Wing Chun Body Structure
Wing Chun is based on simple movements and positions of both arms and legs which work off, simple and natural, geometric shapes that are easy to maintain, even during a stressful situation such as combat.
The main shape that is referred to throughout the system is a triangle and this is referred to as triangulation. The reason behind this is that a triangle is the strongest shape known to man and is used throughout the construction industry today.
In Wing Chun your arms and legs form various triangle shapes which in turn form other triangles with other parts of the body, such as shoulders, hips, hands, knees and feet etc.
Using these shapes, the body is then positioned in such a way that it "closes off" an opponent's direct access using obstruction and this is done using deflection or indirect blocking methods. This blocking method removes the need to block using force and using the natural alignment of the body position, disperses the oncoming force. This reduces the need to use strength thus making movements faster and more efficient, which in turn make your counter attack faster.
With all this in mind, this makes the Wing Chun practitioner work less whilst the opponent has to work very hard indeed.
Some call Wing Chun the "lazy man's Kung Fu."
Each individual position of both hands and feet has its own set of unique characteristics one needs to refer to several structural principles in order to adopt the correct body structure.
The lower body is often referred to as "ma" and is frequently translated as stance; "ma" actually translates as "horse".
The word "stance" is more of a static reference i.e. poised and ready, where the word "horse" is more dynamic.
The horse is the direct connection between the ground which is the source of power in Chinese martial arts and the upper body.
When static the horse is able to root the practitioner to the ground and if an opponent pushes the practitioner then he/she uses the ground to push dispersing the force, if an opponent pulls the practitioner then he/she uses the ground to pull, again dispersing the force.
When using the lower body to move you are able to disrupt and opponents structure, uproot and send them off balance with the smallest amount of effort.
Most of the principles referred to are from the first form, which is very ironic as there is very little movement with the lower body in Sil Lim Tao. However what Sil Lim Tao teaches is that a good foundation of the lower body is a key point to build on as you progress through the system.
- Tuck the hips under as this joins both upper and lower body together. This enables the power lines to be connected from the ground, up through the legs, in to the upper body and in to the arms. This does not mean that you use the strength in you arms, this is purely body structure.
- Sink you body weight by bending and clamping your knees slightly to lower the posture/stance. This will put the practitioner's lower body in to a 3D triangle (pyramid) shape which aids stability and helps to root the practitioner to the ground.
- Slightly point the feed inwards and grip the floor with your toes. This will enable to root to the floor whilst standing aiding your stability
The upper body or torso is the link between your arms or bridge and the lower body or horse. The upper body should be relaxed and free to move. This enables power to flow freely from the ground up to the bridge, this aids in the stability of the stance as you are able to disperse power using deflection.
Again the main principles referred to is from the first form Sil Lim Tao, and again emphasis on the fact of a good foundation is the way forward.
- Keep the back straight, do not lean forwards or back. In this neutral position you are able to remain centered which enables you to distribute or receive power without interrupting your own structure.
Keep the chest and stomach relaxed and sunken in to you posture. This enables you to react faster and more efficiently and a sunken posture keeps the body slightly further away from an opponents reach than that of practitioner with a tense upper body.
As Wing Chun is a close quarter's martial art a practitioner will use speed and distance wherever possible to their advantage, having that slight distance advantage whilst attacking is very important.
- The most important thing on the upper body is the heads. The head is the heaviest most single point on the body. Therefore you must keep the head upright. A slight movement forward back or to the side can affect your balance which in turn effects your posture and also the ability to deliver or deflect power. Keeping the head upright and in line with the upper and lower body unifies the structure of the body, this enables correct alignment whilst standing and moving.
Chum Kiu, is the Wing Chun second form which teaches the student to make contact with their opponent, i.e. bridge their opponent. Kiu (bridge) Sao (arms/hands) are the most common things used to make contact of an opponent.
The bridging arms are require to remain relaxed able to adapt to oncoming force.
The shoulders need to remain relaxed; any tension within the shoulders inhibits the transfer of power from the ground. This will affect your ability to deliver and receive power as your structure breaks down you will begin to rely on your own arm power, which is no match for someone with a good "Body Structure."
- Keep your elbows within your centre. This aids in keeping your main striking areas hidden. With elbows pointing down aids in delivery of the Wing Chun Straight punch which is also more difficult for an opponent to dodge, or deflect.
With the elbows in your centre and close to the body, helps to remove the tension in the shoulders and remove the temptation to rely on single arm power. As you are able to remain relaxed you are able to move with speed, efficiency and deliver incredible power even at close range.
- The wrists are to also remain centred. As the centre is the simplest and most direct route from you to an opponent this enables the whole body structure to support the hand. You can also intimidate your opponent by having your hand in your centre and pointing the fingers towards them, inherently dominating your position and making an opponent think twice about their attack.
- When contact of an opponent is made, extend the arm (elbow). If the elbow is kept too close to the body, the whole arm is jeopardised as it can become easily trapped, or an opponent can use the incorrect position of your arm to interrupt your structure. The elbow should be placed roughly one fist distance as done in Sil Lim Tao as this aids the structure of the arm.
- The arm should remain at an angle greater than 90� (obtuse angle) normally referred to as 45� from the ground, as this is the optimum angle whereby the structure of the arm can be applied to its maximum. An angle smaller than this loses its structural integrity and can be easily collapsed by an opponents force, again as the structure of the arm begins to break down you rely on arm power. If the arm begins to straighten then this can be easily slipped under or around, so you must remain in this bent arm position as even in a punching position the arm only straightens for a moment long enough to deliver the strike to the opponent then the arm is relaxed and retracted.
Some say that the Wing Chun System is too technical as there is too much to learn and takes to long. However the system of Wing Chun is structured in such a way that you learn the very basics of body structure from the first form Sil Lim Tao, you are able to continue to build on this good foundation. I have listed the key points that enable a practitioner of Wing Chun to adopt a good body structure within a short period of time, as the student progresses these points become second nature and they are adopted subconsciously.
I believe that Wing Chun is not a technical martial art however it relies on efficient and effective movements which allow the practitioner to use minimal effort to gain a simple but devastating advantage.
Everyone is different and therefore will interpret the above points in their own way; however all of these points affect each other more closely than one might think even if they do not appear to be physically or directly linked, they are.
A physical structure is there to support something and in Wing Chun, body structure is used to support your own posture, which gives you a rooted and stable stance at the bottom which allows the torso to remain sunk and relaxed and which allows the arms to also be relaxed and free to adapt to the situation.
The forms contain more information than that of the physical movements, they contain all of the above points, and you just have to be aware of these points
To me Wing Chun is a life study and passion and if you want to get good at something then practicing everyday is surly the key
Sifu Neil Sydenham