Ying Da Juck Da, But Ying Da, But Ho Da loosely translated means: “Strike when you should, Do not strike when you should not” (Wing Chun Archives. http://www.wcarchive.com/articles/maxims-kuen-kuit.htm). So, this begs the question, “When should you strike?”
During his lifetime, Bruce Lee developed what he called the Five Ways of Attack: Single Direct/Angular Attack, Progressive Indirect Attack, Attack by Drawing, Attack by Combination, and Hand Immobilization Attack. Bruce’s Five Ways of Attack was his answer to the question “HOW should you strike?” or “HOW can you strike?” You can read more about his Five Ways of Attack somewhere else. I reference them here because as you advance in your Wing Chun training, it becomes less important how you strike, but more important when you strike. Why? Whether or not you hit your opponent with a single attack, trapped his arm and hit, or hit him after a feint doesn’t really matter. The point is that you connected your strike or series of strikes and ended the fight.
If you don’t know when to strike, then it will not matter how you strike because your strike or strikes will be unsuccessful. However, with perfect timing, even the most worthless and obscure punch can do enormous damage. Most systems of martial arts spend an exuberant amount of time training “the how” – how to throw a jab, how to throw a roundhouse kick, etc. Fighters spend hours and hours on a heavy bag ingraining muscle memory for a particular technique. However, few actually train “the when” – when to punch, and when to kick.
Most pick this up naturally through sparring or through experience in the ring, but what if there was a way to improve timing without the bumps and bruise you get in the ring? I stand by what I wrote in previous articles that there is no substitute for sparring and real fighting experience. However, I do believe you can improve your timing if you identify it and focus on it in your sparring by applying a scientific approach instead of learning as a consequence of getting punched in the head.
Of course, I’ve done the work for you and would like to propose the following theory for looking at timing your attacks. Because he was also an actor, producer, and director, Bruce Lee would look at fighting similar to clicks or frames in a movie. In animation, a frame or click is a still picture or moment in time. Computer games often reference operating at 30 or 60 frames per second which means that 30 or 60 still images are presented per second which over time appears as a continuous animation.
Similarly, Bruce would look at any given technique and try to reduce the number of frames required in the motion. In layman’s terms, he would seek to make a movement as efficient as possible by reducing wasted motions that don’t improve the effectiveness of the technique. Therefore, the Eight Frames of Attack are simply eight moments in time when you can or should attack based on your opponent’s disposition. For your ease of reading in case you want to skip to a particular section, the Eight Frames are: Interception, Recovery, Moving, Stationary, Reactionary, Passive, Sticking, and Fight or Flight.
Unlike the Five Ways to Attack, the Eight Frames consider of utmost importance what your opponent is doing. How and when you attack often do not depend on you alone, but also on the status of your opponent, his psychology, size, speed, movements, hand positions, posture, distance, and many other factors.
The Eight Frames seeks to answer the question: “Given the multiple variables associated with my opponent, what approach will be best suited to handle the situation? Should I seek to counter punch him? Should I just rush in on him with punches? Stick and move? Play defensive?” These are the fundamental questions every fighter thinks consciously or unconsciously when there’s an opponent in front of him. The first 6 frames can be separated in two categories to be used against an aggressive, offensive opponent or a passive, defensive opponent at medium to long range. The last 2 are primarily used in close quarters combat. We’ll examine each of the frames in more detail in Part 2 of this article, but here’s a quick synopsis:
Against an offensive or aggressive opponent, medium to long range:
1. Interception: Striking upon initiation or delivery of your opponent’s strike.
2. Recovery: Striking upon recovery or retraction of your opponent’s attack.
3. Moving: Striking while your opponent is stepping or moving before his weight is set for delivering his attacks.
Against a defensive or passive opponent, medium to long range:
4. Stationary: Using superior speed to strike your opponent while he is stationary, ready, and perhaps in the best position for both offense and defense.
5. Reactionary: Using your opponent’s reaction to your every movement to set him up with feints, fakes, and rhythm changes.
6. Passive: Using your opponent’s lack of aggressiveness to rush in on him and overwhelm him with strikes.
Against close range opponents:
7. Sticking: Using body contact and sensitivity to find or create openings to attack.
8. Fight or Flight: Despite your best efforts, there will be times when none of the above will work, your opponent rushed in on you, he’s too close for you to see his attacks and intercept them, and you are unable to stick to his hands or body for some reason. You have no choice, but to swing for the fences and hope you hit him.
So, next time you approach a sparring session, try to work on one of these particular frames. Each frame represents essentially a different style of fighting. The first two, interception and recovery focus more on a counter striking style. The third frame, moving, emphasizes rhythm, changing the rhythm, and reading your opponent’s rhythm to off balance him. The fourth frame, stationary, emphasizes speed and striking before your opponent can defend or counter. This is more of a stick and move strategy. The fifth frame, reactionary, focuses on forcing your opponent to react to your movements out of fear. Perhaps you nailed him with a solid front kick and now he drops his hands every time you pick up your leg.
The sixth frame, passive, focuses on an opponent who is non-aggressive for whatever reason. Perhaps he was hurt early in the fight, or he is tired, either way he’s trying to catch a breather. The seventh frame, sticking, includes trapping and using your opponent’s energy against him through sensitivity of touch. This can be done either standing as in Chi Sao or grappling and ground fighting. Finally, the eighth frame, fight or flight, deals with an opponent where nothing has worked. He’s closed the gap on you and you can’t intercept or trap his hands or body. Perhaps he is bigger than you and is overwhelming you with attacks. This strategy is take one to give one. He’s going to hit you; you know this. Your job then is to hit him harder than he hits you.
The understanding and use of the 8 Frames is inseparable from the understanding of yin and yang, balance in all things. In a fight, you must be able to flow between the various frames seamlessly. Often your opponent will change and adapt to you, but you must be able to adapt first. Take the first frame, interception, for example, once you start intercepting your opponent’s movements, he will be forced to do something different or lose. When on the receiving end of too many counters, most people become passive and stop throwing punches, or reactive, or seek to counter you back. Knowing this, you will need to dictate the flow of the fight. Make your opponent adjust to you.
If intercepting is working for you, don’t wait for him to adapt to it before you change strategies, confuse him and try a sticking frame or a more aggressive offense to force him to become passive or stationary. Then go back to reading his movements and intercepting him. The problem with most young fighters is they enter a fight with a set game plan like sticking and grappling for example, but when that doesn’t work, they can’t adapt. Become an expert at it all.
This concludes Part 1, in Part 2, we’ll examine more in-depth each of the frames.
Wishing you peace and goodwill.
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