Ving Tsun Misconceptions

Ving Tsun Misconceptions
By Philipp Bayer
The section “Ving Tsun Misconceptions” in each issue of Real Ving Tsun Kung Fu will be a forum to discuss topics and principles that are commonly misunderstood and have a negative impact on the style overall. A lack of realistic and pragmatic thinking frequently renders otherwise effective Ving Tsun techniques useless. Throughout my seminar teachings, I ha

ve consistently pointed out the simplicity of our style. This simplicity made it possible that Ving Tsun developed into one of the most effective fighting styles of the Chinese kung fu system.Unbridled imagination is the biggest enemy of Ving Tsun. It can lead us into the land of make believe -and this to a degree only seen in other styles until now. One of the best ways to judge the quality of Ving Tsun is the degree to which it adheres to its core principles. One of these is the centerline principle.Most of the primary targets – equally important to attack and defense – are clustered along the centerline. All Ving Tsun exercises emphasize the simultaneous attack and defense in each action. The centerline punch, for instance, simultaneously attacks and protects the centerline, as each action should guard one’s own head. The type of frontal attack that is typical of Ving Tsun not only provides protection for the attacker but also evens out the reach and impact of both arms. This is in contrast to elaborate body rotation maneuvers that lead to instability and loss of power. In Ving Tsun we only pivot to deflect an attack, gain ground in our opponent or to simply reorient towards the other combatant.
One of the biggest mistakes in this context is to assume that you can escape serious attack by simply “stepping out of the way” and letting your enemy run past you. This is often demonstrated gracefully and quite proudly. Sure, this works, but only if my attacker isn’t very bright, does not really want to hit me or attacks with a single punch. As I’ve mentioned numerous times in the past, the Ving Tsun fighter never underestimates his opponent. Quite to the contrary, he always assumes that the other combatant is still in position to either defend himself or launch another attack. We would never compare our opponent to a blindly charging bull. Of course it looks great: one fighter slams his punch at full speed into the mostly extended arm of the defender, the impact transforms the defender’s arm into a Bong Sau as he pivots off to the side and moves his weight to his rear leg.

The attacker is unable to react and stumbles past his target. Looks great and practically sells itself! But it only works in prearranged demonstrations and if my opponent is not only very strong but also exceptionally stupid. Here’s a more realistic scenario: my opponent is quite sure that he will defeat me (hence his attack) and naturally wants to reach his target. With a series of precise punches that aim to deform my head, not my arm, he launches an attack from close range. Coming into contact with my extended arm does not bother him in the least. His rapid-fire punches make me pivot away.

His attacking energy made me turn, but basic physics dictate that I won’t be able to move my body as quickly as my attacker can move his arms. Pivoting out of the way not only rendered my own punch ineffective, it also negatively impacted my own balance due to the resulting pushback. My opponent doesn’t wait for my next move but has already recalibrated his line of attack towards me and initiated his next attack. All of this adds up to putting me in a worse position than before I initiated my original pivot. I desperately try to move to the other side and pivot yet again, but of course my opponent can punch much faster than I can turn.
My opponent has gained a lot of space and is already aiming another punch at me – but my own rapid shifting and the resulting centrifugal forces are throwing me off balance. My own defensive moves aren’t supported by a solid foundation and become ineffective. An analysis of this hypothetical scenario shows that moving one’s own centerline, i.e. pivoting to the outside, does not impact my opponent’s attack. Unlike many willing demonstration partners, he did not play the blindly charging bull. As I pointed out, all he had to do was to adjust his line of sight. At the same time, my opponent gained a tremendous amount of space and his forward momentum added to the power of his punches while my pivots detract from my counterpunching force. Moving all my weight to the rear leg also impairs my ability to maneuver safely.

Such a significant shift in the center of gravity necessarily leads to another similarly sizable shift in body weight that yields more territory to my opponent and makes my own position even more unstable. This is a recipe for disaster. My last move is to turn directly into the punch of my opponent – Game Over. There are many reasons why moving your own centerline back and forth as I described makes no sense. It does not improve but rather worsens your position for the remainder of the fight. This means you not only have to fight your opponent but your own lack of stability as well. By the way, boxers learn very early on to always pursue and reorient themselves towards their opponent.

When practicing with focus mitts we also prepare for the reality that our opponent does not want to be hit and will try to evade our action and maneuver into a better position. Using skillful pursuit techniques we try to gain ground on our practice partner and simultaneously reduce his ability to counterattack. This approach is part of Ving Tsun and is first introduced in the second form Chum Kiu. It is also part of the initial Chi Sao experiences of every Ving Tsun student. After more than 13 years in Ving Tsun I’ve noticed that many Ving Tsun styles have significant difficulties countering other martial arts systems. There are arrogant Ving Tsun practitioners who mimic the “stupid karate guy” who attacks from a low stance, kata-style, or exposes his groin to attack while delivering a high kick. But it’s exactly those “stupid guys” and their hooks and haymakers that throw the arrogant practitioner’s Ving Tsun system off balance.

Even though Ving Tsun is supposed to be effective and dangerous, defending from attacks from their own system – oddly enough – never poses a real challenge. Each punch is picture-perfect and easily deflected. After many years of global Ving Tsun development, haymakers cause as many problems as ever. The amount of resulting pivoting and turning will make your head spin! A kick to the head or a low kick to the shin and all hell breaks loose. It seems bizarre that supposedly illogical fighting styles, sometimes derogatorily just called “sports,” are able to disrupt the Ving Tsun world so thoroughly.
This is why there have been many attempts to infuse principles of other systems into Ving Tsun. Profound doubts about one’s own system also lead to constantly changing forms, shifting rationales for individual techniques and sudden adjustments of core principles. Ultimately this provides a fertile breeding ground for obfuscation as the answers to challenging questions and explanations for useless techniques can simply be labeled “top secret.”

Philipp Bayer

  1. This is the reason so many people hold our style in contempt and are dismissive about “chunners.” Ving Tsun students who stroll toward their opponents chain punching or who believe that the appropriate strategy for a fight is to deflect and defend until a clean shot can be found (rather than stepping in, taking position, and hitting immediately). As Wong Shun Leung said, the system is perfect if you use it as intended. When you dilute it by adding elements from other styles or especially if you try and make it something that is defensive, it loses its particular magic and becomes ordinary.

  1. Pingback: Ving Tsun Misconceptions | Snake vs Crane

  2. Pingback: Ving Tsun Misconceptions: Sifu Philip Bayer video and article -

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