Hick’s Law and Reaction Time

“Hick’s law … describes the time it takes for a person to make a decision as a result of the possible choices he or she has: increasing the number of choices will increase the decision time logarithmically.”


This is why we have ONE imperative: hit the head.  Hunt it, chase it.  As my Sifu says, “hitting the head is our obsession.”

This is an elementary binary decision – attack or don’t attack.

Everything else must be a reflex.  If its your opponent’s reflex but not yours, you lose (unless you can really take a punch).

This is the downside of many systems that teach in a “he does this, then I do that, and then he does this, and then I do that” sort of manner.  When an attack comes your way, the attacker has usually attempted to load the deck in their favor through catching you by surprise.

Most fights start with a sucker punch.  Most rapes or muggings start with either a disarming approach (Can I get a light?  Can you give me directions?) or with a “from behind” or “blindside” attack and grab.

People are not like animals.  We are animals (apes, specifically).  Animals are wired to be conservative in their predatory behavior.  The lion creeps up and is colored to blend in with the surrounding dirt and grass.

Criminals come up from behind or from an angle or they smile in your face then hit and grab.

Your system will work best if its simple.  Direct.  Efficient.  There is not a laundry list of choices to be made depending on the type of attack.  If its from the right and high, I do this.  If its a kick, I do this.  Wing Chun attacks the head.  Most attacks or counter-attacks are dealt with by moving inside their range as the head is attacked, shifting the attacker’s focus from their attack to defending their head.

Simple.  One choice.  If I attack, I go all in and seek the target.

Here is a Tony Blauer talk on it.  I have to say, I feel like Tony is being too defensive here.  He talks about having a flinch response, but people don’t freeze like that.  Maybe his thing is neutralize the attack, then subdue?

You should have a flinch response but it should be an attack or attack/defense.  There is no time to do one then the other.

Wing Chun Principles: Lat Sau Jik Chung, Loi Lau Hoi Sung (Part Two)

“Lat Sau Jik Chung, Loi Lau Hoi Sung.  Translation: Receive what comes, follow what goes.  Upon loss of contact, rush in.”
Wing Chun Songs

WARNING: This article is pretty technical – if you haven’t started Chi Sao yet, it might be a little confusing.  SM

In Part One of this article, I talked mostly about what it meant to do “Lok Sau,” a training exercise in the Chi Sau family where we basically lock horns (with our Chi Sau shapes) and shut down all attempted attacks at their root.  The partner is not allowed to find any gaps.

This is an essential step one – you have to get good enough and sensitive enough to be capable of shutting your opponent down, deflecting all attempted attacks.  This is done by having sensitivity, which is accomplished by having the correct forward pressure (not too soft, not too hard).

If the opponent’s Fook Sau tries to come forward, your Tan Sau arm should feel it and go forward, changing the angle of their Fook Sau “attack.”  If the opponent’s Tan Sao tries to come forward, your Fook Sau should sense this and move forward into a Jaam Sau shape.  If they punch, you Bong Sau.  All movements toward your center are deflected.

This is more obvious to see and feel when doing the three dimensional version of this drill, where the partner steps in with the hit, as you Jaam and Tui Ma (angle step off the line) or Bong Sau and Tui Ma.

If you are not rolling yet, just understand this means that you need to learn to detect when the partner/opponent tries to enter your real estate.  You have your side of the board and they have theirs; don’t let them get onto your side of the board with a line toward your center — you create a wedge-shaped zone and everything is deflected to the left or right of the centerline.

Toward the end of Part One, I started to talk about the springy forward energy that characterizes Lat Sau Jik Chung.  What is meant by “springy?”  How do you achieve this springiness?

Its also called “whippy” and is compared to a green limb of a tree, the sort some people used to use as “swtiches” to whip their kids in the old days (there is a great Richard Pryor routine on this subject).

Whippy, springy, what the hell?

This is one of those times where words really struggle to convey the information.  If you were standing with me, I would show you so you could feel it.

I would have you prevent my forearm from moving forward, you holding my arm just below the wrist as I directed this energy toward your center of mass.  I would say, “you feel that?”  Then I would have you suddenly let go of my arm (pulling your hand quickly back) and have you observe that my hand would spring forward and hit you without my conscious volition.  Its automatic.  Its a reflex but not even so much a reflex as a mechanical imperative.

The forearm is trending forward because it is under a mechanical pressure from within the arm itself.

I figured it out when I started conceptualizing the anatomy.

Triceps Tendon 1You have three bones in the arm: the humerus (upper arm) and the two bones in the forearm (radius and ulna).

Here you see an arm in the Tan Sao shape with a fist on the end of it.

The biceps tendon connects to the radius bone and the triceps tendon connects to the ulna bone.

When the biceps contract, the forearm is pulled toward the humerus (upper arm), closing the upper and lower arm together (my hand moves toward my face).

When the triceps contracts, it pulls on that tendon which goes under the elbow and rotates the forearm away from the upper arm (my hand moves away from my face).



That is the “punching with the arm” action.

When I was doing Chi Sao, I was having trouble making the forward motion toward my opponent’s center automatic (aka springy).

After much playing around, I found that I could position my arms and body in such a way that my elbows were pointing down AND my humerus bones were pointing toward the center of mass of my opponent/training partner.  A tension was created in the lower triceps tendon where it passed under my elbow and inserted into the ulna.

Think of it as if it were like a set of nunchaku, only instead of a rope between the two sections, there is a spring.  If you bend the spring, bringing the two sections toward one another, this creates a tension in the spring.  If you let go of one of the sections, the spring snaps back into shape and the other end of the nunchaku snaps out until the whole thing is straight.

This is your straightened arm.

The spring is the tendon from the triceps inserted into your ulna bone.

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James DeMille on Using a Reaction Timer

My kung fu brother Dave sent us this link of James DeMille (early Seattle student of Bruce Lee) playing around with a reaction timer to improve his striking reflex.

As we know, Bruce Lee was really into gadgets to improve his physical fitness and liked to make new tools with which to train. He was not only an innovator in the concept of mixing martial arts but was also a proto-biohacker.

Another of my kung fu brothers, Tyler, has suggested one of these might be made cheaply, using components. I will look into this and if it turns out to be possible, I will post our solution.

This is a scientific tool to do what I talked about in Triggers in Wing Chun.

Lightning Hands of Philip Bayer

The only obstacle always is the soul of Ving Tsun: not learning Chi Sau the right way, directly from master to the student… giving adequate strength with an enormous speed which contrastly generates a particular handling from the student… Ving Tsun will remain a mystery… as it is regularly read about, seen and experienced in public.
Phillip Bayer

WIng-Chun-Illustrated-Phillip-BayerPhillip Bayer is on this month’s cover of Wing Chun Illustrated.

Really cool picture by the way – whoever the photographer was really caught something, both in Sifu Bayer’s expression and with the blue and white color composition, so different from the usual dark and brooding martial artist image.

Sifu Bayer is, of course, a direct student of Wong Shun Leung from the same era as Gary Lam.  I haven’t been able to see everyone, but these two are the WSL students who have been able to capture the dynamic nature of our Wing Chun on camera.  Like catching lightning in a bottle.

Gary Lam has shown many times his effortless (natural) power and structure, tossing his opponents around with ease.   Sifu Bayer always demonstrates his infectious enthusiasm, his precision and his speed, his hands a blur as he controls and strikes.

Whenever I watch either, I want to run out and train.

Other Article by Phillip Bayer: Individual Improvement Strategy