The concept in dealing with gravity is similar in a great many martial arts practice programs. Part of self-defense is, naturally, not falling. Wing Tsun’ founders were very focused on this. It was supposed to have been developed by a woman. Naturally it would be catastrophic to end up on the ground with a much larger, stronger attacker on top of you.
Many of the ancient martial arts were concerned with a strong stance at the expense of mobility. Stances were low, wide, and very strong. If a person uses a punch or strike from such a strong position, the punch or strike would have a great deal of power.
Wing Tsun’s founders took a different direction. Instead of a low stance, Wing Tsun’s stance is higher and narrower. Instead of concern for a very powerful punch or strike, Wing Tsun’s emphasis was and is on mobility. It was very important in the minds of the founders that a defender be quick on her feet to avoid becoming a stationary target. Mobility allows one to dissolve an attacker’s force, yield when necessary, and attack when necessary more quickly. The idea was to attack the weaker points of the human body more accurately.
Even so, the principals of physics are not changed. Wing Tsun uses the structure or the human body to make it effective. The structure starts at the ground. The basic training stance, known as the “character two” adduction stance is a toes-in position with the knees in at the same angle. A line drawn between the toes and another, longer line drawn between the heels forms the Chinese character for the number “2.” The triangle formed by your feet this way is a very stable shape. At the same time, it is not so wide as to limit natural human stepping.
The character two adduction-stance is the most important footwork position. As evidence, it is the first thing one learns in Wing Tsun. It forms the basis for everything one learns throughout one’s career in Wing Tsun. Therefore, it bears continued attention throughout one’s Wing Tsun career.
All hand positions, particularly when one advances to the sticky hands techniques, depend on the quality of one’s ‘grounding’ (firm footing) using the footwork basics one learns in earlier training.
If one has a firm footing, it becomes far easier to use the upper body techniques in the appropriate way. Wing Tsun teaches a soft approach to defense. Students learn how to yield to be able to borrow the oncoming force and return it. If the stance is weak or the firm footing is compromised, the upper body also becomes unsound and falls apart.
The attention on footwork is unglamorous but is vital to one’s success in any martial art. It is certainly no exception in learning Wing Tsun.
-Sifu Keith Sonnenberg