CHAPTER 4 -- APPLICATIONS OF WING CHOON PATTERNS
One of the best techniques in Wing Choon Kungfu is the thrust-kick
One principal principle of practicing a kungfu set is to learn the exact forms of various combative techniques. Secondly, set practice enables an exponent to develop force, speed and stamina. When one has practiced a set well, he becomes familiar with the combative techniques embedded in the patterns of the set, so that at any time he can execute these techniques flawlessly, forcefully and with speed.
But just knowing the forms of the techniques is not enough; he must next learn and practice how these techniques are used, and what possible changes or variations can be adopted for different situations. It is sad that many people learning "kungfu" without realizing nor appreciating this important fact. They merely practice kungfu sets or patterns over and over again, without understanding their combative applications, and without actually practicing their uses. As a result their "kungfu" becomes mere exhibits, without any martial value. In Chinese such flowery, kungfu-like forms that are only suitable for demonstrations but inadequate for combat are known as "flowery fists and embroidery kicks".
Kungfu, irrespective of its style, is for fighting. Those who say that their kungfu is meant for exercise only and not for fighting, either do not know what they are saying, or do not mean what they say. This, of course, does not imply that kungfu exponents are encouraged to fight; on the contrary, kungfu philosophy teaches love of humanity and peaceful living. It may seem paradoxical that a martial art teaching its exponents to fight well, also emphasizes love and peace. The underlying principle is that one needs to be martially strong to guarantee respectable peace.
Therefore, it is utmost important to learn and practice the combative applications of its component patterns after one has learnt a kungfu set. Excluding repetition there are only twenty patterns in the forty-eight-pattern Wing Choon Kungfu set explained in the previous chapter. It may surprise many people that these twenty patterns, if mastered properly, are sufficient for an exponent to use for countering almost all forms of attacks. This is one reason why Wing Choon Kungfu appear to be a simple martial art, because the emphasis is on mastering few essential techniques while all other elaborate patterns are discarded.
In every kungfu movement or pattern, there is at least one useful function. As Wing Choon Kungfu is famed for its simple appearance but effective application, every Wing Choon pattern is necessarily functional, otherwise it would not be included in the repertoire. Because of space limitation, generally only one function or application per pattern is explained. Nevertheless, if one studies the principles behind the application explained, he would be able to formulate other applications as well.
Kungfu is for fighting, but before you attack an opponent you must "close" him adequately
A particular arrangement of patterns in any kungfu set is to enable a student to remember the patterns conveniently. The sequence, or even the form, of patterns is not absolute, but flexible to allow for variations to suit particular combat situations. For example, according to the Wing Choon set explained in the previous chapter, the mirror-hand block is followed by the Buddha Palm, then by the slap-hand (Patterns 3, 4 and 5). In combat there is, of course, no fixed sequence: the mirror-hand may be followed by a finger-thrust or by any suitable pattern depending on the situation.
Secondly, in the set the mirror-hand is performed at the goat-riding stance; in combat it may be executed at any stance suitable for the situation. The third point to notice is the protective nature of the other non-involved hand. In the set, when one hand is involved in various movements or forms, the other hand is normally held in a fist at the side of the body near the breast; but in application this hand is generally held in front of the body in a Buddha Palm pattern, which doubles as a preventive second-line defence and as a ready counter-attack position.
The four-six stance is not used in the Wing Choon set, but it is frequently used in the applications. This also serves to illustrate the naturalistic feature of Wing Choon stances. The four-six stance is close to natural standing, except that with the knees bent, the stance is at the same time more stable and more agile.
It needs to be stressed that merely knowing the applications is insufficient. One must practice these applications many times so that they can be used precisely and effectively at will. Initially the student can practice the applications alone, but he must keep in mind an imaginary opponent. He should also emphasize on speed, precision and co-ordination. Later, when he can practice with a partner, he emphasizes on anticipation and flexibility. When he is competent of his techniques -- knowing the exact counter for every combat situation almost without thinking, and confident of his skills -- being able to execute the techniques flawlessly and to make appropriate changes if needed at the precise moment; he will find it surprisingly easy to subdue his partners or opponents in free sparring. Then he will not like to be engaged in any real fights because he does not need anyone to assure him of his fighting abilities.
In practicing the following applications with partners, one important point must not be overlooked. Wing Choon attacks are fast and vicious, participants must be extremely careful not to hurt each other.
1. Shaolin Greeting
Besides being a symbol of greeting, this pattern is also functional combatively. If a person attempts to strangle me, I can release his hold by using his pattern -- jerking up my forearms against his elbows and simultaneously striking his neck and nose with my left palm and right fist respectively.
2. Carrying Fists
Someone tries to encircle me from behind. I jab my elbow sharply at him. If the opponent is not behind but close beside me, I can use a variation of this pattern by jabbing my elbow sideways at him.
3. Mirror-Hand Block
This is a common defensive technique against attacks to the upper or middle body. This pattern can be used as an "in-gate" block or an "out-gate" block. "In-gate" and "out-gate" refer to the inside or the outside of an opponent's two arms. If an opponent attacks me with his right hand, and I block with my left hand, mine is an "in-gate" block. If I block his right hand with my right hand, it is an "out-gate" block.
4. Buddha Palm
The circular twist of the wrist in the formation of the Buddha Palm is an excellent way to release or counter-hold an opponent's grip on the forearm. The Buddha Palm itself is very useful, as it can be readily changed to a mirror hand, a slap-hand, a finger-thrust, a cup-fist or any other pattern for countering an opponent's movement.
The Buddha Palm is a pattern of myriad changes. When I change a Buddha Palm to a phoenix-eye fist to strike an opponent, if the opponent shifts his body backward and uses a hand to ward off my phoenix-eye fist, which is a likely move in this situation, I shall immediately change my phoenix-eye fist to a finger-thrust to strike his throat.
The slap-hand is used to slap aside an opponent's attack, especially an attack to the upper body. It is also used to push aside an opponent's hand, just before one moves in for a strike. The slap-hand can be used as an "in-gate" or an "out-gate" block.
As an attack pattern, the cup-fist is obvious. But not many people realize that it can also be used to deflect an opponent's strike, and at the same time it strikes the opponent. For example, as an opponent starts to punch me, I thrust out my cup-fist at his nose. I need not bother to defend against his punch directly, because as my cup-fist is thrusted out, my forearm will brush against the elbow of the opponent's attacking arm, thus deflecting or bouncing his arm aside.
This "attack-cum-defence" tactic can be used as an "in-gate" or an "out-gate" strike. It illustrates the tactical superority of Wing Choon Kungfu. As soon as the opponent attacks, he finds himself being attacked!
When I attack the opponent's nose with a cup-fist, my straighten arm is slightly raised and my body is temptingly exposed. If the opponent tries to strike this momentarily exposed target, I can "sink" or lower my palm to defence. Sometimes it may be useful to "swallow" or move back the body slightly without moving the legs to minimize the attacking force.
After "sinking" the opponent's attack, I instantaneously shoot out my finger-thrust at his throat, the two patterns (sinking and shooting) flowing together as if they were one swift movement. Notice that as I thrust out my fingers, I use the other hand to guard the opponent's front hand.
If the opponent retreats his front leg, thus making the distance too wide for me to reach him, I can bridge the gap by moving to a bow-arrow stance. The finger-thrust, like a snake, is a vicious pattern; it should be used only when necessary.
Unlike the taming-hand in some other styles of kungfu, the Wing Choon taming-hand is slightly arched, not straight. A straight palm in a taming-hand technique is generally more forceful, but an arched palm gives other benefits.
For example, it provides the Wing Choon exponent better control or feel of the opponent's arm. The taming-hand is sometimes used to "sink" an opponent's attack, as in sinking-palm, but while a Wing Choon exponent using a sinking-palm generally follows immediately with a counter-strike (like a finger-thrust, a cup-fist or a phoenix-eye fist), one using a taming-hand normally "retains" the opponent's arm (by keeping the taming-hand in contact with it) so as to feel the opponent's next move.
If a Wing Choon master, for example, meets a hasty, aggressive opponent who cares only for attack, the master can readily surprise the aggressor with a sinking-palm followed by a finger-thrust. On the other hand, when the Wing Choon master meets a careful, versatile fighter, the master may prefer a taming-hand to feel the opponent, so that he can execute the appropriate counters when the opponent makes the next move.
In this way, the master keeps his opponent under control; whatever changes the opponent may make will be frustrated by the master's ready counters which seem to flow from the opponent's own movements. To arrive at this level of kungfu accomplishment of course needs much time and effort.
10. Phoenix-Eye Fist
I have retained the opponent's arm with a taming-hand, as in the previous pattern. Since my palm is resting against his arm, it is difficult for him to life it up or to push it forward. To avoid being controlled by my palm, the opponent may want to retreat his arm.
As I sense his intention, I change my taming-hand into a phoenix-eye fist and thrust it at the opponent's solar plexus, using my forearm to press his arm to maintain contact, and to make it difficult for him to avoid my attack.
As an opponent attacks my middle or lower body, I rotate my body and defend with a guard-hand. The guard-hand can be used not only against a straight punch, but also against a thrust-kick. If an "in-gate" guard-hand is used against a thrust kick, a suitable counter-attack is the stamp-hand. If an "out-gate" guard-hand is used, a suitable counter-attack is flank-breaking palms.
12. Reverse Stamp-Hand
Immediately after blocking an opponent's attack with a guard-hand (as in the previous application), I counter-attack with a reverse stamp-hand to the opponent's dan tian, which is a vital point about 2 inches below the naval. As I strike out, I use my other hand to guard the opponent's front hand.
The opponent tames my stamp-hand and strikes my ribs with his other hand. I "sink" my elbow to defend against the attack.
Immediately I shoot my palm (facing upward) at his throat, taking care to over his attacking hand. If I still cannot reach my opponent, I can bridge the gap by using a bow-arrow stance.
Different people naturally have different favourite patterns. The pattern that I like best in the Wing Choon set is the thrust-kick. Some people may find it hard to believe, but this thrust-kick can be used to counter almost any form of attack.
As an opponent attacks me, I move a small step diagonally and simultaneously counter-attack with a thrust-kick to his abdomen. If the opponent retreats his front leg and sweeps at my kicking leg, which is an excellent response, I withdraw my kicking leg, move a big step forward and execute a left finger-thrust at his throat. This finger-thrust pattern is an excellent follow-up technique of the thrust-kick.
With appropriate modification, it can be used to frustrate almost all likely counters the opponent may make against my thrust-kick. If the opponent wards off my left finger-thrust, he will find right finger-thrust at his throat.
16. Yin-Yang Palms
This yin-yang palms pattern is a Wing Choon poise-pattern that is frequently used while awaiting an opponent's initial moves or while studying his possible weaknesses. The yin-yang formation of the palms not only provides comprehensive coverage, but is also conducive to myriad changes.
Many people prefer the four-six stance for this poise-pattern, but personally I prefer the goat-riding stance. While it may appear clumsy for combative movements, the goat-riding stance is actually deceptively flexible. For example, it is difficult for my opponent to anticipate which direction I shall move to when he attacks, because I can move to any direction with equal ease. Coupled with the versatile yin-yang position of the palms, this poise-pattern is therefore illusive even to experienced opponents.
The pinning-hand movement is not only a fundamental Wing Choon defence, but is also a basic technique in developing hand sensitivity in sticking-hands (which will be explained in Chapter 7). For the advanced exponent, the pinning-hand movement can also lock the opponent's hands before striking him.
Obviously in frank-breaking-hands, one hand is used to block an opponent's attack, and the other hand is used to simultaneously strike him. Flank-breaking-hands can be used as "in-gate" or "out-gate".
Besides being a major defensive technique in Wing Choon Kungfu, the circling-hand movement also constitutes an important exercise in the practice of sticking-hand, or chi sau.
The scissors-hands pattern is another Wing Choon poise-pattern. When I place my hands in this scissors-formation, it is hard for my opponents to anticipate or see which hand I shall use in my attacking or defensive movements.
This pattern can also be used for defending an attack, especially a straight attack. The hallmark of this defensive technique lies not in its blocking, but in its illusive scissors-formation. As an intermediate move before countering, this scissors-hand pattern is superb, because its firm grip makes it hard for the opponent to withdraw his hand speedily and the deceptive positioning of the scissors-hands helps to confuse the opponent when counter-attacking.
When the scissors-hand formation is used in the pattern, "Double Worshipping of the Buddha", it is a very powerful internal force development method. It is reputed that Ng Mui, the teacher of Yim Wing Choon, used this method.
Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit,
18th July 2019.
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