The wing chun chain punch for self defense
The chain punch is the technique most often associated with Wing Chun, and has been popularized by the yip Man movies (the other most well known technique is the Wing hun inch punch). A chain punch is a succession of straight punches, linked together into a continuous action.
The wing chun chain punch is also the favorite target of Wing Chun “haters” who claim that it is lacking in power and ineffectual. But even Sifus disagree about the effectiveness of the technique.
Some Sifus think of the wing chun chain punch as a technique which is suitable mostly for beginners. On the other hand Leung Ting, one of the best known students of Yip Man, called the chain punch the “attacking masterpiece” of Wing Tsun. So which is it, weak and ineffectual, good for beginners, or a powerful and deadly technique?
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The wing chun chain punch has certain advantages. Because the punches are all on the center line and are absolutely straight, the chain punch has speed, economy of motion, and occupies the center line, all very good things. While some experts can punch up to 10 strikes a second comparable to the rate of fire of a machine gun (some exponents claim even more), it is possible to execute five punches a second with significant power, but only after considerable training. Also, the chain punch is a relatively simple almost all purpose technique and beginners can learn the basic technique in a few hours, and it is possible to develop significant power after six months of intense training.
Advantages of the wing chun chain punch
Beginners sometimes misuse the chain punch by trying to enter with the technique from a long distance, or even starting to throw the punches when still out of range. The chain punch is probably not a good entry technique because it lacks range. In Europe the EWTO used to teach (and may still teach) something called the “Universal Solution” which was an entry made by a straight front kick, followed up by chain punches. It is also possible to use a long range boxing jab to enter into a chain punch attack, if you don’t mind borrowing a technique from another style.
The enemy of the chain punch is the boxer’s hook punch. A good boxer will react to an out of range chain punch attack by stepping to the side, and slipping or ducking while coming around with one or more hook punches. If the Wing Tsun fighter keeps blasting in a straight line after his opponent is no longer there, he will almost certainly be caught with a hook punch and probably be knocked out.
The wing tsun fighter must use his chain punch in a flexible way so that it adapts to what his opponent is doing. If the opponent ducks or moves, the Wing Tsun man must track the opponent, preferably the opponent’s head.
When teaching beginners and intermediate Wing Tsun students/ fighters, it is might be a good idea to train them to default to a chain punch when they can’t think of anything else to do. Advanced fighters don’t have to think, but they may choose to use the chain punch as a finishing technique rather than as an opener.
Personally, I like to use the technique for “bursts” of 3 punches. One way to train for speed in punching is to throw punches in groups of threes, with each three punches being one “count”. The goal is to throw three punches almost as fast as your opponent can throw one punch. If you come close to this goal you can get in three punches before the opponent has time to figure you out and come up with a counter move.
Chain punching variations
There are also some different variations of the chain punch. In the first video above, Mark Stas explains how chain punches can be thrown from different positions, and can incorporate some power from a slight turn of the hip waist and shoulders. He also explains why the chain punch is only effective as an explosive surprise attack from close range.
Sifu Stas was a student of the Leung Ting lineage for almost 20 years before he left and ultimately developed his own hybrid style.
The second video shows the Bak Mei (white eyebrow) version of the chain punch which uses waist rotation and also incorporates the phoenix eye punch which can be used to attack small vital points like the eyes.
The Wong Shun Leung lineage has its own variations of the chain punch. In one variation the punches come from the shoulder and cross the center line in order to intercept incoming punches. In the second variation, instead of just withdrawing straight back, the chain punch withdraws incorporating a short downwards jut sao to destabilize the defense.
In all variations form and structure is emphasized so that chain punching requires aligning the wrist, arm, and elbow behind the fist and striking vulnerable impact points on the opponent’s centerline. Also the technique stresses relaxation of the muscles right after impact to allow the wing chun expert to deliver multiple punches in rapid succession.
The chain punch is normally applied with all of the punches aimed to strike the same spot on the opponent’s body The idea is that, like a battering ram taking down a door, the successive punches will damage and eventually destroy whatever they hit. However, in the video above, Sifu Vik uses the punches in a more flexible manner, which I believe is more practical against more skilled opponents.
The problem with the chain punch is that it tends to lack enough force to know the opponent out, as compared to powerful punches from other styles such as boxing. This is because the traditional method of chain punching relies on “arm punching”.
Some experts have years of practice, are able to develop enough acceleration to be able to cause considerable damage using chain punching. In some lineages the chain punch is used incorporating some hip rotation or by utilizing the power of the legs and lower body by coordinating the punches with steps, which can allow the practitioner to get power from the ground.
How to train the wing chun punch power for practical self defense
The traditional wing chun method to train the punch is punching the wallbag. Some lineages, in particular the Wong Shun Lineage, also use the heavy bag a lot, with excellent results.
Other methods for increasing punching power include plyometric pushps and punching underwater.
Training power in the wing chun inch punch, a technique popularized by the late great Bruce Lee, also helps make the chain punch more practical for real world self defense. In real world self defense you may need to throw punches at different distances, ranging from longish range to extremely short range. The best exercise for developing extreme short range power in your punch is to practice hitting either a wall bag or a heavy bag from three to six inches away. It is best to use the wall bag to train for explosive acceleration or to use the heavy bag to train train in using your whole body to hit.
If you really want to train for self defense it is also very important to do at least some fist conditioning so that you can hit full power without injuring your hands. You also have to condition your wrists because you wont be wearing wrist wraps on the street.