THE PRINCIPLES OF WINGTJUN KUNG FU (CHINESE MARTIAL ART)
First of all, WingTjun is the name given to a form of kung fu, the first generation of this style, that was created a little later than the year of K’ang hsi of the Ching Dynasty (1662 – 1722) in the South-West of China. The Founder and Master Ng Mui, for some reason, never named her brand new style and only very limited knowledge existed about it, until the book ‘and Branches of WingTsun’was published in 2000. In the meantime, the style had been secretly developed and modified through the generations until finally, from its secretive beginnings, via Hong Kong, it was taught openly throughout the world.
Wing means “Sing Praise“, but the meaning has become confused because of the use of some similar English spellings that would indicate the same meaning, for example Wing written in this way, 永, means “Eternal” in Chinese; 春 “Tjun“, which is also rendered in English as “Tsun“, or most commonly as “Chun”, keeps the same meaning of “Spring Season”. The different spellings in Chinese are used to differentiate between the various interpretations of the same style. However, this is not the case with English spellings. Some schools have taken on the same English spelling as others, but because of the English spelling of ‘Wing’, which has two different characters and meanings in Chinese, these schools are actually teaching a completely different martial art and has nothing whatsoever to do with what is widely accepted today as Ng Mui’s original (unnamed) Wing Tjun style. Therefore, if the student is able to read the Chinese characters, they would quickly be able to distinguish between the different styles.
I myself follow a similar interpretation of 詠Wing 春 Tjun – a very scientific one – as does my mother school, IWTA in Hong Kong (International Wing Tsun Association), where some parts of the original style have also been modified in order to unify the entire system into a more complete and coherent whole. IWTA, however, is one of the few schools, that still guide students according to the enduring principles of the style’s creator, Ng Mui. In my view, the structure of this style is based on the following four rules:
Rule 1 – Assembling all the techniques from the Centre point of the trunk (Centreline); face-to-face, pursuing the target wherever it moves.
When facing an attacker, always remember the core of WT is the “Centreline Theory” which advocates the principle that ‘the shortest straight line’ between two opposing fighters’ trunk centre, is the Centreline. The further away you are from the centre of defence, the harder it becomes to protect yourself and counter your opponent. For clarity: if you assume that the opponent‘s solar plexus is like a magnet and your hands are like iron or like a compass, then will automatically point towards the most attractive magnetic field, which is the shortest straight line. Therefore you would always place your arms nearest to the target, along the Centreline, thus simultaneously protecting your own weak points, such as those from the head down to the groin, which constitute the vertical mid-line. Therefore, when you attack an opponent, your advance would be continuously forward, without ever leaving the Centreline, and you would concentrate only on the opponent’s weak points along and around the vertical mid-line, for example, the opponent’s head, nose, throat, chest, stomach and groin areas. This is the major principle of WT which emphasises that once the fighter starts his/her attack, he/she only ever takes the shortest straight line with which to attack the opponent.
Rule 2 – Defend and attack simultaneously; to give attention to both hands simultaneously in executing an attack or in defence, or to pre-empt an attack with an attack.
The way of countering in WT is to “defend and attack simultaneously” – “give attention to both hands simultaneously“. It can be practised using one hand only. For example, when the opponent is launching a straight punch at you, it will make you react straight up over the Centreline to punch at the opponent’s nose. That is the principle “to pre-empt an attack with an attack“. It is generated from seeing and feeling a counter attack with a reaction, which is equal to the strike from the opponent. The reaction of your counter hand is instantaneous with the strike of the opponent. For both hands to cooperate, it means that when one hand is attacking the opponent’s Centreline, while simultaneously, the other hand forms a defence behind the attacking hand, or on top, or in another position around your attacking hand. The way the attack hand proceeds depends on how you are sensing the opponent‘s attack. But all the while, you must remember to always employ both hands using the centre point of the trunk as the starting point. Your nose points towards the opponent’s nose, and like a compass or hands of iron towards a magnet, you therefore strike the weakest point whenever you need to change your hands. This ensures that the opponent cannot counter much when you “defend and attack at the same time“.
Rule 3 – Allow your hand to remain with your opponent’s force when it comes, and follow right after it when they withdraw; if your arm is freed, then just thrust forward.
The idea behind the creation of this style is that it is suitable for countering opponents of much larger weight, height and strength than oneself, and adapting practical movements for practical application in defending oneself. But most importantly, WT movements have been carefully selected because they adhere to the “Centreline” theory, which prefer a small quantity of techniques, because quality is more important than quantity. As well, every single movement within the style can be combined with another to form a very wide range of actions and mobility, which can be performed in the shortest possible length of time.
The way you can interpret the opponent’s movements and gauge which movements and how much strength the opponent is likely to use, comes from sensitivity gained through flexibility and suppleness training, rather than by guessing. For example, when the opponent suddenly goes to block, push, grab, lock or attack in any way, your hands will meet, in which case, you will relax whilst maintaining contact with your opponent’s hands in order to feel for the direction and angles of their in-coming force. As your hands touch, it will not only enable you to detect this information, but is also the stimulus for defence and attack. Thus you will not break contact with the opponent’s hands for one moment, because that will result in a loss of feeling and a possible attack by the opponent. Which passive defensive movement you use to dissolve the opponent’s attack depends on which attack movements you can feel with your quickest reflex action. According to the WT motto, one should “adjust tactics according to the opponent’s actions“.
The way to dissolve the opponent’s strength is also passive. When you feel your counter attack being barred by the opponent’s force, you will not use force to fight force, but will allow your hand to remain with the opponent’s force, and instead you will employ dissolving movements against the opponent’s attack. This is accompanied by giving way with your body and stance, much like a bullfighter does with a bull, followed immediately by an attack as the opponent’s force withdraws, for example, when your arm is freed, then just thrust forward. In WT this is called “borrowing the force” of one’s opponent in order to use if in a counter attack against them.
For this reason, WingTjun, unlike most other styles, cannot be choreographed. Its nature remains unpredictable and without formula and thus its effectiveness increases enormously, as no opponent can predict in advance which movement the WingTjun fighter will implement from moment to moment.
Rule 4 – Coordination of footwork with the upper limbs; since your weight will be on your back foot when you are stepping, with your leading foot, you need to be flexible enough in order to adjust, as close as possible, continuously to your opponent’s stance.
This is the distinctive strategic element of WT footwork, and is the best way to tackle a taller opponent. In order to counter the taller opponent’s attack, close the distance with the leading foot, whilst keeping the head up and at a safe distance from the opponent’s attack. This will allow you, not only to see the opponent clearly, but will widen your view. At the same time, keep the torso straight. This will help to keep your arms at the appropriate level, which will allow you to easily control the opponent’s attack.
A WT step or kick start from its unique stance, the “adduction stance“, which enables an adherence to the principle of “stepping to enter the opponent’s stance space for close attack“. As you rest on your rear foot, the leading foot becomes the engine which is towing your rear foot. After entering the opponent’s stance space, continue to advance, as this will interrupt the opponent’s stance and throw him off-balance, backwards. Your leading leg, being very reactive, is then able to be used for defence and attack because your body rests on your rear leg. This will also enable you to adjust your stance in order to facilitate a close-up counter attack, using perhaps an elbow or a shoulder, and to penetrate again the opponent’s space whenever the opponent’s footwork opens up a new opportunity. One can equate the WT fighter’s legs to that of a piece of iron which, although flexible, will be attracted, like a horseshoe magnet, to the opponent’s legs.
From the principles stated above, WT clearly attaches great importance to the unity of its principles and holds that the fighting movements and stances themselves are an organic whole which has a very close and inseparable relationship with the WT concept. The concept emphasizes the simplicity of movement and the versatility of application. Thus it is not possible to mix or substitute techniques from other styles.
I would like to draw attention to the fact that the above explanation of the techniques, is mine alone, and does not relate to any other groups who are currently using the same spelling of “WingTjun“.
If you would like to know more details to better understand what WingTjun is, I recommend that you read the books of “WING TSUN“, in my view, the only logical and properly explained such text, written by Prof. Leung Ting (Founder of International Wing Tsun Martial Arts Association). You can also get more information at http://www.leungting.com.