Visual and Tactile Reflexes:

What do WingTsun and Escrima have in common?

The development of WingTsun and Escrima
WingTsun (WT) and Escrima (EWTO) are, - due to the way they have developed in the past, - practicable and scientific martial arts. Both have had to prove themselves in numerous single combats. Since both Escrima and WingTsun were used in "realistic fights", they have matured into practicable and effective self-defense systems. WingTsun and Escrima are "living" styles.

Despite the fact that they have been handed down from generation to generation over the centuries, the techniques are to this day constantly being overthought and improved to their betterment, which explains why they call themselves "scientific" styles. Neither style has ever fallen victim to the "200 years ago, master xyz had a vision of this technique while meditating on a white rock and this is why we will never change our system" syndrom. Or, as the European Chief Instructor of WingTsun, Keith R. Kernspecht once put it: "We have never hesitated to slaughter the "holy cows" of our system if we discovered an even more effective version of a technique".

The WT system begins unarmed and ends with armed fighting techniques. Escrima goes the opposite way; it begins armed and ends, with slight changes in the techniques used in armed combat, unarmed.
With Escrima, your reaction and counterattack is due to visual perception, with WingTsun your reaction in short distance combat (elbows, knees, head-butting, grapple, throw) relies on tactile perception; in long distance combat (feet), as well as with curved attacks, a WT-fighter must also depend on his visual perception.

Long distance - short distance
WT fighters prefer short distance combat, in which they can make full use of their foot, elbow and knee techniques.
Escrima fighters like to hold a longer distance to their opponents. This way, they can make effectiv use of their dangerous weapons, such as knives, sticks, machetes or nerve-sticks.

Forward step in WingTsun
During the forward step, your complete body weight is on your back leg while your front leg pulls your body forward*. The front leg carries no body weight and in this way it is possible to quickly change direction without losing balance.
(*in the WT forward step movement, one foot in placed behind the other; during the step, the feet are moved as if they were following an imaginary straight line).

Forward step in (EWTO-)Escrima
An Escrimador has most of his body weight on the front leg. The hind leg - standing on the ball of the foot - pushes the body forward, while the front leg makes a short, forceful step forward.
The foot position of the rear leg makes it possible to advance in an explosive, "springy" way.

What the application of hand, foot, knee and elbow techniques is to a WT fighter is the use of sticks, knives, machetes and nerve sticks to an Escrimador.

Simultaneous defense and counterattack
Both WT and (EWTO-)Escrima defend and counterattack simultaneously. The attacker has no chance to begin a following assault.

Defense techniques
Many hand movements and defense techniques in (EWTO-)Escrima and WT are identical. In (Latosa-)Escrima, these movements are lengthend by the weapon.

The principal: "If the path is clear, move forward"!
When a WT fighter in a fighting stance is attacked, it can be seen that his arms make a slight forward movement.
The same principle is found in (EWTO-)Escrima; should he be attacked he simultaniously steps forward and streches his arms towards the attacker’s hands.
The first direction of movement in both styles is straight towards the opponent; the object is to quickly attain body/weapon contact. If the contact does not take place because the opponent retreats or had planned a feint, then the defense technique - which did not happen - turns into an attack technique.

Training WT
In WT, the nervous system is trained through "Chi-Sao" (sticky arms) training. In this way the body is taught how to react to unaccustomed attacks, with the effect that a WT fighter’s defense technique is, in reality, a (tactile) reflex.

Training Escrima
Through "free hitting/sparring", which is practised with either one or two sticks, the Escrimador trains his (optical) reflexes. Since the Escrimador is constantly confronted with armed attacks during his training, he quickly loses his "natural" fear of being hit by the attacker’s stick.

In both styles, the principles of economic, tight, short and direct moves can be found, as well as the strikes/punches that base on a "whiplash" effect from the joints and also the block techniques that can automaticly turn into attacks.
The combat strategy of WT and Escrima is based on moving towards the attacker while at the same time evading him and the force of his attack.
Also, to deprive the opponent of any possibility to start a second attack. In order to have a chance in a realistic fight (streetfight), it is important to be able to fight with or without a weapon.
It would be a problem for a martial artist who is only trained in unarmed combat defeat an armed opponent.
Chinese "WingTsun" and Philippine "Escrima" offer excellent defense chances, because in the concepts of both styles the same logical principles are found.

Source: WTWelt 11
Translation: Frank Schäfer Sifu