Attack the Attack
The Wing Chun Warrior's Attack Strategy.
by Todd Shawn Tei
High atop the misty green mountain stood the sanctuary for all rebels who had lost their familie and dearest friends. This place was their last hope, the only chance they had to overcome the darkness that had fallen upon them: the temple of Shaolin.
The Buddhist monks who dwelled there trained in many kung fu styles and developed their minds to overcome fear of any enemy. The Manchu dynasty's high officials had heard the stories of invincible kung fu fighting monks, and perceived the Shaolin temple as a threat. If all the rebels trained in kung fu at Shaolin, they would surely defeat the Manchu. As a result, the Shaolin monks were told to permanently cease all kung fu practice, but the training continued late at night when the practitioners could not be watched.
The high abbots of the temple soon met to discuss the problem of the Manchus, who were certain to attack the temple. They decided that a new style was required. They needed something that could defeat all the powerful styles that had been developed thus far. They needed a style of a warrior. Enter Wing Chun kung fu.
One of the Shaolin abbots at the meeting was Ng Mui. She was a specialist in the Plum Blossom Fist (Mui Fa Kuen), and her idea was to take Shaolin's most redirective styles-the snake and the crane-and to combine them with Shaolin's other most combative and lethal attacking methods.
But before the training could be implemented, the Manchu burned the temple to the ground with the traitorous help of a Shaolin monk who lived in the temple. Soon the Manchu were hunting down Shaolin monks who had escaped the temple's destruction. Any monk who was found would be killed.
Shaolin abbot Ng Mui fled to White Crane Temple where she lived in hiding from the Manchu warriors. In the village by the temple lived a man, Yim Yee, who sold bean curd. Ng Mui recognized this man, as he had trained at the Shaolin temple. Yim Yee now had a terrible problem. His beautiful daughter was being harassed by a powerful man who insisted that she marry him or he would close her father's business and cause problems for their family. Ng Mui suggested that Yim Yee's daughter should challenge the man to a fight with the agreement that if she defeated him she would not have to marry him. This was arranged, and Ng Mui took the young girl into the mountains and taught her the new kung fu style. When the girl completed her training she won the fight against the bully. Ng Mui called the new style "Wing Chun Fist," named after her first student, Yim Wing Chun.
Befitting its heritage, the Wing Chun style is one of subtle movements, many of which require the practitioner to deflect the opponent's attack rather than forcefully block against it. The Wing Chun stylist must complement the opponent's strength rather than trying to dominate it. Movements are quick and to the point; there is no wasted time in Wing Chun. In many arts, when a punch is thrown the person being attacked will block the punch then apply various techniques on the attacker. But when you use the Wing Chun style against and attack, you are not thinking about trying to block the punch then hit; you are attacking at the same time your opponent is attacking you!
Most people wonder how it is possible to attack while being attacked. Won't this cause you to fight the battle with force against your opponent? Won't you get hit while trying to hit your attacker? The answer is no-if you understand the fighting principles and concepts of Wing Chun kung fu.
If you are to overcome your opponent, start with a strong fighting stance. Keep all of your weight on the back leg and keep your front leg light. If your front leg is light it is easier to advance and retreat with speed and accuracy. This stance will not allow your opponent to sweep your legs, knocking you down or off balance. If your legs are too close together when fighting or if you are standing without balance, then your techniques will not work effectively. The foundation to any technique must come from the stance and the way you position your body to move around your opponent.
The only way you can attack in the Wing Chun style is to take risks. That is why the style is so powerful when techniques are executed correctly.
For example, if your attacker throws a hook punch to your face, what is the first thing you think about doing? Are you thinking about raising your arm to block the punch somehow and then launching off your attack? This would not be the case in Wing Chun. The Wing Chun fighter would simply move in with a straight line punch to the opponent's face without even thinking about blocking the attack. A straight line is always faster than a hook punch; why wait for the punch and then counterattack when you can attack at the same time the punch is on its way to hit you? As your punch connects your opponent's face, his hook punch will no longer be of any consequence. The Wing Chun fighter's mind is trained in this way of thinking.
Always attack while you are being attacked, but at the same instant take the fastest route to hitting your opponent, without wasted movements or strikes. Never pull your arm back to gain power to hit your opponent; if your hand is already close to your opponent, take advantage of the path with the shortest distance. If your fist is one inch from your opponent, then you take advantage of that.
Planning the Attack
When attacking your opponent, always be aware of your centerline: the area from between your eyes down to your groin. This area must always be protected, and is the area where you should attack on your opponent. Always attack the vital areas, because no matter how strong your opponent is, the vital areas are weak. The eyes are good targets; you can jab them with a bil jee strike (finger jab). The bil jee sau jab also shortens the distance between you and your opponent, closing the gap quicker than a straight punch, because there is a longer extension with a finger jab. Other good targets are the temple, the groin with a straight kick, or the knees and the throat and nose. Keep in mind that straight line attacks are always quicker than attacks thrown from different angles. Other attacks are also efficient, but experienced fighters will always use the straight line attack if they have a choice.
Timing the Attack
Your timing is crucial in executing your techniques effectively and properly. Always watch your opponent when fighting-almost as you would watch your partner while dancing. If you fail to watch your opponent and simply throw punches and kicks without observing openings and bad moves, then you have already lost the battle. The intelligent fighter takes advantage of his opponent's mistakes.
Launching Your Attack
When launching an attack on your opponent, make sure you use Wing Chun's trapping hands techniques; as you move into your target, be very aware of your opponent's body movements, keeping in mind that your opponent can launch an attack on you at the same time. Secure your opponent by trapping his arms with gum sau (pinning hand) or pak sau (slap hand deflection); this will make it difficult for your opponent to hit you while you are hitting him. The pak sau block was taken from both the tiger and the snake. It is a slapping motion, parrying away a strike. If you can picture a tiger or cat batting away something in its face, then you can understand pak sau. If you watch a snake strike when in battle, you will see that it will quickly parry and strike simultaneously.
You can also use your legs to distance yourself from an attack, or to close in on your opponent when you are attacking him. Bong sau (wing arm) can deflect a heavy handed straight or angled blow coming at your face, chest or stomach.
The bong sau redirective block comes from the movement of the crane arts of Shaolin; it literally means "wing up arm" and simulates the wing of a crane. The story goes that a crane was being attacked by a snake, and as the snake lunged forward to strike at the crane, the crane simply spread apart its wings, deflecting the snake away to follow another path. The bong sau movement is very effective and can be used with all other techniques in the Wing Chun system.
The tan sau movement is almost like funneling your opponent's blow away while it rolls off your arm. You can deflect a punch quickly with bong sau, drop your arm into tan sau, and continue to strike from each block. These moves aren't really blocks; a block is hard, stops your opponent's force and is followed by a strike, whereas in Wing Chun these movements are not used to stop a strike, but merely redirect the strike to extend its energy or force to another path.
All movements in this art are connected and can be used in many different ways. Some applications can be seen in Wing Chun forms, drills and wooden dummy training. A strong understanding of the hand techniques and basic movements is necessary to launch an effective attack.
The hand techniques must work with the stance movement and footwork. Train for speed and power when executing your techniques; it is not enough to use your techniques correctly; if your punches are not strong and your footwork is slow, your timing will be off and your attack will fail.
A good martial artist trains to gain the most power he can in his strikes, speed, timing, footwork and balance. Jumping rope, jogging, and bag training are very beneficial in this regard.
When attacking your opponent, always avoid oncoming force by redirecting it with your hand techniques; it is important to also use correct foot placement when advancing or retreating. Your lead leg should always be forward. For example: If you are in a right stance, your right arm and leg will be forward and you will advance with your right leg and retreat with your left leg. If you are in a left stance it should be the opposite. Never lead with your back leg when advancing; this will throw you off balance and give your opponent the advantage as well as giving him more areas on your body for him to hit; always keep your stance secure.
There are only a few ways to go toward your opponent: You can move to your opponent's outside, which is the outside of the arm and rib area; you can also move on the inside of your opponent and attack the inside areas such as the groin, throat and chest. The third place to attack is straight in to the nose; launch this attack when you see openings or can make openings on the inside of your opponent's defenses. An example would be when your opponent throws a hook punch and you counter with a straight punch or kick or pak sau and punch or kick.
Judge the Distance
The leading arm in your stance is called fak sau; when someone breaks your centerline, the lead arm will be able to judge the distance, and you can then respond appropriately to your opponent's attacking postures. The back arm in your stance is called wu sau. This arm can manipulate and trap as well as attack your opponent, but its most important function is to protect the centerline from anything that has passed through the lead fak sau arm.
The wu sau arm is often beneficial, and is always used simultaneously with bong sau. Like the bong sau deflection, the wu sau arm is used to trap the opponent's oncoming blow and continue the attack. The more experience you have in Wing Chun, the more you will be able to apply different hand techniques together without conscious thinking.
Wooden Dummy and Chi Sau Training
The mok young jong (wooden man post) or wooden dummy is used in Wing Chun to build instinct and combine simultaneous techniques so the practitioner can develop his fighting ability. In the Wing Chun style, your mind should be empty and your techniques should flow efficiently without interruptions of thought; instincts of touch and experience should dominate your fighting ability.
Through sticky hand practice, or chi sau, the student develops fighting ability by gaining sensitivity in the hands and arms. The object is to hit your opponent without being hit yourself, and to apply your techniques correctly. The wonderful thing about chi sau is that it is never the same; the techniques challenge you each time you train. Again, the mind should be empty and your hand techniques will flow instinctively without you thinking about what should be done next. This type of practice is also executed with one arm, and is called don chi sau.
Strategy and Tactics
The Wing Chun fighter draws from his experience in wooden dummy training, chi sau practice, and from forms and sparring, to strengthen attack strategy and tactics. Descended from Shaolin abbots who sought to defend their lives, Wing Chun continues to provide self-defense that works, even against the life-or-death challenges of the street.
Click here for Feature Articles from this issue and others published in 1997.
About Todd Shawn Tei:
Todd Shawn Tei is master instructor of the California Academy of Martial Arts in Burbank and Sherman Oaks, California.