In Wing Chun nothing causes disagreement quite as much as talking about our Stance and Guard.
It is quite amusing when you think that Stance and Guard are concepts not practices, concepts of themselves are not real, they are abstractions and generalisations, they are the raw material that we build with, just like the cup you drink Tea out of was once simply Clay.
A Stance is a shape or position, it is static and unchanging, it is a strange thought that something that does not move or change can be of such importance in the dynamic flow of a fight.
In Wing Chun we have 5 widely accepted Stances. 6 if you include the Wu Ji stance before the beginning of Form. The Goat Grabbing Stance from the S.L.T. Form, the Turned Stance, the Front Stance, the Cat Stance from the Chum Kiu and the Horse Riding Stance from the Knives.
The 5 Stances are really 5 components that can be mixed and matched as needed by the unfolding situation, no matter what your philosophy is about interpersonal violence deep down you know you will not be standing still. As a result of Stances being Static Constructions there are no genuine Stances in a fight, all Stances have certain benefit and all have definite weakness none are complete and none are useable.
Stances are stable platforms from where we can explore the relationship between our Body and the Governing Concepts presented in each Form. All of Wing Chun’s Stances are training Stances that introduce us to ways of staying Stable or regaining lost Stability. The shifting and pivoting from Chum Kiu, are examples of regaining lost Stability.
I have heard Instructors talk of there being “Moving Stances”, but that is incorrect and shows a stunning lack of understanding. Think about it, if you can be deemed to be in a Stance while moving it means there is no correct place or incorrect place to be in a Stance, no right way to stand or wrong way to stand, no good shape or bad shape, the Stance simply stops existing.
When discussing this topic with friends they have said that I am just playing word games and trying to be clever. W.T.F. Communication IS a word game, if someone is using the wrong words what are the chances of other people understanding them. If people are using the wrong words what are the chances they know what they are talking about?
One can move out of a Stance, move into a Stance but movement is always and only movement. The most important lesson to learn is how to regain or move into a Stance as it will be the Bad Guy that either breaks our Stance or causes us to break it.
What is a Guard?
A Guard is a neutral position from where in defence we can cover all the vulnerable angles of access equally, while in attack we can launch our weapons, Hands, Feet, Elbows even Head to all of the opponents accessible targets equally.
It is not a shape it is an IDEA, a Concept.
What is often spoken about as being THE Wing Chun Guard is in fact just the proximal and distal limitations for our Arms on a line towards our opponent, if we place our Front Hand further forward or our Rear Hand further back towards us they are no longer capable of fulfilling their role as a Guard, the Front Hand begins to tense and fails at absorbing incoming force, the Rear Hand is too close to prevent a punch landing on us when we connect to the opponents wrist. There are other problems but these are enough for us to not overstep the Boundaries of the Guard position.
The Hands could be anywhere on this line and still function effectively, the most natural position would be both Hands level at two thirds extension. This line is of course a plane, the Sagittal Plane when moving forward and backward and the Transverse plane when our Guard Hands slide up or down to cover more area, think Garn Sau / Dai Sau.
The first distinctly Chum Kiu movement, the Arms extending down the Shoulder line, is also a Guard Position Concept, these are the outer limits where our Arms can still absorb and transfer force, if we turn our thumbs inwards, palms forwards from this position we find ourselves in or around the natural two thirds extension position. If we rotate this unit we are almost doing Chi Sau, which is how the Guard is meant to operate and why we practice Chi Sau in the first place.
And of course the shoulder line is a plane, the Frontal Plane, when seen from this perspective we have created a Box in front of our chest, this is the basis of the Gate Theory.
The Wing Chun Guard is not an Arm shape as much as an indication of the Functional Parameters that the system works under. Your Arms will work perfectly anywhere inside these boundaries.
Every Guard position has inherent weakness, Hands in the Centre leave us open to round house attacks, Hands on the Shoulder line leave us open to down the middle attacks, knowing this can be used to our advantage, leading the opponent into our strongest defence.
Myself I prefer a wider Guard Position encouraging Hey Diddle Diddle attacks, it also looks way more passive not letting your attacker think you have a skill set, and can be a counter measure to adrenalin induced tunnel vision.
Positioning is not a concept it is a practice, it is fluid and changeable, its shapes and movement are dictated by the situation at hand. In training we stand square to our partner, this gives us access to all of our Tools for both attack and defence.
This is a great strategy.
But our training partner also does Wing Chun so they stand square to us, even when trying to be the Bad Guy. We have now allowed the Bad Guy access to all of his tools.
This is a terrible strategy.
This is repeated and reinforced in Chi Sau, stay square, keep all tools in play, but again so is our partner, our ersatz opponent, we are setting up the situation to give the Bad Guy the best possible chance of beating us.
I have had Guys say to me “Yeah but if I did get in a fight I would not do this though, I would ….. Blah, Blah, Blah” and I say to them “So you would deliberately choose to not use something you have worked at for all this time, on this day of all days you would step outside the box and try something new”?
Wherever possible as the opponent moves, or even in a stand off type of situation where the Bad Guy is trying to get in our face and intimidate us, eating up our space, we would slide, shift or turn to be more to one side of our opponent than staying central, this is one of the Chum Kiu Concepts, depending on the situation we may of pressed in as we shifted to the side taking out his near sides tools, in a stand off situation we could be already be pressing his Arm in towards his centre because the Bad Guy stepped into us, creating a situation where the opponent would need to try to make space to strike or be forced to hit across his body and leave him open for a trap and control, or perhaps we shifted back as we slid sideways forcing him to overextend his strike sacrificing his balance and make it easier for us to turn him and take all of his tools off line.
We would remain square to our opponent all through this exchange but at no time do we want our opponent to remain square to us, this action can be grooved mentally and physically in Chi Sau, wether you turn your partner or turn yourself is of no importance, if it ends with your partner loosing access to half his tools and you do not it is all good.
How we train is how we will fight, after all that is why we are training!!!