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Wing Chun Inside Gate Techniques

(Notes for the workshop on inside gate techniques for Wing Chun practitioners)

Yun Choi Yeung, FIFL, FIMAS

Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK, January 2013

The position of inside the gate is kind of tricky to define, as it is a half and half situation in double sticking hands. The Bong Sau (wing arm) and Tan Sau (dispersing hand) are techniques on the inside of the opponent’s arm, while the Fook Sau (controlling hand) and Gaun Sau (cultivating arm/ upper inward block) are techniques on the outside of the opponent’s arm. The wooden dummy techniques are good examples of moving around in various positions. Whilst boxers fight with one side leading for longer reach and additional power in stepping forward, in contrast grapplers mostly use a square-on, frontal two-handed position. The traditional saying of “step in the middle of the gate (to gain the positioning) even fairy cannot defend against it” means to step in between the opponent’s legs is a strategic advantage. This is the centerline concept in Wing Chun. When the gate is defined by the arms of the opponent, there is the inside gate position, the half and half positions, the outside gate position with both hand outside of the opponent’s arms, and then the blindside positions.  The centerline defense is emphasized in Wing Chun to make sure that attacks by the opponent from inside your gate will not prevail, and it is an advantage to trap the opponent inside the gate and to put the opponent’s arms under one’s bridges (front parts of the forearms), to follow with some top down attacks. On the other hand being inside the opponent’s gate is also an advantage, to take control of the upper arms for holding, and to advance for pushing, hugging, tossing, and striking to the centerline. Therefore, there are strategic advantages being inside the opponent’s gate, as well as trapping the opponent inside your own gate. Wing Chun seems to be proficient in both situations since sticking hands is predominately with square-on frontal techniques, with the capability to move between different gate positions. There are many techniques and encounters available to practitioners as well as the different combinations for playing the game of adhering. 

The aim of this workshop is to review techniques both where the opponent is inside your own gate, and where one is inside the opponent’s gate. This workshop will quickly go through some of the basics: watertight defence in sticking hand, swallowing (tun) and spitting (tou) torso movements, turning and stepping, detaining and sending away, and forward thrust when detached. Much of the time will work through a number of simulations such as moving in and out of the gate, tapping and attacking, counters to tapping and attacking, holding and pushing and pulling, counters to holding and pushing and pulling.

Watertight defence in sticking hands:

The concealed attacking techniques in sticking hands are a chop or shell punch (Master Lun Gai like to use phoenix’s eye) from Gaun Sau (cultivating arm/upper inward block), Huen Sau (circling hand) with palm strike or simply a punch from Fook Sau (controlling arm), Biu Sau (darting hand) or palm strike from Bong Sau, and palm strike from Tan Sau. The basic requirement is that these attacking moves should not leak through the basic Chi Sau techniques, and mutual striking should not be possible. Chi Sau is also very important in the development of spiral power and recoil speed. 

Swallowing (Tun) and spitting (Tou) torso movements:

Open and close are the basic movements in depressing the shoulders to retract and protract the shoulder joints eccentrically. Tun is the compression of the ribcage to generate various movements while Tou is the extension of the abdominal muscles to generate various movements. This is to enable the practitioner to generate spiral force with the additional spinal force at a close range situation. 

Stepping and turning:

One might describe stepping in Wing Chun as a type of penguin walk with bended knees, or relaxed knees (but without clenching the buttock muscle), and stretching gluteus muscles to generate pelvic movements. Therefore stepping and turning are basically pelvic movements in Wing Chun. There is no inward rotation of the knee or pushing upward with the knees due to the limitations of the knee joint and calf muscles. Wing Chun stance is one of the 8 isosceles triangles of an octagon with 67.5 degrees on each of its base angles; turning from side to side in a Chum Kiu (seeking bridge) routine is only a 45 degrees turn. However, in fact the same technique can generate a turn up to 360 degrees or more without any problem as in Baguaquan. The two character stance or the Siu Lim Tao is the inward rotation of the hip joints, and can recoil to a one legged stance as in Chum Kiu and Biu Jee forms. This is very important in a frontal sticking hand or pushing situation because one is vulnerable to a groin kick (an upward shin kick between the legs). Being able to spring to one side will trap such a kick and retaliate. To spring open from a static stance is a unique feature of Wing Chun.

Detaining and sending away:

The phrase Loi Lau Hoi Sung (come detain go send) emphasizes the importance in maintaining a certain distance with the opponent who might be a boxer or a grappler. This certain distance should be close enough to deliver a palm strike on the opponent’s face, but not close enough for a knee strike, and usually if the opponent takes a half step backward, there should be sufficient room to deliver a front thrust kick. The task is threefold: to detain the opponent within hand striking distance, to bring the opponent close up for a knee strike or holding for takedowns, and to force the opponent to the kicking zone. As noted above, this position is vulnerable to a groin kick.

Forward thrust when detached:

The phrase Lat Sau Jik Chung (detach hand straight thrust) emphasizes the importance to thrust forward when the opponent’s hands break loose or pull away. The real emphasis is on the ability to follow, but it is often the case that the opponent pulls his or her hand away. Here is where the practice of Siu Nim Tau will pay off, with the intention moving forward at all times, even when the hand is deflected from the intended direction. Maybe this can explain by Sun Lutang’s concept of Jin (strength) can be broken but Yi (intention) cannot be broken. The opponent can block an intended strike but when he or she moves the hand away the intended strike continues.

Simulation 1: moving in and out of the gate

A: Shuffle forward to the blindside with Man Sau (seeking hand) with the intention to strike on the face – Lap Sau (grabbing hand) upon a block – turn to face the opponent and strike to the face,
B: The encounter is Bong Sau to block the strike to the face, turn to face the opponent in a frontal position and Tan Sau to encounter the Lap Sau and strike with the other arm to the face.
A: Kau Sau (detaining hand or hooking) to do an angular pull on the Bong Sau and change to Fook Sau if the opponent change to Tan Sau, and lets go the Lap Sau and uses Bong Sau to block the opponent’s strike to the face and then Tan Sau. This will form a 50/50 sticking hand position.

To get the Tan Sau into an outside gate position is difficult if the opponent does not press downward excessively with the Fook Sau, and it is dangerous to wrap under the opponent’s bridge to the top of the bridge. One of the techniques that one can try is to pull the Tan Sau underneath the Fook Sau during the pressing downward motion to detach and thrust back with a Fook Sau to have the opponent’s both hand inside the gate. Two other methods involve turning to the side with Bong Sau and a backhand strike and the use of elbow. Please note that some movements are repetitive as in the normal practice of Chi Sau but the aim is to dish out as many alternatives as possible.

Simulation 2:  trapping and attacking

Once the opponent is inside the gate under the forearms there are the double Jut Sau (choking hand) and double finger thrust, double circle hands leading to a double downward palm strikes and upward palm strikes, the alternative Gaun Sau strikes, and Pak Sau (slapping hand) and strike (Pak Sau is a dangerous move because it might crossed the forearms).

Simulation 3: counters to trapping and attacking

The double upper Bong Sau to counter double Jut Sau and double finger thrust, the double Fook Sau to encounter double circle hands, Qun Sau (bundling hand) to encounter alternative Guan Sau strikes, and side body low Bong Sau to encounter Pak Sau and strike.

Simulation 4: holding and pushing and pulling

Qin Na or Chin Na is not taught in Wing Chun because catching and locking involve brute force and stiffening the wrist are vulnerable to anti-qinna techniques. Lap Sau is grabbing by rotational force and guarantees quick release, and this is why there are a lot of wrist exercises in Wing Chun.  From a Tan Sau position it is easy to hold on to the upper arm but it is not the case with Fook Sau. Fook Sau can be used to maintain certain distance with the opponent to prevent hugging or neck hooking, or using the circle hand technique to get into the Tan Sau position and then hold on to upper arms with the root of the palms pressing again the opponent. If the opponent does not retaliate then one can send away follow with a kick or pull in for a knee strike or other striking techniques, etc.

Simulation 5: encounters to holding and pushing and pulling

Release from frontal holding requires torso movement with the elbows turn inward and, press downward by Tun to make a release, and follow with Tou to make a strike, or follow with pushing and kicking, or pulling and kneeing, etc. The side body release is easier with the upper and low block in Guan Sau, if the opponent is pushing forward. If the opponent is pulling or pushing downward then one can wrap around underneath and move into the inside gate position and take control the forearms. There is also the alternative hand technique to pull the opponent to expose his or her blindside for any strike or takedown.

In any close-up situation there are many takedown techniques suitable for Wing Chun practitioners because of their training in moving from side to side and turning. The internal strength and torso movements developed in Wing Chun training provided advantages in ground fighting as well, and Wing Chun is the only martial art that can lean on the wall to fight.  

The sticking hand competitions have been running in Foshan since 2000 but that is more or less following the San Da rules and protective equipment. This is a great opportunity for San Da practitioners, and some Wing Chun clubs are importing them to go for the so called Wing Chun Chi Sau San Da Championship.  The hope of this workshop is to awakening Wing Chun practitioners that there are higher level skills and fun embedded in Chi Sau which are practical for any form of fighting and open martial sports.  It is very difficult to develop as a sport but Chi Sau is already a tradition in Wing Chun, to evaluate the skills of practitioners by their instructors. So, let hope this tradition will continue to be an open sport of adhering.

Adhering is a unique development in China based on the concept of control rather than just ways and means to destroy or hurt the other person. This concept came from the teaching of Mencius (372 BC 289 BC).  His teaching of “a benevolent person is invincible” is deep rooted in the Chinese culture. Maybe this is why the ultimate pursuit of Chinese Martial Arts is to subdue the opponent by the demonstration of control and superiority in skills.