‘Loi Lau, Hoi Sung; Lat Sau Jik Chung’ - Wing Chun in a Nutshell!


by David Peterson

‘Loi Lau, Hoi Sung; Lat Sau Jik Chung’ - Wing Chun in a Nutshell! The much repeated Wing Chun maxim, Loi Lau, Hoi Sung; Lat Sau Jik Chung is, in essence, the very basis of how this combat system operates at the optimum level. If you like, it is the perfect summary of how Wing Chun (and in particular, the WSLVT method) actually works in reality. Loi Lau refers to the importance of engaging the enemy, literally, "When it comes, stay with it". In other words, we must seek to form a bridge with the incoming attack (Cham Kiu theory) by intercepting the path that it takes immediately.

In my experience, this is best achieved by utilising a "soft" approach, whereby there is little or no rigidity in the arm that first engages, but instead a "spongy" approach where the skeletal strength is used, supported by relaxed muscular action. This is what we seek to develop every time we practice the Fook Sau in the Siu Nim Tau form, thus the Loi Lau aspect of this concept encompasses both Siu Nim Tau and Cham Kiu ideas, as well as reminding us of the best means of employing structure and strength in Chi Sau and other drills.

Naturally, footwork has an important role to play in the engagement with the enemy, requiring us to subtly change the line so as to deflect, rather than meet force head-on, and to place ourselves in the best possible position to achieve an effective counter measure. Thus, either Tui Ma or Juen Ma (depending on the amount of force involved) will be utilised along with the "spongy" hands mentioned above, so as to absorb the incoming force thru the skeleton and place the enemy in the worst possible position at that time.

Should the attack be launched from outside of contact, we must actively engage by intercepting the incoming limb, but NOT by trying to knock it away to the side. What Loi Lau is telling us is that we must keep centre, chasing the opponent's centre of mass, and not instead chase his or her hands. It is NOT telling us to literally "stick" to the hands, but to remain on the Centreline so as to be best placed to intercept anything else that comes in, or to counter strike effectively and immediately.

If the attack should come in the midst of an already close-quarters situation (typical in Chi Sau training and very typical in actual combat where some attempt at grappling or body control has occurred), then the Loi Lau concept takes on an even more literal meaning because we WILL need to "stick" to the attacking limb in order to effectively control it and retain the ability to "feel" what may be coming next until free to strike effectively. Again, this does NOT imply "chasing the arms" pointlessly, but to stay in control and press towards the opponent's centre.

Naturally, the very best possible outcome under such circumstances is of course to immediately counter-attack and strike the opponent. That is always the desired result and the one that brings about the quickest results with the least risk to our self. It is this very same idea which forms the basic premise behind Bruce Lee's own Jeet Kuen Do, and he was no doubt greatly influenced by that aspect of Wing Chun when he coined the name of his method, ...the Way of the Intercepting Fist.

img-vt-inanutshell2The second part of the maxim, Hoi Sung, makes reference to the importance of taking advantage of the opponents "errors" by following his or her centre of mass whenever he/she withdraws a hand, a leg, or indeed the whole body. Normally, and in keeping with the basic principles of human motion and physics, whenever one moves one limb forwards, they will normally move another limb or part of the body in an opposite direction to counterbalance their position. This is a very natural action, programmed into our DNA, but not an ideal response when in the midst of close-quarters combat.

Well trained Wing Chun practitioners are not so prone to this "error" as we learn, particularly through Chi Sau and related drills, to move our limbs completely independently of each other, whereby quite often one arm may well be attacking while the other arm remains totally motionless, and still in control of the opponents limbs. Thus, if and when an enemy tries to withdraw the limb, or indeed the whole body, complying with the Hoi Sung concept implies that we should immediately follow that withdrawal and seek a pathway to attack, or at least further control and dominate the situation. What it definitely does NOT imply is that we chase the hands without thought!

Instead, thru the drilling of various exercises, especially Chi Sau and Chi Geuk exercises, we are able to detect such movements by our opponent and maintain a controlled forward pressure on them which enables us to remain close enough to both control and strike them the very moment that they create a weakness in their own structure thru the withdrawing of a limb or the slightest loss of position relative to our own. Like a spring-loaded device, we are constantly placing controlled, structured pressure towards their centre of mass, and are thus able to respond to any loss of pressure on their part.

One Wing Chun exercise in particular is ideal in developing this attribute, but many do not practice it and just as many do not appreciate it's worth or intention. Known by many names, it is basically a combination of the Daan Chi Sau and Seung Chi Sau drills, whereby after one roll of the hands, the partner in Taan Sau delivers a Jing Jeung  towards their partner's chest which is deflected (as in Daan Chi Sau) by the use of Jam Sau. The Jam Sau partner then responds with a punching motion (not done with full force, but simply to elicit a reaction) which the initial attacker deflects with Taan Sau. Both partners then roll again, and the sequence is performed on the opposite side.

Contrary to what you may be thinking, it is NOT what is happening with the moving hands in this drill that is important, ...it is what is NOT happening with the other two hands (the Bong Sau and the deflected Fook Sau) at the top of the roll that is of most importance! Those two hands should not move in any way at all, ...not even a twitch! The whole point of this drill is to learn how to maintain contact, relaxation, structure and control with one hand, whilst the other hand is engaged in complex movements. Thus, thru this exercise, we train the limbs to work independently of each other, but towards the common goal of Loi Lau, Hoi Sung; Lat Sau Jik Chung.

During the very same drill described above, we also have a perfect way of developing a working model of the final part of the maxim. At the very same time that all of the actions described above are taking place, there must be "constant springy forward force" present in BOTH hands, such that if any limb is removed, or a loss of structure occurs, the limb that is "freed" by this "mistake" immediately, and without hesitation or conscious thought, thrusts into the space created with an attack at the partner's centre of mass.

‘Loi Lau, Hoi Sung; Lat Sau Jik Chung’ - Wing Chun in a Nutshell!This "constant springy forward force" must NOT be the result of upper-body strength or deliberate leaning and muscular exertion; it must be as a result of relaxation and correct alignment of the structure, in combination with a good stance that absorbs and redirects the incoming force into the ground, rather than having to use the shoulders to achieve this. To do so, is to actually reduce the chances of having a Lat Sau Jik Chung reaction at all, and the stronger opponent will gain the advantage very quickly.

The final part of the maxim, Lat Sau Jik Chung, is most definitely the most important part of the rhyme, and the part of it most quoted by my Sifu, Wong Shun Leung, as a means of summarising his approach to Wing Chun. "When the hands are released, attack directly without hesitation" is a very literal translation of this verse which best describes what we are trying to develop through firstly the Siu Nim Tau form (particularly the first section), and then to further enhance through Chi Sau and other drills. Interestingly, quite some years ago, a former Chinese teaching colleague of mine, who was not a practising Martial Artist, when shown this verse in Chinese script, read it as "Attack without any worries" ...a very astute interpretation of the verse.


Wong Sifu often stated that in his opinion, the adherence to this concept was the difference between good Wing Chun and excellent Wing Chun. He firmly believed that the practitioner who could utilise the Lat Sau Jik Chung concept was the one who would be victorious more often as he or she would always be seeking the centre and thus always in the better position to hit instinctively the moment even the slightest opportunity became present. In much the same way that one removes their hand from a hot surface, or responds to a pin-prick before actually consciously knowing that the danger is present, thru the development of the Lat Sau Jik Chung concept, one's body becomes "loaded to fight" at a neural level, such that combat practical reactions take place automatically without the need of conscious thought to initiate them.

Once again, the development of such skills involves relaxation and the use of "soft" resistance against greater force at all times; if not, then the limbs are more inclined to move in the wrong direction, away from the opponent's centre of mass, thus leaving the defender in the worst possible position for defence against what may follow. If the Wing Chun practitioner truly understands this fact and can learn to use structure rather than muscular strength, the Lat Sau Jik Chung reaction will apply even when the arms are well off the Centreline because the elbow will always find its way back to the centre and drive the fist/palm/etc. directly towards the opponent's centre of mass.

So, the next time that you want to explain the nature of Wing Chun to someone, or to truly simplify what the system is all about for your own deeper understanding, just remember Loi Lau, Hoi Sung; Lat Sau Jik Chung, ...that's Wing Chun in a nutshell!

Editors note: This article was originally published in Wing Chun Illustrated magazine, Issue 12 (2013)