Monday, November 5, 2007

Weakness In Wing Chun?

Eddie Chong on Rollback/Armbreak

Glen Hairston Rollback/arm break

Sam Masich Rollback/bar/break

I'd like to be clear about this, because these comparisons are general in nature and we are talking about differences between striking and grappling arts.
With that said, I believe that Wing Chun players tend to carry their center very high in their body structure. This may be because of the close range hitting and play of Chi Sao (sticky hands), and "climbing" over the other guys guard. This combined with off-angle hitting tends to pull the center up with rapid punching power mostly generated from the shoulders. At a Wing Chun seminar, my friend was paired up with a very muscular guy with fast hands. In Chi Sao, my friend could not defeat his hitting, so he began up-rooting him with the Tai Chi Chuan push, and the guy couldn't maintain his root to continue hitting. Now, this is all very general but I think it points out a weakness in Wing Chun.
Take a look at this video of Nathan from TDA Training (guest posting at Mokuren Dojo). In Western boxing, the boxer ROOTS down into the hit, maintaining his connection to the ground. Many times in Wing Chun, I see the person hitting nearly up on his toes, at least on one foot. Additionally, Wing Chun's strength, adherance to toe-to-toe centerline concepts, may also limit mobility in neutralization. Compare Eddie Chong's arm bar/break to the others to see what I mean.
All-in-all, I see Wing Chun as powerful and effective, and some of these comparison's may be off-base. I am fascinated by the hand trapping, and will continue to explore these ideas.
*(Edit.) Upon edit, I see I posted Nathan's hook punch video earlier, so I found the boxing video HERE. Note that even when Nathan lifts his heel in the cross, hook or uppercut, he is driving down into the ground to develop power. This produces different energy than Wing Chun "chain" punching.


Hand2Hand said...

Hey DR,

You're right that too many Wing Chun people carry themselves too high. It was a problem I had, too. As a result, I got tired quickly and did poorly with chi sao.

It wasn't until just before my sifu moved away (after training with him for six years) that he started to encourage me to take lower-than-usual stances during chi sao.

He pointed out that the classical southern Chinese horse stance is as much a part of Wing Chun as it is a part of Hung Gar or Choy Lee Fut. After all, it appears in the pole form and in some versions of the sword set.

Simply lowering my center a few more inches and mixing in classical horse and cat stances with what is considered "traditional" wing chun footwork improved my chi sao immensely. So much so that I took 2nd place in chi sao in the International Chinese Martial Arts Championship in 2005 in Orlando.

My experience further convinced me of the truth of a wing chun saying, that the weapons sets "are the last empty hand sets of Wing Chun." Everything you do with the weapons, ESPECIALLY the footwork and use of stances translates to empty hand training.

I would expect to get majorly flamed for saying this on a Wing Chun site, but I stand by it.

Dojo Rat said...

How is Chi Sao regulated and judged at Tournaments? Thanks,

Martial Development said...

Are we discussing the weaknesses of Wing Chun as a style, or a particular video by a particular exemplar named Eddie Chong?

His labeling of these form movements as "arm breaks" is a bit misleading. That is not their most common interpretation, it is only one possibility. In fact, Leung Ting performs the Chum Kiu movement as an uppercut, IIRC.

If we are to examine the style in general, the common written principles would be a good place to start.

You might be interested in reading "Why Wing Chun Punches Never Miss", which explains how chain punching is incongruent with traditional Wing Chun principles.

Depechie said...

Just maybe for more reference... the Escrima style arm breaking is actually also very impressive.

Small example

Hand2Hand said...

How chi sao is judged depends on the tournament. When I did chi sao competition, the rules were that the competitors would go three rounds.

In the first round, one fighter would initiate the attack after three rolls while the other would defend.

In the second round, the fighters would switch roles.

In the third round, either one could initiate.

The refs were looking for good rooting and good trapping skills. No falling back on chain punches or straight blasts.

I pretty much liked those rules. My sifu, Hunter von Unschuld, told me about another innovation he saw at another tournament. They had karate referees judging chi sao, awarding points on how many hits each side made.

I could see the benefits and risks of doing things that way, though. On one hand, the measure of good chi sao should depend on who can land solid blows. On the other, it runs the risk of being a straight blast competition.

Benjamin said...

I've been taking Wing Chun for close to four years total now, and I have to agree that most wing chun students and especially beginning students and students with strong arms leave their stance too high in chi sao.

They do this because most Sifus are trying to emphasize "correct" hand movements and the direction of power. Stance tends to get treated as a secondary priority. This is regrettable, as emphasized by a saying we had at my first school, "The answer is always stance".

Also within wing chun are many differing ideas about what is correct for each stance. In basic fighting stance should the rear leg have 100 percent of the weight or 50 percent? different people will give you different answers but truth is that it depends on what you're doing while in that stance.

Ideally wing chun, like any kungfu, should be fluid and continuous. The stances should be always changing to match the situation, and therefore neither a high fast stance, nor a low strong stance is better.

The opponent mentioned who was easily thrown off balance with a push, simply had not internalized (or been taught?) when to use a higher or lower stance.

Just like in Karate or any other martial are there are a lot of belt factories and people who say they know wing chun when really they just learned the movements or just read a book once. I hope you get to meet someone who is really great at wing chun so that you can see how it's supposed to work.

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Donny Fraser said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donny Fraser said...

If you carry your weight too high, its doubtful you're really taking advantage of WC - it would be a shame to limit oneself with the necessary limitations of a style without getting the benefits. Your point about Tai Chi is a good one. I think a lot of people in WC don't really understand 'structure' and so they end up striking with arm strength. You either have to sink your weight into your blow or sink and then explode out, using your pelvis and stomach to create the power - and if you watch movement tutorials in side stance, Master Wong's, say, it goes step forward, shift forward, step back food, shift weight to back. Thats the same sort of footwork that ends up happening in this move- compressed weight expands forward and your upper body follows your hips, and your front leg steps, briefly taking your weight, and at the point of contact your weight sinks back into your back leg. I dunno if I described it well, but I can show it in a video. It creates the same sort of posting/whipping action that you're talking about in 'driving into the floor' - Wing Chun eschews many such methods of driving into the floor precisely because it wants the weight to stay sunk and be strong frontally, rather than shift as you would in rotation. You are right about boxing's structure - boxing has both ideas of hip alignment as its two basic moves, jab and cross, so its really really useful for examining various martial arts. But Wing Chun almost always - in contrast to many martial arts - prefers the 'right cross' alignment to the jab alignment, and thats why it has no powerful kicks, although it DOES have kicks and knees that can be used as a wedge without compromising balance, which is so awesome I don't have words to describe my appreciation. Anyway, when I learned this style of punching, I thought it was just how everyone in Wing Chun chain punched - it wasnt until I realized the real underlying theory, that Wing Chun never wants to shift weight (which is of course how you generate power in Karate, Boxing, most kung fu, and everything else), so that it can have 'two back legs', which removes the need to use the "jab" hip alignment (except in very rare instances - one of the arrow hands in Biu Jee for example) which is really common in Karate and Muay Thai - the point of contact for the kick running through the hips vertically and into the floor. But on the other hand, wing chun very frequently uses the "jab" method of power generation, which is shifting your body through space rather than "cross" power generation which is moving from one foot onto the other. Take my explosive punching style. You have to punch with the hips in some form or fashion. Wing Chun generally just uses sunken weight and - something else we haven't mentioned - multiple directions of movement in the arm joints to compress into the opponent, rather than shifting in stance for more powerful moves, but again, this is a design choice. The problem comes in with what you're talking about, which is people's misperceptions of the underlying reasons behind the form, so they end up getting the flaws without the benefit - if you're going to stand with your feet out, you might as well use more powerful moves by pushing off the floor ad throwing your hip. There's no excuse for standing high up that I can think of, though, if by standing high you mean lack of weight/tension in the pelvis and back leg - because that's everything in WC, the holy of holies. But it's more important to develop movement as an organic whole, and let your wing chun run free within that, than it is to train yourself into constraints like many of these traditionalist folks, even if they're highly pointed and useful constraints like Wing Chun has. Nice blog, intelligent and thoughtful.

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