One of the first things that I learned in Wing Chun was shifting. It is a basic principle but yet after over a year and a half, I am still striving to perfect my shifting.
What is Wing Chun shifting?
Wing Chun shifting is the movement you make when you want to dodge or deflect an attack or simultaneously strike someone. It is a very useful Wing Chun technique because it also increases the range of the attack.
I am 5’6 and some of my friends in Wing Chun class are over 6 feet tall which leaves me at a big disadvantage. The only way I can get around this disadvantage is by shifting so my arms can reach them when I strike. It doesn’t change the fact that if they shift when I do, I lose my range since our centerlines will be squared off. But because I am smaller, I can aim for the lower body instead of the upper body and the head so I can always have that one step advantage over my friends who are taller than me.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar vs Bruce Lee – Look at Their Distance!
If you don’t believe that you can gain inches of range just from shifting, stand with your feet shoulder distance apart and use your right arm to punch in front of you. Your punch will feel restricted with no power behind the punch. Now try just shifting 45 degrees towards your left (both foot should point to the left and be parallel) and throw the same punch. You’ll notice your range has gained a few inches. Now do the exact same movement but bend your back leg slightly (in this case, it’s going to be your right leg) and throw your right punch again. You’ll notice you gain another inch of range!
The reason behind the increase of range is because of the hips! A slight adjustment can add inches in reach. You can test this theory sitting down. We’ll use our left arm this time. Raise your left arm and keep note of its distance. Now while in seated position with your left arm still in the air, lead your hips forward with your left and look at your arm again.
Proper shifting in Wing Chun requires the hips and the feet because it’s what generates the force behind our strikes and blocks. So it’s important to remember that even with range, it requires power to be effective!