Enrico Ferretti: Ving Tsun punch

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Ving Tsun Kung Fu (VT) main weapon is no doubt the vertical punch (Yat Ji Jik Kuen). It is no exaggeration saying that the 90% of VT training is aimed at acquiring a punch able to ensure a successful response in each situation and finding the way to make it reaching the target.
This technique is so important that in all the forms we start and end with the vertical punch on the centre line: The Alfa and the Omega of Ving Tsun.
This is a “non-natural” punching technique, mainly for two reasons:
1. The most common reason: it is a punch travelling on a straight line. Our standing position and the subsequent weight distribution along a vertical line ensure that the most natural movement our body could do is turning around a vertical axis. So the most natural arm “technique” is a hook or something like that (look at small children beating one another up and you will see they use to give loud circular slaps). Going “straight” requires a better concentration and a deeper study of the movement mechanics.
In this regard, I would like to quote:
”From the history of boxing we learn how in its early years people used to hit with bent arm, with Hooks and Slaps. Primitives used to physically damage others by resorting this method and, after all, also felines and plantigrades (bears and similar species) use scratches, slaps and paws. Those who do not know boxing and want to throw a punch, show a natural tendency to give slaps. That’s why if you want to master the Jab, you have to study its technique.”
Giordano Goggioli
“KO: history of boxing and its champions”
2. Ving Tsun-related specific reason: the punch is thrown with the elbow pointing downwards. In everyday life we are accustomed to use hands no matter how our elbows move. Our elbows naturally point outwards almost in every daily action, even when we stand with the arms by our side. Pointing the elbow downwards it’s something which does not come naturally, it’s a voluntary action which has to be “studied”.

[caption id="attachment_180" align="aligncenter" width="960"]Sifu Philipp Bayer with his student Enrico Ferretti Sifu Philipp Bayer with his student Enrico Ferretti[/caption]
So, making the elbow pointing downwards and forward requires a hard work of “reprogramming” those motor systems we naturally developed in our lifetime. Doing it in coordination with other movements needs further study. Performing it with precision, power and efficacy requires a great deal of work. The proven “non-natural” condition of this punching technique explains why Ving Tsun consists of so many exercises aimed at improving the”VT punch” and the elements which make it successful, and why those practicing Ving Tsun spend a considerable portion of their training time in performing said exercises.
The fist hits with the last two knuckles (little finger and ring finger), and sometimes also the third knuckle is involved (middle finger). Using the smallest hand knuckles does not involve the risk of worse injuries than using the others, for the strength of each knuckle is not provided by its size. In addition, having a smaller impact surface enhances the punch efficacy. During the entire trajectory followed by the fist, the knuckles are constantly target-oriented, and shortly before impact the wrist performs an upward movement, which enables a correct impact on the one hand, and gives the hit a deeper penetration on the other (especially useful when the punch is thrown from a short distance).
The vertical punch kinetic chain originates from the rear part of the foot, which, pressing the ground, conveys energy through the hips and the elbow up to the fist, following a bottom-up trajectory (ascending diagonal), in order to discharge into the ground, and not upon the trainee’s shoulders, the impact force. The elbow has to push the arm forward and to lead the fist trajectory. This specific structure of the punch helps keeping a constant “connection” during the entire trajectory between the arm throwing the punch and the rest of the body. Using a metaphor, we could say that if the horizontal punch corresponds to the throwing of a spare against the rival, the VT vertical punch is similar to a lunge performed by keeping the hand on the spare’s handle itself.

The advantages of the vertical punch are the following:
1. It provides the possibility of protecting your own line of attack while you are throwing it: the elbow can intercept and deflect everything in its trajectory, protecting the Ving Tsun fighter and/or paving the way towards the target (simultaneous defense and attack).
2. The fist stays “connected” to the body structure: making the trainee always able to use the elbow to drive the fist but also to deflect, open the guard or control its opponent and also allowing sudden changes of direction and instant reactions if the punch is deflected or prevented.
3. Simultaneous use of both arms: the previous paragraph, combined with the fact that Ving Tsun provides for a front guard (CHING YING) and not for an “elusive” one, results in making the trainee able to use both arms simultaneously and in a coordinated manner. This aspect creates a “tactic” advantage (two weapons vs. one weapon) and many more occasions to reach the target than exclusively relying on the punch speed does.
4. The fact that the punch is performed with the body at the “back” and its structure enables to successfully hit even from short and extremely short distances without opting for different trajectories. For the same reason, even if the target distance should change during the punch trajectory, a successful impact could occur as well.
5. Having its core in the elbow, it is in itself very clear. This aspect, combined with the Ving Tsun footwork and the proper management of the rotations around the longitudinal axis (another specific VT element), make sure that a good VT fighter is always able to throw his punches with extreme accuracy.
6. The wrist is kept in a more stable and firm position if compared to that of the horizontal punch, reducing the risk of damages resulting from twists due to impact.

Disadvantages of the Ving Tsun vertical punch:
1. Full hip rotations and weight-bearing on a single side of the body are not performed, in order to keep the fist connected with the body structure and the front guard. This entails a shorter range if compared to that of punches thrown using the said methods.
2. The shoulder can’t protect the face side neither with its rotation, nor with the elbow’s inward one, as occurs, for example, with regard to the Western Boxing punching techniques.
3. The front guard provides the opponent with a large target, with all the associated risks. This attitude demonstrates how also VT is a primarily offensive kind of boxing ( it is important to note that also Thai Boxing uses the front guard and that many Western Boxing champions rely on the same strategy, leaving the classic approach of the “elusive” guard, in order to be faster and more unpredictable in punching).

Ving Tsun tries to overcome these disadvantages with its peculiar foorwork, its insistent training aimed at learning the correct timing and responsiveness, as well as the use of the elbow and the arms in a coordinate manner, as explained above.
Having regard to the strategy adopted by Ving Tsun, there is often the need to hit from a short or very short distance, so the need of those power and precision necessary for a good punch represent the main problems to be solved.
The first steps useful to develop “THE” punch are made using the “Yee Gee Kim Yum Ma” position together with techniques aimed at developing the correct habits. Then what follows are Poon Sao, Toi Ma-Seung Ma, the Lap Sao Cycle, Lin Siu Dai Da exercises, etc.., that all together help developing and increasing the body “structure” (the kinetic chain involved in the punch) and the punch initial speed (in order to successfully hit even from a short distance), ensure the correct use of the elbow (straight line and “low” elbow) and create the proper coordination between the arms, as well as between arms and legs.
Nevertheless, the use of the wall bag and of the filled heavy bag ( in order to have a feedback on the structure, the musculature and the nervous impulse necessary for punching) and of the “speed ball”and other types of punch bag to acquire the correct timing and a coordinated footwork, should be added to the previous exercises.
So, developing a good vertical punch takes time and following a logic process which, starting from the use of the elbow and the correct structures, ends with the ability of using the punch in any situations proves essential, no matter the position of your own arms or that of the target, in spite of possible disturbances coming from the opponent (parries, deflections, attacks, blocks, etc.) or due to fight-related contingent situations (rotations around the longitudinal axis, sudden direction changes, imbalances, accelerations, etc.), in order to make the punch always able to reach the target with maximum power.
[caption id="attachment_192" align="alignnone" width="665"]Enrico Ferretti and the italian Ving Tsun Federation of Philipp Bayer Enrico Ferretti and the italian Ving Tsun Federation of Philipp Bayer[/caption] Chain-punching (“Lin Wan Kuen”) The well-known “chain-punching” is NOT a technique dealing with hitting the opponent with a series of fast punches (a strategy not so successful and effortless), but an exercise aimed at teaching the correct punching mechanics.
The real core of this approach is coordination: The punch must reach the target at the same time as the Wu Sao gets its position. The need of the perfect coordination and the correct “automatic” positioning of the arms (combined with the footwork) is the essential element of Ving Tsun, for, when you are at minimum distance, being unable to see first and then decide, reactions must be immediate and instinctual. Only in this way it’s possible expressing the continuity of action, the simultaneous use of both arms, a high degree of fluidity and effectiveness at short distance, which are Ving Tsun typical aspects.
Learning the chain-punching technique it’s the first step to achieve this kind of coordination, which subsequently will turn into a general attitude. . Another important aspect of the chain-punching technique, is the fact that the arm going down and back in Wu Sao position is not “passive” but acts, or it’s ready to act, during the entire trajectory it follows to get its position: it becomes Pak, Jut, Wu, etc., our next move, which works as defense or attack as needed. All of this must be always performed in coordination and “collaboration” with the other arm.
Due to the fact that the arms/fists work together in synergy with the footwork, The VT fighter could appear“faster“ than he actually is; indeed, he only performs movements with economy, responsiveness and accuracy.
The chain-punching technique expresses the following concept: shorter way to get the target/economy of movement, being ready to hit (Wu Sao), simultaneous use of both arms and centre line (simultaneous defense and attack), chance (taking advantage of apertures), strategy (two weapons vs. one weapon).
These are all the main ideas we can find in each VT exercise and in its entire practice.

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