun uses a tight on-guard arm position. Many Chinese martial arts use body parts as units of measure to keep techniques consistent among practitioners. In this case, Wing Chun will use the width of your own fist to determine the position of your arms in the on-guard position. The elbow of your lead arm is always a fist distance from the center line never is the elbow out since you are left exposed.
There are 10 core principles that define Wing Chun Kung Fu.
- 1Attack along the center line, defend your own center line.
- 2Use economy of motion to compact and speed up both blocks and strikes
- 3Simultaneously attack your opponent while defending incoming strikes
- 4Use tactile sensitivity to feel where your opponent will move next
- 5.Eliminate decision-making and instead rely on trained reactions.
- 6Use structural skeletal alignment to generate power rather than muscular strength.
- 7Immobilize your opponent's weapons by trapping and tying up their arms.
- 8Adaptation and flow - have the ability to launch a variety of attacks.
- 9Forward Intention - Seek to pressure your opponent to create openings.
- 10Simplicity - Simple techniques tend to work in real world self-defense.
2.) Use economy of motion to compact and speed up both blocks and strikes.
Wing Chun has a scientific approach to combat. The theory of economy of motion or conservation of energy states that strikes down the center line are faster than strikes that curve or deviate from the center line as it has less distance to travel. This is both the shortest and most direct path along which to attack.
Wing Chun punching is always direct since the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Your fist originates at your center line and is delivered directly to his center line in general your opponent's nose is the target.
In fact, all techniques are designed to be structurally faster than other fighting methods as well as more efficient. Regardless of whether it is a block or a strike this fact remains true: the smaller the movement is the quicker the movement is. Wing Chun will distill all movements into moving the least amount possible to achieve the desired result.
In many instances, when the attacking hand fails to reach its intended target, it draws backward minimally. Instead of drawing back and resetting your guard the Wing Chun practitioner will stay fluid and use their extended hand position to create a new opening or hand immobilization opportunity.
3.) Simultaneously attack your opponent while defending incoming strikes.
Wing Chun is structurally faster than many other styles of martial arts because it employs simultaneous offense and defense. Blocking and striking are not separated into two separate motions. Wing Chun attacks use deflection and counterattack all within the same movement.
Wing Chun's defensive system trains you to move your arms in unison both defending incoming strikes while simultaneously striking yourself. This is referred to as intercepting an attack. Punches themselves can effectively become blocks
4.) Use tactile sensitivity to feel where your opponent will move next.
Wing Chun uses soft techniques to overcome hard strikes. It's designed to fight against someone who is bigger and stronger than you. If you were to try and use your muscles to resist an incoming force, your become tense and cannot initiate an attack until you relax. Therefore, Wing Chun likes to keep the muscles in a relaxed state at all times.
The more relaxed you are while fighting, the better you will be able to fight. The more relaxed you are the faster you can react to threats.
The practice of Sticky Hands (Chi Sau) is unique to the style of Wing Chun Kung fu. Chi Sau is the drill for developing tactile sensitivity. Tactile sensitivity is the ability to feel what your opponent's movements are through a physical connection (touching your opponent's arms)
Wing Chun ultimately seeks to be a close-quarter fighting system. It stays in a pocket that is relatively closer to the opponent than other systems of self-defense. Therefore, a Wing Chun practitioner intentionally puts himself in a potentially dangerous range.
This only makes sense if the Wing Chun student has an advantage at this range. So how does Wing Chun stay safe in this pocket?
Wing Chun will use “sticky energy” to feel where the opponent will move next. This need to stay safe while staying in the pocket is trained by performing a drill unique to Wing Chun called “Chi Sau”
This drill can best be described as two people who keep their forearms attached (sticking) to each other while simultaneously trying to strike and not get hit. The goal is to control your opponent by creating different shapes using your forearms to prevent your opponent from freely striking at you, then you can counter accordingly. It is a semi-competitive drill intended to increase your awareness and sensitivity to movements and intentions. Skillful Chi Sau students can even force the opponent to attack the way in which you want them to attack.
Eventually, you will learn to both predict where attacks are coming from next and then nullify that attack just through feeling, without the use of vision. The most impressive iteration of this drill is when both practitioners perform it while blindfolded.
5.) Eliminate decision-making and instead rely on trained reactions
Can you imagine having to decide whether to block a punch with your left hand or your right hand in the very instance a punch is thrown at you? Now, let’s make it even more complex by deciding what block to do if the opponent throws a left punch or a right. Now, let’s add even more complexity to our decision making by assuming the opponent may also kick.
In real world self defense it is almost impossible to think clearly. Relying on your brain to make decisions in real-time is a recipe for failure. What you really need is a way for you to fight without thinking. You need a system that allows you to just “react”.
Everyone has an instinctual response to threats. Some people will duck down, others will flinch, while others still might scream.
The goal of Wing Chun Kung Fu is to replace these instinctual responses with conditioned or trained responses. A correct response to the threat is a technique that is the best choice to counter the threat.
This trained response is a learned response, taught specifically to optimally defend against a given attack.
Reaction time when fighting is instantaneous compared to decision making. The ideal situation would be one in which you perform without thought. A situation where you just acted and defended yourself successfully.
There is only one way to accomplish this. It is through extreme numbers of continuous repetition. You need to drill correctly responding to threats with the best counter technique thousands and thousands of times.
With repetitive training, all of your Wing Chun techniques will eventually become second nature.
6.) Use structural skeletal alignment to generate power rather than muscular strength.
Wing Chun emphasizes technique over brute force. Therefore, Wing Chun employs shifting at angles to allow your body to rotate on its center line axis. This gives you the ability to deflect or redirect force to the side.
Shifting also creates various angles for attacking. Attacking at angles allows you to penetrate an opponent's defenses easily. Shifting at angles also increases your reach, and increase your punching power. This kind of rotational power is found in almost all martial arts. Tremendous force is generated from a sudden torquing of the waist and hips.
When attacking, Wing Chun does not telegraph its strikes. Of course, winding up before striking gives you power but also gives away your intent. Any kind of wind-up can be seen by your opponent and therefore more easily countered. So the idea is for you to not wind up at all.
So, Wing Chun tries to generate punching power through skeletal alignment. What this means is that there is a connection between the striking object (your fist) and the ground that you stand on. Imagine someone standing in front of you. Throw a punch and hold it there. Now have your friend push your fist toward you. If you have skeletal alignment you will not budge. Your Skelton will be able to hold back their push without you having to exert muscular strength.
Now if you have a solidity to your stance any punch you throw will incorporate that stability and transform it into power or force.
Of course, it takes a good understanding of how to apply skeletal structure in order to make these movements deliver strong shocking power in such a short distance.
Bruce Lee was famous for many things but his one-inch punch was legendary. He would hit his opponent through some kind of pad or even a phone book, from just one inch away. Almost everyone went flying backward and fell to their backs
7.) Immobilize your opponent's weapons by trapping and tying up their arms.
Trapping is the most unique aspect of the art of Wing Chun.
Trapping in Wing Chun is where you use your blocks and striking techniques to set up a situation in which your opponent is vulnerable to grabbing, pinning, or immobilizing their arms. This allows you to gain control and prevent him from attacking. The ability to cross over your opponent's arms is essential to learning this style.
Trapping takes a high degree of skill since you are manipulating the arms of the person attacking you.
The first techniques you learn in Wing Chun trapping are Lop Sau (pulling hand) and Pak Sau (slapping hand)
8.) Adaptation and flow - have the ability to launch a variety of attacks.
Wing Chun in ancient times would have been tested against other forms of Kung Fu. Today it is mostly tested against MMA and Boxing. There is no way for you to know the skills of the person who is randomly attacking or mugging you. So, Wing Chun needs to be adaptable.
Wing Chun treats all threats similarly. In other words, there are a finite number of ways someone can attack you. Once you have dealt with that initial threat, Wing Chun has many follow-ups that flow seamlessly from one target to another.
9.) Forward Intention
If the way is clear move forward. In Wing Chun, there is constant forward pressure. The reason for this is to both off-balance the opponent and pressure them so as to create openings in their defense.
Wing Chun hand techniques are delivered in a bursting series of straight rapid-fire attacks. This keeps your opponent too defensively minded to launch their own offensive. If you are constantly blocking you are doing Wing Chun wrong.
Putting your opponent on defense is a sure-fire strategy to win most fights.
The most important principle in Wing Chun Kung Fu is the idea of simplicity. This is the idea that complex movements and techniques are both inefficient and impractical. Thus, there are no movements within the system of Wing Chun that are complicated and flowery. Every strike, every block is reduced to its simplest form. Through continuous training, these economic movements will come naturally like a reflex.
If any movement feels unnatural to perform then you will not be able to execute it under pressure. The less complicated the technique the easier it is to learn and execute.
Wing Chun is not a system that should take 20 years to learn. In most cases, someone can develop real skills in Wing Chun in just a few years. This is meant by design. Real self-defense means being ready to fight quickly. Any system that takes 20 years to get proficient in is a useless system because the average person will never be able to define themselves when they need to.