The centreline theory is a celebrated formula for gaining control of your opponent, but is it enough? Concepts of feeling and redirecting your opponent are not the exclusive domain of Wing Chun kung fu. Here are 4 ways to achieve control.

In Wing Chun you might say that in a contest, the person with the strongest centreline technique and most developed hand sensitivity through Chi Sao training will win. But what if your opponent is not a Wing Chun practitioner and utilises other hand contact methods to thwart your speed, technique and position? In the real world it is unlikely that you’ll come up against the same style, which is why Barry Pang Kung Fu has sought to understand and apply multiple soft-style hand techniques.

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4 principles of the major styles

Here are our top 4 principles to win with hand sensitivity. The correct option will depend on the circumstances and opponent, and must be a trained reflex. All have the same thing in common: partner training that develops soft hands backed up by a solid base.

1. Gain the centreline

kung fu demonstrationWhat could be simpler? Take a direct line in a close-quarters attack while covering your opponents hands. Displace them from the centreline. If they are strong, you deflect them with soft arms and footwork to improve your position whilst striking. Training involves practicing single and double-hand variations from a static stance in order to develop hand sensitivity and a firm base. Main picture above: Striking during single-hand practice.

Style: Wing Chun. Partner training: Chi Sau (sticking hands)

2. Gain the inside position

Partner trainingIn close quarters with a strong opponent bearing down and pressuring your stance and arms, you don’t want to be caught with your hands on the outside. The automatic response should be to gain the inside position and strike. Key elements include wrist control, soft arms and a strong, movable stance. The stance training is key and must be practiced solo for significant periods of time, as this is the ‘engine’ that drives the power.

Style: Liu He Ba Fa 六合八法拳. Partner training: Yiu Shin

Defence: Chi Sao attack/defence reflex training (Wing Chun)

3. Destabilise your opponent

Kung fu exercises

When your opponent throws you off balance, mobility is compromised and your ability to develop significant power gone (Try hitting a punching bag whilst sitting on a swing). Whether one or two hands are in contact, the person most able to remain stable and redirect force will win. The partner training involved here has long-standing significance in China, to the point where national championships are held. 

Style: Tai Chi 太极拳. Partner training: Tui Sau (push hands)

Defence: Na Ma (Lung Ying)

4. Bring your opponent’s hands down

Park demonstrationPutting your guard up is a standard defensive position. There is a kung fu technique that brings that guard down, preventing your opponent from using their hands at all. This near simultaneous downward attack on the guard whilst striking forward make certain guards very vulnerable. Any style that raises a guard with hands close together is at risk, as the trapping hand can cover both arms whilst the striking hand has an open target.

Styles: Lung Ying (Dragon Shape) 龙形 and Choy Li Fut. Partner training: Chuk Sarm Dim.

Defence: Huen Sao & Bong Sao (Wing Chun)

These four methods, of course, need to be instinctive and well trained. They’re not a menu of options to select from in the moment. The good news is that conditioning efforts related to developing soft hands and strong legwork are complimentary. You can build out a set of applied techniques that feel natural together. 

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