The Self Defense Sweet Spot: Why We Attack the Centerline In Wing Chun!

There isn’t a whole lot I can say about this clip other than it sucked.

Actually, there’s always more to say about anything so here goes:

Wing Chun teaches us that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.  The flip side of that saying is that any attack that follows this “straight line” principle also carries with it a lot of stopping power.

In this clip I happened to be on the receiving end of a quick and efficient kick to the jewels which put me down when I was pumped up and ready to go not 2 seconds before.  That’s how potent centerline shots are- all the important stuff (eyes, throat and balls) are located there!

The sparring session above was not any type of tournament preparation or full-contact session; what we were doing was applying Wing Chun theory to combat sport training.  This injects an element of realism insofar as contact is concerned and it allows us to transfer Wing Chun concept into more dynamic and seemingly unrelated training.   Notice the following:

  • I am attacking down his centerline constantly.  I throw a couple of side kicks, some push kicks and even a hook or two but my intent and pressure is always moving forward.
  • My punches are vertical (even the hooks)-just like the “Brown Bomber” Joe Louis from the 1940’s.  This helps reinforce structure by using the whole body in every punch from the hips and legs, not merely corkscrewing or twisting the punch.
  • No bee-bopping and scatting here.  I do slip and weave occasionally as we get close to mix it up but my motion is minimal and only when necessary.
  • Watch my footwork and base: you can see the inward tension as I move, since my feet have a certain amount of push and drag similar to the stepping drill in Chi Sau.  This ensures that I am never cross-stepping or off base but balanced and in control of my weight distribution which transfers power into my punching.
  • My elbows are close to my sides and my fists are held close to my chin, a la Tyson.  This allows me to maintain a triangular base and move my body forward as one unit: my legs, hips & upper body all work together while my triangular structure allows me to impose my will on my opponent more readily.

Again, we are obviously not pro fighters.  We are engaging in this type of sparring to gain a broader perspective of how to apply Wing Chun to the dynamics of sparring.

Far too often when folks train in Wing Chun and have the desire to compete in a more heavily contact-oriented sport such as sanshou/lei tai fighting, boxing, kickboxing or MMA there is a feeling that what one is working on in Wing Chun class has to be put on the shelf when it’s “sparring time,” and all of their hours of technique work and Wing Chun theory effectively go right out the window, replaced with generic boxing motions and thai kicks.


There is nothing wrong with these techniques or systems at all-but why in the hell train Wing Chun then abandon it just because the drill or combative activity of choice doesn’t fit the mold?!  If you want to crank it up a notch, have at it-just make sure you round out your protective gear with mouthpieces and headgear such as the Title Classic Face Protector Headgear, shown here.

This should be required equipment for anyone who really gives a sh*t about making their Wing Chun skills functional, practical and useful for self defense, MMA, kickboxing or anything else realistic.

What makes this such a useful tool for the Wing Chun folks who want to get a taste of heavy contact it the padded guard across the front so you don’t have to worry about eating one to the nose or face as you train to move in and “attack the attack.”  I break down the pros, cons and all points in between for this headgear as well as other types of headgear for different phases of training in my review HERE.

We are also sparring to gain a better feeling of the scrappy, ever changing nature of a fight.  When sparring we cannot be flat-footed and static; we must be constantly moving and readjusting based on our “grooving,” as Bruce Lee put it, with our opponent.

On the flip side, we still retain our Wing Chun flavor-and this allows us to bead in on our opponent and attack down his centerline amidst all the chaos of punches, kicks and everything else.

This answers the question, “can you use Wing Chun in sparring?” or “Is Wing Chun effective for combat sports or MMA?”  I think the video above answers that pretty readily.  You’re welcome.

Eating one to the melon while moving in. No worries, this is how we learn. The end result: confidence in the application of my Wing Chun in a hostile environment. More hits in training = less hesitation when it counts.

We are here to train to use our Wing Chun – be it sparring, full-contact fighting, MMA and ultimately for self-defense on the street.

The shortuct to this skill set? Getting quality headgear and geting HIT.  The best way to get hit?  In controlled, progressive sparring.

The end result of applying Wing Chun to your sparring?  Economy of motion, less wasted effort jumping around burning your candle at both ends, greater body unity and more powerful punching, a tighter structure when boxing or kickboxing leading to a more impenetrable defense like a tortoise shell, and simple, direct and efficient attacks to the opponent’s centerline which among other things can result in taking someone out with a shot to the balls.

Illegal in MMA perhaps, but illogical not to use in a real fight…and isn’t that what it’s all about, folks?


Train Smart, Stay Safe

Sifu Bobby


  1. Hello Bobby!

    Thank you for your article and for your suggestion of the protector headgear. Can you also recommend me some gloves? Thank you!

    1. Andrei!

      First off, 1000 apologies for getting back to you so late-I have been sidetracked and am just now getting back to giving my site the attention it deserves. Re: gloves, I am going to be posting a list of my top 3 gloves for Wing Chun training within the next day but just to give you the heads up, they would be:

      Title Boxing Classic 16oz. Pro-Style training glove (boxing glove) Every good Wing Chun guy/gal who wants to train realistically needs a boxing glove, not just for their own training but to do scenario drills where they are either getting hit or hitting a training partner in a street scenario which will necessitate the use and application of Wing Chun technikques and principles.

      Title Boxing Classic MMA Extreme Training Glove (MMA training glove; there is no need for an MMA fight glove as the MMA gloves are light enough themselves; extra padding and the thumb covering-the 2 main factors that separate an MMA training glove form a competition glove-are useful and needed in training)

      Kempo Gloves by ProForce – those are the puffy black gloves Bruce Lee used in the opening scene of Enter the Dragon. They have lots of padding so they are good for sparring but have a complete open palm so all manner of Wing Chun traps, checks and palm strikes can be executed pretty dman near flawlessly.

      Keep an eye out for my next post but those are my recommendations in a nutshell. Sorry for the dalay. I hope this helps and you find it useful.


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