Some thoughts on the Tom Wong’s internal soft style Wing Chun:
Soft style Wing Chun kung fu does not only refer to being soft or weak. Soft refers to fluid, relaxed and a constantly flowing force.
The principles and psychology vastly differs from my early experiences in Kendo and Hard Style forms of Karate. In my early years of competition, the aim was to go in a linear manner as fast as possible to score a hit on the opponent. Therefore, to be successful I had to be in extraordinary physical condition .I would to chase around my opponents non-stop for 5 minutes, then another opponent etc. until 20-30 minutes later, if I had defeated enough people I would get my plastic trophy.
The first interesting result of Wing Chun, is that opponents run into my punches. When I side-step and execute a triangle-block, they hit my fist with great impact, despite using little muscular force. Also, in other styles where side-stepping was not central, I had only 2 options. One, if they attacked I had to move back or the second, was to strike before they had a chance to strike.
These 2 options relies on tremendous reflexes, therefore I was always tense. I have noticed in the soft style of Wing chun, that the more one relaxes, the more effective one becomes.
Tension is the key element in hard styles. Not only psychologically but also muscle-tension. These 2 forms of tensions slows one’s reaction time to an attack. Also, the linear movement limit the 360 movement found in a soft style Kung fu.
The pak-sao and its circular movements easily negates a linear attack. Even a 1-2 jab-cross combination would not hit a person moving in a circular manner. The pak-sao with a side-step is like an arc moving out, it however can arc inwards suddenly and take advantage of the opponent’s exposed center. If one were facing an opponent, there would be 4 options of a pak-sao. With the right hand ( inner and outer) and the left ( inner outer), plus side-stepping inner and outer. Also, the pak-sao has 7 directions, therefore, the combinations of the 7-directions of pak-sao, ( left or right hand) , side-stepping out or in, gives a wide varieties of tactics to an attack. Combining this with triangle-attacks, and the variations are too numerous to count. Furthermore, the side-step allows you to gain advantages in term of positioning, distance and an advantage in the usage of 2 hands versus the opponent’s single hand. Unless the attacker shifts instantaneously, they will be at an disadvantage, and the momentum of attack is reversed into your favor.
Pak-sao and triangle block allows one to attack and defend simultaneously. This idea is rarely found in other styles of martial arts. In fact, I haven’t seen any other style except Wing chun which utilizes this idea. The only other technique similar to this idea, is to attack the instant a person launches their attack. Therefore, you defend by disrupting their attack, while successfully attacking. This is also the central idea in Bruce Lee’s JKD.
Striking is always based on distance.
In a hard-style :when people are attacked, they instinctively run away, regather themselves, and then attack. But, by then the opponent runs away, and the whole cycles begins. After, each side tires, one person gathers the courage to parry and not back away, or attack at the same time.
Whereas, time and distance are economized in a soft-style. When one side-steps, pak-sao and strikes at the same time you do not need to chase around your opponent. In close situations where retreating is not possible, relaxing the body and shifting your weight while attacking can redirect a linear attack.
Also, in a clinch, relaxation plays a crucial role to the execution of sticky hands or rolling hands. Becoming-rigid, it defeats the ability to move quickly and react to ever-changing situations. Side-steps allows one to remain in close attacking range, deflect an attack, knock the opponent off balance and use their own force with yours to reinstitute a new offensive.
Paradoxically, the soft style is more powerful than any hard style of martial arts. Only from studying hard styles one can appreciate the beauty and economy of soft style kung fu. The power comes from the whole body, the legs and the inertia of the individual generates the power. Also, the attacker’s momentum may be added to the equation, if the timing is perfect. Hard stylist do use similar principles of generating power from the legs, hips and muscular torque. The key principle or difference, of softness is the coordination of these factors. When one is relaxed, it is much easier to coordinate the forces into a singular output.