Sifu Jack Leung – The Five Centrelines of Practical Wing Chun

Language plays an integral role in conventional martial arts practice. Kung Fu theory is based on traditional Chinese philosophy. As generations pass, the lessons of Kung Fu get passed down from Sifu to student through physical practice and written study.

During ancient times in China, Kung Fu materials were, for the most part, transcribed through poetry, descriptive narratives, and even analogies. A lot of those styles are incorporated into the way some Kung Fu styles are taught today. Back then, distinct variations of Kung Fu practices and philosophies were secluded from society. That is why you often see Kung Fu notes that are difficult to interpret, even by those well versed in martial arts. As such, outsiders tend to misinterpret the message Kung Fu truly conveys.

​Since 1996, Sifu Jack Leung has been training with Grand Master Wan Kam Leung. Sifu Leung is an indoor disciple who is fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin and English allowing him to interpret Practical Wing Chun’s philosophies and theories into plain English. 

First Centreline

Generally, Wing Chun has a singular centerline – the body’s central axis. There are a total of five centerlines in Practical Wing Chun. As demonstrated in this photo, the first centerline divides Sifu Leung in half by going through the central axis. This vertical axis runs through the middle of an individual, separating the right and left sides of his body.

Wing Chun is said to be developed by a woman. In general women are not as strong as men. Hence they need to look after their centreline when they defend themselves. Men need to maintain their centerline for protection just as much as women do.

Every attack through the centerline, including the neck, head, groin and solar plexus is vital. As such, practitioners of Wing Chun guard their centerline cautiously. If not defended properly, attacks to the centerline can result in circumstantial damage. 

Second Centreline

An abstract horizontal line that separates the body into top and bottom halves is the second centerline of Practical Wing Chun. This line is levelled with Instructor Ricky Leung’s elbows in a relax position, allowing the hands to be placed within striking range.

Once we put together the first and second centerlines, an imaginary cross is established, dividing the body into 4 sections: top right, top left, bottom right and bottom left.

Wing Chun techniques involve simultaneous defense and offense. It is not essential to be the first to strike, as timing is more important than speed. We do not need to be the fastest striker, we just need to be faster than our opponent. By looking after the 2 centrelines, we are already 1 step ahead of our opponent.

​The opponent can come at us through different ways of striking – perhaps with an uppercut, hook or hammer fist. No matter the approach, the attacker will be forced to direct their punches towards our body, which is essentially along the first and second centreline. We do not have to chase the punch, the punch will come at you instead. Understanding the concept and dividing the body into 4 corners will help improve our defence without physically being faster than our opponent. 

Third Centreline

In Wing Chun one can speed up reaction time in defence through sticky hand drills (chi sau). This practice heightens sensitivity and response time while strengthening the positioning of the forearm, which points to the 3rd centerline of Practical Wing Chun.

The 3rd centreline is in the middle of the forearm, between the top of your palm and the elbow joint.

To find this point, simple measure from the bottom of the middle finger with one hand, and use the other to measure from the elbow joint. In the photo above, you can see where the third centerline is, via the 2 intersecting thumbs. ​ This centerline is commonly used to augment the structure while we defend our 4 corners. 

Fourth Centreline

We will use a bird’s eye perspective diagram to describe the 4th centerline of Practical Wing Chun. The photos in the next page clearly show the location of the 4th centerline. It is a non- existent line dividing you and your opponent. In these diagrams, the horizontal line depicts where your opponent’s hands touch your own. 

These centerlines display the midway point dividing you and your opponent. This line is also representative of the danger zone. It illustrates the distance between you and your opponent. This imaginary line creates a visual that can help you recognize the danger zone, so that you can strengthen your defense.

Training with Chi Sau (sticky hands) teaches us how to properly receive and exchange strikes after our hands touch, shows us where to place our hands, and tells us how to manipulate the hands of our opponents. There is no need to memorize the moves we make, since our reflexes will kick in and our hands will naturally position themselves into a defensive position. One other crucial factor regarding centerlines is awareness of distance, which is important to be mindful of prior to touching hands. How do we determine the length of our reach, as well as the reach of our opponent’s?

The 4th centreline changes if the opponent holds a weapon. In plain English, the 4th centreline maps out the danger zone, but the opponent’s weapon extends his reach. Mapping out the danger zone will increase your chance of defence. As Sifu Leung always say, “People who attack you on the street are usually bigger and stronger than you, outnumber you, or carry a weapon”. As you can ascertain, distance is not based on our own reach, but rather, our opponent’s. This is most important when our opponent is wielding a weapon. 

5th Centreline

The final centerline travels from the top of your head, down to your spine and stops at your feet. Observe these side-view photos .

Improper form gives your attacker plenty of areas to strike your body. A poor stance means you can’t efficiently deflect strikes from a larger opponent. Ω 

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  • Michael Thompson

    Great article but aren’t First & Fifth Centreline the same thing?

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