by John Paul
Short range is the range that is most associated with Wing Chun, even with those who are only remotely familiar with the style. This close range infighting is very advanced and can only be properly learned, practiced, and understood after the longer range concepts are fully grasped. This distance is also commonly known as trapping range. In Wing Chun we practice sticky hands, or chi sau for this.
My teacher has a specific and unique method for teaching sticky hands.
First, the preliminary training for long range and mid range techniques teaches students in our family to close the gap, move in and “stick” to our opponent. Easier said than done. We spend a great deal of time perfecting our mobility, foot work, not wasting movements, stamina, speed, timing and agility.
This is the forward energy often mentioned in Wing Chun but hardly understood. Students in our family “bug the opponent like a bee or a fly or a hummingbird”. Starting from a distance, as most confrontations do, and then ending up “too close for comfort to the opponent”.
Every technique we use, every weapon we use, and every principle we follow carries this spirit. The close range principle is easily understood by soft style practitioners, but it seems to be mysterious to some Wing Chun artists. I will adress this later because it is very fundamental.
Once after sparring 3 or 4 people in a row, Sifu asked me, “Now, what do you think you can do better next time?” I thought for a second. Then I said,”Workout harder!”, because I was completely out of breath. He said, “Hmm…no that’s not it…once you get in, you don’t know what to do!” At this point I am familiar with the long and medium ranges but the short range I have yet to master.
In application, from my past experiences with other challengers and Kung Fu brothers from other schools, I see people often neglect this part of Wing Chun principle that is vital to a Wing Chun practicioner, or they demonstrate actions that are different than what they preach about Wing Chun.
My teacher says sticky hands is a fragmented part of Wing Chun training. There is more to Wing Chun than just that. As a result, Wing Chun has gotten a bad reputation for only looking good but with no practicality. That’s why people try to mix it with Muay Thai or some other hard style of boxing when it comes to real fight training.
Everyone who practices martial arts, has had a few fights, or is fairly intelligent when they start martial arts always gets the idea to take the best stuff from every style and create their own personal superstyle. In fact this is how martial arts evolves. But most people are not qualified to do this for one reason. In order to get the best from every style you practice requires years of training. But most people study only short while, or even worse they study for years but never fully grasp the principles and never master the style. So when they take from the style they only end up taking a few moves or techniques; never carrying with them the spirit, the essence of the style.
They dont get “the best stuff”.
In our family one of our founders, Fung Siu Ching, incorporated Tai Chi grappling into our Wing Chun. Many people practice some form of Tai Chi and some form of Wing Chun and try to mix the two. So what makes ours different?
Well, Master Fung was well known to be a very experienced general, marshall and bounty hunter for the Qing. He had real hand to hand combat skill for most of his life. He knew Tai Chi grappling probably better than he knew his wife. It was in him, it was a part of him. A soft, internal style principle that is our Kung Fu is internal–its in your soul, your DNA. Many readers frown on the Wing Chun and Tai Chi relationship, and confuse us with some of the masters who add Tai Chi technigues into their Wing Chun techniques like adding apples and oranges together.
Some swear that Fung had studied Shaolin Crane Style (Shaolin practitioners have said this). Most of them have never heard that Ng Mui was from Aumei White Crane Cave (stated by the Master of Lost Track style in the book Lost Track Style Kung Fu and Master Sum Nung). The Aumei Pi style of Kung Fu is actually a family of many mixed styles of Shaolin and Wudong, by many masters of the two, over hundreds of years! It became a new fruit! Back to my point.
Closing the gap in our Wing Chun is similar to Xing Yi and Tai Chi principles. In both styles the master gets close. In Xing Yi they close in. In Tai Chi they allow the opponent to close in. We do similarly but still different. We move forward in a yielding manner. Once in close, short range, trapping range, the most deadly, powerful, accurate finishing blows are executed. In this range we also differ from other Wing Chun families because we emphasize much more stand up grappling, White Crane sweeping and throwing, take downs, and breaks.