WING CHUN BASICS - The Concepts
PAKSAO or Slapping Hand:
The Pak Sao action (slapping hand) is a valuable asset for the student of the martial arts. It can streamline your actions and create opportunities to strike multiple times instead of once. The hand which performs the paksao must not be rigid, it must be relaxed. When it lands there should be an audible pop. When the paksao is launched it is directed to the adversaries elbow (or above). One of the reasons that the arms on the wooden training man (Mook Jong) are so short is because they are meant to encourage you to paksao on or above the elbow. In other words, we only use the paksao on the humerous (upper forearm) portion of the opponents arm.
Now that you know where to connect to the adversary (elbow and above) with your paksao let us detail the proper lines of force next. This is called "vectoring".
It is the line in which the force you are projecting via your paksao travels. The paksao delivered to the opponents elbow area should drive his limb toward his hip and on into the pelvic area. This removes the offending limb and compromises their balance as well. The force of the paksao combined with that of the accompanying strike (jik chung choy) makes for an impressive "shot" that will damage the opponents body and trap his arm. This will create shock within his mind as well. This double-up effect is seen throughout the art and it plays into the overall picture of victory that we all seek.
LOPSAO or Grabbing Hand
The Lopsao action is about snagging the enemies arm. Grab his arm and simultaneously strike him with the other hand. It isn't difficult to do, it is almost "instinctual" for many men. Lopsao is often played off the "wing block" or bonsao. This is a forearm parry that is fairly unique unto Wing Chun kung fu. The bonsao sets up the lopsao, it is a means to strike the enemy, compromise their balance and achieve victory without exposing yourself to any unnecessary damage. The rolling, twisting action of lopsao makes it a difficult technique to deal with for anyone bent on harming you. If you can touch or be touched, then you can employ lopsao in your own defense.
The lopsao must be practiced on both sides of your body. To do this we use what is called the "lopsao switch". This switch is done on the high line, it is a mere pull on the opponents blocking arm, but when done correctly it gives awesome results in both the fight and in training! Lopsao can be done in long range where the forearms never touch. It can also be done in the closer range and there one must keep contact with the offending limb.
Lopsao is done along with the classic Wing Chun straight punch to accompany it and in JKD it is shown as a backfist strike. Both have their purposes, so learn both. Lopsao is in the family of motion known as a "disengagement" - after learning lopsao you will soon discover it is useful in many other contexts beyond the original one you were taught. While considered basic, lopsao has a great deal of hidden sophistication to offer those sincere enough to seek it out.
WING CHUN / Secrets of Effective Striking
As a close quarter boxing system there is little that can match the profound sophistication of Wing Chun Kung Fu. A study of Wing Chun's principles would compliment ANY martial artist's existing skills. It is a deep art, thinking man’s art; it teaches pugilism not only of the body, but also of the mind and of the senses. Its rich heritage of developmental drills and exercises are unique in the world of fighting arts and they bring about a high level of effective skill quite swiftly. While every system has its gaps and weaknesses, it is my belief that Wing Chun has fewer inherent flaws than found in other, similar fighting arts. Meaning it is a fairly "complete package" right out of the box as far as close range fighting systems go.
The one aspect that does catch my eye as a potential trouble spot to those initially learning Wing Chun is the close quarter striking concepts which Wing Chun employs. It is the so-called "Jesus-nut" of the system. Explanation: The Jesus-nut is the one thing which holds the entire contraption together, the critical piece or juncture. If the any other part fails we'll be probably still be ok, but if the all critical "Jesus-nut" fails we are all guaranteed to be DEAD.
So, if you cannot adequately strike in the proper Wing Chun manner then you are practicing a suicide system of fighting. Without powerful, effective close range strikes, proper angles and upper body maneuvers it will fail you miserably when you need it most.
All of the snappy, awesome traps that you may know, all of the lineage bullshit your teacher made you learn, are all worthless pieces of kung fu trivia without the power to enforce your will upon the adversary through those very same skills. That ability of really hitting hard from one, two and three inches away from the opponent must be sought out and honed to a razors edge. It will not come easily and to use anything less is to miss the sweet points of this art.
Many years ago Sifu Jim DeMile wrote the book called Bruce Lee's One, Two and Three inch punch. I still have a copy of it in my collection. I personally met Sifu DeMile back in the early eighties. He, Larry Hartsell and Cass Magda did a seminar in Kirkland, Wa. together, I was in attendance with my friend and Hung Gar player.
Believe me, Sifu DeMile could really HIT hard with his close range punches! And his method of teaching others how to perform similar abilities for themselves was also a success. It means that any of us who wish to learn can slowly begin acquire skill in this particular area of close range striking. There is nothing mystical about close quarter hitting.
It's just hard work, time and study all mixed together.
The one, two or three inch punch is merely a normal punch done with the principle of "JING" behind it instead of your normal muscle power. Internal arts are famous for their ability to blast people several feet away by using their "jing" power. Once you learn this, wow - the world changes. Your horizons as a fighter are suddenly broadened. Potential is doubled.
Many people in the past did not understand the close quarter strikes of Wing Chun. It was shrouded in mystery and often misinterpreted. But in today’s world where advanced knowledge is easily found, every fighter should be familiar with their "normal" power and then also with their "jing" power. Once you study this concept, the one inch punch takes on new meaning and new usefulness for you. It is an ability that is well worth seeking out. It's martial evolution at work my friends, it's why we train, isn't it? To keep evolving and to not become stagnant? After all, we are all students of the arts; we share much with one another while upon this great journey. We create the future and preserve the past through our mutual training endeavors.
Use of the Rattan Ring In Wing Chun Training
The rattan ring can be a unique aid in helping you to acquire the proper structure of this close quarter fighting art. It has been said that in Wing Chun "the elbow always punches first". And when the Jik Chung Choy (punch) is done right, the elbow does indeed move before the fist does.
This is due to the structure I spoke of previously.
Begin ring training by first getting a ring. Then try out your rotary punching skills, slow at first, then smoother and at angles. The fist traverses the interior of the ring. The ring is acting like a "governor", forcing you to keep form, roll tightly and elbows in. Get to where your rotary punching is smooth, and then begin trying out your other techniques and skills. You'll be ready, let the
ring help you instead of hinder you!
The rattan ring is not used by all Wing Chun schools, but quite a few have some relations to its use as a primary learning tool. We employ the rattan ring as a developmental device solely. It is not used as a weapon. (There is a form where brass rings are used, nicknamed "chicken fighting" because of how one flaps the rings - much like a chicken when it fights.)
To develop our skills the ring becomes an isometric training tool we use in a solo manner, much like the mook jong or wooden man. The ring is under constant pressure, just like the energy that an adversary will put upon you in battle. Without tension and forward pressure, the ring, much like the art itself simply will not work correctly. Constant forward pressure and double arm connectivity is promoted via the rattan ring training methods.
I show this concept and more on my # 3 DVD on Wing Chun trapping skills.
While some kung fu styles advocate the use of iron rings I have maintained the rattan ring tradition. The iron rings may seem more challenging to some, but for long term training nothing beats the rattan ring. Iron rings can chip bones, hit teeth and generally cause liability in your studio. They are also not cost-effective; all of my iron-steel rings had to be custom made by a welding shop,
not cheap by any means.
The rattan ring has two ways it can be held or used. The first one is done by inserting both hands through one side of the ring. The second method is to insert each hand from opposing sides of the ring. Through out my DVD I refer to these two positions when playing the ring.
I'll teach YOU how you too can benefit from this dynamic attribute building device and boost your personal wing chun art to the next level of understanding and fighting performance. It takes some thought and some time, but so does anything in good kung fu. Be innovative and experiment some, your investigations into how the ring can be played are as valid as anyone else's.
In the ring training DVD, I show you how to use tansao and paksao together in a yin-yang hand application. It's an easy rolling exercise that smoothes you up and begins incorporating some great body mechanics as well. It's a figure eight line and the hands exchange positions with each rotation of the ring (palm up becomes palm down etc).
The rattan ring is also well suited to weapons training. The stick and knife also have their lines via the rattan ring. While similar to those exercises seen in Wing Chun, they vary due their nature (weapon size, threat level, etc). I use the ring in my solo knife training sessions quite often.
It's a universally respected developmental training device.
In my ring training DVD I demonstrate the techniques of the rattan ring and then I repeat the same technique on a mook jong so that you can see it performed there. Then lastly, I demo it again on a human subject. You can see the details from various perspectives in this manner. In each segment I detail the critical components so that you, the viewer, can benefit as much as possible from our video/DVD training time together.
I really think that you would like rattan ring training if you have never tried it before. It helped me quite a bit; it is why I decided to share this material with you in the first place.
I thought it might help others like it did me.
CONCEPT over TECHNIQUE
Blending Wing Chun with Other Arts Together
It has been my observation, over forty plus years of being involved with martial arts, that the so-called "great" arts all seem to share the same principles with one another. They might express them differently, but there is just one idea behind a myriad of techniques. That realization is one of human motion - not of the technique, nor the art from which it came, nor the teachers who have represented it. Put it all aside for now. See only motion and movement. Give up loyalties and dogmatic thinking for awhile and let go. Then only movement remains. Two arms, Two legs. When this happens, the entire world opens up to you and you suddenly see potential everywhere. Many arts will then become clearer to you; you will see similarities instead of differences.
Then your feet will begin to tread the road of self mastery and personal perfection.
The arts that you designate for this experimentation must compliment one another. Wing chun is an ideal base to work from. It is a pre-made tactical framework that you can easily build upon. You must know each of the arts well enough to make accurate judgment calls when you begin the creation of your ultimate fighting arts mix. For instance there are some elements of Pentjak Silat that blend extremely well with Wing Chun. The same goes for Filipino Kali. These arts all compliment one another. They mix nicely and produce a hybrid art that can be uniquely yours. Of course there is always someone out there who will have a problem with this mixing of arts. They shall claim you can't do that and that you are destroying the soul of Wing Chun by mixing other aspects with it. Nothing could be farther from the truth and here is why.
When I think of limb immobilizations I think of the larger picture. I see the limb immobilizations from Kali as equal to those of Wing Chun. I see that the lessons learned from Spanish sword and dagger effortlessly roll right on over into a perfect blend with my existing Wing Chun skills. To me, trapping is trapping, many arts employ the concept, and it is that generic concept I seek to master irregardless of its cultural origins. To have a versatile, well balanced arsenal of skills, one must step out of their teachers shadow and grow. What worked in the world of yesterday probably won't work today. Weapons systems must evolve or fall behind - in this world we are currently living in, knowledge truly is power. Try to see the higher path and "go for the gold".
Thinking of limb immobilizations one envisions the classic "Chinese Boxer" image. Dazzling, fast hand manuevers, maybe a few kicks thrown in too. But to keep ahead of the ever changing combat curve you must always go that extra mile. Allow your trapping skills to encompass the low line also. Chi Gerk, the so called trapping legs aspect of wing chun should be practiced too. It is an unexpected tactic with real value at certain times. It concentrates on effective leg manuevers and leg trapping. If you already know this part, then hell, you are already well on your way to the next step!
Now take this skill that already exists in our wing chun arsenal and then combine it with something like silats "kake nempal" exercises. Kake Nempal is an apex exercise of leg trapping, foot trapping, foot sectoring abilities. It is an awesome array of leg trapping skills that when combined with wing chuns leg immobilizations creates a deadly, effective hybrid of the two. Totally unpredictable by either camp and always a surprise tactic in combat. Both of the methods are highly rated ways to play the low lines. Best of all, both are easy to add to your current skill base.
In the finished product, they will appear as if they came from the same source. This is a good thing. Just remember, the idea of fighting has ALWAYS been to win. To be politically correct, to play that old "keeping the art pure" crap should not even be in a good fighters database. Oops, my JKD is showing again (blush). playing the PC game is a waste of time, save it instead for the historians and purists to hammer out. In wing chun we are taught to "let our guns do our talking", words mean little in a time of action. The more skills and knowledge (guns) you possess, the better ye shall
fare when the real fight comes your way.
Remember, all traps are incidental or accidental. NEVER seek a trap, seek to strike instead! Fill any emptiness you encounter with weaponry. Just HIT if you sense motion! Your job is to impart implicit, controlled violence to the adversary by using all of your "tools" in concert, instead of using them individually as does karate and others. For wing chun players it is all about "with". (parry with strike, one action) For players of other arts it has always been about "and" (parry AND strike, it's slow - takes two actions). How you think and train is how you'll fight. Be unpredictable. As Bruce once said: "Be like water my friend, be like water"!
In my DVD's on limb trapping I offer you many insights from those arts which I have drawn upon. They come from many respected sources. This gives you a more complete picture in regards to limb trapping. It is meant to enhance your understanding of functional trapping skills beyond that of the average Wing Chun fighter. I teach how to trap on several levels at once, insuring victory for you by using sensory overload on the enemy. Theses videos are truly "instructional videos", not just a partner and myself demonstrating some vague moves at high speeds.
You can quickly learn a great deal from my Trapping DVDs and then later incorporate the material into your existing matrix or training curriculum as you see fit. I guarantee you that my unique trapping blend will enhance your overall understanding of the close quarter methods of fighting and enhance your overall kung fu fighting profile!
GUIDELINES and PHILOSOPHY: The Sayings of Wing Chun Kung Fu
The axioms of Wing Chun are myriad, they contain the guiding principles of our art. They are handed down to us from a time when the written word was rare. There was only word of mouth to explain the art to others at that time. There was only the mind to retain what you had been shown. No notebooks, no computer files, just the human mind. Hence the wise old ones created Wing Chun Kuen Kuit in order to keep the principles alive and fresh through many generations of men.
Once learnt they can be mentally said while in training to help maintain your focus and line. Before entering into an actual fight these mottos can be swiftly thought about,
re-instilling / insuring the clarity of mind you'll need to survive. There are many Wing Chun styles, many of these axioms are shared between arts and masters. One such motto is: "recieve what comes and follow it back home, if you hit emptiness then attack". No matter what your Wing Chun tradition may be, this material conquers many differences and defines one of the most important aspects of wing chuns history. To learn more try asking your current Sifu. They should be able to give you more sayings and insights into their meanings. Let us define a few more of these
ancient mental reminders in the next portion.
In this section lets look at a few of the sayings themselves. I have listed seven of the popular wing chun axioms below. There are hundreds of these sayings and each has some variation to it. These listed are generic, not related to any particular method of wing chun. And yeah, there is a quality about them that makes me think that they are very kung-cool as well!
* STRIKE WHEN YOU SEE MOTION
* IF YOU ENCOUNTER A BARRIER, TRAP IT, REMOVE IT AND STRIKE
* EXECUTE THREE MOVES AS IF ONE
* POWER STARTS FROM THE HEART AND SHOOTS TO THE CENTER
* STORING ENERGY IS LIKE DRAWING A BOW,
RELEASING ENERGY (fa jing) IS LIKE SHOOTING AN ARROW
* ROTATE LIKE A CYLINDER WHEN ATTACKED, HEELS AND BACK DIRECT FORCE
* ALWAYS ENTER ON THE FIRST BEAT OF THE FIGHT, DO NOT LAG
In wing chun sensitivity exercises are performed in order to establish a higher awareness in combat. Through the refining of the senses a good wing chun player has a nearly supernatural quality about them. It is almost as if they can read your mind at times. Observational awareness is key factor in good wing chun training. The limbs also develop a certain sensitivity to them. A well trained forearm once in contact with the enemy can interpret the opponents intentions as easily as can the eyes, this does nor require force, but sensitivity. Sensitivity leads one to study how "flow"
applies in combat situations.
Stay relaxed in training and in actual fights. Learn to control the spirit through deep breathing. Mention the wing chun training precepts to your self often. Try your best to understand and then do. The many versions of wing chun share these sayings and generally they follow similar standards in techniques too. Just set your mind on "learn" and without being too cultish in your loyalties allow yourself to grow. Real knowledge has no limitations, only misguided men say it does. To contemplate these sayings is akin to the study of a zen koan. They'll take some deep
kung fu thinking for sure, so don't hurry. Flow !
There is a training exercise that is found in Wing Chun known as the "swinging gate". It is a partner exercise and each person has their "role" to play. The swing gate drill refines several concepts in one stroke. That alone is a blessing for both teacher and student as well. Swinging gate also is known by several alternative names. The "Returning Fist of China", "Bamboo", "Spring Grass", etc.
But, by whatever name we call it, the skill imparted by this exercise is well worth the time it takes to learn it. It has many applications in combat and offers an alternative "yielding" energy that literally sucks the opponent into your striking pattern. Swinging gate is both a physical as well as a psychological assault upon the aggressor’s senses. It has a surprise quality to it when performed correctly and it is fast as hell! It literally uses the oppositions’ force to destroy them.
I extend my hand in peace, a gesture that beckons friendship. But touch that hand in anger and like a spring loaded death trap, you unleash the storm, you reap the whirlwind. This is the promise of swinging gate to those who learn its secrets. Talk about "instant karma" ... yes, instant karma is embodied in the drill called swinging gate. It is Instantaneous payback!
You see, half of swinging gate is the popular exercise known as lopsao, the rolling, grabbing action usually seen done off of a bong sao parry. The other half is what we call "cross energy" drill and the two conjoined are generically known as "swinging gate".
The idea behind swinging gate is non-opposition, to go with the line of force given to you by the opponent versus going against it as most arts practice. The swinging gate is classified as a "yin" technique - it is yielding. A hard block would be un-yielding and it would be a yang energy technique.
Swinging gate is initially taught as a simple parry to the punch and the punch rotates off the parry. It then comes back around to strike position. Later the same exercise is compounded by letting the person who does the parry also perform a counter to the returning punch by covering center with a bongsao. The person doing the striking then adds their covering-grabbing hand. Swinging gate has levels of sophistication that go deeper and deeper. In this manner of training both partners develop. Each understands their reasons and each knows both roles of the exercise. It is a combat concept which stays with you from novice level up through advanced level, basically it grows with you.
As far as what aspect is MORE beneficial between the two roles I'd say that they share equal tactical value. And to properly approach each mode of swinging gate you must play it with a champion’s attitude. Keep your zeal for training and avoid staleness. Swinging gate requires a calm, powerful attention and a hawk-like gaze, your mind and spirit must be fully unified.
Then the skills you have programmed into your body over many hard years of work will manifest in a miraculous way, totally without thought. It has been said that the body seeks the path on it's own, it knows the way. So just allow it to do its job. Over thinking impedes real flow.
Remain calm and flow from target to target smoothly.
In closing this short missive on wing chun's swinging gate drill, I would like to add one last idea for you to consider. That idea is that the swinging gate should eventually become a four directional device. Up and down, back and forth basically. These lines cover the horizontal and the vertical lines of movement. If you learn this part of swinging gate you shall have a well rounded method of responding to an attack.
You will feel at ease even when facing larger opponents. It is my belief that thoroughly mastering the swinging gate drill(s) brings one inner confidence and that in turn fosters courage and spirit. I admonish you all to be patient, just practice your art sincerely and contemplate your art for a few minutes every day. The rest will automatically fall into place for you.
If it doesn't or hasn't, then come see me soon. Let us consult and train together. Bringing high performance kung fu to those who desire it is my specialty. Sharing this knowledge with others is why I made my four volume set in the first place.
In this second installment of "critical drills" I have chosen to address the Harmonious Spring drill. Technically this is not a challenging exercise. The tools you employ in doing this drill are all relatively simple. It is the proper timing we seek via harmonious spring more so than anything else. Harmonious spring is also useful for the sensing of and seeking out of EMPTINESS. (when we hit emptiness we strike, we fill that cavity w/ as many weapons as fast as we can)
Harmonious spring teaches us to maximize both of those factors:
Proper timing and sensing emptiness.
Part One: Harmonious spring teaches you how to clear the line - how to create emptiness. Jutsao his arm, clear the way and strike! If the opponent does not know the counter, then they get hit. Many fighters pull their guard in toward themselves under pressure. They present their arms for you grab. So, grab that guard straight away and give a short, sharp, snapping jerk (Jutsao) to one of his arms. Immediately punch as you release his arm (jik chung choy). Hit him in the area you just cleared.
You can also "cross-reference" them (mess them up) by doing the jutsao (with your right) on the adversaries left arm for instance, normally you then hit him with your right hand. In the cross reference version you'd be striking them with the left hand. Harmonious spring is one of those drills that is best "felt". That experience explains many things and needs little or no dialog. Words can fails us as the descriptors required simply can't tackle the task at hand via mere words. Hands on training is best for harmonious spring training. Get a partner, begin some reps and do them regularly for a few months. It really helps. It's all about feeling and sensing.
Part Two: Harmonious spring also teaches you how to counter the vicious jutsao and punch action we spoke of previously. You respond by striking as soon as your hand is released (right after the jut). Swiftly take the inside line, your punch arrives first. Many beginners get jumpy and attempt to fire off their punch too early (pre-release). It does not work in that manner. Properly done you wait for the release and then POW - you hit! Calmness is taught in this way as well as the proper timing.
Timing? Let's talk of timing next
Timing is the big aspect here. Doing it right technically is always a sound thing. But in the case of harmonious spring we want to maintain a certain "spring-like" energy or subtle tension in our limbs. And "harmony" is a term often misunderstood today. Harmony is the term the ancients used when they spoke of the attribute we refer to as "timing". A timed move is in harmony or in time with the opponents actions. Even Bruce Lee wrote of the deadly "timed blow" being superior to other strikes due to it's timing. In this type of hands-on, close quarters boxing that we are all practicing this timing is unique. And here is why it is unique, when we employ the harmonious spring concept upon the uninitiated (those untrained in martial arts) it slams both body and mind. The psychological impact that really good wing chun carries with it must never be taken lightly.
There are many other arts which have the capacity to harm and destroy the opponents body. In fact most arts do just that and they stop there. The level of pugilistic sophistication they demonstrate is still that of the smash and crash styles of many karate methods from the nineteen sixties. But wing chun goes one further to not only bring damage to an attackers physical body, but also to their psyche. Wing chun is a a clever persons art. A thinking mans delight. And when done well our wing chun methods absolutely dazzle the untrained mind. Hence my earlier reference to "psychological impact". It is certainly there, a real effect. To crush the opponent inside and
outside has always been a sound tactic.
Remember, "knowing" an exercise doesn't necessarily mean that you can pull it off in a fight. Many repetitions are needed and the right feel must be found before it can really assist you in a bad situation. Give any drill enough time to get itself inside your head before you say that it is no-good. If you understand or practice chisao (luksao)
then you must also include some time for playing with harmonious spring. It's a fairly quick learning curve to efficiency. It's street worthy and easy to pull off from a standard boxing stance.
It has an element of surprise going for it as well.
To further hone and fine tune your abilities with the harmonious spring exercise I highly recommend to practice it blindfolded. Caution is advised so that no one gets accidentally hit. Go slowly until you find your groove. Remain calm and enjoy the experience. Do your blindfolded training with someone you trust. In this manner you can truly relax and get into your role. Sung! Breath regularly, stay calm and do your job. Blindfolded training also programs the mind swiftly too. You learn faster and retain more. You can check out some of this material we have spoken about (and more)
in my Limb Trapping DVD series
Chisao Skills: Luk Sao, Don Chisao etc.
Don Chi is the one handed "sticking" exercise related to the famous two handed version that Bruce Lee popularized back in the seventies. Don chi is the first exercise where many of us were first introduced to the principle of adhering. It is exactly half of the two handed exercise so often touted in martial arts magazines. The two handed version of sticking hands is now a part of the global martial consciousness. Most arts today still train to repel an aggressor, to knock them or their limbs away. But in wing chun we adhere or stick to them and we can deliver our counter from that adherence point (receive what comes and follow it back home).
It has been my belief that by concentrating on the one handed version (don chi) one swiftly builds confidence and ability. The dependency of having two hands at your disposal is a luxury in real life encounters where true violence is present. This is often due to a wide range of reasons where we find ourselves limited to one handed defense. We may be wounded, have a pet on a leash or be carrying a briefcase in our other hand, whatever the reason one handed ability must be cultivated.
Through mastering don chi sao we can sense the opponent’s intentions and actions. I do not personally think that chisao and don-chi sao are a panacea, a universal "cure-all" for all of life’s problems as some kung fu teachers have made it out to be. This is taking a good thing too far in many instances. While chisao and don chisao are very valuable tools for development and for fighting they should not be an end all goal in your quest for self perfection. These exercises are mere pieces of the greater picture you must strive to encompass via your study of wing chun kung fu.
Covering inside and outside line reference points, chi sao or "luk sao" is the two hand adherence drill that is most often seen in mainstream magazines. To grasp don chisao is also to know luk sao. The technique is already there, the challenge is to "sense" the motions and the openings. To maintain coordination, concentration and stay cool while doing it. These elements are what challenge most of us from beginning well into the higher mid-level skills of the art. Repeat practice, experience and exposure to many different "energies" (opponents) is the formula to really
getting the hang of the whole chisao concept.
The reason these exercises are so well known in the western countries is due to the efforts of Bruce Lee and other high profile experts who have championed its effectiveness. But there are other unique drills and variations to these same exercises that are equally important and they get little or no exposure outside of the wing chun studios proper. When one has assimilated many wing chun exercises and they all begin to act in accord (outside of their "drill" context(s) that is when you begin reaping benefits from your wing chun kung fu training.
Learning exercises like the "cloudy hands" circling drill from tai chi chuan or "Filipino chisao" (hubud lubud) is also very useful as an alternate to the mainstream version of chisao as found in traditional wing chun. By learning more variations to the chisao theme we also become more adaptable to the situation at hand and have more valid answers to those most ancient and venerable of questions on combat that have plagued mankind for countless centuries.
I will not say that learning the art of wing chun is an easy task. Some exercises baffle the mind and the senses until you can get a firm grip on them. Don chi and chisao in general are at times in that "baffling" category for some people. It takes time and guidance under a sifu who knows the art well for you to get the rewards that are offered by the practice of chisao and its related drills.
Non-Traditional Weapons and The Wing Chun Matrix of Motion
(Benefits Beyond the Boxing / Why knife fighters like to train Wing Chun)
There are thousands of pages online about Wing Chuns fighting prowess. But as always there is still a large amount of martial artists that simply don't think that a short range punch has any real authority. They think that they can endure a short range jik chung choy strike and deliver their own more powerful strike in return. In the world of hard fighting men, honestly who is to say what is what. We do our best. We all "strive", such is the way of the warrior, to strive. We allow our fists to do our "talking" many times. But, when the need arises for a level of deadly authority, well the knife is a swift path to victory for he who has studied it's secrets.
Speed is a critical aspect for a knifeman. Wing chun is one of the fastest arts in the world when it comes to close quarter boxing. They are a marriage made in heaven. I know that traditional wing chun trains with the bart jam dao. The short butterfly knife/sword is a killer tool to learn. But in a real world setting slightly impractical to carry. So the conceptual lessons learned from such study must be transfered over to a more realistic expression of todays world lest it become "hollow" knowledge. Hollow because after learning it, there are no real benefits from it beyond some attribute development. But exchange a small folding knife for the larger one and presto!
Fantastic fighting stuff!
The knifemans "working hand" is the empty, non-knife bearing hand. This is called the "live hand". It does the paksao, it snags the lopsao and plays the bonsao disengagement off of an stab attempt. It removes the obstacles, clears the path for the shining blade. Now, armed with a wicked tooth of steel, every little motion produces blood. A mere flick of the wrist and a fifty caliber hole will open up on the surface of your adversary as if by some effortless martial magic.
Such is the power of an expert and his knife.
In the knife fight or as in an art such as kali, it is a question of sensitivity (just as in wing chun). In a knife fight knowledge counts, some moves are better than others. A knife cannot be "bullied", a wiser path must be sought. Wing chun offers answers to these situations. The body mechanics of the knifeman must replace those of the chinese boxer, we modify certain things in order to fit the situation. A field expedient survival trick. Concept, principle rides king over technique or style. In the life and death moments of the knife fight (or any lethal force encounter) anything goes. Victory is the only recourse you have, anything else is just too grim to even consider.
The structure of the wing chun guard and that of the knifeman are quite similar. Each based upon a 45* angle for coverage and power. What is "power"? Well, you do know what strength is right? And I think most of you know what speed is (fast). So when a fighter combines his natural strength with his fastest speed he gets POWER. Speed + strength = Power. By adding the wing chun body mechanics the knifeman produces a deceptive and deadly evasiveness. A hybrid born of both paths and suitable for any appliaction from street to kwoon. The cross training benefits of wing chun and those of the knife are simply too overwhelmingly impressive to overlook by anyone who is serious about possessing a real working system of personal defense in this modern world.
Knife fighters trap also, just as wing chun kung fu does. Limb immobilizations (trapping) skills are valued as a close quarter suppressive action of the opponents weapon hand. Trapping is a fairly refined art in certain knife circles. They have knowledge on trapping that would benefit a wing chun man and vice versa. If predjudices are put aside your personal growth will skyrocket. The knife and wing chun formula works when given a chance. I use the hybrid methods to great avail to quickly teach either art to pupils who are on limited time frames. Feeling is believing. In my Comtech system (Combat Technologies) the DVD teaching medium is an ideal method for you to get maximun gains fast and to refine your personal overall martial arts abilities.
As far as counter-knife goes (empty hand versus the knife) the concepts that make the wing chun and small knife hybrid a success are the very same concepts that make the counter knife skills it teaches us so effective as well. By adding some high speed, low drag knife disarms from kali to your overall wing chun training curriculum you increase your overall survival ratio dramatically. Something like this is a no-brainer, it is common sense to explore a backup system. Police all carry what they call a "backup" gun to their main duty pistol. The backup is usually a small caliber revolver in an ankle holster or something. It is in case their main weapon misfires or has a malfunction.
IE: Shit goes horribly wrong!
Alternative tactical options for wing chun players is like a form of insurance. It's an easy step for any of you to make. Besides it's a professionals move to secure all areas and leave no gaps in their personal defense. Sensei Peter Urban used to say "Overkill is confidence"! So true, so true! Learn as much as you can. Keep growing throughout your life. Know that the differences in our arts that are so often spoken about are found more inside the hearts of men than within the arts themselves. There is an ancient maxim: "He + art = heart" and therein is the secret my friends:
Just follow your heart!
As I said in a previous article, the wing chun old guard is probably fuming mad at the ideas I put forth. But I do so with respect to the arts themselves and use as my sole defense that Americans like myself are natural "hotrodders". We like to build hotrods both in the literal sense (fast automobiles) and also conceptually. The hotrod concept
was to take a stock unit (art) and modify it. Experiment a bit with a few combinations of this and that and eventually discover a way to make it faster, better, stronger, etc.
The great Bruce Lee was a "hotrodder" by his creation of Jeet Kune Do. Most of the great masters of many martial arts methods were "hotrodders" in their own rights. They took existing arts they had studied and combined the teachings as best they could into a cohesive unit(s) to share with others. We walk in the large footprints of the great masters my friends, but walk onward, advance as did they in their time. It's the high, lonely road of greatness and victory. Believe in the self.
See beyond technique.
If you can build your own "hotrod martial art" then have to it man, it's an interesting task to say the least. It can take a man many decades and dollars to get enough experience to play the game well. Therein is the challenge eh? To become a creator or to remain with the created? Articles like this are just signposts along the way. They are there to encourage the weary worthy, and to discourage the unworthy as unwise. Take it for what its worth. We know its all illusion anyway right?
The BASIC UNDERSTANDING of "QUADRANT PLAY"
The way of kung fu is a manifold path. To fully grasp its deeper aspects, the student must study under a qualified teacher (sifu). One must then follow their teacher’s advice, teachings, observations and tips. All the while allowing no ego-driven anger to interfere with the student - teacher relationship or the eventual mastery of your chosen art.
A calm spirit like that of a hunter is best suited to the progressive learning of kung fu. Step by step, a smooth, even flow of learning that creates a "training continuum". Once you get into that groove, your learning / retention / ability equation really kicks into high gear.
Its a mindset more so than a physical behavior.
Another means to accomplish your long term martial arts goals is to learn and practice the so called "keys to self mastery". Oh yes, such things exist. Yes, they really do help you learn more and understand more to a greater degree. Often they are right before our eyes and we simply do not recognize them. It is the recognition of such elements that swing them into your consciousness where they can be put to use. They can be quite profound in their effect or very simple in their subtle help to those on the road to true skill in Wing Chun and kung fu in general.
One of the easiest and most useful realizations is the # 3 key to self mastery known as "quadrant play". This is a device for discovery. Discovery of the self and of your martial art. It is about questioning the answers, not just answering the questions. It is where the knowledge and the skill given to you by the sifu meets up with the man inside of you.
Both you and your teacher are now contributing to your education instead of just your teacher’s input. In the real world this part is called "experience". And, as many fighters can vouch, experience counts. Experience is like intuition, it’s something you just “know” and that gives you an edge over someone who lacks experience and does not "know".
Whenever your limb and the limb of an opponent cross while training in the art of Wing Chun or kung fu in general, then a quadrant is created. The limbs involved might be the arms, it may be the legs. In this instance I refer to more of the upper body limbs, the arms and hands. As you engage or bridge into your adversary the place your arms touch is the cross point. The arms can be in the form of an "X" or in the form of a plus sign +.
Either way, four "gates" are created (quad = 4). They shall open and close rapidly, changing always. How you work off of those quadrants is learned through experimentation. Sensing the pressures, opportunities and dangers is what it’s all about via the initial touch contact.
It is difficult to explain quadrant play in an article. But I can give you the encouragement and general idea to try it some time in your own manner. In this game, there are no mistakes. Just greater understanding. Go slowly, no great speed or strength. Allow your training partner time to react and to contemplate the best move. Once you are in contact, slow it up, feel what would be best, a pak sao to the inside line? Perhaps a cutting hand to capture the center? Let us look at an example next.
1. Let us say that the opponent has punched with their right arm and we have parried it with a bong sao using our left arm. A quadrant is now in play. If I take the inside line, low-line, I paksao with my right and strike center with my bil (left finger spear) to his eyes.
2. Or off the same bong sao parry I might have gone high gate outside line grabbing his right with my right and roll into a classic left side strike lopsao. In this example we employed two quadrants out of the four. The other two quadrants might have been explored and each would
produce a different effect yet.
I only present this as a simple explanation of the method. It is up to you now. This is not about your teacher or your most ancient and honorable lineage, rank or system. It is on your shoulders to either do this, study and teach yourself or not. This is a kung fu gift for yourself from yourself. It takes thought, not action. If you are ready for this exercise, then advance. If not, keep training and a few months come back, try again. Quadrant play is fun when practiced with someone you enjoy training with. Be patient, It might seem awkward initially, but you shall get the hang of it soon enough.
Of that I am sure.
This short piece on such an in-depth subject as self mastery ala "quadrant play" does not do the concept the justice it deserves. But hopefully it may inspire some of you to "realize" this simple trick is the shortcut to skill and hands on experience that you have sought for so long.
I shall leave you with an ancient question, like a Zen koan if you will.
"Who is wiser than all of the buddhas and sages"?
The answer is of course YOURSELF! So take a hint from the great one himself (Guatama Buddha) and learn to value your own discoveries as well as those shared with you by the teachings of your art and those from your teacher(s).