Articles, Wing Chun Wednesday


Springy Force, sometimes referred to as Forward Force is one of the conceptual aspects of Wing Chun that means different, often very different things to different Instructors, I am not talking about Constant Forward Pressure, I see Springy Force and Constant Forward Pressure as two separate and almost unrelated IDEA’s, it is at times like this that the inherent weakness of a “Conceptual Martial Art” hits us smack in the face.

This is the stuff that fuels inter school arguments and turns intelligent students into, well, lets call them myopic partisans.

Wing Chun’s original traditions are oral, so for me I tend to start with the words used, and the pictures that those words evoke.

What are the qualities of a spring?

  1. A spring compresses { or stretches} under force.
  2. A spring decompresses { or contracts} as the force weakens and returns to its natural state.

This is a completely passive action, if no force is applied it is impossible to tell a spring apart from a helical shaped steel statue.

The compression / decompression that the spring undergoes is the result of an outside influence, and not a reaction brought about by conscious choice or even training.

“Stick with what arrives, follow with what departs”.

We do not bring Springy Force into existence, but obviously we lay down the conditions for it to spontaneously appear.

We build the spring.

One thing that a spring is not is resistant to force, it is not rigid or tense, so an important component of the spring is a lack of tension, the ability to accept the incoming force and allow it to pass through to the ground, in certain Constructional and Mechanical Engineering examples springs are used as supports that are only expected to carry weight, to compensate for vibration and only ever compress, never push back.

This is a very good approximation of Wing Chun Springy Force.

Another characteristic of a spring is that as the force is decreased the spring decompresses, eventually returning to its uncompressed state, a spring can never get any bigger than its natural size, Springy Force does not and never can expand.

There are schools that teach Springy Force as an active, physical pressing  thinking that Springy Force will automatically turn your defence into an attack by virtue of your decompression becoming a strike.

Springy Force does not and never can expand, it goes against the laws that rule our universe, expansion is pushing, pushing is not good Wing Chun.


This is a surprisingly tricky thing to come to terms with both physically and mentally, mainly due to the fact that we must integrate three distinctly individual aspects of  our Wing Chun training, S.L.T. Chi Sau and Intention.

There is a potential weakness in the way a lot of schools analyse the S.L.T. in that the student expands his Arms structure against incoming force, this can easily lead the student to think that Springy Force actively presses outwards, if you are training with a highly knowledgable Instructor this is  not such a problem as they will clearly explain why you are doing it backwards, but at this stage most people are taught by relatively Junior Instructors and receive mixed messages.

Chi Sau is a method to “stick with what arrives”, to roll the incoming force down the helix and into the ground, what is difficult to grasp early on is that this is the same mechanism that once the force weakens allows the force to return up the helix, “follow with what departs”, there is no need for anything to change, it is completely passive.

If there is an “active ingredient’ then it is Intention, but it is the Intention of S.L.T. the blueprint that we develop and not the Intention to action.

Through S.L.T. training we discover where our arms belong, where they operate efficiently, it is the Intention of having our Arms in that place, or more accurately one of the many places that we discover through Chi Sau, not pushing or trying to force them there, just the knowledge that that is where they need to be that creates Springy Force.

Springy Force comes into existence through the laws of physics and not through Wing Chun training, our training really only teaches us how to not inhibit it.

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ON CHI SAU. And a little bit more.


In S.N.T. we are introduced to the Individual Shapes and Actions that we will later use in Chi Sau, the purpose is to explore the range of motion allowed to these Shapes and Actions before they create Tension, the main reason for practicing S.N.T. is to learn how to move correctly within the range that our Joints will allow, all the while remaining Calm and Centred,  paying attention to maintaining Body Unity and Structural alignment, and of course as already mentioned avoiding the manifestation of Muscular Tension.

The movements are large, individual, and deliberate. For example in S.N.T. Tarn Sau is fully completed before any other move is initiated. In describing the Circle / Ball that is Chi Sau we go Tarn Sau, then Fook Sau and then Bong Sau, all full movements of a single Arm / Structure. By paying close attention to these “over large movements” we can develop an intimate understanding of what is needed to operate our Arms. Simply put Big Movements are easier to study than Small Movements, Big Rotations are easier to feel than Small Rotations.

When we progress to Chum Kiu we begin to move both Arms in unison and we rotate the Circle / Ball in one smooth movement,  from bottom to top with the Tarn Sau to Bong Sau, and bottom to side with the Tarn Sau to Wu Sau, in these instances the “IDEA” of  Tarn Sau, Fook Sau and Bong Sau are still operating but the movements themselves begin to flow into each other and the change from one shape to another is less defined.

It is here we can observe that both movements are in fact the same movement, Tarn Sau to Bong Sau is a 50% Rotation of a Circle of a certain size and the Tarn Sau to Wu Sau is a 25% Rotation of a Bigger Circle.

Later in the Chum Kiu Form we use a Double Tarn Sau to Bong Sau rotation while stepping, here we are describing an even smaller Circle than earlier, but it is the same “IDEA”, the same movement.

A Circle is a Shape and not a Size.


Chum Kiu enlightens us to this Fact.

In Chi Sau practice the Physical size of your Partners will vary, the amount of Force applied by your Partners will vary and as such the size of your own “BALL” will vary, but if it stays round then in principal nothing has changed.

It is still a Circle, and as I have just pointed out, a Circle is a Shape not a Size.


When we first begin to try to understand Springy Force it is usually well before the introduction to Chum Kiu, as a result it tends to be thought of as an aspect of “Arm”.

Certainly a large part of it is, but there is so much more.

S.N.T. practice develops an intimate understanding of the shape of our Structures {our whole Structure not just our Arms} and what is needed to move them, by “intimate” I mean a personal, deep seated understanding, an knowledge that is held a lot more in our “Body” than by our Mind.

The Mind creates the intention to use the Structure, but it is the “Body” that knows what needs moving and how to move it.

When Force meets our Bridge and starts to deform it our “Body” tries to put itself back into the shape it was before the intervention, this turns our Body into a Human Spring.


When Energy / Weight is applied to a Spring , it is the fact that one end of the Spring is held stationary in place {for instance in Chi Sau by our Feet on the Ground} that forces the Spring to deform / compress and in doing so absorb the Energy / Weight being applied.

To a very large extent the Function of any Spring is to store energy due to resilience and subsequently release it, typically this is used to absorb shock or to maintain a consistent force between contacting surfaces.

Under compression the Energy is equally distributed and in transit through the Spring but is in all reality resting on the “Base”, when the Tension is released it is first released from this “Base” and transmitted through the Body of the Whole Spring, returning all the Energy / Weight that was applied to it back in the direction that it came from. In many ways the Top part of the Spring pushes the Middle of the Spring, the Middle pushes the Base and then reverse.  Correct Body alignment is essential for Springy Force.


This is just Newtons 3rd Law in action.

In Chi Sau many people think {and teach} that Springy Force enables them to Automatically Strike when their Partner releases pressure on their Bridge, this leads most Students to just push with their Arms, deluding themselves that they have initiated Springy Force, and leads to the much practiced “Ju Jitsu Chi Sau” that is so prevalent in Junior and Intermediate Students.

When Springy Force is a quality of “Arm” then the “Base” that the Spring is resting on is your Shoulder, and to make this “Base” stable you will “Tense up” the Shoulder, in fact  “Tense up” the whole Upper Body. Effectively this “Shuts” the Spring and turns it into just a lump.


For the Spring to perform correctly the Force must be allowed to transit through the Spring Coil to the “Base”, in Wing Chun this means allowing the “Incoming Force” to pass into the Body and down through the Legs and Feet to the floor.

And this of course is CHUM KIU.

On the release of pressure all Springs simply return to where they where prior to the application of force, they do not miraculously get bigger, and that is why if you believe Springy Forces can strike your Partner you are deluding yourself.

You were pushing all along.

Just like the fore mentioned Spring, the Arms will compress, but if you are  Self Aware, Body Sensitive, you will also feel your Legs accept the “Incoming Force” and press into the floor, if there is minimal tension in your whole Frame then Newtons 3rd Law will begin the act of the Planet returning your Legs back into your Body, this will return your opponent’s force back to him, due to the return of his own Force your opponent will be displaced slightly, this will release the pressure on your Bridge and your Arms will regain their initial position, this is Springy Force.

Although it is not quite so simplistic as the following statement, Springy Force can be seen to begin in the Feet.

It is a result of someone else’s action and not an action that can be manufactured by Self, it is a natural response to pressure.

On the release of incoming force the whole Body will release and not just the Arm.


I use the term Issuing simply because it draws better Pictures in my Head, it helps me see Force as a Natural Energy and not something that I manufacture.

More a Drain Pipe than a Hose Pipe.

Rain Water issues out of a Drain Pipe whereas Tap Water is pushed out from a Hose under pressure.

In the end it is just a Word, if for some reason you do not like this Word then change it, the Action is real, the word is just what I call it.

There is no doubt that when practising Wing Chun we all attempt to move our Body Energy, Intrinsic Energy, Chi, Nim Lik, Intent or what ever it is that you call it to reinforce our Structure and power our attacks.

One of my Senior Wing Chun Brothers and an exceptional Wing Chun practitioner, Tony Psaila of Adelaide, refers to this act as “Relaxing in a deliberate direction”, my own Sifu would talk of “Getting the Mind to move the Body”

I have great difficulty connecting to these type of explanations, they do not draw Pictures I understand. So I use “Issuing”, I issue my Intention,  Drain Pipe not Hose Pipe, a happening thing, a real and tangible thing, natural not forced.

One thing I get my Students to do to try to get my idea of “Issuing Force” is to have them extend their Arms in a manner that would push themselves away from resistance instead of trying to push the resistance away.

Any expansion can be used, Tarn Sau, the Punch even Lok Sau Rolling, I get them to very softly, but physically and deliberately push their Partners contact point with the sole intention of moving themselves and not disturbing their partner at all {this may be difficult to visualise from just writing}, this almost reversal of Intention makes subtle changes in how your Body sets itself up, natural changes, subconscious changes guided by your own Mind, a Mind that knows how to use your Body much, much better than you do, the overall result is to push yourself down into the floor {obviously you need correct body alignment}, here Newtons 3rd Law initiates Springy Force.

Because your Mind knows exactly how much Force is needed to push you yourself away from an object it is done without overtly using your Muscles, no Brute Force.

This may make no sense at all when you read it, but if you get the chance, get me to demonstrate it, it will blow you away.



Many, many years ago my Sifu said to me “Your Wing Chun will benefit far more if you spend a weekend revisiting High School Science than it will by doing a years training”.

I pass this statement on to you in the knowledge that Sifu Jim Fung was a very smart Man giving very smart advice.

Y.M.M.V.  So do not hesitate to start a conversation.