The Power of the Triangle

Wing Chun is often classified as a “soft style” because its practitioners can fight without strain. “Soft style” wing chun fighters frequently over come larger, stronger opponents from “hard systems”. Where does the soft power originate? What makes Wing Chun work? The answer is found in the triangle nature’s strongest structure.

Wing chun stylists defeat their adversaries by funnelling strength into and through an array of triangles. These triangles are found in the footwork; handwork, posture, strategy and virtually in every aspect of wing chun.

1: – Triangle Stance

Grandmaster Yip Man demonstrating the basic free-fighting stance
Grandmaster Yip Man demonstrating the basic free-fighting stance

The basic stance of wing chun fighter is formed by placing the feet shoulder width apart. The toes of the feet turn slightly inward and knees are bent weight is slightly towards the back leg making the front leg more manoeuvrable for leg strikes. To see the triangle looking down, imagine that the left foot is standing on point A and the right foot on point B, (forming the baseline of the triangle) and point C (the apex of the triangle) is on the floor in front of the body.

The fighter’s knees pull in towards the direction of point C. the result is extremely strong solid structure. The wing chun fighter will maintain his triangle stance as he moves in and out of strike range with his opponent. At times the triangle will be equilateral at other moments more elongated.

2: – Triangle Footwork
Wing Chun work with two main footwork patterns. The “male” and “female” triangle. The male triangle can be visualised by imagining that the apex of the triangle is in front of the body and the baseline is under the feet. The female triangle the apex is behind the body its baseline also under the feet. The male and female triangle form a square turned on its end in diamond fashion.

The male triangle is used mainly for offence. The female triangle is used most often for defence and counter or for simultaneous attacks and defence.

3: – Leg / Torso Triangle
The wing chun body is divided into two triangles. One triangle exists with its base position at the feet and apex at tan tien (centre of the body below the navel.). The other triangle has its apex at the tan tien and its baseline points at the left and right shoulder joints.

The tan tien is the fulcrum. Power funnels up from the floor, through the lower triangle to the fulcrum (tan tien). And later in to the upper triangle where it passes into the arms and fists. These two triangles gives you the support structure for your stance footwork and your punches. The student must learn to move both hand and feet together to take advantage of their fulcrum.

What is necessary is a direct transfer of energy from the ground through the centre. This complete body alignment represents the most efficient use of leverage or energy from foot to fist.

4: – Defensive Triangles
 There are many hand positions used in our system for defence. Four main ones are Tan Sao, Bong Sao Fook Sao and Pak Sao:

The tan sao forms a triangle from elbow to hand to shoulder; the edge of the triangle is an open palm facing up.
Fook sao position is similar, the arm is held in front of the body on the centre line. The triangle again from shoulder to elbow to hand. However the wrist is bent forming another triangle from wrist to fingers to forearm.
Bong sao is an outward or horizontal triangle. Its purpose to protect from side angle attacks. The arms held out from centre line with arms bent and elbow tip facing to the side.
Pak Sao defensive position formed by placing open palm in the centre of the body at appoint much closer than the movements above.

In wing chun one never meets force on force, instead relaxed energy, appropriate triangular positioning and arm movements are required as quickly as possible.

5: – Destroying Triangles
A wing chun fighter defeats his opponent by slicing punches at angles which penetrate the weakest point. Naturally, the opponent will turn to defend the weakest area of its defence, forcing them to shift the apex of there triangle to meet the incoming force if there assailant. With minor footwork one can plant blows to the sides of the defensive triangle and sheer through the defensive line. Footwork is used to perform this task.

The up and down triangular structure is destroyed when a wing chun fighter forces them to cross the upper and lower triangles. Once the body is crossed the power lie is gone and the opponent is vulnerable for attack. Once the lower triangle is disrupted, hence the opponent is out of stance and off balance then the wing chun fighter should swiftly move in and take them out.

6: – Kicking Triangles
If kicking is to be effective, the kick leg must be bent slightly, only by keeping a bend can a triangle of hip to knee to foot be maintained. Your balance must be over your centre when kicking to maximise your stability and power.

7: – Pyramids and Triangles
The shortest distance between a fighter and his opponent is a straight line, wing chun fighters try to stay in control of this inside line (inside gate), as who ever controls this line controls the fight. This line is the primary power line. What two wing chun fighters try to do is attempt to place their triangle, their pyramid in such a way to seize an advantage and gain a superior position – controlling the inside line.

8: – Triangles in Nature
Nature is full of geometric shapes, triangles, circles, squares and rectangles. Combat technique and strategy is based on nature’s geometry, yet few martial art systems pay as much attention to the triangle, nature’s most solid structure, as does wing chun.

The diamond like edge of the triangle lets wing chun students fight with minimal exertion. It is the triangle that opens the lines of power and provides the advantage that small men need to defeat larger, more heavily muscled men. Ironically it is the hard triangle that makes the wing chun system so soft.


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