Wing Chun is famous for straight-line attacks, but some of the most important movements in the style are circular. They optimise both attacking and defensive moves. In Lung Ying, rotation is built into everything.
When Wing Chun departs from the centreline, techniques emerge that help deal with bigger, stronger opponents. There are defensive movements that ‘roll off’ and redirect force and there are offensive movements that multiply power through rotation. Both use the pivot action. Ip Man famously put years of effort into the pivot action found in Chum Kil 尋橋. As a small person of around 5’4” (162cm) tall, it would have enabled him to gain the most potential from offensive and defensive moves.
Wing Chun’s first form, Sil Lum Tao 小念頭, establishes and reinforces the importance of straight lines and following the centreline. When practitioners advance to the second form, Chum Kil 尋橋, the coordination of rotational power gets introduced. This can be used to add an extra dimension to straight-line punching. Compare the jab and hook techniques in boxing. The jab is used at longer ranges, keeping opponents at bay, wearing them down and scoring points. The hook punch is often used as the knockout blow, with all the torque from the body going into it.
Sister style to Wing Chun, Lung Ying, takes rotation even further. The style emphasises launching forward with strong low stances that combine a subtle hip rotation driving the often circular hand work. This appears in the basic Na Ma ‘pressing horse’ training and is further emphasised in the first two forms, but especially in the second form, Sam Tung 三通. In addition, Lung Ying’s features some circular strikes that build on the hip action. These close-range attacks are powered by rotation and can also follow a side-stepping opponent. These are the Boi Gim forearm (which travels from inside out) and the Cao Pat hammer fist (which travels from the outside in).
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Benefits of rotation
Rotational force, or torque, can multiply the power output from your strikes. To improve your punching, train them with a small pivot, angling into the same target with each strike. Angling from the outside in also can also improve the line of attack against a protected centreline.
Defensively, rotation has a lot to offer. Chum Kil 尋橋 employs an outwards rotation that assists with ‘finding the bridge’ to your opponent’s guard and redirecting their force. Bil Jee 鏢指 has an inwards rotation that enables the ‘rescuing hands’ manoeuvre, when your guard is on the brink of collapse.
Rotation can add power. It can also be used to deflect power. Once you have mastered the basic straight-line techniques, work on the circular elements of kung fu.
Article: Written by R Zandbergs. Created from Barry Pang’s seminars.
Video: Filmed and edited by R Zandbergs
Main photo: Barry Pang demonstrating the pivot-punch