Updated: May 6, 2021
Imagine someone is attacking you from the side right now - what position are your hands in to intercept the attack? Are they up, down, arms folded?
In Practical Wing Chun we think a lot about how best to defend an attack from various hand positions. We then incorporate those positions into our forms so that we can train them regularly.
To start with we train these positions against our own ‘elbow in’ punch, so that we can use the same attack over and over as a default. Once we are comfortable with this we then move onto more common attacks such as straight punches and hooks.
The positions below are common hand positions from which we will directly go into a Wing Chun move. They are listed in order of the most likely to least likely you are to have your hands in these positions:
1 - Arms down by sides
Arms by sides
The most common place for your arms to be is down by your sides. That’s why in the ‘Practical Wing Chun’ forms we always start with our arms down by our sides when we are opening up our stance.
We also train a similar position during the first section of ‘Chum Kiu’, however here we slightly bend the elbow to 135° so that we can go straight into a ‘Low Bong Sao’ more directly if we are getting attacked low:
‘1st Section Chum Kiu’
If however you are defending against an upper body attack, make sure that you rebend the elbow to 90° before extending it again to 135° (e.g. for a ‘Bong Sao’). That way you will put pressure back onto your opponent’s balance rather than just hitting their attacking arm upwards.
2 - Hands up passively, forearms pointing at your opponent’s face
Hands up passively
A very common hand position when you are in a pre-fight situation is for your hands to be up trying to calm the situation down. However, you should make sure to have your forearms pointing to your target so that at any moment, if needed, you can launch into multiple attacks. Having your forearms firing in the same direction as your strikes will use a ‘battering ram effect’ to give you more power.
Before hitting, have your elbows at 90° so that they have enough extension to allow them to extend to 135°. As the punch comes do a ‘1 in, 1 out’ ‘Pak Da’, meaning that your ‘Pak’ is outside their punch, and your punch is inside their punch.
3 - Arms forward and down
Arms forward and down
Since most people’s hands change as they communicate, you may also at some point have your hands down and your palms facing upwards.
In the 2nd section of ‘Chum Kiu’ our preparatory position for the ‘Moving Bong Sao’ incorporates this low hand position:
‘2nd Section Chum Kiu’
As in the low hand position in point 1 above, we also have the elbow at an angle of 135°. However, this time we bring it across our body so that our ‘3rd centreline’ (midpoint on our forearm) is in line with our ‘1st centreline’ (vertical line in line with our nose). That way it more closely aligns with the ‘arms forward and down’ position, yet it also means that we are covering our ‘1st Centreline’.
4 - Hands on hips
Hands on hips
We now come to hand positions where we are attacked much more unexpectedly. Here we have our hands on our hips when the attack comes.
The main thing to remember is that we want to be as economical as possible with our movement so that we have a better chance of intercepting their attack earlier.
As the punch comes, bring your hands up and down onto your opponent’s arms using ‘Double Gum Sao’:
‘Double Gum Sao’
From here you’re in a good position to gain an advantage from your ‘Chi Sao’ training, as you now have your arms low and on top of theirs.
5 - Hand up by face
Hand up by face
Here we have one hand up by our face when we are attacked. In the form it is trained in ‘Chum Kiu’ in both the ‘Forward Bong’ and the ‘Moving Bong’ section.
‘1st Section Chum Kiu’
In the form we defend by using ‘Chum Kiu Wu Sao’, where the ‘Wu’ goes slightly downwards since it is starting higher than in ‘Siu Nim Tao’. However other possibilities from that high position include ‘Hoi’ and ‘downwards Bin Kuen’.
6 - Hand up high
Hand up high
This position also has a hand up by your face, however this time it starts on the other side. Most moves we do from this position will go downwards across our face so that we get our arm onto our ‘1st Centreline’.
The most common move from this position is ‘Deng Kuen’ (‘Hammer Fist’). To do ‘Deng Kuen’, bring your fist down and forwards in order to hit your opponent across the jaw. At the same time use that same forearm to deflect their punch on the ‘same side, outside’ (e.g. your right arm outside of their right arm).
‘Deng Kuen’ (Hammer Fist)
7 - Arms Crossed
The final position that your arms are likely to be in is for them to be crossed. Try and not be caught in this position since if they press their hand against your top forearm, they can trap two of your hands with one of theirs and be able to hit you with their spare hand.
Thankfully, using ‘Fun Sao’ in the 2nd section of ‘Siu Nim Tao’, we train to get our forearms out quickly and pointing towards our opponent. If you end up on the inside you can instead do a ‘double upper palm’ from the Chum Kiu 3rd section (‘Po Pai’), or if you end up on the outside you can stay in ‘Fun Sao’ to control their arms and disrupt their balance.
Try and think more about where your hands might be if you are attacked and how you can defend yourself as efficiently as possible. This will help you apply Wing Chun thinking in your daily life more, and make you more conscious about where you habitually have your hands.