Wing Chun kung fu is a style that allows superior technique to overcome size and strength. It’s female origins demand this. Here are 3 attributes martial artists need to make this possible.
Today Wing Chun is practiced in vast numbers by men all around the world. Thankfully, there’s still a handful of women that are living the style’s origins. Having more than 40 years experience, Anne Pang (main picture) is one of them. She is not throwing 80 kilograms plus around the training hall, or punching with the reach of a six footer. Yet when younger, stronger male opponents try to test her, they get knocked out.
This is exactly what a good martial artist should be able to do. In self defence you would be foolish to expect confrontation from:
- a smaller, weaker opponent and
- a single opponent.
So you must be able to take on multiple, larger opponents. This means that any grappling moves are out of the window along with those extra reps on the bench press. Getting into a wrestling match won’t help, especially when the onlookers jump in.
Martial artists that are able to overcome a size advantage exhibit the following three attributes:
1. Superior coordination
To get every ounce of power from your body, you need coordination and conditioning. Forms that teach flow of motion through a large number of joints lead to better coordination. Legwork that activates your largest muscle groups will build a strong base.
- Leg and hip conditioning (stance work)
- Timing exercises (flowing forms, bag work)
See also: Maximum potential power
2. Highly mobile while maintaining a strong base
You need to be more agile than your strong, lumbering opponents, but your base must be available to draw power from. You cannot be caught standing in the middle of your opponents or dancing around in mid-air. Instead, you must be able to move into an advantageous position.
- Multiple opponent sparring
- Sidestepping and pivoting
- Forward stepping
See also: 4 levels of footwork
3. Hands that are fast and loose
You must not tense up the arms when coming into contact, else give the advantage to the stronger person. Instead, arm sensitivity training, backed up by your strong base should allow you to roll bigger opponents out of position while striking. Wing Chun’s economy of movement principle suggests that you only throw a punch when you know it will land. At the point of impact, acceleration through looseness is replaced with force drawn from the full-body mass.
- Chain punching
- Chi Sao
- Wrist work
See also: Power in being loose
From the 1970s through to today, Anne Pang continues to exhibit these qualities and works hard to continuously improve her kung fu. She is as comfortable sparring large opponents as she is taking on 6+ concurrently. We think she embodies Wing Chun origins as few can.
Watch Anne’s kung fu demonstration videos
Article: Written by R Zandbergs. Created from Barry Pang’s seminars.
Main photo: Anne Pang circa 1980’s