I had a question on ground power in the comments on one of the posts and my reply became so long, I though everyone might be interested.
Elmorio April 23, 2013 at 8:47 pm
Hi. I have a question on ground power. Does it mean when you do a movement to “sink” or bend your knees. I think Sifu Lam refers to this as “sitting”. Also is it done on every stationary movement or only on certain ones? Thanks if you can help clarify this for me.
OK Elmorio. This is easier to demonstrate than to explain in words, but I’ll give it a shot.
Your joints all have a triangular relationship to one another.
If you are hitting forward, you have a triangle created by your arms and shoulders, by your hips and knees, and by your knees and the ground. Triangles are a fundamentally stable structure. So the ground power comes from the relationship of your skeleton (held in place by tendons) as a conduit of power between your heel and the target – the power passing through your joints on the way to the target..
Get into YJKYM (Yee Jee Kim Yeung Ma, the Wing Chun horse stance) and then turn out your left toe (pivoting on the left heel). Stand close enough to a wall bag (or even just the wall) so that your elbow is a fist distance away from your body but when you extend your arm about a foot, your arm should still be bent at a 45 degree angle – this is where you want to contact the target (not with the arm fully extended).
OK – now you have your right fist against the wall and you are turned slightly, but still have what we call facing (you can touch the wall with both hands – your body isn’t excessively “bladed”).
Push into the wall and see if you can line up your hip behind your elbow. If you turn your right hip toward the target, this should press your fist into the wall.
Note the relationship of the right elbow to the right hip to the right knee to the right ankle to the right heel. You can shift them so they are all related. Try and experiment until you you find that you can turn your hip to press your fist into the wall and you feel this in your heel. It doesn’t require that you shift your body weight over to the right side – the body weight should be centered between your hips, between your knees.
This heel to ankle to knee to hip to elbow to fist relationship is what is called sitting. Its called sitting when you are in YJKYM and turning to hit – you usually sit on the heel on the same side as the punch.
Once doing this movement in this way becomes natural (through lots of chain punching into the wall bag), you will develop the ability to draw on ground power to back up your strike.
Sifu Lam uses a banking metaphor. If you want to start a business but only have your own money, you will have a hard time if anything goes wrong. But if the bank backs your business with a line of credit, you can prosper. The ground is like your bank. It doesn’t move. If your fist hits their head, the recoil from that strike goes down through your joints and finally into the ground. The ground is like the house in Vegas. It never loses – it never gets tired or weakened. Even if you are 100, if you can rely on the ground for power, you will hit hard.
The illustration below sort of shows how the lines of force work, although I’m using a forward stance to make the lines of power easier to see.
The red line shows the way I usually think of it, although probably its something more like the blue lines, where the force is transmitted along the lines of the joints and there is a certain amount of leverage involved which modifies the path of the force. You really just have to feel it and find it through experience. Get into position and have someone lean into your fist and try and direct their weight through your joints into the ground via the rear heel. You should be able to bear the weight of a heavy person without too much effort, just by stabilizing your arm into the striking angle.
One cool thing to note: this was one of the “secrets” of Wing Chun which used to be “held back” in the old days. Most teachers in China in the old days used to teach their kids or favored students one way and everyone else another way. Some secrets would be held back. These were subtle but powerful concepts that were not easily seen with the eyes.
You can look at a guy hitting and not really be able to perceive if he is sitting correctly or not. But you can sure feel the difference!
Thanks for the response Sifu. Your answers have greatly helped me to further understand the intricacies of our art.
Sifu Steve, I am now realizing how important ground power is, I am still a beginner in WC how would ground power effect me? How long would it take me to understand this concept.
Ground power is something we all seek to tap and we slowly learn how to access it though our training. Sifu Lam and Sifu Wong have given us the tools and techniques (dragon pole, sitting, wall bag, baat jaam do, taking position drills, etc) to find it. Then its up to us to do the work – as Sifu Lam say, we all walk the same road, there’s no shortcut.
I’m still working on it after 5 years but it really kicked in around year 3, especially in level 2 doing Poon Sau and from doing a lot of dragon pole.
Where have you trained Elmorio?
Steve Hans says
Thanks for the Explanation on Ground Power, However it is very confusing and not clear, nor is it scientific , so I offer my explanation based on Newton Laws of Physics, after all we are dealing with a Physical Phenomenan.
In Wing Chun, the Fist is part of what is known as the Six Sided Force, that is it is linked to the Ankle Joint, Knee Joint, Hip Joint, Shoulder, Elbow Joint, and Hand Joint. In Order for a Force from the Ground Up to be Transmitted Clearly through from the Ground to the Fist and Finally the Target, all these Six Sided Force Faces have to be perfectly alinged to Transmit the Force. That is why the most natural alingment for a Wing Chun IS THE Straight Punch which aligns all the Joints together as it hits the Target. By the way you show in your diagram a bent elbow Punch which is not the Wing Chun Straight Punch and you say that you Hit pass your Target which is incorrect.
The Wing Chun Straight Punch starts from the Center Line and is a straight Line Punch with the Arm and Elbow Straight and not bent as shown in your photo above. The Fact that the Straight Line Punch is a Straight Arm Punch, is because it connects all the Six Forces Together from the Foot right through to the Fist, that is why it is called the Straight Line Punch. If the Punch is delievered with a Bent Elbow, then it is NO LONGER a Straight Line Punch nor is it effective and can not be called the Six Sided Force as disspiation occurs at the Bent Elbow. The Six Sided Energy from the Ground to the Fist can only flow correctly and with maximum Force if thee is Perfect and Correct Alignment with all the Six Joins from the ankle Joint to the Hand Joint. Any bent Elbow or Twisted Shoulder or Bent knee causes disspiation in the Six Sided Force and therefore loss of optimum Power and Momentum in the Strike.
Therefore for the Six sided Force of the Straight Line Punch to be fully Effective , there has to be Perfect alignment of all the Body Joins from the Ankle to the Hand Joint.
To create this Alignment in Wing Chun, we use the Basic Wing Chun Character two Adduction Stance (Horse Stance) with the knees coupled together by an invisible Spring. This Stance allows the Wing Chun Practioner to create a Stable Platform for the Transmission of Ground Forces all the Way Up and down the Six Joins in the body to the Fist.
Now what is the mystery of Ground Power.????
Actually it is not a Mystery but Simple Newtonian Physics.
Newton’s 3rd Law says : For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
That Means if you Press Hard on the Ground with a Force, the Ground will Equally Push back at You with an Equal and Opposite Force otherwise you will sink through the Ground into a hole you create.
Now it just so happens that your Body Weight is a Force which is Pushing on the Ground with a Force of M*g where M is your Mass in Kg and g is the acceleration due to gravity which is 9.8 m/sec2. So if you weigh 90 Kg , you are pushing on the Ground with a force of 882 Newtons. The ground will also Push back at you with an equal force of 882 Newtons which is Transmitted up through your Joints to your Fist. Now lets get some biomechanical Figures on a Punch data.
An Olympic Boxer can throw in a Straight Punch with a Force of 3400 Newtons at a Speed of 9.1 m/s with an effective Mass of 2.9 Kg. Clearly the Boxer’s Punch has much more Power then the Action of his Body Mass (Weight) on the Ground. We can see that the Power of his punch is 3.8 x the force of his weight on the ground (assuming he is 90 kg). That means the Ground Force Reacting Upwards is much smaller then the Force generated by the straight Punch.
Now what some Kung Fu ( and also Wing Chun) Practioners tend to do is to Amplify the Push or the Force on the Ground , which will also significantly amplify the Force Generated from the Ground Pushing Up through your Six Joins. What they tend to do is Push hard on the ground as they deliver the Straight Punch. This increases the Force on the Ground Significantly and causes the Ground Force pushing up on the Joints to the Fist to be much Larger, hence that is exactly what people mean when they say Use of Ground Power.
Some very Advanced Wing Chun / Kung Fu Masters use the Chi Power to dissipate Very Powerful forces to the Ground, which in turn by Newtons 3rd Law Returns these forces back through the Body to the Fist if there is Percet Alignment of the Six Joints. But this is Very Advanced Chi Power which very few can achieve through Years of Practice. It is said that the practicing Hall of the Shaolin Temples used to have holes and dents in the hard rock grounds, because of the Practice of Chi Power by the Shaolin Priests which dented the Hard Ground under their feet. That is a remarkable Level of achievement.
Steven Moody says
Well, thanks for your extensive comment, although I guess I’m not entirely pleased to be told my explanation was confusing and unscientific!
Obviously, I was doing my best to be clear.
But whatever, its all good. We are all trying to understand and come at the system from our own directions.
Steven Moody says
I’m confused by your reference to the bent arm in the photo. In fighting, we punch “from the heart” on the centerline, but we cannot expect our target to be standing passively waiting to be hit. The hand moving along the centerline toward the opponent will either encounter the opponent’s arms (bridge) or a target. This will happen at varying degrees of the bent arm to straight arm trajectory, since they may be moving toward you or away from you and you may also be moving, so there is not way to be certain. You just do not want your arm trapped against your body or fully extended with no additional distance to travel after impact (locked out), or the force will not be transferred.
Or do you have some other idea of what is ideally happening?
Seve Hans says
One of the most fundemental differences between Wing Chun and other Kung Fu/Martial Arts (e.g. Karate) is the Wing Chun Stance , the Two Legged Horse stance. This presupposes a fighting Posture where we show the full area of the Upper Front of the Body , exposing the whole Upper Body to the Opponent. There is a reason for this in Wing Chun, and that is the Principe of the Center Line, heavy defence of the Four Gates and the direct straight Line Punch as well as the various blocks Tan Sau, Wu Sau, Man Sau , which relies on this Front Stance. The theory of other Martial Arts, e,g, Karate is different. In Karate you minimise the Area Exposed to your opponent to be targeted and hit, that is why they adopt a more side stance , giving a smaller area for your opponent to target, namely the shoulder and the side of the body, and this is delibert. The smaller surface area you expose for targetting, the less likely you will be hit, so the theory goes. Wing Chun Counterbalance this by saying, Yes you show a greater surface area of the body by adopting a two legged Frontal Stance, but on the other hand Wing Chun is very Rich in defences and blocking techniques and basically you dont shy away from your opponent by showing him a side view of your body. You attack Head On with all the Tools you have, that is why it is called a Close Combat martial Art. If your opponent attacks you with a straight punch, you are more likely to succeed by a defence and an counter attack using the Frontal Stance then the Side Stance of Karate, because Wing Chun uses the Principle of Pre-emption, simultanoeus defence and attack at the same time, which is unique to Wing Chun.
However having said this about the heavy dependence of Wing Chun on the Frontal stance, Chum Kiu and Biu Jee more advanced Second and Third Forms do use Side attacks and side defence, so Wing Chun is not just limited to the Two Legged Frontal Stance, it does gives you flexibility to attack and defence from Side Stances as well.
Now going back to the Straight Punch, the general principle is that the maximum force is transmitted by the fist travelling the shortest distance which is a straight line, at lightning speed, thus transfering to your opponent the maximum momentum.
There are practioners who bring in the motion of the hip and the foot and roll it into the punch. This is more of the JKD technqiue where we see Bruce Lee Punching his 1 inch Punch with the right foot forward , pushing on the front toes of the right foot to transfer power and twisting his hips to transfer power from the hips.
Unfortunately I am not enough of an expert to explain the difference and the effectiveness of the Wing Chun 1 inch punch from the Bruce Lee 1 inch Punch but I guess they both have their merits. Note that Bruce Lee uses a Vertical Fist as in Wing Chun for his 1 inch Punch. I dont know enough about the Wing Chun 1 inch Punch…Maybe you or someone Else can comment.
Steven Moody says
I read a book (more like a pamphlet) by one of Bruce Lee’s students James DeMille about his one inch punch technique. This explanation instructed to twist the hip and drop the forward leg a little etc.
For me, that was a demo trick he developed from the fact that the Wing Chun punch should (because of its grounded in structure nature) be able to inflict some sort of damage at any range, although there is of course an optimum range/timing to get the most energy into the hit.
I think the one inch punch is a parlor trick rooted in useful technique but not useful in and of itself.
The way I was taught, you strike from wherever the closest hand is and then subsequent strikes ideally are chained from the centerline (heart). But we should learn enough about structure in general and our own bodies in particular to discover the optimum methods for generating power from wherever we find ourselves, as the battlefield is chaos and we can’t rely on finding ourselves in the best position.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”