Wing Chun – Near & Far (Part 2)

Posted April 20, 2021

In part 1 of this article we discussed whether Wing Chun was a skill that was, suitable for defending yourself at a distance, or whether Wing Chun works best when you are dose
to your opponent. We argued that in many circumstunces, the moment you touch your opponent’s hand you have already either won or lost. This is because the person with the superior skill will always make sure that the instant any energy is used, they are in
an advantageous position.

This emphasis on positioning accounts for the feeling that you often get when playing sticking hands with someone much better than you: complete stupidity. You don’t know
what to do. Because your senior has a better position, you always feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle. The senior doesn’t need to use much energy but you, on the other hand, can use as much energy as you want; it doesn’t make any difference.

Even more frustrating is that whenever you change your position, the senior changes his  before you. People often say sticking hands is like a game of chess, because it is so interesting and clever, even though the rules are so simple. I say it is like chess because it is possible for a Grand Master to completely dominate his/her opponent.

During sticking hands there are three techniques that you use the most: TanSau, Bong Sau and Fook Sau. These are three very important hand techniques in Wing Chun. I would say that If you understand Tan/Bong/Fook then you understand 50% of Wing Chun techniques (some people say 100%). In Wing Chun. they say that you apply the same principle to the arms as you do to the legs. Therefore from Tan/Bong/Fook you should be able to appreciate the legs. Of course, to train the legs takes a very long lime, even when you understand the principle. Learning Tan/Bong/Fook is not just a case of learning how the arms work from the shoulders to the fingers. You have to learn how to connect them with the rest of your body. Moreover, Tan/Bong/Fook are difficult to balance because they have to be bent, but not too bent; go forward, but not too much; be strong, but not too strong; be relaxed, but not too relaxed. You have to find the centre for each of these techniques under different circumstances. Again, the principle of the centre applies here.

It is not enough to learn the position of Tan/Bong/Fook in isolation, you also have to be able to change between the three with ease. Moreover, you have to be able to change as the situation and your position dictate. There is a saying in Wing Chun that describes how the change between Tan Sau and Bong Sau connect: “Push the elbow, hand comes up: push the hand, elbow comes up” Although this principle is illustrated using the forearm, it is applied to everything In Wing Chun. It is an explanation of Yin and Yang for laymen.

Tan/Bong/Fook are so important because they control your opponent. Of all the Wing Chun techniques, Tan/Bong/Fook are the ‘stickiest’. The energy in Tan/Bong/Fook is developed both during sticking hands and in the forms. The energy for other techniques is
partly developed during sticking hands but mainly through the forms

Some styles say their forms are for practising against imaginary foes. The practitioners visualise their attackers closing in whilst performing their forms. Each movement eliminates one or more opponents. Wing Chun has no such concept.

The Wing Chun forms concentrate on developing energy. They also teach correct positioning, and are for practising techniques that are too difficult to control in sticking hands. Elbow strikes are difficult to practise safely during sticking hands and so practising them is confined to the forms i.e. Biu Tze.

The second form of Wing Chun is called ‘Chum Kiu’. ‘Kiu’ is translated as ‘bridge’. Many people say that the second form of Wing Chun is for learning how to reach out and engage your opponent. This they call bridging, a reference to the name of the form.

However, the Chinese term for your forearm can also be translated as bridge. When you practise Chum Kiu, the thing you see most is the bridge of your arm. There are 18 Bong Saus, 14 Lan Saus and 6 Chum Kius in the form. All these techniques emphasise the bridge. Therefore another interpretation of Chum Kiu is a form for developing the energy in the bridge of your arm.

In part 1 of this article I listed striking, locking( and throwing. These are ways that some people like to categorise techniques. However, I find that, as you develop the energy more, these categories become more and more similar. The more you practise, the more the different energies feel the same. This I think comes from the way that a style uses energy.

A style develops energy in a certain way and applies it in a certain way. The way that a style develops and uses energy is the principle that holds it together. When the energy is
developed, regardless of whether you are using your arms, your legs, striking, controlling, dislocating joins or freeing yourself from locks, it is the same energy as everything becomes more similar, it means that you don’t have to think as much and your movements become less constrained..

We can now answer the original question posed in part 1 of this article about whether Wing Chun is a long range fighting style or a short range fighting style. Wing Chun is neither. I’m not sure what exactly Wing Chun is, but I do have an in a nut shell answer that  represents my undenstanding at the moment ( I can never make up my mind for more than a few months): Wing Chun is about change. Whether we’re at ‘long range’ or ‘short range’ it is not important. What is important to us is when the position or energy changes.

Written by – Daniel Poon

Qi Magazine Issue 9, July / August 1993, Pages 7-8.
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