Wing Chun kung fu – more than just punches.
So many people train Wing Chun kung fu for self defence and yet never practice anything other than punches. The punches in Wing Chun are effective weapons in and of themselves and are a fundamental way of practicing the energy and elbow driven mechanics of the whole family of Wing Chun strikes, however if you never practice using the other striking tools in the Wing Chun system you cant possibly hope to rely on them should you find yourself in a self defence situation. Many of the same people who only ever practice punches will defend the efficacy of Wing Chun as a street effective self defence system comparing it favourably to sports martial arts such as MMA and Muay Thai citing the fact that as practitioners of Wing Chun Kung fu we can and do target the areas of the body outlawed in those competition focused martial arts, failing to see the flaw in their logic.
At this point many Wing Chun practitioners will be indignantly poo pooing the idea that they never practice techniques such as elbows, fak sao, palm strikes, thumb strikes and finger strikes especially fak sao. However waving your arm about in chi sao after bong lap in something vaguely resembling fak sao (although more often looking like an Inspector Clueso karate chop because you’re too lazy to drop the elbow and punch properly) is not practicing fak sao for practical application. In order to practice a particular Wing Chun kung fu hand shape you have to understand when, why and how you would use that technique rather than any other, you have to practice the correct range and the correct energy. At a recent Redditch class we spent two hours training fak sao, looking at how the technique can be used both defensively and as an offensive weapon. Practicing various scenarios, responding to realistic attacks and most importantly focusing on target areas to hit, energy generation and correct range. The improvement in two hours was noticeable but would be quickly lost if it wasn’t regularly drilled and practised. Tool selection needs to be as automatic as yielding to force, returning to the centre line or following the principle of “hand lost thrust forward”. If you have to think about what technique to use, you haven’t trained it enough and have a low chance of it being a reliable option when its needed, so next time you’re training remember to practice more than just punches and remember learning when a technique doesn’t work is just as valuable as learning when it does.