Sisuk John Smith is on the cover of the new Wing Chun Illustrated.
I look forward to reading his interview. Like his teacher, Wong Shun Leung, he has a very clear and straight-forward approach to what he describes as our “fighting skill.”
An SvC reader, lets call him “GC,” emailed me quite a while ago to discuss the drill I described in my article “How to Develop Timing and Flow.”
I filmed myself and my student/friend, Buka, doing some of the versions of the drill (in February) but I wanted to reshoot, because I’m a perfectionist and wasn’t happy with the result. I was distracted, talking and filming, so the demo is kind of sloppy. The punching is a little sloppy. The whole thing is loose and not exactly us at our best.
Plus I had this big plan to create an opening title sequence and do some music, etc, etc. But all that was taking me forever!
So the other day I just decided, the hell with it! Nobody’s perfect, I’ll do better next time and throw in the titles when I do them.
Anyway, here is GC’s comment and then below, some video of me and Buka doing the drill. Please note again, this is something I started doing when I had elbow trouble (Wing Chun elbow I guess).
I was looking for a relaxed low-impact way to train chasing center. This is not a Greg Leblanc or Gary Lam (or even Wong Shun Leung) drill (so don’t blame them!).
There are undoubtedly sloppiness problems you might develop if you did it too much! But it helped me develop (and teach) a certain “chasing the center” feeling and a more natural control of the center line.
Here is GC’s email:
“I just saw your latest blog post about “How to develop timing and flow” and found it very interesting. And coincidentally, this almost exact same drill that you describe is a drill we do in our Wing Chun club at our company. In fact, I was just practicing it (all three levels) during today’s lunch break with three colleagues. Two sihings have been employing this drill or variations of it for several years and I was first introduced to it about a year ago. We usually start with the one-handed variation of your level 1 drill before using both hands. Our sihings also emphasize all the points that you mentioned such as use your hip and the power from the hip to control your elbow and thus your opponent. We try to control the opponent from the hip and trying our best to avoid using any force coming from the arms or hands as this will usually result in chasing hands. Instead we try to control center line and the other guy’s movements by using relaxed structure (for lack of a better term) with its center at the elbow. Also, our sihing always stresses that we need to control the opponent firmly, not just react to his attacks as this will again result in chasing hands. By firmly controlling the opponent’s arm by sticking to it (without relying on muscle power) we can gain and maintain the initiative for counter attacks.
The most difficult version of this drill that we do which could be the next step from your level 3 is to let the person who plays wooden dummy throw random attacks at you which are not limited to WC style straight punches. Instead we practice it combined with boxing-style punches (curved punches, basically, from left, right and below). This way, it gets really hard to intuitively choose the right response. When you get a curved punch thrown at you, you won’t be able to do a tanda from the outside gate which is what you might do if confronted with a WC straight punch. You will need to tanda from the inside gate instead. So that can really throw you off and that’s the reason why we practice this drill often. I found the hardest part is really to avoid chasing hands. I still haven’t figured out the best way of doing it. What I learned is that you need to firmly control the other guy’s every punch. For that, you need to employ hip power and you must not break off contact prematurely. That means, don’t do your defensive move such as tansao or paksao only “half-way” and then break off. That would allow the enemy to easily relaunch the attack. Secondly, you need to be able to read the enemy’s movements with your eyes earlier, if possible just before the actual strike is launched. Otherwise you won’t be able to intercept the enemy’s strike early enough, you will only react without a chance to take the initiative. Thirdly, focus on your facing and move or pivot just enough so you are out of the enemy line of fire and open up a new angle for your own attack.
I’m just at the beginning of learning the free-style variation of this drill. It can be quite scary, especially with the unorthodox non-WC punches thrown into the mix. But I think it’s a very necessary exercise if one wants to prevail in a real-life altercation. I just told my colleagues from the WC club about your blog post, but since their English is not very good, I really hope that you will make a demo video that I can show to them.”
OK GC, here it is.
“(Never) fire, till you see your own image in the pupil of your enemy’s eye.”
I like to come at the ideas of our our system from many different directions, because I think everyone has different sensibilities and what will click like a key fitting into a lock for one person will miss the mark for another.
You may notice that I spend a lot of time discussing psychology, almost more than the the specific techniques and principles of Wing Chun.
This is because I think that everyone else talks about all the other stuff (Bong Sao, centerline), but no one talks about this.
You can be the biggest badass in the world and lose to someone who is more aggressive and more determined and ready to put their neck in the noose. You must be ready, mentally. You need to expect it and understand what it will be like.
This idea is not new. Any place you can find someone with fight (or combat) experience, you will find this notion. Fighting under stress in real life is different than training in the school.
This is what is meant by the Wing Chun principle, “you must go inside the house to fight the fire.”
You can’t fight from the sidelines. You have to step up.
And yes, its scary.
There is a scene in the John Wayne western The Shootist.
Wayne plays an aging gunfighter named Books who is dying of cancer. He target shoots with the teenaged son of the woman running his hotel. They shoot at the target, and the kid says “Mr. Books, How is it you’ve killed so many men? My spread wasn’t much bigger than yours.”
Wayne replies “First of all, friend, there’s no one up there shooting back at you. Second, I found most men aren’t willing, they bat an eye, or draw a breath before they shoot. I won’t.”
You can see the same principle at work in this (final) scene from the Kevin Costner movie, Open Range. Once the fight is on, Costner’s experienced gunfighter quits playing games and turns the situation into a deadly shooting range, calmly taking aim and firing, at first one man, then another.
He just walks right up and starts shooting. He has decided this is a fight and he picks his moment.
You have to get this clear in your mind. When the fight kicks off, as a Wing Chun fighter, you must step up and start hitting.