The Wing Chun Centreline Punch (WCCLP) is one of the first things we learn when we begin our Wing Chun journey. It first appears as the second move of the Sil Lim Tau form, and is repeated again in Chum Kiu and Biu Ji. In Kulo (Gu Lao) Wing Chun 22 Points System, the 「日字鳳眼捶」 “Phoenix Eye Hammer” also appears as the second movement. Though basic, the WCCLP remains one of the most useful tools in the Wing Chun arsenal, from raw beginners to seasoned practitioners alike.
So, how do we do it well? In this article, we shall revisit some basic concepts.
The primary strategy (though not the only strategy) of Wing Chun is to overwhelm your opponent. We want to dominate the fight. We want the opponent to have to deal with and react to our strikes. We need to be fast. We want to always be one step ahead of our opponent, so he is always playing catch up.
The Wing Chun Centreline Punch is not a wild swing. It is a perfectly structured and executed punch. The advantage of the WCCLP is that it defends and attacks at the same time. It is fast, spontaneous, non-telegraphing and hard to catch. It not only delivers damaging force against an opponent, it also disrupts the opponent’s balance, breaking him down bit by bit. It is not an easy punch to learn and it takes practice and patience to make it work.
The speed of the WCCLP comes from non-telegraphing and minimal movement. The down side is that if you cannot use big swings, power generation becomes difficult.
The power of the WCCLP comes from your 「二字拑陽馬」 “Yi Ji Kim Yeung Ma” stance training. We shall discuss the YJKYM in future articles. Of course, in the chaos of a real fight, you will not have a chance to get into the stance prior to applying the strike. Nor is the YJKYM mobile enough to be of use from a classic sense. However, when you train your YJKYM well, the structure comes out and supports everything you do.
Supposedly, as beginners, we were often taught that the fist of the WCCLP is angled vertically. However, this is not universally true. The angle of the fist is ultimately dictated by the elbow position as well as the interacting angle between you and your opponent.
The elbow of the punching arm is pointed downwards for a number of reasons. One, to facilitate connection to the centre of mass and the core of the YJKYM, and two, to intercept the opponent’s attack. The shoulder-elbow-fist forms a 135 degree boomerang that acts like an axe, as well as a shield.
You are safely covered behind this shield. At the same time, you are cutting into the opponent’s defence, displacing and destroying his structure while striking.
The “perceived” speed of your WCCLP depends on a number of factors, and not the physical speed alone.
When we react to an incoming strike, we do not just look at the opponent’s fist. We look at his body movement, change in balance, twitches in the shoulders and hips, and other visual cues that we are not aware of at a conscious level. Take away these cues, and the strike would appear as if it is coming out of nowhere.
A good WCCLP is not telegraphed. It can appear from anywhere. While as beginners we bring the fist to the centreline before we push the fist out, as we get better we need to practice shooting the fist out from anywhere, while keeping all the structural and spatial requirements of the punch. We must also switch from 0 to 100% instantaneously.
The other requirement of speed is the “snap” of your muscle-tendon complex. You are not trying to “push” your fist out. You are snapping your tendons like a tight steel spring. The best way to develop “steel tendons” is through your Sil Lim Tau. In Kulo Wing Chun 22, there are also a number of exercises specifically designed to train the tendons. It is these steel springs that give you the ability to deliver power with very little movement. And with less movement, you have greater speed.
There are a number of ways to generate power.
The wrecking ball
This is a good analogy illustrating the relationship between your YJKYM and your centre of mass. When you strike your opponent, instead of thinking about your arm muscles, think of your arm as a spring loaded spike attached to a moving wrecking ball. It is your whole body weight and structure that slams into the opponent. Very little arm movement is required.
The steel spring
With this method, you want your arms to act like a spring steel baton, and not a rigid steel rod. The steel spring makes the baton more effective as a striking weapon. If your joints can behave like steel springs, your striking will also be more effective.
And the best way to train it is through your Sil Lim Tau and certain moves in the Kulo Wing Chun 22 Point system.
Dropping your weight into your opponent
If you weigh 70kg and you drop your entire body weight as little as 5cm through a small contact area such as your knuckles, you will inflict a lot of damage at the point of impact. If you drop it outside your opponent’s base, you will break his balance. Use this drop well and your arms will appear as heavy as steel, even though you are using minimal effort.
A well executed WCCLP deflects the opponent’s attack, while delivering your fist at the target.
First rule, the elbow of your striking hand should cover the centreline. This centreline, however, is not a fixed line in front of your body. It is actually an intercepting plane between you and your opponent. Use your elbow to cut into this plane. Direct your opponent’s fist away from this plane, and keep your body on the other side of this plane.
Another important issue is to understand “Gates”. The full extent of this concept shall be discussed in future articles. In the mean time, understand the 2nd Gate, i.e the opponent’s elbow.
Do not try to catch the opponent’s fist, it is too fast and small. Instead, pivot to give yourself that extra inch away from his fist, and punch back while collecting his arm at the elbow. This way, you will be able to deflect his strike while you counter attack with your full structure behind you strike.
Where do we go from here?
Of course, the WCCLP is the first step. There are many other tools in Wing Chun we need to develop to be an effective fighter. At the end of the day, you have two choices when a fight occurs; strike and run, or completely annihilate your opponent. Ω