© 2022 Michael Nedderman
Wing Chun takes a much different approach to hand-to-hand combat. In fact, it has a dimension other arts don’t have, possibly because it was originated by a woman who needed to find a better way. . .
Some folks deny that a woman was the founder. I say, “look at the art.” If it wasn’t created by a middle-aged to elderly woman, it was created by a short, skinny, old man because it doesn’t rely on size, strength, or youthful athleticism (eye-hand reflex, speed & agility).
In fact, the elderly woman/man founder intended Wing Chun to enable her/him to defeat the most likely opponents: men in the prime of life who might also be highly trained martial artists…and who may have a few friends.
WC was intended not only to enable smaller, less physically able people to defend themselves against untrained, albeit experienced street thugs but also to defeat practitioners of other martial arts by employing highly aggressive close-range, offensive tactics and techniques delivered from a strong defensive posture—all intuitively guided by a highly refined sense of touch. WC often combines offense & defense, sometimes in the same technique that intercepts an attack (jeet), and by training the sense of touch (no delay) for close-range.
Many martial arts rely upon athletic ability (varies and diminishes with age) and the eye/hand reflex (measurable delay) to detect and respond to openings or attacks. Athletic ability (quick reflexes, strength, agility, and flexibility) is paramount and plays a big part in the skill acquired in those arts which often advocate fighting at a distance, darting in to strike as opportunity
presents, and quickly moving out before or as a counterattack is launched. Wide-ranging mobility is stressed as is focusing the mind, body, and emotions (often by yelling) to maximize power during each striking opportunity.
Obviously, the grappling arts take a different approach, but athletic ability, especially size & strength, might be even more determinative for those practitioners. WC’s close-range tactics and techniques have earned it the titles of “energy boxing” and “standup grappling,” which aspect of WC translates well to the ground.
WC is actually a highly organized means of teaching almost anyone to be an effective street fighter, especially the most likely victims of crime (women, children, and the elderly). In hand-to-hand combat, most notably against multiple attackers, Wing Chun is the “equalizer”—the “sawed-off shotgun” of martial arts—effective at very close range where most fights are decided. WC constitutes a “blast” of multiple, touch-guided techniques, often landing two and sometimes three simultaneously, with every move followed up, followed up, followed up with short, sharp, abrupt techniques that “rag doll” the opponent, devastating his equilibrium as soft targets are hit. . .
WC is scientific in nature and unparalleled in close-quarter combat because it:
- emphasizes developing the sense of touch into an amazing fighting skill that directs close-range techniques faster (no delay) and more instinctively than the eye-hand reflex (measurable delay & susceptible to fakes) as it “reads” the opponent’s energy—it’s like having a spy/saboteur in the enemy’s headquarters.
- teaches highly mobile footwork (drilled on 4’ x 4’ and 3’ x 3’ patterns) for tight quarters and against multiple opponents which enables practitioners to disrupt an opponent’s balance, while
- “borrowing” the energy from the opponent’s strikes and blocks—the harder he goes, the harder he gets hit with his own energy—as
- the WC practitioner’s stability and footwork target the opponent’s balance, thus, making it easy to strike at his “soft spots” (eyes, neck, groin, knee, etc.).
- Numbers 1 through 4 are done within the context of WC’s fighting theories that teach:
(a) simplicity and economy of motion, thus, making all techniques biomechanically efficient, less telegraphic, and therefore more effective,
(b) controlling the “centerline,” therefore, controlling the fight,
(c) not opposing force with force, either redirecting or “borrowing” that energy to power counterstrikes, and
(d) Maximizing one’s balance both to power WC’s much faster techniques (because they are shorter) and to enable disrupting the opponent’s balance.
(e) combining offense with defense (attacking, rather than defending when attacked), sometimes using an offensive technique to both block and strike simultaneously, thus, creating the “rhythm of one.” When a single technique does that, it demonstrates “jeet,” meaning to “intercept” the attack. Bruce Lee named his art after this WC principle, “Jeet Kuen Do,” or “Way of the Intercepting Fist.” WC has several such intercepting techniques.
Additionally, because a close-range fight necessarily involves physical contact, often at several points, the WC fighter must receive and simultaneously process information from these multiple sources as well as from his eyes. Focusing the mind on any single source could cause awareness of others to be lost.
Therefore, WC advocates “defocusing” the mind so practitioners can be aware of the many rapidly, often simultaneously, changing occurrences during close-range fighting. This ability to defocus or put the mind “in neutral,” so to speak, enables the WC fighter to remain mentally and emotionally calm during one of the most stressful situations imaginable, a fight for one’s life.
“One of the best lessons you can learn in life is to master how to remain calm. Calm is a superpower.” Bruce Lee.
Defocusing the mind is a prerequisite to experiencing the highest levels where the practitioner, with his mind “in neutral,” just lets his hands “go” and generates a free-flowing, spontaneous blast of techniques, literally the hand-to-hand combat equivalent of blitzkrieg (lightning war). The effect of the force of this pugilistic blitzkrieg is analogous to that produced by a large volume of water flowing downhill: it will go over, under, around, or through anything in its path. This is what Bruce Lee meant when he said, “Be like water.”
Unbelievably, there is often no intent in many techniques making them almost as surprising to the WC practitioner as to the opponent. And that makes them practically non-telegraphic and almost impossible to stop. Thus, the WC practitioner fits into the opponent’s moves where his sense of touch directs him to openings and counterstrikes. And any attempt to stop them only increases the power of the WC fighter’s counterstrike because he literally “borrows” the opponent’s blocking energy resulting in the opponent actually beating himself up but using the WC practitioner’s hands.
The real “intent” of the WC fighter is in the pressure he brings to bear by moving in and staying close to his opponent while letting his hands “go,” generating a blitz of offensive techniques.
The application of these theories and techniques diminishes the need for strength and athletic ability making WC more suitable for the smaller, older, less athletic man, and is especially well suited for women—unsurprising because the system was developed by a woman. WC is ideal for anyone whose opponent(s) have advantages.
This author is fond of saying, “The older one gets, the better one becomes because the critical factors are theoretical comprehension and ‘sensitivity’ to an opponent’s movements, energy flow, and intentions via a highly refined sense of touch.”
At the highest level, WC is energy & mind boxing.
WC is also quite meditative in nature because practitioners must learn to mentally and physically relax in the highly stressful circumstance of a fight. Ideally, this ability to remain calm in stressful situations also enables one to non-violently defuse many angry confrontations because the mind remains calm and able to reason with an intimidating opponent unimpaired by worry, fear, anger, and/or adrenaline. The WC fighter does not get “rattled” when someone “gets in his face”—the closer the aggressor gets the better the Wing Chun practitioner likes it.
Naturally, the ability to remain calm is beneficial in many other areas of one’s life.