As Wing Chun people we are, by nature, defenders of the art against those who question whether or not Wing Chun works in real life, whether or not Wing Chun is effective as self-defense and so on. The problem is this: most of us go about it the wrong way.
Easy. We feel compelled to rebutt or refute all the shit-talkers on the internet (whose belts, if they even train at all, resemble bow-ties), pounding away at our keyboards with the enthusiasm of Ralphie writing his “What I Want for Christmas” Red Ryder BB Gun manifesto for his grade school class writing assignment.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
What a waste of time. I was asked by a student once why I don’t join in the forum wars and he asked me, “aren’t you afraid it will scare people away from coming to class?” My response was along the lines of this: if someone is too lazy and stupid to do their research and actually come in to see for themselves what the art and system is all about and instead relies on what some stroke-job on the internet says, chances are excellent that I don’t want to waste time teaching them, even if they are paying me.
The bottom line is this: who gives a shit what people say! Anyone can say anything-it’s what people can do that counts. And so , my answer to any question as to how Wing Chun would work against this or that or whatever is the same:
“I don’t know. Give me a scenario, let’s try it out.”
Approaching any question in this open minded yet action-oriented manner is a win-win. It serves as a vehicle for growth while throwing the proverbial gauntlet down to many who seek to issue empty threats.
Nuggets of Inspiration
As you all know, my sole purpose in Wing Chun training is for self preservation and self-defense. I am always approaching my Wing Chun training-be it forms, chi sau, sparring or anything else-in that vein. Consequently of how my brain is wired, I am always aware of movie scenes that reflect my approach to training and reinforce why I train how I do.
These aren’t always fight scenes-and in fact, many of them aren’t-but there is one fight scene in film that has always resonated with my approach to training and self-defense. Actually, this one scene has shaped my thinking on how I train and pass along this information that I have come to refer to it as the “Rambo Principle.”
Growing up I loved the movie First Blood. The first of the Rambo films, it tells the story of a Vietnam veteran former Special Forces soldier John Rambo, who has the misfortune of drifting through a sleepy Pacific Northwest town headed by a sheriff named Will Teasle (himself a Korean War veteran) who instantly takes a dislike to Rambo, viewing him as “just another smartass drifter” and wanting him nowhere near his quiet and peaceful town. The two men being equally strong willed eventually clash and Rambo is arrested for “vagrancy,” which is nothing more than Sheriff Teasle asserting ownership of his surroundings.
Poking the Bear
While being booked, Rambo snaps into military interrogation mode, saying nothing when asked for his name and deliberately messing up the fingerprinting process, furthering the tension which leads him to being sprayed with a fire hose and beaten with nightsticks by deputies in order to “clean him up” before his upcoming court appearance.
This scene picks up while he is going to be shaved with a straight razor to be made more presentable for the judge. I’m sure many of you have seen this scene several times; now watch it through the lens of simple, effective and practical self defense and personal protection…
First Blood ranks as one of my top 5 movies of all time and the jailbreak scene is perhaps my favorite fight sequence on film, of all time.
The way Rambo attacks the vital targets of the deputies (eyes, throat and groin), the way he hobbles deputies as he makes his escape, the way he lashes out like a cat in a corner-all of it teaches anyone much more about realistic use of Wing Chun if only in concept and theory (but hey, that’s 90% of any situation) than watching Five Fingers of Death or Enter the Dragon–and I say this as a kung fu movie addict.
In this clip, is Rambo using Wing Chun proper? No.
There isn’t a bong sau or taan-da to be seen and he sure doesn’t place his hands up like Donnie Yen or Ip Man.
More importantly as it relates to our stance making Wing Chun functional, practical and effective for street defense, is he reacting in a way that is congruent with Wing Chun theory and purpose?
This can be seen in several points, from his attacking the centerline of the deputy holding the razor from the outset to his taking out the poor bastard carrying a box right before he dashes out of the building.
Attacking the Attack
The clearest example of applied Wing Chun theory occurs at 1:13 in the above clip, when the officer who has been harassing Rambo the most viciously throughout the booking process, Deputy Gault, swings the nightstick. Rambo doesn’t jump back into a mantis stance or gyrate like a snake; he attacks to the centerline against a looping attack while attacking Gault’s eyes and throat with his fingers and knees him in the groin.
Nothing flashy, no bullshit-just simple and barbaric attacking the attack at the opponent’s centerline and vital areas. Hmm..sounds pretty Wing Chun-ish to me.
This scene also reinforces the WSL Wing Chun emphasis of moving in to “attack the attack.” Against the billy club is there any posturing or wu sau hand raising? Nope. He moves in right to the throat and uses leverage of trapped arm with nightstick to spin Gault into the wall and dig his fingers into Gault’s eyes while using his knee to rearrange his balls. Straight-up intensity, straight down the centerline.
Watch the scene again and pay close attention to the intensity Rambo gives every motion he performs. Now try and apply the “Rambo Principle” to your own training. Imagine this: you need to remove yourself from a situation NOW. How will you choose to apply your art? Hint: the only way to answer this question is “I don’t know…let’s find out.”
Ways to Apply the “Rambo Principle” Starting NOW
Here are a few concrete ways to begin applying the “Rambo Principle” in your next training session:
- The next time you train, pay attention to each and every motion in the Siu Nim Tao form to get your mind and body calibrated to Wing Chun’s core principles of simplicity, efficiency and directness. I make it a point to perform the first form at least once per day even if I do nothing else by way of training, with full attention on the FEELING of my body when performing every technique and while I remain firmly rooted. I am in a sense recalibrating my mind and body to the Wing Chun frequency each and every day.
- Pay attention to the stepping drill and the chain punch to hone your triangular structure and forward pressure. When performing the stepping drill, don’t just lumber through the motions like a zombie; if you are initiating the drill, push off with some force and really attempt to step through your partner, sending energy forward through your elbows like you would be putting on mittens as a kid. If you are the receiver, maintain structure and do not move back until you feel your structure begin to collapse. In either case, maintaining the inward tension on the inner thighs and forward pressure through the elbows keeps your body as one unit. This reinforces the body’s working together which will make itself known in the following drills…
- When engaging in chi sau practice, it is important in order to make the drill functional to foster a sense of urgency; of needing to remove yourself from the situation by taking someone out ASAP. The best way I have found to apply this ‘Rambo principle” involves using the Gymboss Interval Timer and Stopwatch. Set the timer to ping every 30 seconds and use that as a reset; then try and control the interaction and finish your partner off by being in a position of dominant control by the time the timer pings again. Eventually shorten the intervals to 15-20 seconds. Click HERE to read my review of why I use this myself and recommend this as an essential to the training gear bag of anyone who wants to apply Wing Chun for true self-defense, pick one up and start applying it to your training immediately-you won’t argue with the results.
If you’re worried about this type of training making your technique sloppy, don’t-for 2 reasons. First, this type of training should only be done as one small party of your training and only after the concepts and basics of chi sau have been internalized and even then only once per week or so.
Regular chi sau practice will and should be the focal point of training-it’s there that you will both ask physical questions and find physical answers within the Wing Chun system. This type of drill should serve as a finishing or “polishing” drill to reinforce what is being already worked on. Second and more simply, if you get sloppy and rush through, you’ll get a smack since your structure will collapse…which is why I suggest performing the forms and if nothing else the first form every day.
- Every few weeks grab a motorcycle helmet, a groin guard and some boxing gloves and have a partner come at you. First slow, then faster; first choreographed, then unrehearsed. The key word is progression. You will find out very quickly that if you approach Wing Chun training for self-defense from a “technique” standpoint, you will get the snot knocked out of you. For my personal list of items I use and 100% recommend for progressive training, click my unbiased, no-BS reviews for each of these items HERE and take action on amassing these things.
Self defense training is chaotic and sloppy; your technique training during that portion of class or in your solo regimen must be solid and detail oriented so that when you engage in more realistic scenario training, you don’t have to worry about if your elbow is 10 degrees out or where your big toes is, since your technique will be spot-on.
As someone who has extensively trained in reality based scenario drills, I will tell you this: in the heat of the drill, none of that “make sure you line up the big toe in relation to left shoulder” shit really matters. What you will hang your hat on is TRIANGULAR STRUCTURE and FORWARD PRESSURE. If this seems a bit off, don’t worry-you’ll understand once that first boxing glove swings at your face or you get bull rushed by a dude wearing a helmet and groin cup.
It’s only after training like this that you can look in the mirror and say honestly that you are training realistically. This training can be scary at first-be sure to use the right equipment that suits the drill so you can hit and be hit without fear of injury. Outfit yourself with the right gear, and get to it.
Train Smart, Stay Safe