Five minutes of Chaos

“A thousand hours of training. For five minutes of chaos. And then another thousand hours second-guessing yourself.”
Lt. Green on The Last Ship after a botched combat mission.

This is how it is with fighting.

Gary Lam on the Use of the Elbow

The elbow in Wing Chun, as Sifu Lam demonstrates, is used in specific situations (to break a hold) and not (as in Muay Thai) a general weapon.  This is the Biu Gee (third form) elbow, so think of it as an emergency technique, not something you do on purpose as part of your strategy.  It is an escape.

Muay Thai uses range differently than Wing Chun.

They attack from a long distance (kicking) and they attack from the elbow range (clinch, bloody elbow).

Wing Chun’s specialty is the Tan Distance or bent elbow range.  The whole system is designed to develop your capabilities at that distance and to get you in and out of that range as necessary.

We must always get back to our preferred distance, like the alligator, which pulls its victims to the bottom of the river, where it has the advantage.

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.

Why Isn’t Wing Chun in the UFC?

“I’m going to show the world why the Rangers belong in the Octagon.”
Greg Stott, a former Airborne Ranger, prior to getting knocked out in 18 seconds.

“When the UFC was formed in 1993 there was one simple purpose: Determine which form of martial art was the most effective in a real fight.” Matt Saccaro in The Bleacher Report

If Wing Chun is so great, why isn’t somebody kicking ass with it in the UFC?

#1  Wing Chun was not designed for ring fighting.

Ring fighting used to be one art at a time.

Boxers fought boxers.  Wrestlers fought wrestlers.  In the East, Thai boxers fought Thai boxers.  With the creation of the UFC and K1 and other venues (and rule sets), a Mixed Martial Arts “style” began to evolve.  Its been like an arms race, limited by the rules.  The rules create the context or medium for the evolution of the styles.

At first, in the UFC, the Gracies dominated.  If you weren’t familiar with BJJ tactics, you were sunk!

Few of the fighters had both a stand up and a ground game developed to a high degree.  It was one or the other in those days.

Really good wrestlers had yet to enter the sport in large numbers and they were at that time unfamiliar with some of the BJJ tactics.  One of the unspoken truths about fighting is the advantage of mystery.  This is why fighter with eccentric styles (like Jon Jones) are tough to handle.  How do you train for them?  What sparring partner can prepare you for what you will face?

Then the money started to get a little better and the sport became more popular.  Sponsors evolved from Bob’s Taco Stand to Tap Out to Nike.

In all the MMA venues, the bar began to get raised slowly.  New fighters would show up who had learned how to stop the Gracie BJJ strategy (usually by learning BJJ or by being good Greco-Roman wrestlers with competent BJJ-move counters) but on top of that they had new stuff.

A better striking game, better conditioning, a better mix basically.

The Gracies are very tough fighters but they no longer dominate the UFC as in the early days.  The sport has evolved and so have the fighters.  To fight in the UFC, to be really obvious, you have to be able to win within the rules against the sort of attacks and defenses used by the other fighters.  The rules change and so do the tactics that succeed.

Guys who would have dominated in 1998 would get mowed down by the fighters of today, with their excellent cardio and their tight command of all the ranges (kicking, punching, grappling/ground).  The UFC fighters of today are some of the top athletes in the world, with teams of trainers (boxing, BJJ, etc) and nutritionists and weight coaches and on and on behind them.  A team of Dr. Frankenstein’s rebuilding them.

And lets not forget cutting weight and gaining it back.  Winners these days are often guys who not only can do all of the above, but they are also good at cutting weight temporarily then gaining it back and not being weakened too much by this unnatural process.  Guys who are good at this cut 20-30 pounds for the weight-in, then gain it back before the fight, effectively fighting someone from a lower weight class (unless both are good at this skill).

UFC fighters use strategies that work best in the ring.  Various stalling tactics and pulling guard and hovering outside (Machida-style) might not work so well in the multi-dimensional and time constrained arena of the street but they can work in the ring for a while.  But the ring is an evolving public space – people see what works and then train counters for that particular tactic preparing for that particular fighter.

Wing Chun works best when it is a surprise.  The fight begins at conversation-distance, the fight kicks off, and you move into the in-fighting distance and relentlessly attack the head and neck, clearing all obstacles.  There is no circling and sizing up.  Wing Chun is designed to go for the jugular, like a Rotweiller.

On the street, 99% of fights are decided in the first few moments (as discussed in former bouncer Geoff Thompson’s 30 second fight concept) with strikes to the head.  Done correctly, with a lot of training backing it up and a lot of aggression in the moment, this is Wing Chun’s advantage – we attack the head and neck, no waiting, no quarter.


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