One of the most vital methods of punching in Kung fu is the straight punch, also known as the ‘Wing Chun punch’.
Learning this punch is initially confusing for many martial artists because it feels unnatural. Most people consider the natural human punch to be a very wide-swinging punch where one must swing their arms in wide arcs to pummel the opponent. This punch is in fact not very effective and is also often easily deflected.
The Wing Chun punch uses a vertical fist. A vertical fist means that the knuckles are aligned vertically with the body (parallel, as if you’re holding a bottle in front of you upwards), whereas most other punches from boxing or martial arts are horizontal to the body (perpendicular). Having a vertical fist helps keep the punch straight.
Before providing tips on how to improve this straight punch and make it more powerful, let’s discuss some of the benefits.
“The best defence is to be invisible. If you cannot be, learn Wing Chun”(Sigong Wong Shun Leung – one of Yip Man’s former students).
The near invisibility of this punch is achieved by several factors which all work together:
• Simple geometry helps keeps the straight punch near to invisible. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. This ‘shortest distance’ therefore allows the fastest travel, which is used in a Wing Chun punch. It starts in front of you, at the centre, and follows a straight and short path to the target. In Wing Chun, this straight path is called the ‘centre line’.
• The punch requires you to stand close to your opponent. Being close also gives your opponent less time to see your strike coming.
• One must not ‘pull back’ to throw the Wing Chun punch. ‘Pulling back’ telegraphs the fact that you are about to throw a punch.
Another key part of the Wing Chun punch is its accuracy. The punch’s straight path allows it to be exactly accurate. Accuracy means that less force is needed to get the desired effect because the straight path focuses the force directly onto the target and point of impact.
Here are some key points on executing the Wing Chun punch. You must keep your hands at or within your shoulder width and between chest and shoulder height.
Your elbows should be pointed down rather than out to the side. This protects your torso, whereas having your elbows outwards leaves a large target open to your opponent.
When practising the Wing Chun punch, it helps to think of it as a chain motion, such as a bicycle chain. Each punch goes over the other one which is retreating backwards. It is as if one fist is replacing the other each time.
A common mistake is striking downwards when punching. What happens is that you start to swing the fist down during the punching motion (sometimes it is so slight you do not notice it). If you hit a punching bag with a bare knuckle and you notice that you are chafing the skin on your knuckles, especially to the point of bleeding, you are most likely striking downward (and scraping your fist instead of striking into and through your target).
If this is happening to you, think of your punch as an arrow driving into your target. Not a hammer swinging down.
Once you train this finer detail, you will be presented with even more power behind your strike, as swinging down wastes energy. Hitting straight through your opponent concentrates the force onto the small area of the target.
Click this video for more details about different types of Punches, and how the Wing Chun Punch: Kung Fu Punches – YouTube
If you just practise the correct punching motion repetitively for a minute daily, it will help build up your endurance alongside helping solidify your technique.