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An Interview with Sifu Augustine Fong

By Curt James

This interview represents a continued effort to provide an informative and interesting discussion on Wing Chun Kung Fu. The material was first published in "Inside Kung Fu" (November 1976) entitled, "An Interview with a Master on Wing Chun." Later, the text was expanded and published in "Wing Chun Theories and Concepts--The Complete System of Wing Chun Gung Fu." Described in "Omni" (March 1990) as the "unlikely master," Sifu Augustine Fong wins our respect and gratitude for his numerous contributions to Wing Chun. This text is a fine case in point; included are topics dealing with Wing Chun training, philosophy, and theoretical aspects, but also touching on certain practical matters. Over the years many questions have been asked concerning this efficient fighting art. Some of the more instructive exchanges are recreated below.

Basic Issues

Curt James: Is Wing Chun Kung Fu an easy system to learn?

Sifu Fong: Wing Chun is easy to learn but difficult to master. If the student is only interested in learning to fight, then six months should suffice. But to really learn the system, a long time is needed.

Curt James: Is Wing Chun an internal or external Kung Fu system?

Sifu Fong: Wing Chun is considered an internal system with the hard and soft principles being emphasized equally.

Curt James: I understand Wing Chun was supposedly developed from the original Shaolin system. Would it be accurate to say that this art has broken away from its traditional roots?

Sifu Fong: Wing Chun originated from Shaolin master Ng Mui. Ng Mui combined the best from Shaolin to create Wing Chun Kung Fu. Ng Mui then taught Yim Wing Chun who improved it further, arriving at its present form. So, although it retains similarities with an older traditional method, it is one step improved. One might say the style has been modernized.

Curt James: Are there diverse techniques included in Wing Chun Kuen? For example, are there throwing techniques that may resemble Judo movements?

Sifu Fong: Some, but by throwing down the opponent, one risks being brought down to the ground as well. In Wing Chun it is considered more logical to simply strike the opponent, thereby knocking him down.

Curt James: Wing Chun seems to be an offensive fighting style. Why is this?

Sifu Fong: Wing Chun theory considers offense to be the best defense.

Curt James: But is the defensive side of the art emphasized?

Sifu Fong: Yes, but the Wing Chun exponent tries to combine defense with offense. For example, one blocks or evades an incoming attack, but counters simultaneously. If not simultaneously, then as soon as possible.

The Wing Chun Punch

Curt James: In regard to punching, how important is strength in Wing Chun?

Sifu Fong: Strength is essential--without it, punching and most other techniques would be ineffectual. However, this art does not promote the use of brute strength. Rather, Wing Chun favors a more relaxed and natural punching method. This facilitates the development of explosive power.

Curt James: What is wrong with using brute strength to punch? Wouldn't this create a stronger attack?

Sifu Fong: From the Wing Chun point of view, punching with excessive strength results in a great deal of power remaining in the arm. This inhibits the instantaneous release of power.

Curt James: Is hand speed important in punching?

Sifu Fong: Yes, but an individual can have fast hands without having what is called true speed. The latter is a much more important quality. True speed is associated with correct timing.

Curt James: Why do Wing Chun fighters generally punch with a vertical fist?

Sifu Fong: For a straight punch, using a vertical fist allows the most natural and relaxed use of the arm muscles. Therefore, this position promotes the development of explosive power. Moreover, punching like this keeps the elbow down, which is better defensively. Also, vertical punching encourages trapping and continuous attacking techniques.

Curt James: Does the Wing Chun fighter ever punch with a horizontal fist?

Sifu Fong: Yes--Wing Chun has punches where the fist is almost completely horizontal. The alignment of the fist depends on the line of the punch. One example of the use of a horizontal fist is a low strike.

Curt James: How many punches are there in the Wing Chun system?

Sifu Fong: Generally, there are eight ways of performing the straight punch in this system. But there are many punches discovered within the art. These include the Phoenix Eye Punch, Ginger Fist, and Bong Sau Punch, etc.

Stance Shifting

Curt James: Why does Wing Chun use Stance Shifting or Turning to such a great extent?

Sifu Fong: Stance Shifting (Chor Ma) allows one to practice centering skills; it is also an economical way to produce body torque. Torque, used with the correct timing, will produce more power in a technique. In addition, Turning is an efficient way to deflect incoming power. This is why Wing Chun blocks are so effective. The Wing Chun fighter has been likened to a ball in water--no matter how one tries to step on it, it rolls.

Curt James: Why does one pivot on the heels when shifting in Wing Chun?

Sifu Fong: Turning on the heels maintains the most stable position. The heels are the direct link between the body and the floor; they receive the full weight of the body, unlike other parts of the foot. This makes them the most logical pivot for the body. If one turns on the toes or the center of the foot the whole body will swing off the center axis.

Curt James: Does this mean that by not turning on the heels, one's balance is disrupted?

Sifu Fong: Exactly--shifting on the toes or center of the foot throws the body off its primary axis, promoting a loss of balance. Also, if one turns with the toes, they support the body weight and there is nothing left to control balance. Turning with the weight on the heels leaves the toes free, allowing them to assist in maintaining balance.

Curt James: How is a shift initiated?

Sifu Fong: Shifting is initiated by the action of the knees turning in unison. However, it is important to remember that the waist and entire body are equally involved.

Curt James: In regard to turning, is it not best to avoid the direct line of attack?

Sifu Fong: Turning develops centering skills. In application, if you wish to avoid the line of attack, just step. There is no reason to lean away.

Curt James: What is the significance of the inward-facing position of the knees?

Sifu Fong: When turning, the position of the knees allows power to be sent or squeezed to the arm and fist. In this respect, it is significant that the knees are low on the body. For example, to transfer air to the top of a balloon, it should be squeezed at the bottom, not in the middle. In like manner, power can be squeezed from the knees to the arm.

The Centerline

Curt James: Wing Chun theory places a great deal of importance on the idea of the centerline. What precisely is this concept?

Sifu Fong: In its simplest form, the centerline can be defined as the line (or plane) extending from the vertical axis-line of the body and representing the shortest distance between oneself and the opponent. It is important to remember that the centerline is an imaginary line between two subjects and usually indicates the closest line of attack. For instance, only when attacking or blocking can one talk of a real line.

Curt James: How does the centerline relate to self-defense?

Sifu Fong: Learning the centerline principle helps the student to attack and defend logically. By controlling the centerline, the practitioner controls the best line of access between himself and the opponent. That is why a Wing Chun fighter will generally try to keep his hands on or near the centerline.

Curt James: Does Wing Chun theory deal with any lines other than the centerline?

Sifu Fong: Yes. There are blocking lines and attack lines among others.

Curt James: What are some basic principles for blocking and attack lines?

Sifu Fong: In general, attacking lines should be direct. Yet there are times when the attacking line will not fall on the actual centerline. Blocking lines should intercept the opponent's attack line. So when blocking, one should face towards the opponent's attack line and try not to duck away.

Curt James: Would it be fair to say that the concept of the centerline forms the basis for all Wing Chun fighting theory?

Sifu Fong: In a sense, yes--but this is just the beginning. Advanced Wing Chun theories employ triangles and pyramids as well. Actually, a thorough knowledge of Wing Chun's centerline concept is essential to understanding the system's structural theory. Good centerline development and usage promotes good structure. Correct structure in turn promotes good technique, energy flow and internal development. They are all related.

Hand Forms

Curt James: What role do the forms (kata) play in Wing Chun Kuen?

Sifu Fong: In Wing Chun, the forms are the textbooks of the system. They develop important fundamentals and principles in the student. Also, like a time capsule, they preserve the knowledge and technique of the system. Wing Chun has three hand forms which can be practiced individually or as one continuous form. Each form represents a different level of training.

Curt James: But are forms an efficient way to learn the martial arts?

Sifu Fong: Yes. Practicing a form might involve training a hundred things at once, both internal and external. To achieve the same results without the form, one would have to break all these things down and practice them individually. This would be less efficient.

Curt James: How do the forms relate to self-defense application?

Sifu Fong: In one way, the three forms and techniques presented represent different fighting distances one must master. Siu Lim Tau generally contains outside fighting techniques. These motions are based on direct attack, economy, simplicity, etc. The second form, Chum Kiu, concentrates on techniques applied at a closer distance--with the opponent at elbow's length. This teaches a pupil to use body unity and torque in order to generate power. The third form, Biu Jee, contains techniques for dealing with emergency situations. Such techniques can be applied at a very close range. Biu Jee set contains some larger motions. These theories relate to use of circular techniques from outside the line, redirection of power, protection and recovery of the centerline.

Curt James: Are there other important examples the Wing Chun forms teach?

Sifu Fong: A further difference involves the position of the centerline relative to the body. In the first form, the centerline is stationary, and generally to the front. Each successive form offers a diversity of angles the centerline assumes.

Curt James: Can Biu Jee techniques be applied in non-emergency situations?

Sifu Fong: Yes. Biu Jee is generally applied at close distances but it is important to understand that all of these forms contain principles that can be used at varying distances.

Curt James: Can the principles and techniques of the different Wing Chun forms be usefully combined?

Sifu Fong: Yes. For example, Biu Jee's emergency techniques can be combined with Siu Lim Tau principles to deal with situations involving greater distance and time. Learning to apply such techniques will also help the practitioner refine his first form.

Curt James: Why would a circular technique be used in close fighting--isn't the straight and direct approach always the best?

Sifu Fong: Not always. For example, sometimes one is too close to use a straight punch. The fist may get jammed, and it might be difficult to generate sufficient power. In this situation one would use a circular hand or elbow technique and add more body torque to make up for the loss of distance. But that doesn't mean that the straight line is abandoned--it is contained within the circular technique. Actually, within every Wing Chun technique there is both a circle and a straight line.

Curt James: Biu Jee means Shooting Fingers; does this indicate finger striking and primarily the attack of the opponent's eyes?

Sifu Fong: There is no need to use fingers to attack an opponent's eyes when he can be blinded by a single punch. The eyes are a small target and missing with a finger strike can result in the fingers being damaged. The meaning of Biu Jee is not to use fingers to poke the opponent's eyes, but to employ shooting or thrusting techniques in emergency situations, to deflect and penetrate an attack. Finger techniques, however, can be used sometimes to attack the throat, eyes and other soft areas of the body.

Curt James: Which is the most important hand form in Wing Chun Kuen?

Sifu Fong: Wing Chun forms are equally important; each has its own characteristics and emphasis.

Sticky Hands (Chi Sau)

Curt James: Wing Chun emphasizes hand training much more than other styles. Why is this?

Sifu Fong: By working with the hands one can easily develop essential fighting skills. In Wing Chun, we emphasize training through sensitivity. This is mainly accomplished by practicing an exercise called Chi Sau or Sticky Hands. It is believed that through sensitivity one can more easily develop essential skills like timing, accuracy, reaction and speed.

Curt James: During Chi Sau practice, are any special breathing methods used?

Sifu Fong: No. It is important for the Wing Chun practitioner to breath normally in Chi Sau practice, and also during a fight. Normal breathing allows one to save more energy and throw faster hand and leg techniques.

Curt James: So a Wing Chun practitioner does not time his breathing to coincide with his motions?

Sifu Fong: Not really, this is because the motions in Wing Chun are executed sharply, continuously, and with speed. To time breathing with techniques disrupts the natural flow and slows down the speed of the techniques.

Curt James: How does a sensitivity exercise like Sticky Hands relate to real fighting?

Sifu Fong: In this style everything comes naturally. Naturalness is achieved through the practice of Sticky Hands. Since there are almost no prearranged combinations in this exercise, the student's application of technique is his own. Sticky Hands develops and sharpens valuable fighting tools. From the beginning, the fighter is encouraged to use these tools in his own way. This teaches him to react spontaneously--whether in the school or on the street. Sticky Hands practice helps to develop sensitivity, which in turn helps to develop reactions. Without good reactions, one cannot fight.

Training Devices

Curt James: Do Wing Chun exponents use different forms of training equipment?

Sifu Fong: Yes, the most important are the Wooden Dummy and the punching and kicking bags.

Curt James: What kind of punching bag is used?

Sifu Fong: A solid wall bag.

Curt James: What is the advantage in punching a wall bag?

Sifu Fong: It develops focus and a solid fist that can transfer a great deal of power. In many people it is the weakness of the fist which limits the power of a punch. If the fist cannot handle the level of power generated, the wrist may be broken. That is why Wing Chun students train with a wall bag: to gradually develop the fist along with punching power.

Curt James: What is the role of Mok Yan Jong, or the Wooden Dummy, in Wing Chun training?

Sifu Fong: The Wooden Dummy is a special training device that develops a variety of skills--skills that cannot easily be developed by practicing with a partner. For example, among other things, Wooden Dummy practice refines power, encourages proper use of the centerline, and also correct footwork to control the opponent's position.

Curt James: Are there any general rules for practicing the Mok Yan Jong set?

Sifu Fong: When practicing this form, one should try to stick closely to the Wooden Dummy. This will develop economy of technique. Also, one should try to flow from one complete motion to another. Stopping between motions disrupts the flow and retards the development of body mechanics.

Curt James: When performing Mok Yan Jong, how should one strike the dummy?

Sifu Fong: Generally speaking, when striking, one's technique and power should be focused directly into the Wooden Dummy.

Curt James: Is Mok Yan Jong used only after the student has reached a high degree of proficiency?

Sifu Fong: The Wooden Dummy set can be studied before or after Biu Jee is completed. Students, however, not familiar with the form can practice individual techniques, just to get the feel of the Dummy. It is important to remember that techniques from Mok Yan Jong further assist one in applying the hand forms. This helps one to achieve a higher level of skill.

Curt James: It appears the Wooden Dummy is very important. Is it a disadvantage to learn Wing Chun Kung Fu without it?

Sifu Fong: Practicing Wing Chun without Mok Yan Jong is like going to a gold mine and coming away empty-handed.


Curt James: What is the difference between strength and power?

Sifu Fong: Strength is the foundation for power. But strength cannot be controlled, whereas power can be controlled and directed freely.

Curt James: Wing Chun is known for its economy of motion. Many of its techniques are used at close range. How can power be generated at short distances?

Sifu Fong: Years ago, this style underwent improvements aimed at developing a more simple, economical fighting method. The basic foundation used was transformed from a horse stance to a pyramidal posture. This structure is higher but the center of gravity is low and mobility is increased. Thus, Wing Chun is based on the pyramid concept. This idea uses a special interlocking structural theory, two pyramids, which help to generate power. The tip of the lower pyramid is located in the Tan T'ien or abdomen; the base is a trapezoid and is described by the feet. This supports an inverted pyramid with its base at the shoulders and its apex at the ground in the center of the stance. This resembles an interlocking hourglass, with the knees functioning near the apex of both pyramids. With this structure, economical force can be generated by simply turning the stance. When turning, both pyramids rotate as one unit; the hips lock the upper and lower body together. This is similar to two cones rotating; upper and lower cones, respectively. It is the knees, being the point of intersection of the two cones, which assist and direct the momentum generated. By torquing the body, power is directed to the hands. The result is optimum power with minimal effort. That is why Wing Chun exponents can generate power over very short distances. To coin a term, it is simple conetics.

Curt James: Again, why does Wing Chun place so much emphasis on this position and movement of the knees?

Sifu Fong: There are several reasons. The most important is that the inward-facing position of the knees makes it easier to turn around a central axis. The Wing Chun system is based on this idea. Also, because the knees are close, they are able to work in unison, thus helping to maintain body unity in turning and moving.

Curt James: Wing Chun training also places emphasis on the correct elbow position. Does this relate to power as well?

Sifu Fong: Yes. Having the correct elbow position also plays an important role in the economic generation of power. With the elbow in the correct position, one is pushing from directly behind, and not from the side. This makes the elbow a source of power in many hand techniques.

Curt James: Where does the power of a punch come from?

Sifu Fong: The power comes from the energy in the body. When a punch is initiated, the power is sent downwards by the action of the muscles pressing down on the floor. Since it has nowhere to go, it then returns back up. The power is transferred up through the muscles and joints of the ankle, knees, hips, shoulders, elbow, and wrist to the fist. This is accomplished by contracting and snapping, at the exact moment of impact, all of the muscles and joints in this pathway. Then the muscles must be relaxed immediately to release fully the power into the opponent's body.

Curt James: Does weight training help to increase one's power?

Sifu Fong: Weight training will increase one's potential power, but many people cannot effectively use the power they already possess. This is especially true for beginners, whose actual performance is rarely enhanced by weight training. For them, it is much more important to learn how to use the potential power they already possess. For the advanced practitioner, however, some weight training can be helpful. In such cases, the kind of training used will vary from style to style.

Curt James: Do you recommend any kind of weight training for Wing Chun practitioners?

Sifu Fong: In this style there is no emphasis on weight training. This is because the forms and exercises already contain some body-building techniques. These techniques develop and tone essential muscles the right amount. Moreover, in Wing Chun it is important to stretch out the muscles and tendons in the arms and legs so that power can be released more efficiently. Too much weight training would tighten them up. This would be like taking one step forward and then two steps back. If the advanced Wing Chun exponent wishes to pursue body-building, that is okay.

Curt James: What does flexibility and relaxation have to do with explosive power?

Sifu Fong: To explode and release effectively one needs both flexibility and relaxation. Explosive Power is based on what is called "Bone Joint Power." Once the initial motion of a strike has been started, snapping the joints at the moment of impact, and then relaxing, will cause the power to be completely released. Without relaxation and some degree of flexibility it is difficult to produce explosive power.

Curt James: Precisely how does the arm generate power?

Sifu Fong: Power is produced by the pushing action of the elbow and by the action of the individual muscles, which produce speed and snap. The muscles work in the same manner as a pulley, with one set pulling in one direction and a second pulling in the opposite way. For example, the biceps and triceps work in different directions for any one motion.

Curt James: Why do muscles work in opposite directions?

Sifu Fong: A pulley will only work if there is a pull on both sides. The same principle applies to the action of the arm muscles. Each muscle has a separate function, yet they relate together to move the arm.


Curt James: In a fighting context, what is meant by timing?

Sifu Fong: Timing relates to the irregular rhythms used in fighting.

Curt James: Are there different types of timing used in Wing Chun training and fighting?

Sifu Fong: For attacking, there are four basic kinds. The most important is called regular timing. The others are creating timing, breaking timing, and double timing.

Curt James: What are the essential features of each type of timing?

Sifu Fong: Regular timing involves an attack between two motions--one strikes at the end of the opponent's motion, before he can start his next. Creating timing is used to initiate an attack; a new time is created by attacking directly or, if a punch is coming, blocking and then countering simultaneously. Breaking timing involves attacking the opponent before he can complete his motion. To use this timing one must be quicker than the opponent. Double timing consists of two consecutive attacks or timings. In this category we also have Delayed timing.

Curt James: How are these timings studied and practiced?

Sifu Fong: Everything is learned through Sticky Hands.

Curt James: Is it important for the student to learn to apply all these timings?

Sifu Fong: Yes. In this style timing is the number one element when it comes to fighting.

Curt James: Is timing more important than speed?

Sifu Fong: Timing is really the foundation of speed. If the timing is right, the speed is right. The converse, however, is not always true.

Wing Chun Kicks

Curt James: Is it true that the Wing Chun style does not use high kicks?

Sifu Fong: Generally speaking, yes.

Curt James: Why--what is wrong with kicking to the head?

Sifu Fong: A kick to the head involves a considerable distance. This is unnecessary and inefficient - especially when there are targets much closer--and so this runs counter to Wing Chun's philosophy of logic and common-sense.

Curt James: Is it correct to say that Wing Chun uses mostly hand techniques?

Sifu Fong: Wing Chun is flexible: the fighter is trained to use hands where appropriate, and feet when necessary. But anyone with street-fighting experience knows that in a real fight, the chances of using kicks are usually not good. The hands are more applicable in a self-defense situation. This is because the hands are quicker and safer to use than the feet, and allow one to get closer to the opponent and control him more easily. The superiority of the hands is especially noticeable when fighting a group of attackers. Here, the ability to move quickly is vital. During a kick, the body remains stationary for a moment. That is a very dangerous moment.

Curt James: Does this mean that kicking techniques are unimportant for the street?

Sifu Fong: No, the kicks are as important as hand techniques in the street. But one has to know when and how to use them.

Curt James: Could you elaborate?

Sifu Fong: In Wing Chun, kicks are used mostly to assist hand techniques. They are also generally directed below the belt level. This ensures that the kicks are delivered quickly, and thus have a less adverse effect on mobility. Other than this, kicks can be used when the hands are being controlled or if one is attacked while on the ground. But in Wing Chun, kicks are normally used sparingly. When they are used, they are well timed and executed in close association with hand techniques. This makes it difficult for the opponent to tell when they are coming. Because of this, it is sometimes said that Wing Chun has invisible kicks (Mo Ying Gerk).

Curt James: Are there any other advantages to using more hand than leg techniques?

Sifu Fong: Yes. In addition to being faster, the hands are able to control the movements of an opponent.

Curt James: But the legs can generate much more power than the hands.

Sifu Fong: That is true--but if you can run someone over with a small car, why use a truck?

Classical vs. Non-Classical

Curt James: Do you consider it worthwhile for an exponent to incorporate techniques from other styles into his fighting repertoire?

Sifu Fong: Yes, but it is important to stick with one style for a long time first. Otherwise one ends up only scratching the surface of each system. Also, it is important to realize combining elements from a number of systems is a very personal thing--what works for one person may not work for another.

Curt James: Do you think that Wing Chun could be improved further?

Sifu Fong: I don't think so. The system is so smooth and economical. Every technique can be thought of as belonging to a circle, with each countering the one next to it. Changing the system now would mean disrupting that circle.

Curt James: What do you think of a student who manages to develop his own type of technique?

Sifu Fong: That is fine--as long as the technique is based on correct principles. If a father sees his son find a dime, he is happy for him. But he doesn't care about the dime himself, because he has a thousand dollars in his pocket.

Curt James: People often distinguish between classical and non-classical Wing Chun. Are these separate styles?

Sifu Fong: Classical and non-classical approaches are combined in all styles--no style is purely one or the other. To develop a good foundation, one should follow a step-by-step training procedure that emphasizes basic principles of the style. Without devoting time to basics or classical training, one will never reach a more advanced, non-classical level. The non-classical concept can be fully realized only after years of practicing the fundamentals. At this level, the fighter becomes more independent, developing his own fighting style, and his own ideas. The student wishing to start with the non-classical approach without undergoing some classical training can be likened to a baby who doesn't know how to walk but wishes to run.

Fighting Principles

Curt James: What is the best definition of self-defense?

Sifu Fong: Self-defense means keeping oneself from harm. That is the bottom line. If a person gets into a fight and is hit even once then, no matter what the eventual fate of his opponents, he has failed. Sun Tsu said: "The highest perfection of strategy consists of subduing the enemy without battle."

Curt James: Wing Chun is known as a "street-fighting" style. How did it get this type of reputation?

Sifu Fong: Wing Chun is a style that can adapt easily to any environment. It is good for the street because everything learned can be used in a fast, close exchange. And this is most likely how one will be attacked.

Curt James: It is said that Wing Chun fighters like to block and attack simultaneously. Isn't this dangerous?

Sifu Fong: No--it is precisely when an opponent attacks that he is most vulnerable. Failing to counter-attack at that moment means missing a great opportunity.

Curt James: In a fighting situation is there a specific place one should focus one's vision?

Sifu Fong: The vision should be like a mirror, accepting all images. But, in order to predict the opponent's movements and control his energy, one should look into his eyes. This is because the eye is the first place to reveal the emotional attitude and intended motion.

Curt James: What are the principal characteristics of a good fighter?

Sifu Fong: A good fighter has a lot of tricks, but doesn't play games.

Curt James: How would a good martial artist generally perform in a real fight?

Sifu Fong: If he hasn't been in many fights before, there is a good chance he would lose to an experienced opponent. Experience is the most important factor when it comes to real fighting; skill is secondary.

Curt James: Can a martial artist acquire this experience without actually getting into street fights?

Sifu Fong: In some schools, yes, assuming the teacher is experienced and the right kind of exercises are practiced. Gaining experience this way takes longer, but is much safer.

Curt James: Are there any general rules for dealing with confrontations?

Sifu Fong: The main thing to remember is that there are no rules. One should remain calm and confident. If it comes to it, fight naturally, without the thought of losing or which techniques to use. The way one acts and looks at an opponent has a lot to do with the outcome of a fight. If confronted, and especially while fighting, try to maintain eye contact. Look directly into the opponent's eyes. Conversation should be minimal--there is no need for talk. If a fight cannot be avoided, one should just fight. Also, try not to hesitate. When the right opportunity arises, it should be seized. Most importantly, one should try to finish off the opponent as quickly as possible. This is especially true if weapons are involved. If there is a chance to run or leave after, so much the better. It is important not to stay and fight for too long.

Curt James: Many people use fakes when they fight. Is there a good way to deal with this?

Sifu Fong: Of course--when the opponent fakes, you can just punch him. That way he has to deal with a real attack.

Curt James: Does Wing Chun use fakes?

Sifu Fong: Yes, but in a different way than other styles. The Wing Chun practitioner uses a technique known as Mun Sau, which literally means Asking Hand. Using Mun Sau involves not merely faking in the air, but actually controlling the opponent's hand in order to provoke a reaction.

Curt James: What is the point of provoking a reaction?

Sifu Fong: The idea is to induce a weakness in the opponent's position. For example, one might slap the opponent's hand to see how he reacts. If his reaction is faulty, he can be attacked and trapped where he has exposed himself. Of course, this requires very good timing.

Curt James: If one is being chased by an assailant, what is the best reaction?

Sifu Fong: Assuming one cannot evade the pursuer, there are still a few options. One possibility is to set a trap: for example, slow down a little and allow the adversary to gain some ground. When he is near enough, one could stop, execute some technique, and then keep on running. If the opponent runs, one stops. If the opponent stops, one runs.

Curt James: If confronted by two people and escape is impossible, what determines whom to attack first? For instance, should one go for the largest person?

Sifu Fong: It is unwise to base such a decision on size. A more logical approach it to attack the closest person first.

Curt James: If one is attacked by several people, would it make sense to try to fight in front of a wall to eliminate the possibility of rear attacks?

Sifu Fong: No. Against a wall mobility is limited to 180 degrees. Since there is no escape through the wall, only movement to the front is possible. It is better to fight in the middle of a circle. That way, there is a greater distance between each person, and thus a better chance to escape.

Curt James: Is there a recommended strategy in that situation?

Sifu Fong: If surrounded, one should try to fight out of the circle by attacking the nearest opponent. It is important to be aggressive and move forward, since this forces anyone to the rear to chase. Once out of the circle one should try, if possible, to escape.

Curt James: Does one have to be an exceptionally good fighter to deal successfully with a group of people?

Sifu Fong: Naturally, that would depend on the skill of the attackers. But fighting a group of people is easier than it looks. For instance, one can often use the adversaries against one another. And since there are more targets, one's attacks are more likely to find their mark.

Curt James: What should one do if threatened by someone with a hand gun or other weapon?

Sifu Fong: It is wise to do whatever they say. But at the same time, one should try to maneuver into an advantageous position and prepare oneself mentally for defense if necessary. That edge could mean the difference between life and death.

Curt James: Have you any final words of advice on how to avoid a fight?

Sifu Fong: Walk away...but keep your eyes open!

This article appears courtesy of Wing Chun Chinese Martial Arts Association