by Phil Bradley
The second form of Wing Tsun is called Chum-Kiu. Meaning “Arm-Seeking,” this curriculum teaches us how to seek out the arms of the opponent and to “connect a bridge”. Once we connect to the opponent, we can immediately determine where the holes in his defense are.
Because we now know where he is, we can take advantage of it and enact our own attacks, e.g. taking the fight to him vs. waiting for him to come to us.
Using Chum-Kiu concepts, we pay particular attention to our turning and weight distribution. If we do not turn enough, we will be exposed to the attack, whereas turning too much will over-extend ourselves. We also learn the various ranges involved with fighting because you have to adjust your range according to what the opponent is doing.
For example, the Siu-Nim-Tau teaches basic attacks and defenses as they relate to the punch/palm striking range. In Chum-Kiu, however, we have kicks, elbows, and even grappling and takedown range. Short of ground fighting, these are four complete ranges of fighting that are addressed in Chum-Kiu training.
Section 1 of Chum-Kiu introduces a variety of concepts that deal with trapping, changing angles, using elbow attacks, and defending against multiple opponents.
One of the interesting elements of section 1 is that Chuen Bong-sau, or Turning Wing-arm, is the first of many Bong-sau actions we will perform throughout the Chum-Kiu. It is said that approximately 70% of the Chum-Kiu is comprised of various Bong-sau actions, and the first of these is seen in section 1.
Drills & Applications
In addition to a wide variety of new actions (as well as enhancing previously-learned concepts during our Siu-Nim-Tau training), the Chum-Kiu also introduces the three primary kicking methods: Ching-sun-gerk (Front Thrusting-kick), Wang-chang-gerk (Side Thrusting-kick) and Che-chang-gerk (Slant Thrusting-kick).
The interesting element of Wing Tsun kicks is that instead of chambering the leg and pivoting the knee like many other arts do, we thrust the foot by pistoning the knee. The elbow thrusts the fist, and the knee thrusts the foot.
Ching-sun-gerk, or Front Thrusting-kick, can be employed at various heights, but its primary height is usually the waist. When you can kick with full power and at a parallel height (when your leg is parallel to the floor), then all kicks lower than that will generally see a great deal more power being released.
Lower-level kicks are usually the norm in Wing Tsun, mainly because it is more difficult for the opponent to see. And if it is harder to see, then it is harder to defend against. The problem, however, is that many practitioners do not train their full power at a parallel level, which in turn sees a great deal of power lost that they can achieve.
Therefore, always train this kick in the forms to be full power and parallel to the floor.
In addition to single opponents, Wing Tsun also includes kicking methods for dealing with multiple opponents. We do not get to pick and choose how many will attack us, so Wang-chang-gerk allows us to respond to opponents approaching from the side.
Wang-chang-gerk, or Side Thrusting-kick, is exactly as it sounds: a kick to the side, or 90-degrees from our present position. But like all Wing Tsun kicks, there is no pivoting at the knee; instead, it is a true thrust of the knee to thrust the leg. We use the elbow to piston or “thrust” the fist, and we use the knee to piston or thrust the foot.
An interesting facet you will see in many other styles is that their version of a side kick is really nothing more than turning to the side and doing a front kick. They call it a side kick but it is actually a front kick. As I was trained, though, a side kick is a true kick to the side vs. turning to the side and initiating a front kick.
One of the more common kicking methods you will see in Wing Tsun is called Jeet-gerk, or Stop-kick/Jamming-kick. This is a fast, powerful slamming action into the opponent’s shin, knee or thigh to halt his actions, as well as disrupt his footwork.
Jeet-gerk can take many shapes. From face-to-face and exploding with a low kick to the knee or shin in response to an approaching attacker, to the example below where an attacker approaches and we simply lash into the leg while simultaneously pulling them via Lap-sau.
Note: Jeet-gerk is not in the Chum-Kiu form but it is still a valuable kicking concept. Some schools, including the AWCA, introduce Jeet-gerk during Siu-Nim-Tau training but expand on it during Chum-Kiu.
The Chum-Kiu teaches a variety of elements that are applicable in today’s society. It is interesting when someone says that Wing Tsun lacks a particular fighting element for today’s “flavor of the month” martial art, because there is nothing that Wing Tsun does not have for realistic fighting.
Wing Tsun includes a variety of locking, trapping and pinning actions, with most of them found in the later stages of Siu-Nim-Tau and throughout the Chum-Kiu.
Ground Fighting/Anti-Ground Fighting
Wing Tsun’s ground fighting actions are actually the stand-up principles applied to a prone position. With jamming kicks, elbows and even Chi-sau, the ground fighting/anti-ground fighting concepts are reserved for the latter stages of Chum-Kiu training but continue through Biu-Tze.
In addition to kicks, brutal elbow attacks are a mainstay of Chum-Kiu. Pie-jarn, or Horizontal Hacking-elbow, is one of the most frequently used of all Wing Tsun elbow attacks. While attacks like this may seem brutal, remember that Wing Tsun is strictly for fighting vs. rules-based sports. It is not flashy, showy, and there are no rules. You have been attacked, you are fighting for your life, and all targets are an option.
Fighting vs. Exercising
A variety of today’s exercise routines include boxing, kickboxing, and other similar actions. These programs will usually tell you that in addition to improving your fitness, you are also creating a valuable self-defense skill set, something that you could use in real life for protection if you had to.
I am not going to say that you are not learning something about self-defense, because clearly you are. The body is replicating the actions of movements you would use for defending yourself, and these can be valuable elements if you find yourself in a self-defense situation.
I have also read/heard stories of some who were able to protect themselves only with the skills they learned from their kickboxing-oriented fitness programs. Whether true or not, I can see the relevance and have no reason to doubt it.
Keep in mind, however, that these are merely mechanical actions that you are practicing in the air. It is true that you are learning the mechanics, but at the same time, the focus of the training is primarily health and fitness. Creating a skill set that you can actually rely on for defense is a bit different, and without understanding that, it is a false sense of security to think that an exercise program is the same as learning self-defense.
Fighting and exercising are two different things. Yes, you are improving your fitness, and yes, you are learning the mechanics of basic self-defense actions. Remember, though, that real self-defense and exercising are not the same thing. There is more to reliable self-defense than merely going through the motions, and that is a primary concept we learn in the Chum-Kiu.
Please do not create a false sense of security by relying on your fitness program to teach you about real protection. I personally love fitness programs that include boxing and/or kickboxing because they generate more movement that relates better to overall conditioning. However, these fitness programs will not stop a 250-lb. enraged attacker bent on drilling you into the ground.
But Wing Tsun will.
Concepts & Theories
The Chum-Kiu revolves around seeking out the opponent, and once found, we sink or leak through his/her defenses in order to attack. The most relevant areas of this training includes concepts for angling and turning in order to make the most of the space we have, which in turn allows us to address multiple opponents.
The Chum-Kiu is also where Wing Tsun’s three primary kicking methods – Ching-sun-gerk, Wang-chang-gerk and Che-chang-gerk – are introduced. With these three kicks, we now learn to respond to leg attacks with our own legs vs. using the arms. An interesting facet, however, is that even with the kicks, we also learn that in many cases, responding to the opponent’s kick is sometimes not even necessary.
A common yet effective tactic is that when the opponent kicks, we explode forward into them in order to decrease the range. Not only can this jam the kick, but it can also decrease the power that the kick can produce by shortening the length it has to travel. And with a decreased distance, it cannot produce the same amount of power.
The “bridge” between the Siu-Nim-Tau and Biu-Tze is the Chum-Kiu. It is here that we take our basic concepts learned during our Siu-Nim-Tau training and really make them mobile, efficient, fluid, and responsive. Not only do we learn kicking and elbow attacks/ defenses, but we also learn how to engage multiple opponents.