'Simultaneous attack and defense' explained correctly

by Rien Bul

Weng Shun Kuen is a system consisting of a series of principles and concepts, rather than a technical system. Understanding the principles and concepts is more likely to make one into a proficient practitioner than just training its techniques all the time. It is a system that provides one with solutions and a strategy in combat. Understanding the underlying principles that make the system work gets one to trust it.

One of the style's most famous proverbs is widely known as 'Simultaneous attack and defense". Because this is a rather bad translation it is much misunderstood. Most think it means it is better to attack than to defend or that attack ís defense, or something like that.The romanization of the original Cantonese frase should be something like 'Yee sao wai gong. Yee gong wai sao.' It roughly translates as 'Use defense as offense. Use offense as defense.'

In Weng Shun Kuen we always counter-attack. We try to deflect whatever comes toward us, no matter if it is a fist, foot or weapon. This accords to the saying 'If you see form, strike form. If you see shadow, strike shadow.' This means you should always strike at whatever comes at you. If you see what it is; strike it. If you don't see what it is, strike it anyway. This means that the first action a Weng Shun Kuen practitioner takes in a fight is to try to deflect the opponent's weapon. I am aware that this doesn't always work as planned. Weng Shun Kuen has its solutions to this problem, but that is outside of the scope of this article.

The re-directing movement in Weng Shun Kuen that is always the first action the style's practitioner takes in the start of a fight is called 'Man Sao'. It translates as 'Enquiring arm' and it is just that; a spy you send forward to gather information on the actions of the adversary. Chi Sao was actually invented to train Man Sao and to enable a student to get good at it. Weng Shun Kuen is a counter-attacking style as well as a limb-attacking style. This means we always hit the object that is closest to us. That is usually the weapon the opponent hopes to strike us with. But here comes the reason for the 'Use defense as offense. Use offense as defense' proverb: We don't block. We never block. And we also never just re-direct the attack either! No, the re-directing was just the beginning for the Weng Shun Kuen practitioner. It marked the offset of his counter-attack, using the opponent's deflected weapon as a means to safely bridge the gap between the opponent and himself. So the deflecting, defensive movement was actually the beginning of an attack. In Wudang Weng Shun Kuen this is perceived as the first stage of 'three stages of combat', relating to the first 'form' (sequence of movements), called Sil Lum Tao.

The movements in Weng Shun Kuen's second form, Chum Kiu (Sinking Bridge) are meant to destroy the adversary's defensive structure and overcome the gap between both fighters while in a safe position. The third form and its meaning is outside of this article's scope. So, again, the seemingly defensive action called Man Sao was in fact just the start of an agressive series of actions. We really attacked the opponent's attack, destroying his position. So, after all this movement was agressive in nature as well as defensive. This makes that defense and attack were the same after all. The same rule goes for many of Weng Shun Kuen's movements. Bong Sao is just another one of many great examples. At first glance they seem to be of a strictly defensive nature, but when understood correctly, they had the seeds of attack in them from conception. They are both Yin and Yang in nature. Wudang Weng Shun Kuen being a Daoist style, this makes perfect sense.

I hope I have been clear on why and how defense and attack are actually one and the same in Weng Shun Kuen. It doesn't mean one should block a strike with one hand and strike with the other hand at the same time. Your striking hand could possibly be blocked by the opponent's free hand. 'Yee sao wai gong. Yee gong wai sao.' is just one of many misunderstood Kuen Kut (fist-sayings) that has caused trouble for both Wing Chun Kuen as well as Jeet Kune Do practitioners.

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