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Oliver Gross teaches at the University of Bielefeld and at the German Sports University in Cologne. For many years he has managed his own Wing-Tsun and Escrima school in Cologne.

ISBN 978-3-86884-129-9


the way of the intercepting fist

Oliver Gross The Way of the Intercepting Fist The basis of this book is Oliver Gross’ top-grade (1.0) diploma thesis. The mechanism of the Wing-Tsun defensive movements is dealt with fundamentally and comprehensively. This takes place against the background of the existing theories (especially Dr. K. R. Kernspecht) and from different sports-science perspectives, such as sports psychology (cognitive architecture), biomechanics (utilization of the opponent’s energy) and physiology. Finally, the findings obtained are compared with the common WingTsun philosophy.

Clarification of the basic organization of movement in Wing Chun/ Wing Tsun Oliver Gross

r e d n U ding n n hu a t s gC n n Tsu i W ng Wi

Oliver Gross The Way of the Intercepting Fist

Oliver Gross The Way of the Intercepting Fist Clarification of the basic organization of movement in Wing Tsun/Wing Chun Translated from the original German by Dr. J端rgen Schiffer, Specialist Translator for Sports-Science Literature

Impressum Author’s address Ip Man Wing Tsun, International Headquarters Vondelstraße 29–31, 50677 Köln, Germany Bibliographic information from the German National Library The German National Library lists this publication in the German National Bibliograpy; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at Gross, Oliver The Way of the Intercepting Fist Clarification of the basic organization of movement in Wing Tsun Sportverlag Strauss, Köln 2012 – 1st edition ISBN 978-3-86884-129-9 Schiffer, Jürgen Translated from the original German by Dr. Jürgen Schiffer, Specialist Translator for Sports-Science Literature, Erftstadt, Germany © Sportverlag Strauß Olympiaweg 1, 50933 Köln Phone 0221 846 75 76 Fax 0221 846 75 77 Illustrations: O. Gross Photos: J. Holke, O. Gross Typesetting & Layout: M. Schüngel, grossgestalten, Köln Production: besserbuecher, Frankfurt/Main Printed in Germany All rights of distribution, including the right of copying and translation, are reserved by the publisher. Without the written permission of the publisher no part of this publication may be reproduced in any form (including photocopying, microfilm or other process) or electronically stored, processed, copied or distributed.

Verbal communication is always relative! In our thoughts we create a picture of the world. With our bodies we are a part of the world. We can understand inner connections that cannot be expressed in words. With thanks to: Prof. Wolfgang Tiedt, Gaby Marquardt, Dr. Gerd Helmer, Dr. Zhu Wenjun, Sifu Turan Ataseven, Sihing Martin Herrmann, Wu Dong Laoshi, Dr. Dietmar Elke, Tobias Gross, my wife and family, my students I would like to thank especially Prof. Dr. Thomas Schack for the development of his model of movement representation, among other things. His excellent book, The Cognitive Architecture of Human Movement (published in 2010 by Meyer & Meyer) was unfortunately not yet available at the time of writing this book. Special thanks also go to Grand Master Dr. Keith Ronald Graf von Rothenburg Kernspecht (Visiting Professor at the National Sports Academy in Sofia) for his fundamental Wing-Tsun book On Single Combat: Strategy, Tactics, Physiology, Psychology, Philosophy and History of Un-armed Self-defence, among other things. Out of respect for my masters, my own book is based primarily on self-developed thoughts and my own research as related to Wing Tsun! I would like to thank in particular my main teacher, Sifu Emin Boztepe, for his teaching. I wish that he will someday present a summary of his extensive knowledge in a book. The form of this book and the drawings included in it are part of the contents and have been made by the author himself. This has been done both as a part of the general tradition of martial arts, where art and calligraphy had a great significance, as well as a part of the tradition of my focus of study, which included an introduction to the drawing of movements presented by Dorothee G端nther.

About the Author The author has devoted about 20,000 hours to the theory and practice of Wing Tsun. Another 10,000 hours he has dealt with various other martial arts such as Escrima, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Karate, Tae-Kwon-Do, Savate, Muay Thai, and, at the Beijing University of Physical Education, with Wushu, Qigong, Chen Taiji and the Drunken Style. During the study of sports at the German Sports University in Cologne, the author played sports such as gymnastics, swimming, shooting, judo, German Tanztheater, dance, team handball, badminton, volleyball, athletics, gymnastics, and he also studied the Feldenkrais method.

Oliver Gross in keywords Diploma Sports Scientist (German Sports University, Cologne) Fitness instructor (Materia Teaching Institute) Mental Coach Wing-Tsun und Escrima expert – Head of Ip Man Wing Tsun Cologne – Ip Man Wing-Tsun and Escrima weapon management Teacher at the University of Bielefeld – Wing Tsun, Escrima, Tai-Chi – Self-assertion and self-defence training in school and extraschool settings Teacher at the German Sports University in Cologne – Living anatomy, perception-oriented training




1 1.1 1.2

Historical overview of the origins of Wing Tsun Wing Tsun today Lineage of the author’s Wing-Tsun masters

15 16 17

2 2.1 2.2

Leading question of this study The organization of movement The basic movement organization in Wing Tsun

18 18 19





The Way of the Intercepting Fist


5 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.3.1 5.3.2 5.3.3

Movement representation and movement control in Wing Tsun The cognitive architecture of the movements in Wing Tsun Thesis on the mechanics of Wing Tsun The basic approach to Wing Tsun shown on the basis of essential movement characteristics Example movement 1 – Bong-Sao and turn Example movement 2 – Pak-Sao against jab Example movement 3 – Taan-Sao turn

29 32 40 44

6 6.1 6.2

The tactile reaction-time model GM Kernspecht and other authors Reacting to tactile stimuli: yes or no?

50 50 52

7 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.3.1

The basic movement mechanics in Wing Tsun Energy storage – the forward tension in Wing Tsun Energy transfer – the turn in Wing Tsun Schema of the basic Win-Tsun mechanics Implementation of the schematic approach to using the opponent’s energy in practice

56 58 61 63

8 8.1 8.2 8.3

Deformations on the way to the opponent The tendomuscular system in Wing Tsun The stretch-shortening cycle in Wing Tsun The monosynaptic stretch reflex in Wing Tsun

67 67 68 69

23 25 28


8.4 8.5 8.6

Reactive force in Wing Tsun Stiffness in Wing Tsun Proprioception in Wing Tsun

71 71 72


In Wing Tsun the attacker carries out the withdrawal movement for us



Errors when attempting to utilize the energy


11 11.1 11.2

Two experiments on the significance of the tactile sense in Wing Tsun Reduction of surface sensitivity – a preliminary experiment Responding to tactile stimuli is risky and impractical

76 76 79

12 Integration and correction of the existing Wing-Tsun principles 12.1 “Be like water” 12.2 Arms like a willow 12.3 The force laws of Wing Tsun 12.3.1 Correction of the significance of the force laws 12.4 The (two) principles of Wing Tsun 12.4.1 The significance of the four principles 12.5 Yau and Gong 12.6 Yin and Yang in Wing Tsun

81 81 82 82 84 85 85 87 88


Conclusion – the new model of movement organization in Wing Tsun



Interpretation of Bruce Lee’s statement






Philosophy in movement – an outlook



The three circles of weapon management – an outlook







Sifu Oliver Gross’ solid and illuminating book “The Way of the Intercepting Fist” (2012) focuses on the vital topic of what the important claim “reacting on physical contacts” means in Wing Tsun. His well-argued academic study has a limited focus compared to Sifu Keith R. Kernspecht’s comprehensive and classic contribution “Vom Zweikampf. Strategie, Taktik, Physiologie, Psychologie, Philosophie und Geschichte der waffenlosen Selbstverteidigung” (2009, 16). It is fair to say that Kernspecht addresses the whole range of Wing Tsun from many different perspectives for lay people and martial artists alike. Gross’ academic study, instead, is more demanding and certainly an ambitious book for a rather limited circle of martial artists who are familiar with scholarly work. This is no drawback at all, it only means that one should have a good understanding of the nature of martial arts in general and of Wing Tsun in particular in order to fully appreciate the value of Gross’ superb contribution. A (very) brief comparison of both works shows that three points are of major interest. Kernspecht claims that it is possible by virtue of the over-sensibility of the skin to react instantaneously on physical contacts, that one should use less power, and that one can fight with less structure. Gross, instead, convincingly argues that the martial artist only defers to great pressure, that one should have a high body tension while approaching the enemy, and – by appealing to the latest empirical studies – that the martial artist needs an overall and safe structure as the basis for good movements in Wing Tsun. Without any doubts, both works are of utmost importance by providing the martial artist with valuable information on how to become a better fighter. Whether one adheres to the classic contribution (Kernspecht) or the latest wellargued, empirically substantiated work (Gross) is something I leave to the particular martial artist. I do appreciate, however, both works for their significant insights at the frontier of martial arts and I do certainly acknowledge the fact that Wing Tsun is developing – practically and theoretically – into a more sophisticated martial art. In this respect, Sifu Oliver Gross is, without doubts, one among few martial artists who are able to further refine Wing Tsun and attempt to make an important substantial and long-lasting contribution in the field of martial arts. Even though it is not a central and dominating part of the above-mentioned works, it should be mentioned that to become a

better fighter necessarily goes hand in hand with developing one’s martial virtues. A great fighter – as people say – is always a person who has a great character as well. This fact has been substantiated by a comprehensive philosophical and historical examination on martial virtues written by Charles Hackney. His fascinating book “Martial Virtues. Lessons in Wisdom, Courage, and Compassion from the World’s Greatest Warriors” (2010) is highly recommended by virtue of its great importance as a detailed study on character development in the context of martial arts. Hackney is correct in claiming that “as long as there have been warriors, people have held to the idea that certain qualities of character separate a warrior of excellence from one who is merely skilled at violence” (p. 10). This claim depends on the martial arts truism “that martial training is described as a method of enhancing one’s character, and positive character traits are described as necessary for martial advancement” (p. 11). I would love to see Sifu Oliver Gross working in the field of character development and martial arts in more detail in order to publish an equally well-argued book in the future. The readers – including myself – will certainly welcome this highly important research project. Of course, some martial artists will feel challenged by Gross’ new empirically substantiated study that attempts to further develop Wing Tsun. It should be mentioned, however, that Gross’ aim is not to dethroning Kernspecht. Gross’ ambitious contribution should rather be seen as a sincere invitation with regard to a fruitful dialogue amongst serious martial arts experts in order to refine Wing Tsun and to mediate between different voices in a highly competitive field. Whether his approach will remain, remains to be seen. I wish him all the best for his way of doing Wing Tsun. Prof. Dr. John-Stewart Gordon

1 Historical overview of the origins of Wing Tsun

The history of Wing Tsun is shrouded in legend. This southern Chinese martial art is said to have been developed by the Shaolin master Ng Mui, or in standard Chinese: Wu Méi Dà Shi, as the style she developed when she was older. According to folk history, Ng Mui was the daughter of a Ming general (Ming Dynasty 1368-1644). In the Shaolin temple, before its destruction, she was allegedly one of the so-called Five Elders, i.e. a kind of abbess and master of Chan Buddhism and the former type of Shaolin Kung Ku (or rather Shaolin Wu-Shu). This raises the question as to whether Ng Mui lived as a woman in an all-male monastery. Unfortunately, there are no reliable translated sources to clarify this issue. After the destruction of the monastery in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911, also called the Manchu Dynasty) about 300 years ago, Ng Mui is said to have fled to Southern China. In Southern China her great knowledge in Buddhism and Confucianism most likely mixed with the more Southern Chinese Taoism, which later provided the essential theoretical foundation for Wing Tsun. In Taoism, simplicity, adaptability and pliancy play an essential role. The guiding principle of Taoism is the behavior of water flowing steadily forward and flowing onto and around obstacles, without taking damage itself (see Lin 1994). The combination of Taoist thought, her personal aging and the fact that as a woman she had only little chance against younger men in purely sporting competitions must have led to the sophisticated, very direct and simple techniques and behaviors of Wing Tsun. Up to Grandmaster Ip Man (01.10.1893-02.12.1972), Wing Tsun, with only a few exceptions, was passed on within the family and was not taught publicly. Only Ip Man himself made it accessible to a wider Chinese audience in his later years. Through his student Bruce Lee, Wing Tsun became world famous.

All Shaolin styles are regarded as external, or exoteric, styles. Inner or esoteric styles are, however, only the Taiji, Xing-I and Bagua. Very briefly, the external styles originate from Bodhidharma’s desire to physically strengthen the weak and ailing monks of the Shaolin Monastery. The internal styles, however, try to avoid outer muscle strength and to translate especially the philosophical principles of Taoism and I-Ching into motion. A similar procedure as in the creation of Wing Tsun can be observed in the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), whose techniques are based on a modified judo for physically weaker people. The founder of BJJ, Helio Gracie, was “physically rather frail (...). For this reason, he changed the mechanics and leverage of many techniques and thus made them more effective and also applicable for physically weaker people.”


1.1 Wing Tsun today Many martial arts styles can internally be branched again into different lineages, which have more or less a close resemblance. For various reasons, in these cases the spelling is often changed.

“Since moving to the U.S., (Wing-Tsun Expert) Mr. Boztepe has provided instruction to various state, county, city, and federal law enforcement agencies. He has provided weaponless defense training to the Los Angeles FBI SWAT Team and I have received several inquiries by U.S. military units regarding the possibility of attending future seminars provided by Mr. Boztepe. Many of the techniques first introduced to me by Mr. Boztepe are still in effect by FBI tactical teams today.” (Kane 2001)


Wing Tsun is today the most widespread Chinese martial art in the world. Within Wing Tsun, many lineages can be distinguished. This is reflected particularly in the many different Western spellings for the Cantonese pronunciation of the two Chinese characters. The most common spellings today are certainly Wing Chun, Wing Tsun and Wing Tzun. Since the author of this book comes from the Wing-Tsun line, he prefers this spelling. The largest contribution to the popularization, systematization and marketing of Wing Tsun in Germany and Europe, was made by GM Leung Ting and GM K. R. Kernspecht (GM = Grand Master) in the 1980s and 1990s. Since the 1970s, GM Leung Ting has impressed a broad audience with his dynamic performances and never before seen moves. GM Kernspecht identified the potential of this new style and, among other things, developed an extensive and differentiated curriculum and examination program. In the late 1980s the first large Wing-Tsun seminars were held at the police, the SEK and the KSK of the Federal Armed Forces (see Scholzen, 2004 and Metzner, Friedrich 2002). To date significant elements of this martial art have been adopted for the training plans of the various units because of their simplicity and efficiency. Another major contribution to the fighting reputation of Wing Tsun was made by Master Emin Boztepe in the 1990s, for example, with his courses for international units as the FBI or the Navy Seals (cf. Kane 2001). Within Wing Tsun, the last 10 years are characterized by fragmentation and the formation of numerous new associations, whose effects are not yet foreseeable. A sign of the continued strong interest in this martial art is the second part of the movie “Ip Man” produced in 2010. This bigscreen movie, starring Donnie Yen, is about the life of Grandmaster Ip Man. The most famous Chinese martial arts choreographer Sammo Hung also collaborated in this film. In 1982, Sammo Hung himself had produced an excellent movie of his own entitled “The Prodigal Son”. For this movie, which is about the life of one of the best known figures in the history of Wing Tsun, “Leung Jan,” he was awarded in the category Best Action Choreography at the 1983 Hong Kong Film Awards.

2 Leading question of this study

The term “Basic” should be understood to mean the following: “the essential basic character of the movements” or “the special, the unique approach of Wing Tsun.” Exceptions and additional strategies are not investigated in this study. This also means that they are not excluded!

The central question of this study is: How is the movement of Wing Tsun organized fundamentally? Movement organizations mean the specific features in the structure of Wing Tsun. These specific features are on the one hand the very special exterior form and mechanics of Wing Tsun and on the other hand the representation of the movements in our longterm memory. Therefore, the following two questions should be considered:


a) What are the basic movement mechanisms, body postures, and trajectories of Wing Tsun?

In this work, all technical Wing-Tsun positions are called body postures. These postures are positions of static equilibrium. In this work, the paths in and between the various Wing-Tsun techniques are described as “trajectories”. “Trajectories” are movements in dynamic equilibrium.

b) What does the basal movement representation and storage of the Wing-Tsun movements and strategy in the long-term memory look like? These questions are answered in the area of conflict including the existing Wing Tsun theories.

2.1 The organization of movement Our nervous system is structurally and functionally divided into two main branches. The afferent part is responsible for receiving and forwarding of, for example, a state of movement or external stimuli. Activity-triggering impulse sequences are sent via the efferent part of the nervous system. The sensory, afferent nerves terminate in the dorsal spinal cord, while the efferent nerves leave the spinal cord ventrally for the purpose of motor control. Every movement is again directed to the sensory centers as an afferent signal sequence. These signals are called reafferences, they enable a comparison between actual and target value (movement control) (see Schack, 2005). Between the perception of stimuli and the control of movements, there must be an idea of potential meaningful actions be present in the brain. Therefore, there are different models of movement organization. The theory of fixed motor programs according 18

to which movements are stored as fixed procedures in the brain is still rather popular (see Keele, 1968, p. 387f.). Newer models assume that movements must be organized more flexibly and in a modality-dependent way in order to survive in changing situations and remain adaptable. In this study, the organization of movement in Wing Tsun is integrated into a recent multi-layered psychological model of motor control. As this means a multi-dimensional structure of movement organization instead of one-dimensional, linear movement sequences one also speaks in this context of the cognitive architecture of complex movements (see Schack, 2004).

Keele describes motor programs as “a set of muscle commands that are structured before a movement sequence begins, and that allow the entire sequence to be carried out uninfluenced by peripheral feedback” (Keele 1968, pp. 387f.).

2.2 The basic movement organization in Wing Tsun Wing Tsun is one of the most effective self-defense techniques in the world. What is unusual with Wing Tsun is how the defensive movements are initiated and executed. In Wing Tsun, there are many complex movement maneuvers. In addition, the movements are performed and taught differently by different masters. What makes Wing Tsun, however, recognizable as a stand-alone system and differs it from other styles is the way in which the defensive movements are fundamentally initiated and inserted into the process of actions. This work deals with the organization of these basic WingTsun movements. Exceptions, actively attacking and so-called “higher techniques,” are not considered. If, however, we want to speak of a coherent system of Wing Tsun, then all higher techniques are based on the fundamental mechanisms that are described in this study.

The techniques of Wing Tsun are taught systematically in successive programs that are built up on one another. The advanced or higher programs include additional strategies such as active attacking.


Model for the storage of movement in long-term memory after Schack (Schack, 2002, p. 41)

Figure 2: Levels of movement organization

In the model (Figure 2), the various dimensions of this structure are assigned to four levels. According to their central tasks, these levels are divided into levels of regulation and levels of representation. Each of these levels is assumed to have a subordinate functional autonomy. The levels of movement organization BACs or Basic Action Concepts should be imagined as chunks of elementary components or features of complex movements stored in the long-term memory: “BACs as units or key reference points are the relevant structures in functional complex movement control. In experts, these frameworks are economically organized, prototypical, long-term memory structures that are well adapted to the biomechanical demands of the task. In interaction with situational cues and intentions, these long-term memory structures make it possible to solve movement problems in an effect-oriented way.� (Schack, 2003, p. 3)


Level 4 Mental control: This includes strategies for indirect intention realization. Level 3 Mental representation: Here exercise programs are stored in terms of their effect structure. These so-called Basic Action Concepts (BACs) can be thought of and also represented as essential structural nodes of a movement. In the long-term memory of experts, these Basic Action Concepts are spatially and temporally more structured than in the long-term memory of beginners. Level 2 Sensorimotor representation: Here the modalities of movement are stored. Level 1 Sensorimotor control: In contrast to the indirect intention in terms of a procedure strategy, direct intention realizations in terms of automatic operations are stored at this level.

5.3 The basic approach in Wing Tsun shown on the basis of essential movement characteristics 1. Basic thrust in the direction of the opponent In Wing Tsun, the practitioner always thrusts in the direction of the attacker in a wedge-shaped “intercepting” way, with both arms in a slightly staggered position (Figure 3 and following). If one’s own “counterattack” cannot be enforced, then the “wedge” is stopped on its way to the opponent, for example, by his arms. Associated features that can form a nodal point or BAC: – Lifting of one’s arms in the direction of the opponent – Looking at the opponent (from the periphery or directly) – Front turned towards the opponent – Establishing a Wing-Tsun-specific body tension / stance – Wedge-shaped thrust – Gaining of space – Making contact (interception or interruption of the movement by, for example, contact with the opponent’s arms) 2. Reversal point of the forward movement If the practitioner is stopped and prevented from further proceeding or striking through, then his pressure moves further forward although his movement direction can change or reverse because of the stronger pressure exerted by the attacker. Depending on one’s own stiffness and pre-activation, the moment of the reversal of the movement direction will take place sooner or later. Associated features that can form a nodal point or BAC are: – Feeling of the opponent’s speed, force, and pressure – Feeling of muscle tension – Load on the arm – Reversal point of the forward movement if the opponent’s pressure is greater than one’s own pressure This step is controlled by the opponent! 2.1 Yielding If there is a continuous and strong forward pressure, for example, on our arm, we will yield to this particular pressure using eccen29

tric muscle work. When doing so, the forward pressure is maintained and the movement can immediately become concentric again when the opponent’s pressure decreases or when a sure way to the opponent is opened. Depending on the direction of pressure, we are led into different technique positions / body postures. To get safely into these positions and to ensure a dynamic equilibrium, the trajectories, with the exception of slight opponent-specific adaptations, must be set motion paths. The advantages of this behavior are considerable and extremely interference-resistant! Associated features that can form a nodal point or BAC are: – Running through the trajectory (as long as the practitioner is forced to do so by an obstructive pressure) – Assuming of body posture (as long as the practitioner is forced to do so by an obstructive pressure) 2.2 Turn If the way for the bent contact arm is not made free and the opponent moves further in our direction, the arm must not yield further. The firmness of the arm-torso relation results in the transfer of the opponent’s energy from his arms via a relatively rigid trunk to his legs and in a turn about the vertical axis with a simultaneous shift of the body out of the line of attack. This procedure is also controlled by the opponent. Even now, the muscle work remains eccentric. Thus, it is a yielding movement of the arms, torso and legs as a reaction to the opponent’s strength. Associated features that can form a nodal point or BAC are: – Reaching of the end position of the arm technique – Joint angles – Muscle tension – Load on the arm – Turn is initiated (also controlled by the opponents) Since in the Wing-Tsun system by Leung Ting and K. R. Kernspecht the “sticking” to the opponent and the “following” of the opponent are two other important aspects of the fundamental movement description (cf. Kernspecht 1997, p. 122), these points will be briefly mentioned here. From the author’s point of view, the sticking to the opponent is the result of the eccentric yielding to the incoming attack. If the opponent pulls back again or if he changes his position, one automatically remains “sticking” to the opponent from the existing (concentric and eccentric) forward pressure. 30

Note: Here, only the defense mechanism will be discussed. In self-defense, actions must always be accompanied by the other arm, too!

Figure 5: Bong-Sao turn – phase 2

Phase 2 We accelerate towards our opponent in the shape of a wedge and want to preempt his attack or intercept his movement. The left hand is negligible for this example! What technique will be used has not yet been decided!


By the intercepting movement and the “lean” as opposed to a block, we do not lose the alignment in the direction to the opponent. If we do not reach our goal, then the braking effect of the Wing-Tsun wedge is rather similar to a disc brake with the amount of friction deciding on moving or stopping our forward movement.

Figure 6: Bong-Sao turn – phase 3

Phase 3: Our forces collide, which is also referred to as impact here. The arms move further forward in the form of a wedge. If the attacker’s force is larger than our own, we will yield in the next step. If we can resist, then the wedge will move further forward. What technique will be used has not yet been decided! 34

Bong-Sao: The forearm is roughly comparable to a space diagonal through a cube. The upper arm is relatively straight in front of the shoulder. It is trained in such a way that it hardly allows a further movement. A Bong-Sao has been created. If the opponent continues to push forward, we will hardly yield in the arm, so that our body is forced towards the side and a Wing-Tsun turn is created.

Figure 7: Bong-Sao turn – phase 4

Phase 4: The opponent is stronger than we are. His pressure continues and is directed slightly diagonally. Our forearm rotates counterclockwise. The hand falls, the elbow is lifted and is bent – yields to the pressure – and our triceps is stretched eccentrically. A Bong-Sao has been created. 35

Figure 11: Pak-Sao against jab – phases 1 and 2

Phases 1 and 2 show how the advancing arm approaches the jab and how the hand makes contact with the opposing arm from the outside.


Note: Here, only the defense mechanism will be discussed. In self-defense, actions must always be executed with the other arm, too!

Figure 12: Pak-Sao against jab – phases 3 and 4

Phases 3 and 4 show how the jab presses against and bends the arm. During this action, the trajectory of our defense runs on a slightly diagonal path. Note: No active yielding, but yielding using eccentric muscle work.


Figure 16: Taan-Sao turn – phase 3

There is a collision of forces. If we are weaker, we will yield to the attacker’s pressure by eccentric muscle contraction. – Perceiving the pressure and the velocity – Load at the arm (e.g. triceps)


Note: Here, only the defense mechanism will be discussed. In self-defense, actions are always executed with the other arm, too!

Figure 17: Taan-Sao turn – phase 4

The attacking pressure is stronger than our forward pressure and runs parallel to our arm. The elbow is shifted to the inside and leaves the line of attack. The elbow is bent and the triceps is lengthened. The hand is turned upward and is placed approximately between one’s own shoulder and that of the attacker. A Taan-Sao has been created. 47

Figure 17a (above): This situation would occur before phase 5 if the opponent did not make a step! Note: If no turn takes place, the simultaneity of defense and attack results from the simultaneous starting movement of both arms. So, the forward thrust of ManSao and Wu-Sao take place simultaneously. While one arm is used for defense, the second arm strikes through. In doing so, we do not use the opponent’s power! If the compressed arm is free again, it is thrust forward not simultaneously but more or less offset in time! In this case, the opponent’s stored energy can be used!

Figure 18: Taan-Sao turn – phase 5

A Taan-Sao was created. The maximum flexion of the elbow was achieved. The triceps is stretched eccentrically. The anterior shoulder and pectoralis muscles fix the shoulder joint to the front. Due to the opponent’s continued forward thrust a turn is created. The elbow is moved slightly outward.


6 The tactile reaction-time model

The classical model of reacting in Wing Tsun can be described as “tactile reaction-time model” or “reacting to the touch” (cf. Leung, Kernspecht 2004, p. 50, p. 63). GM Leung writes that in Chi-Sao, the most important partner exercise in Wing Tsun, “a hypersensitivity of the arms is developed, so that one can do without the sense of seeing and hearing” (Leung, Kernspecht 2004, p. 28f.). This model is based primarily on two statements: 1. In Wing Tsun one responds mainly to tactile stimuli (through the quick contact with the opponent). These stimuli can be processed faster than visual stimuli, which are used in most other combat sports and martial arts. 2. The fewer the possibilities of choice between different possible responses, the faster one’s own response can be initiated (see Kernspecht 1997, p. 14ff.). According to my theory, the first statement is questionable. It’s less about whether tactile stimuli can be processed faster than visual stimuli. Nor should the importance of tactile information in the course of a Wing-Tsun fight be completely excluded. From a sportsscience perspective, the basic mechanism, however, must be explained mainly through forward pressure, stiffness, reactive force and the pressure and angle-measuring sensors in the muscles!

6.1 GM Kernspecht and other authors Grandmaster K. R. Kernspecht and other authors have attempted to highlight the benefits of Wing Tsun compared to other budo sports. This categorization in better / worse or suitable / unsuitable is clearly refuted here. The only thing of interest here is the clarification of a fundamental movement phenomenon in Wing Tsun. Kernspecht calls the time that we need in order to decide on a reaction, “brain reaction time” (Kernspecht 1997, p. 14). According to Kernspecht, this switching time depends on the kind of stimulus and the amount of possible reactions and techniques.

The Japanese word “budo” means something like “way of the warrior”. The term “budo-sports” is in general used as a generic term for all martial arts.


7.1 Energy storage – the forward tension in Wing Tsun

All elements that yield to stress and that after the relief of stress return to their original form demonstrate a spring effect and thus behave elastically. Tendons can store a large part of the strain energy (see Brüggemann 2000, p. 183).

Figure 21: Energy storage – phases 1 and 2

Kinetic energy is converted into deformation energy and stored for a short period in the bent or shortened muscle by slowing down the tendon-muscle system.


Like a spring, some portions of the tendo-muscular system, particularly the almost ideal-elastic tendons, can store a portion of the opponent’s energy in the form of potential energy (phase 3) and can return this energy to him where appropriate (phase 4) The spring effect depends on my stiffness (mechanical: spring hardness or spring constant) and the maximal exploitation of many elastic elements (muscles and tendons) in our overall physical implementation of technique (body postures).

Note: The term “stiffness” should not be confused with the colloquial term “stiff”. It describes the tightness of an elastic element.

Figure 22: Energy storage – phases 3 and 4

The energy storage, the “elastic” yielding, can most clearly be seen in the arm techniques of Wing Tsun. However, the trunk and legs, which serve as a supporting abutment for the arm techniques, take over some of the energy storage, too, within the general postural work. In addition, the forward tension is maintained at least up to the 45 degree turn. This operation represents a real way to use the opponent’s power against himself. At the same time, the “impact” of the op59

The stiffness of the tendonmuscle complex is essential for energy storage.

ponent is cushioned this way. Investigations on the “storage and use of elastic energy in tendons and ligaments” (Brüggemann 2000) have shown that the stiffness of the tendon-muscle complex at the beginning of the collision of the athlete with the elastic (and also rigid) abutment is of central importance for energy storage. Generally speaking, more energy can be stored (Brüggemann 2000, p. 187). This statement contradicts Kernspecht’s thesis that we can also absorb the opponent’s power if we react automatically with a defensive movement to a light touch (Leung, Kernspecht 2004, p. 55 and Kernspecht 1997, p. 134). In the same sentence, Kernspecht claims that in Wing Tsun there are no collisions. However, in a fight there will inevitably be a collision. In Wing Tsun, this collision will always result in a defensive movement if the force applied is less than the opponent’s force. This suggests that a very gentle forward pressure is not suitable in training and to prepare for a real fight. In addition, the use of the opponent’s energy in the form of energy storage is impossible. In this context, Kernspecht poses the following question:

(...) the question arises of how strong his own forward pressure should be. Owing to the sensoric considerations, the answer to this question is to be found in the Stevens’ power function: the greater the pressure applied to an opponent’s limb, the greater must be the difference between one’s own pressure and the adversary’s pressure before the latter’s pressure can be sensed. This means that your initial pressure should be fairly low so that you are able to feel even the smallest change in your opponent’s pressure.” (Kernspecht 1997, p. 157) Here, in addition to the points already mentioned, it is forgotten that in a brutal fight the smallest pressure and pressure changes have no meaning. .


Figure 32:

Figure 33:

punch moves forward further

on the neck

Yielding into the turn, the right

Continuous yielding, elbow with grip

3. The opponent penetrates further. There is no further yielding in the arm. Thus, the force is transferred to the legs through the solid body and a turn with punch is created. Energy is transferred. 4. If we have been successful in being pushed out of the path of attack and in finding a free path to the enemy, other attack techniques can follow (here an elbow thrust)! 66

In many martial arts, the theory of Yin and Yang is translated into practice by using a temoral sequence. For example, first Yin, or yielding/defending, and then Yang, or attacking

forward is also guaranteed. In Figure 38 we see the classic WingTsun situation of the simultaneity of attack and defense using the arms. Figure 39 shows a defense against an attempted lever attack on the legs (take-down).

Figure 38:

Defense with Taan-Sao on the left and simultaneous counter with the elbow on the right

Figure 39:

Defense at the bottom with jump backward and simultaneous support or strike at the top 88

The presentation is not related to the motor cortex!

Figure 40:

Cognitive architecture, representations of the form and characteristics of possible Wing-Tsun movements must be stored in long-term memory. circle with dot = nodal point

BAC, small circle = external characteristic

small square = afferent-sensory characteristic,

small triangle = reafferent-sensory characteristic 90


Figure 44: O. Gross with Prof. Wolfgang Tiedt at the German Sport University, Cologne

“In his book, Sifu Oliver Gross has presented an excellent foundation to understand the movement and organization of Wing Tsun. Sifu Oliver is not only an excellent and ambitious martial artist, but also shows that he has an excellent understanding of the theoretical dimension of this traditional martial art. This he has impressively demonstrated in the classroom and through his seminars at various universities. His always friendly and personable manner make him a true champion, and a true role model. I am very happy that he is my teacher.” Prof. Dr. John-Stewart Gordon – University of Cologne – Ethics – Bioethics – Classic Greek Philosophy

“I recommend Mr. Sifu Oliver Gross as an expert for moving art. He has been my best student at the German Sport University Cologne. He worked intensively with his great energy and made a positive contribution to the class. It was always a pleasure for me to work with him in the various classes he took. Some of my classes he attended were Gymnastics, Moving Art and Feldenkrais Method. His movements are fast, intense and innovative. I wish Mr. Sifu Oliver Gross all the best for his future career.” Gaby Marquardt – Lecturer, German Sport University, Cologne – Art of movement – Feldenkrais/Somatics – August-Bier badge, 1971

“Mr. Sifu Oliver Gross is an expert in the field of East Asian martial arts. His ability to move is outstanding and he has the authorization to conduct examinations and to develop his own kind of forms. He is very much involved in the kind of traditional martial arts. In spite of the fast moving times, he has not forgotten the ancient tradi104

tions. He can be seen as a keeper and promoter of Chinese culture. I wish him all the best for his institute and his career as a teacher.” Dr. Zhu Wenjun – Martial Arts Master – Visiting Professor, TCM University of Nanjing/People’s Republic of China

Figure 45: Sifu Gross with Master Zhu Wenjun

“Oliver studied martial arts at the Beijing Sports University. With me he learned, among other things, the drunken style. He was very enthusiastic about this martial art, which he practiced very dedicatedly. His enthusiasm and hard work have made me very confident. I often tell my students about Oliver and I tell them if they train, they should do so like Oliver!” Wu Dong – Lecturer, Beijing University of Physical Education – Martial arts master / Chen Taiji Figure 46: Gross with Wu Dong Laoshii

“I got to know Oliver Gross during my active Wing-Tsun time in the mid-1990s in Hildesheim. In addition to his social skills, which are characterized by empathy, kindness, fairness and authenticity, I got to know Oliver Gross as enthusiastic and successful combat and movement artist, fighter and sports scientist. As a participant in his seminars, I was able to convince myself of his quality as a seminar leader. Because of his sports-science background, he is also able to illuminate the topic of Wing Tsun and martial arts from different angles. I am therefore looking forward to his evaluations of the subject of Wing Tsun in the form of this book!” Herbert Fritzsche – Behavioral coach for systemic operational training at the Police Academy in Hannoversch Münden / Lower Saxony

“After over 30 years martial arts experience and nearly 10 years at the side of Oliver Gross, I have always been fascinated by his views and motivated by his personality. Although his visionary attitude did not let him go the path of 105

Figure 47: Training group in the summer camp in Turkey. O. Gross in the picture with “rabbit ears” provided by his first teacher, Martin Herrmann.

least resistance, it is exactly this experience that now enables martial artists of different mentality to understand their own way better and at the same time to see this way in more detail and with different eyes.” Mike Dawidowski – Former judo and submission wrestling champion – Luta Livre Teacher “Faixa Roxa,” BJJ – Head Coach of the Bad Company Competition Team

“I have known Sifu Oliver Gross for many years. Although we teach different styles, our exchange has always been characterized by a special appreciation and openness. Oliver has both a great, well-founded and mainly internalized knowledge of the martial arts and an almost insatiable urge to work scientifically. He is a man who really wants to get to the bottom of things. It is this combination that makes this book so special and can open up completely new perspectives of martial arts to the reader.” Jan Guenzel – Martial Arts Master

“This is a martial arts book the reading of which has really been a joyful experience. It is not only interesting for the Wing-Tsun practitioner and it is full of valuable findings from sports science that are relevant to practice. 106

Figure 48: Gross with coach Mike Dawidowski after a Luta Livre training

It is very pleasant that Oliver Gross, unlike other authors, does not one-sidedly praise his own system of martial arts and that his theses are founded on serious sports science. Using easy to understand mechanical models, Oliver Gross explains the effect of the basic mechanics of movement in Wing Tsun, such as forward tension and energy transfer.” Andreas Güttner – Diploma in Sports Science – Martial Arts Master

Figure 49: Gross with Guro Andy Güttner after a common Escrima course


I am very grateful to Roy Bedard, Daniel Aman and Friederike Steinmetz for reading and correcting the english manuscript of my book. Roy Bedard President RRB Systems International 249 East 6th Ave. Tallahassee, FL 32303 Roy Bedard is a law enforcement officer, educator, consultant and administrator of RRB Systems, International, Inc. The creator and developer of unique police and corrections defensive products and comprehensive defense training programs, Bedard has achieved national and international notoriety in law enforcement, corrections, security and military circles. Today Bedard travels extensively to share his expertise with these various occupational communities. His training programs continue to meet the changing demands of the industry and his innovative and progressive training style is notable and sought in many countries throughout the world. Bedard began his defensive skills training in 1979 in Okinawan Uechi-Ryu Karate and Kodokan Judo. Over the years he has become experienced in the disciplines of Aikido, freestyle wrestling and various forms of combat jujutsu. In 1984, Bedard earned a spot on the United States Karate Team (USAKF) and competed internationally for over a decade. He was a top seeded competitor in the US Men’s heavyweight division from 1984-1996 and held second seed in the nation for three years in a row. He has traveled and competed around the world and has earned many sports honors for his state and country. Today he serves as Chairman for Karate with the Tallahassee Sports Council and Board Director of the International Uechi-Ryu Karate Federation (IUKF). Education Florida State University – Masters Program/Educational Psychology 06/14 – BS Degree – Criminology 08/99 – AA Degree – Political Science 08/90 Lively Law Enforcement Academy – State of Florida Law Enforcement Standards 12/86 – CJSTC Use of Force and Defensive Tactics Instructor – CJSTC General Topics Instructor – CJSTC Firearms Instructor 108

Competition Resume – 1987: Captain of the United States Team, Pan-American Championship San Pedro Sula, Honduras Bronze Medalist – 1987–1992: Five Time United States Karate Federation Florida State Fighting Champion – 2011 Designation of Shihan; Uechi Ryu Karate Master title endowed by the International Uechi Ryu Karate Federation (IUKF) More informations on Comment on the book: “Thank you for allowing me to read through your excellent book. It is very well written (translated) and takes a very different and meaningful approach to the physiokinetics of human performance. Great use of analogies and imagery to assist the reader in understanding otherwise very complex ideas.”

Daniel Aman 20 years of Boxing and Muay Thai mainly succsesfull on national and international levels of Competition likewise as Competitor and Trainer. Comment on the book “Apart from enjoying his company as a decent and respectfull friend, I admire Oliver Gross´ scientific approach and thorough understanding of the functions of the human body, of movement, aswell resulting his creative functional and up to date trainingmethods and martial art insides.”

Friederike Steinmetz Dipl.-Übersetzerin (FH), MBA (Graduate translator, MBA) 7. SG Ip Man Wing Tsun


Oliver Gross teaches at the University of Bielefeld and at the German Sports University in Cologne. For many years he has managed his own Wing-Tsun and Escrima school in Cologne.

ISBN 978-3-86884-129-9


the way of the intercepting fist

Oliver Gross The Way of the Intercepting Fist The basis of this book is Oliver Gross’ top-grade (1.0) diploma thesis. The mechanism of the Wing-Tsun defensive movements is dealt with fundamentally and comprehensively. This takes place against the background of the existing theories (especially Dr. K. R. Kernspecht) and from different sports-science perspectives, such as sports psychology (cognitive architecture), biomechanics (utilization of the opponent’s energy) and physiology. Finally, the findings obtained are compared with the common WingTsun philosophy.

Clarification of the basic organization of movement in Wing Chun/ Wing Tsun Oliver Gross

r e d n U ding n n hu a t s gC n n Tsu i W ng Wi

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Book-Orders: The Way of the Intercepting Fist Clarification of the basic organization of movement in Wing Tsun; understa...