When to Bark and When to Bite

You almost killed me, asshole!   If I’d known what kind of guy you were, I never would’ve agreed to work with you.

Are you going to bark all day, little doggie, or are you going to bite?

Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino

I’ve been thinking a lot about flash points.

Although there has been some work done on this area in the last five or ten years, traditionally martial arts have ignored the human psychology behind fighting, in particular, what causes a conflict to jump from verbal to physical or what I’m calling the flash point.

I recently did an interview with a friend who was a very experienced street fighter as a young man, with about 40 fights under his belt.  I showed him how Wing Chun works and we talked about his fights and how they went down and success or failure in a fight was influenced heavily by what happened at the flash point.

He said, “if a fight lasts more than 30 seconds, you’re home free.  Most of the guys out there could not handle what you’ve got. ”

Geoff Thompson is well-known for his idea of the “Three Second Fight.”  His experience on the door of a club in Coventry showed him that most fights were won by a sucker punch to the head.

Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs

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Line of Attack: Seeking the Target

Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.
George S. Patton

My Sifu once said to me, “In Wing Chun, attacking the head is my obsession.”

I have found this to be the fundamental difference between the other lineages I studied and the ideas passed down to us from Ip Man as refined and modified by Wong Shun Leung, then modified and refined again by Gary Lam, and now as refined and passed to me by Greg LeBlanc.

Wing Chun becomes very simple when you look at it through this lens.

Its about hitting the head.

Everything else is secondary.

We have three free forms plus three equipment forms with a great deal of technique for every occasion.  We have trapping, kicking, standing grappling, pulling and pushing but fundamentally we are a striking style.  To become proficient at Wing Chun, you must learn how to align your body to produce structure (to gain ground power), you must learn how to hit with your body (taking position) and you must learn to chain your attack to a single point  (chain punching).

Then you have a weapon.  Its like carrying a knife.

If your opponent just stands there, you can use your weapon to chain a series of punches (or palm strikes) into their head.

If they throw up their arms, then this is where the second half of our system comes in.  Changing hands are what we use to get past obstructions.

Bong Da.  Pak Da.  Tan Da.  Gan Da.  Kwan and hit.  Fook Da.

We have a line of attack – a straight line from our center to their center, typically their head.  Our idea is to chain our attack into their head.  The head takes the force of the first punch and the neck (and perhaps the body) falls away from the punch, diminishing its power.  The second hit follows on the first, landing on a head with nowhere further to go.  It must absorb all the power.

This is our idea.

If we encounter a defensive hand or an incoming attack, say a punch, our line of attack has been compromised.  We need to change our angle and create a new line of attack or clear that arm from our path (or both at the same time).

This is the meaning of line of attack.  It is sometimes discussed as “angle.”

In Escrima, they flow with their knife from angle to angle, seeking a clear entry.

In Wing Chun, sometimes we flow past and around the arm.  Sometimes we get a good grip on the bones of the arm and pull the whole person into a position of weakness.  Sometimes we smack that arm out the way (Pak) with a helping hand with the punch coming in just behind, like  an offensive tackle and a running back.  The tackle clears the defenders as the running back comes through with the ball.  In Wing Chun, the helping hand often clears the line of attack for the fist coming close behind it.

So the job of each of these helping hands (bong, tan, fook) is to clear the line of attack so you can get back to hitting the head.  Your intent is to hit the head.  You run into an obstruction.  You clear the obstruction and get back to hitting.   They respond by throwing another hand up, you clear that hand and get back to hitting.  You are always getting back to hitting as soon as possible.

The fallacy of some approaches to Wing Chun is an idea of controlling the opponent, using hands like Gan or Kwan.  These are also helping hands that should lead quickly to hitting, taking position, knocking the opponent out.

Keep your eye on this prize in your training.


Samurai Spirit: Akido

This is a very interesting documentary in which Nicholas Pettas, a Greek-Dutch fighter, investigates Akido. Pettas studied Kyokushin karate, going so far as becoming an uchi-deshi at the school, where you live in the school for 1000 days. He later won a K-1 championship.

This documentary does a lot fo cool things to explain why Akido works. It spells out the general history, has various demos, and brings in scientists using useful video animation to explain the physics.

How to Hit the Heavy Bag

There’s one secret to hitting hard, and that is to completely dedicate your body. That’s the difference between a man going forward and a man going backward, no matter how big he is.
Ray Lewis, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens

Here is a video with John Smith for the llawarra Ving Tsun School, Australia.

Sifu Smith was a student of Wong Shun Leung. He favors an approach which is analogous to boxing. Simple, aggressive, and built on a foundation of hard work on the basics.

Here is an interview he did with Archimede Tendindo of Omega Wing Chun, Italy.

Yes, Wing Chun is truly an international phenomenon.

For another good role model for hitting the bag, we have Mike Tyson, an outstanding example of the “Grease the Groove” idea.