The Ving Tsun punch is delivered by virtue of the elbow coming towards the centre. Movement of the elbow is governed by the shoulder. Elbow movement is a shoulder action. Hence, we analyse the movement in terms of shoulder dynamics.
The shoulder can be rolled down and forward or down and back by rotating on it’s own axis. This is a small and subtle change in the internal positioning of the joint, yet is essential for changes in our punch. We don’t want to be reaching for the target with our arm. The range is more achieved by virtue of the opponent’s movement in to hit at us, and our body motion forward if necessary to meet them. The punch is much more about expression of power.
The joint needs to be close packed on impact, in order for the joint to behave like a structure regarding the transfer of forces, especially the reactive force off the target, which needs to move through our structure to the ground as efficiently as possible, so that it can then bounce back into the target.
On impact, our wrist needs to be close packed, our elbow close packed, our shoulder close packed, our core close packed and the knee and ankle also.
Close packed does not mean held with tension, it is simply a matter of positioning. Everything remains relaxed. Any apparent tension is created by virture of the joints reaching their limit of motion, within the framework of the relevant movement.
These elements of the structure are all discussed in the article on Structure.
There is one instance where we may choose to extend the shoulder joint forward, is when an opponent is backing away from us suddenly, we can extend a quick punch to full extension and step in to follow as soon as possible. The punch is to put them on their back foot, effectively stopping their movement away for a moment, giving us time to move in and hit properly with good structure. Risk is minimised in this situation and we need to be free to break the rules as the situation allows or demands.
Regarding the shoulder and punching, when we are punching low, eg solar plexus height, we have the shoulder rotated down and forward. This is an internal rotation, not a rolling forward of the whole joint.
When we need to punch higher, eg to the head, the internal rotation of the shoulder back and down serves to raise the elbow very efficiently to a position where the arm can drive forward, deflect incoming punches and sink straight through the target. Keeping the same shoulder structure as for the low punches serves to drive the punch upward, with a punch that is likely to bounce up off the high target and not do the damage we require. It also leaves the shoulder extended forward, which makes the shoulder position act as a joint and not much like a structure.. the shoulder is now a weak link in the chain with regard to structure and is serving to decrease the power of our strike and leave us more vulnerable to our punch being deflected or bouncing off the target.
When punching low, the shoulder action of pulling the elbow to the centre creates a machinery which sends the fist forward very efficiently and effectively. We combine a wrist snap action which serves to add to the power of the strike by pulling the small knuckle forward, also it sinks the forearm which helps the reactive force to be directed downward and helps greatly the deflecting action of the punch, sending their arm down without pushing downwards. The wrist snap also serves to make the wrist close packed on impact so that the reactive force can be transferred through the structure effectively.
So, the shoulder pulls the elbow to centre, combined with the wrist snap and the punch is completed already. This makes for a much faster and more powerful punch than if we are thinking of driving the elbow in and forward.
When punching to the head high, we change the shoulder’s internal positioning for the high structure which raises the elbow. Again, the punch is achieved by pulling the elbow to centre slightly and with a simultaneous wrist snap. The movement serves to pull the shoulder further into it’s close packed position without trying. This punch, by virtue of the wrist snap, has a sinking and deflecting action also achieved without trying.
Understanding of these shoulder positions and related actions is developed in dan chi training, as is the change from the low to the high position.. and much more. Delivery of these actions with movement of our body is developed in stepping practice.. and much, much more!
In chum kiu we train a twisting punch which drives in with a horizontal fist. This is great for driving in under the ribs or up into the throat and is especially useful for driving to the centre when our facing is out. The power of the punch is delivered by virtue of the elbow slamming to the centre, the fist moving in a straight line to the centre, the twisting action of the body and wrist, and the straight line between knuckles and elbow. A great punch but only used in certain circumstances. The vertical fist is much more practical in most situations, usually because it flows directly from fook sau when there is no time or reason to turn the fist, and the deflecting action of the wrist snap is so effective.
Delivery of all these punches is developed in chi sau and on the wall bag and hanging bag. The timing and positioning of the punches is also developed on the dummy, but usually we hit the dummy with a palm instead of a punch to save the knuckles.
We do a lot of punching in the air, to program our neuromuscular system to not hold back and sink the punch into the target as far as it will go. This is done with single punches, chain punches and punches with combinations of movements and finishes.
We train to use punches to the body and palms to the head, though we also use punches to the head when it flows that way eg from a fook sau action. Punches deliver more power into the body below chin height, palms more power above chin height. When we hit the head, we consider it is the inside of their own skull that is hitting their brain, so we need to be aware of what is going to deliver the greatest jolt. Palms will do this, yet it is often a punch that will best find a pathway to score the hit. What most often happens is the first hit is a punch, the second a palm. Usually there is a clear path after the first strike. The first strike serves to put the inside of the skull close to the brain, with the cerebrospinal fluid pushed away from the impact zone. This leaves the brain relatively dry on the skull. In this moment, before the brain has had time to move away from the skull, the gel to move back in to protect the brain, or time for the brain to recover, the second strike lands and delivers a shock directly to the brain. This is the strike that switches the brain off. It needs to be delivered within a tenth of a second from the first strike.
Striking to the body we aim to shock organs or break ribs, or hit the solar plexus and make it impossible for them to breathe. All this is done efficiently, without any big wind-up or external change in body positioning. The opponent does not get any clue the punch is being delivered, and no time in which to defend.