“Strictly speaking, san da is a Chinese martial arts amalgam composed of kickboxing and wrestling-style takedowns,” Antonio Graceffo says. “Some writers have referred to san da as ‘Chinese MMA,’ but that’s inaccurate because it normally doesn’t include ground fighting or submissions. Furthermore, in competition, san da fighters are permitted to clinch, but they’re not allowed to hit while doing so.
“Some people have dubbed san da ‘Chinese muay Thai,’ but that moniker doesn’t do it justice. Why? Because in general, muay Thai stylists rely on just two leg attacks: the roundhouse kick and the push kick. Although other leg strikes exist in Thai boxing, most of the emphasis — and the scoring in the ring — can be attributed to those two moves. In contrast, san da encompasses an arsenal of kicks not unlike what you’d learn in wushu. Unbeknownst to many martial artists in the West, most san da fighters in China earn their chops in wushu.”
Saying what a fighting art isn’t certainly can be helpful, but it will take you only so far along the path to understanding. For that reason, Black Belt asked contributing editor Graceffo to shoot some video footage of san da, which is one of the arts he’s studying as he pursues his Ph.D. at Shanghai University of Sport.
Practice is the key to mastery in any martial art. Execution of thousands of strikes, kicks and blocks against a partner is the key to integrating the strategies and techniques in such a way that they become second nature. However, live partners are not always available. So the next best thing, of course, would be a stand-in — and that’s where the wooden dummy comes in for the practice necessary for mastering kung fu techniques when a human partner’s participation isn’t possible.
Training devices such as the wooden dummy have been used by China’s Shaolin Temple fighting monks for more than 2,000 years. “There was a corridor that consisted of 108 wooden dummies representing 108 different attacking techniques,” says wing chun expert and Black Belt Hall of Fame member William Cheung. “The monks would move down the hall and practice their defenses and counterattacks on them.”
In this kung fu techniques video, William Cheung demonstrates how kung fu practitioners can use a device such as the wooden dummy to practice their own defenses and counterattacks. William Cheung then demonstrates the practiced kung fu techniques on his training partner and senior disciple, Eric Oram.
KUNG FU TECHNIQUES VIDEO Grandmaster William Cheung Demonstrates Wing Chun Kung Fu Training Techniques and Applications Using the Wooden Dummy
Construction and Functionality of the Wooden Dummy for Wing Chun Kung Fu Training
“The three arms on the dummy can represent strikes to the middle and upper gates and can be either punches or kicks,” explains Wiliam Cheung disciple and wing chun techniques expert Eric Oram. “The leg of the dummy teaches the wing chun practitioner to move from one side of the dummy to the other, keeping in mind where the opponent’s lead leg is at all times.”
The First Modern Wooden Dummy for Wing Chun Techniques Practice
“In 1951 my brother George Cheung … persuaded Hong Kong-based wing chun legend Yip Man to commission a carpenter to build the first wooden dummy outside of China,” William Cheung recalls. “It was built and installed on the rooftop of my family’s house on Argyle Street in Kowloon, Hong Kong. I’ve been training on the wooden dummy ever since.
“In 1956 [George] went to Sydney, Australia, to attend university. He brought that dummy to Sydney with him. When he moved in 1959, he placed it in the care of a friend who ran a gas station. One winter’s night when the temperature plummeted, [George’s] friend used the dummy as firewood to keep himself warm. It was a sudden and tragic end for the first modern wooden dummy.”
Safety First in Your Wing Chun Kung Fu Training
Because the wooden dummy is usually made of teak, it’s essential to practice all your offensive and defensive kung fu techniques slowly and softly at first to minimize the impacts your body is forced to absorb. As your accuracy and technique improve, you can put more energy and intention into it.
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For more detailed information on wing chun training using the wooden dummy, live partners and a variety of weapons, please refer to the William Cheung wing chun training DVD series Wing Chun Kung Fu (Volumes 1 – 5). You also can visit grandmaster William Cheung’s official website at cheungswingchun.com. For more information on Eric Oram, visit the website for his Wing Chun Kung Fu Chinese Boxing Academy & Mind/Body Center in West Los Angeles at lawingchun.com.…
Is wing chun effective for self-defense on the street? In this exclusive preview from the DVD Grandmaster Cheung’s Wing Chun Kung Fu, grandmaster William Cheung and Eric Oram discuss wing chun history and how wing chun techniques developed over time. The kung fu moves they demonstrate focus on what William Cheung calls “the fourth center” — namely, how trained wing chun fighters can dominate this zone for maximum control over their opponents.
WING CHUN KUNG FU VIDEO William Cheung and Eric Oram on “the Fourth Center” in Modern Self-Defense
“Before the wing chun system came along, [Chinese martial artists were] using three centers,” William Cheung explains. “You [would] protect your center, and then you [would] attack the opponent’s center, and [then there would be] the center of exchange. But when wing chun was developed, they said, ‘Ahhh. We’re doing a 1-2-3-4.'”
William Cheung proceeds to demonstrate the 1-2-3-4 sequence with a series of kung fu moves and explains a pivotal moment in wing chun history. “So they developed a fourth center,” the wing chun grandmaster explains. “When you throw a punch, then I can counterattack at the same time.”
Using his senior student, sifu Eric Oram, to demonstrate the role of the fourth center in wing chun techniques, William Cheung elaborates on how this development altered the course of wing chun history and elevated the art into an effective self-defense arsenal that is still popular today.
“So when he comes along, I block. I’m facing this point here,” William Cheung explains, having moved around Eric Oram’s punching arm to the outside of his elbow — which William Cheung refers to as the third center, from which he can readily access an impact point on Eric Oram’s head. This would be the fourth center.
“I free up [my] other arm to do the counterattack — so I don’t need to deal with [his] other arm,” William Cheung explains, demonstrating a strike to Eric Oram’s head. “You’re using the fourth center to fight on the blind side.”
The quick and fluid motion of wing chun techniques in action allows for minute gaps of time during which an opponent’s arm, although being contacted by the defender, is still relatively free. Some may ask: Is wing chun effective for street fighting or other close-quarters encounters if the attacker’s arm is not secured, pinned, bent or impacted by severe pressure-point manipulation?
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William Cheung addresses this concern, deconstructing wing chun techniques as applied to a simple attack/response scenario: “One of the strategies is to control the elbow, so the leverage can control the person’s balance. If [the attacker] throws a round punch, I face [the inside of his elbow] — the third center — [and his face becomes] the fourth center. I’m away from the free arm, [but] I’m controlling the blind side from the inside. And then I can still deal with [his other arm].”
So is wing chun effective for fighting opponents in “the real world?” Experience is the telltale answer. Share your thoughts with us in the comment fields below! Sign in and voice your opinion!
MORE KUNG FU ONLINE! Check out these wing chun kung fu books and videos for a variety of awesome wing chun techniques from William Cheung and Eric Oram! Learn more and answer the question for yourself: Is wing chun effective for street-fighting self-defense?
Editor’s Note: This page’s text is adapted from an article about shuai chiao master David C.K. Lin by Dr. Mark Cheng, Senior RKC, printed in the February 2000 issue of Black Belt magazine. The photo shoot depicted in our exclusive behind-the-scenes video below was for a piece in the April/May 2013 issue of Black Belt magazine.
David Chee-Kai Lin is one of the most quiet personalities in the kung fu community, but he’s also one of the most accomplished. His early training reads like a chapter out of a martial arts novel, and his current teachings on the finer points of combat shuai chiao are just as amazing.
KUNG FU VIDEO Combat Shuai Chiao Master David C.K. Lin and Dr. Mark Cheng Prepare Techniques for Black Belt Magazine Photo Shoot
Bullies Beware: David C.K. Lin’s First Exposure to Shuai Chiao
When David C.K. Lin was little, he often watched other kids get bullied — and it infuriated him. While frequently interceding on behalf of the underdog, David C.K. Lin gravitated toward throwing techniques and found himself yearning for shuai chiao training to bolster his fighting skill.
His first exposure to the Chinese wrestling art of shuai chiao came in a junior-high-school club whose activities were overseen by the legendary Chang Dung-sheng.
A disciple of Chang Fong-yen, Chang Dung-sheng was called the “king of shuai chiao” throughout China and Taiwan. However, David C.K. Lin recalls that the grandmaster didn’t oversee the club’s class on a regular basis because of his busy teaching schedule. “Chang only appeared on the first day and then walked out the door at the end of practice, leaving a couple of senior students to lead the club’s practices,” he says. “They’d practice techniques with the younger students and share their techniques with the other newcomers as they joined the club.”
Pleased with the opportunity to learn shuai chiao, David C.K. Lin diligently practiced the techniques he picked up from those club meetings.
Once, he went off to train at school and heard of an event he thought was a shuai chiao practice session. With his uniform rolled up under his arm, he made his way through the crowd and found that the event was not the shuai chiao club’s doing but rather the judo club’s membership drive. Quite a few black belts were there with their coach, and they were demonstrating their throwing techniques for the crowd.
The coach saw the roll under David C.K. Lin’s arm and asked him to join in the demonstration, thinking that he was holding a judo gi (uniform). When David C.K. Lin put on his short-sleeved uniform, the surprised coach had him go one-on-one with every member of the team — only to find that the lone shuai chiao stylist had no problem destroying every student on the mat.
To save face for the club, the coach challenged David C.K. Lin, only to meet the same fate. When David C.K. Lin bent over to lend a hand to the coach after throwing him to the mat, he kicked David C.K. Lin in the face, giving him a bloody nose. David C.K. Lin berated the coach for his unsportsmanlike conduct in front of the crowd, then stormed off the platform.
Impressed by the display of skill and character, one of the seniors from the shuai chiao club ran off to tell Chang Dung-sheng what had just happened. Chang Dung-sheng, who had never paid much attention to David C.K. Lin until then, sent a message back a few days later. It instructed David C.K. Lin to go to a local park at 6 a.m. if he wanted to improve his skill.
When David C.K. Lin showed up the next morning, he met the grandmaster — and he soon found himself holding stances for five minutes at a time. It seemed that Chang Dung-sheng would just practice his forms and leave the young man on the side, struggling to hold a stance as sweat dripped off his shaking legs. Those stances built up the raw strength that would give David C.K. Lin’s body the power to execute shuai chiao’s powerful, explosive throws.
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Most of these internal exercises from Shaolin kung fu involve a foundation of slow-motion breathing.
“As one of the internal practices, [slow-motion breathing] starts inside and moves outside,” Wang Bo says. “When you punch [during kung fu techniques], it’s a physical movement from outside to inside which is the opposite. Slow-motion breathing will make your organs work better and make you healthier. It looks very small, but it does a lot of work inside your body.”
SHAOLIN KUNG FU MOVES VIDEO Shaolin Monk Wang Bo Shows You How to Translate Internal Exercises Into the Hard-Hitting Double-Palm Strike
“The breathing exercise is one of the internal practices,” the young kung fu moves expert says. “Internal practices start from inside to the outside. As we all know, when you punch, it’s actually a physical movement. It’s from outside to inside. If you’re doing breathing exercises, it’s from inside to outside. For example, you do 10 moves externally and you do 10 moves internally, you [create] the same amount of energy — but internally, you’re working out more. Your [internal] exercises [work] your organs to make you healthier.”
The smallest kung fu moves on the outside seem insignificant on a physical level, he continues, but can translate to great movement of energy internally. What his years of practice and discipline have yieled is a channeling of this energy, primed by small practices externally that “rev up” internal energy for powerful outward motion, as he demonstrates in the above video — in slow-motion with explanations and at closer-to-full speed.
More About Shaolin Kung Fu Training and Shaolin Kung Fu Philosophy: Books, DVDs, e-books and video downloads regarding Shaolin kung fu are available at blackbeltmag.com/shaolin. For a broader view of the Chinese martial arts, visit our Chinese Martial Arts History section and our Chinese Martial Arts Philosophy section.About Wang Bo’s Shaolin Temple in Torrance: Visit shaolintemplekf.com for more information about Wang Bo’s Shaolin Temple school in Torrance, California. The site includes information about instructors and curriculum for kung fu, tai chi chuan and yoga, as well as their children’s program. You also can email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.…