Using a phoenix-eye fist to counter a straight attack

One can learn to use Wing Choon Kungfu for combat by learning the combat applications of each pattern in the Wing Choon Kungfu set. In other words, he learns from patterns to functions -- that is, examining each pattern for its combative functions, as in Chapter 4. There is another, reverse way to learn Wing Choon Kungfu for combat, that is by learning from functions to patterns. Here, a student examines various combative situations, and then finds the appropriate Wing Choon techniques to overcome the situations. For example, he may imagine an opponent attacking him with a side kick, and then select a suitable pattern from the Wing Choon set that can be effectively used to counter this kicking attack.

To make an obvious point, one combat situation can be adequately dealt with by using many possible counter techniques, just as each technique can be effectively used for overcoming more than one type of combative situations. For example, a situation wherein an opponent attacks with a sweeping kick can be dealt by using a thrust-kick, a bow-arrow finger-thrust, or a flank-breaking-hand. On the other hand, a thrust-kick can also be used against other types of combative situations, such as against another thrust-kick, a swinging punch or a tiger-claw. Because of space limitation, generally only one pattern or technique is illustrated in this chapter for use against each combative situation. Nevertheless, when one has understood the underlying principles involved, he can provide other appropriate counter actions.

1. Against a Straight Attack

A straight punch is representative of all other forms of straight attacks, like a palm strike, a finger-thrust, a leopard punch and a phoenix-eye fist.

As an opponent attacks, I respond with a simultaneous mirror-hand block and finger-thrust. I shift my body slightly to one side, without moving my feet, to avoid the full force of the attack. If the opponent is not physically stronger than I am, I may choose not to shift my body. If the opponent is tall, I may use a pheonix-eye fist to his solar plexus instead of a finger-thrust to his throat.

2. Against a Swinging Punch (Upper Cut)

Trying to stop a swinging puunch or upper cut by placing a hand or even an arm downwards to stop its swinging momentum is using force against force, and is not consistent with Wing Choon principles. A swinging punch is generally forceful, and it needs much force to stop it directly.

To deflect a swinging punch by using a mirror-hand or a slapping-hand is acceptable, but the defender must minimize the opponent's force by appropriate co-ordinating body and hand movements. In this case, an out-gate block is generally prefered to an in-gate block.

An ideal method, however, is to dodge the swinging punch and counter-strike simultaneously. I use the bow-arrow stance here, instead of the four-six stance, as the bow-arrow stance offers me further distance from the opppent's attack. Because the opponent's arm has to be bent to execute the swinging punch, this type of attack is "short-reach" -- compare it, for example, with the "long-reach" attack of my finger-thrust.

3. Against a Downward Chop

It is unwise to raise a hand or an arm to block a downward chop directly -- just as it is unwise to lower the hand for a swinging punch. The raised hand or arm in an attempt to block a powerful chop may be fractured by the chopping momentum.

An interesting Wing Choon technique against a chopping or downward attack is the circling-hand. Actually the circling-hand is not used to block, but used to deflect and "cover" the downward momentum of the chop. When an opponent executes his chop, I shift my body slightly aside to avoid the opponent's full force, and simultaneously move my circling-hand to deflect and cover his chop.

Just as my forarm, which is initially below, is in contact with the opponent's arm, I circle my forearm round the opponent's arm so that my arm is now above his. Instantly I curve down my arm, following his downward momentum so as to cover his attack. I can now send a shooting-palm to his throat, or a phoenix-eye fist to his ribs.

4. Against a Horn-Punch

A horn-punch is so named because it resembles a horn of a buffalo. It is similar to the hook punch in Western Boxing nomenclature.

Unless the defender is forceful and experienced, it is not advisable to use an in-gate block against a horn-punch. Firstly, it needs much force to block a horn-punch directly. Secondly, as soon as an in-gate block is in contact with the horn-punch, a skillful attacker may suddenly straighten his bent arm changing his horn-punch into a finger-thrust at the surprised defender.

I use an out-gate slap-hand to deflect an opponent's horn-punch. I shift my body slightly backwards, without moving my feet, to avoid his full force. Following the sweeping momentum of his horn-punch, I push his hand aside and simultaneously move in with a shooting palm strike at his soft arm-pit. My slap-hand is continually in contact with his horn-punch so that I can sense his mnovements if he intends to straighten his arm or to make any other chamnges.

I can also use a thrust-kick against his horn-punch. I move backwards slightly to avoid the full force of his horn-punch, and simultaneously kick him.

5. Against a Horizontal Sweep

There are many ways to defend against a horizontal sweep, such as using a slap-hand, a circling-hand or a pinning-hand, each followed by a counter-attack such as a shooting-palm, a cup-fist or a phoenix-eye fist.

I use a scissors-hands technique to stop a horizontal sweep. The scissors-formation of my arms helps to minimize the opponent's force. Nevertheless, this way of blocking is perhaps the less typical of Wing Choon tactics, because, although the opponent's force is much minimized, it is still using force against force. Therefore, it is recommended only when the opponent is equally or less strong in physical strength.

Immediately after blocking the opponent's attack, I shoot out my finger-thrust. My thrusting arm will simultaneously deflect or bounce off his attack if he tries to do so with the other hand. Also I raise my left hand to guard his left hand, and be ready to thrust out if needed.

Alternatively, I do not counter-attack immediately, but to maintain my blocking-hands against his attacking arm to sense his next move. When he moves (e.g. like withdrawing his right arm, retracting his front leg, or attacking me with his left hand), I speedily shoot out my finger-thrust, moving my leg forward if necessary. This scissors-hands technique, therefore, has certain functions and advantages that may not be found in other techniques. For this reason, amongst others, it is included in Wing Choon Kungfu.

The flank-breaking-hands technique can be equally effective against a horizontal sweeping leg (like a round-house kick) to the mid-section. For a low sweeping kick, however, another technique is needed.

6. Against a Low Sweeping Kick

An opponent lowers his body and uses his right leg in a sweeping-floor attack, attempting to sweep me off the ground or to break my front leg. I jump diagonally forward to my right side and execute a left thrust-kick at his face. When he rises I can move forward with a finger-thrust. However, if he moves forward to attack me as he rises, I retreat my left leg but still execute my finger-thrust, simultaneously brushing off his attack as I thrust out.

7. Against a Sweeping Kick The thrust-kick can be used against a middle or a high sweeping kick, or round-house kick, too. When an opponent's sweeping kick is still in the process of its sweeping movement, I step forward diagonally in the direction opposite his kicking movement, and execute a thrust-kick to his groin. If the opponent lowers his leg and wards off my thrust-kick, he will find my right finger-thrust at his throat, and my left hand pressing his arm to control its movement.

Besides the thrust-kick, a finger-thrust at bow-arrow stance is also an effective counter against the sweeping kick. Of course, I can use the phoenix-eye punch or the cup-fist instead of the finger-thrust. Instead of attacking the opponent's external reproductive organs, I can for humanitarian reason attack his abdomen or his thigh.

The examples here illustrate why the sweeping kick is seldom used in kungfu in general, except when the exponent can prevent the opponent from counter-attacking, and never used in Wing Choon Kungfu in particular. The sweeping kick is technically slow and expose the vital organs too openly.

8. Against Front and Side Kicks

The thrust-kick and the bow-arrow finger-thrust are also excellent counters against the front thrust-kick, the front snap-kick and the side-kick. As the opponent's thrust kick is approaching, I step forward diagonally and reply with a thrust-kick. The thrust-kick is normally aimed at the opponent's groin, but in this case I show mercy by thrust-kicking at his thigh.

If an opponent attacks me with a side-kick, I can respond with a bow-arrow finger-thrust. We can see why in Chinese kungfu, the thrust-kick is generally prefered to the side-kick. In executing the side-kick, the exponent exposes more than in the thrust-kick, the external reproductive organs dangerously. Moreover, he cannot maintain his balance as well as in executing a thrust-kick. Because of these two reasons, amongst others, it is technically easier for an exponent executing a thrust-kick to defend himself against a counter-attack, especically to his groin.

For example, for the opponent in the side-kick to defend against or counter my attack to his groin (be it a thrust-kick or a finger-thrust), he may (a) bring his kicking leg backward; (b) swing his kicking leg inward to block my counter-attack with his foot; or (c) jump up raising his other knee to block my counter-attack. It is technically harder for him to do any of these actions if he uses a side-kick.

9. Against a Reverse Round-House Kick

Because it is technically slow and awkward, the reverse round-house kick is never used in Wing Choon Kungfu. When it is used in other styles of kungfu, it is usually because it happens to be particularly advantageous or necessary in that specific situation. To use the reverse round-house kick freely without understanding its potential setbacks and specific advantages, is unwise, because a skillful expoent can easily and effectually counter-strike a reverse round-house kick.

As an opponent executes his reverse round-house kick, sweeping the kick in a big, clumsy arch, sometimes making a complete turn of 360 degrees, to reach me, I simply move forward diagonally to the other side, and strike him from behind. There is no need to block his reverse round-house kick, because my strike (with internal force and at his spine) will disable him, even before his leg can complete half its circuitous journey. If one has not developed some internal force for a decisive strike, he can use a thrust-kick at his back. A kick will send the opponent, already badly balanced in the process of his reverse round-house kick, sprawling forward.

10. Against a Simultaneous Hand and Leg Attack

An opponent attacks with his hand and his leg simultaneously. I retreat my stance to avoid his simultaneous attack, and immediately respond with a phoenix-eye fist using an out-gate approach.

There are numerous possible follow-up techniques I can use. I can move forward instantly, glide my hands along his arms and strike him with my palm. Alternatively, I can wait for the opponent to make his next move from this situation, and I counter-move accordingly.

For conveniece of study, each attack shown is met with one counter, or one group of counters, and the attack and counter constitute one unit. For example, an opponent attacks me with a straight punch, and I counter with a simultaneous mirror-hand and finger-thrust. In kungfu nomenclature, these attack-counter units are called "san-sau", which literally means "loose-hand". Figuratively, "san sau" are specific techniques used for specific combative situations.

These san-sau or miscellaneous techniques are normally practiced in isolation, not in preattanged sets. In other words, a kungfu student practices any one specific technique at a time, and repeat the process many times until that particular technique can be effected flawlessly at will. Practicing these miscellaneous techniques is very important. Unless a student practices themn well, he will not be able to use these techniques in practical situations, although he may know them in theory.

On the other hand, some people attempting to have some combative know-how as fast as they can, learn these miscellaneous techniques straight away, without first practicing kungfu sets. This short-cut method obviously saves mush time, but if one wants to learn kungfu completely or learn it the way it should be learnt, this short-cut method is not a good way.

Among other reasons, learning specific techniques alone without knowing the corresponding kungfu sets, deprives the student of understanding the techniques in depth, and of appreciating the basic patterns from which the applications derive. It is analogous to learning to paint by painting isolated pictures, instead of first learning the fundamental principles of painting. Moreover, besides familiarizing the student with basic patterns, set practice also develops force, stamina and co-ordination, so that be will be a better performer than when he only practices miscellaneous techniques.

A student can practice these miscellaneous techniques alone. He should imagine an opponent attacking him in a specific manner, and he responds with the appropriate techniques. When he can execute the techniques precisely and reflexively, he can practice with a partner.

Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit,
18th July 2019.


Introduction to Wing Choon Kungfu

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