I mentioned recently that I’m teaching an introductory Wudan Kung Fu class, with a lot of Wing Chun influences. Some of my students have asked for some exercises they can do at home to learn Wing Chun techniques.
First, we’ll focus on stance. I want you to stand with your feet roughly shoulder width apart. Your knees should be slightly bent, and your butt should be tucked under your spine. Now, hold that stance for a moment; you’ll feel a bit of a burn in your quadriceps and hamstrings when you’re holding it. The important thing to keep in mind when holding your stance is breathing. It’s not moving, it’s not remaining perfectly still, it’s understanding how your body dynamically balances. Breath in, feel the breath go straight to the soles of your feet, and exhale. Repeat, and let your shoulders relax, until your hands are resting open by the sides of your hips.
Learn to stay in this stance for a good long time. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you’re no longer aware of the fact that you’re standing in it. If you notice that you automatically slide into Wing Chun stance when waiting for the bus, or standing in line at the post office, you’re probably about there.
Now, the next thing to do is to throw a punch. Wing Chun uses the (oft maligned) short punch. It does NOT generate as much power as a boxing jab, but then, Wing Chun isn’t a hard style; it focuses on economy of motion and speed over power. You don’t need to be able to punch through a steel plate you do need to punch someone hard enough and fast enough to win a fight.
Like most martial arts, your punch actually starts with your feet. Remember how we have you holding your stance with your feet shoulder width apart? This is why when you throw your punch off of those bent legs, you are naturally going to straighten up a bit when you move your arm forward, which is going to put the kinematics of your quadriceps and hipbones into your punch. When you throw a cross punch, you want to keep your elbow in line with your body, which is an unnatural motion. The punch will develop power from your thighs, transmitted through your core, and into the target. Visualize, when you punch, that you’re putting your knuckles through a point three inches behind the target.
Now, remember when we had you relax? This is for speed relaxed muscles react faster than tense muscles. This becomes important when doing blocks, inside and outside. The basic inside block moves your forearm across your body; you want to use the shortest distance possible, and you want to learn to coordinate your off hand and your on hand to make a fluid motion blocking across your body. An outside block is the reverse motion your hand moves from inside your centerline to the outside, directing the force of the blow to the outside.
Practice the punch and these two blocks in combination in front of a mirror, and we’ll walk you through learning more Wing Chun techniques in a future article.