Wing Tzun Kicks
February 08, 2006 at 9:33 PM
There are different kicks in different martial arts. Often I encounter the following scenario: Somebody comes into my school and tells me they want to learn the hand techniques of Wing Tzun. They say combined with the kicks they leaned in another martial art, thrown in with some grappling, they will be 'well rounded' fighters.
I proceed to ask them if they think that cheese, jelly, pastrami, and peanut butter make the best bread spread. Yes, and no. You can combine some, but not all of them.
Since Wing Tzun stylists do not kick very often above the waist, many people assume that such techniques do not exist. But like our bread spread, there are some Wing Tzun kicks you can combine with your style and some that you can't. Every kick has a purpose!
When somebody first starts out with martial arts, it is understandable that a fancy-looking kick is very impressive. I myself love to look at the demonstrations of a kicking expert. Breaking boards, jumping, spinning using different kicks. Or, for example, the grace and dynamic of the kicks in a well-executed karate kata. But I also love the simplistic and effectiveness of a Wing Tzun kick.
Types of kicks
Taken as a whole, there are three groups you can divide kicks into:
- Acrobatic kicks, which have the purpose of keeping your body in shape and being entertaining for a show.
- Competition kicks, which are used to score points in tournaments, either full- or light-contact.
- Self-defense kicks, which are strictly used for the purpose of ending a fight as quickly as possible, without the intention of looking impressive.
Let's examine each of these kicking types more closely.
Acrobatic kicks or 'show' kicks are used to entertain a crowd, for example. Somebody that doesn't know anything about martial arts often thinks that it must be better if it looks better. That's why these kicks are used for action scenes in movies. These kicks include high kicks, spinning-kicks, jumping-kicks. Also, breaking boards or blowing out a candle with the sheer speed of a kick would fall under this category.
All of this is very impressive and takes a lot of discipline and training to accomplish. The down side is that you can only jump around until you reach a certain age. Trying to teach these kicks to a fifty-year-old man with a slight back problem is a waste of time!
Also, breaking boards does not in any way resemble a real fight, as an opponent will move. Accuracy will be interpreted differently once you have a moving target. If you jump, there is no way you can change directions until your feet touch ground again. Being able to manoeuvre is something you always want to be able to do in a real fight. Risk of injury is high also with these types of kicks. Quite a few of my personal martial art friends who have been involved in these activities have been through knee surgery. Hip problems are also frequent occurrences. As far as self-defense is concerned, these types of kicks are not your best option.
Competition kicks are used for different types of tournaments. In some martial arts kicks to the head will be awarded higher points than punches. Therefore, you will see a lot of kicks in a taekwondo tournament. However, in full-contact fights, where kicks and punches count equally, you see a change, as kicking is not necessarily more effective than punching.
I fought in several full-contact tournaments myself, and was even a national champion. So I speak from experience. Most knock-outs are by punching the opponent. Kicks cannot be thrown at an equal rate as punches. Also, after kicking high you often find yourself in an off-balanced position. And changing directions while a powerful roundhouse kick is under way is almost impossible.
One of the most effective kicks in the ring is the low muay Thai round kick to the thigh. Conserving energy, this kick can be thrown more frequently than higher kicks. Therefore, the chance of doing damage with this technique is also much higher. You can learn this kick rather quickly, since flexibility is not required. Another kick that is very effective is the straight kick. Thai boxers use these two kicks a lot and they are one of the reasons why until this day they produce the cream of the crop in this discipline.
Some full-contact kicks can be used in the street and you have to be extremely careful if you ever encounter a full-contact fighter in a real fight. However, a lot of these kicks again leave limits for the average person. Fighters compete to a certain age and, again, some people have injuries and cannot kick above the waist.
When it comes to pure self-defense, you can see a change in the nature of the kicking again. Some kicks that will be thrown in a full-contact fight are not suitable for the street. A roundhouse kick, for example, always leaves an opening in the center. A straight kick can counter this technique.
Some martial artists have the wrong perception of how easy it can be for an opponent to counter a kick if they do not come in a straight line. That is why you hear stories about no-so-refined street fighters taking out 'good kickers.' Again, just because somebody can kick high, doesn't necessarily make him a 'good kicker' in terms of application in a real self-defense situation.
Wing Tzun kicks
I remember when my sifu (teacher) Keith Kernshecht in Germany gave us an example of how much sense it makes to kick somebody to the head in a self-defense situation. He kneeled down and started punching a student's foot! He then asked, 'Would you do that?' Of course not! In Wing Tzun, all kicks are straight. This doesn't mean there is only one kick in the system; there are several variations. There is a side kick, for example. But again, this is a straight kick because the kick itself travels on a straight line. In a real fight, the Wing Tzun practitioner's legs mostly take care of the opponent's legs and his arms take care of the opponent's arms. Except for a few situations.
Another aspect that is significant for Wing Tzun kicks is range. Most kickers need a lot of space in which to kick their opponent. Conversely, an experienced Wing Tzun fighter is able to kick from a very close range. Yet, the kicks have a lot of power. They are powered by the two biggest and therefore most powerful muscles in your body: the gluteus and the quadriceps. Since the kicks travel on a straight line, they are very fast. This leaves the opponent less time to react. Also if you kick straight, you protect yourself at the same time.
Another significant difference between Wing Tzun kicks and kicks from other styles is that there are no 'snap' kicks. Pulling the kick back leaves the opponent time to recuperate. Whereas a Wing Tzun fighter would not pull the leg back, but do the opposite and leave it forward to follow the opponent with a step right away. This way balance does not have to be reassigned, because you don't move back then forward. You only move forward! Going one direction is obviously easier than switching directions.
The main reason why most people don't know anything about Wing Tzun kicks is because they used to be taught only to advanced students. They were considered 'secret.' Even today, the most advanced technique in Wing Tzun is chi-gerk, the so-called 'sticky legs.' However, today students don't have to wait years until they learn how to defend themselves against various types of kicks . . . or learn how to kick.
An average person should be able to learn a kick rather fast, if it is for a self-defense purpose. Again, age makes it impossible for some people to be acrobatic. One will not be able to ask an angry attacker politely, 'Could you wait until I warm up and finish my stretch?' The approaches to kicks are various. Just like every martial art, every kick has its place. Every individual has to decide what direction they wish to go. There really is no 'better,' as each kick is best suited for its specific purpose. They're just not all suited for self-defense in the street.
By Dai-Sifu Emin Boztepe