THE CENTER-LINE CONCEPT IN WING CHOON KUNGFU
How in your experience does the Wing Choon concept of controlling the center-line benefit the other styles in our school that do not have this specific focus, and how can it be adapted to for example the 16 combat sequences?
The center-line concept is frequently mentioned in Wing Choon Kungfu but is sometimes misunderstood. This concept is considered of great importance in many popular Wing Choon schools today, but in the style of Wing Choon Kungfu I practice, i.e. Choe Family Wing Choon, it is only one of the concepts contributing to combat efficiency. In other words, in Choe Family Wing Choon, the center-line concept is not given the same importance and emphasis as in most other Wing Choon schools.
The center-line refers to an imaginary line running from the top of the head down the mid-position of the nose, mouth, chest and stomach, through the navel and dan tian to the sex organs and anus. It usually refers to the front of the body, but may also refers to an imaginary line at the back of the body running at mid-position from the top of the head down to the anus.
Basically according to the center-line concept, when a Wing Choon practitioner strikes an opponent, he aims at targets along this center-line. In his defence he deflects an opponent’s attack from this center-line. These attack and defence movements are manifested in his solo set practice. Controlling the center-line means commanding this central space in both attack and defence.
For example, when practicing Siu Lim Tou many practitioners of other Wing Choon schools move their cup fist from their center-line outward. We also do this when practicing Siu Lin Tou (please note the middle word "Lin") in our school. This “offer wine” technique is practiced along the center line.
Hoong Ka practitioners perform the “offer wine” technique differently. They do not start from their center-line at their solar plexus; they start from their waist and move their cup-fist straight out at shoulder-position, not at the center. We do this too when practicing Triple Stretch.
In performing “tan sau”, or “mirror-hand”, some Wing Choon practitioners of other schools move their palm outward from their center-line. We perform this technique differently. We move our palm outward, not directly but diagonally so that the palm will end at the shoulder position.
Many years ago when I was teaching in Australia, a Wing Choon practitioner from another school consulted me on how to defend against a series of chain punches. I show him how to use a “tan sau” or mirror-hand to close both punches of an opponent. He said that his sifu forbid him to move his “tan sau” diagonally; it should be moved only forward so as to follow the principle of the center-line.
I told him that using “tan sau” the way he did was ineffective. The opponent, with a slight slanting of his body, could still piece through and strike him. Or the opponent could use his other hand to strike him, as he had not cover the opponent adequately.
In justifying their striking their opponent at the center-line, Wing Choon practitioners of other Wing Choon schools often use the analogy of a sand-bag. If you strike a sand-bag head-on at its center, you execute a full impact on the sand-bag. If you strike a sand-bag at its side, your punch may glide away with much less impact.
This argument is not valid in Choe Family Wing Choon. In Choe Family Wing Choon, we use internal force, not just physical impact, to injure an opponent. Even if an exponent does not have internal force, striking an opponent’s ribs with a leopard punch, or his vital point with a phoenix-eye fist can cause much damage. Leopard punch and phoenix-eye fist are frequently used in Choe Family Wing Choon, but not in other popular styles of Wing Choon.
Moreover, Wing Choon Kungfu is meant for small-sized opponents against bigger-sized opponents. Attacking the center-line of bigger-sized opponents head-on is disadvantageous, but attacking their sides is more advantageous.
Similarly, sticking on to the center-line to deflect a powerful head-on attack from an opponent is disadvantageous. It is more advantageous to move to a side and simultaneously counter-strike the attacker with a phoenix-eye fist or a leopard punch.
The center-line concept is involved in both cases but they are used differently. In other schools of Wing Choon, the exponent remains at the center-line, and deflects an attack from the center-line. For example, if an opponent executes a right thrust punch at your solar plexus, you do not move away but deflect his attack with your right “tan sau”.
In Choe Family Wing Choon, when an opponent attacks his center-line, the exponent moves to a side and simultaneously counter-strikes. For example, if an opponent executes a right thrust punch at your solar plexus, you move diagonally to your left side, using your left palm to cover yourself, and simultaneously counter-strike his right ribs with your right leopard punch.
The center-line concept is present not only in the other styles in our school but also in the other styles in all other schools. However, it is not given special importance or emphasis as in some popular Wing Choon styles.
This center-line concept does not have this special focus not because practitioners of other styles in our school as well as in all other schools do not know its advantage when the advantage is present, but because more often than not other concepts like attacking from the side and circular movement are more advantageous, especially for the small sized against a bigger opponent.
Hence, the question of the concept of controlling the center line of some Wing Choon schools benefitting other styles in our school is irrelevant. Not only in the other styles, but even in our Choe Family Wing Choon, we do not always use this concept. In fact, in the case of the small sized against a bigger opponent, for which traditional Wing Choon Kungfu is famous, using this center-line concept, from the center out, is often disadvantageous.
On occasions when this concept is advantageous, like when an exponent has a lot of internal force, this center-line concept is employed. It is not a case of borrowing the center-line concept from Wing Choon Kungfu because this concept is already found in the kungfu style in question. In the Xingyiquan course at the 2013 UK Summer Camp, for example, course participants used pi-quan to control the center-line in their attack and defence, irrespective of an opponent’s moves!
There is no need to adapt the center-line concept in the 16 combat sequences or in any systematic attack or defence. Indeed it would be silly to do so when it is disadvantageous, although some martial artists in their mistaken view that the center-line concept is a fantastic method might do so.
In some of the 16 combat sequences, the center-line concept is used. For example, this concept is evident in Sequences 1 and 2. But when other concepts are favourable in certain combat situations, these other concepts are used, like the side-attack in Sequence 3 and 4.
This center-line concept would be detrimental when meeting a fast opponent, like a Boxer. If a Boxer executes a left jab, for example, and a Wing Choon practitioner uses the center-line concept to ward off the left jab with his right “tan sau”, he would expose himself to the right cross of the Boxer.
It would be more advantageous for him to use his left catch-hand, as in Cham Kiew, to “close” the Boxer’s left jab, and moves into the Boxer’s left side, not his center-line, and strikes the Boxer’s ribs with his left leopard punch. Interestingly, because of their lack of exposure, those who glamorize the center-line concept may cry out that this is not Wing Choon Kungfu, although this is a typical counter from Choe Family Wing Choon.
If you want to use any of the 16 combat sequences to press into an opponent, the center-line concept would also be detrimental. Instead of striking his center-line, you should use the concept of “one against two” to adequately tame your opponent, and use the other hand to deliver a coup de grace.
The questions and answers are reproduced from the thread Wing Choon Kungfu -- 10 Questions to Grandmaster Wong in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum.