To recap, the Eight Frames of Attack seek to assist the fighter in knowing when to strike. With the rise of mixed martial arts, many fighters, including Wing Chun practitioners, are studying multiple arts. The difficulty comes in knowing when to apply what you have learned.
From a Wing Chun perspective, I often see practitioners rush in with the traditional straight blast or chain punching without thought to what their opponent is doing or their own vulnerabilities. It is as if they have one tool, a hammer for example, and regardless of whether their opponent is a screw, nail, nut, or bolt, they will hammer away until something breaks. The key is adaptability to your opponent and not sticking with a fixed structure or style; applying the right tool to the situation. By this I mean you can look at the Eight Frames as eight different styles.
While each frame doesn’t have specific techniques associated with them, it’s obvious which techniques will most likely be employed. In a sticking frame, you’ll likely use more trapping and grappling techniques. An intercepting frame will likely use more straight-line long range attacks, while a fight or flight frame would use more curving or hooking strikes, knees and elbows. Each frame may have a distinctive trademark, but rather than formulating a style based on a collection of techniques, the eight frames place function over form. If this doesn’t make sense, please read Part 1 again.
Now, let’s examine each of the frames more in depth.
INTERCEPTION: First, you can use any offensive or offensive and defensive combination to intercept your opponent. It can be a straight kick or a Pak Da or combination striking. The key to interception is the ability to be able to read your opponent’s telegraphs. Most of us telegraph our movements at least slightly. Perhaps, your opponent clinches his fist before he’s throws a punch, or his breathing stops, or he looks at the target he’s aiming at, or he shifts his weight in a particular direction. Through experience, learn to read a fighter’s telegraph. Try to predict their next movements. If you watch televised competitions, look at the competitors and try to predict their next strike based on any telegraphs they give off. Learn how to read people. Learn psychology. Study body language. All of these are vitally important when attempting to intercept your opponent’s movements.
Finally, ensure you’re at the proper distance to intercept. The closer you are to your opponent the harder it will be to recognize his attacks with enough time to react and intercept. Distance equals time. The greater the distance between you and your opponent, the greater the time it will take for his attack to reach you, allowing you more time to identify it and stop it. Of course, you should not be so far out of range that you can’t hit back once your opponent lunges in on you. The idea is you want your opponent to be forced to move in toward you. Once he’s within your range, you strike hard and fast.
Therefore his attack will naturally be slower as it travels over a greater distance, but yours will be faster because you waited until the distance was right and your opponent entered your range. This is the only time where reaction will be faster than the initial action, when the distance is right. Obviously, once you intercept, you can apply combinations or trapping or any other tools you deem necessary to stop your opponent.
RECOVERY: Attack on recovery is one of my favorites to change the pace of a fight. Here, you attack immediately after your opponent’s strike. The idea is to punish everything your opponent does. If he throws 1 punch, you immediately attack with 2 or 3 punches. Make him pay two or three times as much for every attack he throws. This tactic is especially helpful if your opponent throws a predictable number of punches. For example, if he only throws single shots, then you have his rhythm and can charge in after he throws his punch. If he’s throwing two punches at a time, same thing applies.
If his rhythm is varied and you can’t tell how many punches or kicks he’s throwing in combination, try to attack on recovery of his hardest shot. So, if he’s mixing up single jabs with hooks, roundhouse kicks, and uppercuts, look for the roundhouse kick and strike immediately afterwards. Kicks generally have a longer recovery time than punches which allows you more time to land a successful strike. Kicks also take your opponent more time to regain his balance. After he kicks, he can’t go anywhere until his leg returns back to the ground.
MOVING: I heard an expression once that said, “Hit when your opponent is moving; move when your opponent is hitting.” Most fighters strike best when both feet are planted on the ground and in particular their lead foot. Because fighters generally lean forward into a punch, placing the weight on their lead foot is of utmost importance. Knowing this, you can use that to you advantage. Also, know that most fighters these days have trained if they want to move right, move the right foot first; left, move the left foot first; back, move the back foot first; forward, move the forward foot first. In this manner, they don’t cross their feet when they move. Knowing this, if your opponent is in a left lead (orthodox stance), you can move to his right and if he follows you, then he will move his right foot first then his left. Once he picks up his left lead foot, hit him.
So, the key to utilizing your opponent’s movements to hit him is to direct his steps or know when and how he’s stepping. It is easiest if he follows you which most aggressive fighters will do. You can apply this frame also as a “stick and move,” meaning attack and immediately get out of his striking range. Because this strategy works best against an aggressive fighter, you will need to consider follow up knowing your opponent will likely retaliate. You can continue to move in with combinations or retreat to assess your opponent’s next move.
STATIONARY: There may be times when your opponent is not moving much at all. He’s stationary. Perhaps he’s thinking of his next move, or he’s distracted by something, but for that moment in time he’s a statue. There are pros and cons to striking at this time. Most beginners like to strike when their opponent is stationary because the target is not moving and theoretically easier to hit. Fighters know that when your opponent is not moving, then he is likely waiting for you to move first and looking to counter you. Therefore, when striking an opponent who is stationary, the best strategy usually is to also “stick and move,” unless you are not threatened by his counter.
Typically, quick movements like jabs, teeps, and low kicks work best to initiate this frame. You may be able to also quickly connect a 1, 2 combination. Whatever your attack, once you connect, it’s advisable to get out of striking range as a counter is likely on its way from your opponent. This type of strategy will force your opponent to be more aggressive and start moving forward. He will not like getting hit and will seek to close the gap as you use distance to stick and move. As with all the frames, expect your opponent to adjust to you. You won’t be using just a single frame the entire fight. Expect to shift between multiple frames as the fight drags on and you and your opponent adjust to each other.
Another advantage to striking while your opponent is stationary is that a stationary opponent will be naturally slower. While he may be looking for the counter, the laws of physics can’t be broke. An object in motion stays in motion, while an object in rest stays as such unless acted upon by an external force. In other words, it takes more energy for an object at rest to move than for an object that is already in motion. Why do we California roll through stop signs when no traffic is coming? Because coming to a complete stop takes significantly more time to both fully stop and then to re-accelerate. Likewise, if your opponent is flat footed, and stationary, the start-up of his next movement will be significantly slower regardless of what that next movement is. As Bruce said, “Running water never goes stale. So, you gotta just keep on flowing.”
REACTIONARY: This is the opponent you’ve trained to fight your fight. Perhaps you’ve hurt him early with a hard low kick and now every time you feint the low kick, he drops his hands setting up a clear path for your straight punch. This type of opponent is jittery, always on edge, nervous, worried, but still dangerous. Learn to read the behavior patterns of your opponent. If he flinches or makes dramatic movements for even your slightest feint, then you’ve got him. Counter fighters are prone to becoming reactionary fighters. The difference is a counter fighter is not afraid to take risks and will take a shot to give one if necessary.
A reactionary fighter is scared, always moving back, swatting punches away with great force, tense, and uncertain of himself. Learn to pick up on this. Reactionary fighter appear busy and may move around a lot, shuffle their feet and hands, but in reality, they are waiting, waiting on you to move first. They will not strike even when the opportunity presents itself, but beware once you attack, they will usually over-react and panic with a flurry of attacks to protect themselves.
PASSIVE: “When the opponent expands, I contract; and when he contracts, I expand. And when there is an opportunity, I do not hit, it hits all by itself.” A passive opponent is one who has contracted and is in defense mode. A passive opponent tends to have a tight guard, is backing up, and appears to be in no position to mount an offense. This is the best type of opponent and ideally you want to mold your opponent to be passive as the fight goes on. Perhaps he’s passive because you hurt him early with a shot or he’s tired. Whatever the reasons, he’s not looking to open up with attacks and he’s just trying to survive. Beware that even a wounded lion can kill with one blow, but generally, if your opponent is passive and on the defensive, press the attack and don’t give him time to recover. This is one example of the utilization of forward pressure.
STICKING: Sticking is perhaps the most difficult to learn. It requires the perfect balance between hard and soft, between being tense and relaxed enough to feel your opponent’s movements. Sticking can be applied in various ways from Wing Chun trapping hands to jiu jitsu, judo, and ground fighting. These generally represent the different ranges with which sticking can be applied. First, let’s define what I mean by sticking. Sticking refers to any physical contact with your opponent that does not retract. Punches and kicks retract, but when you’re attempting to stick to your opponent, you continue to go forward and don’t retract until your intended purpose is complete.
Sticking includes all types of trapping hands, grabs, joint locks, throws, and chokes. Typically, sticking works best from close range where your opponent can’t escape. This is one reason why jiu jitsu and ground fighting are so effective. Due to the short range, the defender has no escape. Sticking works best when the practitioner trains sensitivity based reaction instead of only sight based. Normally, when two strikers are toe-to-toe, they don’t know an attack is coming until they see it. The advantage sticking has is that you already have contact with your opponent and will likely feel their movement before you see it. Therefore, you’ll have more time to react.
FIGHT OR FLIGHT: There is no science behind this one. Somehow, all you’ve attempted has failed, your opponent is bombarding you with attacks and you’ve gotta do something. Perhaps, you’re in close quarters, a clinch, or some other all around bad position. The key is not to panic. Hopefully, you’ve incorporated some kind of stress training in your martial arts practice to prepare for this. If you can’t see your opponent’s attacks coming, try to stick to him, grab him, or take him down. This functions as both to smother his attacks so they lose power and to help you regain your awareness. If you’re unable to see his attacks coming and unable to stick to him or grab him, then fight or flight are your only options.
Let’s discuss the first option, fight. Seeing as all else has failed, in a fight or flight scenario, it’s usually best to utilize an unsuspecting tactic such as a headbutt or groin strike to end it. This assumes it’s a street fight. In the ring, you gotta do something you haven’t already done, something your opponent hasn’t seen yet. This could be a standing or flying knee (beware of the risk of getting taken down), a spinning elbow or other spinning attack. Ideally, in this scenario, it’s best to use an attack like a knee that will cover a large target area. Because you will likely be covered up and unable to see your target clearly, you strike hoping to hit something. Knees and elbows just have a larger striking surface compared to a fist.
The second option, flight, simply means to run. Avoid your opponent as long as you can. If it’s a street fight, attempt to escape which normally should always be the first option to avoid conflict. If it’s in the ring or an enclosed space, circle with your footwork and try not to move straight back. In this scenario, you know you are clearly out-skilled and out-matched by your opponent. You know that any engagement with this individual will result in injury. Your one hope is perhaps your opponent will grow tired or impatient from chasing you and drop his guard. In fact, the only way to win a fight in flight mode is if your opponent defeats himself by making a critical mistake you can capitalize on. Look for it.
This concludes my discussion of the Eight Frames. There is always more to write and even more to train. I hope this has been helpful in improving your overall fighting ability. Next time you spar, see if you can recognize any of the frames in your opponent’s behavior and seek to exploit it! It’s important to remember that studying multiple styles or accumulating an abundance of techniques in one style won’t necessarily make you a good fighter. Bruce Lee formulated his Five Ways of Attack. The fact of the matter is you can know five thousand ways to attack, but if you don’t know when to attack based on your opponent’s disposition, then you’ll never be a competent fighter. Ultimately, fighting is about adaptation and flow, not a fixed pattern, formula, theory, or even frames of attack.
Wishing you peace and goodwill.
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