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Nate Tam
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Shotokan/Wing Chun Cross-Training

Hey all! I'm new here, just looking for a healthy community for my martial arts journey. This is my first post.

I study Shotokan karate very heavily, and have for a bit more than a decade (nishiyama linneage). Our substyle of Shotokan doesn't have the long stances, and focuses much more on body mechanics efficiency, longevity, and timing (see musashi's the books of five rings "fire")- sen, tai no sen, go no sen timing, etc...

Any chance any of you have enough experience in both karate and wing chun to give me some pointers on my cross-training? I've started training under sifu Gary Lam in California, and have noticed a lot of conceptual and technical similarities between the styles. I often am asked what else I do when training in wing chun since the mechanics are pretty similar and thus far have been pretty luckily to ingest wing chun at a fairly brisk pace. (I'm assuming it's cause of a more similar than not connection between certain fundamentals of the style of Shotokan I practice...)

I'm simply looking for some tips/things to pay attention to as I continue my training specifically while cross-training.

NOTE: while I'm open to comments on practicality and self-defense, I'm mostly asking from a martial arts perspective- specifically more about the concepts, intensions, mechanics, timing etc that are woven between the styles (as is are all martial arts, but specifically these two). I'm also only dipping into wing chun to further my karate evolution, knowledge, and training.

Thanks!

- Nate

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Nate,

Welcome! I think the two-systems can work well together. Peter Consterdine is one of my most influential karate instructors and he also studied Wing Chun under Ip Chun, Sam Kwok, Simon Lau, Danny Connor and Alan Lamb. Peter found it really useful for the close-range element and you may find these interviews interesting and relevant:

https://www.worldcombatassociation.com/view-article/an-interview-with-peter-consterdine

https://iainabernethy.co.uk/content/iain-talks-peter-consterdine-9th-dan

Nate Tam wrote:
I'm mostly asking from a martial arts perspective- specifically more about the concepts, intensions, mechanics, timing etc that are woven between the styles (as is are all martial arts, but specifically these two).

Personally, I think no other art takes limb-control to the level that Wing Chun does. Therefore, that would be that element I would seek to improve through Wing Chun study. It will be really helpful to the trapping side of your karate to learn from the experts in that area. If I’m honest, I’ve never been that taken with impact side of Wing Chun. The strikes are fast and rapid fire, but they lack the levels of impact that we see in karate, boxing, Thai-boxing, etc.

When cross training, I think it’s generally a good idea to learn the art as presented, and to fully immerse yourself in it. No one wants to be the “I would do it this way” guy. When you’ve got a good handle on the core ideas of the system, you can then better contextualise what has been learnt, and decided what it to be kept and rejected in the longer term.

That said, I think it’s fair to say that, on the whole, Karate’s levels of impact are greater than Wing Chun’s; whereas Wing Chun’s ability to create openings and asset dominance at close-range, before a solid grip is established (which would move us into grappling and the specialisations of wrestling, judo, etc) is greater than Karate’s.

Nate Tam wrote:
I'm also only dipping into wing chun to further my karate evolution, knowledge, and training.

If that’s the goal, and based on the general nature of the two systems, then I’d be focusing on the limb-control elements and how they relate to the actions of karate kata and self-protection. Learn Wing Chun as taught, but have one eye on the subsequent integration of the relevant aspects back into your core art. I think that will invariably mean you will focus more on the limb-control and pay less attention to the methods of impact and power attention. This is what Peter did such that his “adapted Wing Chun” became part of his karate, with the power generation methods remaining 100% karate (specifically the methods of Shigeru Kimura).

I hope that helps in some way.

All the best,

Iain

Nate Tam
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Thanks Iain!

I will say from what I've gathered so far, your response is exactly what I'm finding. Wing Chung, at least Gary Lam's, is focused on using "hand sensitivity" to help you gauge, counter, interrupt, and control an opponents limbs and to a certain extent, positioning. This always leads to a strike or takedown.

Personally, I'm not comfortable fighting that close (another great reason to do it- to get more comfortable), but also, if I'm in a dojo setting, the use of the wing chun principles is more useful as a continuation of techniques used to catch sen no sen, tai no sen, and go no sen timing. In other words, using it as part of zanshin, after close distance has been made.

So far, they've spoken very little about body mechanics, muscle activation, alignment, timing, posture, etc that I attribute in Shotokan to the development of power, balance and the like. That's not to say it doesn't exist, but thus far, my wing chun has yet to expand my understanding of those elements of combat.

As far as using it for self-defense is concerned...I'm not there yet.

nielmag
nielmag's picture

Great post!  I recently started learning chi sao/sticky hands and really enjoy it for reasons Iain pointed out. However I was wondering about the striking. Didn't seem to generate as much power as what I'm used to, seemed not to get a lot of body weight into it. Just wondering others peoples thoughts/experience on close range striking in Wing chun vs karate. I. Agree w Iain Nate and Maybe that's why Bruce lee seemed to like boxing?

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

nielmag wrote:
Didn't seem to generate as much power as what I'm used to, seemed not to get a lot of body weight into it. Just wondering others peoples thoughts/experience on close range striking in Wing chun vs karate.

That’s been my general experience. Of course, not all practitioners of a system are equal, and there are always varying approaches too … but, talking generally, I have found Wing Chun striking to be quick and rapid, but often at the expense of impact. I also don’t feel that’s an unavoidable trade off either. We can be quick, rapid and powerful.

In the interests of maintaining objectivity, and expecting that most reading this will be karateka, it’s probably worth underlining again that Wing Chun’s limb control skills are way better developed than karate’s. I therefore hope this come across as the dispassionate and objective observations that I believe them to be; and not as the tribal “art vs art” stuff we could all do without. Anyhow …

I was once discussing power generation with a friend who has considerable Wing Chun experience and he remarked that, “Karate and Boxing seek to throw bricks; were as in Wing Chun we throw handfuls of rocks at you.” I feel there is the false dichotomy of “power or speed” present in the statement – again, I believe we can and should seek both because they are not mutually exclusive – but there is perhaps an acceptance that Wing Chun strikes have less mass behind them. I don’t accept the underlying premise, but I will say that getting hit by a brick is devastating; whereas a handful of rocks isn’t.

All arts have their specialities, competencies and weaknesses. Judo is great for throwing and BJJ is great for groundwork; but they have nothing to say about striking. Boxing has the best developed punching, but they have almost nothing to say about grappling. For me, when it comes to limb-control and creating striking opportunities at close-range, Wing Chun is number 1. When it comes to power generation, there are better developed options elsewhere.

As always, we need to contextualise and define so we know which skills, and to what level, are relevant for our stated goal. However, cross training with specialists is often very worthwhile; even if the advanced “us vs us” stuff isn’t relevant or applicable outside of “in-house specialist duelling”.

All the best,

Iain

colby
colby's picture

For me, I would recommend most of Master Wong's YouTube channel for pointers like stance differences, how to incorporate a kickboxers/karate stance instead of the traditional wingnchun stance to give yourself more dynamic movement and lets you use those karate kicks if you like to use them. One of the cool things about wing Chun is the flexibility of its elbows, using them to block or break hands or to crash into someone which can be blended with your more grapple bunkai from there.

Another thing is power generation, like every one else has said, its fast hut lacks power. The reason that could be for this is that the power generation is different. We know how to turn the hip to create power. Wing Chun and other Chinese close combat systems encourage the rippling of the spine to create create whipping like power. It's called dragon back which can then be applied to your regular power generation.

For that this set would probably be the best. https://shuritebujutsu.com/shop

But the main thing I would say is to not separate the arts, combine them, train the Wing Chun into the karate and the karate into the Wing Chun.

colby
colby's picture

Heres is what I mean by dragon back.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

colby wrote:
Wing Chun and other Chinese close combat systems encourage the rippling of the spine to create create whipping like power. It's called dragon back which can then be applied to your regular power generation.

colby wrote:
Heres is what I mean by dragon back.

Thanks for sharing. Do you have video examples of Wing Chun practitioners making used of that kind of motion? It’s not something I see when I obverse Wing Chun practitioners strike, or hear Wing Chun practitioners discuss, but Wing Chun is not my field so I could easily be missing something. Seeing it in action in Wing Chun context would therefore be useful.

Additionally, do we have any footage of people striking pads and bags with this method? It’s slightly off topic, but I’d love to see the kind of impact people are getting with it.

All the best,

Iain

Kiwikarateka
Kiwikarateka's picture

This has sparked my interest, it reminds me of something I've come across in Goju-Ryu:

Nakamura Sensei, the chief instructor of my org, alluded to using the "tanden" as a way to make a wave up your spine/body which you can add a bit of extra power to your strikes. I just take this to mean that flexing your body (and perhaps shifting your body weight by doing this) gives you a bit more kinetic energy to play with.

The method in the video certainly seems like it would generate extra kinetic but I have no idea how much. I wonder if it can be combined with turning the hips

colby
colby's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Do you have video examples of Wing Chun practitioners making used of that kind of motion?

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Additionally, do we have any footage of people striking pads and bags with this method? It’s slightly off topic, but I’d love to see the kind of impact people are getting with it.

There's a DVD from the people I shared above that shows application of the dragon back with a wing Chun chain punch but from what i can see it's not a very well practiced excercise on the internet, sensei. It's hard to find on it's own let alone with other martial arts. But I'm not a kung fu expert I just like their way of moving and the use of whipping power in their movements.

I do have some wing Chun pad work for you though. It's relatively standard wing Chun foot work and hip rotation just with a modern flair to it.

https://youtu.be/sJ2KDzqIyrY

colby
colby's picture

It can be, your creating two ground reactive forces at once. I think its rotational and wave energy that you are creating at the same time so its bit more technical than just doing one or the other. But that should be the goal and get really good at making that movement smaller and smaller. Like how you rotate the hips its first a big movement then as you get better no one can see you rotate the hips.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Colby,

Thanks for replying and sharing the links.

The following quote made it sound like the “wave” shown in the video was common in Wing Chun.

colby wrote:
Wing Chun and other Chinese close combat systems encourage the rippling of the spine to create create whipping like power.

I know little about Wing Chun, but that motion is not something I associate with the system; which is why I asked if there was footage of it in a Wing Chun context.

colby wrote:
There's a DVD from the people I shared above that shows application of the dragon back with a wing Chun chain punch but from what i can see it's not a very well practiced excercise on the internet

If it was a widely used power generation method in Wing Chun, then one would expect the amount of footage to reflect that. The fact there is nothing out there suggest that the initial statement may have been too strong?  It could be that the people in your clip are combining methods (nothing wrong with that if it works for them) and that Wing Chun generally does not use that method?

colby wrote:
I do have some wing Chun pad work for you though. It's relatively standard Wing Chun foot work and hip rotation just with a modern flair to it.

What we see in that clip is more inline with Wing Chun as I understand it.

What I’m really interested in is the power that the “dragon back” can generate. I’m initially sceptical as to how that would work combatively … but I do appreciate that it’s unwise / impossible to evaluate something from a single clip that does not show the methods in context. Seeing it used to actually hit something would be really interesting if there is anything readily available?

Thanks once gain for sharing this. Interesting stuff!

All the best,

Iain

colby
colby's picture

To be honest with you I thought it was a common Kung Fu excercise that a majority of the styles practice. But the more I look into I'm thinking that like most systems, some might do but its probably a regional thing. I'd be willing to bet it's a Shaolin or Wudang excercise. I'm curious now though, going to need to ask.

I was able to find something on that here some pad work from a tai chi guy that seems to use the same mechanics

Iain Abernethy
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Hi Colby,

colby wrote:
I was able to find something on that here some pad work from a tai chi guy that seems to use the same mechanics

The two examples look different to me. In the “dragon back” there is no rotation through the hips and torso; whereas there is in the Tai Chi demo. In addition, the “dragon back” ends with the chest in a pronounced concave position; which we don’t see in the Tai Chi example. The Tai Chi gent also makes a big point about a circular action at the side of the hip, and through the arm. Again, that’s not present in the “dragon back”.

I can see how the Tai Chi one works to develop impact as the component parts make sense to me. How the “dragon back” is used combatively is less clear and it would help to have specific examples of that. To be fair to the gent in the dragon back video, he is not discussing things from a combative perspective, or a power generation perspective, but from the perspective of mobility and health.

colby wrote:
To be honest with you I thought it was a common Kung Fu exercise that a majority of the styles practice. But the more I look into I'm thinking that like most systems, some might do but its probably a regional thing.

This has been really interesting, but it’s probably time to wrap up this part of the discussion. The thread is about cross training in Wing Chun and Shotokan; which is what sparked the discussion around their relative power generation methods. I think it’s safe to say that the methods being discussed are not widely used in Wing Chun, and they are certainly not part of Shotokan. While it is interesting stuff, to dig deeper at this point would be off topic and could derail the tread into a discussion on power generation methods while forgetting the original premise.

Thanks for the contributions though. As I say, I’ve found it very interesting.

All the best,

Iain  

colby
colby's picture

Not a problem and I agree. Sorry, I couldn't provide more examples but apparently its a rare drill than I had thought or anticipated.

Josh Pittman
Josh Pittman's picture

I have no formal training in Wing Chun, but researching it led me to the discovery of chi sao, the first platform drill I ever knew about. Practicing chi sao, even without qualified instruction, increased my sensitivity in grappling and helped me to understand more options in both grappling and striking. Plus, trapping is just fun!

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

colby wrote:
Sorry, I couldn't provide more examples but apparently its a rare drill than I had thought or anticipated.

Not a problem! It was an interesting side thread and the fact examples are sparse is educating in itself. Thank you!

All the best,

Iain

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Josh Pittman wrote:
Practicing chi sao, even without qualified instruction, increased my sensitivity in grappling and helped me to understand more options in both grappling and striking.

It’s a solid form of practise; when understood to be a “skill development drill” and not an “application drill” (i.e. a replication of combat). I also agree it’s great for creating options in both grappling and striking. That limb-control element is definitely Wing Chun’s great strength.

Josh Pittman wrote:
Plus, trapping is just fun!

100%! And that’s a great point that’s probably been overlooked in this thread. Finding something fun and enjoyable is a huge benefit in and of itself.

All the best,

Iain

Steve Gombosi
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Iain Abernethy wrote:
Additionally, do we have any footage of people striking pads and bags with this method? It’s slightly off topic, but I’d love to see the kind of impact people are getting with it.

I don't have any footage, but I've certainly been launched across a room by a Chen taiji / bagua practioner (Mike Sigman) who used this very gently.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Hi Steve,

Steve Gombosi wrote:
I don't have any footage, but I've certainly been launched across a room by a Chen taiji / bagua practioner (Mike Sigman) who used this very gently.

Is that the “dragon back” method or the method in the Tai Chi clip?

All the best,

Iain

Nate Tam
Nate Tam's picture

I just saw this video on white crane style by Jesse.

There's a hand trap and locking section around 13 minutes in. They also go over some sanchin history too.

colby
colby's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Additionally, do we have any footage of people striking pads and bags with this method? It’s slightly off topic, but I’d love to see the kind of impact people are getting with it.

Steve Gombosi wrote:
I don't have any footage, but I've certainly been launched across a room by a Chen taiji / bagua practioner (Mike Sigman) who used this very gently.

Did they generate the power or did they just redirect your power and gave it back to you?

colby
colby's picture

Nate Tam wrote:
There's a hand trap and locking section around 13 minutes in. They also go over some sanchin history too.

And if you notice, in that video, the power of the wrist lock came from a combination of a release of power from the wrist combined with the dropping of the arm. Dont you see that kind of hooking gesture in some version of Sanchin or something?

Heath White
Heath White's picture

I am slightly late to this party and my contribution will be minimal.  I have never trained wing chun but a long time ago I did spar with a very experienced wing chun fellow.  He introduce me to sticky hands practice. It puzzled me at first that he would stop when he had touched my neck; the idea was that if he could get there, I was out of commission,  and it was time to restart the drill.

It was also clear that his wing chun strikes were not as powerful as my karate strikes.  But the conclusion I drew was that he was aiming at different targets, namely my throat, and he did not need a lot of power if he could get there.  

As I say... for what its worth.

Steve Gombosi
Steve Gombosi's picture

colby wrote:

Iain Abernethy wrote:
Additionally, do we have any footage of people striking pads and bags with this method? It’s slightly off topic, but I’d love to see the kind of impact people are getting with it.

Steve Gombosi wrote:
I don't have any footage, but I've certainly been launched across a room by a Chen taiji / bagua practioner (Mike Sigman) who used this very gently.

Did they generate the power or did they just redirect your power and gave it back to you?

Both, actually - the latter being a demonstration of what I think our neijia brothers and sisters would call peng. Mike did a lot of seminars on this topic in the 1990s and early 2000s. He also held a few seminars in the US with Chen Xiaowang. Making the whole dragon back thing work for power generation is highly dependent on the sort of rooting that's involved in redirecting a push.

Mike did some DVDs on this subject back in 90's. He sold the rights to them years ago and they've ended up on Youtube. Here's an excerpt from the second disk that might be of interest to this discussion:

https://youtu.be/FanJUCaUOO4?t=827

Mike's a mechanical engineer, so he tends to speak in terms of force vectors and body mechanics. He certainly used this on a heavy bag. I've seen it, but I have no footage.

I've seen a video of Morio Higaonna demonstrating some very similar power generation techniques at a Goju-ryu seminar. I can't locate it now (it may have been taken down, I suppose).