Notes on the “Wing Chun Principles” Lesson by Sifu Julian de Boers

By Adam J. Peason

At Fight For Life, 2010, Sifu Julian de Boers presented a very informative and clearly explained introduction to the key principles of the Wing Chun system of Kung Fu. Here are my notes on this talk with some of my own thoughts from what I have learned from other instructors interspersed within the notes.

Sifu Julian de Boers’s teachings in the “Wing Chun Principles” seminar:

1. There are 5 Stages of Combat.
These five stages are the following:
(1) Non-contact stage (far enough from opponent that neither can grab or strike other)
(2) Contact stage (a kick from far leg or grab of leading arm is possible)
(3) Exchange stage (both fighters are close enough to exchange blows)
(4) Chase (moving toward an opponent who is backing up)
(5) Retreat (moving back from an opponent who is advancing)

2. FIRST KEY PRINCIPLE OF WING CHUN: In the non-contact position,
employ the side neutral or neutral (front-on) stance. This means standing facing
your opponent with the knees bent, pelvis tilted forward, and the shoulders relaxed.

Why stand in this way? To allow for maximal movement. You can shift to right or left
depending on how opponent rushes you from the forward-facing stance.

3. When you reach the contact stage, you can first strike up with a punch
or chop towards the head, then immediately follow it with a sharp
kick to the inner thigh, groin, or knee of the opponent. Immediately
retreat the leg after striking so as to avoid being grabbed. 

4. For the basic fighting stance: have your back hand (the hand closest to your body) in wu sao (defending hand) on the center line and your leading hand (hand furthest away from
the body) open and out to cover the outside of the opponent’s  leading elbow. This line
out from the center at an angle is called a ‘central line’ whereas the line along the middle
of the body is called the ‘center line.’  Wing Chun aims to defend your center line
while taking control of, and attacking, your opponent’s center line. 

5. SECOND KEY PRINCIPLE OF WING CHUN: Protect the center line and
guard the central path.

Protect the central line by occupying it with both hands and guarding with
the back hand in wu sao.

6. If an opponent grabs your leading hand and attempts to punch you
with their back hand, step off at an angle while simultaneously raising
the wu sao hand to block the attack and then strike the throat.

7. THIRD KEY PRINCIPLE OF WING CHUN: Watch the opponent’s leading elbo

Why? It’s the closest threat for grabbing and striking. The hand iquicker than the eye,

so don’t look at the hand. The elbow is slower (2.5 times-4 times flower) and more stationary in most cases. Therefore,

watching the leading elbow helps you to predict which kind of attack is coming.

Moreover, watching the opponent’s elbow allows you to control his balance.

8. KEY CONCEPT: When your center line aligns with your opponent’s two shoulders, you are on his blind side.

You can use both your hands and  legs to defend yourself in this position, but your opponent can only do respond one movement at a time. 

Don’t waste a single movement. Step toward your opponent at an angle and hit from the blind side. Take the blind side of his or her forward attack, whichever side it is. 

9. FOURTH KEY PRINCIPLE OF WING CHUN: use both arms at the same time to attack
and defend.

10. The elbow controls the leverage of the body (leaning body up
or down). The wrist controls the leverage of the arm (pulling it up or down).

11. FIFTH KEY PRINCIPLE OF WING CHUN: attack the opponent’s pressure points to
make striking more effective.

Where to strike? the eye, then groin. Or throat, then groin. End the
fight as fast as possible then get out of there.

12. SIXTH KEY PRINCIPLE OF WING CHUN: do not fight force with force.

If you get grabbed, don’t RESIST at the point of the grab! That
slows you down and wastes your energy. Instead, step to move to the
blind side of the opponent’s grabbing arm (that means, outside
of the shoulder on that side). Then you can yank down with the
grabbed arm while striking with your free back hand.

Don’t fight the opponent’s force directly. If an opponent goes to
slash you with a chop, don’t strike up against it with equal force.
This is a waste of energy which will often harm your arm. Instead,
use a deflecting chop or other strike that will continue the
opponent’s natural motion, but get you into a good position to
attack them.13. As the opponent is pulling you with their grabbing hand, 

move toward them, with them, not away from them. At the same time,
angle yourself to give yourself on their blind side to give you an advantage, an opening to strike.

14. SEVENTH KEY PRINCIPLE OF WING CHUN: Apply the lessons of chi sao to combat.

Chi sao means ‘sticking hands.’ It’s not sparring or fighting.
It is a training method to train contact reflexes constructively
for combat and not to resist force with force.

Note: a downward or sideward and outside doesn’t threaten you.
Only forward force actually threatens you. Let the outside,
downward, or upward and away forces go and occupy the most direct
path immediately. As Master Ip Man used to say, “escort what comes”
away from you. If the force is not headed directly toward you, you can
escort it away. It is not a serious threat.

15. IMPORTANT PRINCIPLE: As an opponent sends a forward force towards you
(chop, punch, straight kick, etc.), either redirect it, or
step off the line of the force towards right or left, either way, towards the
blind side created by the strike. Attack from there.

16. TAN-SAO TECHNIQUE: Dispersing hand. Tan means to disperse or spread out,
sao is the hand or the arm. Use tan sao in conjunctiong with stepping out
at a diagonal to the opponent’s oncoming force to disperse the force
of their strike.

17. FOOK-SAO TECHNIQUE: Subduing hand. Do a fook sao either at the elbow or
at the wrist. What we are doing is subduing the limb just by sitting
the hand at the wrist or elbow. If he takes the arm away, move forward,
if he pushes it into you, redirect the force, make it harder to use
that arm.

18. CHI SAO advice: redirect forward force with wu sao or bong sao, or
even tan sao. If the opponent moves up, you can quickly switch into
a tan sao and come back up underneath. As soon as there is an opening,
go forward and strike.

19. IMPORTANT PRINCIPLE: Create a bridge. If you send out a tan sao or
hand chop, even if you are only in the contact stage and can’t actually
reach the opponent’s face, they will move to respond to it. Usually,
they will put one or both hands up. That creates a bridge between you
and them, which allows you to respond and reach them. This lets you
cross into the exchange stage of combat and be more effective in
striking from that closer range.

20. EIGHTH KEY PRINCIPLE OF WING CHUN: Have the ability to interrupt your
movement from any limb at any moment.

The ability to interrupt starts from the front-on stance with 50-50
weight distribution (as practiced in the opening and indeed all of the
Sil Lim Tao form). Sifu Julian de Boers recommends keeping a 50-50
weight distribution at all times, whether in a neutral front on stance
or in an angled fighting stance in order to maximize mobility. When
kicking with the front leg, however, as instructors like Sifu Wong
explain, it may be necessary to temporarily shift into a 60-40 or
70-30 stance so that the back leg can handle most of the weight
while the front leg kicks out.

21. STEPPING: step with the front of the foot so you can interrupt
your step at any time. Stepping too much with the heel can leave
you flat-footed or throw you off balance. Sifu Jin Young would add
that as soon as your foot touches the ground, grip it with the toes
and heel for a sound, grounded stance. But be ready to lift the foot
whenever necessary. Do not get ‘too’ grounded in any one stance.

22. KICKING: A kick comprises four key elements:
(1) elevating the upper leg off the ground
(2) retracting the foot outwards
(3) contracting the leg back inwards
(4) reestablishing balance.

The importance of these steps comes back to being ready to interrupt a movement. If you are in the elevating stage and the opponent moves back, do not continue with the kick. Why? Because doing so will force you to overextend forward and go off-balance, which creates an opportunity for your opponent to subdue you. 

Instead of continuing the kick, interrupt your kick, and change what you are doing. Switch into stepping toward the blind side for example.

Always move towards the new blind side of your opponent’s strike.

23. CRUCIAL POINT: Every strike creates an ‘inside side’ and a ‘blind side.’

The inside side is the area of the body from the side of the attacking
limb back towards the body. In this area, it is very easy to resist
with all three other limbs if the opponent strikes you there or
interrupts your strike. Similarly, if you strike the opponent there
the same is true for them.

However, there is another side created by the strike, and this is
the blind side. The blind side extends from the outside of the attacking
limb away from the body. If you move here, it is easy to strike the
opponent as they are very open, while also making it harder for them
to reciprocate because from that stance, they can only make one
movement at a time with any limb (e.g. a sweep with an arm, a step
with the front or left leg, etc.).

Therefore, always try to step on the side of the blind side when
an opponent attacks while moving in to strike them from that weak position.

For those who wish to learn more from Sifu Julian de Boers, see his website,


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