As I promised, here is the translation. I’m proud to feature a guest post by Sifu Klaus Brand. In it, he identifies common traits of many “wing chun” styles and explains why they are liabilities. Due to novel research on Self-Defense efficacy, the IAW WingChun system has adopted an adapted approach. This makes us different in many ways to more traditional practices.
If you’ve read my commentary on our YouTube videos, you’ve noticed the often emotional, and occasionally antagonistic, response to our presentation. For instance, our technical expression of power and violation of occupation on the centerline is scrutinized. Such cognitive incongruence is more than understandable. Stepping outside of the orthodox box of “wing chun” exposes us to critique. The following points make our unique — perhaps heretical or even revolutionary — application of WingChun somewhat clearer.
Inevitably, words and images are inadequate conduits of reality. If you aren’t already an actively training member of the IAW, I’d encourage you to keep an open mind while reading. Better yet, if you have the opportunity, I invite you to attend one of our classes or events. Furthermore, I’m personally available to groups in the Americas for seminars in your area. Feel free to contact me for details.
The 8 Most Dangerous Mistakes of “Wing Chun” Systems
1. The Arms (Man/Wu) too low
Every able and intelligent attacker would initiate a fight by attacking an opponent’s upper body. He would use his arms to strike and never give up the flexibility provided by his stance for a kick. The skill and knowledge of an experienced fighter would indeed never permit such a vulnerable attack. One who uses his leg to attack hopes for a sporty defense and has thus long bid farewell to self-defense capability.
For the protection position, which is actually the preparation position, the wrists should start at the same height as the upper sternum bone. A reasonable defense from a lower position is just as impossible as an attack from such a height. Good positioning saves time. And time is truly one of the most significant factors in the art of war. Anyone who wants to achieve his objective should utilize, and not conceal, his arms (weapons) at the outset while using his legs for standing and stepping. I will not assert that one cannot also deploy his legs for fighting. However, to instigate a fight as such is a farce.
2. Stance (Zi Ng Ma)
The weight must never be shifted to the back leg in a combat stance. When the body is not tensed and pushed anteriorly, there is no potential to advance quickly. One who stands completely on the rear leg pushes his body upwards physically and therefore cannot defend himself from the front because his own power, or that of his opponent, would throw him backwards. This tension and urge to go forward are fundamental not only for the physical, but even for the mental preparation. The stance is a preparation to step. One who knows which step leads to which stance and which stance follows which step has recognized the function of his legs. One who comprehends what stance fits a suitable step in combination with a proper arm technique has understood the meaning of stances.
3. Waiting for contact
The greatest flaw in the evolution of the art of war is the heresy that one could respond appropriately after contact with the opponent’s arms during an attack. Evolution will ensure that this absurd thesis will soon perish. This error defies all logic and is typical of the myriad of dreamers and fantasists of the scene. Anyone ensnared in that faith cannot possibly know what an attack or a defense situation looks like and especially not how it feels. It is imperative to survive the first collision. The start is the most violent moment of confrontation.
4. Too many punches (Tsong Kuen)
In a self-defense situation, you can only execute one powerful punch in one second. There can only be one useful punch per second. If your first punch hits you do not need a second. One who needs two punches in self-defense should practice until he masters the first and no longer needs a second. A functional punch is the basis and target of every martial art. One should be careful in training to perform a maximum of no more than one single punch in one second and never seek to hit again in the same second as the first strike. The highest priority has to be given to this in self-defense instruction. One who trains exercises with two punches per second is interested in quantity and therefore guaranteed incompetence in self-defense. With two punches a second one can certainly not scare or stop someone.
A self-defense instructor who teaches drills with more than one punch per second cannot be taken seriously. More is not necessarily better. One who does more than two punches per second cannot possibly be interested in self-defense and would rather be an asset to any massage studio.
5. Hitting from the center of the body
Since the esoteric cuddly-wave of the 80’s, hitting from the middle of the body has been touted as a universal solution. And since that time, there has been no sensible justification for it. Strikes from the center of the body are the weakest of all and applicable only in a few situations. Of course, they must also be trained, even if their applications are extremely rare. It was simply forgotten or ignored that outside strikes are not only the strongest but also very easily displace strikes which come from the center of the body. Outside strikes cannot be displaced and require an extremely strong defense. Thus, in self-defense, avoid striking from the center of the body as much as possible. One of the most important aspects of our system is learning to repel straight and curved strikes from the outside. Therefore, not even one Section contains a punch from the center.
As far as I can remember, hitting from the middle of the body came from the same jesters who tried to defend themselves by training blindfolded (see my essay “Sapere Aude“). For this group it is okay. They can stay nice and soft so that nothing happens in order to maintain their comradely feel-good sessions 😉
6. Maintaining contact
A worse mistake is to maintain contact with the opponent’s arms after an attack or defense. This error is caused by incompetence in the implementation of techniques, but can be quickly corrected with even the simplest of exercises and some dedication. Our first 5 Programs of the Basic Levels already contain the most important applications of all the Forms, including the Wooden Dummy (Mok Yan Jang). We therefore like to call these Basic Level Programs “The Best Of”. They are a cross-section of the most essential and connectable techniques in the system. One who masters understanding of the Basic Levels has committed to the path.
An adept combatant never gives up. Due to physical or technical weakness, the inexperienced tend to destroy their positions by yielding. Yielding results in the loss of control. In fact, many of these people advocate voluntary loss of control and have subsequently invented an effective exercise for a passive touch art. Of course, this saves one from the tough and realistic version of training. But in order to spare yourself you could also stay at home. The effect would be the same.
You should never confuse flexibility with yielding. One who yields definitely gives up his flexibility because he only allows for one option. Yielding is a synonym for resignation and capitulation and is the opposite of flexibility. Flexibility is the freedom to remain open to all possibilities.
8. Not using power
Not using your full power in a dangerous situation is not only reckless but also rather idiotic. Via the release of adrenaline in a stressful situation (in the first phase) heart rate and breathing are stimulated. Adrenaline, among other things, releases glucose from energy stores in the muscles. Even if one trains for years to not use this energy, the training will never work. Anyone who does not develop his muscles to exert their full power cannot defend themselves against strong opponents. One needs to strengthen oneself. Good self-defense training not only fortifies the muscles, ligaments and bones but also, ultimately, the technique and spirit. Anyone who feels strong, feels well and healthy.
To be weak, soft and passive is not the goal. That was in the beginning when we drank milk from a feeding bottle and our mother wiped our posteriors.
The mistakes described above might confuse a stranger to the scene. My essays serve as general elucidation and to help people avoid worthless training offers. In my time from instructor to master to grandmaster, I met many teachers of other styles who began with these very errors and finished in a dead-end of helplessness. Some of them commenced under my direction straight away, others unfortunately resigned after numerous years of training in the wrong direction. Actually, resignation — in other words, yielding — was precisely what they had learned. In our scene, almost everyone in his younger years failed because of the misconception that he could defend himself without power. In retrospect I’m not quite sure why it happened, but we searched for softness, yielding and other nonsense that the world did not need. Today I can heartily laugh about those years. Nothing works without power. Power is the foundation of our existence. But these silly sins of one’s youth are forgiven. The healthy human mind sees very quickly if something is incorrect, but sometimes does not allow us to admit it. Especially when one has devoted oneself to a cause for many years, it is hard to throw one’s convictions overboard immediately even if the specified (specious) target is absolutely unattainable. Such a mistake costs us our most valuable years. However, those who realize it do not lose these years.
If you want to learn to defend yourself, you should be prepared to delve deeply into the art of war. You must be ready to discern all facets of combat and study their consequent risks. In order to master others, you have to master yourself. You will need to acquire particular and even extraordinary skills, then learn to apply them in the right moment. To accomplish this requires a strong will. A qualified instructor leads you step by step on your path through the Programs of our system.
Will, attitude, technique, power and speed are the foundation of success in the art of self-defense. All you need to bring is “will”. Will is the ability of self-determination, the responsibility for one’s own actions and the conscious decision to want something. It is the engine that propels you.
© Sifu Klaus Brand
Grandmaster of WingChun