Understanding Traditional Wing Chun
by Victor Parlati
The following article is meant to be a clarification of some of the uniqueness of Traditional Wing Chun (TWC), as it is taught by my sifu, Grandmaster William Cheung. Political statements will be avoided. But perhaps I should clarify my background before beginning. I was a direct student of Wing Chun Master Moy Yat from 1975–1983. But since August, 1983,I have been a direct student of Grandmaster Cheung. I hold a high rank within his World Wing Chun Kung Fu Association and have been teaching his system here in NYC for over 20 years. Although I know first hand how knowledgeable William Cheung is about the system Grandmaster Yip Man taught openly (ie.- what I learned from Master Moy Yat) - which I’ll refer to henceforth as a wing chun system that emphasizes attacking the opponent’s “center of mass” (COM).And of course it should be mentioned that William Cheung had a legendary relationship with Bruce Lee - as the man who not only first introduced Bruce to Grandmaster Yip Man - but who also helped to train Bruce quite a bit in the aspect of wing chun (along with Wong Shun Leung) that emphasizes attacking the opponent’s center of mass as the major fighting strategy.
But the approach taken within TWC is one that emphasizes attacking the “blindside” of the opponent as much as possible. And it is
this difference along with it’s corresponding footwork, concepts, principles and strategies, along with some other unique TWC differences, that will be the focus of this article - as a great deal of this material is not found in the non TWC teachings of Grandmaster Yip Man.
A) The Central Line It all starts with the Central Line principle, which defines the area a practitioner, without pivoting his hips, can cross his wrists evenly at the lower, middle, and upper gates when in a neutral stance. The very first movement you make with both arms after opening up your stance in any of the three forms - and immediately before throwing the vertical punch with your left hand - is the move that defines the central line. Recall the X-like movement (or scissor-like) motion your arms make when they go down from the chambers to the lower gates. Now freeze that movement for a moment. In other words, before rotating the X/scissor position up toward the higher gates - and while still in the down position - start moving both arms to your right.
Remember not to pivot your hips or shoulders, and notice when the hands and fingers would start to no longer reach to the exact same distance evenly if you were to continue to move them to the right (because your right arm and hand would now be extending further than the left). In other words, you’ve just reached the eastern border of your central line. (For purposes of simplicity and clarity I will take the liberty of introducing a terminology of my own that I use to teach TWC to my students). Whatever direction you are facing, call that North. South is therefore behind you. East is to your right, and West is to your left. Now back to the Central Line.
Move the X/scissors to the left (west) until you reach the same position just described. You have now totally defined (or traced) an imaginary horizontal line. To put that another way, an east-west plane known as the Central Line. And if you position your body in relation to your opponent so that all blocks, parries, strikes, etc. only travel within the parameters of this central line - then you will always maximize the use of both arms for simultaneous attack and defense, and minimize the target area you present to your opponent.
PAGE 2 With this position, you maximize your ability to control the straight line path available for attack and defense, while attempting to force the opponent to use an outside path - and therefore an increased distance for him to travel. So in theory this will make your moves structurally faster.
Now when using the Central Line principle, the practitioner will FACE THE POINT OF CONTACT with his vertical, middle-of-the-body centerline when blocking or parrying blows coming in at him, while “returning the fire” in simultaneous (or near simultaneous) attack on SOME OTHER POINT along the east-west horizontal central line. (Although there are some exceptions to this rule which might occasionally require a block or parry to be performed on some other point on the central line -and not on the main middle of the body center line). Nonetheless, blocks and parries are almost always performed on the Centerline.
The CENTERLINE in TWC and in every other wing chun system I am familiar with is threefold: the vertical line that runs down the center of your body (which I’m referring to as the MAIN centerline) - the vertical line that runs down the center of your opponent’s body (ie.- the exact “center of mass” that he’s showing you at any given moment, and therefore not necessarily his “main” centerline, since he could be in a extreme side body position) - and the imaginary horizontal line that connects the two of you (ie. - the line you might use to move along in order to hit your opponent with straight line chain punches).
So here’s a question: If I stood still but my opponent moved - would the central line change? NO. The central line as it has been defined is always the same horizontal plane in front of me. So if he moved to my right - I would take a lateral step to my right) - so as to CONTINUE FACING HIM in the ways already described.
In other words - I won’t allow him to outflank the central line positioning of my body in relation to his body. I’m “cutting off the ring” so that he can’t move around me or pin me to a certain spot while he circles.
And I would be moving laterally to my right in order to continue facing him while in a neutral SIDE (body) stance. And therefore NOT the neutral stance used to illustrate the central line concept earlier (ie.- the X like crossing of the hands and arms in the beginning of the forms). For example, if he moves to my right while he’s standing in a left front stance with a leading left arm and leg - I will prefer to be in a right hand leading neutral SIDE stance, with my left hand as the second line of defense (wu sao). So in this manner I am showing much less target to my opponent than if I were to remain in a totally neutral stance, since the body, legs, and feet are now turned slightly west (to my left - and somewhere between 60 and 45 degrees away from the North position - while my head, face, arms, and hands are still facing north (ie.- facing directly at his center of mass).
And I can easily kick from this stance with my right leg if I choose to do so. In fact, my right foot is facing directly at his COM for this very reason. In this instance the right neutral side stance would be preferred because this “parallel” arm positioning would maximize the chance of getting to his BLINDSIDE.
B) THE BLINDSIDE STRATEGY— PAGE 3 What has been described so far will maximize my chances of coming forward (north) and getting to the outside of his leading left arm/leading left leg position; in other words, outflanking him and perhaps therefore taking his right arm/hand and his right foot/leg “out of play” because they’re now further away from the targets on my body. (Even if only for a brief moment). And before he has a chance to regroup and face me more directly with all his weapons. It’s the TWC way of looking for a strategic advantage.
And when coming forward in order to maximize the possibility of outflanking him I must always place my right foot to the outside (or east of) his left leg/foot. This foot placement is one half of THE GOLDEN RULES OF TWC FOOT PLACEMENT.
The other half is that when in a cross arm/cross leg position in relation to rny opponent (ie.- he has a leading left arm and left leg vs. my leading left arm and left leg) - my lead leg must be placed to the INSIDE of his lead leg (west of it). If I placed it to the outside of his lead leg I could be outflanked or turned around. So could he, for that matter. But it’s too much of a gamble.
But in the parallel situation described I may be in a much easier position to isolate his left arm against both of my arms - and therefore create an advantage for myself. I might be able to manipulate the situation so that I may have “more troops” on the immediate battlefield than he does.
This is known as FIGHTING ON THE BLINDSIDE - and when done from this parallel arm/parallel leg position - his own leading left leg is now blocking him from using his rear weapons effectively (ie.- in this case his right arm and right leg) - since I’m now on the outside of his left leg and (hopefully) north and deeper into his territory. He will have a hard time turning his center to face me more directly. A major strategy employed in TWC as often as possible. WHY ARE THE GOLDEN RULES NECESSARY?
Because as mentioned earlier, I could be outflanked if I moved north (and especially WHILE IN THE ACT of placing my right foot back down on the floor) but to the INSIDE (or west) of his left leg/foot. I could be “turned around” and he now has my back to strike, kick, grab, etc. That’s a very dangerous place for me to be.
Also notice that moving into the cross leg/cross arm position is NOT an attempt to get to his blindside (at least not yet). In TWC it is well understood that the PARALLEL blindside position won’t always be available to us - and so training to fight in the cross arm/cross leg position (and how to possibly even transition from there to the parallel position) is also drilled and developed.
C) MORE ABOUT THE CENTRAL LINE Now that you understand the importance of foot placement, let’s go back and look at the Central Line Theory - and add a few more important details. The Central Line was described as the HORIZONTAL east-west LINE directly in front of you, and its borders are set by the points past which your wrists won’t evenly cross each other in the X-like manner described earlier. And within those borders both of your arms and hands can reach to the same exact east-west distance without having to turn a
PAGE 4 shoulder or hip - thereby maximizing speed, efficiency, and the ability to perform simultaneous blocks and strikes).
But in fact the Central Line is more than this. It is not just a line, and it is not just a “horizontal” line. Those words are useful when first being introduced to the concept -since that distinguishes it from the “vertical” middle of the body (main) Centerline. But let’s take the definition a step further. The Central Line is the PLANE (or grid) in front of you in that contains more than an east-west horizontal line. It is also the vertical line I’m occupying at any given moment running up and down through those east-west parameters. So if I were lined up in a right hand leading neutral side (body) stance while facing my opponent’s center of mass (COM) - my hands and arms would be occupying a point on both a horizontal and a vertical line - and hence the use of the term GRID (or plane).
So here’s an example: I’m in the right side stance described earlier - and in a parallel position to the opponent’s leading left arm/left leg forward stance. (This example will also introduce us to a specific technique that is a trademark defense in TWC vs. hook punches). Suppose the opponent throws a left hook at my head. I lift my right foot, turn my main Centerline to face northeast, and step out moving east (and slightly north), placing my right foot down east of his left foot (the correct parallel foot placement) - while directly facing the point of contact on his punching arm with the imaginary horizontal line extending out from my solar plexus (which of course corresponds to our MAIN middle-of-the-body vertical centerline).
Now the “point of contact” referred to earlier is in this instance the spot right near the INSIDE of his arm where the elbow joint connects his lower and upper arm. I use my right arm to block and parry this area with BIL SAO that converts instantly at contact to a LOP SAO - while punching him in the face (or perhaps at his shoulder joint) with my left fist.
The punch came out on the western side of the Central Line and I blocked/redirected with bil/lop sao on my CENTERLINE (which is now being defined as simply another point along the Central Line). Upon reflection, one will discover that the overlapping definitions should not be a point of confusion. Both definitions are correct.
D) MORE ABOUT FOOTWORK Let’s suppose there is no lead side presented by your opponent, because he’s standing in a completely neutral stance without any leading leg. Where would you step as you moved in? In this case there would be a choice of coming in by placing my leading foot in the middle or by going TOWARD the outside of one of his feet, ie.- my right foot going towards the position east of his left foot. I use the word “toward” because I will probably end up more toe-to-toe with his foot than towards the outside (or east) of it, precisely because he is facing me square on. But that’s okay - I can still begin to launch a formidable attack from this position or from the middle.
E) THE FULL SIDESTEP—PAGE 5 The most important piece of footwork in all of Traditional Wing Chun Kung Fu, and absolutely vital to the implementation of the Central Line theory and the Blindside Strategy, is the THE FULL SIDESTEP (or T-Stance). And how, when, and where to use this move is very important - as the timing most be such that he’s committing and you react at the same moment. In this manner you will avoid any possible attempt to “follow” you. Furthermore, it makes its appearance virtually everywhere within TWC: in the Advanced Sil Lim Tao form (which has some footwork); in Chum Kiu, in Bil Jee, the Wooden Dummy, the Butterfly Swords, the Dragon Pole, during chi sao, and needless to say - during sparring or fighting.
Like the matador facing the bull - a forward charge/attack (whether it be straight or circular) can be sidestepped by the TWC practitioner by a full 90 degree or even a 120 degree turn. For example, back to a previous illustration: I’m in a right neutral side stance vs. the man with the left arm/left leg lead front stance. This time he throws a high rear roundhouse with his right leg toward the left side of my face/head.
Plan (A) is to stop kicks with kicks (jamming/counter-kicking); but Plan (B), if I’m not “on time” with Plan (A), would be to release my left leg/foot and bring it behind my right foot (while pivoting off the ball of my right foot). The left foot would move behind my starting position anywhere from 90 to 120 degrees, as was indicated earlier. In other words, the left foot traveled in an arc south and east (so that in the end, using the 120 degree example) - my hands, arms, face, and the middle-of-the-body Centerline are all now directly facing the point of contact I’m blocking by his shin/knee area with a left garn sao and a right gum sao. This is a variation of kan sao (splitting hands). And my left foot is now anywhere from 10 to 20 inches or so (possibly more) behind my right foot; and the angle between the two feet looks like the formation of the letter “T”.
So like the matador, I did a Full Sidestep (or T-stance) pivot away from the force of his powerful kick. To put it another way: my left side opened up (or avoided) his force like a door opening up on its hinges located on the right side (east side) of my horizontal east-west Central Line. And I could continue on and make him pay for the lines he’s just opened up in the middle and on the left side of his body with a counter attack by putting all the weight down on my left foot and immediately kicking with the right foot or by a quick transition to a striking attack on the same lines just mentioned.
The point is that the Full sidestep OPENS UP A WHOLE NEW WORLD TO THE TWC PRACTITIONER, both in defense and offense - since I can instantly turn blocking, redirecting, or parrying into attacking on some line other than the one he’s using. And of course the same strategy can be used against attacks by my opponent’s fists, elbows, knees, attempts at clinches or takedowns, etc.
Full side steps can also be used when the TWC fighter is in a front stance - since the system utilizes both neutral side stances and front stances in attack and defense. And almost always with a 50–50 weight distribution. An obvious exception being when a kick is about to be launched - and therefore all the weight is temporarily placed on the support leg. But another such instance is a very unique piece of footwork utilized often when an outright attack is being used - the TWC Entry Technique.
F) THE ENTRY TECHNIQUE—PAGE 6 How do we “bridge-the-gap in Traditional Wing Chun? There are a number of ways -but the two most often used would be to simply walk in with the lead knee being raised up to protect the groin and then quickly placing the foot back down on the floor; or from a further distance, raise the knee up to the protection point just above the waist and HOP IN. This is known as the TWC Entry Technique. It creates a “shield” in front of you - as the raised lead leg protects the lower gates (ie.- the groin) - the lead arm protects the head/face/neck high gate area with an almost fully extended bil sao - and the rear hand/arm protects the middle gates at a lower height by placing this hand (wu sao - guarding hand) near the lower inside elbow area of your lead arm. It should also be noted that the lead leg can be converted (extended) into a kick if need be (ie. - vs. his attempt to kick you as you’re coming in). So the ENTRY TECHNIQUE is a cautious but aggressive move - meant to “take territory” while providing protection for your troops that are moving in - and you will end up either in contact range limb-to-limb territory - and/or close enough to blatantly attack with punches, palm strikes, lop dar, pak dar, etc. or kicks if he starts to move back in some way.
G) KICKING TECHNIQUES AND STRATEGIES There are several things to be mentioned about TWC kicking that is a bit unique for wing chun. To begin, the front kick from the neutral side stance that was mentioned previously is often done with the knee “in” and the kicking surface is not limited to just the heel - it could also be the whole bottom of the foot or even just the ball of the foot that is used. Now of course the basic signature kick that wing chun is famous for with the knee “outside” of the main centerline and with the heel as the kicking surface is a big part of the system - but the other kicks just alluded to are also employed depending upon the distance between yourself and your opponent. The closer you are to the opponent - usually the more of your own foot surface will be used to contact the target, ie.- from the longest ranges it will be just the ball of the foot or perhaps even just the toes. A little closer and it could be the whole bottom of the foot. And it’s all done with the knee “in”. But at the closest kicking range it’s the knee “out” of the centerline straight front kick landing with the heel.
In addition, and similar to the way it’s employed in karate orTKD styles, TWC employs a straight rear front kick coming from the rear leg when in a front stance. (With the centerline NOT facing north in the beginning of the kick). But perhaps the most unique aspect of TWC kicking is the use of roundhouse kicks (usually coming from the rear leg when in a front stance and your opponent is retreating backwards as you step in or perhaps after you’ve used the ENTRY technique). The target is usually the back of his thigh or knee - or his groin. Hop front kicks coming from the lead leg when in a front stance are also used - often as a set up initial attack to be followed by strikes with the hands - or perhaps as a finishing move after hand strikes. And virtually all TWC kicks are thrown at the legs or lower/middle portions of his body. High kicks are almost never used, although TWC does employ knee strikes from very close ranges that might hit virtually any target depending upon the opponent’s stance (ie.- he might be in a compromised position with his head lowered because he’s bent over). Finally, low circular crescent-like kicks to the legs are sometimes used to set up follow up straight front kicks. And side kicks to the lower legs are sometimes used as a downward follow up to front kicks thrown a bit higher.
H) THE B.O.E.C. SYSTEM—PAGE 7 William Cheung often refers to TWC as a system employing the B.O.E.C. method . This translates as Balance, Openings, Elbows, and arms Crossed. And the training for this starts primarily in chi sao - but extends much further into TWC and is also employed in actual fighting. Maintaining one’s balance by not over-committing one’s moves through excessive speed or weight distributions other than 50/50 - as well as always reestablishing a strong and balanced posture when taken off one’s game is essential to successful chi sao, wooden dummy training, sparring, fighting, use of weapons, or anything else. This also mirrors another concept emphasized within the system: INTERRUPT ABILITY. The Traditional Wing Chun Kung Fu fighter is taught from day one that it is essential to stay relaxed enough and balanced enough so that flowing from one move to the other in response to the opponent’s attacks and counters can be done seamlessly and quickly. But what’s unique about TWC in this regard is the use of the eyes. The Entry technique is a good example of the point in question and how it relates to Interruptability. How can one interrupt such a move as a hop into the opponent’s space in time to adjust to a kick, a punch, or a shoot for the legs type takedown? Certainly proper balance and not using excessive speed is a factor. But there is another factor in play: in TWC the proper use of the eyes is of the utmost importance.
I) WATCHING ELBOWS AND KNEES It’s a scientifically proven fact that when a straight line punch or kick is thrown that the elbow (in the case of a punch) or the knee (in the case of a kick) is actually moving about 2x slower than the fist or the foot respectively - since the elbow or the knee are moving about half the distance of the fist or the foot IN THE SAME AMOUNT OF TIME. So they have to be moving slower - and are therefore much easier to see and react to. Watching a fist when a fast punch is thrown can actually be little more than a blur - and the same is true of the foot when a fast kick is thrown. And when a round punch or kick is thrown - the elbow and the knee are actually moving about 4x slower than the fist or foot, for the same reasons just given.
So TWC training requires not only specific exercises to strengthen eye muscles but constant drilling wherein the practitioner is constantly watching the elbows and knees of his opponent. Especially true when there is distance from the opponent or training partner - wherein the nearest elbow is constantly monitored directly and with peripheral vision - along with active imagination a line ispictured drawn down to his opposite rear knee (if he is in a front stance). If he’s in a completely neutral position without a leading foot or arm -then the midpoint of his body is watched directly and the 4 points (both elbows and knees) are watched with peripheral vision. If a rear cross is suddenly thrown by the opponent, for example - then DIRECT vision is immediately switched to the elbow of the punch coming in. (You don’t know in advance that it’s a straight rear cross). You must FIND the elbow to determine what kind of punch, ie.- straight, round, high, low and react instantly with an appropriate move. But when contact is made with his lead arm, for example, and while that contact is maintained - you then directly monitor his other elbow with your eyes. You might even be throwing punches at this point with your other hand -but looking at his free arm - watching the target you are attacking with peripheral vision.
J) MORE ABOUT B.O.E.C.—PAGE 8 More needs to be said about openings, elbows, and arms crossed. For example, during double arm chi sao the centerline is watched until it becomes necessary to focus upon a specific elbow (or perhaps a knee if a kick is thrown); and in other chi sao related drills such as pak sao/pak dar, bong sao/lop sao drills, etc. quite often watching elbows are also employed along with the development of tactile contact reflexes (without actual vision being used).
But in addition, TWC emphasizes actually attacking and controlling the opponent’s elbow as often as possible without “chasing” hands past a point where you have over committed or you have abandoned defending an important line or gate. So a lop sao at the elbow instead if at the wrist area, for example, provides a greater amount of control - not only over his arm - but as a means of attacking his overall balance as well. Pining an opponent’s elbow with gum sao is another means of actually disturbing his balance, putting him on defense, and creating openings for strikes, kicks, elbows, knees, arm locks, and so on. And needless to say, one must always be on the visual lookout for any openings for attack that the opponent himself may provide. Pining an elbow with gum sao is also an example of how to create an opening for attack for yet another reason: if he tries to over compensate by defending his head against attack by extending his other arm over to the side where he’s been pinned - then his other arm can be seized for even more of a “trap”. He’s crossed his centerline (or perhaps his central line) is such a way that he’s now vulnerable to having both arms momentarily trapped - and the wing chun fighter can now be free to strike at will with his non-trapping hand.
K) CROSS ARM AND PARALLEL ARM CHI SAO There are also two other chi sao methods used in TWC that should be mentioned, and which also emphasize the B.O.E.C. system. Cross arm chi sao and parallel arm chi sao. Cross arm starts almost exactly as you saw Brace Lee fight against Bob Wall in “Enter The Dragon” - from a cross leg/cross arm front stance wherein the crossed wrists are touching. And parallel arm chi sao starts from front stances that are parallel to each other, ie.- I’m in a left arm/left leg front stance with my lead arm touching the outside of his leading right arm - and my leading left leg is to the outside (west of) his leading right leg. This gives me the “blindside” positioning advantage alluded to earlier in this article. (Later my partner will get that starting position). But the cross arm chi sao starting position is neutral as regards any potential advantage - and is therefore used in TWC as a major training ground for actual sparring and fighting. And the front stances employed also puts both sets of legs in play as kicking tools from any distance - including from apart. And it does so in ways that are more realistic to actual combat than basic double arm chi sao neutral stance foot positioning. There is no “rolling” (luk sao) done in these two chi sao methods; but rather attacks and defenses are immediately put into play - although “drilling” specific scenarios are done frequently in ALL aspects of TWC chi sao.
L) THE FIVE STAGES OF COMBAT—PAGE 9 Traditional Wing Chun Kung Fu also employs what is referred to as the 5 stages of combat: The Before Contact stage, the Contact Stage, The Exchange Stage, Pursuit, and Retreat. The first three stages are determined by the relative distances between the opponents, whereas pursuit is applicable to any of the first three - and retreat is obviously an act of recovery from an unfavorable position. Furthermore, visuals are used extensively from the non contact stage - while tactile contact reflexes come into play at the contact and exchanges stages. And from the non contact stage the neutral side (body) stance is used a great deal since it shows less target to your opponent provides a very fast lateral side step against a charging opponent (although front stances are sometimes used as well). Nonetheless, the neutral side stance while using
Once an attack is launched, however, the front stance and its variations come into play extensively. Mastering the five stages (ie.- understanding distancing and exactly when to attack or retreat) is a huge factor in TWC - and is drilled countless times both while engaging in cooperative drills and in actual sparring. In fact, sparring sessions in TWC frequently employ a stop-and-go aspect in order to make the practitioner more aware of what he should or should not be doing at any given distance from his opponent. TWC does not employ the always be moving ahead (and never retreat) philosophy - and especially so from the non contact or contact stages. Once you’re close enough to actually hit your opponent’s main body targets without taking another step or over-reaching (the actual definitive difference between the contact and the exchange stage, since contact stage simply means that arm-to-arm or leg-to-leg contact has been made - but you’re not yet close enough to hit a main body target) - then you’re in a better position to get more aggressive about “forward energy” wing chun concepts. From the exchange stage (distance) you are better able to force the issue -assuming of course that you have CONTROL. By this is meant that you have an opening line to strike or kick through - or you have enough control over your opponent’s balance, or you sense his lack of forward energy from a close distance, or you create an opening by taking an arm, or hand, or a leg off the line, or you’ve pinned or trapped an elbow. Then it’s full speed ahead for a knockout, an arm lock, knees, elbows, or a sweep takedown. And in this regard let’s return to the subject of when to stop emphasizing the blindside and when to just blast straight ahead with strikes, ie.-vertical chain (or roll) punches, along with other moves like tan dar, jut dar, etc.
In TWC attacking the center of mass (COM) is frequently employed - but almost always AFTER you’ve secured an opening line at the exchange stage distancing and/or you’ve already set it up with a punch, palm strike, bil jee finger attack, kick, elbow, or knee attack that came from some sort of blindside positioning; or at the very least, from a more advantageous cross leg/arm positioning that your opponent could not (or did not) defend. In other words, the TWC practitioner does not charge forward with his main centerline directly facing the COM being attacked until after he’s attained a secure exchange stage close quarter positioning - regardless of the starting position used to get there.
M) TRADITIONAL WING CHUN FORMS—PAGE 10 The forms in TWC are very different from the forms found in other systems that trace their lineage back to Grandmaster Yip Man in many ways, but this article will focus primarily on the basic conceptual differences rather than how specific “hands” are actually formulated differently. But to mention some of them briefly, for example, there is no bend at the wrist when using bong sao, the angle of the hand is done differently when using fuk sao during chi sao, (the fingers and hand are pointing diagonally downward and away from the arm); the angle at the elbow joint, as well as the basic height of tan, are both held higher (protecting the head as well as the middle body); the elbow is held higher than the shoulder during bon sao, etc.
But the major differences are to be found in the accompanying footwork. There is even an advanced version of Sil Lim Tao that has some movement in the second section. But the use of the TWC footwork within the forms - and the emphasis on the Central Line as well as the Centerline are the biggest differences. Some examples of the footwork are the lateral half side step, full side step (T-stance), half front stance, and always picking the feet up and placing them down when moving. (There is never any dragging/sliding type movement used in TWC - as it is considered much faster and more mobile to lift the feet off the ground slightly when moving).
Perhaps the biggest differences in the forms are the actual combat movements themselves, and how they are almost all considered to be techniques in and of themselves. (The X-like scissor motion used to define the Central Line described earlier being the only movement in the forms that is actually just a “concept” movement). So in this regard TWC is perhaps very unique compared to most other wing chun systems. Virtually every movement in the forms serve a DUAL purpose: they are concepts and they are specific techniques that can be used in specific fighting scenarios. For example, tan sao is a concept AND a specific move that can be used to defend against a backfist, amoungst other things. The same for bong sao, lop, pak, jut, lan, huen, garn, bil, etc.
And while Chum Kil is primarily the next step after learning the basic centerline and central line principles, the cultivation of relaxed internal energy flowing out to the elbows, the basic arm movements and hips-locked-in body structure in Sil Lim tao - that next step in Chum Kil is to use these movements and principles while in motion (ie.-searching for a bridge into your opponent’s space - a concept in itself, as well as a forward energy principles that draw power from the ground, through the legs and hips and out toward the target); nonetheless, the form is also filled with combat-specific hand and kicking techniques.
And the same with Bil Jee - with the obvious difference being the addition of finger strikes and elbow strikes. The “return to the centerline” principle that most other versions of wing chun attribute to Bil Jee (as a means of recovery) is basically only emphasized in TWC when putting the motions of Bil Jee into use during chi sao and sparring, for example, but is not emphasized as being the main reason for the existence of the form itself. The attack aspects of bil jee strikes, the use of elbow strikes, double lop sao, etc. are mainly emphasized - although clearly the defensive aspects (and concepts) associated with fut sao, quan sao, kan sao, and so on are certainly present within Bil Jee. In addition, movements applicable to the use of Butterfly Swords are also found throughout the form.
N) THE WOODEN DUMMY—PAGE 11 The TWC wooden dummy form and applications are very different in many ways, as you may have guessed by now, (ie.- the opening move of section one is the hop Entry Technique from a distance of a few feet away). It is within the wooden dummy that the emphasis is solely on the honing of fighting techniques and applications - many of which are not to be found within the forms, (ie.- sweeps). And of course the strengthening and conditioning of the hands and forearms is another primary objective of WD training. The main body of the TWC dummy actually moves when hit, unlike other Wooden Dummy constructions - since it has free play and therefore more greatly simulates the actual movement of the opponent’s body when struck or kicked. (Distancing and footwork are heavily emphasized within the WD training). And in addition, the numerous combat move applications and techniques used against specific combat scenarios found in the WD are also trained with a partner.
Furthermore, and not unlike the Bil Jee form, there are many Butterfly Sword-specific combat techniques and scenarios found within the Wooden Dummy, (ie.- the pak/ chuen sao bil jee followed by the side kick found in the second section is perhaps more applicable to using the swords against a long weapon like the Dragon Pole than against any other possible scenario, by way of example. (Picture the pak hand as a sword that deflects an on-coming straight thrust of a Dragon Pole somewhere near the end of the Pole while the “bil jee” is really a sword thrust that cuts into the lead hand that your opponent is using to hold the Pole - followed by a downward side kick to his lead leg, or perhaps a sidekick to his body).
O) OTHER ASPECTS OF TWC The system also teaches mental concentration drills, focusing of the mind upon the breath and moving it with active visual imagination throughout the body (chi gung training), meridian acupressure therapy, and the use of herbal remedies for various ailments or to simply maintain good health. Perhaps there will be future articles about these parts of the Traditional Wing Chun Kung Fu system by the author, as well as a more in-depth analysis of the Butterfly Swords and the Dragon Pole weapons.
I would like to Thank Sifu Victor Parlati for his years of dedication to the Practise and spread of the Wing Chun system. You do our clan great servise. Thank you. Brian Scanlon-Administrator-