“I fight a centerline – I don’t fight a person…if you stop that (punch), if you block…I reorganize the punch back to the centerline.”
Its New Years and time for a little reflection.
This year marks my 17th year studying Wing Chun (minus 3 years ) and my 9th year anniversary studying with Greg LeBlanc (minus a year out on injury) will be in April.
What have I learned about fighting?
The single most important thing I’ve learned is that the principles we follow to win are almost too simple to comprehend.
Humans really like to over-complicate things!
I think this is what Bruce Lee meant in his famous quote:
“Before I learned the art, a punch was just a punch, and a kick, just a kick.
After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick, no longer a kick.
Now that I understand the art, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick.”
We start wanting to learn “how to fight.”
Then we start taking classes. We start to get a general idea about all the elements involved in the curriculum (in Wing Chun, this means six forms and dozens of drills and exercises for various areas) and the confusion kicks in and it starts to seem a little oppressive. And Wing Chun is usually considered a pretty compact system! So at first its a lot and we are a little over-whelmed and not exactly sure what it all means relative to the sort of fights we’ve seen (in real life or in the movies). We’ve never seen anyone do anything like these movements in a real fight!
I remember having conversations with fellow students back in the beginning as we tried to puzzle out exactly how Wing Chun would look in a fight against a normal somewhat skilled opponent, thesort of fights you can see on Youtube (and in high school). Flurries of fast hooks, haymakers, overhand rights and lefts, and grabby attempts to grapple.
What would the Wing Chun guy do, we wondered? Chain punch? How would that look exactly?
In Wing Chun, the early training leads to an fixation on the hands. New students are always looking down at their hands, since its difficult to make them do these strange movements without watching yourself and trying to consciously control what the arms are doing.
The teacher seem so smooth! They can do series of the more “sophisticated” movements (like Kwan Sao or Po Pai ) with hits in there, all in a blended and relaxed series of fluid actions. When you watch Gary Lam do it, it seems so easy! But when a new student tries it, they perform an awkward mishmash of actions , plus they get hit.
When you come out of the other side of the training after a few years and have been exposed to everything, it starts to settle down.
The forms suddenly seem very short. You can do each form in a few minutes! They take so long to learn, but eventually they seem over very quickly. You start to realize there are not very many “hands” and the system really starts to seem pretty small.
Most importantly, you begin to understand that in a real fight, you will only use a tiny fraction of the system, usually the most basic movements. You will mainly attack with punches. The punch is the heart of the system. There are many technical details which add up to the ability to punch hard and rapidly punch again, but these punches are just punches.
So the main thing I’ve learned is I just want to hit them in the head.
You ever see the great action film “Executive Action?” In it, the hero is taking lessons on flying a small plane. His teacher tells him, remember, just fly the plane. This is to help him get out of his head and quit thinking nervously about flaps and landing gear and altitude as these confusing pile of separate things. They are all one thing — flying the plane.
All the stuff we learn (stance, stepping, facing, centerline, sinking, fook say, tan da) are just elements designed to enable you to hit that opponent in the head as hard as possible, as many times as possible, as quickly as possible.