Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday



Sometimes the habit we have of analysing everything to the finest degree prevents us from seeing just how natural Wing Chun is, how it borrows from natural movement, and does not, as is sometimes claimed, create its own methodology.

This is not a slight at Wing Chun, this is why it so brilliant.

There are literally hundreds of footwork patterns in the Martial Arts, dozens of different ways to rise, drop, shift, step, twist, wind or unwind but at their heart they are all the same, they are different ideas about moving a single part of a unified body to a specific place for a deliberate reason.

Creating a stable frame and learning how to manipulate that frame without compromising its viability is what is usually referred to as structure, some students allow the word structure to become a monster that outgrows the simple girders, cross-members and strapping that holds us together, structure becomes a metaphor for everything, in doing this they miss the simplicity and beauty of being human and transform into to some new sub species, a divergent genus, Homo Chunner.

Structure is nothing more than the frame that holds us up, mostly bones.

Once the frame is established we develop ways to move it, this is done by maintaining the shape of the frame and moving the heaviest bit, the heaviest bit is of course our centre of gravity  , when that moves everything moves, but if we move only the C o G then we leave some of the frame behind, we break our balance and potentially fall over, when we move we move everything. Consciously.

Because we use the outside world as a frame of reference, even if we are not aware of it, moving inside of ourselves is often not seen as moving at all so it gets called sinking or dropping, this movement is a major part of all Martial Arts, even when moving linearly or laterally we benefit from sinking, from dropping our weight as we move.

To be effective Martial Artists we must be able to move vertically, as naturally as we move horizontally, there tends to be an over reliance on standard, horizontal, movement in many Martial Arts, the obvious exception being Sumo which works relentlessly on rising and dropping, even their forwards movement into contact is an exercise in rising and dropping.

Why do we sink into our stances, why do we drop our weight at all?

Saying something along the lines of Stability – Mobility is only a tiny part of the reason and one that can blind us to what is really happening.

If we can assume the attitude of an engineer and look at everything from a Cause and Effect perspective we are a lot closer to the function of  Wing Chun and further away from the fantasy.

Why do we drop our weight? What is the Effect we are looking for?

If you think it is Stability why do we wish to be stable? Is that the desired end result, the effect. If we are in a dynamic environment Stability should be seen as a cause not an effect.

So much of what we spend time labouring over is just the transition from Cause to Effect, obviously things will work better if the transition is smooth and correct but it is not the transition we are after, this thinking leads to people getting obsessed doing Forms and then beaten up in car parks.

This is compounded by a pet bugbear of mine, Instructors not using good explanations in ordinary language, for instance telling someone to move their centre is just plain wrong and does not help them separate cause from effect, although it is a minor thing we should say move from your centre, simply adding the word from automatically introduces the idea of how to move it, where to move it and the reason for moving it in the first place.

If I am dropping my weight what is it I actually want to drop?

If I am attacking it is my fist, if I am defending it is my bridge.

Only when my fist or my bridge are connected to my centre of gravity will dropping my weight be of any value.  Of course this is equally the case when moving in any direction.

The good news is that when my waist drops 15 centimetres so do my shoulders, unless of course I am not aware that I drop my waist for the purpose of pulling my shoulders down and forget to keep them connected.  When my shoulders drop down my arms drop with them, my bridges or my fist come with the arms, unless of course I am not aware that I drop my shoulders to pull my arms down and forget to keep them connected.

This is a common error with many students, they leave bits behind, this is a real danger for people that mainly work with Forms instead of dynamic exercises, they overlook why they are doing it.

There are literally hundreds of footwork patterns in the Martial Arts, dozens of different ways to rise, drop, shift, step, twist, wind or unwind but at their heart they are all the same, they are different ideas about moving a single part of a unified body to a specific place for a deliberate reason.

Cause and Effect.





When people attack you they do whatever it is they are doing because they genuinely expect it to work, when it does not work, when you move and realign yourself to a stronger position this will cause them confusion and buy you time.

Our greatest weapon against the dark is light, our greatest weapon against the unknown is knowledge, our greatest weapon against fear is acceptance.

This is not a spiritual piece, it is about violence.

Many good people succumb to violence because of denial, “I can’t believe this is happening” mostly voiced internally to themselves, this happens on a level that is inaccessible and unchangeable once anxiety is present, if there is violence there will be anxiety, once it turns on you cannot turn it off.

I have spoken with many Martial Artists that claim to have no fear, these are usually the first to fail because saying you do not have fear is the first and greatest of all denials.  It is biblical.

Courage is not the absence of fear, courage is doing what must be done despite being filled with fear.  It is acceptance of fear.

In my school I teach about dealing with violence, the training vehicle of choice is Wing Chun but being good at the art is not our main objective, surviving violence is our main objective, this creates a different type of interaction, different approaches to the work and different conversations. In saying that, surviving violence is aided greatly by being as good as you can be at the art, and you can only be good if you do it correctly, even if it is a secondary goal.

The most apparent fear I see in students is not as one may think the fear of being beaten up the fear of loosing but is the far simpler fear of not knowing what to do if the  brown gets airborne.  This is the main reason most if not all Martial Arts are taught along the lines of “they do that, you do this” however this method is hard to trust because we do not know if the Bad Guy will do what we think he will do, which of course he won’t.

The first step is to know if we are going into a fight, if we are just attacking someone or if we are under attack, it sounds simple because it is, solve the first problem first, this problem needs to be solved at training, and it should inspire and guide your training, it is not a decision you can make as someone throws a punch.

Fighting, Attacking or Defending exist in different environments, different spaces and require different strategy and movement.  I am going to deal with defending, mainly because it is the focus of my own teaching but also because it is what I believe Wing Chun does, apart from anything else attacking and just hitting someone out of nowhere does not require any skill or training, or very little, this is something to think on, chances are that the person attacking you has very little skill or training.

As the person under attack what is it you really want to happen here and now?

We are all different, all individual but I think I can generalise when I say we would like it to stop.

How do we stop it?    This is the $64,000 question and has a million correct answers, this is also why we train, but most importantly this is a personal choice.

Do we run away?      Do we appeal to their humanity?      Do we beat them to death?

None of these choices will be available unless we can engineer the time and space for them to become viable.  Blindly unleashing our own counter attack will not do this, it will do the opposite due to the fact that we will be disposing of our own time and our own space by engaging and pressing onto the Bad Guy.  This response changes the Bad Guys attack into a mutual fight where we both attack, sadly the Bad Guy holds the high ground because he kicked it off.

There is nothing wrong with this approach if it is what you have trained and prepared for, however if you have never trained how to turn a bad situation in your favour {any training that feeds punches or kicks you know and can see does not do this} immediate counter attack could be suicide.

If you choose the defender mind set the first choice must always be to get offline and regain your own equilibrium, your own space,  your own timing, if you cannot see what is going on you are at a major disadvantage.

We do this by moving, not by sinking into any stances, we will have time for that once we have moved.

When people attack you they do whatever it is they are doing because they genuinely expect it to work, when it does not work, when you move and realign yourself in a stronger position this will cause them confusion and buy you time.

In this new position we no longer have any fear of the unknown, we know exactly what is going on, we know exactly what the Bad Guy wants to do, without any conscious involvement we accept where we are, we are still fearful, but ready,  now the Bad Guy starts to think about us, and what he does not know.

From this position we can change this attack environment to recreate as close as possible a copy of our training environment, bit by bit we know more and more, bit by bit we take control of the situation and have a greater chance to bring about the desired result.

I am not the right person to give advice on stand up fighting or being the attacker because it is not my thing, some of the first advice I was given as a child was that it is bad manners to hit someone that is looking at you, given the choice I am not one for standing in front of people .

If we choose the Defender mind set then our first goal is to make the attack environment as close as possible to the training environment.

Then smack them, real hard, then escape.






Frank Herbert: Dune.


The only way to overcome the fear of the unknown is knowledge, make it known.

What is a fight?

A fight is a decision made between two or more parties to engage in a contest, they all agree to be there, in fact they choose to be there, they know what is coming, what to expect and usually have a plan to deal with it, most importantly a Fight is intended to end with a result, Win or Loose.        The key is that all parties want to be where they are, doing what they are doing.

What is Attacking?

Attacking is a one man show, the intention is to rain down as many blows as possible before the other person can respond, preferably without warning, the attacker has no investment in the other person it is all about the attacker doing his thing, total dominance.        The key is that the attacker wants to be where he /she is doing what he / she is doing.

What is Defending?

Defending is responding to an attack, the defenders sole thought is of him/herself and getting out of there, escaping.        The key is that the defender does not want to be where he / she is, involved in what is going on.


I have discussed this with many instructors over the years and usually they disagree, they tend to think that they are all different facets of the same thing, but I assure you, I know from personal experience that getting the Shit kicked out of you is not a different facet of winning.

Fighting, Attacking and Defending are totally different because they bring about different mind sets, different emotions, not to mention different outcomes.

If they are all the same then so is jumping into a swimming pool from the pool side, the 3 meter board and the 10 metre board, most of us have done this at least once and we all know they are not the same.   The water is the same, but the feeling is so different looking down at it, the thought of that 10 meter jump is nothing like the thought of jumping from the poolside, we do not respond in the same way.

How we think changes how we feel.  How we feel changes how we think.  They both change how we act.

Sports Fighting is indeed pure fighting, it is all about getting in there and giving it to the other guy. If possible both guys will be the attacker but neither ever choose to be the defender.

Traditional Martial Arts are self defence systems. Someone attacks us and we respond, even styles like Wing Chun that claim to use simultaneous attack and defence, which of course is just a sales pitch, are responding, defending.  It is only the ego of instructors that calls it simultaneous attack and defence, we are obviously defending, it should be simultaneous defence and attack, the Kuen Kuit says “He attacks first but I strike first”.

Give a few minutes to think if you prefer simultaneous attack & defence or simultaneous defence & attack ……….. then ask yourself why.

There is no generic “Right Approach” but there is always the right personal approach, and that is personality not training, what type of person are you?  If you knew without doubt that in 2 minutes someone was going to come around the corner and smack you, would you stay and prepare or would you leave before they got there?

I would leave.

What does your method of training teach?    To stand and deliver, duke it out until the best man wins or to find an escape as early as possible, preferably before the dancing starts.  During training do you ever work on or talk about an exit strategy if not how do you know when it is over?

If it is a fight you do a victory lap.

If it is an attack you walk away from an unconscious looser.

But what does a defender do?


Most of the Wing Chun I have witnessed is attempting to teach people how to fight, stepping into the attacker, pressing, pressing, pressing. I teach my people how to escape, if we are forced to beat the crap out of them to achieve this so be it, but mostly it is knock them down and piss off quickly.    If you are not training to bring about the possibility of escape you will not see it when it presents itself, at best you will be like a dog that chases a bus, when the bus stops the dog does not know what to do, at worse you give the Bad Guy a second bite at the cherry, and he bites it right in half.

If you are drowning do your chances of survival improve the longer you are in the water?

Our training should be moulded by how we think and not the other way around, under stress we will always return to what we believe we are, and not what we have trained to be.

There are only 2 reasons people take up Martial Arts, to become a boss bully and pay out on everyone, or to learn how to deal with a boss bully, every other reason is just self delusion.

The Martial Arts has this big macho idea that we are training to be warriors, warriors give everything, live or die, win or lose, they are truly special individuals {today we call them soldiers or the military}, Wing Chun does not create warriors, it creates assassins, think about that statement for a minute, Wing Chun’s main weapon is surprise?

Fear is the little death.

But it is also a natural part of us, once the fear has gone past only I will remain.




Is there a difference between being in a fight, attacking and defending ourselves?

Blog posts do not benefit from being overly long so this is a lead in to the main article.

We may not like to admit it to ourselves but everyone that takes up a Martial Art does it because at some level it is a response to fear, we keep it up because it appears to answer that doubt that makes us fearful, however it is still about fear.

The real work is finding out what we we are afraid of?  Finding out if we can we ever truly resolve this issue?

Thinking that we can do one thing, such as overcome fear, by practising something else, such as a Martial Art has us sliding in the direction of self delusion.

Fear happens at a level of our being that is incredibly difficult to deal with, it is not in any way a physical thing so how can it possibly have a physical solution?

What are we afraid of?

The future?  The unknown?

I doubt if any of us know, we may think that it is getting into a situation that we cannot get out of in one piece, hence the Martial Arts training.

This idea is deeply rooted in the thought / hope that as a trained human whatever happens we can handle it, the fear issues arises from the self doubt that surrounds that claim.

We must get our head on straight.

What is a Fight?  What is an Attack, what is Self Defence? They are not synonymous.

To answer a question first we must be clear about the question.

Martial Arts do not teach us to fight, they teach us how to do that particular Martial Art.

In the wider M.A. community there is a distinct difference between Sports Fighting and Traditional Martial Arts, and that is that Sports Fighters fight, Traditional Martial Artists defend.

As it stands this is reality, even if we do not wish it to be our reality.

Many people’s Ego’s prevent them from seeing this, and by extension accepting it, working with it and becoming a proficient Martial Artist because of it.

When students first come to my school I ask them “Can you fight”?

Usually they say no, that’s why I am here.

Everyone can fight, but not everyone can fight well, M.A. training is about improving what you can already do, taking it to a higher level, we can never learn something we do not already know, at least to some degree, without some sort of prior knowledge we would have no where to start.

But we can all fight.

At some time or another we have all thrown Teddy from the pram, swatted a fly or stamped on an ant, we instinctively know how to be violent.

All training is tapping into and expanding this, if we think it is for anything else except violence why would we choose to use it if we get into a violent situation?

Surely we would choose something that we relate to violence such as throwing Teddy from the pram, swatting a fly or stamping on an ant,

Time: the Future, or the Past,  is horizontal, “Now” is vertical, where they intersect is where we are, always. Where we think the danger lives is always down the line, what ever it is we fear it is not happening right here right now, but we think it may be coming, so we prepare.

If something does happen it will no longer be down the line, it will be here and Now, preparing for or fearing something that may happen in the future is not learning how to deal with Now.

Everything happens Now.

To be in the Now we must know what is happening, if we are fighting, attacking or defending, leaving that decision to hope and random guesswork is not a recipe´ for success.






Wing Chun Wednesday



I wish I had $1.00 for every time I was told to relax my arm during early training, I would be even happier with $0.50c for every time I was told to relax my shoulders in Chi Sau, I would be a wealthy man.

Relax, relax, relax it used to drive me mad, as a result I very rarely use the “R word” in my own teaching, instead I ask my students to identify and remove unneeded tension.

It is the identification of the tension that sets the greatest challenge because we are usually unaware that we are carrying tension and even less aware that we are creating tension, we are just the us that does everything everyday, which to ourselves is quite normal.

When you consider the claim that Wing Chun is based on normal human body movement it is easy to see how we let this one go through to the keeper.

But there is a method, and it is really simple, if someone says release the tension from your shoulder and you are not aware that your shoulder is tense, add some tension, in fact add as much as tension you can, you will be in no doubt about shoulder tension when you do this, after all it is you doing it, now just stop whatever it is you did to create the tension.

Tension released.

This may or may not solve your current dilemma but that is not the purpose. The purpose is to learn how to identify tension.  When we observe what is going on in this newly and deliberately tensed shoulder we will find that it is not just the shoulder that is tensing, muscles work in groups, none of them work alone, perhaps the shoulder is not to blame.

When we tense our shoulder often our Pectoral Muscle also tenses equally, through playing about with this idea of tension / release we can find that sometimes all it takes to release tension from the shoulder is to release the tension from the Pec.  Sometimes all it takes is a calming thought, after all the root cause of physical tension is mental tension.

We are all different so unfortunately there is no magic bullet.

Using a mental approach to releasing tension is not a “Mothership Activity”, it is not mumbo jumbo, simply stop trying so hard, do not be invested in doing things to a certain standard, throw away the need for a “Result”.  Removing EGO is essential for this, the mental approach requires personality change, attitude change, surrender to now without any hope of reward, I am only half joking when I say that this can be achieved quicker and often cheaper by seeing a shrink and sorting out all that stuff that stops you sleeping. Happily reducing physical tension will also help reduce mental tension, the physical approach must be approached absolutely and completely physically, no “Mother Ship” hybrids.

We do ourselves a solid if we divorce this practice from our Wing Chun training, the benefits will flow through to our Wing Chun effortlessly once we see the big picture.

1.Sit in a comfortable position, in a chair, on the floor whatever is natural and easy.

2. Crunch up your toes as hard as possible. Observe on a feeling level what is going on. Stop Crunching your toes {Release the tension}. Observe on a feeling level what is going on.

3. Crunch up your calves as hard as possible. Observe on a feeling level what is going on. Stop Crunching your calves {Release the tension}. Observe on a feeling level what is going on.

4. Crunch up your thighs as hard as possible. Observe on a feeling level what is going on. Stop Crunching your thighs {Release the tension}. Observe on a feeling level what is going on.

Continue up your body, buttocks, as a group genitals – anus – perineum { Mullah Bandah}, tummy, back, pecs, shoulders, chests, biceps, triceps, forearms, hands, fingers, neck, throat, cheeks, lips, eyes, ears, scalp. The more of the muscles and genuine moving bits that are not bones you can include the more complete a picture you create.

When the set is complete tense everything at once, the totality of your being, observe and release.

If time is short and a full program cannot be completed do a truncated set of something like feet, buttocks, arms, hands, neck, resist the temptation to only do things relevant to Wing Chun training, this is a recipe for failure, use Wing Chun specific tension / release only when you are training, otherwise keep it vague, let it exist in its own right as a tension / release exercise.

Do not look for any specific outcome, this will just invite in the EGO and begin mental tensing, remain connected by feeling image alone, in time you will simply KNOW what it means to be tense and how to release it.