Wing Chun’s First Form Strategy
Sifu John Kang
When I first began training WIng Chun, I was fascinated with it’s no-nonsense basic approach, and particularly it’s emphasis on short power, the famous one-inch punch. Once I got past the initial phases of being wowed by the hype and more glamorous parts often touted by fans of this fighting system, regular practice and conversations with my Sifu John Kang, started to show me the more practical underpinnings of why the system worked the way it did, and most importantly, how to use it. Often, Wing Chun is referred to in cool sounding terms such as “In Fighting” or “Close Quarters Combat”. The fundamental question is why would that particular strategy be dominant? There are several, but these are the major ones that really stand out to me to understanding Wing Chun Fighting Strategy:
- Use All of Your Weapons. The closer fighting strategy is used so that the Wing Chun Fighter can use all of their striking weapons at once, rather than just one at a time. That directly leads to using your simultaneous attack and defense strategy, showering your opponent with multiple strikes such as straight punches, parries and blocks, stomping kicks and sweeps, all at once, making any counter to you more difficult.
- Hard Points Protect You. Presenting the hard points of your body when you face front block your center: elbows, knuckles, forearms, and the crown of the head are hard points dominate the Upper Economy of Motion Box. The knees and heels to employ parries, strikes and stomping kicks cover the Lower Economy of Motion Box.
- Face front. While you might think you are more vulnerable by presenting your own center, you are in fact, better protected. You can defend it more effectively using the centerline principles learned in the first subsection of Wing Chun’s first form. Bringing your hard points to bear and the elbows to the inside, you use this strategy to cover the centerline, while protecting your more vulnerable flank: the sides and back of the head, the kidneys, and the back of the legs and knees. I have seen many fighters in our Karate class try to relieve frontal pressure by turning sideways, only to be struck very hard by a roundhouse kick to the back of the knee, or lower back/kidney area, usually bringing their entire strategy to sudden decline, if not dropping them immediately. So Face Front, and keep your Elbows over your Center!
After realizing these truths about the Wing Chun fighting system, I had a better comprehension of the nuts and bolts of the system overall, and I could now see why the masters of this system touted regular practice of the first form, or Siu Nin Tao (Little Idea). The first subsection sets a solid foundation of establishing your centerline, how your elbows are used to protect your sides and front, at what point your elbows and hands work together to project power forward, or to move back inward to absorb incoming force.
The same great masters of Wing Chun also performed Siu Nin Tao very slowly during solo practice, so I started to train the first form very slowly as well. It was difficult to do in the beginning, and tested my patience. As I started to get to the 20 minute mark, I found myself relaxing, especially in the first subsection (there are three), and my mind stopped wandering and I was able to focus with intent for prolonged periods of time. As my understanding progressed, my angles and alignments became better and I started to improve quickly, and I found that I was now understanding how the pieces from the form were coming together into a cohesive fighting style.
As demonstrated below, I am moving more slowly than you may normally see in other videos. If I was practicing alone and not doing a demo, I would be going much slower. Remember to relax, sink at your Kwa (hips), while lifting your spine and tucking the tailbone forward to engage your core. Breathe deeply into your stomach, not your chest. 4 seconds in, and 4 seconds out is a good starting point. If you feel a minor compression in the abdomen, this is good. It strengthens your abdomen and internals, as well as builds upper and lower body connection. Regular practice is key when it comes to form work. If you want results, training hard is the only way to get the desired effect. It is a skill, and while different, must be done with same intensity you would developing a knock out punch with a heavy bag. Focus on becoming mentally relaxed and aware, and don’t be impatient or in a rush. There is a saying in the Martial Arts: “He who is in a rush to learn, learns very slowly indeed”.
Published: October 5, 2018