WING CHUN: THE BENEFITS OF FACING

In Wing Chun, the term “Facing” (Ying Sai) refers to the frontal reference of one fighter to another. Another time, Ying Chiu refers to a fighter’s “Facing Posture” about another. When one fighter’s “Facing” is frontally referenced to the other’s side or back, “Facing Advantage” occurs. This advantageous position does not constitute victory in and of itself but rather a favorable position from which to attack or defend. 

A simple example of Facing Advantage can be found in how old warships fought on the high seas. Because of the fact that their guns were mounted on both sides, pointing out 90° from the bow and stern, they had to pull up alongside the enemy craft before opening fire. The disadvantage was that, while they could focus their firepower on the enemy, the enemy was also well positioned for his simultaneous counterattack. This equal positioning significantly damaged both parties, regardless of who ultimately sank whom. After some experience with this type of sea battle, a clever strategist devised the ploy known as “Crossing the T,” which involves positioning the broad side of your ship directly in front or behind the enemy craft, allowing you to fire freely on the enemy without fear of being hit by return fire. His guns were pointing out to sea, while yours were dead on. The essence of Facing Advantage is to position yourself so that your “guns” are on him while he is pointed “out to sea.”

When a Wing Chun fighter achieves Facing Advantage by facing the opponent’s side or back, he is said to be approaching from the “Dead Side.” The Dead Side is anywhere outside the “Live Area”—the 90° spectrum with its vertex at the Self-Centerline and symmetrically referenced 45° to each side. This is the most challenging area to defend. It is also a problematic angular relationship from which to counterattack when the opponent is facing it. As a result, attacking from the opponent’s Dead Side is the safest option. Diagram BB depicts an overhead view of the Live Area and the Dead Side from three combat positions. When any fraction of your Live Area (however small) is on any part of his Dead Side and no fraction of his Live Area is on any portion of your Dead Side, you are said to have the “Advantage of Facing.” The Live Area is analogous to the searchlights used by correctional officers to spotlight an escaped prisoner running through a field in a typical Wing Chun analogy. The Wing Chun fighter has two roles in combat. He is both the escaped prisoner, using footwork and technique to avoid being illuminated by the opponent’s “searchlight,” and the prison guard, attempting to keep the opponent “lit up” within his Live Area at all times. In Chee Sau, sparring or drills practice, two high-level Wing Chun players are constantly jockeying for position. With this in mind, the significance of Facing the CRCA Wing Chun man becomes apparent. 

The CRCA Wing Chun fighter will always consider the resulting Facing relationship before making footwork that will change that relationship. He will always, no matter how slightly, take a step in the direction that will give him the Advantage of Facing. This strategy is because the slightest Facing Advantage created by the Wing Chun fighter’s first step may be compounded, possibly unintentionally, by the opponent himself. Thus, even if you take a small step to the inside or outside of the opponent’s leading foot from a ready position for the slightest Advantage, the opponent may add to it by stepping further inside or outside of your foot—possibly unaware that he is giving up Facing Advantage as he moves in the only direction that is not blocked by your foot. He is simply following the unobstructed path, which can lead him to the disadvantage of Facing if you have stepped correctly to “set him up” in the first place.

The opponent may be utterly unaware of the advantage. When executing a technique from an Open relationship (you are in a left lead, and he is a right), you will almost always step your leading left foot to the outside of his top right foot. Although the Facing inherent advantage that you are creating may not be obvious, if you continue to move in, or if he moves forward inside of your foot, he will end up with his back to you—Dead Side exposed. When executing Tan Da vs. his lead left Jab from a Closed Left relationship (both fighters in a left leading stance), step to the inside of his leading left foot. Stepping to the outside world, “give him your back” works in conjunction with the Centerline Theory. The ultimate goal is to gain at least one, if not both, benefits whenever you use footwork. Stepping with the correct Facing in mind is also extremely practical with Self and Applied Structure.

The Theory of Facing also establishes the spectrum limit within which you can pivot about the opponent—you must never shift beyond the point where either the outermost boundary of your Live Area coincides with the Centerline, or you will give the opponent the Advantage of Facing. As a result, it is usually in the fighter’s best interest to keep his Self-Centerline directly referenced to the opponent’s Dead Side. This positioning provides him with at least an equal opportunity to attack. It keeps his Dead Side referenced 45° or more from the opponent’s Facing. 

This is why, regardless of foot placement, the upper body of the Wing Chun fighter is always referenced within the 90° angle spectrum introduced by the Choh Ma stance pivot. In other words, if the entire lower half of your body were shrouded in a heavy mist from the waist down, the opponent would have no way of knowing whether you are in a turned, braced, forward, or rear stance, only that you are turned to face him somewhere within your own 90° of “Live Area.”