Wing Chun
Wing Chun originated in the early 1700’s at the Shaolin temple in the Hunan province of China. The Shaolin monks, wishing to train rebel forces to overthrow the oppression of the Manchu government, set out to develop a new fighting art. The monks needed an art that could be taught in three to five years rather than the traditional eighteen to twenty years. The Shaolin elders regularly met in the Forever Spring Hall of their temple to develop this new fighting system. However, before the new system could be completely developed, the temple was destroyed by the forces of the Manchu government. The surviving monks dispersed themselves throughout China and went into hiding. Among the survivors was a nun named Ng Mui. Ng Mui finalized the movements of the new fighting system and passed it on to her only student, whom she renamed Yim Wing Chun after the hall in which the system was developed. The Wing Chun system was handed down privately through the generations of the Leung Family. Yip Man first offered instruction in Wing Chun in 1949 to restaurant workers and taught commercially in Hong Kong in 1951. Over 90 percent of the Wing Chun schools in the world today can be traced directly to the efforts of Yip Man. Wing Chun’s approach to self-defense is to control an opponent’s movements in order to attack without being hit back. Its training aims to prepare the student to deal spontaneously and effectively with most combat situations that might arise. Formal Wing Chun includes instruction in three shadow-boxing sets, a wooden dummy set consisting of 108 techniques, chi sao exercises, and two weapons sets. The various training methods and concepts are listed below: • Siu Nim Tao [Sil Lim Tao]. The “little idea” form teaches correct elbow position, the alignment of the elbow with the stance, and the protection of the centerline. It also contains various hand positions applied in chi sao. • Chum Kiu. The “arm seeking” form teaches defensive maneuvering skills and closing techniques. It introduces movement in stances while maintaining the alignment of the elbow and transferring the movement power into the hand technique. • Biu Tze. The “thrusting fingers” form develops finger strikes. • Muk Yan Chong. The wooden dummy set teaches the applications of trapping, centerline, and basic combat techniques. • Luk Dim Boun Kwan and Pak Chaun Doo. Respectively, the eight foot pole and twin butterfly knives are the principal weapons used to supplement Wing Chun training. • Chi sao. “Sticky hands” refers to training the hands and arms to become more sensitive and responsive to unexpected movements from an opponent while simultaneously delivering strikes and blocks. • Gate principle. The gate area stretches from the eyebrows at the top to the groin below, and just past the shoulders on each side. Wing Chun concentrates its defenses within the gate to limit openings. • Centerline principle. The centerline is an imaginary straight line which bisects the body vertically. Most of the body’s vital points are on or near this line. Control of the centerline is the goal to a proper defense in Wing Chun. • Immovable elbow principle. Acting like the eye of a hurricane, the elbow in many techniques remains still while around it the forearm is constantly moving and exerting forward force. By keeping the elbow still, the centerline is maintained and the defense steadied. • Facing principle. Since the Wing Chun system is based upon straight punches, guarding the centerline, and the immovable elbow, correct orientation to the opponent is essential. Short, stable, and highly mobile stances which promote the transfer of the entire body’s power into hand techniques allow the defender’s centerline to always be oriented toward the opponent. Advantages of Wing Chun (Five Saves) • Save distance. Wing Chun is a close combat style, good for short, small and weaker people. • Save energy. Wing Chun is economical in its hand and foot movements. • Save manpower. Wing Chun is efficient in its trapping, locking, and sticky hands principles for both hand and foot techniques. • Save time. By escaping, blocking, and attacking simultaneously, the Wing Chun practitioner can accomplish more than many other martial artists, as if killing two birds with one stone. • Save life. When a defender uses Wing Chun techniques to trap and wrap the attacker into an unharmed package, both survive. Wing Chun Technical Terminology For the English speaking reader, the technique names below are transliterated from Chinese. Dialectical variations or alternate transliterations that are common in English literature are included in square brackets. A brief explanation of each position in Cuong Nhu terms follows the colon. Remember that for the most part Wing Chun terms describe a principle or method and not necessarily a precise final end point to a motion. There may be many gradations within a single technique. For example, the Cuong Nhu techniques butterfly block, where the forearms cross, and the joined hands block, where the wrists cross, are both termed kan sao. Traditionally, these techniques are delivered from only two major stances, inward stance and sidling (or empty) stance. In both stances, the pelvis is turned upward, and the weight is focused on the heels. In the inward stance, the feet and knees are turned toward the centerline, each foot bears equal weight, and the stance is square to the opponent. In sidling stance, one foot is advanced toward the opponent with virtually the entire weight on the rear foot. Sidling stance allows the front foot to kick without further weight adjustment. Another general characteristic of Wing Chun hand techniques is that there is often a distinct outward tension or energy flow in the arms. This is especially true in those techniques such as fook sao in which the elbow is held on or near the centerline. The Cuong Nhu punching block has a similar flow. • Sao [Sau]: hand guarding or hand technique. The basic ready position for Wing Chun consists of: • Man sao or leading hand and a… • Wu sao or back, guarding, or protective hand which is held close to the solar plexus. In both positions the palm and fingers are held vertically on the centerline. • Biu tze [Bil jee]: thrusting finger strike. When both hands apply this technique simultaneously it is called a double biu tze. • Bong sao: elbow (forearm) block or strike, upward, inward or forward. This technique sets up push, press, hook, and cross trappings. • Bil sao: knife hand high block, thrusting outward. • Fak sao: chop to the side. Hook trapping is the normal follow-up. Double fak sao is simultaneous chops to each side. • Fook (or fok) sao: forearm block with elbow near centerline, palm down. Fook sao enables hook trapping and gives better control over attacker’s arm. It neutralizes an attacker’s jut sao, and the hand position makes it harder for the attacker to deflect or move the defending arm. Fook sao essentially limits the attacker’s next technique to a low vertical punch, while allowing the defender to easily move into kan sao or jut sao as a counter. While superficially similar, fook sao is different from a Cuong Nhu monkey block. • Fut sao: side slapping arm. In this technique, the arm swings outward and back, blocking with the surface of the out-turned palm. • Guan sao: chopping block. There are three forms commonly used: • Low guan sao is a downward chop block which can lead to hook trapping or pull trapping by turning the body. • High Guan sao is similar to outer block with palm up and the centerline of body rotating toward blocking arm. • Cross guan sao is a low X-block, palms downward used with press trapping. • Gum sao: pinning hand. This technique is similar to a lower palm or palm corner block. • Huen sao: circling or escaping hand. This technique usually is started by turning the palm up and horizontal, followed by an inward rotation of the wrist which returns the hand to man sao. • Jum sao: sinking blade block. This technique begins with circular escaping hand, followed by a vertical chop downward and a push forward. The follow-up usually involves press-down trapping. • Jut sao: jerking arm. This technique involves a short snap downward with forearm or palm corner to take control of centerline. It sets up slap trapping downward. • Kan sao: X-block to the side. The technique is best described as a simultaneous guan sao with each arm. On the leading leg side, the arm performs a lower guan sao while the other arm performs a high guan sao and the elbows are held close together. Kan sao is used to defend against roundhouse kick. • Kao sao. Circling block, arm position similar to bong sao. This technique is most commonly used as a follow-on to a fook sao which has stopped the attacker on centerline. The blocking arm rolls over the top of attacker’s arm, forming the kan sao and forcing the attacker to the dead side. • Lan sao: bar arms. Here both forearms are horizontal and parallel in front of chest, hands open, palms down. The upper arm is at shoulder level, and the lower at solar plexus level. This technique leads to hook, press-down and head trapping. • Lau sao: scooping arm. The technique starts from lower chop block position and leads to hook trapping. • Larp sao: circling forearm block. This technique frequently leads to hook trapping. • Lop sao: grabbing hand. • Lut sao: freeing arm. • Pak sao: side deflecting or slapping block with palm. • Tan sao: middle block, elbow near centerline and palm up. Hook and push trappings can follow this technique. There are two related techniques. • Double tan sao describes the simultaneous execution of tan sao with both arms. • Cross tan sao is a high X-block in front of chest, palms toward body. This technique leads to push, press, hook, cross, and pull trapping. • Tarn sao: serpent block sideways, inward or outward with palm down. Wing Chun Chi Sao The following drills are to be learned from an instructor. These notes should only be used as a reference. Escaping Hands Partners in natural stance Yang, minimize contact to escape Tenkan movement • Attacker’s left hand grabs your right wrist. • Sink down slightly, pivoting on right foot, left foot circles behind in tenkan while simultaneouly rotating right wrist. Wrist rotates inward as fingers and thumb draw upward and toward forearm while sinking elbow downward toward attacker’s body, minimizing surface area contact between attacker’s hand and your wrist. Note: your wristbone on little finger side should initiate the escape. You should slowly escape from attacker’s grasp one finger at a time. Relax your shoulders, breathe and coordinate timing of wrist rotation and tenkan to understand principle of escape. Flowing Hands Partners in natural/inward stance. • Over/Under:  Right hand moves clockwise. Left hand moves counterclockwise. • Attacker’s left hand grabs your right wrist (your hand palm down). Your fingers, thumb, and palm make contact with inside of attacker’s forearm and move upward and over attacker’s forearm. • Your hand wraps and maintains constant contact and forward pressure as it “sticks” and circles the forearm, as if pushing all the way through toward the elbow. • Repeat one side then the other side before doing both arms. • Advanced: turn upper body and push/pull arms. • Applications: circular arm throw, over the neck throw, trapping arm. • Under/Over: Right hand moves counterclockwise. Left hand moves clockwise. • Lift your fingers upward (palm up) outside of attacker’s forearm and continue to circle (similar to pressing arm). Do one arm, then other arm, then both arms together. Press attacker’s arm against their body as you push other arm into forearm. • Applications: Sukui nage, over the neck • Combination Apply one arm over/under and the other arm under/over with same principle of twisting upper body. Keep hands opened, not clenched or grabbing and let energy flow through your fingers. Use the centerline principle to trap and wrap partners arms using high, middle and low follow-up techniques. • Applications: Tenchi nage, over the neck Note: Do the above techniques with fluidity and a “rooting down” principle. Advanced level should be moving 3-dimensionally as hands flow and feet advance forward (irimi) or pivoting back (tenkan). Let hands roll over attacker’s hands like “water flowing around a rock.” Traditional Chi Sao Drills and Exercises Single-Arm Chi Sao A: Tan sao (left) (1). B: Horizontal fook sao (right). A: Tan sao into palm strike to body . B: sink down fook sao into jut sao (2). B: Vertical punch to face. A: Rolls into a bong sao (3). A: Bong sao rolls over and pulls inward, then pushes forward into tan sao. B: Turns back into horizontal fook sao. Repeat and continue. Double-Armed Chi Sao One person with left tan sao and right extended fook sao, other person with left bong sao and right horizontal fook sao. Both people in short inward stance with relaxed shoulders. A: Left tan sao/right extended fook sao. B: Right horizontal fook sao/left bong sao. A: tries to punch/strike with fook sao. B: turns bong sao into trapping A’s forearm, crossing center line into elbow (repeat). A: Pushes vertical fook sao across bong sao while simultaneously bringing tan sao across and resting on outside of… B: Bong sao and then pushing into jut sao with trapping both hands (repeat). A: Strikes fook sao as… B: Bong sao turns into tan sao. B: Strikes fook sao (other hand) as… A: Tan sao turns into bong sao. Repeat process, first one side at a time then doing both simultaneously. Both partners should end with the traditional chi sao setup. Hand Drills The following drills emphasize the key points of Wing Chun adapted into Cuong Nhu. They differ from classic Wing Chun primarily in the use of more highly mobile stances (such as sparring stance), while retaining the centerline, sticky hand and other principles. Where applicable, the related Cuong Nhu technique has also been given parenthetically. Hubud Drill This is a drill for two partners (denoted as A and B) facing each other in an inward or natural stance. This drill is effective for sparring and applications training. Each partner should remain relaxed and develop sensitivity in the arms so that eventually the drill becomes fast and smooth. A: right horizontal fook sao (crane block) to B’s left ear or shoulder. B: left fook sao (crane block) to inside of A’s right forearm. Left hand “sticks” to A’s arm. B: right fook sao (crane block) to outside of A’s right arm. Right hand pulls A’s arm across centerline. B: left pak sao across and down A’s arm near elbow. B: right horizontal fook sao (cupping palm) to A’s left ear or shoulder. Drill now repeats with A performing the same blocks and attacks as B used in the first cycle. When partners are familiar with the drill, restart it with a left fook sao so that both sides of the body are conditioned. Three-Step Drill This is another two person drill in which the partners (A and B again) face each other in an inward or natural stance. Excepting the starting punch, each partner performs a sequence of three techniques, the last of which is an attack which is blocked by the first technique in the other partner’s sequence. Either guarding hand (man sao or wu sao) can initiate the first block. Once started, the sequence can repeat indefinitely. A: Right vertical punch, B: Left pak sao, right tan sao, left vertical punch. A: Left tan sao, right pak sao, left vertical punch. B: Right pak sao, left tan sao, right vertical punch. A: Right tan sao, left pak sao, right vertical punch. As explained above, each block is done to the dead side (outside) of the opponent. However, it can practiced on the live side (inside of arms), e.g. B’s first sequence is right pak sao, left tan sao, right vertical punch. Advanced level practice consists of alternating dead and live side sequences. Four-Step Drill For this drill, A and B assume a guarding posture in a short right sparring stance. A: Right high vertical punch toward B’s head. B: Left pak sao (sweeping block), right tan sao (soft style middle block), left pak sao. All three techniques are directed at A’s punching arm. B: Right vertical punch (over left hand) to A’s head. Entire sequence repeats indefinitely, with roles switching on the vertical punch. At the intermediate level, the partners should be able to perform the drill from either stance (e.g., both in right stance with leading right punch or both in left stance with leading left punch.) In the advance level, the drill flows from right side into left side by allowing the attacker to optionally (and randomly) advance with the punch. If the attacker advances, the defender retreats one stance as the pak sao is delivered. For example, if A advances from right stance to left stance with a left high vertical punch, B retreats into a left stance with a right pak sao, then completes the sequence. B the has the option of advancing into right stance with the punch or holding ground in left stance. Pre-Arranged Sparring Drills 1. A: left vertical punch to B’s head… B: right bong sao, left wu sao to lop sao (grab) A’s left wrist, left hand pulls downward… right vertical backfist to face. 2. A: left vertical punch to B’s head… B: right tan sao (little finger side to punch)… right fook sao… right jut sao… three punches. 3. A: right vertical punch to B’s head… B: right tan sao (little finger side to punch)… right fook sao… right kao sao and left spear hand to throat; or left pak sao to elbow and right punch to face. 4. A: right vertical punch to B’s head… B:right bong sao to… right tan sao into two hand grasp (right hand above and left below), pull into right wing chun stamping kick. 5. A:right vertical punch to B’s head… B: right tan sao (thumb side to punch)… A: right lop sao (grab) of B’s right wrist and pull down, left vertical punch… B: right bong sao (to deflect punch), left lop sao (grab) to A’s left punch, pulling punch downward then quickly exchanging left hand grasp with a right hand grasp; left vertical punch. Wing Chun Drill This drill trains the practitioner to always keep one hand forward and one hand back. It also develops timing and sensitivity with eyes closed. Both partners begin in a natural or inward stance, facing one another at arm’s length with eyes opened. The attacker (A) commences gentle vertical Wing Chun chain punches to B’s centerline at chest level. A’s target point must remain constant throughout the drill. The punches are delivered in groups with a short pause between each group, starting with one punch then adding one punch per group until A reaches four punches, at which point A restarts the cycle with the one punch group (e.g., one punch, pause, two punches, pause, three punches, pause, four punches, pause, one punch, pause, ...). A should begin punching rhythmically but gradually should vary the rhythm of the chain punches as well as the length of the intervening pause. Meanwhile, B intercepts each of A’s punches with an open palm man sao, alternating hands from man sao to wu sao so that B’s right palm intercepts A’s right punch and B’s left palm intercepts A’s left punch. Essentially, A is punching into B’s palms, and B’s hand movements mimic A’s punches and rhythm. After a few cycles of this exercise, B should continue with closed eyes. Now B must rely on “feeling” when contact is broken with A’s punch to know when to reach out to intercept the incoming punch. B may have a tendency to keep hands very close together at A’s target point. A should remind B to keep wu sao hand near man sao elbow. This way B learns to keep one hand forward and one hand back and not to throw a hand out until contact is lost. Sticky Drill In this drill, partners face one another in a short left sparring stance with a left tan sao. The tan saos must be relaxed and touch each other at the wrist. The partner’s hold their right hands behind their backs. Using the lead hand only, each partner then tries to touch the others body or block the opponent’s touch without breaking contact with the opponent’s arm (“sticky hand principle” ). The movements should flow smoothly without tension or impact. Partners should remember to keep shoulders relaxed and use circular movements, keeping fingers open to let energy flow in response to the opponent’s motion. Grabbing is NOT allowed in this drill. Speed Tapping Drill Partners A and B begin facing each other in left short sparring stance with a left tan sao and a right wu sao. A’s wu sao (right hand) does a pak sao (palm slapping) to B’s tan sao with a light, fast pull back. B then attacks A with the same motion. After several cycles of repetition, A then attacks with two pak saos sequentially (rear hand, lead hand), which B then mimics. After several more cycles of repetition, A adds a third pak sao (rear hand, lead hand, rear hand), and B follows suite. Finally, A adds the fourth and final pak sao (rear hand, lead hand, rear hand, lead hand), which B then copies. Partners should remember to pull each hand back to starting position, keep relaxed, and hit with top half of hand while working on consistency of speed. Free Sparring Drill (Cuong Nhu Chi Sao) Partners both begin in a short left sparring stance with a left tan sao and a right wu sao, shoulders relaxed and lead hands touching. Partner A then attacks with the lead hand, attempting to score lightly to either side of B’s head or stomach. A’s fingers should always be relaxed, open, and flexible. B attempts to stick to A and block the attack. The partners then reset to the opening position and switch roles, with B attacking as A sticks and blocks. After practicing the alternating attack and defense exercise above several times, the partners can then free spar with either partner initiating the attack randomly. After each blocked attack or point or when tension occurs in the techniques, the partners should reset to the original tan sao position and try again. This drill combines aspects of the sticky and speed tapping drill. Best results are obtained when the partners remain light on their feet. Strikes should be quick and light, snapping like the popping of a towel rather than being heavy and forceful.