By Sifu Adam Williss
What is Structure in Wing Chun?
In this article, my goal is to simplify and clarify what structure means in Wing Chun. Many confuse structure with position or their base or even their root. Some even confuse having good Wing Chun structure with pushing and they end up participating in force against force. But Wing Chun structure is something completely different! And being clear about what Wing Chun structure is is very important for your development.
In fact, structure opens the door to sensitivity. Without it you won’t be able to respond to force and use your opponent’s energy against them.
So… what exactly is structure?
Wing Chun structure is short for skeletal structure. It‘s the connections of your bones to one another. To have “good Wing Chun structure” means that the connections between your bones are strong and stable. This stability means you can give and take force through your body.
Wing Chun structure is very specific to wing chun. In other words, you could be very strong and stable in something else like weight lifting, running or even even in another martial art. But that doesn’t mean it equates to having good wing chun structure. It takes time to develop good wing chun structure.
So how do you do it? Well, Siu Nim Tao is the foundation of it and you have to pressure test. You have to feel what it means to have good structure or not. One of the sayings I like to say for my students is “No Mush, No Push.” What does that mean?
When getting pressure from a training partner, your structure shouldn’t collapse (mush) nor should you push directly against their force. In between mush and push is good structure.
An example of “mush” would be if either i’m giving pressure or I’m receiving pressure (or a combination of both) and my elbow comes back or my shoulder comes up.
“Push” is the opposite of that. Why do people push? Because they don’t want to mush. Push is where you’re leaning and you’re pushing into the other person’s force because you don’t have your connections of your body. You’re trying to resist. Resistance is not the same as structure. For instance, when you weight lift you are pushing weight… that’s resistance training.
Wing Chun is non resistance training. We want to be able to maintain structure and then go to soft spaces so we’re finding the insubstantial lines, not trying to push away or or bench press someone else.
Structure is also not locking up and making yourself like concrete or frozen everywhere. That’s just rigidity and that’s easy to push and pull someone and use their rigid handles against them.
The First Two Joints To Focus Upon in order to Build Structure
The first major joints of your body to develop structure within are your shoulders and hips. The two major muscles in the body are the lats (latissimus dorsi)… they hold the shoulder down. The glutes are the other ones (gluteus maximus). You want them engaged so that you can connect your upper body and your lower body and your legs.
These two joints help to connect your torso to your appendages (your arms and your legs). Siu Nim Tao teaches you to be jiu ying (forward facing). You’re not moving around with your shoulders and hips. Instead, you’re stabilizing them. Not only stabilizing them movement wise, but also stabilizing them connection-wise. During Siu Nim Tao you keep your shoulders down and you keep your lats and your glutes engaged the entire time.
Doing this over time will build your structure in order to handle pressure. In other words, this is the way to develop sensitivity and learn how to be relaxed under someone else’s pressure. Because you can’t just be relaxed and soft right off the bat. That does not work. You need to have stability first. Then this stability holds the geometry of everything together. The leverage-based positions allow you to take on force without fighting against it and then the energy can flow through. You can actually allow their energy in and you can feel it and then take advantage of it. Prior to developing structure you’re going to mush or you’re going to push against that energy and because of this you’re just not going to be able to feel where the energy is going in order to take advantage of it.
So it’s super important that you understand that structure opens that door to sensitivity. You can let their energy in and feel where it is… let it into your center so that you can feel the responses. Then you feel where to pivot, where to step, where to move your hands… all these things you have to allow that energy in. Too many put people just push the energy away because the haven’t developed proper structure.
Once you’ve developed structure, you’re going to bring that structure out from your shoulders to your elbows that will develop next. And from your hips down to your knees that will develop next. Now of course you need a good amount of stance work and Siu Nim Tao to do that but not only Siu Nim Tao. You need that partner work like i was saying. You need to feel pressure, you need to feel mistakes and failures against someone that actually has structure.
Now of course, there’s more to it in order to understand how it all intertwines and how it integrates together, but for this article’s purpose, I hope that you have a greater understanding of what Wing Chun structure really means and what its not.
What this article on video:
Here is some more information on Wing Chun structure…
Wing Chun Structural Elements of Good Form
To link the body structure as a proper full component in Wing Chun, there are structural alignments and biomechanic elements of good form. Knowing proper Wing Chun body structure helps to best attack and defend with solid body structure rather than brute force. Because Wing Chun body structure (elements of good form) creates a structural framework for force to flow from the ground to the top into the opponent’s centerline.
Wing Chun uses structural alignment instead of momentum-based power. This is because Wing Chun is for overcoming bigger-stronger attackers.
Wing Chun grounds the body at impact. Remaining grounded, Wing Chun connects itself to the solidity of the ground at the moment of contact (attack or defense). This is best used to deflect the opponent’s attacks or pierce through the opponent’s defenses.
Here are the Wing Chun structural elements of good form…
Wing Chun Structure Video