Wing Chun Footwork: How to train Biu Ma
The footwork of Wing Chun is very simple, direct, efficient and not much different to the directness of boxing or kickboxing footwork. Although there are major differences to boxing or kickboxing in the triangulation of the feet, knees, and hips. It is key in Wing Chun footwork to focus on triangulation these joints to gain a good structure in the body when driving forward towards an attacker in self defence.
Wing Chun footwork is derived from the basic stance training taught in our beginners classes and then perfected in the Chum Kiu form at our Advanced level (see What is the Wing Chun stance for?). Essentially, the basic stance (Yee Gee Kim Yeung Ma) is the Triangular Advancing Stance (Saam Gok Ma) also known as Bui Ma (Thrusting Stance). Although the basic stance does not represent the most practical way of applying this posture, it is the best method of learning, understanding, and training footwork.
As far as combat application is concerned, it is important to be able to advance or retreat in Wing Chun quickly efficiently with correct balance and body structure. Bear in mind that the structure is key as this enables you to punch, kick when attacking, or put you in a better defensive position when being attacked. Similar to boxing or kickboxing footwork, the Bui Ma step requires you to move your front foot and then your back foot the even amount of distance. So as never to bring your feet together.
Getting the Correct Weight Distribution for Biu Ma
There are a few misconceptions surrounding the distribution of body weight within the Wing Chun stance. That is, whether the weight should be more toward the back leg.
One misconception is that you should place 70% to 80% of your weight on the back leg leaving your front leg unsatisfactorily light. We advise that you do not adjust your body weight to this extreme because this leads to less mobility and greater danger of being pushed over in a self defence confrontation.
In reality, your weight distribution changes according to what you are required to do with your hands or feet. However, a key characteristic is the position of your hip joint (see The Self Defence Stance of Wing Chun). This must be forward to keep a sufficient amount of weight on your front leg.
Exactly how much weight distributed between your legs depends on the self defence situation, so the stance is extremely flexible in its use. There is no hard fast rule. You adjust your stance according to the requirement. Remember, Wing Chun is a Southern style of Chinese martial arts and adopts its characteristics from those regions. It is important to remember that it is a small upright stance for enhanced mobility. This allows you to adjust your weight distribution, forward or back, quickly.
You Must Determine the Distance to Travel
The forward or backward movement in Wing Chun is derived from the Basic Stance in Wing Chun. By forming the basic stance then turning to the left or right you now have the correct triangulation of the legs and hips to drive forward or backwards.
Essentially, when moving forward the body is propelled from the back leg, while the front leg moves in that direction, therefore body is driven from the ground upwards in any direction. At this stage it is important to note whether or not the distance between the feet is correct. If the distance between the heels remains the same as your basic stance, after stepping then this is correct.
How you move is determined by the distance you plan to cover. If you wish to cover a shorter distance, then a singular step should suffice. In this instance simply drive off the back leg making sure that you keep the rear foot (and heal) in contact with the floor this allows you to re-grip the ground and remain grounded. If you wish to travel a longer distance then one, two, or three steps should suffice. However, we recommend that you do not take more than three steps.
Multiple steps should not cover the same distance as an individual single step. In other words, rather than 1 step of 6 inches you would take 3 steps of 3 inches, thus creating a slightly longer distance. This maintains your stability in a self defence situation.
To improve mobility when performing multiple Biu Ma steps it does not make sense to drop your back heel after the first step. Therefore, it is advisable to slightly lift your heel after the first step, and then drop on your last step to settle on the ground. Although, it is possible to take a large step as long as you stay within the confines of your own body.
Overall, the self defence situation determines whether you take one step or multiple steps with Biu Ma. We suggest that you regularly practice your footwork in the gym making sure that you incorporate footwork with as many different exercises as possible (see The 5 Best Exercises to Improve Your Wing Chun Footwork). For more training tips for our gym, please also read: The 5 Best Exercises to Improve Your Wing Chun.
The London Wing Chun Academy is a martial arts and functional fitness gym based in North London. Open 7 days a week with gym and functional fitness equipment. Our gym provides group fitness and martial arts classes in Wing Chun, San Shou Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, WC4 Self Defence, Yoga, Functional Fitness, and non contact Fitness kick Boxing. Membership starts from £25 per month. Visit our gym today for a taster class. Get Started Now >>