The Dynamic Kicking of the Wing Chun System

23/02/2009

Wing Chun's Diverse Range of Kicks

Many people are of the opinion that the Wing Chun System comprises primarily of arm movements with a few kicks. They do not realize that the Wing Chun system contains a greater variety of kicks than a large number of popular martial arts systems known for their kicking. There are two reasons for this misunderstanding. Firstly, because the hand techniques of the Wing Chun system are so efficient for self-defense, the kicks are not seen as often as the arms. Secondly, most Hong Kong Wing Chun masters do not normally teach students kicking until they have been learning for a good number of years. Students are in fact being prepared to do kicking from the day they start Wing Chun when they learn the Wing Chun stance. Mastery of the stance is an important prerequisite for kicking as it gives both balance and power

The Importance of the Stance

While practicing kicking without first developing a solid stance will increase force in the kicking to a degree (through repetition training) full potential will not be realised. Wing Chun works on the premise that force is maximised through full use of body mass and acceleration. To achieve this Wing Chun locks the body in as one unit at the waist. If during a kick the body becomes unlocked then the full mass won't be utilised and full potential will not be achieved. There are no short cuts: Full potential cannot be achieved without the proper stance. Using the Wing Chun hook kick as an example, a student with a poor stance will find that they lack balance and are unable to transfer their full body weight to the kick as the upper and lower halves of the body will be working out of sinc. This is due to lack of coordination and muscle control. The result will be poor balance making it difficult to kick with speed as too much energy is used to keep balance, making the movement slow and clumsy and places them in a vulnerable position.

Wing Chun Kicking Characteristics

Wing Chun kicking techniques adhere to the Wing Chun principles of directness, simplicity, practicality, minimum use of brute strength and economy of movement. As with all techniques in Wing Chun, kicking keeps to the same principles as arms, kicks are fast and direct, stable and non-telegraphic, uncomplicated, practical, controlled and uncommitted, low risk and done in the most powerful way through the most efficient utilization of body weight.

Fast and Direct

All kicks are executed directly to the target with one quick movement taking the shortest time and distance. An example of this is the thrust kick to the groin area. This kick is executed by driving the knee towards the target whilst maintaining the angle in the leg from the stance. As the leg is making contact with the target it extends, the knee drives force through the heel; thus utilising the full mass and momentum of the body. Compare this kick to one involving two movements where the body is rotated and the leg is cocked first, before extending to strike. Not only does the kick take more time and distance to reach the target, but as it has been cocked the momentum of the body has also stopped; therefore the amount of force generated becomes limited to the strength of the muscles in the leg.

Stable and Non-Telegraphic

In delivering the Wing Chun kick the body is always kept upright, it does not lean forward, backward or sideways. If your stance is not stable and you lean back for example, your force is being directed away from the target; your bodyweight is travelling in a backward direction, which negates the force of the strike. If weight needs to be transferred to the supporting leg prior to the kick, then this shift will precede the kick telegraphing your intentions. As the body moves much slower than limbs do, the more body movement involved in the kick the slower the kick will be and the more telegraphic. Kicking from an upright position not only maintains balance, but also makes it very difficult for the attacker to detect your incoming kick; due to the lack of body movement. It is of utmost importance not to telegraph your intention to attack in a real fight.

Uncomplicated

As the entire Wing Chun system is geared towards realistic self-defense, any techniques that require complicated movements are excluded from the system. It is believed that the more complicated a technique, the more difficult it is to apply in a real fighting situation. This is simply because complicated techniques require several movements to complete which makes it harder and more time consuming to apply and gives the opponent a better chance of retaliating by intercepting or countering the movement.

Practical and Low Risk

Kicks requiring a lot of room to apply such as turning, flying and jumping kicks are risky and impractical to apply in real situations; as clothing or environment may restrict the application of such a kick. These kicks shorten ones reach and also expose parts of your body unnecessarily i.e., high kicks to the head, which leave your groin and midsection open to attack or take you off the ground are considered very risky. They make you vulnerable to having your legs grabbed or losing your balance. The higher the kick the more power is diminished in the kick so that even if the kick was to land it probably wouldn't have the power to knock a person out as the body mass is utilised less effectively the higher you kick. Wing Chun would not execute kicks to the head. Instead, Wing Chun makes use of hand striking to attack an opponent's upper body, while legs are used to attack an opponent's lower body. This is because the body is designed with the arms nearer to the attacker's head and legs nearer attacker's legs therefore making it more logical and practical to attack those areas with those limbs. For this reason kicks above waist height have been removed from the Wing Chun system as they put the practitioner to unnecessary effort and risk. Low kicks executed to the attackers waist and below are harder to intercept and more powerful. The legendary Grandmaster Yip Man once said: 'Why jump up and try to kick someone in the head when it is much quicker and safer to execute a fast direct punch to the attackers face'.

Controlled

Wing Chun kicks are designed in such a way to be used in close range and in conjunction with the arms. Therefore a properly trained Wing Chun student would not generally execute a kick without first controlling the opponent's arms, unless the kick is used for the purpose of engaging the opponent ie bridging the gap. By controlling the attacker's arms the Wing Chun exponent is able to control the attackers balance, latch them into the kick and increase the force of impact. Having this control of the attackers weight will reduce the chance of the opponent countering or avoiding the kick, ensuring that the kick will land.

Uncommitted

A wide swinging type of kick is like an all or nothing type of attack. If you miss your target and do not knock out your assailant you may be vulnerable in the moment before you regain balance and execute the follow up attack. Committed kicks are like wide swinging punches, once the movement is started and the target is missed the body momentum carries you through and the upswing of the whole movement must be completed before the next is initiated. You are then committed to following that course of action making it difficult to change to another movement if the strike misses the mark or is countered. In contrast all Wing Chun kicks are short and sharp, landing with a fast powerful impact. A well a well trained Wing Chun student is able to deliver a series of very powerful close range uncommitted kicks that can easily be executed one after another in rapid succession. For example: chain kicking, where a low heel kick continues into a hook kick in an efficient and economical manner. There is no room in the system for movements that cannot be part of a multiple series of kicks executed in a matter of seconds.

Utilize Body Momentum in the Most Powerful Way

Through a combination of determination force, body coordination and speed, Wing Chun students attain a high level of explosive force on impact from in their kicks, even at very close quarters. Determination force relies on total mind/body coordination and augments the power given to the explosive impact of a kick. Mental power draws force potential from all parts of the body and focuses it with great concentration and momentum to the striking area. Kicks are executed without having to rely on back swings to get momentum up. With an untrained kick for example, the top of the body swings in the opposite direction to the kicking movement which means the directional force of the kick is negated. The Wing Chun student is taught that arms and legs must be coordinated to travel in the same direction to the target. All available force is directed from the upright stance along the centerline thus maximizing body momentum. Newton's laws of physics states that the impulse of a force is a combination of both the mass of the striking body and the change of the speed that it undergoes. That is, force is a product of mass and its acceleration. Wing Chun applies this physical principle by teaching that the whole body mass must go onto the target, accelerating from the static stance to maximum speed upon impact and beyond. In this way the greatest possible momentum is transferred into the force of the strike. Wing Chun utilises its kicks in the most economical, efficient and practical way possible by keeping the movements compact and direct at the target with full body mass behind the kick to achieve maximum result with the least effort.

Grandmaster Jim Fung

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