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Theory of Wing Chun Fighting

Efficiency and effectiveness are the hallmarks of Wing Chun. Defense and attack are as simultaneous as possible, giving Wing Chun its reputation for ferocious speed. Great emphasis is made on sensitivity skills; being able to sense an opponent's intent through controlled contact and controlling the opponent’s energy to facilitate traps and strikes. Though speed is important, it is technique that truly gives Wing Chun its effectiveness.

All movements are designed to be straightforward, taking as little time and effort as possible to execute, maximizing the practitioner's ability to protect him or herself while dealing the most damage to the opponent. To accomplish this, the body is divided up into regions or "gates" and specific movements are assigned to these regions. The body is trained so that the independent movement of each limb is in due consideration to the need of its respective gate, facilitating simultaneous blocking, striking, kicking, stepping, and shifting of the body.

There are rules and principles for the positioning of the hand and arms and their movements that are better understood when seen than described. They are called Centerline, Gates, Immovable Elbow, Simultaneous Attack and Defense, Generating Power, Footwork, Trapping Skills and Sensitivity.


The centerline divides the body along the vertical plane symmetrically, left and right. It is also the primary line of attack on our opponent, the primary line to be defended on our own body, and the primary line along which power is delivered in an attack. Most of the vital points of the body can be found along the centerline. All movement is done with proper consideration of the centerline. All of our motions for attack originate at the centerline. It is our highest priority to gain access to our opponent's centerline while maintaining the integrity of the defense of our own centerline. How we orient ourselves relative to our opponent's centerline is critical in achieving leverage in traps and strikes.


From the centerline, the front of the body is divided into zones called "gates". With the arms extended towards the front, the outside of the arms is called the "outer gate" and the area between the arms is called the "inner gate". The "upper gate" is from the top of the head to the center of the chest. The "middle gate" is from the center of the chest to about groin level. The "lower gate" is from the groin to the feet.

In the basic Wing Chun fighting stance, the hands are held open in front of the body, the edge of the palms aligned with the centerline, fingertips pointing upwards, with one hand in front of the other. The forward hand is called Mun Sau or inquisitive hand. The arm is almost fully extended with a bend at the elbow. The rear hand is called Wu Sau or guarding hand and is about a fist's distance away from the chest. The area from the rear hand to the forward hand is called the forward gate. The area from the rear hand to the chest is called the rear gate.

The positions of the hands, arms and legs are very carefully defined in the first form. Gate theory determines the positioning of the arms and the orientation of the body in the basic Wing Chun stance. Gate theory also determines what hand or leg will do what when it comes to blocking, trapping and attacking the opponent so the attack will be as fast and direct as possible while maintaining a tight and effective defense of the centerline. The hands defend the upper and middle gates while the legs defend the lower gates.

Immovable Elbow

This is closely related to the gate principle. The elbow of the forward hand is placed a fist distance away from the chest. Most of the blocks and parries performed by the forward arm are made without moving the elbow from its central location between the forward and rear gate and between the upper and middle gate. By doing this, the practitioner reduces the chance his or her opponent will penetrate the gates and maximizes the potential to respond quickly to an attack of either the upper or middle gates.

Simultaneous Attack and Defense

By attacking at the same time as blocking, a Wing Chun practitioner can appear to have almost superhuman speed and reactions. One of the interesting aspects of Wing Chun is that it is a true "hard" and "soft" system at the same time. The blocks are all ideally deflections with minimal hard contact and are mostly circular. But the attacks are all very hard and extremely linear. Ideally, the deflection of an attack and the counterattack happen at exactly the same moment.

Generating Power

Wing Chun practitioners generate power in very short distances by linking the whole body to quick short distance moves. Linking the movements of the upper body with the lower body links a simple punch in Wing Chun to the weight of the entire body. This is where the famous one-inch punch of Wing Chun comes from. From one inch away, a Wing Chun practitioner can generate lethal force, as Bruce Lee used to demonstrate. Defensive moves are empowered the same way by unifying the whole body to deflect attacks rather than just using the strength of the arms.


It is through proper footwork that most aspects of Wing Chun principles are realized. It is by shifting the body, stepping, and moving that the proper angles for leverage or deflections are obtained. Footwork and shifting are introduced early in the second form. They are also emphasized in the third and dummy form and especially in the butterfly swords form. Practically every move in Wing Chun is accompanied by a shift of the body or a step. Without proper footwork or foundation, with due consideration to angles and leverage, a Wing Chun practitioner is open to attack, and trapping will be ineffective, no matter how proficient or quick he may be with his hands.

Trapping Skills and Sensitivity

Fatshan Wing Chun, as taught by Sifu Lovio, is set apart from other styles for its emphasis on trapping skills. Control over an opponent is attained by making contact, either through a block or a strike, and sensing the opponent's energy. At the moment a punch is deflected, rather than simply blocking and letting go, contact is maintained, so when the opponent attempts to withdraw or redirect the hand, this is sensed and the motion is used to facilitate a trap and strike. If the opponent again reacts, this reaction is sensed and the energy is again used to facilitate another trap and strike. By touching an opponent, we can determine many things such as strength, level of skill, and even intentions and emotions. This information is also used to determine what level of response is appropriate. A good Wing Chun practitioner can trap a strong opponent and continue to use the opponent's energetic attempts to defend or counter to add strength and power to his own continued traps and attacks.

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All material is copyrighted © 2010 George Lovio Wing Chun Association.