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WingTsuns anti-grappling system


While many of the worlds martial artists are getting busy bettering their grappling skills in order to keep up with the skill advances in MMA, WingTsun kung fu practitioners are spending their time on the mat training anti-grappling . Here, Sifu Stefan Fischer explains why WingTsun practitioners are bucking the trend.


one of our higher WingTsun instructors at the time, was invited to the German Ministry of Justice to demonstrate WingTsun and its application. The Ministry organised for a local freestyle wrestler to attend the demonstration and requested to take down the WingTsun ghter. The WingTsun ghter, not expecting the quick takedown, could not prevent it but during the fall managed to land several chainpunches on the nose and eye of the wrestler, who fortunately was not used to being punched and immediately surrendered! So instead of implementing elements of a sport like jujitsu or judo to ll the gap, GM Kernspecht, together with his senior students, including some former wrestlers, developed the foundation for the WingTsun anti-grappling and groundghting. This foundation was based on the WingTsun principles and the requirements of a self-defence system, as opposed to a sport, and the method has since constantly evolved, in line with the WT principles. To answer the question why WingTsun teaches antigrappling skills as opposed to grappling skills, we must rst look at what we are trying achieve in WingTsun. WingTsun is a self-defence system, not a sport, so we do not prepare for match ghts. Instead, we prepare for the trouble you can run into without intention every day on our streets. These kinds of confrontations cannot be compared to MMA events like the UFC. In the cage, grappling used to be favoured but this has also changed again in recent years and you see many grapplers slugging it out standing up, as takedown defences have improved. There are many differences between a cage ght and a street ght, these being just a few: 1. Both opponents are mentally and physically well prepared to ght and there are virtually no surprises

ixed Martial Arts or MMA has become very popular as a sport and is drawing more fans each year. Ive been following MMA since the early days of Pancrase Japan, long before it became MMA. But those who watch combat sports, including MMA, often confuse ghting for victory in the ring or cage with ghting for life on the street. Lets not forget that, as a sport, Mixed Martial Arts was created because most of the traditional systems did not deal with all ve phases of a ght and did not prepare their practitioners to use all the bodily weapons available. Most styles were effective in one or two phases, had a limited use of their own bodily weapons and neglected other phases and weapons completely. Take boxing, for example: it uses only the hands, and at two distances, the rst being the medium range (jab and cross) and the second, shortrange (hooks, uppercuts and dirty boxing). Obviously, this leaves out many useful and available weapons such as elbows, knees, kicks, throwing, joint-manipulation, jabs with the ngers, strikes with the palm or blade of the hand, forearm-strikes, head-butts and ghting on the ground. At the other end of the spectrum, you have styles like jujitsu, which focuses on pins, joint-locks, throws and ground restraints via locks and chokes, with little or no punching, kicking or stand-up ghting (depending on the system). This is all perfectly legitimate for each individual sport, but on the street you could never exclude one or the other. Traditional Wing Chun kung fu contains little grappling, antigrappling or groundghting. Fortunately my sifu, Grandmaster Keith Kernspecht, had a wrestling background and thus recognised in the early 80s that a good wrestler is one of the most dangerous opponents to face. This was highlighted when Michael Fries,


Because the aggressors posture is open and his arms are wide, Master Fischers pre-ght fence position covers the aggressors shoulders and upper arms.

Initiating a takedown attack, the aggressor rips down on Fischers arms as he ploughs through on the inside, aiming to secure a grip on Fischers waist or legs.

As the aggressor rips down and through Fischers fence, this triggers two different automatic responses in Fischers arms and one in his legs. Both arms circle around the downward and incoming arms of the aggressor; the right one hooks in behind the neck, jerking down very strongly (a move from the rst section of the WingTsun wooden-dummy form) and the left hand circles around into an arm-bar position, locking the aggressors elbow. At the same time, Master Fischer steps sideways to his left, shifting out of the direct line of attack.

This shot shows the transition of the hooking right hand as it moves around the aggressors neck into a pinching grip on the back of the neck. Fischer then applies a simultaneous push-pull action to the aggressor, pushing the neck while pulling and stretching out the aggressors other arm, which is locked at the elbow. Its at this point that Fischers counter-attack begins

with shifting his right arm quickly into a position similar to a gure-four lock, but with his objective being to break the arm and/or destroy the joint.

Fischer follows up with a knee-strike to the back of the jaw, using a forward thrusting motion so he hits with the harder knee and not the lower thigh. 45

To keep the aggressor out of striking range, Fischer adopts a fence position, his angle determined by his foes posture (here, the aggressor leads with his left side so Fischer anks to the outside, to limit the aggressors options).

As the aggressor dives for a takedown, Fischer lowers his centre of gravity and sidesteps with his left leg, taking him off the direct line of attack, and shifts his right out of range. With his lead arm, he controls the outside of the aggressors arms. Combined, these responses make it hard for the aggressor to shoot again to the lower legs.

Fischer counters with a right punch to the jaw (or, if the angle is favourable, behind the jaw, as this is sure to knock the aggressors jaw forward)

and follows up with a bar-kick (larn-gerk) to the thigh to take the aggressors balance. (This kick is used in the same range as a punch and does not swing like a low round-kick; its delivery is similar to a side-kick, thrusting with the hip but impacting with the shin.)

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As Fischers kicking leg comes back to the ground, he drops a sinking elbow-strike into the aggressors spine

then nishes with a stomping sidekick to the aggressors supporting elbow (note: this stomp could be applied to any available joint or target, depending on the aggressors position on the ground).

(such as an extra opponent or hidden weapon). 2. Both opponents are in the same weight class. 3. There is a referee and a strict set of rules. 4. Protective gear like a groin cup, mouthguard and gloves are worn. 5. No weapons are involved. 6. It occurs in a controlled environment with no obstacles like stairs, bad light, chairs, tables, etc. 7. There are breaks between rounds with a corner crew for advice and cut-man to treat injuries. The list could go on. The reason we teach antigrappling is because our tactical aim is not to get on a level playing eld and grapple with a grappler, but rather to prevent the grappling and force the attacker out of his comfort zone. A street ght is not set for three 5-minute rounds, where you have many opportunities for takedowns. Rather the opposite: street ghts are usually over very quickly. If you manage to prevent the rst takedown attempt and at the same time can dish out sufcient punishment, there is a great likelihood that there will not be any further attempts. So the most important thing is practising to prevent any takedown. However, a ght may unexpectedly end up on the ground and then it becomes even more important not to start grappling with a grappler. Fortunately, there are many more options open to us in a street ght than there are in a competition. Our main objective is to get back into the standing position to regain our mobility. We are not interested in improving positions on the ground for a submission, for example, or for a drawn-out battle on the ground we want the ght to nish ASAP . For arguments sake, imagine you end up on your back and someone is sitting in full mount on top of you in MMA this would be one of the most dominant positions. This is

not the case on the street as the person on top of you will almost certainly expose his groin to attack. Attacking the groin, which is not allowed in MMA, is one of the rst tactics to employ when pinned from a mount position in a street ght. As Grandmaster Kernspecht put it: In the end, whatever methods that can be used in a sporting MMA competition can never be considered dangerous, because they must operate within a legal system that prevents crippling, maiming and killing for sports and entertainment. A true ghter, on the other hand, must embed this notion of danger and survival in order to be effective. He cannot be throttled by arbitrary rules, or concerned with the safety of his opponent. He must be willing to kill if he wants to live. In a real self-defence situation, the last place you want to be is on the ground. If you have not been involved in many street ghts nor worked as a bouncer, you may ask why. But just imagine you are on a nightclub dance oor and you get into an argument with someone who has bumped into you for the fth time. After he starts threatening you and loads up for a wide swing, you dive down, evading his punch and going for a doubleleg takedown, then end up in a wrestling match on the ground with the aggressor. One problem with your defence of taking the aggressor to the ground was ignoring his group of friends, who quickly take the opportunity to start kicking your head and body. And as you are now tied up dealing with the original aggressor, you have given up one of the most vital advantages in any form of combat (especially against multiple attackers): your mobility. You have now very little means to defend yourself against incoming kicks and risk the possibility of severe cuts from broken glass and rolling in someones puke. This scenario


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Master Fischer adopts the preght fence position for optimum protection and cover. As the aggressor rushes in, Fischer jams his leading leg forward to stunt the forward motion of the grapple. The aggressor latches around Fischers waist but cannot lift easily, as Fischer sinks his bodyweight and keeps pressure on the leg. He also begins to manoeuvre his hands into position for neck-twisting.

Smashing his palm into the bridge of the attackers nose, Fischer rolls his forearm across the face to twist the neck, while simultaneously pushing down on the aggressors right shoulder.

As he twists the attackers head, Fischer adjusts his arms to crank and crush the face in a vice-like grip while still twisting the head around.

Where the head goes, the body follows: the torque applied to the aggressors neck takes him off balance

and breaks, or at least loosens, the aggressors grip around Fischers waist, allowing his head to be controlled and punched.

Controlling his foes head, Fischer heelkicks the groin, then lets the head go

and nishes with a well-placed punch to the attackers jaw.

gets even worse if we introduce weapons like pool cues, chairs/ stools, bottles or broken glasses into the equation. So, clearly, going to the ground should be avoided. However, if you do end up on the oor, you must have some skills and strategies to deal with it, or youll be as vulnerable as a turtle on its back. In my time as a bouncer, I did not have to go to the ground often. However, I still remember a situation that happened shortly after I started training in WingTsun, when I foolishly worked in a nightclub in Weinheim, Germany, by myself, without any back-up (the owner was trying to cut costs). This little town did not have much to offer besides that one nightclub and a mental health facility. The word on the

street was that those inpatients not housed in the high security part of the mental facility took weekend trips out, and some frequented our nightclub. So, to cut a long story short, a guy pushed past me without paying and ran inside. I chased him, caught him and asked him nicely to return with me to settle the bill, which he initially agreed to do. He then took a dive and got me to the ground. At that time I had no clue about antigrappling or takedown defence. The guy ended up on top of me and, with him being much heavier, I really wanted to get him off. So I tried to get into his eyes, which in the dark I failed to do and instead ended up with my index nger in his mouth. To my surprise, the guy started chewing off my index nger, so I went with my other hand to

his eye (this time I found it) and managed to reverse the position with my nger still in the guys mouth. He would not release my nger, so I started kneeing him to the temple and knocked him unconscious, enabling me to nally remove my badly damaged nger. Fortunately there were no other people in the vicinity so it did not become a multiple-attacker scenario. The scar is still visible today and at the time it really made me look forward to learning takedown defence, as I didnt fancy ending up on the ground ever again. After that incident I attended every seminar, took many private lessons with the top WingTsun groundghters of the time and learned all that the art had to offer in regards to anti-grappling and groundghting. I further rened

this knowledge and improved it over the past 18 years and it now forms the WingTsun antigrappling and ground-ghting system as I teach it now. WingTsun anti-grappling training starts at 6th Student level and covers any takedown attempts from the head down to the hip. The 7th Student level then deals with takedowns to the legs, and the 8th Student level then deals with anti-grappling on the ground and how to avoid common attacks like arm-bars, guillotine-chokes and trianglechokes. Students below these levels can also attend four WingTsun ground-ghting clinics, designed to introduce the concepts, principles and techniques of anti-grappling and groundghting, in preparation training for the


Although prized in MMA, the coveted full-mount position leaves many holes when there are no rules. Here Master Fischer goes for maximum arm control, which is difcult when wearing wraps and MMA gloves. Gripping one of the aggressors arms and searching for the free hand that could strike him, he nds inside contact.

As the right punch comes pounding down, Fischer uses two actions simultaneously to deal with the hit: a classic bong-sau reex from his left arm (which is connected to the aggressors punching arm), combined with a shift of his upper torso to his left. The reex responses to attacks and pressure such as this downward punch are trained in WingTsun via specic exercises designed to imbed them into muscle memory from standing and ground positions. This is traditionally called chisau (sticky hands).

programs mentioned above. Because these techniques need to be implemented on a broader level and must be practised to get out of every situation, we also have an anti-grappling section within our traditional chi-sau (sticky hands contact-reex training), which drills the reactions and movements required for the takedown defence into the students muscle memory. Chisau, which is normally done from a standing position, is also trained on the ground from

the many guard-type positions and the full mount position. The same applies for WTs lat-sau (sparring drills) and Blitz-Defence (street scenario training) programs, so that the student becomes familiar with the techniques in every aspect of our training and it becomes second nature. Remember, you become what you train, so if you practise to not go to the ground, you are much likelier to succeed in that than if you constantly train to go to the ground.

When mounted, Master Fischer again goes for maximum arm control. Gripping one of the aggressors arms and searching for the other hand that could strike him freely, he nds inside contact. Arm contact and control when being mounted is crucial for taking control from the bottom, although its not always possible. As the punch misses its target, Fischer seizes the position and takes full control of the punching arm with both hands.

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While controlling the aggressors right arm, Fischer smashes the groin, which is exposed in a mount position. Again, this type of strike is not allowed in MMA for obvious reasons.

In that moment, as the aggressor reacts to the groin-strike, Master Fischer pitches up and brings the aggressor down with a choke-hold.

Fischer combines a full arm-crank with bridging and reversal (its important to pitch up high off the shoulder blades), sending the aggressor face-rst into the ground.

With the arm still pinning the aggressor, Master Fischer begins to rise to one knee, trapping the aggressors leg between his hip and thigh, and clapping it with his left arm. The knee that supports him is not on the ground but on the aggressors thigh. The pressure applied is forward and up, preventing the aggressor from spinning. This position creates tremendous pressure on the spine as it is being twisted.

The aim of the hold is not to choke out the aggressor, as that takes time, correct angles and positioning. Fischer instead uses it to reverse his position and take a wide, sprawled stance on top, with his bodyweight driving down into the aggressors neck and head. Fischer then takes control of the aggressor by pulling his trapped right arm through around his own neck, immobilising the head and enabling Fischer to strike freely.