Let us continue this series analyzing the process of Feed, Read, Deed.
In Part 1, I briefly introduced each of these three phases. In Part 2, I offered several pointers to properly execute a Feed. Reading Part 3 improve your ability to Read!
This skill is twofold:
- Observing visual cues with your eyes
- Recognizing meaningful patterns with your brain
It’s hard to see if you don’t know what to look for:
Imagine searching for a stranger in a crowd of 100. If it’s a female subject, you can immediately eliminate all males. Perhaps leaving 40 people. You learn that the person is a child. With 30 adults, that leaves 10 kids. One more detail, a red hat, allows you to find the right girl.
Looking is searching, gathering, global. Seeing is finding, identifying, local.
This process of elimination also works when you face an opponent. He could do 100 unpredictable, but determinable, things to you in a split second. If you know where to look and how to see, you’ll recognize what to do.
Where To Look
My teacher, Sifu Klaus Brand, says:
“Your eyes are the king sense.”
It watches over the domain! In two ways at once:
- (Point of) Focus
- (Field of) Awareness
Center your focus as a sharp laser. It’s a dot. Expand your awareness as a diffuse spotlight. It’s a circle.
The key to looking well is to keep it lively. There’s no single, perpetual or absolute location to look at.
This reminds me of defensive driving. You mostly focus on the road conditions directly ahead. But to have greater awareness of your surroundings requires shifting it:
Frequently scan the different cars moving around you, relevant landmarks and signs, nearby pedestrians or objects, and your rear and side mirrors. If a big pothole or small deer suddenly appears, turn your focus to that! To make safe decisions and take sure actions, this dynamic strategy gives you a bigger, better picture of what’s going on than a fixed gaze.
So where exactly do you focus your awareness in Self-Defense? It depends:
Outside of contact distance and before an attack or its preparation, I focus on the throat (F1) of the opponent.
Why? That is simply where I prefer to attack by default. However, my awareness encompasses both his arms, shoulders, torso, hips and legs — the gestalt.
Now if he ventures into distance and initiates an attack (F2), I zone in on it as the highest priority. After defending it, I might look to strike his nose (F3).
Remember your focus is constant but not static. It darts around and awareness with it.
When a punch rises, pay most attention to the arm. If a kick shows, glance towards the leg. At the same time, keep his other limbs as well as your subsequent attack targets in your peripheral vision.
Similarly, against multiple attackers, look at the closest opponent while tracking the others.
Some say to look into the other person’s eyes. This is useful during conversation but not in Self-Defense when words fail. Eyeballs cannot hurt you! Speaking of which…
How To See
You look with your eyes. You see with your brain. Seeing is believing.
But only if you’ve trained it! These are three vital factors to see:
- Distance (z axis)
- Side (x axis)
- Height (y axis)
First, see whether your opponent is within striking distance. Either he is too far to attack you or close enough for you to attack him!
Second, see which limb he is going to use. Obviously, there are at most four choices: left or right arm or leg.
Third, see the attack height. This also tells you where he is planning to hit you.
Beyond striking distance, the opponent can do you no harm. Within striking distance, you can do him much damage.
And if you succeed in doing so early enough, neither side nor height matters. You preclude these variables. That’s why seeing distance is the foremost.
But if you hesitate, then it is necessary to see if he is striking you from the left or right, high or low. For instance, in the second picture above, he is likely approaching your left jaw with his right punch. That’s my educated guess based on what I see.
Because of your experience, your seeing gets more acute and rapid. Like a chess grandmaster, you can recognize nascent patterns. In other words, whereas a novice may still be looking, an expert will have seen what is unfolding long ago.
Look To See
Some may claim it is necessary to include the tactile sense in the Read. I agree that this is possible when your timing is late, which we examine in Combat Classes of the IAW curriculum. However, it’s imperative not to solely or even preferably rely on feeling.
So, reading is a dual skill of visual (looking) and cerebral (seeing) interplay. This eye-brain coordination takes practice via perceptual learning. Like using picture flashcards to memorize vocabulary, repeated simulation of Self-Defense situations will burn the images in your mind. You can then draw from that database in emergencies.
If you become a speed reader, you can universally absorb a broadband of information. But you are also able to pinpoint meaningful essentials by quickly filtering out irrelevancies. You are looking to see valuable signals in distracting noise.
You are reading the present, not predicting the future. Even psychics can’t do that perfectly. Indeed, a skilled attacker is harder to read. Or your opponent may throw a feint. But if you see him out of distance, you’re safe. If he comes into reach, you’re dangerous!
Looking is searching out. Seeing is finding out. Looking gathers everything indiscriminately. Seeing identifies something specifically. You need both proficiencies to read with depth and breadth, accuracy and precision.
In Part 4, we will conclude this series by discussing the Deed. Hint: it’s all about attack.
Such an awesome blog Sihing Paul, I think it makes great reading before my wingchun evening session tonight as what you mention is very technical yet easy to understand and visualise. Reading about how the eyes and brain each have their own jobs to do when the attacker initiates an attack is really interesting. And I agree with the comments about defensive driving as well, and as a new driver I will make sure to be vigilant on the roads.
Your welcome, Adam. Sincere gratitude for your sentiments. I like hearing what you specifically found useful from my article.
WingChun is applied training of our mental and physical capabilities as human beings. That includes perceptual learning, neurophysiology and biomechanics among other related fields of study. I’m trying to elucidate the operation of our system as realistic Self-Defense beyond the confining box of mere tradition. Equally motivating for me is to expand and elevate its relevance to personal expression and sovereign actualization.
Perhaps more individuals like you will benefit from this holistic paradigm. Drive safe and train well, sir. And warm greetings to my IAW-UK family.
Greetings Sihing Paul, yet another very intresting and helpful blog..which has got me thinking. I was recently reading quotes from Matthew Syed book ‘Bounce’ and speficically he covers why sportsmen who ‘Choke’ when pressure becomes too much. I was wondering what your view on this subject is and how it may effect us WingChuners if/when a physical confrontation arrises?
Thanks again for your great blogs and look forward to many more!
Thank you so much, Greg. I’d love to comment on what you brought up.
I am pragmatic and will admit it is impossible to be perfectly invulnerable in unpredictable situations. We cannot definitively know what happens beforehand. However, with experience, we can develop an uncanny ability to read the present. Applied effectively, this allows us to avoid the majority of threats and helps us to resolve the rest.
Furthermore, our curriculum progressively increases the intensity of practice to simulate the distress of an actual encounter. Although consciously we trust that the training environment is safe — assuming my classmate is not truly trying to kill me — our subconscious interprets it as real danger.
When you can instill WingChun proaction at this gut level of self conviction, you stand a better chance at survival. Even if it’s just 20%. That’s for lazy students. The diligent may gain 80%. Luck favors the prepared.
Here’s one last tip. Don’t choke when you’re choked!