How to Punch
The Wing Chun Centreline Punch
The centreline punch is the defining martial arts technique of Wing Chun Kung Fu. Punches are delivered in fast successive flurries, with the elbow pulled in and close to the body for support and structure. Indeed, the Wing Chun punch is a structure supported by the weight of the practitioner. When thrown, the fist is held vertical and often twisted on contact in order to maximise the power of the strike. This is important since it is consistent with the martial arts concept of The Six Harmonys (Wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle) often promoted during the practice of Wing Chun Kung Fu.
Key features of the Wing Chun punch are:
Although a close quarter strike, the Wing Chun punch is faster than a common western 'haymaker' or 'hook', particularly because of the close range of its delivery and because the elbow is not swung backwards before the attack. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line and therefore the Wing Chun punch reflects the directness of that route, without telegraphing that strike by drawing the hand or elbow backwards.
Power is drawn from the development of explosive energy (Fa Geung) and not initially the rotation of the body, hence the interval between the punches is reduced allowing for faster successive punches to be thrown at an attacker. In contrast to the haymaker or hook punch, or even a punch from the waist as seen in other martial arts, the Wing Chun punch is like a machine gun. The Wing Chun fighter seeks to overwhelm the opponent through a constant bombardment of strikes. Allowing the Wing Chun practitioner to punch repeatedly, in a controlled fashion, without over-rotation or sacrificing body positioning.
However, additional power can be added to the punch by forward body movement to the strike, and linking the arm to the body by keeping the elbow in the Centre Line or within the confines of the body learnt from the practice of the first form. There is no reliance on the weak shoulder joint, instead the back acts as the central support for the Wing Chun strike. Note that acceleration of the strike is important. There is additional acceleration in the final stage of the punch whish is provided by the natural upwards snap of the wrist, demonstrating the legendary 1-inch-punch power of Wing Chun Kung Fu.
A Wing Chun practitioner will always seek to strike with the minimum effort while trying to achieve the maximum effect of force. The philosophy behind applying the Wing Chun punch, deems that the damage is done when the punch lands and a then drives slightly through the human body. Pushing through the body with the punch serves no purpose as it forces the attacker out of striking range, and compromises a Wing Chun fighter's balance. By practicing the 2nd section of the Sui Nim Tao, the Wing Chun practitioner learns to generate a tremendous amount of energy amount of energy over a short distance, with the aid of structure and relaxation. The Wing Chun punch does not push, it strikes suddenly with the use of Fa Geung. The objective is to damage to the attackers internal organs and even concuss the brain.
In contrast to most Martial Arts systems, Wing Chun Kung Fu utilises an up right vertical fist that places the bottom three knuckles forward, which allows them to take the impact of the punch and transmit the force down the back of the hand along the forearm and into the back muscle. The structure and alignment of the knuckles is critical for managing the impact of the strike. Compared to the horizontal fist, it is considerably safer at close quarters, however the Wing Chun punch is designed to strike over a very short distance and not at long range. Over a longer range the horizontal fist maybe more effective, but it lacks strength and structure, which places the knuckles in danger of severe damage.
Application of the horizontal fist also risks damage to the finger joints in front of the knuckles as a result of the impact being taken there, making it easier to break the fingers or wrist. A comparison between the two punching styles should be made over a close range by punching a Wing Chun wallbag at the academy (UK Wing Chun Assoc: London Martial Arts Academy) with a vertical and then a horizontal fist. You will see that the vertical fist can be used to strike a Wallbag without the arm buckling at the elbow with a maximum level of force.
As a rule, hand strength is developed primarily by the Wing Chun practitioner striking a Wing Chun wallbag. The Wing Chun wallbag must be a key feature of any beginners training, since it not only conditions the hands for bare fist striking, but also reinforces the structure and strength of the Wing Chun punch.
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