• The Way of the Power • The Way of the Force


- By Dr. Leung Ting -

1. The biceps and triceps:
The biceps and triceps are voluntary muscles of the body that enable us to move e.g., punching as in fighting. In moving the forearm, the work is done by the muscles of the upper arm using the elbow as the fulcrum. The two groups of muscles in the upper arm are namely the biceps and triceps.
The upper group, the biceps controls the withdrawing, and the lower group, the triceps control the extending of the forearm. The biceps are the contractor muscles, and the triceps are the extensor muscles. When the biceps are tightening the triceps are relaxing and the whole forearm is bent at the elbow. Simultaneously, the two groups of muscles are performing exactly the opposite function.

2. Mass and Velocity and their relevancy to a straight punch:
We can generalize that there are two kinds of punches, straight and curving. The whole process of delivering a straight punch involves the straightening of the arm in a very short space of time. This "speedy" process is of great significance as in physics: Force=Mass x Velocity i.e., the weight of the fist if multiplied by the speed of delivery and we have a force of destruction. Of course, the 'weight' of the fist is fixed, and for a powerful punch, we have one variable i.e., the speed of delivery. The faster the punch, the more powerful it becomes.

3. The power as in a heavy punch:
So the power of a straight-line punch depends on it's speed. The speed of a straight-line punch depends on the triceps' sudden extension. Better built triceps have a better extension ability, and the speed of the punch is also increased. In summary, well developed triceps gives rise to powerful blows.

4. Weight lifting and it's irrelevance to WingTsun:
The straight-line punch is the most important attacking punch, others such as the palm, finger, elbow and shoulder are only secondary to it. The punching fist is held in front of the chest. In execution, the back muscles (lats) initiate the move, secondly the triceps are utilized, the forearm and finally the fist. The whole procedure involves the tightening of the extensor muscles. As the contractor muscles and extensor muscles perform the opposite task at the same time, it would be naturally better to have less well developed contractor muscles to hinder the extensor muscles. The WingTsun system eliminated the need for weight lifting, pulling chest expander, etc., so as not to over develop the contractor muscles i.e., biceps.

5. Power generated at joint between bones:
In executing a straight-line punch, it is done without reservations; the whole arm is thrust forward. This is not to say the shoulder is also carried forward. On the contrary, the shoulder even jerks back slightly as a reaction to the forward force, to give the punch a shattering impact at it's limit. To test this theory, we can try throwing a wet handkerchief forward, then abruptly pull it back. The result is a shattering force at the tip of the handkerchief. The late Grandmaster Yip Man mentioned that the more joints between bones, the more places there are to generate functional power.
Using a snake as an example, there is a bone with many joints running the whole length of the snake. A chain reaction of these joints and muscles push the snake forward at incredible speed in its unusual forward motion. What is meant by power generated a the joint between bones? The ligaments are a tough fibrous tissue binding bones together, which also has an elastic, flexible quality when the fist is in full flight and the whole arm is relaxed in the course it will come to a sudden rest at the limit of the arm's length. This does not mean everything stops. As the momentum carries the fist forward there is a stretching of the ligaments at the joints i.e., the joints at the shoulder, elbow and the wrist, then the retracting to it's normal state. This action is very similar to the example of a wet handkerchief.

7. Exert force late, the force is at the fist:
So far we have discussed the throwing of a punch with the greatest of speed. As the fist is held in the front of the chest, it's on a short,straight line, it loses very little of its impetus on its course to the target. For optimum result in the punch, we must come to the finer point of "exert force late, the force is at the fist." It implies that in making a punch, the impetus is held back until the target is hit. This is like a secondary explosion, it maximizes the destructive power and the power is also penetrating to the body.

8. Exert force early, the force is at the arm:
There is a saying in WingTsun which freely translates as "exert the force early, the force is at the arm. Exert the force late, the force is at the fist." The essence of a straight-line punch is in it's destructive power. It should take no more than one punch to annihilate an opponent in actual fighting. What is meant by "exert the force early, the force is at the arm?" If in executing a punch, all the power is exercised at once, it is noticeable that the punch is power-packed at the beginning, but in the moment of connection, there is disparity between power at delivery and connection. Even though the punch homes in on its target, it may do the damage as anticipated.

9. Is WingTsun short bridge (hand)?
Some styles of kung fu favor showy flourishes, broad horse stances, attacking well away from the enemy and extravagant movements. Some people also call WingTsun a style that favors short bridge (hands not fully outstretched) and a narrow horse stance. This is an erroneous assumption. True, the horse stance is not wide, but the hands are certainly not restrained in attack. A more correct way of putting it is that WingTsun favors close to body attacks. In this method of attack, often the opponent can't make use of his room-consuming movements.
In observing WingTsun in action, people also assume the style favors combat in confined space or deadened lane. Again, this is fallacious for WingTsun is equally effective whether in a small or broad area.. What makes WingTsun so special is its long bridge striking method, which means the hands can punch with destructive power given only a short distance between the target and the fist. Even in day to day training, the hands and feet are usually extended in punching and kicking moves. Distance reached when in actual combat is far greater than those with extravagant movements because they restricted the hands. Their restriction was on the wrong belief that fully stretched hands are liable to be broken by the opponent.


- By Steven Frerichs -

"Don't fight the force...give into it...go with it...use it!" - The words are not those of mystic Obiwan Kenobi," but those of Dr. Leung Ting, the ever pragmatic exponent of the WingTsun system. Dr. Leung learned his WingTsun (WT) directly from the legendary Master Yip Man shortly before his death. In fact, many believe that Dr. Leung's system represents the final and most refined version of Yip Man's art. Even Yip Man's own son Mr. Yip Chun has endorsed Dr. Leung lending credence to this opinion.

In light of this information, it is not surprising to find that Dr. Leung's WingTsun is perhaps the "softest" version of the art in practice today. In his system you won't find students flexing and battering their arms in a futile effort to make them hard and invulnerable. Rather, the WT student learns to become soft and flexible so that he may harmlessly absorb and redirect an attack.

The greatest sin a WT man may commit is to brutishly opposed force with force. Conversely, the highest virtue is to learn to borrow your opponent's force and turn it against him. Learning to effectively use an attacker's force is no easy task however, especially if one's opponent happens to be strong, fast and dead set on busting your head! Therefore, the student of WT proceeds through a step by step training program that gradually develops the necessary sensitivity, flexibility and reflexes for realistic self defense. Although the specific training methods and techniques discussed are peculiar to WT, the basic principles involved are universal and merit consideration by practitioners of all styles.

In WT there is a saying: the first stage of learning is to get rid of your own force; the second stage of learning is to get rid of your opponent's force. Only then can you attain the third and final stage, which is to truly borrow your opponent's force. The first stage, that of abandoning the deeply rooted psychological dependence on raw, muscular power is the most difficult for a student to accept. This is especially true of the stronger students who have learned from a lifetime of experience to rely on their muscles. However, such students are usually quick to change their minds when their weaker kung fu brothers begin to surpass them in skill!

The simple fact of the matter is that "hard" resistant force is anathema to the concept of flowing with, and using your attacker's force. To accomplish this you must become "soft." By "soft" I do not mean limp like a wet noodle, but soft and springy like a strip of bamboo. By adopting this kind of elastic force, even a small person can absorb and redirect a very powerful attack. Generally speaking, practitioners of hard styles strive to make their limbs as tough and rigid as a piece of oak. Unfortunately, under sufficient stress, oak breaks, and this is precisely what happens to the hard stylist when he confronts and even stronger opponent.

By contrast, the WT man's flexible, bamboo like arms bend and compress before a strong attack and snap back with vicious speed when released. In WT the arms function as springs to absorb and return the energy they receive. This "spring principle" is one of the most basic means of borrowing and opponent's force. Furthermore, the concept of "springy energy" is fundamental to WT theory and a component of every strike, parry and counter in the style.

A corollary of this "spring principle" is the avoidance blocking as a means of defense in WT. Dr. Leung has noted that other styles depend upon four main blocking movements: upward, downward, inside to outside and outside to inside. These blocks may be hard or soft, close fisted or open handed, linear or circular, but they all reflect the same concept. In WT such movements are unnecessary. Instead, we simply let our arms spring forward along the central axis of our body, or centerline, towards the centerline of our opponent.
If he does not deflect our arms, of course he will be hit. If he does obstruct our attack, whether by block, parry, or counter punch, we simply let the force of his defensive movement bend our arms into one of the classical WT deflecting positions such as tan sau (palm up hand) or bong sau (wing arm). At this point our opponent has no choice but to withdraw his attack, allowing our arms to uncoil and strike.

Or to give an example, imagine that an attacker throws a powerful reverse punch at your face. Rather than blocking, you simply counter punch in a straight line directly at his face, the angle of your punch causing his already committed strike to be harmlessly deflected aside as he practically falls on your fist. Stunned and wary, your attacker withdraws and waits for you to make your next move. You oblige him by launching another head level punch.
With a cunning sense of timing, your opponent attempts to knock your arm away with a bone smashing inward block. To his surprise, your arm is neither broken nor flung aside, but instead it sticks to his, bending like a supple end of a fishing rod under the force of the technique. Only to late does he realize his mistake as your arm slips free and uncoils, lashing out like a whip into his face a second time! In this instance, our defender has done nothing more than apply the principles of "spring energy" as summed up in the traditional WT motto:

Stay with what comes, follow through as it retreats, and thrust forward when the hand is freed.