Stability in Wing Chun: A Maintenance Guide

As with the majority of Asian martial arts, stability is one of the fundamental principles of Wing Chun. Every Wing Chun form typically begins with a movement related to the stance or warhorse. The pelvis and waist are the primary engines for controlling the horse and delivering force to the horse and rider. This power structure forms a triangle, with the shoulders as the triangle’s apex, the legs as its base, and the waist in between.

As a result, the Wing Chun stance places little to no emphasis on the shoulders. In contrast, the Western conception of a strong man is one with broad shoulders, a narrow waist, and light-footed legs, forming an inverted triangle. As most Western sports involve running, it is advantageous, like a racehorse, to have weak legs. However, there is a structural trade-off between stability and mobility. When a structure is designed for strength, its mobility is reduced. When it is designed for mobility, its stability is reduced. In other words, the greater your desire for peace, the lesser your desire for mobility, and vice versa.

Therefore, when designing a martial art, one must decide which characteristic is the most essential. Many people believe that a 50–50 compromise would be ideal. However, that is analogous to sitting on the fence, unable to decide. If you were a perfect compromise, you would be perfectly compromised, neither firmly rooted nor swiftly mobile. Remember that our S-shaped spine and tension system enable us to walk, run, sit, lie down, stoop, and perform other activities that do not require exceptional stability or mobility.

When exceptional stability or mobility is necessary, we must undergo specialized conditioning to condition our bodies to produce them. A sprinter requires specific training to improve as a sprinter; a marathon runner requires specific training to complete a marathon successfully; a swimmer requires specific training to improve as a swimmer; an acrobat requires specific training to improve as an acrobat; and a boxer requires specific training to improve as a boxer. The same holds for every skill set we wish to develop. Mind and body must be trained for every task in which improvement is desired. This is another instance of the Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (S.A.I.D.) principle.

Let’s take a brief look at the sport of boxing. The underlying concept of boxing is for the boxer to become highly mobile, allowing them to avoid danger by dodging, twisting, bending, skipping, sprinting, and dancing. Therefore, a boxer’s upper and lower trunks must be mobile and agile. To deliver a powerful punch, he must be grounded; however, he is not required to remain grounded at all times. He only needs to be restrained when the opportunity to deliver a decisive blow arises. In boxing, the athlete may only punch above his opponent’s waist using the front of his gloves; tripping, sweeping, throwing, kicking, elbowing, grappling, head-butting, kneeing, and choking, as numerous other street-fighting techniques, are prohibited. When none of these factors are of concern, stability is of little consequence. The only weapons available to him and his opponent are gloved fists. Consequently, he can bounce on his toes, stop to strike, and then resume bouncing. His opponent’s life is not in danger, so he does not need to immobilize, maim, or kill him; he only needs to knock him out, T.K.O. him, or score more points than his opponent within the twelve available rounds.

Wing Chun, in contrast, was not designed for sport. It was designed for personal protection—situations in which one’s life could be at risk. Therefore, the objectives, principles, and strategies are entirely distinct from those employed in any sport. Stability is of the utmost importance in Wing Chun. Therefore, the Wing Chun strategy is not to kick from a distance but from close range when one’s upper body is already in contact with his opponent. The Wing Chun practitioner will stabilize himself using this contact. Except for the YijikimYeungma position, a properly trained Wing Chun practitioner is poised to place his weight on the rear leg and heel. It could be 90–10, 80–20, 70–30, 60–40, or 55–45, but never 50–50. Always the rear leg is the root, while the front is the stabilizer. This is because you lose your stabilizer as soon as you lift your front leg to kick (or use your rear portion to kick, which would transform your front leg into your rear, rooted leg). However, when you contact your opponent’s arm(s), his grounded legs become your stabilizing force.

The Wing Chun fighting philosophy and training emphasizes the importance of maintaining stability. However, the practitioner may still be required to maintain a stationary position throughout a fight. The practitioner must only move around appropriately, especially not going in reverse. When an opponent tries to move forward, most people who practice martial arts, including those who practice Wing Chun and virtually everyone who does not have formal training in martial arts, will typically retreat one step.

This includes Wing Chun practitioners. They would rather keep a safe and comfortable distance between themselves rather than get too close to one another. Because of this, neither one would gain anything from making such a move other than being in a different position. Because he does not have eyes in the back of his head, the person who retreats risks stepping somewhere (or into) something hazardous. This situation could be better for the person who withdraws.

As a result of the fact that running backward is always slower and more complicated than running forward, the advancing attacker will eventually catch up to the backward runner and may cause them to fall. If an adversary charged ahead with an attack and retreated to avoid being hurt, you would be out of striking range, rendering your offensive weapons (your ability to put an end to a fight) ineffective. It would only be decisive if you could land a blow on him while retreating. It certainly would not be powerful enough to cause significant damage because your body would be moving in the opposite direction of your fist, which would be moving forward. In other words, the movement backward would completely nullify the effectiveness of the strike that was made. It would be analogous to trying to hit a long drive in golf by throwing yourself back while swinging the club forward. You would get tiny.

As a result, the fighting stance, also known as the warhorse, in Wing Chun needs to be sturdy and withstand the force of an oncoming attack. In the same vein, it should be powerful enough to move forward and close the distance between you and your opponent, or it should be able to charge the horse of the opponent, kick it, break its legs, or knock both the rider and the horse to the ground. This is accomplished through the step-by-step training that is included within each of Wing Chun’s six forms and the drills that accompany them. Learning martial arts is the same as knowing the properties of force; this enables us to use our bodies to generate the maximum amount of power, whether of the compression or tension type or differentiating and understanding the relationship between kinetic and potential energy so that we ultimately learn how to achieve maximum results with minimal effort.

Returning to the discussion of weight differential about stance, we will make an effort to put an end to the ongoing debate that exists among Wing Chun practitioners regarding whether one should distribute their weight evenly on both legs (50–50) or whether the weight should rest primarily on the rear leg when one leg is in front of the other. The other portion is behind the first leg.

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