By Greg LeBlanc
Wing Chun at its core follows a particular tactic that defines the logic of its training methods and especially the rationale for becoming expert at the reflex drill Wing Chun has become famous for called Chi Sau. Without understanding the design of Wing Chun, Chi Sau will not make sense. As a drill it only has a direct relationship to self-protection if and when at close range the punching line angles have been blocked, tangled or jammed. In essence Wing Chun capitalizes on a particular tactic called Jeet; Jeet refers to the interception of an attack with an attack. In an ideal form the Wing Chun practitioner will advance as the attacker advances, intercepting the offending attack with a defending attack, all done in one step. Arms and hands form a barrier and bring the attack tools closer to the target, sharpening the response timing and using the closest attack tool to the primary target (the General).
If the primary distance is lost or given up (such as by stepping back), the Wing Chun defender cannot continue using his or her main tactic. If the bent arm range is lost by stepping back or not maintaining proper range with the target, the kicking and grappling ranges open up and all is lost in terms of what Wing Chun seeks to attain and preserve as a range and the chief target access. The guidelines are to attain the proper range, to retain the proper range and to maintain pressure towards the center-line of the target at all times. The range that Wing Chun specializes in is meant to last only a few seconds, providing a clear path to the primary target and redefining that path if momentarily blocked out or obstructed.
The function of Chi Sau and the helping/assistant hands it develops is to build into muscle memory to always being chasing the center of mass and to change to a new angle of attack if required. All other benefits are by-products of proper training and fringe benefits of understanding the logic and function of the drill. To train complicated usage and near magical definitions of what is possible is IMHO to train in what I refer to as the Chi Sau bubble. To not understand the true timing of interception in one step, to not train the hands for close range full power impact and to not train at a distance from live and common attacks, is also to train in a Chi Sau bubble. This idea of application is different from the moving range of symmetrical fighting (competitive style) is in concept different from the asymmetrical event of a random self-protection problem or to be suddenly and with out warning preyed upon. In the later event very little preparation is possible and options for response are best kept simple, direct and efficient. The other missing element I would add is that often the golden moment of deescalation is present and should proceed if possible any response that requires Wing Chun skills. To quote Sun Tzu “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”