Often called pivoting, twisting, or turning, shifting is a very simple yet complex aspect of Ving Tsun training. It cannot be overstated how important shifting is. It is your mobile connection to the ground.. though sometimes when shifting the back foot actually moves to change the position slightly. The centre controls the action, while it responds to the circumstance.
How important are the tyres on your car? Often critical, given unforeseen circumstances.
The mechanics of shifting are fascinating. Considering how a barely perceptible change in a cam in an engine produces a major difference in power output, it is equally deceptive how a minor shift in the pivot point on the foot makes a dramatic difference with regard to position, reach and power in any application where we need to turn, or to step to an angle.
We have spent thousands of hours researching and developing the shifting on various pivot points, worked this into the forms and practiced it until it has become second nature. We could not recommend this practice highly enough.
Hopefully the information here can shortcut you to making use of this knowledge.
In general, when turning either on the spot or with a step, the greater the angle of the turn, the more rearward on the foot is the pivot point.
For a maximal turn, either stepping or with both feet stationary, the pivot point is at the very back of the heel.
For a turn of 90 degrees with a step, the optimal pivot point is beneath the ankle, though if both feet remain where they are, this pivot point is used to strike directly in front, because on this pivot point our body axis rotates perfectly with no lateral movement as it does if we pivot say on the centre of the foot.
For a slight turn while stepping, the pivot point is at the front of the foot on the ball.
We train initially with particular points for predetermined angles, but after a while the choice of pivot point is made automatically by feel.
It is important to note that the weight distribution does not change with any use of different pivot points. The weight is where the centre takes it. It could be said that if the weight is evenly distributed over the centre of the feet, it stays there no matter what pivot point we choose, though in reality it is not us but the demands of the situation that chooses the pivot point. Once trained in, the decision as to what pivot point to use is only as conscious as which foot to put forward next when walking. It becomes totally natural, as with all the aspects of training. So, the weight distribution is not affected by the pivot point. We are simply determining where the axis of rotation of the foot on the ground will be. We don’t lean back when pivoting on the heel, or lean forward when pivoting on the toe. The axis of the body remains vertical.
Where the weight distribution is becomes a complex topic in Ving Tsun, because the weight is affected by forward pressure from the core. It’s better to discuss in terms of where the pressure is. The weight may be over the ankles, while the pressure is felt as forward, with the toes slightly gripping the floor. As the forward pressure from the floor increases, the toes release and movement begins, directed by the centre. When the centre directs an angle with the movement, the point where the back foot pivots can either impede or contribute to the movement. If we are prepared to put this work in, the pivot point will always contribute to our shifting.
In the Ving Tsun forms, most shifting is done either on the heels, as in the elbow striking sections at the start of Chum Kiu and Biu Ji, or on the axis of the foot under the ankle, eg the huen to gan sau with simultaneous neck chop in Biu Ji, or the lap sau section in Chum Kiu. In the dummy and air dummy forms, there is much variety in pivot points, and here we notice just how much advantage is gained by using the appropriate pivot point for each action. In the knife training, there is much use of toe pivoting, because it helps us get off the line of an incoming weapon while we use our weapons to control and counterattack. Other than that, we could say that generally any lateral or sideways movement uses a pivot point back near the heels, while movements directed in front of us use a pivot point under the ankle, on the biomechanical axis of the body.
It really doesn’t take that much to work out where the optimal pivot points are for the relevant action, and to work this into the forms. It’s well worth the effort! At the very least it’s worth a look, to think about and test it for yourself, modify it and make this work for you and in your own way, as with all of the system.