Ambrose Academy
Kung Fu Sashes Three Structural Rules of Wing Chun Do

Due to their ancient origins, and the lack of archival media available at the time, combined often, with a need for secrecy, the true nature of many early martial arts cannot be fully understood today. In order to maintain consistency and continuity most martial arts created kata or forms to catalog and archive techniques and application. This allowed the art to be passed down, ostensibly intact, and as closely as possible to the founder's original intent. While this approach has worked fairly well in preserving knowledge of the physical techniques for any given art, key elements of its conceptual approach to combat may have been lost.

Wing Chun Do, being a modern martial art, has had the luxury of both print and electronic media for use in archiving its physical and conceptual elements. Yet, one of the most important tenets of WCD is that it should continue to grow and evolve, ever willing to check its premises and adapt to the needs of the modern time. But, in order to grow without losing sight of its founder's original intent, any changes, additions or subtractions must be made with strict reference to Wing Chun Do's 'three structural rules'.

Rule 1: Simplicity

Rule no. 1 is simplicity – meaning easy and natural for the human body. Natural technique can be learned quickly and once acquired is usually retained for life. Like biking or swimming, once the skill is acquired, even if you do not practice for years, you do not have to reinstall training-wheels in order to ride your bicycle. Also, natural technique can be applied spontaneously, without thought or effort. It requires no warm-up and little or no maintenance. If a technique is not natural, one may find it difficult or impossible to execute in a panic situation.

Rule 2: Efficiency

Rule no. 2 is efficiency – meaning no wasted energy. Efficient technique has three criteria. First, it must take the most direct path to get the job done, so as not to waste motion and therefore time. Second, it must be non-telegraphic because no matter how fast you can move from point 'a' to point 'b', if the opponent sees you coming, it becomes very difficult to get to the target. Third, technique must have structural strength, which means it must be in harmony with the body's natural mechanics. This means employing the proper alignment of bone, muscle and tendon which allows you to express the body's total natural strength potential, minimizing the use of force.

Rule 3: Practicality

Rule no. 3 is practicality – meaning it must work in a real situation, against a determined attacker, acting without hesitation, fear or conscience.

In order to retain the effectiveness of the art, the use of these three structural rules as a litmus-test for technique provides WCD an additional reference to help preserve and disseminate the art as closely as possible to its founder's original intent.

Tool Pouch Concept

In early eastern culture, martial arts and religion were often intertwined. In fact, it was accepted that the training was to be a life-long endeavor. It was expected that practitioners would devote many hours a day to meditation and practice, acknowledging that perfecting oneself physically and spiritually would take a life time. However, in modern western society/culture the average student has so many demands on his time that, after satisfying everyday obligations and responsibilities, there is precious little time to devote to martial art training. In order to maximize effectiveness in training and optimize results of available training time, Wing Chun Do has adopted the tool pouch concept.

Each trade/profession requires a set of tools which allow its user to do his job effectively in the least amount of time possible. Various trades will have certain tools in common – say a hammer, saw, drill, screwdriver and such. However, each trade will have tools specific to its procedures. In other words, an auto mechanic requires tools not needed by a carpenter, who uses tools not needed by a plumber, who has tools not necessary for an electrician, who has tools specific to his profession. Additionally, it should be noted that, while each tradesman possesses a full complement of tools, when it comes time to climb the ladder and accomplish a specific task, he cannot take his entire toolbox with him. Therefore, he dons a small tool pouch and takes only those tools that are most versatile and will allow him to complete the task without being weighed down.

Relating this concept to martial arts in general – a well-rounded martial artist needs a broad set of tools, not just a punch, kick or block. He also needs skills such as jumping, rolling, climbing and spinning, as well as a variety of blocks, strikes, stances and ground fighting techniques. (Things necessary for competition or entertaining demonstrations)

Wing Chun Do defines its nature (trade) not so much as that of a martial artist, but that of a self-defense entity, who requires far fewer tools to accomplish his task – specifically – neutralize the threat. On the street, one needs very few techniques to neutralize an attacker. Moreover, the more tools you carry in the pouch, the more choices you have; the more decisions you have to make. But, in a street attack there is no time to think. Therefore, Wing Chun Do carefully selects techniques based on their versatility, each technique chosen for its adaptability to the widest spectrum of circumstances. This is the key to our training method, and the reason that the WCD student can become proficient in a short period of time. We maximize the efficiency of our training by concentrating our time on developing genuine skill at a minimum number of techniques. After all, becoming skillful at a wide variety of techniques can take a lifetime. But if you had six, eight, or say a maximum a dozen techniques that you had mastered, you would be able to handle virtually any self-defense situation you are likely to encounter on the street. Of course WCD teaches more than a dozen techniques, but much if it is taught as attribute training, designed to facilitate and enhance your ability to apply the techniques in your tool pouch.

Intuitive Response

When asked what he considered to be Bruce Lee's most remarkable attribute, Sijo James DeMile responded, "It was his ability to respond intuitively. He always knew what we were going to do before we did it."

When confronted by a potential assailant, one of the key elements necessary to maximize your chances of survival is the ability to react intuitively, i.e. spontaneously. This is crucial because the earlier you intercept his motion, the less energy you have to deal with. The later you respond, the more power and momentum are developed. Intuitive response is the ability to quiet oneself in order to sense the minute changes in the opponent's energy level that take place when he decides he is ready to attack – almost as if you knew what was about to happen. While the assailant is in pre-assault mode, his energy level is in 'build-up' mode. Even if he is emotional and gesticulating and threatening verbally, prior to the actual attack, his internal dialog is "I'm not ready yet…I'm getting ready… I'm almost ready…" and his energy level reflects his level of resolve. At the instant that his internal dialog switches to "Now, I'm ready!" his energy level suddenly inflates and, if you are sensitive, the change is immediately discernable. Intuitive response relies on the subconscious to sense these changes. It is not something that can be consciously explained. It is a feeling – a sense that something is about to happen. If you can say that you saw the assailants shoulder flinch, then it is not an intuitive response. It is a reaction to a clearly understood stimulus. If you consciously registered the shoulder moving before you began moving, then your defensive response was delayed. But, if you begin to move intuitively without conscious involvement then your response will be virtually simultaneous to the attack.

For the Wing Chun Do practitioner, development of the intuitive response is a primary goal. It allows for the earliest possible response to the opponent's motion, reacting at the inception of his motion when his energy level is still very low and requires the least amount of energy to neutralize.

Blocking vs. Clearing the Perimeter

In Wing Chun Do, we differentiate our defensive hand principles from the concept of blocking because blocking connotes a specific response to the opponent's offensive technique. To understand why this is undesirable, we must explore two key concepts – that of lag-time, and the nature of the 'block'.

Let's first tackle the concept of lag-time. When you react to a stimulus i.e. a punch – say a high hook – you react twice. First you react mentally and then you react physically. The mental reaction is called 'lag time'. The physical reaction is referred to as 'speed of motion' (movement from point A to point B). In our example, the high hook, in order to correctly identify the type of technique being thrown by the opponent, you must go through four distinct processes during the lag-time phase: perception, analysis, decision-making, and finally, the word "go!"

  • Perception is automatic and subliminal (if you are paying attention). It is the sensation that something is changing.
  • Following the initial perception that something is about to happen, you must analyze many factors: punch or kick, high or low, hook or straight, etc.
  • Next, having correctly identified the incoming technique, you must decide on the proper counter technique.
  • But, until you give yourself the command to "Go!" you're still standing there.

Lag-time is a significant factor in the survival equation.

Next, let's analyze the nature of the block. Blocking is a specific response to an incoming technique. You see a hook to the head; you respond with a technique designed to block a hook to the head. It should work, right? Let's explore the possibilities. There are, generally speaking, two distinct categories of blocking techniques – static and chasing. Either variant can be effective if you have correctly identified the type of technique being thrown. But, if you are mistaken, or if the opponent is throwing a fake, then because of lag time, your block will not work.

The first category is the 'static' type of block, characterized by static, or rigid, locked-out positions such as you see in many of the so-called hard-style martial arts. A static block is placed between the incoming technique and the target, anticipating the impact and hoping it is strong enough to stop the incoming technique. In the case of a static block, one of the following results is inevitable.

  • It works.
  • If you have misread the technique, you have blocked the wrong target.
  • If the perceived technique is really a fake, the rigid nature of the static block hinders your ability to adapt to the true threat.
  • Even if you have correctly assessed the situation, if the opponent is much larger than you, the rigid nature of the static block will transfer the impact energy into you, affecting your base.

The second type of block is the 'chasing' variant. A chasing block is launched toward the incoming weapon with the intention of intercepting the technique as far as possible from the target.

In the case of a chasing block, one of the following results is inevitable.

  • It works.
  • If you have misread the technique, you have blocked the wrong target and your hand has traveled quite a distance from the body leaving other targets wide open.
  • If the perceived technique is really a fake, you have undoubtedly overcommitted and your hand has traveled quite a distance from the actual intended target hindering your ability to adapt to the true threat.
  • Even if you have correctly assessed the situation, because lag-time causes a delay in your response, the opponent has built up a great deal of momentum which will cause a disruptive collision.

Both of these variants are purposely-specific responses to the opponent's offensive technique. Both can be effective if you can correctly assess the attack. However, a block designed to intercept only one specific type of punch or kick leaves you vulnerable to being faked and drawn to a neutral or weak position. And, to be absolutely certain in your choice of blocks, you must fully analyze his attack, delaying your response. In either case, your chance of responding correctly is about 25%, not so good.

In contrast, the Wing Chun Do method of defense is a concept called "Clearing the Perimeter". Clearing the perimeter involves the use of generalized sweeping motions designed to intercept and redirect, to the outside, any offensive energy entering the perimeter; effectively clearing only your personal perimeter space while maximizing your counter-offensive potential. By teaching yourself to reflexively clear only the space within the perimeter, you virtually eliminate over-commitment when applying technique – even when faked. The bonus is, since perimeter-clearing techniques are purposely designed to intercept any type of energy encountered within the perimeter space, lag time is greatly reduced. Since there is no need to fully analyze the type of technique being thrown and since practice and experience have pre-determined your physical response, the steps of analysis and decision-making are eliminated and you go directly from perception to "go!". (Saves a lot of time.) When clearing the perimeter, one of the following will result:

  • You accurately assess the threat and effectively clear the perimeter and go immediately offensive.
  • Your assessment was incorrect but, because your response is immediate, your arms have closed the perimeter and the opponent's technique must contact your arms before it can contact the target, allowing you to absorb and redirect the attack and go straight to offense.
  • Your intuitive response is so early that you pre-empt the opponent's attack at its inception and go immediately offensive.

Blocking requires full analysis and increases lag-time. It results in a late response and increases the likelihood of chasing when faked. Since the Clearing the Perimeter Concept ensures that you will not chase and that you will intercept all energy within the perimeter, you don't have to wait to react to the opponent's specific punch or kick. You are now able to react to his intent to punch or kick. Because you no longer have to wait to fully evaluate his attack, you can intuitively respond to his slightest telegraph.