Growing up I was a shark fanatic. I would read every book I could find on sharks, I watched “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel religiously and I played my JAWS tape until it literally snapped snapped in the VCR .
As much as the scientific aspects of how sharks breathe or hunted by sensing the movement of distressed fish in the area was interesting, what balls-out fascinated me the most, to the point of being nearly obsessed, was anything dealing with stories of shark attacks and their survivors.
Looking back I can see that the reason I was so fascinated by the stories of shark attacks was because of their emphasis on black and white survival. I wanted to know what factors influenced a person’s survival when faced with such a terrfiying scenario. Rodney Fox’s story would stick out in my mind and unbeknownst to me, would serve to influence my personal approach to Wing Chun, self defense and personal safety in general. The following is his account of that ordeal as listed on his website www.rodneyfox.com:
On the 8th of December 1963, Rodney was defending his title in a spearfishing competition off Aldinga Beach, 65km south of Adelaide, South Australia. The waters were clear and Rodney was just about to catch a fish in about 20m of water when he felt a thump on his left side and found himself in the mouth of a great white shark. Rodney clawed at the sharks head and eyes and, when the shark released its grip, he thrust his right arm out to defend himself only to plunge it into the shark’s mouth, slicing the flesh from his hand and forearm. Instinctively, he wrapped his arms and legs around the shark’s body to stop it from getting hold of him again but his need for air saw him release and kick for the surface.
“There, I gratefully gasped one deep breath, then looked down through the water. This was the most terrifying, unforgettable moment of all. My body floated in a red sea and as I looked down through that bloody water, surging upwards through the reddish haze was an open set of jaws with razor-sharp teeth. The shark was coming back to eat me.”
After kicking at the shark, it turned its attention to the fish float, swallowing both the fish and the float, still attached to Rodney’s waist. Rodney was dragged back under, spinning uncontrollably as he was dragged deeper and deeper. Just when his breath was running out, the rope snapped and Rodney kicked for the surface. He was dragged into a nearby boat and carried ashore before being rushed to the nearest hospital.
Rodney’s abdomen was fully exposed and all ribs were broken on his left side. His diaphragm was punctured, lung ripped open, scapula was pierced, spleen was uncovered, the main artery from his heart was exposed. The tendons, fingers and thumb in his right hand were all cut, and to this day he still has part of a Great White tooth embedded in his wrist. He was minutes away from his veins collapsing due to the loss of large amounts of blood. Over 360 stitches were required to sew him up.
Holy SHIT. Incredible.
When reading that story as well as others, I noticed definite parallels. In every case I read, the survivors fought back. They clawed and poked the shark’s eyes and punched at the gills. Soon after that, the shark released its’ grip and swam off.
Now we all know that if the shark wanted to kill them they’d have been dead in 2 seconds but it does not downplay the effectiveness of the placement of the strikes to the shark’s body. When discussing Wing Chun training for personal protection, it behooves us to learn from these lucky and brave folks when constructing our own blueprint for simple, effective and practical self-defense skills.
Ironically, what helped folks like Rodney Fox survive (other than the hand of God) is exactly what John Kary lists as #5 in his “6 Principles of Combat.”
Attack VITAL PARTS of the Body
As we briefly touched on earlier, the core of this system is comprised of gross motor skill techniques designed to take anyone out of commission by attacking the 3 primary targets on the body: EYES, THROAT, and GROIN.
Why do we focus on these areas?
- They render size and strength irrelevant– everyone will re-act the same when hit in the groin, poked in the eye or jabbed in the throat. It is for this reason that these targets are known as “equalizers.”
- They are equally damaging on the vertical and horizontal plane– For example, a kick to the groin or thumb to the eyeball while standing will elicit the same reaction, i.e., incapacitation, as a palm to the groin will while on the ground.
- They require comparatively little pressure or strength– This is what makes Wing Chun concept and technique so effective and adaptable for women, the physically small or elderly, and children learning to deal with potential attackers, “stranger danger,” etc.
- Hitting any one of these targets has an instantaneous effect of PAIN- For example, a 6’3” 220lb. heavyweight boxer can absorb round after round of abuse to his head and body, but will be unable to withstand abuse to the groin or eyes. This “stopping power” creates options for you to remove yourself as quickly as possible from the situation.
For a simple, effective and practical guide to self-defense that slides right into the Wing Chun groove (which is quite easy to do since it was born out of the Wing Chun system) click HERE.
3 Keys To Functional Wing Chun Target Training
Keep the following 3 ideas in mind when seeking to align your training with functionality and practicality as it relates to the application and use of Wing Chun in the no-bullshit world of personal safety and self-defense.
- Fists are for FOOLS- Punching is not the most effective strike to an opponent. Open handed strikes to the face or vital areas are what get things done. Punching is an invaluable structural tool and is the quickest indicator of proper form and alignment; if you can cut an angle in chi sau or gor sau sparring and drill your opponent in the chest, you can progress to attacking the eyes and throat unobstructed with a palm strike or eye rake. Save the “chain punching someone into the ground as you stand over them” shit for the Ip Man movies, ’cause that’s exactly where it belongs. Personally, if you fall on the ground I’ll stomp your ass like I’m crushing a Coca-Cola can, hit up the Wendy’s drive -thru and sleep like a baby that night.
- Don’t Get Married to the Middle- Just because we begin chi sau or drills face to face, squared up, it doesn’t mean that the only definition of “centerline” is between the eyes down to the groin. Think of the body as a telephone pole. Any of the 360 angles you can face the pole is the centerline, provided your attacks are to the center mass of the pole. I have seen people chain punch and opponent backwards and then when the opponent is turned around by their forward pressure, instead of continuing such a beautiful onslaught of imposing one’s will they have stopped and tried to catch up to them and have completely broken structure trying to get back to a point where they are facing them again so they can continue their barrage on their “centerline.” WRONG. If someone turns away, whatever is in front of you-shoulder, ear, back, whatever-is your new centerline. Keep the pressure on!
- Be Water, My Friend- If you toss a bucket of water at me and I put my hands up, the water will hit my hands and go right around it with as little effort as possible. It is neither excessively flowery nor one-dimensionally rigid. It is the epitome of simplicity, efficiency and directness. If someone gives you much pressure, absorb while maintaining triangular structure and allow the stepping drill to keep your structure preserved. If someone is pulling that “loosey goosey” shit, shifting from side to side and trying to reach to hit you while doing their best Neo from The Matrix to try not to get hit, DON’T fall into the over-aggressive trap. Water doesn’t care about emotions or anger or frustration, it just goes where it’s going as simply, efficiently and directly as it can and slips through the cracks or weakest areas. In self-defense, those weak links are the eyes, throat and balls. Remember that and make your opponent play your game by removing any emotion from the task at hand; flow like water to the targets.
Remember, when faced with an attacker, you can either play THEIR game and go toe-to-toe with them, trading blows, or you can go for their EYES, THROAT, GROIN or SHINS and make them sorry for attacking you or your loved ones.
Train Smart, Stay Safe