I was watching one one of my favorite movies the other night, Boiler Room.
Having zero to do with martial arts or fighting, it tells the story of a persuasive young entrepreneur named Seth who drops out of college and begins running a casino out of his house. In an effort to please his father, a respected Circuit Court Judge with whom he has a strained relationship already, Seth shuts his casino down and begins working at an investment firm named J.T. Marlin. After an uber-aggressive interview by Ben Affleck (doing his best Alec Baldwin from Glengarry Glen Ross) and surrounded in a culture of pure excess and greed, he soon becomes a standout broker, closing sales and rapidly rising up the ranks.
The problem? J.T. Marlin is a “chop shop” brokerage firm; a front designed to screw people out of their money by using hard-line and very aggressive sales while simultaneously probing for weaknesses and signs of hesitation.
As I watched this for the 982nd time I couldn’t help but be reminded of the similarities between this movie and our end goal of Wing Chun fighting skill both in chi sau and self defense. In both cases, hesitation is to Wing Chun what poison is to a well of water.
If you haven’t seen this flick, watch it. It is an excellent film and offers several profound lessons on the nature of human behavior, all of which are applicable to Wing Chun. In our training we have a tendency to hesitate when entering in chi sau, engaging in gor sau (chi sau sparring) or training for a lei tai or sanshou tournament. What makes all of these so important -and potentially hindering-is that they all affect our end goal: the ability to apply our Wing Chun on the street, for self-defense, in an aggressive, assertive and unyielding way.
While training jeet kune do and close quarter combat at Goytia’s Intense Defense Systems School on the south side of Chicago classes were often taught by a guy named Tim.
A tall, muscular and flat-topped combat veteran Marine, he was both taskmaster and a very funny guy whose dry and sarcastic wit would creep up on you like a liver shot and get you laughing even if you were getting your junk knocked around. One of his favorite things to say when gauging our performance was, “you’re not selling me!”
I particularly remember one time we were working on intercepting with to palm strike to the chin. Overcoming the hesitation was the main problem I was having and what he was getting at was simple: if I don’t apply the technique with authority and confidence, it isn’t going to translate through my body and make you feel the stopping power and the assertion of my authority. This is a prime example of the value of solid pieces of headgear like the ProForce Thunder Vinyl Face Shield and the Title Classic Face Protector Headgear.
When engaging in chi sau with a partner or sparring with an opponent, either you are selling him on accepting your will to be imposed on him or the other way around. This is why we do not “fake” or “feint” in Wing Chun; there are no slips, bobs, weaves or ducks. To do so would deviate from the prescribed path of following the opponent’s centerline and vying for dominance of it.
Same goes for Wing Chun sparring. Although there are more factors at play and the environment is much more unpredictable that doesn’t mean your game plan changes; in fact, it serves as a reinforcement as to why you SHOULDN’T deviate!
Think about it: you may fight a thai boxer, a jiu jitsu practitioner or a karate stylist. If you start trying to match their rythym, you’re done. I’m not saying you need to be a statue or a caricature of Wing Chun plucked out of some 1970’s chop socky film, stiff and upright with the Donnie Yen hands extended out, but you can’t deviate from your skill set or basic structure. You know you, and you have to, in the words of Bruce from Tao of Jeet Kune Do, “let your limbs work themselves out in accordance with the discipline they have undergone.”
Be A One-Trick Pony
I would always say when teaching that we aim to be “one-trick ponies in the best sense of the word,” meaning that we never deviate from the game plan: pursue the centerline, cut angles and impose our will on our attacker. This will sometimes necessitate shifting or stepping backwards but never will we lose sight of our main goal or purpose-control of the center of our opponent.
Try these drills and training tips and watch your confidence grow:
- Don the Title Classic Face Protector Headgear and have your training partner pop on a pair of boxing gloves. Maintain your Wing Chun structure and then have your partner attack you, first slow and then faster, first lightly and then progressively with more zing. Your end goal is to traverse the gap and get your palm to their chin in such a way that your structure is preserved and your elbows stay tight, cutting angles and controlling their elbow as you move in. Once you get in, reset and begin again. You will find that in short order the time it takes you to both cut the angle and get in to the chin goes down. Why? You’ve gained both skill in angle cutting and confidence in moving in despite getting hit. In fact, it is the confidence that begets the skill in this case. Click HERE to pick up this training gem and use it as soon as it comes out of the box.
- Have both your partner and yourself put on the ProForce Thunder Vinyl Face Shield, strap on a pair of MMA gloves and then have at it Wing-Chun style. Begin from outside of chi sau range and focus on cutting angles, keeping your elbows in and attacking by deflecting to the center of your opponent. Above all, resist the temptation to feint, fake or reach around-those have NO place in Wing Chun sparring. All that concerns us is simple, effective and efficient action to create a straight line from your fist to their face. Pick up your Face Shield HERE and don’t ever go to class without it.
- When engaging in chi sau, resist the urge to lean, slant, bob or weave like some weird “Neo from the Matrix”-type shit. Rather, rotate on your center axis to cut acute angles with your elbow and follow the line to the chest or chin. If you can punch the chest, you can control the chin since the elbow leads the way. Don’t reach for the chin-once the arm straightens, any angle-cutting power and leverage you have is gone. For what? Just to get a “hit” in? No problem! Tell you what: you reach, slant and lean just to touch my face, fine. I’ll impose my will down your centerline and make you flop around like Curly from the 3 Stooges on a slippery floor.
Remember, in any training or self-defense encounter a sale is made. You either sell them on why they can ‘t win or they sell you on why they will.
Train the right way since, when it counts, all sales are indeed final.
Train Smart, Stay Safe