Category: Wing Chun

Seeking the angle

I’ve noticed that the vast majority of single techniques practiced with a partner are done with excessive overcommitment on the part of the uki.  The problem with “here’s all the shit I’m gonna to when I get to the side of you” is that “all the shit I’m gonna do” is the easy part.  Getting the angle is the tough part.

If I manage to get the angle on someone, I’m gonna fuck them up.  Kick, punch, knee, elbow, whatever…  When your opponent is not facing you, and you are facing them, you have a distinct and clear advantage.  How many options do you really need once you get there.

In Wing Chun we call this angle the outside gate, if you put your arms straight out, anything on the outside of that is considered the outside gate.  Figuring out what to do once you get this advantage is never a problem.  It’s ever so painful to get there.  Trying to get the angle on your opponent is challenging, to say the least.  And in my opinion not practiced enough.

Sparing (standing or ground), and Chi Sao are two great ways to practice seeking the angle.  The key is a non compliant opponent.  I’m not saying that the techniques and drills that focus on the “ass kicking” after getting the angle shouldn’t be done.  Having the muscle memory is important, you wouldn’t what to find yourself in the situation and not know instinctively how to follow through.

What I am saying is there’s a danger in feeling overconfident that your techniques will win the day, and when faced with an opponent be unable to execute.


There are two basic options for footwork in the martial arts.  Weather you subscribe to linear, circular, triangular, etc…, you always need to move the lead foot first or the back foot first (OK, you could hop, leap, jump.  But for the sake of argument we’ll assume your staying on the ground)

balancepart2slide3_copyYou can take a full step, thus switching leads, or maintain your lead.

As taking large steps in WC is rare, unless you’re bridging to engage, we’ll focus on maintaining the lead.  When moving the front foot first it creates a step and slide motion, your back foot sliding into a new position based on the position of the lead.  The other option is a skip step, where your rear foot moves first, taking the desired position, then your lead foot is placed, based on the rear foot placement.

In Wing Chun the step and slide is the only footwork used (when not switching leads), it’s believed that the skip step contains inherent risks and loss of speed.  I agree that there are risks to the motion, but this should not be enough reason to eliminate it from your training.

I’ve been doing some Silat training and have found the skip step to be very useful in Chi Sao.  Using it allows you to hook the lead foot, and shift the angle of your stance.  An interesting result that’s worth playing with.

Wing Chun as a Soft Art

Ip Man

Believe it or not but I’ve come to realize that a lot of Wing Chun is, what I would consider, a soft art.  Attacking the center-line is a “big” concept in Wing Chun, and when you’re not attacking your developing an opening for an attack.  This makes for a very “hard” style of WC at a lot of schools, and creates very competitive Chi Sao.  Two people with arms  flexed tightly as possible, pushing against each other.

During Chi Sao, a common defense to an attack is  to project your defense toward your opponents center, a Tan that turns into a Bil, for example (for a cross arm attack).  This makes many beginners feel that you always need to project forward, but all rules are meant to be broken.

When Chi Saoing with less experienced students, the Lap Sao (pulling the cross arm) is shocking.  I see people leaning into Chi Sao, bigger people like to do this to control the exercise, step to the corner and Lap, and if you’re up for it don’t forget your Chi Gerk (sweep the leg Johnny).  Remember that “soft” does not mean slow, to often I see soft movement being done slow.  If your partner is already being aggressive enough to lean into you, you’re not going to get away with doing this slow.

A nice firm push can set up a pull.  Push, pull, strike.  Don’t be afraid to turn your body,  “face their center-line” is more like a guideline then a rule.  If you find your getting a lot of pressure from any direction, consider redirection to create an opportunity.