CHAPTER 6 -- FROM COMBINATION PRACTICE TO FREE SPARRING
I use "Yin-Yang Palms" in a goat-riding stance to watch my opponet
In practicing miscellaneous techniques, as in the previous chapter, we presume, for the convenience of classification, that our counter-actions subdue an opponent immediately so that there is no need for subsequent actions. This, in fact, is the ultimate aim of a fighter -- to defeat an opponent as soon as he begins attack. However, this is not always feasible in real combat. If the opponent is skillful (and in kungfu we always presume that he is, and we never underestimate him) he can neutralize our counter-actions and initiate subsequent attacks. Or he may execute a series of attacks at once, so that we have to defend against these many attacks before we respond with any counter-strikes. To prepare for such contingencies, we proceed to the next stage of kungfu training -- Combination Practice.
In Combination Practice, two (and sometimes more) exponents perform in opposition a series of kungfu application in a pre-arranged sequence. This combination sequence or combination set is a logical development of practicing miscellaneous techniques. It is really a set consisting of various attack-defence units logically linked together.
A selection of a Wing Choon combination set is explained on the following pages. The connecting movement between two patterns, body co-ordination and footwork are as important as the hand-forms of the patterns. Notice that in Wing Choon Kungfu the exponent often moves forward when defending.
I use a goat-riding yin-yang palms pattern to study the opponent. (Please see the picture above.) As he attacks with a left stance right straight-punch, I block with a left slap-hand. His first attack is a feint; before I cound execute a counter-attack, he strikes out with a horse-riding left punch. I shift slightly to my left side to avoid his punch, ward off the opponent's attack with a right circling-hand, and counter-strike with a left phoenix-eye fist -- all these movements in one smooth, simultaneous action.
The opponent retreats his left leg a small step backward, uses a simultaneous right pinning-hand and left circling-hand to "open" my arms, and execute a shift right snap-kick at my lower vital organs -- again all in one smooth, simultaneous action.
I move my body to my right side to avoid his kick, then simultaneously attack his groin with a left thrust-kick.
Sensing muy attack approaching, the opponent brings back his right leg to cross his left leg, and executes a left tiger-tail kick. I defend with my right guard-hand. I am about to move forward with my reverse stamp-hand to his external sex organ.
But the opponent moves back his left leg, ward off my reverse stamp-hand with his right tiger-claw, while his left tiger-claw comes at my face in a pattern known as "Night Tiger Emerges from Jungle".
I quickly move to my left side and executes a right thrust-kick at him. My opponent shifts his body backward and wards-off my thrust-kick. I move forward swiftly with a right cup-fist, but the opponent "tames" my hand with his left hand.
I move forward with a finger-thrust. The opponent retreats his front left leg into a left false-leg stance, and "slaps" his hand under my right elbow.
Shiftly he moves his leg front leg forward into a left bow-arrow stance, and attacks my face with his right tiger-claw. I sink into my right four-six stance and "cover" his right tiger-claw with my right hand.
Immediately, my opponent lowers his body and attacks me with his right leg in a pattern called "Naughty Monkey Kicks at Leaves". I quickly retreat and cover with a "taming-hand".
As my opponent rises, I move forward with a left finger-thrust. He wards off with his left tiger-claw, using the pattern "Single Tiger Emerges from Cave".
Immediately, my opponent moves his right leg forward into a right bow-arrow stance, and strikes me with his right punch. This is a deep, penetrating technique. I move my right leg backward into a left bow-arrow stance, ward off his penetraing punch with my right cicling-hand, and simultaneously execute a left finger-thrust into his throat -- all in one smooth movement.
The opponent sinks back his body, wards off my two hands with is right circling hand, moves his left leg close to me and executes a left elbow strike, in a pattern called "Black Crow Flaps Wings".
Quickly I move my left leg backward into a right four-six stance, and control his elbow with my right slap-hand.
Immediately the oppoent executes a right thrust-kick at my groin. I quickly retreat into a right four-six stance and sweep off his kick with my right sweeping-hand.
As both of us do not have any advantage, my opponent withdraws his kick into a left false-leg stance in a pattern, "Single Tiger Emerges from Cave", and I watch him in my "Yin-Yang Palms" in a goat-riding stance.
The techniques shown in the combination set above are advanced, and naturally it needs much skill to execute them well. Notice that both exponents not only know the appropriate technique and its variation for each encounter, but more importantly, they can execute the technique or modify it at the precise moment. In an ordinary fight, such advanced techniques are not normally seen. They are presented here to give the student an idea of advanced kungfu techniques, so that he may have some guidelines to work for as he progresses. It is safe to say that an exponent who knows such advanced techniques, and has the necessary skills to execute them well, can easily handle any ordinary opponent in any situation.
The techniques used by me in the examples above are typically Wing Choon, while those used by my partner are representative of Southern Shaolin styles, particularly Hoong Ka Kungfu. At any one instant in the above series of encounters, the exponent who errs in his anticipation, is slow in his reaction, or uncertain in his coordination, will be defeated at that instant.
The combination practice described here and the specific techniques described in the previous chapter, are two kinds of prearranged sparring aimed at preparing the student for free sparring and actual fighting. They are two essential aspects of kungfu, without which kungfu become meaningless, lacking in combative functions.
Some people argue that prearranged sparring and actual fighting are different. In prearranged sparring, both exponents follow routine movements; whereas in actual fighting, the fighters' movements are free and unpredictable. It is better, they reason, to practice free sparring straight away, short of engaging in street fights to get experience.
While it is true that there is much difference bertween prearranged sparring and actual fighting, to practice free sparring directly as a means to actual fighting is unmethodical. Without preliminary training in prearranged sparring, a student when asked to free spar will often find himself at loss as to what to do. He may theoretically know the correct counter-techniques against certain attack, but when he is attacked in this way in free sparring, he cannot execute the counter-techniques effectively. In kungfu phraseology, this difficulty or failure to respond at will is termed "strength does not follow the heart".
One of the purposes of prearranged sparring is to familiarize and condition a student's responses to various attacks, so that when he is so attacked he can apply the right counter-movements almost automatically. In other words, he can "execute movements readily according to his will".
The onus of specific techniques and combination practice is not merely following presecribed movements, as many unenlightened students do, but to develop anticipation, steadiness, reflex and co-ordination. For instance, when one lifts his hand to block his partner's punch, he does so not because this movement is prearranged, but because he sees his partner's punch coming.
The progress from prearranged sparring to free sparring should not be sudden; but be one of gradual diminishing control. In other words, the amount of prearranged movements and other controlled factors should be gradually lessen, so that students practicing prearranged sparring initially, will eventually be doing free sparring.
One can, for example, start with one-step sparring; that is, his partner initiates only one attack and waits for the student to counter. This is actually free practice of specific techniques in one attack-defence unit. Next, they progress to two-step sparring. The partner initiates an attack and the student counters. Then the partner continues from the counter-action and initiates a second attack which the student again counters. In this way they gradually proceed to multiple-step sparring.
It is worth stressing an almost obvious point. The aim of sparring practice, whether prearranged or free, is not to defeat the other person, but to improve ones skills and techniques. The partners, therefore, need to co-operate closely in order to derive the best results mutually.
Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit,
18th July 2019.
Introduction to Wing Choon Kungfu
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