In the book Leadershipby Virtue I refer to martial arts philosophies and Wing Chun principles with regard to a personal growth for those who strive to become an outstanding leader. Here I’d like to share some Wing Chun basics to illustrate this relationship:
Efficiency and effectiveness are both the hallmarks of Wing Chun. Out of these hallmarks spring three main principles: central line, economy of movement, simultaneous attack and defense. And these principles serve right only if you have cultured three roots: balance, structure and stance.
A correct stance is like a bamboo, firm but flexible, rooted but yielding. It gives us power to either deflect external forces or redirect them. Balance is connected to a structure that is embedded within a stance. A correct structure is not important just for the defense, but also for the attack. Being effectively ‘rooted’ or aligned against the ground enables the force of the hit to be taken and absorbed by the ground. Why a good leader has to have a stable stance I have already explained in my Leadership and stability blog post.
I am sure that in real life situations you have definitely experienced how much better and quickly a well-balanced body recovers from stalled attacks or slide errors. When one keeps his structure and is always aware of body movement, one is less prone to fall. To learn all three previously mentioned principles Wing Chun has three basic forms. The forms are open to interpretation: a lot of different opinions arise from why and how certain movements are applied. With time and practice a person is bound to develop the very own and much deeper understanding of the forms and probably see different techniques that are hidden to a beginner. In training forms there is a common phenomenon, too — if practicing is to be qualitative you need to clear your mind and nearly enter a state of meditation, which results in being able to concentrate on what exactly you are doing. And also this serves great when leading people.
A central line is an imaginary horizontal line drawn from the center up and down of one’s body. It is considered to be on or near the important life line where eyes, nose, throat, chest, solar plexus, and groin lay. In defense or attack a central line is the most important part of one body to protect or to assault for injury. A central line is not just very important in Wing Chun but as well in leadership, it is the root of leadership. A person simply cannot be a leader if lacking a focus on important issues of a business. You can read more in my Organizational change blog post.
The economy of movement is achieved through softness. Wing Chun techniques are performed in a relaxed manner as tension reduces punching speed and power. A well-known fact is that all muscles act in pairs in opposition to each other. If the arm is tensed, maximum punching speed and power cannot be achieved. Why? When extending the arm the biceps will be opposing the triceps. Anyone exercising or practicing any kind of sport, although unaware, must have had experienced that unnecessary muscle tension wastes energy and causes fatigue. A tense, stiff limb provides an easy handle for an opponent to push or pull within Wing Chun. And ultimately only a relaxed, but focused however, limb affords the ability to feel opponent’s weaknesses in the structure. In “muscular struggle” there simply is no finesse and a fight goes to a stronger fighter. How does this impact leadership? A leader can (or not) easily follow the tension within the group and its performance. A higher a tension results in lower performance.
A postulate for simultaneous attack and defense means that we don’t block an attack first. In Wing Chun there is simply no blocking. And a martial artist also never just redirects the attack either! In Wing Chun, a martial artist actually attacks the opponent’s strike and the outcome is destroying his position. All movements are aggressive by nature as well as defensive at the same time, which is the same after all. Only on different paths—one is advancing and the other is retreating. For these reasons, great emphasis is placed on sensitivity skills. A good Wing Chun artist should be able to sense an opponent’s intent through controlled contact. Controlling the opponent’s energy facilitates fence and strikes. Is not this sensitivity used with an outstanding leadership too?