Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday




Position in any martial art is all about getting off line, but which line?


The standard scenario envisioned by Wing Chun is that if we are set upon we reply to this attack with simultaneous attack and defence, followed by unrelenting attacks immediately finishing off the threat, job done in what we could call the “first phase” of the fight.

This is at the heart of most Wing Chun thinking, and the main reason we do not train dynamic movement or consider a need to study positioning, in the standard scenario they would never be needed.

What happens if we do not finish things in the “first phase”?

The standard follow up scenario is “Face the Shadow / Chase the Shadow” then rinse and repeat our earlier efforts, and again if this did happen it would work.

This may be acceptable from the point of view of Mind Logic or Body Logic, but not for Fist Logic.

There is no doubt at all that our biggest weapon in Wing Chun is surprise, fights can be over before the our opponent knows it has started, but even the best get things wrong, and when it happens do we really think that the Bad Guy would choose to repeat the same thing that had just failed  in the first phase?

If the Bad Guy goes to plan “B” what do we do?

When it does not work “Face the Shadow / Chase the Shadow” leaves us stranded like a Bunny in the headlights.

If the Bad Guy is a Judo player, or a Ju Jitsu player or just a very basic grappler we will never stop them taking us if we just stand there as in the standard scenario, where is our plan “B”?

Despite the fact that none of our Forms are about fighting, Chum Kiu and Biu Gee do contain some really clever footwork that readily converts into useable applications to gain strong positions for attack and defence, to really appreciate this footwork I get my guys to do the Forms without using any arm moves at all, just the footwork.

It is often said that of all our Forms the Dummy Form is full of fighting applications, but I think this is drawing a very long bow, at least half of the moves in the Dummy Form are flat out wrong due to the fact that the Dummy does not move and its frame prevents us from taking the side position correctly.

It does however offer some really good positioning concepts that really should be introduced much earlier.

Every move on the Dummy puts us on the outside of an attackers arm and teaches us how to take up the side position where the attackers other Arm {other than the one we intercepted} cannot strike us properly, this is very sound positioning theory and consistent with every other martial art.

A great deal of the footwork in the Dummy Form is at its heart evasive footwork, a hybrid of Chum Kiu and Biu Gee, that allows us to shift and rotate, there is nothing in the Dummy Form that goes hey diddle diddle, again this is very sound positional theory, it is interesting that there is not anything in the Dummy Form that reflects “Face the Shadow / Chase the Shadow”.

If we can combine the movement of both Chum Kiu and Biu Gee we end up with something very, very close to how Western Boxers move, once we recognise this there is a wealth of information on the net that we can learn from.



Position in any martial art is all about getting off line, but which line?


Articles, Food for Thought


There is a constant and vigorous conundrum alive within Wing Chun that arrises from the very fact that W.C. is a conceptual Martial Art, this conundrum is born from the very reasons we approach the concepts in the first place, our personal need, what we are looking for and what we hope to discover.

A concept is the seed for an IDEA, an IDEA is the blueprint for action, but what action do we approach the concept to find a blueprint for?

Do we know?

Any creative thinker worth their salt will tell you that good concepts are intended to create many varied IDEAS in many different directions, like a round room with many windows offers many different views.

From my perspective Wing Chun is always about Fist Logic, so any of the Wing Chun concepts I ponder will always create IDEAS associated with Fist Logic, other Teachers have a more spiritual IDEA, or a more wholistic IDEA and this will create blueprints for Mind Logic or Body Logic.

To place this conundrum of the Logics in a way that is easier to appreciate think of the concept of Freedom. 

It is a very different IDEA for political activists like WikiLeaks, a teenage girl in a religious household, a wrongly incarcerated prisoner.

But it is the same concept.

Wing Chun can never really be taught unless your teacher can show you a way to view the World and everything in it.

The only person that can do that is ourselves.

The only person worth listening to is ourselves.

My Sifu Jim Fung advised me to never take the pilgrimage to Hong Kong,  he thought it was a complete waste of time, he told me “unless you are willing to go live in Hong Kong and learn what it means to be a Hong Kong resident with all its implications you will never understand your teacher and as a result you will never understand his IDEA of  Wing Chun”.

The Concept Conundrum means that we must know the answer before we look for the question.






My answer to this question is usually “It’s fighting not ballroom dancing, we can do anything we want”!

I run an open door policy at my school so I get the occasional visitor that has seen this blog and wants to check me out, I have no problem with this all I ask is that they do not try to tell me what their Guru does, its my school after all, and if they are there to check me out then they should just check me out and decide later.

As I have mentioned previously I have had exposure to high level training methods in various sports, it is not all that surprising to come into the studio and find us simulating tennis backhands, throwing the discus or shot putting, the methods are adaptable to Wing Chun movement so there is no need to camouflage them as my own ideas, also there are some great resources for these on the net.

Due to my personal experiences of fighting we do a lot of striking, more striking than Chi Sau, more striking than Forms and we take examples from anywhere, sometimes we are doing drills I learnt as a boxer, sometimes using a Bo Staff sometimes some fencing exercises and of course tennis backhands, at the end of the day it is all Fist Logic.

We learn to strike with everything, I personally have a great deal of respect for slaps and forearms, so these often get a bit of a workout, we should also always consider that unconditioned fists  can break quite easily, slaps never break.

We happened to be working on slapping and forearm striking the last time we had a visitor, all evening he kept asking  “Can we do this in Wing Chun”?

Variations of slapping are knuckle smashes and hammer fists, especially against a guard, a static elbow or an incoming jab, when we started applying them as a defensive option, you guessed it “Can we do this in Wing Chun”?

My answer to this question is usually “It’s fighting not ballroom dancing, we can do anything we want”!

If we are in trouble we should hit the nearest target with the closest weapon, this is Fist Logic basics, if our closest weapon is an open palm {which is how I teach the guard position} then we just Bitch Slap ‘em, with enough weight and power to knock out a horse, slaps are magnitudes more powerful than palm strikes not to mention that the psychological effect of being slapped can take the wind out of a mans sails.   If the bad guy is tricky and slips to the side my forearm would be closer than my hand, at close quarters forearms are magnitudes more powerful than elbows, and much more natural.



I may not always align myself with traditional Wing Chun training but never the less I happen to believe it is a really clever martial art, it teaches us a set of body mechanisms that can inject power into any movement from any angle and any direction, why would it restrict our options?

If  Wing Chun does not use Hammer Fists, Knife Hands or Knuckles, if Wing Chun does not use Fore Arm Strikes or Backhand Slaps why are these things in the Forms?

Another comment that got levelled at me, especially if someone engages in open play with me, is that all I am doing is Boxing, this one really makes me smile because Wing Chun Kuen is Boxing, Everlasting Springtime Boxing, Chinese Boxing.




When is it acceptable to use violence against another human being, lets be honest here this is what we are training to do, the answer of course depends upon the context of the engagement.  If they are threatening us with violence then more than likely it is acceptable, but if they are just being a pain then the answer is probably no, so it all depends on the context of the engagement, but without a doubt the context that Wing Chun was meant to engage in was violence.

Does our training in any way reflect this?

On the whole we need to admit that it does not.

Most of the Wing Chun people that I have met are against violence, against the use of it by other people or themselves.

How does that work? We train a martial art that many talk up to be brutal and street effective yet no one approves of violence or trains very dynamicly.

Never doubt that how we train is how we will fight, this I not just about the physical approach, much more important is the mental approach, what do we think we are training, why are we training it, what are the circumstances that form the setting where we will use what we are learning?    It is only through this, Context,  that our training can be understood.   If we think we are doing it for fighting there is a very good chance our brain will choose it to fight with, if we think it is for health or for fun it may not be our brains first choice if we get in trouble.

Context is not a one stop shop, we all decide independently where we stand, but context will drive our training even if we think other wise.

Martial Arts where created because someone somewhere needed a local solution to a local problem that was happening in their local environment.

The context that became Tai Kwan Do was the need to knock Japanese soldiers off their horses, the context that became Muay Thai took advantage of wide open rice fields with plenty of room to move, the context that became Wing Chun developed the need to fight on ever shifting surfaces of Sampans common in Hong Kong harbour.

Do any of the traditional Martial Arts have anything in common with our own environment, if not what do we expect to learn? How do we expect to benefit?

We must strive to keep our training relative to our expectations and always have one eye on realistic needs, it is very easy to get lost in the Traditional Martial Arts and without meaning to we just become curators of a long dead and no longer relevent folk art.

Whatever style we do it must be capable of answering todays questions, in todays environment, we no longer need to kick soldiers from the saddle so why train a flying high kick?

Context is a conversation we have with ourselves, it is the what, where, why of any given situation.

Intention is a dialogue that our Brain has with our Body, very often about the situation we find ourselves in and the context of that situation.

Misunderstanding the context of a situation can have very bad results.

If I misread a situation, misunderstand the context and I smack someone in the face I can be in serious trouble with the police and society in general, on the other hand if I misread the same situation and do not smack someone in the face I can be in serious trouble because the bad guy beats me up.

We all set our own definition for context, no one else can ever come close.  Choosing to follow the teachings of a long dead guru from far away land is of dubious practical value.

Years ago I came into my Sifu’s school and one of my training buddies that had recently been on his yearly pilgrimage to Hong Kong was standing there staring wistfully into the mirror.

Me:   What are you doing?

Friend:   I am doing Internal training.

Me:   Why?

Friend:   It is a higher level of Wing Chun training.

Me:   Yeah whatever, but why, are you doing it?

Friend:   It’s what they do in Hong Kong.

Me:   Yeah, but why are you doing it, you live in Sydney.




In times of high stress the Brain always ignores the Mind and moves into self preservation mode, it adopts the approach of “this worked last time so I am going to use it now”


If we could see ourselves as an android then Intention would be the software that runs the hardware, Intention can never be a power source, Mind Force is not the same as Intention, Mind Force, whatever we think it may be, is by definition a force, it is a power source not software.

Let us start this outside of Wing Chun, what is the intention we call up when we think about walking?

There is a lot going on when we call up the Intention for walking. It is made up of a compound of many different sub intentions, stay upright, do not fall over, walk forwards, stay clear of the traffic, avoid other pedestrians, do not bump into lamp posts, numerous small sub commands that allow us to consolidate the IDEA / ACTION of walking so that it requires minimum attention.

As baby humans our body learns to walk before our brain develops memory, before the creation of Mind, so we have no recollection of the difficulties we overcame, how we needed to learn all of these sub routines  one by one and then combine them into what we call walking.

This is the disconnect between Mind and Brain.

The Brain controls the Body, the Mind is how we communicate with ourselves, the Mind can of course ask the Brain to use the Body in a certain way, this is the process we call training, Intention begins as the Mind asking the body to perform certain tasks, once learned the Mind and Brain no longer need to keep up this particular dialogue, apart from forming the Intention the Mind is now out of the loop, only the Brain can make things happen, the Mind can offer alternatives and always does but if there is any kind of conflict the Brain simply ignores the Mind.

In times of high stress the Brain always ignores the Mind and moves into self preservation mode, it adopts the approach of “this worked last time so I am going to use it now”, some people call this reflex, this is why in my own training I do not prescribe to any of the doctrines of Mind Force or Internal Training, if it does exist the chances are that when we really need it we will not be able to access it.

Intention creates what I call the pre movement condition, like a sprinter in the blocks waiting for the gun everything is aligned, primed and ready to fire, 99% of what it takes to make that move to start the sprint has already taken place, all we need is the understanding of where to go and what to do once we engage.

Wheels spinning slip the clutch and away we go.

We can develop Intention by being very deliberate and conscious when training, by using our imagination to place the training in a possible context, in many ways we are painting a picture, a plan for our Brain to comply with, the clearer the picture the greater chance of success, every move, every alignment, every impulse and above all every scenario must be clearly understood if we wish our Brain to associate our training with a certain situation, zoning out or focusing on “rising up” while practising a Form is the opposite of developing Intention.



If we return to Wing Chun related matters, what is the Intention associated with punching? 

What are the sub routines?

What outcome do we expect?

In short what is the context?

You cannot create Intention without context.